Rev. Carol A. Prochaska (ret.)

November 10, 2013
Sermon Title: "Trusting the Messages of the Cross."


              Scripture: Haggai 1:15b-2:9; Luke 20:27-38

Looking at the recently constructed foundation, picturing their future worship building, the returned exiles are deeply discouraged. Their future looks bleak and really not worthy of their efforts. God's response to them is one of empathy and honesty. Speaking through the prophet Haggai, God says: "How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight (in your sight!) as nothing?" That about sums it up! Whatever is ahead for them can't come close to their memory of the good ole' days! If only things could have stayed as they once had been.

I was baptized and confirmed in the Presbyterian Church. My mother was a staunch Presbyterian, as were my maternal grandparents. I was brought up to understand that we Presbyterians were — well — we were, simply put, predestined to be special! And so it was that when it came time to vote for or against the formation of the United Church of Canada — my Presbyterian grandparents voted "NO".

However for many others 1925 was a heady time! Methodists and Congregationalists and a majority of Presbyterians joined together to bring a new denomination into being, ushering in a new season in church history. Church people across Canada were rejoicing over the birth of the United Church of Canada but not my grandparents!

I was about 10 or 12 when I became aware of the much larger and much newer United Church. It was the church where a couple of my girlfriends attended. When I asked my grandmother why we didn't go to that church I received a lesson in church history and theology. My grandmother's explanation went something like this: "Well you see dear, it was the Presbyterians who owned church buildings and had money. The Methodists were without buildings and they didn't have the money to do anything about that. And of course dear that union resulted in a "watered down theology". A "watered down theology"? I didn't know what that was but I sensed it was something to be avoided!

Whether it's 520 BC or 1925 or 2013 it comes to all of us: What we've known is slipping away or what we've known has disappeared all together. The church my grandparents had known was slipping away and they needed to hang-on to it for dear life. Life as they knew it!

The returned exiles had one foot in the past and barely one foot in the present. They were so not ready to move on.

Hear again God's words to them (and to us): "I am with you. My Spirit abides in you. Do not fear." So their devotion and their efforts, our devotion and our efforts, are set into the full scheme of God's work — past, present and future. God acted. God acts. God will act. But even knowing this we are still inclined to come-up with "what if's." In this morning's gospel reading this is what we heard the Sadducees doing: "What if the brother dies?" And then what if his brother dies and then the next brother, and so on until she also dies?

Jesus cuts through their "what if's" to say that we are "children of the resurrection." Resurrection literally and figuratively means "to stand up." Resurrection comes from two root words: one that has the sense of "reversal" and one that has the sense of "continuing". So we are raised up or stood up so that we can continue on! Therefore we claim our destiny of life in this life as well as the next. We can let go of what has been We can do our grieving, as we trust that we are being raised up—stood up again to participate in the new thing God is doing for us and with us

It seems to be human instinct to cling to the belief that the church will be the one constant in our lives. But this has never been true. Historically the church has never stayed "as is". The Apostle Paul's letters illustrate how the early churches were already finding their way into the future.

On November 24 we (Nelson United Church) will vote to become an Affirming Church. With this vote we join an organization within the United Church that declares itself to be "fully inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities... backing up words with actions." As in the past we continue walking the road our faith ancestors walked before us.

As in the past the Cross is still proclaiming Good News: The Cross tells us that it is never all up to us. The Cross tells us that every ending is God's beginning . The Cross tells us that God's Love is stronger even than death. The Cross tells us that God acted. God acts. God will act. Let your eyes fall on a cross — perhaps the big one behind me... now repeat after me: "God acted. God acts. God will act."


Estelle Ishigo, "Boys with Kite"






"The artist of this painting and its subjects, the two little boys, were all interned in the Japanese-American internment camps set up by the United States government during World War II. The boys seem unconcerned about the barbed wire as a barrier between them and freedom; they find a way over and through it to fly their kite, a traditional symbol of freedom."
from: Imaging the Word