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2014 11 16 Sermon by Vern Rempel (17.3 MB)
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2014 07 20 Sermon by Emily Martin (20.1 MB)
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All Saints Day
Life Worth Living: Philippians 4:8-9
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Nancy says, “There will never be an acceptable answer to the question of why it happened. Before Brett was diagnosed with this freakish brain tumor—running on the treadmill at the gym one day, falling against the walls in [their] apartment months later—I was one of those people who believed that ‘things happen for a reason.’ Now I know the truth: this just isn’t so. There was no rationale for why a healthy young man slipped behind the veil of life. It happened.
But why everything at once? Newborn twins and a death sentence all on the same day? Nancy says, “It’s only now that I begin to understand the fluid line existing between past and present, remembrance and breathing, the scent of yesterday and the air of today. Brett has been gone nine years and still I see him in the light of day.” (pp. 3-4)
Holding both life and death together in the same moment seems impossible or is it?
Every form of life is subject to birth and death. Life without change does not exist. Dying and rebirth are a constant evolution. We see this annually in the natural created order of the seasons from Spring to Summer, then Autumn to Winter. This is an essential life cycle for vegetation and animals. The life cycle of trees is one of the most prominent displays of this cycle. As the leaves fall to the ground each autumn season and if left untouched in their natural habitat, they will decay and become food for the nourishment of the tree to continue the annual cycle of springing new birth of leaves and fruit.
I tend to be a hopeful person and enjoy change to some degree. I love the changes of season. As I get older, I’m not always ready to let go of the current season and move into the next unless you talk with me in the month of March.
Change is most evident in the formation from childhood to adulthood. But change and evolution in our own lives does not stop there. How many of you believe everything you thought to be true when you were 19 years old?
As I have grown and developed in my spiritual life, my sense of God has changed, but my faith has grown in expansive ways.
Richard Rohr recently wrote in one of his daily meditations, “I came out of seminary in 1970 thinking that my job was to have an answer for every question. What I've learned since then is that not-knowing and often not even needing to know is a deeper way of knowing and a deeper form of compassion. Maybe that is why Jesus praised faith even more than love; maybe that is why Saint John of the Cross called faith "luminous darkness."
That is why all great traditions teach some form of
contemplation, because it is actually a different form of knowledge that emerges
inside of the “cloud of unknowing.”
Luminous Darkness – Cloud of Unknowing; passing over to the next life. These all have a common element, void of clarity. Our consciousness is the one place where we can hold all of these elements. The deeper we go into meditation and contemplation, the deeper we access our consciousness. Here is where we hold reality beyond our experience. And, thank goodness, our consciousness is not attached nor confined to our physical bodies. Our consciousness is transcendent and is not subject to birth or death.
In the past few months I have had a growing desire to connect more with my dad who died 14 years ago. I have felt a block any time I think of him and wish to feel his presence more closely in my life. In early July I visited his grave but found no consolation or connection there. It was after returning back home that I got the idea of playing with a toy tractor. In our house, we have a shelf with two toy tractors, one representing my family and the farm I grew up on and one representing the farm Dawn grew up on. My father was a collector of Oliver Tractors which we used on our farm. So I took this tractor off the shelf and laid on the floor and pushed it around for a while and thought about my dad. It didn’t take long for me to have a very real sense that I was on the driver seat of the tractor and my dad was standing behind me saying to me, “you know how to do this, keep going!”
Sometimes we need to know that the love and energy of those who have crossed over is still alive and real in our lives.
In the book of Philippians, Paul has a sense of the goodness and potential in each one. He was exhorting the community in Philippi to trust that God had begun a good work in them. This good work had the signs of love, wisdom and insight producing generous living.
There is some debate whether or not Philippians is Paul’s last book or not. But what can be seen in this writing compared to his earlier book of Thessalonians is a less anxious Paul. He seems more rooted, grounded and relaxed. This is the book where he states that he has learned to be content with whatever is. In any and all circumstances he has learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry; of having plenty and being in need. He gains his strength by following the life and teachings of Jesus.
What is it that inspires us to follow after those who have gone before us? My Grandma Good inspires me to keep upbeat, speak your mind, and keep on with the tasks at hand. She was always humming as she worked around her house and in her gardens. I found her to be a content person and enjoyable to be around. She also would speak up especially if there was a decision being made and she was not consulted. When my father and grandfather were planning to build a 4-bay truck garage, they were going to take down the walnut tree which was the only tree in the yard. When my grandmother learned about their intent, she along with my mother bonded together and protested and were persuasive enough to save the walnut tree.
What are your memories of your loved ones which inspire you to live a life of worth and joy? Paul in our text today implores the community at Philippi to focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellence or worthy of celebration. Think on these things! Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received by those who have gone before. They are all around us everywhere.
Bishop Spong says in his reflections about Paul and the
book of Philippians:
All Saints Day is a time for both gratitude and inspiration. We are all saints in the making.
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