Last Sunday was the story of Jesus baptism , just want to touch on that a little. When I first heard that reading a long time I ago, it brought tears to my eyes and I thought imagine hearing that voice, Godís voice saying this is my beloved child in whom I am well pleased. Imagine how wonderful that would be. Today I can understand that a bit differently and I believe that blessing is for all of us, because we are one in Jesus these words are for us too. This is important because we need to know and remember who we are. When people lose their cultural identity and this happens in many ways, they are assimilated by another culture in one way or another, they get lost because they donít know who they are. I think sometimes we get lost in our ever pervasive culture of consumerism because we have forgotten who we are. We are the beloved children of God. We are Godís holy people.
The reading from Isaiah today is so beautiful. It tells us that we were called and named by God before we were born. Tells us we are Godís secret weapon, that we will be a light to the nations. Further on in the reading it says God will never forget us - God says would a mother forget the child at her breast? Your name is engraved on my palm, a different vision of being held in Godís hands From the beginning of time we have belonged to God and we have a 2,000 year old renewal of that in Jesus baptism that is carried on today in our own baptism. We need to know that we belong to God and we are followers of Jesus. In the reading from John it says John was standing there with two of his disciples and Jesus walks by and John says to them ďBehold the lamb of GodĒ Johnís disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus. Would they have done this without John pointing him out maybe not. Today we still need people to say to us ďBehold the lamb of GodĒ. We need to have Jesus shown to us over and over again.
Okay, so how do we go about being the people of God today? How do we follow Jesus when he says come and see? I was thinking about this the other day Ė we hear lots now about Green companies and ethical investments everyone is leaping on the bandwagon now that the end times do seem near. At one time David Suzuki was a voice crying in the wilderness and now Walmart is going Green. People are afraid and companies are cashing in on that fear or maybe they are afraid too. We are the people of a privileged nation and sometimes out of guilt, obligation and fear we can be moved to action. But if we remember who we are - Godís beloved people, we can act out of the spirit of love and abundance that dwells in us. Like Jesus baptism the Holy Spirit will come into our hearts if we are open to this, and our strength will come from God. Psalm 40 says God will lift us up out of the desolate pit, out of the miry bog and set our feet on firm ground. I love that. I have spent much time in the desolate pit and in the miry bog and I know that it is possible to be lifted out physically, mentally and spirituality to higher ground by a living, loving, forgiving God.
Psalm 40 also says as our reply ďHere I am. I delight to do your will, Oh my God.Ē I used to loath that expression ďItís Godís will!Ē As was growing up Godís will always seemed like a bad thing, like an act of God being a tornado or an earthquake. People would say well it must be Godís will that you lost that job or your house burned down. I would think thatís crazy, why would God want that to happen? So it seemed to me in my mind that if I were to do Godís will I would be standing on street corners handing out pamphlets wearing sign saying ďrepentĒ. I had a lot of trouble with this until I came upon the idea that Godís will for me is to be joyous, happy and free. Not that I donít care about anyone else or that I donít have any responsibilities but that I am free from being bound up in myself, enslaved by my guilt and my fear and I am free to hear Godís call. I try to line up my way of living, with what I believe is living Godís way and that to me is doing the will of God. Then I am able to give of myself joyously and abundantly because I am not operating from fear but I am secure in the knowledge that God is with us and I am able to what I am called to do.
Someone wrote this in one of the readings I saw on the net about being Godís holy people, I donít know who wrote it because I couldnít find it again, sometimes the internet is like West Edmonton Mall you know you saw it somewhere but you canít find your way back to it. The writer said. ďWe do not earn salvation or forgiveness. We do not make ourselves holy, but God indeed makes us holy. We are made holy by allowing Godís spirit to reign in such a way our hearts, attitudes and intentions are continually being transformed. I love that continually being transformed!! Peter said in his sermon last week Ė We are Christian Ė followers of Jesus, people who believe that transformation is possible. Itís part of our particular faith story Ė the belief that lives can change, that light will shine on new paths for us to follow, the belief that we are called by God to make changes in our lives so that they follow more closely that the path that God would have us take, and the belief that God calls us to offer transformation for others so that lives can be changed. (Those are Peterís words Ė isnít that great! We are so lucky to have him)
I have often talked about my Dad and my struggles with him. Today Iíd like to tell you a little about my Mum. I was reminded of her when I was preparing for this service, as I was looking at the words of some of the hymns in Voices United, I saw these notations on various pages in my mumís handwriting, I had never noticed them before. I have her hymn book and she had always sung in the choir for as long as I could remember. When I saw her handwriting it was like a little visit from her. We moved a lot when I was a kid, my dad was a station agent for CN and we lived in the railway station in various prairie towns. The first thing we did whenever we moved was go to church and that helped us get established and find our place in our new community. My mum was soft spoken and quite shy, but she served on the committees, taught Sunday school and sang in the choir. Partly, because my dad was the opposite of out going, most her friends were in the church. When we moved to the city, my mother was the church secretary at Rosedale United Church in Calgary until she retired. At one time and I canít remember why except maybe we were going to Community Church and there was no church office, we had the Gestener in our basement, kind of mimiograph machine that had a sort of master copy that was really hard to type on and this ink that got everywhere!! We would run the bulletin off, you had to turn the hand and crank out the bulletin. Sometimes we would have the bulletin cover in upside down and we wonít notice until we were half way through. She loved singing in the choir and she would often come home laughing telling stories about what had gone on at choir practice and how much fun they had. We had a piano, sometimes while we were attending Community Church that met in a school before Simonís Valley Church was built, choir practice would be at our place. The piano was in our living room and the TV was in the basement. My mumís greatest fear was that the choir would hear my dad swearing away at the hockey game, while they were practicing upstairs.
My mother was the anchor and foundation of our family. While my Dad raged and my brothers and my sister and I whirled through adolescence causing chaos and much grief at times, my mum stood firm as the heart of our family. She was grounded in her faith, in her church. And her ability to live her life joyously and generously in spite of what went on in our haremscarem family was a testament to that faith. I never ever heard her say ďWhy me? What have I done to deserve this?Ē although she must she must have thought it at times. When I was a teenager, she was the last person on earth that I wanted to be like. At that time she appeared to me to be some straight, old dogooder who knew nothing about life and lived a boring existence. Today, I am honored when someone tells me I remind them of her or I am a lot like my Mum. I have learned a lot from struggles with my dad, but from my mother I learned about love and faith. When my mother first got sick and she was in the hospital she had so many visitors the woman in the next bed asked her ďWho are all these people?Ē and they were the people from the choir, from Simonís Valley, from Rosedale, church people, my motherís people.
When she died her funeral was held in the church she helped build and the choir that had been so much a part of her life sang in honor of her memory. She had come full circle in her church life.
One of my favorite hymns when I was a kid had a chorus that went like this ďWe have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviorís love.Ē That was my mum Grounded firm and deep in the Saviors love.
When Jaime and Elaine and I first started talking about these services on baptism and discipleship, we were talking about different examples of discipleship. I can see today by looking at my mumís life that we donít always know when we may be the one pointing out ďBehold the lamb of GodĒ.