June 9, 2013  — Pentecost 3

Rev. David Boyd


One of the perks, besides a sore back and stiff muscles, of driving long distances is that you get to listen to CBC. I find I can listen only so long to my cds, and I like silence in the car, but it is nice to listen to CBC. I heard lots of good interviews especially by Anna Maria Tremonte. One of the interviews was about genetically modified corn and roundup-ready canola. Scientists, surprise surprise, are finding that these GMO products are now being attacked by the very organisms that they were modified to resist. The scientists studying this were not surprised by this development as they said, nature is nature and is very powerful. We, as human beings, falsely think we can control nature. Not surprisingly, Monsanto declined CBC's requests for an interview.

May 25 was a day of action to say "NO" to Genetically Modified Organisms. In Mexico, the movement is growing and local farmers are challenging the introduction of Monsanto corn. The seed activist from India, Vandana Shiva traveled to southern Mexico to protest.

When we come together in love and hope, life finds a way to bloom and flower. And I'm talking about abundant life, not just subsistence.

Elijah and Jesus pointed to this idea that life will find a way to bloom and flower when we come together in love and hope. Elijah, during a time of severe drought, went to a widow's home. This in itself was illustrative for widows were not among the elite of society. Elijah made the point that God holds all in the palm of God's hand; compassion and love are not for the elite, economic or otherwise. The widow, afraid somewhat of Elijah, professes that she has nothing to share. Elijah, however, insists that she make him a scone, a bit of bread. And lo and behold, she has enough for her, her son, and Elijah. Life blooms and prospers where love and hope exist. This was Elijah's message to the rest of Israelite society who were cowering in their homes, including the reigning couple Ahab and Jezebel. They were in fear and protective of what they had. No sharing. No love. No hope. Except for Elijah.

And Jesus did the same thing. Building on the experience of the Centurion's servant, Jesus speaks a word of hope and love into a moment of grief and despair. The widow of Nain experienced loss. Her life would have been hard enough as a widow, but so much harder with the death of her son. She would have been reduced to begging and likely ostracized from the community. Jesus, embodying love and hope, reached out and touched the funeral bier. He risked being ostracized himself as touching anything to do with death is anathema. And yet, in love and hope, he touched the funeral bier and told the young man to get up, which he did. Jesus, like Elijah, pointed to the power of love and hope and the importance of communities being rooted in love and hope.

Just like genetic diversity is so important—abundant life—communities of love and hope are important. This is our genetic diversity. We seek ways to support one another with hope and love. We seek ways to model a different community in the world, a community of love and hope. We seek, instead of competition and the survival of the fittest, cooperation and communion with each other. We seek well being and happiness.

What I find so stultifying about politics these days is that everyone wants to boil it down to the economy. It's all about the economy! It was a shock to elect a Liberal government here in BC, especially the way the polls were showing such a strong NDP lead, but, in my opinion, the Liberals made it about the economy and preyed on people's fears. Our federal government does the same thing, telling us that economic security is the fundamental, most important thing in our lives. Well, is it? Our religious traditions tell us something else.

The happiness quotient that is measured around the world is an interesting counter to the idea that it is all about economics. This measure takes into account well-being, health, community life, and satisfaction. This includes economic security, but the measures are so much more. Canada ranked 5th this year behind Denmark, Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands. The US was 11th and the UK was 18th. You may remember that this measure was started by Bhutan, the small Himalayan country which tracked the happiness of its citizens more than 30 years ago.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Kevin who moved from Vancouver to Weyburn, Saskatchewan. He works in Human Resources and is employed by a large agricultural machinery sales company. We talked about the BC election and I offered my opinion that it came down, in large part to the fear of losing economic security. He said that his experience in the HR sector is those workers are looking for more than just a wage and financial security. In Kevin's experience people aren't willing to move where there are jobs because they don't want to leave their community, their homes, their families, the life that they have made where they have lived, the happiness they have experienced. That's not a universal statement, but it was an interesting counter to my cynicism that people are governed by their wallets and how much cash is in them. I was glad to have something to chew on and think about.

It does resonate with what we are about in the United Church of Canada. We are about what Elijah and Jesus were about—love and hope. We are about creating communities of life, love and hope, diverse communities of mutual encouragement and support. In 1925, when the United Church of Canada formed, churches were cooperating together, beginning in that province of the Co-op, Saskatchewan. Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregationalist Churches realized that it was silly for them all to separately support buildings, staff and programs. Why not cooperate together? Why not commune together? And they did. And it caught on.

There was sharing here in Nelson although separate buildings and staff existed. The Methodists, Congregationalists, and 2/3's of the Presbyterians came together and realized that there was greater genetic diversity in being together rather than in being separate. Hope, love and life were celebrated.

That's our legacy. The legacy of Elijah, the legacy of Jesus, the legacy of the United Church. We stand with Elijah and Jesus where it is said that they "gave him to his mother." Life was restored and love reestablished. Hope was proclaimed and a new community formed. We carry on this work and proclaim into the politics of fear that love and hope are more important. Well being is more important. Community is more important. Coming together to find a common ground, sharing our wealth, being cooperative is more important.

Happy 88th anniversary, United Church. Live long and prosper!