Worship for Sunday, March 7, 2021

This Sunday morning we had our first in-person worship since coming out of the “grey” zone. It was lovely to see people in the pews. We have learned how to follow the protocols for safety, and things went very well!

I have heard from several people recently that they appreciate having the text of the learning time, as well as the video to watch.

I am also going to include a link to a short video from David Byrne, in which he speaks about his project: Reasons to be Cheerful

It would work well to watch his video before reading/watching my learning time.


(Darrow) Learning Time: “Resist the Ways of the World”

How many of you have heard of David Byrne? He’s a singer, and songwriter, and probably most famous for being the front man for Talking Heads, a band that started in the mid 1970’s. He could probably have retired on the proceeds of their record sales- some of their albums are still big sellers, but he’s doing this interesting thing, in which he’s hired a team of journalists to seek out and report on Good News stories. I applaud that effort. The world can use all the good news we can hear and see.

I found it interesting that Byrne said the stories they report on are not about how we wish things were, but how they actually are, right now. With this kind of reporting, he and his team are swimming upstream against the big media empires, that are a lot more likely to try to attract our attention with stories that scare, worry, disgust us.

A crass way of saying it from the old days when print newspapers were the dominant news source, was “If it bleeds, it leads” A story about a scary, violent, bloody crime would be the lead story, above the fold, on the front page, to get people to buy the newspaper.

A more modern tactic is that the first version of a story, the “this just in” story that is still developing, often contains the most sensational, outrageous speculation, that can be toned down later when the actual facts are discovered- but by then, they’ve moved on to a new piece of bait, to hook us, and reel us in.

When you watch the news, or listen to it, or read it online, pay attention to what they offer up as the bait to get you to keep watching, listening, clicking.

On the harsh facts about the news, is that the real product, is not the stories that get reported on, but the ratings- the number of readers, viewers, that a story attracts. That’s how the value of advertising is determined, by how many of us stay tuned.

But the Reasons to be Cheerful staff are flipping that way of doing things on it head. They are looking for the stories about goodness, and selflessness, and creative, workable solutions to problems, that make the world a better, safer, kinder place. I have no idea how they are making money. Maybe they aren’t.

I found it interesting that Byrne said the stories they report on are not about how we wish things were, but how they actually are, right now. In his own way, I think David Byrne is working from the same kind of apparently backwards logic that Jesus offered, in the Beatitudes, which we just heard from Luke’s Gospel. 

Jesus’ message was the exact opposite of what the world might tell us, that we should be concerned first, foremost, and possibly exclusively with our own individual well-being.

In Luke, we hear Jesus tell a crowd of people who lived on the edge of society, who struggled everyday to earn enough, or scrounge enough to meet the needs of their families:

But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.

What you have is all you’ll ever get.

And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.

Your self will not satisfy you for long.

And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.

There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.

“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. “

The messages of “me first”, and “watch out, it’s a terrible world” can have the effect of making, and keeping us fearful.

Keeping us afraid, and focused only on what benefits us immediately, in the short term, keep most people controllable, and easily manipulated.

If we buy into the message that the world is a terrible place, full of threats and dangers, it is not hard to slip a little further into despair, and tell ourselves, and others, there’s nothing we can do.

That’s a terrible message, and it’s usually a lie. We may not be able to fix everything, but we can do what we can do. We can help as we are able, and we can be kind.

If I were to judge every choice, every action I might take, with the question, will it solve all the problems in the world, I might never do anything.

But what if I make my choices on whether they are kind things to do, loving things to do, things I would want others to do, to help me, if I was in need?

If do that, then I can see that even small things, that might be mocked or ridiculed by people more cynical than me, really are worth doing.

I was with Liz and Gary Chittle two Sundays ago, when they were here at the church, accepting donations of food and money for Windsor’s Downtown Mission.

The collection was organized in connection with the Coldest nIght of the Year Walk, in which more than $94,000.00 was raised for the Mission, more than ever before. Our little team from Harrow United, the HUCsters raised 16% of that, over $15,000.00. 

Our top fundraiser was Leslie Balsillie, whose personal total was over $3000.00. Leslie said she did by simply putting a message out that she was doing the walk, and people responded. She asked, and people wanted to help.

Which is what happened on the Sunday of the food collection. Vehicle after vehicle drove in, and people opened their trunks or back doors, and allowed us to unload food. Over 500 pounds of food were donated in just a few hours.

Why do people dig into their pantries, or make a special trip to the grocery store, to spend money on food to give away? It goes against the ways of the world- unless you actually want the world to be a place in which we look out for each other.

No one who drove in, and opened their trunk gave enough to solve the problem of poverty, or hunger, or homelessness on the streets of Windsor. But what they gave will help those who are hungry, on the day they come in for food. 

We do what we can.

It’s good for us, to claim a bit of our identity, as people who follow the Jesus way, who resist the ways of this broken world, and look for ways to help mend it, a little at a time.

It’s good for us to know, not only that we can make a difference, but that we can be different.  We can be Good News, we can be someone else’s reason to be cheerful. Amen