Sept. 6 2015
Mark 7:24-37 & James 1:22–25, 2:14–17
When we Mistake Beauty for Truth ....
“Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers
Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
James 1:22, 2:17 (NRSV)
We come to you this morning, O God,
at the beginning of a new season of activity,
busyness, crowded calendars, and high energy.
This morning give us a few moments of peace and quiet— to settle, to reflect, to listen. Silence in us any voice but your own, and startle us again with your gracious presence and lively love, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I came upon the title of this sermon in an article from the New York Times that I found in my archives this past week. The article was written several years ago by Paul Krugman who is a columnist for that paper as well as a Professor of Economics at Princeton University, and a Nobel Prize winner in Economics. One of Dr Krugman’s theses,
in his article, is that during the last 30 years or so, economists became mesmerized
by the elegant beauty of the mathematical equations that they themselves had created
in order that they be able to approximate the behaviour of the economy.
He said in effect that they were seduced
by a beauty of their own making;
while at the same time ignoring the rather messy, but very real human mass interactions
that we call the markets.
Don’t get me wrong, beauty and truth can be synonymous; like God’s manifest Spirit and the innocence embodied by a newly born child;
or a natural landscape,
or an inspired piece of writing or art.
Simply put my point is; that,
all beauty is not truth and that we are always susceptible to confusing the two;
particularly when the beauty
is of our own creation as Dr Krugman pointed out.
What does it take to counteract the seductive nature of our own impulse
to create beauty and surround ourselves
with an environment that is in the image
of our own ideal comfort zone?
Although, we haven’t gotten into the swing of things yet; last week I automatically tried to put my sense of this message into capsule form.
What I was thinking was
“the virtue of brutal honesty” or it could have been the virtue of the unvarnished truth, or
the beauty of the unvarnished truth.
Truth should never be varnished over
even though it is often hard to hear.
Our need to hear James’ clear concise call to action is one of aspects of our lives easily varnished over.
It is always more comfortable to arrange our lives
so that the beauty we cherish is all around us,
meets our needs, and
shields our view from the intrusion of interlopers.
“Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers. . . . Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
Those are very important,
even critical words in the New Testament.
They were written in the first century
by a disciple of Jesus,
quite possibly his brother James,
to a small community of believers, a church.
Apparently it was the practice in this little church to give preferential treatment to rich people.
When a substantial, wealthy person came to the gathering, apparently the ushers fell all over one another greeting, welcoming,
escorting the person to the best seat in the house.
When a poor person showed up,
he or she was asked to stand in the back.
That is the situation that prompted James
to hold that little church accountable
to its own professed beliefs.
You just can’t believe that Jesus Christ is God’s love for all people and treat some folks like that.
Your behaviour and your beliefs
have to be congruent or compatible.
Your creeds and your practices
have to be consistent. “Be doers, not just hearers. . .
Faith without works is dead.”
Very important words.
Also controversial words, which set off a theological debate that has been going on for centuries.
Martin Luther even suggested that the Epistle of James be dropped from the Bible.
This business of “doing the word”—
doing “works” to express your faith—
is in conflict, Luther thought,
with the heart of the gospel;
which is, that salvation comes through grace,
the free gift of God’s love in Jesus Christ,
not through anything anyone can do.
If you think you can earn God’s grace by doing anything, Luther taught,
you have missed the whole point.
We have a conundrum though.
It is a truth, is it not,
that faith is authentic to the degree
that it affects behaviour.
Religion is true to the degree
that it renews, changes, converts people
and the choices they make
and the lives they live.
Of course you can’t earn your way into heaven.
But the integrity and authenticity of your basic beliefs, whatever they are,
depend on your living them out.
What good is it to say you believe in a God of mercy and compassion and justice and then
walk on by a brother or sister
who is cold and hungry, James asked.
“So faith, if it has no works, is dead.”
There comes a time, to step up,
to acknowledge what you need to do,
what you are called to do—
and to get on with it, to do it,
to be what you are meant to be
and what down deep in your heart you want to be, what you long to be.
Sometimes we do what we do
because we have to do it:
to put food on the table, to provide shelter and security for our children,
to care for our aging sister or parent,
to support and help our friends.
And I want to suggest that
that can be a calling too—
that being responsible, taking care of business,
can be a way of being a doer of the word;
caring for a sick child, sitting in the hospital,
working overtime, finishing the job,
doing it right is also a holy calling.
What shall we do?
“There are all kinds of voices calling us,”
And we need an ongoing conversation
about the church in all of that.
“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only”
was addressed to a congregation, after all.
It is probably the briefest and best mission statement for the church of Jesus Christ,
the UCC, the SS & HUCs, and every church that claims the name Christian: “Be doers of the word.”
Our job, our mission, our reason for being here is simply to “do the word,”
to give corporate, expression in mission
to what we most deeply believe.
And so we measure ourselves,
not on the basis of how many members we have or the size of our budget.
We evaluate and measure a church
on the basis of what it does in the world,
the lives it touches, the sick visited,
the hungry fed, the fallen lifted up,
the grieving encouraged,
the children nurtured and taught and loved,
the excluded who are included.
That’s where this all started, after all,
with an admonition to stop discriminating
and to be as welcoming and inclusive of all people
as God’s love in Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel lesson from the seventh chapter of Mark, Jesus himself showed what that looks like: healing and reconciliation and new life for two outsiders, a woman and a blind man,
both Gentiles, both outsiders.
His healing love, his willingness to do
and to be what he believed and taught
prompted people to say about him one of the most winsome, wonderful, compelling descriptions:
“He has done everything well.”
So what will you do?
What will you be when you grow up?
These are questions we ask and answer all our lives.
Our faith is that God does call us,
And that among all the voices telling us what to do with our lives there is one that is true and good
and authentic and meant for us,
Some need to pick up and move to a new place.
Some need to walk away and start all over again.
Some need to launch a new adventure full of risk and excitement.
Some need to find a way to start giving love,
to volunteer, to work in the church
or to serve soup and bread,
to stand up and be counted
when it comes time to do God’s work in the world.
Some need to stay put and keep doing what they are doing because it needs to be done,
hopefully, with a sense of God’s blessing and call.
Each of us is called to live our lives authentically, purposefully, “to do,” as he did, “all things well,” to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
It is not easy, but the choice, daily,
to live authentically, to follow Jesus Christ,
to be his man, his woman, whatever else we do,
is the most critical, most important, most hopeful, most saving decision you and I will ever make.
I invite you to make it, or remake it,
right here in your heart this morning. Amen.
Our lives are in your hands, O God,
and we trust you with them.
Help us to hear your voice calling us to lives
of authenticity and hope and love
and courage and compassion.
Give us strength to carry on when we must
and to change when you insist.
O God, we are so very grateful
for the precious gift of our lives.
May we value our lives and honour you,
who have given them to us,
by living out faithfully your purpose
for our lives as we see it in Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street / Heritage United Churches in Brantford Ontario.
Sept. 13, 2015
How Conventional is Lady Wisdom ?
Proverbs 1:20-33 and Mark 8:27-38
In the book of Proverbs Lady Wisdom stands
in the marketplace and has a stark warning for
all of us. I’ll get back to that in a while.
A different kind of wisdom or a response to Wisdom’s
call appears in the Gospel reading. We find Jesus and his followers well to the north, beyond the Sea of Galilee and on the other side of the Jordan, at Caesarea Philippi, just south of Mt. Hermon; Jesus asks what they are hearing about him, “ what does the grapevine say?”
and he challenges his followers to reflect on what he means to them; and
Peter blurts out his testimony, “The Christ!”
Now “the Christ” is Greek for “Messiah,” the expected One!
But what kind of Messiah?
Peter, who got the first question right, fails miserably on the second
and is soundly rebuked.
Jesus goes on to explain, ending with a warning of rejection,
parallel to that of Lady Wisdom.
Taken in context, this suggests, that if we are not ready
for the Suffering Christ and his Way,
if we are not ready to take up the Cross,
we do not belong,
no matter how much we honour his name!
If we compare ourselves with Peter,
we may understand how he must have felt –
and that may be where we meet the Good News!
It hinges though on the question
of who we say Jesus is!
Let’s listen closely for the Good News in:
Read: Mark 8: 27 – 38
When we tell someone to "Get behind me" these days, we usually mean that we want their support. Jesus was obviously giving Peter a different message when he said, "Get behind me, Satan."
It is important to ask ourselves
whether we ever play that sort of Satan role
for each other or for ourselves as the church?
When people tell us that they are facing a difficult time or that we could, as a church,
take on some really costly project,
do we ever try to discourage them
or the church from being so brave?
Of course we do,
it’s all too easy to dampen them because
we as human beings are often hoping
that others will reassure us that we really don't need to go the difficult way put before us –
there are easier paths
and less daring plans that we could pursue.
Jesus obviously wanted his friends to go as far as they could alongside him in his walk to the cross.
Jesus and his disciples
are heading through Caesarea Philippi.
They are standing on a road in an area littered
not only with the temples of the Syrian gods,
but also a place upon which Greek gods looked down. It is a particularly pleasant spot,
lying as it does beneath the slopes of Mount Hermon. It is watered by the cold rushing streams that converge to form the Jordan River,
the most important river in Judaism,
and a watershed place for Christianity as well.
And here, Jesus stands and asks the disciples
what people think of him and his mission.
“Who do people say that I am?” he asks them.
It is important from time to time
to test out who we are.
“How am I doing?” he is saying.
And it is vital for Jesus to understand the answer
to that question.
The answer that the disciples give is quite telling. “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
and still others, one of the prophets,” he is told.
All, we might note, were on dangerous paths
that led to their deaths,
or at least put them in a dangerous position.
Jesus confirms by their answer that he too
is on a dangerous path.
People see him as a subversive,
one who will rock the boat,
one who will get himself
and his followers into trouble.
Jesus does not stop there.
“But who do you say that I am?” he continues.
He needs to know how his closest friends
view his ministry.
He needs to know whether or not
they understand what he is called to.
We all need feedback from time to time. (our TT)
We need to see ourselves
through the eyes of others.
It helps us to be subjective about how we are doing, about whether we are on the right track.
“You are the Messiah!” It is Peter who answers.
It is an intuitive response to Jesus’ question.
Peter answers, not from his head,
but from the heart.
And we must wonder exactly what he meant.
In the Jewish society in which they lived,
it could have meant many things.
The Jewish people awaited the Messiah.
They saw the Messiah as one who would free them from the tyranny of Rome.
They looked forward
to the restoration of the kingdom of Israel.
They expected someone
who would conquer the nations.
Was Peter expecting Jesus to rally the troops
and head to war?
That question, “Who do you say that I am?”
is one that we too need to answer.
Our setting is similar in many ways
to that of the disciples.
We respond from a worldview that corresponds
on so many levels to Caesarea Philippi, multicultural, multi faith, secular.
How do we see our contemporary society
in the context of our faith?
How do we respond to Jesus’ penetrating
and troubling questions?
There are as many responses as there are people. There are people who are rediscovering their faith after long neglect. Something draws them back. They realize what has been missing in their lives. They look to Jesus as one who fills that spiritual hunger.
Some are seekers.
They have not been brought up in the faith.
They sense that something is missing in their lives. They are hungry for that spiritual dimension and what it brings.
And we need to meet them wherever they are in that quest.
There are some who are challenged by their faith and turn to modern fundamentalism because they cannot deal with the ambiguities of faith.
They want answers in black and white.
There are those who look to Jesus
at times of trouble and need.
They sense that people of faith have a resource
that carries them through the difficulties of life. They want to feel the compassion of a loving God.
There are many who look for rites of passage,
for baptism and marriage, even though they have no interest in committing themselves to faith.
Perhaps they want to cover all the bases.
Or they may want the sense of community and family that comes with being part of a congregation. They may want a safe environment
in which to raise their children.
There are those with a social conscience who look to us as religious institutions as a tool for advocacy. For many years there was a wing of the UCC that was called the NDP at prayer; Social Justice and Advocacy personified.
They want to challenge the systems
and structures of the world.
We don’t often read the book of Proverbs anymore, but the lesson that was our Old Testament reading today gives us a picture of wisdom
personified as a prophetess.
She speaks to the people at the busiest thoroughfares and intersections of the city.
Did you note what she warned the people against? She warned them against complacency.
“It is complacency that will destroy you.”
How many of us have thought of that before,
that complacency, which seems so passive,
has the active power to erode and so to destroy; yet, wisdom says it is so.
What is the mantra of so many in our society today? “I don’t know and I don’t care”
might sum it up nicely.
I don’t know my neighbours,
and I don’t have time to know them, and I don’t have any energy left over to care about them.
I don’t know and I don’t care.
I don’t know what is happening to the ozone layer
or to wildlife habitats
or to the ice floes in the North and South.
Indifference, wisdom says,
has the power of destruction—
destruction of the human spirit,
destruction of human society,
and now we realize, destruction of
“the planet God entrusted to our care.”
Wasn’t Edmund Burke right when he said,
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good men and women to do nothing?”
We fight evil by remaining engaged, by caring,
and by acting and by standing
for something that we believe in,
by being brave and by not settling
for the lesser of two evils,
by responding to the cries
we hear from our neighbours,
in our town, and around the world.
In many third world countries,
Jesus is seen much as the Jewish people must have seen him, as a political liberator who will free them from tyranny.
We have many and varied ideas of who Jesus is. What is needed is Peter’s kind of response.
It is by responding from the heart that we will open up to the possibilities of who Jesus is in our lives.
It is that intuitive response
that refuses to be limited to what we understand.
It is a response that identifies Jesus as the one who was promised.
Taking up our cross is about identifying ourselves as Christians.
Peter confessed his faith.
That is where it starts.
We confess our faith.
But it cannot stop there.
It needs to flow from confession to cross bearing. Something needs to happen in our lives.
There needs to be a change and it needs to result in action. AMEN
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street / Heritage United Churches in Brantford Ontario.
Sept. 20, 2015
Since I have been here with you this
past 9 months I really haven’t spoken
about our history and traditions very
much. That will soon change.
John Wesley is someone that was part
of this churches DNA from the very beginning.
He played a very large role in the story of our Methodist forbearers and this UCC of ours.
A role that is particularly relevant to the
Transition Process SS and H UCs is engaged in.
The first conversation that the Transition Team generates with you the congregations will be one wherein we begin a discussion, “Embracing History”. That discussion will require a clear eyed view
of our denominational and congregational history
as a way of determining who we are as a congregation
and how that informs how we move forward.
In essence this process will be about
self-examination and then projecting
your hopes for the future from that reality.
In the simplest of terms the question will be
“how is it that we go about living our lives as Disciples of Christ and how will we continue that collective enterprise as the Body of Christ?”
Read: Mark 9:30-37
John Wesley was Priest of the Church of England,
he was a theologian, he was a social reformer,
he was many, many, things,
but first and foremost he was a communicator of a very special kind, he was a preacher, a preachers preacher,
an itinerant preacher,
a Prophetic preacher.
He travelled the highways and byways
of 18th C England, riding continuously
from site to site, often preaching three sermons a day in different locations.
He was and is one of the most influential models of the Evangelist that the protestant world has looked to now for some 250 years.
For you and I today,
apart from the Evangelical zeal that he inspired, John Wesley’s ministry
brought the Christian life into sharp focus
for the masses of his day with one simple concept Discipleship.
Wesley’s ministry took place in a time and a place in history
that was ripe for awakening not unlike our own. John Wesley called to those who were stirring with the spirit and offered them God’s Wisdom
as it had been revealed to him through Jesus.
He offered them an understanding of the means of grace available to us all.
And if you had to choose one word to sum up Wesley’s focus it would without a doubt be Discipleship.
John Wesley understood that the Kingdom of God would arrive for us,
the Body of Christ in the world
when we all maintain relationships with each other that emulate the divine.
And the cornerstone to those divine relationships,
in human terms is Servanthood.
Out of Wesley’s discipleship model flowed one of the most significant social justice movements the Anglo-world has ever seen.
The social fabric we live within as Canadians today
is the product of those roots.
The world into which John Wesley was thrust
as a young priest was not friendly to clergy,
(survey on clerical vocations)
nor was it kind to the bottom two thirds of English society (only the percentage has changed).
The Church of England was for the upper classes, and the industrial revolution was beginning to wreak havoc on the cities and almost everyone living in them or attracted to them for work.
The circumstances of the general populous
were desperate with poverty, squalid living conditions, social upheaval of all kinds;
but most importantly,
the disintegration of family networks and relationships as people were forced
to move to find work.
This had rent the social fabric from the bottom up, and it was rotting.
Now discipleship doesn’t necessarily mean
that you have it all together
or that you know beforehand
what it is that the gospel is calling you to do.
Discipleship is not a way of being
that you need to be trained for before you are allowed to practice like a doctor or an engineer.
One of the most persistent and pervasive themes
to be found in Mark’s gospel is the impenetrable even dense nature of the disciples.
Time and time and time again
Mark shows Jesus faced with a situation, precipitated by the fact that the disciples
simply do not understand what he is all about.
Mind you in this case,
in the disciples defence,
Jesus, in the first part of the story
really isn’t forthcoming himself.
We of course now know
that this is a literary device that allows Mark
to show and explain in some detail to his own followers what Jesus ministry meant to them,
as they struggle to live their lives under a harsh regime some 50 years after the Romans had executed Jesus.
Mark was probably written in Rome for a gentile community just after Nero’s persecution of the Christians.
A key clue to understanding and interpreting
today’s gospel lesson is found in the first verse
which states that Jesus is on the way.
On the way where?
Well, we know the story don’t we,
we know the ending,
and when in the second verse Mark talks about
Jesus betrayal, death, and resurrection, we immediately recall the entire pageant
of Jesus passion.
The original audience that heard Mark’s gospel read, like us, knew the story.
The original readers
and those who listened to them,
like us were looking in the gospels
for more than a story.
We are all looking for the truth that it contains.
The truth expressed as God’s will for our lives,
the truth as expressed by the innocence
and love of a little child.
Who hasn’t experienced the joy of doing service to a small child?
The sense of trust as a child puts a small hand into yours.
A toddler’s first few tentative steps toward you, arms reaching out for support.
A lost child's frightened cry replaced with a smile as you help find her family.
Jesus in this passage assumes the familiar role
of teacher, of rabbi, who seats himself, -
the traditional posture for important instruction,
he seats himself to teach his disciples
what it means to be on the way.
Remember we know the story,
we know the ending, we know the pain
and degradation in this destination,
but still – what does it mean
to be on the way to that destination,
to be Christ like in our choice of destination.
What does it take to be aware
of God’s purpose for our lives?
Jesus message here is twofold.
One that even he the son of God,
come to serve as the son of man, must suffer,
an understanding that suffering and rejection
are simply part of life, the human condition,
not something that one seeks, but
something one accepts as going with the territory,
simply part of being human, of being on the way.
our relationship with God depends upon,
hinges upon, the relationships that we have with those in our community who like children,
are the most vulnerable,
and the most susceptible to abuse and neglect,
read vs. 37
Mark is saying that your attitude toward this child is your attitude toward God.
Not that ones attitude toward this child is like or similar to ones attitude toward God.
This is not a metaphor.
Mark is not saying that if you have a welcoming attitude toward the child then so also will you have a welcoming attitude toward God.
They are not two separate but like relationships. Mark is saying that your relationship with this child is in fact your relationship with God.
They are one and the same thing.
For the disciples the challenge was to understand that genuine leadership flows from the humility and confidence in God it takes to be a servant first.
For most of us, our challenge begins one step before that because we in many cases have as yet not embraced Discipleship, let alone servanthood.
As with so much of our faith, it’s a paradox,
that greatness lies in servant hood.
Christians are called to live out their lives in a spirit of humility and service.
However, if you are anything like I am,
that presents real problems with which we must constantly grapple.
In my own case, I so often see my failure to live out the gospel message that I preach.
It is easy to say that the Christian is called to serve the poor, the disenfranchised, and the oppressed.
But it is much more difficult to overcome our perceptions of people and our need for gratification so that we are free to truly serve.
So as I have just said Christ's lesson that one should exercise leadership by serving is paradoxical.
But if we look at genuine authority there really is no contradiction between
the notion of service and that of leadership.
There can be no real exercise of authority without service.
Service lies, not in self-serving domination, but in taking sides with those
whom we would serve.
We must continue as Christians to ask ourselves difficult and searching questions
as we enter this time of discernment and deliberation that the Transition process offers us. And we must resist the temptation
to simply put up with it
until we can find someone else to fill the pulpit.
So are we living out the gospel message in the pattern of our ministry in the wider church?
In the life of our particular congregation?
In our own lives?
Whom are we called to serve?
Jesus' answer to the disciples speaks to us.
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?
Those who, like the one we proclaim, give humble service to others.
What kind of a world would we live in if we, the people of God, behave this way, a servant people, seriously concerned for the rest of humanity?
It is something to consider as we approach not only the Thanksgiving weekend but this pivotal time of discernment in the life of our congregation.
These are certainly things to consider as we look at the ministry of our church in this community and it is something to consider as we contemplate
what it means to be on the Way. AMEN
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street / Heritage United Churches in Brantford Ontario.
Sept. 27, 2015
The Line Between Heaven and Hell
Mark 9: 38-50
The line between Heaven and Hell
is the ultimate boundary.
It is a line that we encounter
time after time in our daily lives.
It is a line that as often as not
cannot be seen with the naked eye.
It is nevertheless real.
It is ever present and it is an aspect of Jesus message in Mark this morning.
Jesus was saying that it was better to go into the Kingdom of heaven without an eye,
without a hand, or without a foot
than into Hell with all of our limbs and faculties.
The Ancient Jews had a history
that was reflected in their word for Hell.
It comes from the word Gehenna,
which is a place, we would describe as
a municipal dump, outside Jerusalem.
It was used to discard everything imaginable including unwanted infants
in the days of pre-history
when the Jewish tribes practiced infanticide
like all of their Middle Eastern neighbours.
The dump or hell was a real place, of real garbage, real rotting flesh, and real knowledge
of our inner potential for inhumane cruelty.
In your mind’s eye a sign like this one might really have fit.
This comparison Jesus is offering in Mark
is certainly one that gets our attention.
The Kingdom at it’s very worst,
that is without all of our own person;
is still way better than Hell with all that you are.
Remember that at the end of the Gospel of Mark the women at the tomb fled
and it concludes with nothing but the promise
of Jesus presence sometime later.
Mark can be pretty gloomy.
Mark was probably written for a Gentile community in Rome about 35 years after Jesus was executed. They were a tiny, persecuted sect.
They were constantly under threat.
And so in Mark Jesus speaks graphically
of being called to service and hospitality
in order to preserve community in trying times.
For this tiny community;
a cup of cold water, saving one from stumbling,
or leading a life of peace and shalom
in the face of threatening times,
bears witness to how community may be preserved.
We are at our most authentic when we emulate the relationships all around us that the animals offer.
Read: Mark 9: 38-50
We have come to the end
of the first year in our relationship.
One that will by the time it is over
will occupy a large part of our lives.
Two or three years can be a huge portion
of an average life span.
And when you think of it there are few relationships in life apart from family that are as intimate as that of Pastor and congregant.
I have been and will be privileged to be with many of you during some of your darkest hours and with some of you as you celebrate life’s joys
and rites of passage.
These are experiences that are singularly moving
and profound for one like me,
to be trusted with your vulnerability.
I hope we have come to trust each other
over this year and that is one of, if not the –
most important characteristic
of the relationship that we share.
One of the reasons that I think we found trust early and were able to build upon it is the open clear honest and unhindered nature of our communication.
I have never gotten the sense
that there was a secondary conversation
taking place behind the scenes, or in the parking lot as is the case so often in churches;
and it is only in an environment of trust
that one is able to be open and vulnerable as we have been with each other.
Once upon a time I was driven by needs
that were built in during my childhood.
Those needs flowed from expectations of life
that were taught by my parents,
particularly my father.
They were taught by my Public School,
and by the entire culture that I was immersed in.
They included the need to be materially prosperous; and not just comfortable
but independently prosperous.
The need to succeed
in material terms was very, very real.
In that environment and mindset
your sense of self worth or self-esteem
flows from accomplishment.
And your accomplishment is tracked or measured,
or compared in terms of material gain.
It was a highly competitive zero sum game.
In other words, that which I was determined to win ultimately came to me as a result of others losses.
This is much like the buccaneer capitalism
of today’s financial markets.
I was flirting with that invisible line
that I spoke of in the beginning,
the line between Heaven and Hell.
But this insensitive competitive drive
never did sit well with my moral imperatives.
I found it progressively more difficult over the years. In my professional conduct as an construction engineering manager, it became impossible
to “tell a white lie”, or embellish slightly,
or simply not mention an inconvenient truth.
I found myself making decisions that reflected my inner sense of right and wrong.
These decisions of course were often were not in the best interest of my employer.
I gradually came to know that I would never excel,
in fact I probably wouldn’t survive.
I had to leave.
Deriving you sense of self-worth
from that which you have accomplished
or are capable of accomplishing
is a dangerous way to live because
the better you want to feel
the more you have to do.
And that is a formula for disaster.
That treadmill led me to a burnout and hospital and a long term recovery.
During that time I came to terms
with my unhealthy thinking
and began to think of myself
in terms of who I am – not what I do.
I began to derive my self-worth from,
who I am – not what I do.
And who I am reflects from the core
my relationship with God.
And as you can imagine;
with all that inner turmoil and soul searching,
I have asked myself many times what this vocation of mine is all about, really at the core.
Because of course engineers have to know why, and how; so that they can do it better the next time.
Well it’s all about sharing.
It’s all about that most essential characteristic of human existence. The characteristic without which our civilisation, our societies, even our species as we know it would not exist.
What is the very first cardinal rule you teach your children as soon as they encounter another child.
This journey of ours is about sharing with you
the life altering experiences that I have had.
It’s about showing you how
they have made my life sensitive
to the way we must behave if we are to be fulfilled and in right relations with God.
It’s about sharing the experience I have
trying to see that invisible line,
the one which we can step over just for a moment,
or just for the sake of a small indulgence
or convenience, and soon we find life
on the other side of the line just fine, for a while.
It’s about sharing my memories of the seductive comfortable and predictable nature of hatred,
self-pity, and the whole realm of unforgivedness.
Believe me; I speak of the seduction of life
on the other side of the line with some authority.
It’s about sharing the times that I’ve been lost and thought I would never be found.
Or the life changing encounter with a woman in Mexico who was unable to feed her children;
or the woman in the Abbey at Iona,
after the healing service. And who shares their all with us, but our animal friends who would give their lives for us and often do so.
Over the next few weeks, and indeed year or so, I will be talking to you about some of the lessons we have and will learn together.
There are things that I will be able to teach you. There are things that you will be able to teach me, and there are things
that we will discovered together.
We will always be in the process of discovering:
That your life as a Christian community lies beyond the walls of this beautiful old church.
That the Way is about far more than just Sunday morning.
That Love manifest within community is the bloodstream of the Body of Christ.
That love projected beyond this community can be the light of the world.
That Sunday morning is the time and place to reset recalibrate and shed the baggage that we’ve picked up during the week.
That Jesus is alive and well with us as the corpuscles in the bloodstream of the body of Christ
That you are loved by God in a way that is so grand and magnificent that it is beyond our comprehension.
That an understanding of the scientific realities of the cosmos enhance our awe and our reverence.
- And that compassion, healing and wholeness is one of the central core messages that Jesus projected in his ministry.
Stand by for Chapter Two AMEN
Delivered by the Reverend Wayne Beamer
at Sydenham Street / Heritage United Churches in Brantford Ontario.