Generous With Hope

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There is a crack, a crack, in everything… that’s how the light gets in…

I don’t know about you, but it’s been an emotional week, the US election, Leonard Cohen dying, Remembrance Day. Whatever your political persuasion, the election of Donald Trump will have a profound effect on us as Canadians and the world. As Pierre Elliot Trudeau stated years ago, “When the US sneezes, Canada catches a cold.”

Leonard Cohen was a Canadian icon, a man with his religious roots in Judaism… a poet… a man who understood the nuances of liturgy… of lament and hope in the face of destruction. A man whose music and poetry has been the soundtrack of my life since I was 14.

And of course Remembrance Day… Yesterday, as I read and reflected on all those things, I felt a deep sense of melancholy.

This prayer, written by Erin Counihan, one of my on-line colleagues in the USA, resonated with me yesterday morning:

Alright God, I see the mess. Some of it is out there and some of it is in here and a whole bunch of it is in me. And I have days when I can’t deal with that. I have days when I just want to sit in the mess and cry. On those days I want you to show up. And I need you to fix it. JUST FIX IT. And then I have days like today when I am angry and need to do something. I already scrubbed my floors. I washed all the dishes and my windows are perfectly clean. Clean enough that there’s nothing blocking my view of the real mess. So tell me what part of the actual mess is my part to clean up today. Where do I need to clean inside me? Where do I need to clean out there? What work and scrubbing and mucking and raking and organizing are you calling me to do- for my neighbor, for my community, for you? Because the mess is shouting so loudly I can hardly hear your voice. Make it clear. Because today I’ve got my gloves on and I’m ready to work. Amen. Posted on RevGals

What’s a follower of Jesus to do right now?

We share stories of hopeful generosity!

My friend Brenda broke both her ankles about 3 weeks ago. Not 1, but 2! And had to be completely off her feet for 2 weeks. Brenda is my age, single, and like many people these days, works contract work, because full time, permanent jobs, even for people with education and training are challenging to find. She is a social worker by training and works at the library with new Canadians, linking them to language training and coordination volunteers to work with them. Because she works contract work, she is only entitled to one week of sick time, after that EI sick benefits, which are only 60% of her wages and her recovery time is going to be 6-8 weeks. Brenda, like many people these days is only paycheque or two away from poverty.

But Brenda has friends… and they became salt and light in the world.

One friend coordinated meals and errands through a website called Lotsa Helping Hands. Brenda named the things she needed each day and people could sign up to deliver a meal, run an errand and so on. I signed up for a meal and Brenda messaged me that the best way I could help her was to set up a GoFundMe page, where people could contribute financially. For those of you who don’t’ know what GoFundMe is, it is an on-line platform in which people can raise money for a variety of things, business start-ups, mission trips, one of the most common uses is medical. I agreed, we decided on a goal of $4000 and I launched it on a Monday evening with a story and picture. By the next Monday, the goal had been achieved, with contributions ranging from $20 to $300 and people continue to contribute to it.

Salt and light. A great story of how each of can respond to an individual need.

Some of us are reading and studying Grounded by Diana Butler Bass. On Wednesday she posted this on her Facebook page:

“After 40 hours of teary self-imposed exile, I left my house and went to my local Starbucks. “Can I help you?” asked the 20-something barista in lightly accented English, that warm sound of a native-Spanish speaker smoothing over our rough Germanic consonants. I started to cry. Tears-down-the-cheeks crying. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “I’m. . . I’m. . . so so sorry. Trump.” I could barely say his name. “I didn’t vote for him. I would never. I’m so sorry.” Through the sniffling, I choked out, “I love that you are an American. You make us stronger, better.”

“Thank you.” Then, she said softly. “I know. No one here is happy. No one here voted for him.” She gazed into my eyes, brown and blue meeting each other in a knowing and surprisingly empowering moment. She reached over the counter and took my hand, holding it with assurance. “You know what?” she continued, “Whatever happens, God is in control. God is here. With us. God is with us.”

“What?” I replied.

“God. That’s what I keep saying to my friends. God is here. God is with us. With God, everything will be alright. God knows all things, God is in all things. God is with us.”

“You,” I said back, “are an angel.”

“No,” she replied quietly, “I’m just faithful. God is with us.” (Facebook post)

Salt and light.

How can we respond as salt and light on a community of faith?

Our first scripture reading this morning speaks of bringing the best of what you have to the temple. And our second one, is the one we have been reading and reflecting upon for the past 4 weeks, being salt and light in the world. While we bring food for the food bank on a regular basis, I don’t know if we think of bringing our best selves to church.

What if we brought our best selves to church? Brought our best selves and then strengthened and renewed by the gathered community, we bring our best selves to the rest of our encounters. I believe that we are being challenged and called to offer the best we are today.

I challenge our community of faith to be a shining light of acceptance and inclusion, a place where homophobia, sexism and racism are not tolerated. I challenge our church to not just say we are inclusive but to make it visible: to put a rainbow decal on the sign… to put a rainbow candle on the communion table… to hang a rainbow flag.

I challenge our church to connect with our First Nations communities and partner with them in some way.

I challenge our church to become conscious of our leadership… whose light gets to shine? Does it reflect the diversity of age and gender and sexual orientation?

Now, more than ever, we have to let our light shine!

Rebecca Solnit, an activist, writer and feminist in the US writes this, “Got hope? It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.

“Critical thinking without hope is cynicism, but hope without critical thinking is naivete,” the Bulgarian writer Maria Popova recently remarked. “The tremendous human rights achievements—not only in gaining rights but in redefining race, gender, sexuality, embodiment, spirituality and the idea of the good life–of the past half century have flowered during a time of unprecedented ecological destruction and the rise of innovative new means of exploitation. And the rise of new forms of resistance, including resistance enabled by an elegant understanding of that ecology and the means of protest, as well as by new ways for people to communicate and organize, and new and exhilarating alliances across distance and difference. Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things you can know beforehand. You may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.”

We follow one of those people… Jesus…

As Leonard Cohen wrote,

“Show me the place, help me roll away the stone
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place, where the word became a man
Show me the place, where the suffering began.” (Show Me the Place – Leonard Cohen)

Show me the place where it hurts…

I challenge our church to see the dark places where it hurts… and shine our lights on them. To season the world with goodness and mercy. I challenge our community of faith to be like Jesus. Jesus who drew the circle wide and continues to draw the circle wide.

I have safety pins for everyone… pins that have become a symbol that you are a safe person. I invite and challenge each one of you to take and wear one. I plan to put rainbow coloured beads on mine. The safety pin campaign started in Britain after the Brexit vote and was quickly picked up in the US after the election. It is a pin that says:

safety-pin

But don’t take one if you are not prepared to be that person.

And closing with more words from Leonard Cohen:

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In their rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night.
If it be your will. (If It Be Your Will – Leonard Cohen)

We are rags of light, let us shine on. Amen.

Leviticus 2: 1, 2, 13 & Mathew 5: 13-16

Catherine MacDonald November 13, 2016

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