On my way in to the church on Thursday I listened to an interview with Mitch Albom, the man who wrote Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s the 20th anniversary of the book. For those of you who might not be familiar with it,
Tuesdays with Morrie is the final lesson between a college professor, Morrie, and one of his long lost students and the author of the book, Mitch Albom. After seeing his professor in an interview on the show “Nightline,” the author is reminded of a promise he made sixteen years ago to keep in touch with him. Now stricken with ALS, Morrie does not have much time left, and Mitch recognizes this fact. He travels from Michigan to Massachusetts to meet with him.This meeting goes well and affects Mitch and Morrie so much that they meet for the next fourteen consecutive Tuesdays, up until Morrie passes away. During each of these meetings, they discuss a different topic about life. These topics make up the content of the book and include death, love, culture, marriage, regret and the world we live in, among many others.
You are loved and you matter.
Those are the words that Mitch Albom says people want and need to hear at the end of their lives. He also said that he thinks those are the words we need to hear throughout our lives.
You are loved and you matter.
I received word yesterday afternoon that a former parishioner had died. Wilfred Dillman was the first person I met when I snuck into worship the day before my interview at United Memorial. He came over to my sister and I after the service and said hello, asked where we were from and when I said that I was visiting from Ontario, he smiled and said, “I think I am seeing you tomorrow night!” He was on the search committee interviewed and called me and was an unfailing supporter during my ministry there. We worshiped and worked together, laughed and cried together. I will miss his wise counsel.
He was loved and he mattered
Last weekend, my husband and I attended Stairs Memorial United Church in Dartmouth and we were blown away by their hospitality. Coffee/tea/water was available at the back of the church beforechurch rather than after during the summer months and there were 30-40 people gathered, with lots of conversation and good energy. The most delightful thing was that every single person we made eye contact approached us and talked with us. We had strong positive feelings about the church before the minister even got up to speak.
We felt loved and as if we mattered.
How can we make every person who walks through these doors feel loved and that they matter? As you know, we have made some changes in the entryway and there are more to come. And I understand if that is causing some anxiety for you; please be assured that we are not just making some changes for the sake of making changes, we are making changes to create space that is welcoming, not just to those of you who have been here for years, but to those whom we are trying to reach. Please know that even when we make changes that you don’t personally appreciate, you are still loved and you still matter.
Did you know that turquoise is the colour of friendship? Perhaps that’s why I liked the colour of the roof so much when I first came here. I thought it might be because I have turquoise accents in my own home, and it might be. But then Bill painted the main door turquoise, and it just reinforced it. So when the entryway team talked about accent colours, naturally turquoise came to mind, drawing the elements from outside, inside.
It may seem trivial to worry about colour when there are so many disasters taking place in the world. On a macro level, floods in Bangladesh and India, an earthquake and tsunami off Mexico, hurricanes devastating areas from the Caribbean to the USA, wildfires burning out of control in the west and Manitoba, I hardly even know where to start praying and responding. Each of the people affected by these disasters was loved and mattered to someone else. And because we are all connected, they all matter to us.
On a micro level, there is sorrow and sickness and loneliness and hunger right here in our communities. A fire last night in Kennetcooke, a home burned to the ground.
And that’s where “I was hungry and you gave me food… I was thirsty and you gave me drink…I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison and you visited me.”
We are linked together… it doesn’t matter what our situation in life is… we are all linked together to all people in the world… we are all God’s children… And that was demonstrated by the rescues that took place in Houston… it didn’t matter what colour you were, what country you came from, or what sexual orientation you were… people came together to save one another. The Cajun Navy, I love that term, volunteers who drove down to Houston with their fishing boats in order to rescue the swamped, overworked first responders.
We have heard less about the flooding in Bangladesh and probably feel less connected to the people. Partly due to geography, few of us, if any have been to Bangladesh, while many, if not most have been to Florida or Cuba or the Dominican. Those people are no less loved or matter any less in God’s eyes.
They are loved and they matter.
The Executive Circle had a good discussion about this passage on Wednesday night. Especially around the part about separating the sheep from the goats. One of the questions that arose was that this didn’t sound like Jesus, who welcomes everyone. The gospel of Matthew was written after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, a time when there was tension between Jews and gentiles who had become Christian.
An on-line colleague writes this, “Literally, this passage is a parable in which Jesus is revealing to his disciples how faithfulness will be interpreted in the kingdom to come. Metaphorically, followers of the Way are learning how faithfulness is to be lived out in the kingdom at hand. We will all be sheep at some point. We will all be goats. Our hope is in the king who leads us to and meets us in every encounter.”
Another wrote this, “My way in to this text came from friend who pointed out that in the Mediterranean, you can’t really distinguish sheep from goats just by looking at them, and also both fulfil a very similar role in the “economy” – so if they look pretty much the same, and they all give milk, and go baah, and give wool – then how do we tell them apart? By how they act… especially how they act when they’re not even thinking about it…(https://revgalblogpals.org/2015/03/17/narrative-lectionary-literal-interpretation/)
How will we act when we encounter new ideas and new ways of doing things?
How will we act when confronted with hunger and poverty and disaster?
In an issue of Imprints, Rev. Jim Sinclair, former Executive of the United Church, tells a story of a small church in Ontario which when the pass the Peace of Christ, look at each other and add, “I am willing to disrupt my life for you.” These words have echoed in my ears since I read them several years ago. These words seem to be the essence of what hospitality is about.
I leave you with three questions:
Are we willing to disrupt our collective church life in order to welcome others?
Are we willing to disrupt our financial life by contributing to relief efforts close by and around the world?
Are we willing to let Jesus disrupt our lives?
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following Jesus. Amen.
September 10, 2017 – Elmsdale Pastoral Charge