Worship Service for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 7th Sunday after Pentecost, landing on July 7th, 2024!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. You can follow along with it or with the words that will appear on your screen. The sermon is also included on this page under the video itself.

For an enhances online worship experience, you can have a lit candle nearby to match the altar candles, and yours can be extinguished when they are near the end of the service after the sending hymn. You’re also welcome to participate in communion if you are comfortable, by having something small to eat and drink ready for the appropriate time in the service. Further instruction will be given then.

May the joy of God’s blessing be apparent to you, this day and always!

God, may your Spirit rest in this place, open our hearts to hear your Word, and set us free to follow you and the power of your love, through Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Last Sunday I complained a bit about how the incessant rains were cramping my style, and so of course today I’m going to complain about how too dang hot it’s been since then.  I say “of course,” because such is the vibe here in the Lower Mainland, am I right?  Like we have a very small window of comfort when it comes to the weather.  Like it has to be sunny but not too sunny, warm but not too warm, breezy but not too breezy.

And that kind of weather is not just a myth, believe me, I’ve experienced it here before.  Greatest 37 minutes of my life.

But outside of that window?  Outside of that perfect paradigm?  Outside of those idyllic memories of what the weather could be?  Well, we in these here parts like to complain, complain, complain.  Because even when I was enjoying that 37 minutes of perfect weather, I’m pretty sure there were too many bugs flying around.  Gosh, I’m starting to sound like an old man, telling those young whipper snappers to get off my lawn.

This kind of complaining isn’t just the weather, is it?  We complain about a whole host of things.  Yes, the weather is included, but outside of that we complain about the pests that the weather brings, how late or early it gets dark, and how we need to change our clocks twice a year.  We complain about the cost of living these days from gas to groceries to real estate.  We complain about the polarized opinions that flood society and social media, from religion to politics to whether the earth is round or flat.  See what I mean?  Complain, complain, complain.

Where does all this complaining even come from?  Well, I think our experience has a lot to do with it.  We remember an enjoyable experience from the past and we wish that life could always be that way.  We look with fondness how things used to be and we hope they could be like that again.  We recall what our bodies were able to do when we were young, how strong, how agile, and how easily it could stand up after sitting on the floor for more than 2 minutes, and we wonder just where did the time go.  And since life rarely changes back to how it was, things rarely revert to how they were, and we never actually grow younger, we’re left with these feelings of nostalgia, and perhaps even discontentment and want.

It’s like we like to live in our memories and can’t let go of what was.  It’s like we’re stuck in our worldviews and paradigms of how things should be.  It’s like we can’t and just don’t want to step out of our comfort zones.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, not really at least.  There’s nothing wrong with having fond memories.  There’s nothing wrong with missing how things used to be.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to live in those comfort zones.

Well, nothing wrong with it unless our memories, our reminiscing of what was, or our comfort zones are just too narrow and rigid that it prevents us from moving forward, seeing the world as it is, and finding joy in it all.  Like just because the world is different now, it doesn’t mean it should go back to the way it was.  Just because things have changed from how we remember them, it doesn’t mean that they’re bad.  Just because things fall outside of our small window of comfort, that doesn’t make them worth complaining about.

And that brings us to today’s gospel story.  This is, to me, one of the more surprising stories of Jesus that we get, maybe because we don’t often see Jesus as powerless very much.  It tells us how Jesus goes back to his home town and finds himself unable to do anything for them.  It tells us that Jesus can’t help them or heal them because they remember him, perhaps as that illegitimate firstborn of a poor, unwed couple.  This story tells us that Jesus can’t impart any wisdom teaching on these folk because they don’t think that this kid from the bricks could have anything to teach them.  So much so that they take offense and complain.

Then Jesus’ commentary on the situation hits pretty hard.  “Prophets are not without honour,” he says, “except in their hometown.”  I mean that just slaps, and not just because Jesus uses a double negative here.  His words just resonate so much, at least with me, a borderline problem child who grew up in a church that thought that I’d amount to nothing.  I’m not saying that I’m Jesus-level prophet or anything, but it’s clear that even as a regular pastor, I don’t have much honour, respect, or even clout among the folk who remember me from those days back then. 

Its like who I am now in contrast to who I was falls too far outside of their paradigm of me.  They can only acknowledge me as one way and they can’t shake the thought that I’m not that guy anymore.  Not entirely, at least.  It’s almost as though the very fact that I’m a pastor now is offensive to them, and they might even complain how that doesn’t jive with the little window of comfort they have for me.

And this is what happened with Jesus in this story.  Jesus, the Messiah, was left powerless because of this paradigm that these folk had of him.  Jesus, the Son of God, had people complaining about him because they couldn’t get over their memories of him.  Jesus, the Saviour of the world, was unable to help these folk because he no longer fit inside the box that they built for him in their minds.  This is what happened to Jesus in this story.  And if we’re honest, this is what happens to Jesus now. 

Wait, what?

I can’t be saying that we’d complain about Jesus, can I?  I don’t mean that we like to size Jesus up with our own expectations, do I?  I mustn’t be saying that we can be so closed minded that Jesus would be rendered powerless to help us, am I?

Depends, would I be fired if I were?

The thing is, we all have a faith story.  We all have a reason why we’re here now in this church, part of this community, a member of this congregation even.  We all remember the history we have with Jesus, even if it is a non-existent history.

And in that story, in those experiences, in our memories, we can’t help but have a window of comfort where Jesus fits in.  It doesn’t have to be narrow, it doesn’t have to be too tiny and specific, it doesn’t even have to be a bad thing.  But if that window can’t grow, if that window can’t expand for us to learn new things, if that window is too static that it prevents us from seeing Jesus moving, working, and teaching us new and radical ways to love, then we might not be able to see what God is doing in our lives, in our community, and in the world. 

But the good news is that even if that does happen, even if we see how we’ve put Jesus in a box, even when we catch ourselves complaining about how God isn’t how we want or expect God to be, we are not given up on.  God doesn’t kick us to the curb and leave us to fend for ourselves.  God doesn’t say “forget you then” and abandon us as punishment.  God doesn’t even shake the dust off of God’s feet in protest of us.

Instead, God recruits others and different prophets to show us support.  God finds new ways to remind us of how loved and forgiven we are.  God raises all of us up and continues to save us. 

And when we see that, when we see how much God loves, how much God gives, and how much God saves, we begin to recognise God in more places, we feel the joy of life again, and we change how we see the world.  No longer will it be in our eyes a world that falls so far out of our comfort zones that we could only complain about it, but it becomes in our hearts a world that is broken yet healed, fallen yet lifted up, sinful yet forgiven… just as we are.

And just as God doesn’t give up on us, nor does God give up on the world.  Even when we think the world is beyond saving, deserves a horrible and fiery end, or we can never stop complaining about it and the discomfort it puts us through, let’s not forget that this is the world that God loves and chooses to care for, lift up, and be present with always.

So in this season after Pentecost, let’s have our minds expanded by the power of the Spirit, that even in our distaste and complaints about life around us, that we’d be able to see Jesus living and breathing with, among, and all around us, teaching us, healing us, and revealing to us the joy in God’s love and grace.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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