Lately I’ve been running 3-5 miles a day on a treadmill. I am fortunate to be able to afford good running shoes- but even so, my feet take a beating. Callouses, and occasional blisters serve to remind me to have compassion for those who are on their feet all day. They may not have a good or safe place to rest.
How beautiful it is that travelers on the streets of Vancouver, seekers of God knows what, have a place to pause on their journey. How amazing, and important it is, that there are followers of Jesus willing to care for the tender soles, of these tender souls, who need help. How encouraging it is to know money given to the Mission and Service Fund of the United Church, supports act of kindness and mercy simply because there are acts of kindness and mercy that need doing.
We continue to move through the church season of Epiphany. We began with the story of the Magi, travelers who also spent a lot of time on the road, following the star to the place where they met the newborn Jesus. I wonder if their feet received the care they needed after their long journey.
Within a couple centuries of Jesus earthly ministry, the story of the wise travelers became one of the most important told and retold to new followers of Jesus. This story offers the hopeful message that the love, the peace, the signs of God at work in our world, that the Magi sought, are for everyone.
There was a question at the beginning of the Jesus movement of whether or not you had to be Jewish first, before you could follow Jesus’ ways. The Magi story was used to say, “God’s love is like a shining star in the sky, and this light is meant for everyone.”
That is a message that does not get old, and still needs to be communicated. After more than twenty centuries, the Jesus movement still has a lot of work to do.
Speaking of work- this might be a good moment to check in to see if anyone brought their homework from last week. Do you remember? I asked you to think about these questions:
What is the essence of our faith?
What is the most important thing we have to pass on to the world, and the people around us?
I would love to hear what came to you, as you pondered these thing. (Several members of the congregation shared their thoughts.)
This is good, to check in with each other on matters of faith and life.
This morning we are using, with revision, parts of a re-covenanting service that originates with John Wesley. Wesley was a priest in the Church of England who saw people needed help to bring their faith out of the sanctuary, and into the everyday. He did not limit his preaching to the pulpit, but took to the streets, and spoke to thousands of people who would never set foot in a church. He organized new believers into small groups that met regularly so members could encourage each other, and challenge each other, and help each other live out their faith. They helped each other stay on track, and walk a better path in their life of faith.
The leader would ask each member in turn, “How is it with your soul?” and the whole group would listen. They studied scripture together, prayed together, and worked together on projects to help others. Wesley understood, and taught, that the work that Jesus’ followers do together not only can help spread the message of love, and help people, but it also serves to shape and form our hearts, our souls, our lives.
I have been thinking lately, with gratitude and amazement at some of the ways our congregation and its people serve as God’s hands and feet in this world. My list is incomplete, but points to some opportunities there are to serve, to learn, to grow, while making a difference.
-attending worship- boosts our spirits, and those of others
-helping on Sunday morning, with music, ushering, reading scripture, doing announcements, running the powerpoint
-taking up collection- bringing your offering
-taking care as a steward of what happens to the money we collect
-ongoing support of Trinity, and the White Gift program, Roofs for the Roofless, Helping Educate Liberia’s People
-supporting Darrow’s salary allows him to serve in the community as an emergency on-call chaplain at the hospital
-teaching Sunday School- building the faith of the children in our care, and pushing us to learn and grow
-helping with the communion service at Queens- nurturing community and growing relationships
-the ministry of prayer- the prayer list
-Trinity Young at Heart- provides fellowship and care to many people
-giving to the United Church of Canada Mission and Service Fund supports work in the wider world, such as the footwashing in Vancouver that we saw in the video clip
The movement John Wesley started was called Methodism. At first the name was a put down, by those who made fun of the strict, methodical program Wesley and his followers taught. Over time, the movement grew into a new branch of the Christian Church. The Methodist Church was one of the three denominations that joined together to form the United Church of Canada in 1925.
Wesley taught that baptism, and later confirmation as members of a church are outward signs of the covenant between each of us and God. God has promised to be our God, and love us, and strengthen and guide us, and help us. In return, our covenant calls us to learn and grow in our faith, and to live it in all parts of our lives.
Wesley thought it was helpful to offer people the opportunity to re-new their covenant relationship with God, and with their fellow believers. Wesley tended to have these covenant services around New Year’s- it seemed like a good time to make a fresh start.
This morning we will all have the opportunity to renew our faith commitments. After we make the prayers, you will all be invited to come forward to receive communion. Once you have done that, you are also invited to go to the baptismal font, dip your fingers into the water, and make the sign of the cross on your forehead. This is not a baptism- but a symbol of your faith, or at least your desire to believe. This is a chance to say to ourselves, to God, and to each other, that we are continuing on our journey of faith. Amen