July 30, 2017

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– The Rev’d Carole Neilson –

 

Focus text Genesis 29:15-28, Psalm 105:1-11, 45b, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

These past two weeks were a special time for Don and me. We flew almost the width of Canada to visit our son and his family in New Brunswick. Our visit was too short as usual, but being together is all that really matters.

Our visit, which included meeting many people – motel staff, waiters, firefighters, and a couple who had just opened a beautiful air B&B, reminded me of a conversation I had several years ago with a parishioner at St. Christopher’s in West Vancouver.

We were canvassers for several charities such as the Cancer and Heart and Stroke Campaigns. Both of us mentioned how people answered, or didn’t answer, their doors. The conversation turned to how we answer our door to strangers. Roxy said, “I always try to answer the door with a smile, because you never know when you will be greeting one of God’s angels.”

I think angels are what we need to be looking for in our world. There are so many problems constantly reported through the media from cell phones to computers, telephones, radios, and television that we are never far from the latest tragedy or misstep from some group or individual.

We need to know what is happening. Knowledge is power. Sorting out the truth can only come through critical thinking and research. Asking questions and keeping our leaders, governments, and businesses accountable is part of our responsibility as citizens in a democracy.

We Christians have another aspect to our citizenship. We promise in our baptism to respect the dignity of every human being. With so much happening, it is easy to forget that everyone counts with God, even those we don’t like. I think our mandate to serve in the world and to walk with God is crucial to our personal and church community faith journeys. Each of us and our church has a destiny in this world.

The foundation of our destiny is that we do not walk alone. Jesus walks with us. God will never shut us out. Our prayers of petition and thanksgiving are heard. Placing our trust in the higher power of God is an act of courage… because we are doing something most of the world is not doing…. Acknowledging this is God’s world and we have an important role to play.

History is full of how Christians and other people of good will have brought about change in the world – We don’t need to look too far back to see profound changes in our society and the world at large because individuals and organizations have sought the greater good for everyone.

Today’s Scripture readings are examples of how we can trust God. The Old Testament reading tells of Jacob and his cousin Laban cheating on each other and treating the women as chattels. The twelve tribes of Israel were the result Jacob’s marriage showing how God guided these people to bring out good from that situation.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans describes how nothing can separate us from the love of God – neither death, nor life, nor angels or principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able t separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul wrote this knowing from experience the risks and challenges of following our living, risen Lord.

It is that kind of trust and conviction that set the stage for the rapid spread of Christianity from the days of the Roman Empire to the modern era.

Our Christian record in history is checkered with sin and ambition, but the presence of God through Jesus Christ is fact –past, present and future. That is why we continue to walk with Jesus in faith and trust, certain He will lead us along the right paths.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, the parables told by Jesus are stories meant to challenge us to think about our faith… and our role in the world.

The mustard seed and the yeast parables highlight the presence of God in unexpected ways, illustrating that what begins as a small and insignificant idea or action can multiply and grow to such an extent that it cannot be ignored.

Never doubt that God influences people – sometimes gently, and other times in a revelation to immediate action. It can be an encouraging word, a glass of cold water, a smile, or by urging us to take a firm stand on a matter of conscience.

We are not spectators in daily life. We are the eyes, ears, speakers and doers of God’s plan.

We can see this in the parables about treasure being hidden in a field and the pearl of great price. These parables illustrate the cost of discipleship needed from us, and the price our Lord paid to bring us into a close relationship with God.

We are not promised an easy life. Jesus promises to be with us, giving us courage, hope, love, and joy no matter what happens.

The net of fish gives us the assurance that God’s will is accomplished in the end. Our good deeds are known. And those who choose evil are equally recognized. The final judgment is in God’s hands.

Before this happens we have a mandate to learn from our traditions, Holy Scripture, and new realities which include other cultures and religions. The cooperation of religious groups, different cultures and nationalities is our witness to God’s love for all creation.

As we contemplate our future bright with hope, let us reflect on how we can make a difference in our part of God’s world. Can we send an encouraging greeting to someone? Can we be more patient when driving? Should we smile more? Can we be deliberate in our praise and thanksgiving for the good things in the world and in our lives? Is there something new we can do to help here at HTC or in our neighbourhood? Can we face current world and societal conditions by asking God for guidance?

On our way back from the east, Don and I were in the back section of a Boeing 747. We sat with a Sikh woman who was travelling to BC to attend her nephew’s wedding. The temple she was to attend this weekend is the one in Queens borough. We chuckled about what a small world it is.

It took a long time for the attendants to come with the breakfasts – or what was still available. She, like us, had brought snacks – we shared with each other and soon we were sharing with other passengers. A toddler behind us was delighted with a small candy bar she gave him, while the rest of us shared trail mixes and other goodies.

That is what community is about. While our seat companion waited for her nephew, we introduced her to Lynda and the grandchildren. We parted wishing each other well and safe travels.

For me, and I hope for her, these were treasured moments. Who knows, she may have been one of God’s angels.