I know many people asked for a copy of my sermon, so here is the text. What I realized as I compared my manuscript to the audio version is that because I usually work from notes rather than a full script there are some significant variances. Because of this, I have made a few edits. Also, it is really hard to figure out where there is humour involved. This is exacerbated even more because it is not on video. (An audio version will be going online shortly. There were technical problems with the video.)
Also, as clergy realize, usually the prayers and the music are meant to support the message. So the sermon is embedded in the service outline. Please note, the Call to Worship and Opening Prayer are modified slightly from a service developed by Saskatchewan Conference 2017 Affirming Ministries Service.
Now, I must send a note to Donald to let him know he is welcome and invite him out for a hamberder.
Call to Worship
All are equal before the Divine spirit of God.
We each have a spark of the Divine within us.
May we seek and find the spark of the Divine within us.
May we feel the presence of the Divine in others as we gather here and as we enjoy the gathering of our community this week.
May we seek and find the best in others with the help of the Divine.
May we seek and find our best selves with the help of the Divine.
*Hymn Draw the Circle Wide MV 145
God of Love, we come together as one yet we aren’t alike.
We don’t look, think or act alike.
We don’t all like the same things or the same people.
Despite our diversity we are all made in your image.
May we never forget it is your image that we reflect.
We pray for a welcoming & just church here and around the world.
Yet we don’t always like each other or the views others hold.
Open us to see that other good people can hold divergent views and
travel different paths.
Enable us to journey with dignity and value otherness.
Help us to seek good in everyone and strive for justice for all.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother, who taught us to pray and sing :
Our Father, in Heaven – Hallowed be thy name –
Your kingdom come, ¬– your will be done,
On Earth as in Heaven.
Give us today – Our daily bread. –
Forgive us our sins – As we forgive those – Who sin against us. ¬–
Lead us not – Into temptation – But deliver us – From evil –
For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours –
Now and forever. – Amen. – Amen. –
*Sign of Peace
The peace of Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
Refrain There Is Room For All MV #62
There is room for all, in the shadow of God’s wing;
There is room for all, sheltered in God’s love.
And I rejoice and sing, “My refuge and my rock, in whom I trust.”
There is room for all, there is room for all. (x2)
Time with Our Children
Centering Music Words and music by Bruce Harding (1999)
Shine upon us, like the morning sun rising in the eastern sky.
Shine upon us, may the radiance of your love and comfort fill our lives.
God, we wait for your light; guide us to your way of peace.
May our darkness disappear! From all sorrow may we find release. 2x
Shine upon us. Shine upon us. Shine upon us.
Listening for God’s Word
Gospel Luke 19: 1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’
The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.
Gospel Matthew 23: 23-28, 33
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.
Sermon: The All Inclusive’s Hidden Costs!
(Embracing Your Inner Trump on Your Birthday!)
I want to begin by thanking Art and his unindicted co-conspirators.
The title I was given by Art was, The All Inclusive’s Hidden Costs! (Embracing Your Inner Trump on Your Birthday!)
It has morphed into: Is there a place for Donald Trump at St. Paul’s.
Lots of emails, messages on Facebook, texts, calls – even late last night while I was at the hockey game with my father-in-law.
Some were helpful.
One of the suggestions said it was easy,
Ask the congregation if there is anyone without sin to please raise their hand; when no one puts up their hand drop the mic and walk away. Not a bad idea in some ways.
There are a couple of problems with that. Getting the headset off is never easy and it would muss up my hair.
The other problem is that Jesus tells woman to go away and sin no more. The sin no more thing is the problem.
I know what would be said in response, “But Steve, doesn’t Jesus say that we are supposed to be limitless in our forgiveness?
Jesus does say to Peter that we are to forgive not 7 times but 7 times 70.
Well there are a couple of problems with this too:
– In Luke’s version of this story, Jesus also talks about repentance – change – transformation.
Second thing – math was never my strong suit.
According to the Washington Post, five days ago, Trump has uttered 8,158 false or misleading statements in his first two years in office – a little better than 11 a day.
Friends, I’ve never been great at math but that is even more than 70x7x7.
So this all leads up to that reading by Art; it is one of the harshest condemnations in the scriptures. He is in a confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees, the leading religious authorities of the day, a group he has spoken with on many occasions, a group who refuses to change their perspective – their narrow understanding of God, a group that exercises power and control over the people and Jesus condemns them,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tax mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?”
Not exactly meek and mild. He actually calls them a bunch of snakes and a brood of vipers. You don’t have to be from the Middle East to realize this is a pretty serious insult. He knew them, he named their sins and why they were serious.
– All too often we have sort of sanitized Jesus. This is the side of Jesus who is willing to speak truth to power – even at the risk of his own life.
But again, this isn’t the simple answer. We need to remember who we are and whose we are.
I know there are some of you who don’t like ministers to touch on subjects that involve politics – idea of separation of church and state.
The separation of church and state does not mean that the church should not talk about justice. In fact, it allows the church or the mosque or synagogue to speak clearly about society and how we are governed since the earliest recordings in the Bible.
Walter Brueggermann, one of the most and maybe the most influential Biblical scholars of the last several decades has said, “the public agenda is not an add-on for gospel faith, but it really is the core business of the Gospel. Most of us are hung up on private matters. So we put all of our energy into questions about sexuality and abortion and gays and all that kind of stuff — which is not unimportant, but those are not the core issues of scripture. The core issues of scripture are public, political and economic justice. Justice is central to Jesus’ ministry; it is central to the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament; and it is central to the Torah tradition that lies behind the prophetic tradition.“
Because I take the Bible seriously, I will stand with Brueggermann and with a couple of other preachers who I respect and admire, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu. Justice is at the heart of the Gospel and we need to cry out for justice.
That is what has driven the United Church since our inception:
Not only do we believe in justice, in peace and in inclusion we have lived it out faithfully.
– We ordained Lydia Grunchy, a woman, in 1936. (Some denominations still don’t.) Some left the denomination because of this.
– We decided that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ministry for gays and lesbians in 1988. We lost about 1/3rd of our members because of this.
– This congregation was one of the first in this region to agree to marry gays and lesbians.
– Now, as we move toward being formally recognized as an Affirming Church we are about to start a study centered around an Unfinished Dollhouse, the story of a families transition with a transgender child.
– In 1986, our denomination apologized to First Nations people for the way we imposed our beliefs on them and their ancestors and how we failed to recognize their beliefs in the sacred could help us more fully understand our Creator in a good way. – – – There were many who believed using the word apology would cause a financial catastrophe for us.
– We continue to walk with them and work with them so they receive justice and so we all learn and grow.
– We believe in human rights so much so that we are willing to partner with Palestinians in their struggle for recognition of their rights with the Israelis.
– We believe in science and we believe that as the scriptures tell us we are stewards of the world and we need to act to end global warming.
– We believe that there is no reason why poverty should exist in Canada.
Much of what I believe and what the UCC stands for can be summed up in Cornel West’s comment, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
So, now let me get around to the subject at hand Donald Trump
Trump is a liar, greedy, hedonistic, he is a misogynist, narcissist, megalomaniac and is xenophobic.
He doesn’t believe in science or climate change.
He doesn’t understand that “trickle down” economics doesn’t work. And – he doesn’t get diplomacy.
He likes some of the most dangerous “strongmen” in the world:
Putin, Duterte, Kim Jong Un, Mohammed Bin Salman, Netanyahu.
Breath, Steve, breath. Steve, maybe, you should go a little easier. That is what many said to Tutu, to King, to the suffragettes, to Nellie McClung, to Jesus and to the prophets before him.
What he is doing is harming people.
I was having a serious conversation with one of my American friends about health care. He is probably a Republican. He looked at me and said, “He is trying to kill my child.” It became very real and personal for me.
I’ve also seen the havoc he has caused in Palestine and I know that the funding cuts he has put in place, according to doctors there, is killing people.
That is why I want to cling to that reading from Matthew and Jesus encounter with the scribes and Pharisees.
But then there is that other story that Michelle read for us about Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus was not a nice person. He was someone who would have been hated by his fellow Jews. He betrayed them, he was in league with the Romans who as occupiers were in the business of sucking as much money as they could out of the people. As a result, he became rich.
Some of you remember the old song about him. (I won’t be singing for you.)
Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
A wee little man was he.
He climbed up in the sycamore tree,
The Savior for to see.
I don’t know why he wanted to see Jesus so desperately.
Jesus knew who he was when he saw him up the tree and he called up to him. “Zacchaeus get down out of there! Tonight, I will be hanging with you!” In that moment, he was transformed. Forever changed.
I’ve seen many people who have been transformed;
– those who believed that gays and lesbians were different and should be excluded,
– those who believed immigrants and refugees were a burden,
– those who believed that might makes right,
– those who believed there is no hope for reconciliation with family or friends,
– those who believed that human rights didn’t matter in other parts of the world,
I’ve seen many;
– who have been touched by God’s grace and God’s love and who have found a new way.
– who have had the scales drop from their eyes,
– who have seen the light of God’s love.
President Obama was fond of speaking about, “finding our better angels.” Today, it seems today as if there is someone who is appealing not to our better angels but to our darker ones has made so many things that were once unacceptable – normal.
Dr. King, once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Is there room for all? Of course there is.
But in that, I also know that I must continue to be transformed. I must continue to be transformed by the power of God’s light and love that comes from God that flows through you. I know that our church and our denomination has been transformed by the power of God’s light and love that flows through you also. I know that there is room under God’s sheltering wings, God’s healing wings, where light can come in, where the love that is needed can change each of us and can change the world.
I know I need to continue to be transformed – as we all do to become more fully human, to become more fully the people God created us to be. I need to become more open to the light that comes from God and so does the church. We need to remember who Jesus was in all aspects of his ministry and teaching. We as individuals, as people of faith need to be transformed through love.
We must move beyond our own blind acceptance of our own beliefs and perspectives. We need to be transformed in terms of our own accountability.
I believe our church is transformed by each of you and your light. Your light that reflects God’s love
Thanks be to God – for the light and the love that we know.
Thanks be to God for the transformative power that helps all to find healing.
Thanks be to God for the light and the love that gives us the strength to reach out as God’s people to proclaim God’s justice and God’s love and God’s mercy. Amen.
Hymn Deep in our Hearts MV#154
Responding in Gratitude and Faith
Community at Prayer
*Offering Dedication What Can I Do? Paul Rumbolt
What can I do? What can I bring?
What can I say? What can I sing?
I’ll sing with joy. I’ll say a prayer.
I’ll bring my love. I’ll do my share.
Going Out to Love and Serve
*Hymn Go, Make a Diff’rence MV 209
*Commissioning and Benediction
The Call to Worship and Opening Prayer are adapted from the Saskatchewan Conference 2017 Affirming Ministries Service.