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Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our September 4 Services

September 7, 2016

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The 3 videos embedded immediately below were shown on our screens before our 10 a.m. Service on September 4 to prepare us for worship.

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Embedded below is the Gospel passage we read at our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services.

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[Embedded below is an adapted portion of the sermon preached on Sunday. The painting of the Apostle Paul is part of Rembrandt’s “St. Paul in Prison”.]

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With the challenging words of the above Gospel passage, Jesus says: “I’m calling you to the death of self-centred life. Carry the cross and follow me.”

Jesus invites us to follow where he leads – to go where love goes, paying whatever the price like he does; to have the things that break his heart break ours also.

He tells us: “This is what discipleship is.”

Someone was talking to a great scholar about a younger person. They said, “So and so tells me that they were one of your students.” To which the teacher answered devastatingly: “They may have attended my lectures, but they were NOT one of my students.”

Jesus says,“This is what it means to be one of my students. So count the cost.”

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If we do this – if we follow Our Lord as his disciples – the result is transformation.

First of all, transformation inside us.

A professor teaching a course on Christianity was approached by one of their students after class. The student said to the professor, “I just thought I should let you know that I have no problem affirming intellectually the claims of Christianity, but I will never become a Christian – because my experience is that Christians are weird people.” The professor (not taking this personally!) replied, “I’m so sorry that that’s the impression you’ve been given, because if you could look ahead 10 years to see the person Jesus wants to make you become, you’d say, ‘YES! That’s the kind of person I want to be!'”

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All morning, an instructor had been explaining leadership to a class of police recruits. Calling a recruit to the front of the class, the instructor handed them a piece of paper on which was written: “You are in charge. Get everyone out of the room without causing a panic.” The recruit was at a loss for words and returned to their seat. The second recruit summoned tried: “Everybody outside. Go!” No one moved. A third recruit glanced at the instructions, smiled and said, “All right, everyone. Break for lunch.” The room emptied in seconds. 

Jesus is calling us to a banquet, to abundant life – to feed on HIM! The call to discipleship is a call to be transformed – made into Jesus’ likeness, to KNOW and LOVE him! When we realize this, when we see the person God is desiring to mould us to be, our heart cries out “YES!”

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Following Jesus as his disciple, results in transformation inside us. It also results in transformation around us, through us.

We see wonderful example of this lived out in today’s Epistle.

Paul is writing this epistle to a man named Philemon, who had a slave named Onesimus (meaning “Useful”). Onesimus had run away, and run into Paul in prison. There he was converted. Now Paul is writing to Philemon to live out the Good News: “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.”

In this short letter, Paul pulls out absolutely everything at his disposal to get Philemon to do the right thing – every argument he can muster … I invite you to sit down some time and take note of all the things Paul does. Add verse 22, not included in the Lectionary: “One thing more–prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.” (In other words: “I’m going to come and see if you’ve done what I’m urging you to do”!)

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All this Paul does not so that he may get his own way, but for the sake of Onesimus, for Philemon, so God’s love may be spread in the world, God’s kingdom may break in to the earth.

“I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ.”

I pray that we all realize the difference we can make, the transformation that can occur through one person! In this case, it was the undermining of all slavery (although it took Christians until Nineteenth Century to take to heart the implications of Paul’s words and Philemon’s actions).

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 We’ve been made to make a difference! We experience meaning, purpose as Jesus’ servants, his hands and feet. We live life as we’ve been created to live when we give our all, all our strength, to make a difference in the world!

 We live in a world that desperately needs this – that desperately needs transformation.

And so, as Frederick Buechner has said: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to spread light and life and love.

On the top of this posting is a picture of the monument remembering one young man who did this so powerfully in our generation – Terry Fox.

Here are two brief videos that show what Terry did to make a difference.

The monument for Terry Fox stands in Thunder Bay, where the recurrence of cancer forced Terry to discontinue his marathon of hope.  

Not widely known is that Terry was a Christian. Fred, his older brother, said:

Faith played a huge part in Terry’s life after being diagnosed with cancer and gave him strength before he passed away. Terry was a Christian and accepted that he was put on this earth for a higher purpose.

A few months before his death, Terry wrote about his perspective on this purpose as he reflected on the race of his life:

I don’t care what percentages the doctor tells me I have. If God is true I know I’ve got 100 per cent, if that’s what God has in God’s plans for me. And if I really believe and if God is really there, then I’m not going to lose even if I die, because it’s supposed to be the Pearly Gates I’m going through, and if heaven is there, I can’t lose out.

Maybe now instead of being afraid and saying, “Well, look how hard Terry tried and he’s still got it,” people will say, “Look at the effort he put in and he died of cancer. We’re really going to have to try hard in order to beat it, try harder than we ever have before.”

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To date, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $650 million worldwide. Terry’s example has inspired millions. In a 1999 survey, he was identified as Canada’s greatest hero. In CBC’s 2004 countrywide vote for the greatest Canadian, Terry finished second only to Tommy Douglas.

Truly his example shows the difference fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives makes for us and for others! 

This year, the Terry Fox Run takes place on September 18. You can find out about it by going to terryfox.org.

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I’d like to conclude with the words of Will Willimon:

And so I ask you, do you believe today’s gospel lesson from Luke, these tough words of Jesus, are good news or bad news? I began this sermon, thinking that they were bad news. These are tough words. But perhaps, in your life and mine, these tough words are good news. Jesus comes asking us to pay the cost. In our better moments, we are just dying to pay the cost, just dying.

May we all decide to count the cost and pay the price, so that we may know and show how being moulded and fashioned by God transforms our lives and our world. Amen.

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September 25 is “Back to Church Sunday” for us at St. Paul’s. We ended the 10 a.m. Service with the following video reminding us of the difference inviting people to church can make.

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