The cyber gremlins interfered with some of the audio of this service - the text of the scriptures and the sermon are shared here for you to help fill in the blank spots.
Scripture Readings for June 6, 2021
The Bible readings today have all been assigned by the common lectionary. John Wesley, the forbear of Methodism, and the likes of the original Beaverdams congregation, would have been quite satisfied with this. He started out as high Anglican, and the lectionary would be totally consistent with Wesley’s faith tradition. The difference would be in the interpretation of the readings. Wesley would have understood them in light of God’s unerring love for all of humankind, and God’s commitment to new life and love for every human being.
Please pause with me in our Prayer for Illumination.
Let us pray:
Gracious Holy Spirit, we praise you for the holy light and love that give us life and guide us in our living. Bless to us the words of Scripture that we hear that we may be inspired in our love for you, and for our fellow being. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
(Good News Translation)
Our spiritual being is renewed day after day
13 The scripture says, “I spoke because I believed.” In the same spirit of faith we also speak because we believe. 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus to life, will also raise us up with Jesus and take us, together with you, into his presence. 15 All this is for your sake; and as God's grace reaches more and more people, they will offer to the glory of God more prayers of thanksgiving. 16 For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. 17 And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. 18 For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever. 5 1 For we know that when this tent we live in—our body here on earth—is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home he himself has made, which will last forever.
The writer, Paul, assures us that our spiritual being is renewed day after day. This is part of the faith profession of John Wesley and the Methodist tradition. It is part of the assurance of the faith that is ours today. And we say thank you.
Reading from the Book of Psalms: Psalm 138:1-6, 8
To praise God with all our heart
I praise you, O God, with all my heart;
before the gods I will sing your praises.
I bow down toward your holy temple
and praise your name for your love and faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name
and your word above everything.
On the day that I called, you answered me,
and put new strength in my soul.
All earth's rulers shall praise you,
when they hear the words of your mouth.
They shall sing of your ways, O God,
sing that your glory is great.
For though you are high, you care for the lowly.
As for the proud, you humble them from afar.
You will fulfil your purpose for me.
Your love, O God, is eternal.
Do not leave unfinished the work of your hands.
Sung Response: #867, verse 1
I'll praise my Maker while I've breath;
and when my voice is lost in death,
praise shall employ my nobler powers.
My days of praise shall ne'er be past,
while life and thought and being last,
or immortality endures.
Gospel Reading: Mark 3:20-35 (Good News Translation)
In love, Jesus’ family
20 Then Jesus went home. Again such a large crowd gathered that Jesus and his disciples had no time to eat. 21 When his family heard about it, they set out to take charge of him, because people were saying, “He's gone mad!”
22 Some teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem were saying, “He has Beelzebul in him! It is the chief of the demons who gives him the power to drive them out.”
23 So Jesus called them to him and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a country divides itself into groups which fight each other, that country will fall apart. 25 If a family divides itself into groups which fight each other, that family will fall apart. 26 So if Satan's kingdom divides into groups, it cannot last, but will fall apart and come to an end.
27 “No one can break into a strong man's house and take away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man; then he can plunder his house.
28 “I assure you that people can be forgiven all their sins and all the evil things they may say. 29 But whoever says evil things against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, because he has committed an eternal sin.” (30 Jesus said this because some people were saying, “He has an evil spirit in him.”)
31 Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside the house and sent in a message, asking for him. 32 A crowd was sitting around Jesus, and they said to him, “Look, your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, and they want you.”
33 Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 He looked at the people sitting around him and said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does what God wants is my brother, my sister, my mother.”
The Gospel reassures us of God’s unerring love. And Jesus promises that all of us who love are members of his family. And we can celebrate, and smile, and give our thanks!
Sermon: The light and love of Christ, for life
Rev. Jim McKnight June 6, 2021
A good friend of mine was once applying for a call to a large downtown United Church congregation.
The church had a reputation. It was the go-to congregation in the area if you were well-to-do and not Anglican or Roman Catholic or Presbyterian. And as part of the application process, he was asked to provide a kind of Christian education module to the Search Committee.
So, what he did was to ask the members of the Search committee each to give him the hymn title of their favourite hymn. And unknown to them, his intention was to interpret, from the words of the hymn, the way they saw themselves as Christian People. And in the process, he really was quite shocked at what he discerned. And so were the members of the Search Committee! Because the Search Committee saw their congregation as a leader ... as strong and as secure. They saw themselves as a community of faith that could be called on as resource and help to other congregations, as a strong and stable Christian congregation around which others could convene and learn and take their lead.
But the hymns they chose provided a completely different picture.
The hymns they chose were hymns of healing and of trust / of commitment, and of need / of faith, and holiness, and understanding:
Take My Life
Come to My Heart, Lord Jesus
My Faith Looks Up to Thee
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
I Need Thee Every Hour
He Leadeth Me
Blest Be the Tie That Binds
They were hymns of heart and love and human understanding, and it was as though the members of the Search Committee were so deeply pleased to see it all so clearly! It was as though their prayer had been answered: Lord, give us the strength to be gentle; give us the love to be whole. It was as though their Methodist roots were showing. And the Methodist roots of that fine congregation are the exact same roots as Beaverdams: John Wesley - whose faith and deep commitment both are born of love and light and a heart of life in Christ!
We speak of Beaverdams and Trinity - both congregations of the Wesleyan Methodist tradition. But we maybe don’t really know how that tradition has made us who we are. John Wesley and his brother, Charles, lived their long lives completely in the 18th century; and we, in the United Church, are products of their very faith, today. How do we know them? How do we come to know their faith? How do we know them as the source and soul of who we are as United Church today?
I say: just like that friend of mine with his Search Committee…
I say: let’s know it by looking at their hymns …
John Wesley was the preacher; his younger brother Charles composed the hymns; and it seems to me the hymns of the younger brother capture the heartfelt essence of the faith. Voices United retains 14 of the hymns composed by Charles Wesley. The Hymnary carries 43. And for us, today, we can acknowledge with assurance that the faith of Methodist John Wesley is a derivation of the heart.
All his life, John Wesley wasn’t positively sure that he was Christian. As a preacher and a priest, he wasn’t sure. His mentor encouraged him to “Continue preaching faith until he had it, and once he had it, to continue preaching because he had it.” Finally (we are told), on May 24, 1738, Wesley had the experience that changed his life. In his journal, John Wesley writes:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
I felt my heart strangely warmed ...That experiential moment; that religious experience that changed John Wesley’s life, has been a hallmark and a persistent hope of faithful people of the Methodist tradition, even till today. John Wesley’s experience of heart has translated into the depth of faith that still is with us in this United Church of ours.
We hear it expressed so clearly in his brother’s hymns:
Come, let us, who in Christ believe,
Our common Saviour praise,
To Him with joyful voices give
The glory of His grace.
He now stands knocking at the door
Of every sinner's heart.
The worst need keep Him out no more,
Or force Him to depart.
Through grace we hearken to Thy voice,
Yield to be saved from sin;
In sure and certain hope rejoice
That Thou wilt enter in.
Come quickly in, Thou heavenly Guest,
Nor ever hence remove;
But sup with us, and let the feast
Be everlasting love.
Christ in heart, in love!
Thou hidden source of calm repose,
Thou all sufficient love divine,
My help and refuge from my foes,
Secure I am if Thou art mine;
And lo! from sin, and grief, and shame
I hide me, Jesus, in Thy name.
Thy mighty name salvation is,
And keeps my happy soul above.
Comfort it brings, and power, and peace,
And joy, and everlasting love.
To me, with Thy great name, are given
Pardon, and holiness and heaven.
Jesus, my all in all Thou art;
My rest in toil, my ease in pain;
The healing of my broken heart,
In war my peace, in loss my gain;
My smile beneath the tyrant’s frown;
In shame my glory and my crown.
In want my plentiful supply,
In weakness my almighty power;
In bonds my perfect liberty,
My light in Satan’s darkest hour;
My joy in grief, my shield in strife,
In death my everlasting life.
Pardon, love and joy, and everlasting life!
Talk with us, Lord, Thyself reveal,
While here o'er earth we rove;
Speak to our hearts, and let us feel
The kindling of Thy love.
With Thee conversing, we forget
All time and toil and care;
Labour is rest, and pain is sweet,
If Thou, my God, art here.
Here, then, my God, vouchsafe to stay,
And bid my heart rejoice;
My bounding heart shall own Thy sway,
And echo to Thy voice.
Thou callest me to seek Thy face,
'Tis all I wish to seek;
To hear the whispers of Thy grace
And hear Thee inly speak.
Let this my every hour employ,
Till I Thy glory see;
Enter into my Master's joy,
And find my heaven in Thee.
Speaks the language of the heart, and speaks to glorious connection, love and transformation, life and heaven found in Christ
Christ whose glory fills the skies,
Christ the true, the only light,
sun of righteousness, arise,
triumph o'er the shades of night.
Dayspring from on high, be near;
daystar, in my heart appear.
Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day's return,
till thy mercy's beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes and warm my heart.
Visit then this soul of mine,
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, radiancy divine,
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.
Triumph of light over darkness; birth of inward light
VU #321 (a summary of Wesley’s faith )
Maker, in whom we live,
in whom we are and move,
the glory, power, and praise receive
for your creating love.
Let all the angel throng
give thanks to God on high,
while earth repeats the joyful song
and echoes to the sky.
let all the ransomed race
render in thanks their lives to you
for your redeeming grace.
The grace to sinners shown,
you heavenly choirs proclaim,
and cry, 'Salvation to our God,
salvation to the Lamb!'
Spirit of Holiness,
let all your saints adore
your sacred energy, and bless
your heart-renewing power.
No angel tongues can tell
your love's ecstatic height,
the glorious joy unspeakable,
the beatific sight.
Eternal, Triune God,
let all the hosts above,
let all on earth below record
and dwell upon your love.
When heaven and earth have fled
before your glorious face,
may all the saints your love has made
sing everlasting praise.
Life / love / everlasting wonder of the Triune God;
Summary of Wesley’s faith and the Methodist confession.
Light / love / forgiveness /transformation / personal salvation
New life - freed from sin and darkness / freed to live for heaven ..
New life - transformed for service to the world!
This is the character of life in Methodism:
Life consumed in the unerring love of God; forgiveness; the total absence of condemnation; complete commitment to the Christ of our hearts and to our fellow beings! This was the soul and heart and faithful dedication of Methodist Christians. This was the soul and heart and faithful dedication of Methodist Christians charged with the care of Indigenous children in residential schools. We hear today of condemnation articulated in the language of genocide and cultural destruction and abuse. But these are modern retrospectives - ghastly knowledge and heartbreaking insights gained in hindsight.
And the truth is, not a single Methodist-run residential school has ever been accused of wrong-doing or abuse. Of course, absolutely, it has been realized that the system of residential schools was horribly destructive in and of itself; but in the context of the times, it wasn’t understood. In the context of the times, it couldn’t be!
In the Wesleyan tradition, in the Methodist tradition, their purpose always was God’s love and light and holy welcome into life with one another, and forever then in heaven.
As Charles Wesley writes:
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky:
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master's will!
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
And let me ne’er my trust betray,
But press to realms on high.
Let me ne’er my trust betray - my trust for every vulnerable soul and very child entrusted to my care.
I once read a particular account of a residential school in B.C. I didn’t read it in a history book. I read it in an annual report of the Methodist Church in Canada. I found the report in an antique store. As I remember it, the report was contained in a book of proceedings dated 1912. I gave the book to the University of Victoria College in Toronto when I first retired, so I can’t quote directly from it. But I remember the photographs the book contained. And I retain the sense of what the report said - of what the author said so lovingly of her First Nations charges. There was a photograph of a classroom of Indigenous young girls. They all were dressed in white: white dresses with white aprons. They stood together for the camera, hair drawn off their faces and styled in braids. They all were wearing shoes, and little cotton socks white, like their shoes. Their faces all were calm, showing neither joy, nor distress. Their gaze was calm, as well ... but distant.
And the article accompanying the photo reported the successes of the girls:
They had learned to make their beds.
They knew their prayers.
They would kneel beside their beds at night
and say their prayers.
They were learning to make tea, and how to pour it.
They would be learning how to set the table.
They were learning how to clean the house and soon, to do the laundry.
The writer spoke so lovingly. She was so proud. The girls had come such a long way. The writer was sure that, before too long, the girls would be taught about making meals and cooking and not long after that be qualified as capable and reliable domestics, worthy of employment in many a fine home.
The faithful teachers of this residential program were working out of love, and dedication, and commitment. They were living out their faith within the context of their times; living out their call to serve the present age and never, ever betray their trust to bring their precious charges into light and life and love and life eternal. There was no genocide intended - never genocide, but always, only, love. It would devastate the matrons of that residential school to think that they had inflicted harm. In fact, I believe that if these same matrons were alive today, they would be the first to recognize the traumatic legacy of residential schools, and immediately take up the cause of prayerfully and effectively providing redress.
And I believe that The United Church of our generation feels it in their heart as well. There is repentance and apology and a deep quest for forgiveness; and the Healing Fund set up to speak to healing and provide financial resource.
Jesus weeps. We know it.
Our Methodist tradition feels it in our hearts ... and we respond.
“Who is my mother?” Jesus asks. “Who are my brothers?” And looking at the people sitting around him, he says, “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever loves and cares, and lives my light, and brings my light and life to others is my brother and my sister and my mother.”
And as we dare to love each other dearly with all our heart and soul and strength, we share the promise that is life for all the world. This is the faith we know as Methodist. It is the sure foundation of our days, and how we serve the present age. And here, today, at Beaverdams Church, we embrace this heritage of ours.
Thanks be to God!