Who Wants to Get Stoned?

 

RiverbedPeople in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. A rolling stone gathers no moss. The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way you use them. There is no end to quotes about stones.

How many of you were scratching your head at the sign this week? Gary was a bit skeptical when I told him what I wanted on it.

There is a convergence of things this week… it’s Mother’s Day… May 17th is the International Day to Fight Homophobia and Transphobia…

On the communion table is the plate of stones that you wrote your hopes and dreams for the Pastoral Charge on…

And of course, we have our scripture readings to wrestle with and reflect upon.

Today’s reading from Acts tells about the stoning of Stephen… stoned to death for following Jesus… how many of us would risk that? We, or perhaps I should say, I, don’t often think of what it might have been like to be a follower of Jesus in those early days… followers of The Way. Folllowers of a criminal who had been executed by the state. Dangerous times… we do not face stoning for coming here… we do not have to meet in secret places for fear for our lives… we do not encounter ANY opposition to practicing our faith. And yet, sometimes we metaphorically stone others who do not look like what we believe ‘good Christians’ look like. And yet, Jesus called ordinary people to come and follow him. And invited them on a journey. Invited them into new way of relating to one another and the world.

Our reading from 1 Peter says, “Come to him, (meaning Jesus) who is a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” A spiritual house is not one in which is apart from the world, a spiritual house is one in which our faith, and what we believe, and the characteristics that we want others to know about us, is actively engaged with the world.

So, let’s refresh our memories with some of the words that you wrote on stones during Lent two years ago. I picked up a few of the stones and just ad-libbed some reflections on them, peace, forgiveness, hope were some of them.

At the beginning of this Interim Ministry, there were four broad goals to work on:

1. Understanding our history and dynamics, especially between the two points.
2. Governance, how we made decisions.
3. Expectations of ministry personnel and conflict
4. Living out our faith.

For those of you who have email, you received an update from Martha Healy, the chair of the Transition Team, along with an overview of what we have done in those areas along with work and plans still to be completed. For those of you who don’t have email, there are copies of those on the table in the entryway. We have come a long way over the past 16 months and we still have a ways to go. We are rebuilding…

When the executive met for the first time, we decided on group norms, how we want to behave with each other, not just during our spiritual grounding and executive meetings, but always. This is what we agreed on, and each of us contributed to that.

For those of you who may not know who the new executive is, I am going to invite them to stand: Bill Parks, Margaret Hines, Christine Rainnie, Paul Healy, Al Wallace, Vanessa Churchill, Marge Wagner and John Wagner.

1. Only one person speaks at a time. No interruptions.
2. Conversations, especially spiritual (mostly during grounding meetings) are confidential and not to be shared outside the meeting.
3. Be respectful
4. Speak in the “I”.
5. Cell phones on silent.
6. Be on time.
7. Accept others’ ideas
8. Attendance is crucial. Please make every effort to attend.
9. Be positive
10. Be open and honest.

We also talked about being ambassadors for this new way of governing ourselves. To demonstrate a different way of making decisions. That is one of the building blocks. A stone, strong and stable, used as a foundation, not a weapon. At the beginning of worship, I named what it was this faith community said was important, what we wanted to be.

In case you weren’t listening then, here they are again:

1. Focused on faith
2. Welcoming, accepting and inclusive
3. Care for one another and being open to one another.
4. Connected to the wider community.

Those are the values that the executive is going to use to guide its decision making. Last time we met for business, we discussed a request to put a rainbow decal on the sign, a visible and public symbol of our commitment to welcome LGBTQ people. I was delighted when instead of questions IF we were going to do it, the discussion moved immediately to HOW we would do it. I gently called them back to the question, were we going to do it and it was unanimous, yes, we were going to do that. For some of you, this may seem like a small step, for some of you, it may seem like a huge step. The decision was made faithfully and reflects one of our stated values: Welcoming, accepting and inclusive.

The same things that make for a solid and resilient faith community are the same things that make for solid and resilient families: Love…       Compassion… Hope… Forgiveness… Commitment… A place for everyone.

What kind of church do we want? What kind of homes do we want?

Our first hymn said it so well.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place. (Let Us Build A House)

Our faith community, our families, at their best, are founded on the rock that is Jesus Christ. Jesus, who welcomed the outcast of his time. Jesus, who challenged and crossed the barriers of ethnicity, gender and age. Jesus, who calls us to be living stones of faith. Can we join him?

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following him. Amen.

Acts 7: 55-60
1 Peter 2: 2-10
May 14, 2017
Riverview United Church

Rev. Catherine MacDonald

 

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