25-year anniversary! How did we get here so quickly! Time has flown by, and we have learned a lot and come through many things. One of the things that has defined our ministry together is that we’ve reinvented ourselves a few times… of course, when we started as an amalgamated congregation… when Christine joined us in ministry 20 years ago… when we started a new constitution and way of being together… when we became an Affirming Ministry congregation… and there have been other beginnings.
The authors and commentators that I’m currently reading are consistently asking the questions, “Who are we becoming as a human species? How are we reinventing ourselves?”
These are important questions as we emerge from this COVID-19 crisis—or at least, this stage of it. There are, certainly, forces at play that want us to go back to the way things were. For example, Volkswagen has a commercial that begins, “Before too long, the engine of life will start up again and it will be a welcome sound… back to everyone and everything we’ve missed.” The temptation is to get back to a normal that is dependent on the internal combustion engine and fossil fuels.
What I hear philosophers, theologians, psychologists, doctors, professors, futurists, teachers, ethicists, and you and I saying or asking is, “What kind of normal do we want to return to? What might we become as a human species?”
Today’s 25th Anniversary Sunday is as good a Sunday as any to reimagine who we are becoming. And I think that our purpose statement is a good lens through which to think briefly about that: who are we becoming as We dare to follow the Way of Jesus, embodying the Love of God.
I want to begin briefly with the latter part of our purpose statement, that of embodying the Love of God. As Christians, we are part of a tradition in which embodiment or incarnation is a vital part of being human. We are each individual and unique physical beings, full of heart, spirit and soul. We are made in the likeness of God and are growing into God’s image as we live.
The result of this incarnational belief is that each person is unique and important—vital to God’s KinDom of Love. The late Dr. Sally McFague, recently of VST, wrote a great deal about the incarnational nature of life and even the fact that the earth—or even the whole universe—is God’s body. So, we treat life with respect, including ours. We seek ways to be good neighbours to one another—to protect and keep safe the other. We treat each other with hope, dignity and peace. We stand as physical beings in the breach where violence, prejudice and hatred hold sway, and we shout that there is another way: “Life is to be honoured and held sacred.”
And the first part of our purpose statement, that we dare to follow the Way of Jesus, is part and parcel of the gospel today… Jesus’ yoke is easy, and the burden is light. Matthew rhetorically asked, “do we want to be yoked like oxen and how can such a yoke be easy and light?” But then, Matthew told us that the Christ’s yoke is one that opens us to the eternal blessings of God’s love and that in doing so, we are blessed to be unique and key incarnational human beings in God’s KinDom. In her Christian Century article about this passage from Matthew, Diane Roth wrote, “ ’Come to me all you who are weary and are heavy laden…’ and maybe Jesus means those who are weary of being judgmental and are just done with it all. Or maybe Jesus means those who are weary of being judged, of being picked apart for falling short. Maybe Jesus means those who are weary of having all the answers, or maybe Jesus means those who are weary of not knowing, who just want to know one thing—just one thing, Jesus. Let one thing be sure. ‘I will give you rest.’ There’s the one thing, the one thing that is sure. It’s a promise. But that rest depends on something strange. It depends on a yoke.”
We can think of this yoke as the Way of Jesus, the Way of love, the Way of compassion, the Way of radical inclusion and hospitality, the Way of moving beyond racism and exclusivism, the Way of moving beyond authoritarianism, the Way of moving beyond self, the Way of humility, the Way of community, the Way of hope, the Way of moving beyond poverty, the Way of health and wholeness! And if we’ve learned one thing in this COVID-19 time, it is that we are capable of looking beyond our own self-interests and looking to the welfare of the whole. This is part and parcel, too, of the desire to protest racism and bigotry of all kinds.
Today is a fitting day to say that we want to be part of a new future, a future where the values of the KinDom of God that we hold, are held up with the values of Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Indigenous Peoples, Muslims, Wiccans, Bahai’s, humanists, Yogis, and all of humanity interested in the common welfare. We don’t want to return to business as usual. We want the Yoke of Freedom and the Burden of Hope. We want the Yoke of Love and the Burden of Compassion.
Happy 25th Anniversary!
 You can see the commercial at https://www.youtube.com/user/VolkswagenCanada.