June 17, 2012

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
Mark 4:26-34

GOOD NEWS for our Children:

Jesus liked to tell stories to help people to understand his teachings. One very important topic that Jesus wanted to teach everyone about was the “kingdom of God.”Do you know about the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is the time and place where everyone knows God, and everyone loves God, and everyone is kind and loving towards each other.

One day, when Jesus was teaching a bunch of people he told a little story to help them to understand what the kingdom of God is like. He said, “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. You know how small a mustard seed is? It’s really tiny!

The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed. When you plant it in the ground, it grows up and becomes much, much bigger. It becomes a big shrub. It grows branches and leaves, and birds come and make nests in its shade.

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a seed… It starts small. Maybe it starts with one person doing a good deed. And then someone else joins in. And then some others come along, and they all get going together doing one small good thing after another until they have done something really wonderful!

What kinds of wonderful things do you think we could do if we all helped a little bit and we worked together? Could we build enough homes so that everyone in our city has somewhere to live? Could we share enough food so that everyone in our city has plenty to eat? Could we work hard enough at being loving and caring so that everyone in our city has a friend and knows that they are loved? I can’t do it on my own, and neither can you. But we can help by offering our small gifts and our small efforts, and God will use our tiny things to do wonderful things.

I don’t know if they had dandelions in the place where Jesus lived. Probably they didn’t. Because if they did, I think Jesus would have used a dandelion to make his point. A dandelion has a lot of tiny little seeds, doesn’t it? These dandelions are just about ready to let go of their seeds and let them blow away. What will happen with the seeds when they blow away? They’ll grow into lots more dandelions, won’t they? How many dandelions do you think will grow from these ones? (2, 10, 100?)

Have you ever taken a dandelion like this and blown all the seeds all over? Sometimes people like to make a wish when they do that. But today let’s make it a prayer. Let’s pray that God will use each and every one of us, and every tiny good thing that we do, and every tiny gift that we offer, to do wonderful big things that make a wonderful difference in the world. We pray that God’s kingdom will come. Amen.


We had a wedding here yesterday. Bekki Dix, who grew up going to Calvin-Goforth Church, and attending Kids’ Club and Youth Group right here at St. Andrew’s, who is working now as the Administrator for Camp Christopher, got married here yesterday to Mitch McDonald. It was a wonderful celebration. Nick and I went to the reception last night as well. And when we came out of the restaurant after dinner at about 8:30 pm, I was amazed by how bright it still was outside.

Later on, after I had gone to bed, I got one of those middle-of-the-night phone calls to go to the hospital and pray with a family in the ICU. That was at about 3 am. And when I was on my way home again around 4:30 am, longing for my bed, I noticed that it was already light outside. I suddenly realized that we’re already past the middle of June, and later this week we’ll have the longest day of the year… the summer solstice or what is sometimes called Midsummer’s Eve.

But I want you to think about another Eve, think back 6 months ago in the middle of winter to Christmas Eve. Someone told me once about seeing an unusual Christmas card when she was a young girl. Her mother received the card one year. It was a Christmas card that showed a man kneeling before a fire holding a piece of cloth. She thought it was the weirdest Christmas card ever!

But then her mother explained: this was a picture of Joseph warming a blanket for Baby Jesus. Oh! Poor old Joseph doesn’t really get a big part in our Bible stories, and that card has always made her think of the little but important things that Joseph did as Jesus’ dad.

Today is Father’s Day, so we might want to pause and think of important things that our fathers and grandfathers have done for us over the years. Perhaps some of our families will be celebrating Father’s day in a big way today. But our scripture readings today point out that small is big in God’s eyes.

The stories remind me of some wise words said by Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa said that we can do no great things, only small things with great love. God does not look at our size or the size of what we do. God looks at the size of the love in our hearts.

The lectionary readings from the Old Testament at this time of year are following the story of the great kings of Israel and Judah. They began with Saul, and today we heard the story of how David was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel.

As throughout the Bible, God chooses the unlikely, the least, the youngest and smallest of seven brothers, to be the new king. He is not a warrior by trade (though he will become a cunning warrior in the stories told about him) but rather a shepherd, out with the animals, smelly and dirty–but he is also described as ruddy and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

It is easy to assume we are meant to fall in love with David, we want him to succeed, we cheer him on, we celebrate with him, and we grieve when he falls short. In many ways, David is probably so likeable because we can all see a little of ourselves in him, and all hope for something great from him, but at the same time, he stumbles and fails. He is not perfect. But God does not choose perfect people. God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

We’ve been working for months now to get ready for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s National Event here in Saskatoon. It has been a very interesting process to be a part of… working with other local church representatives, national church representatives, TRC commissioners and staff, the Survivors’ Committee, people from the city, and from the Board of education, and representatives from various Tribal Councils and groups.

With so many interested parties, the planning process has been slow and painstaking. Every time it seemed that something was decided, another group would weigh in and suddenly the plan was changed, or tweaked, or completely reversed! For a Presbyterian who is used to reasonably good order and process in decision-making, it took a decided effort to just wait, and be patient, and not to worry too much when the plans kept changing.

Only a month ago, I remember talking with some colleagues from other churches who were involved in the TRC planning, and we wondered together: “They’re expecting somewhere between 15 and 25 thousand people to attend this event next month! How are we ever going to be ready for that?!”

And then there was the fact that in my own area of responsibility – the Churches Listening to Survivors Area – the recruitment of Presbyterian volunteers was slower than I had hoped. Even up to a few days ago, I was still quite short on people who were ready and willing to serve in the area by listening to the stories of former residential school students and offering them an apology on behalf of the church.

But Jesus told a parable about the kingdom of God. He said that “the kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.”

You know how it is sometimes with seeds that you have planted in the ground… You wait and wait, you fret and worry because you don’t see what is happening beneath the surface of the earth, and you think maybe the seeds are not going to grow. But then suddenly the plants start to appear! And when they reach the light of the sun, they just seem to shoot up. In the course of just of few days, they grow and grow. And before you know it, it’s time for the harvest.

That’s what happened with my list of volunteers for the listening area at the TRC. And I am pretty confident that all the work that has gone in to planning the whole event – the small contributions made by so many, many people – will come together to make something really special.

If you aren’t already planning to drop by the TRC event at Prairieland Park, I would encourage you to consider it. It’s open to the general public to come and listen, learn, and share with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from across the province. You can look up the details of the schedule of events to help you decide when to drop by. There was a special insert in yesterday’s Star Phoenix with details of the program. Or you can see the program online at trc.ca

For those of us who have been involved in the planning of this TRC event, it seems like a really big thing. We’re told this is going to be the largest TRC event in the whole country, and this is likely going to be the biggest thing that’s ever going to happen related to the residential schools and the promotion of healing and reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan.

But keeping things in perspective, I know that this is only a 4 day event, and for many former students, the opportunity to explore their history and perhaps tell their story, will only be the very beginning of a very long healing journey. And for many others who are just starting to learn about and understand the legacy of the residential schools, it will only be the very beginning of their involvement in the work of reconciliation.

Still, I am confident that the small things that we have been doing to get ready for this event will make a difference. Maybe only in one person’s life, or maybe in more… But I trust that “the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

In an online reflection on this morning’s reading from 2 Corinthians, one minister describes what God is doing in building the kingdom of God on earth. My prayer this morning is that this is what God will be doing this week, here in Saskatoon, at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 4th National Event:

God is doing something new, which is the new thing God began in creation. God is bringing the high down low and lifting up the low to be high. God is creating us anew, in a way in which we grow and live together in a way that honours God and each other, and not ourselves.

The reign of God is built when we live for each other, building each other up, doing Christ’s work here on earth. The reign of God is built when we recognize that death does not have a hold on us, and that life is worth living when we live for others, not for ourselves. Everything old dies, but in Christ, everything becomes new, and life surpasses death.

Memorial Fund Moment:

“The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

This morning the bulletin is extra thick because the Memorial Committee wanted to share with you some wonderful information about how you can use your gifts, both small and large, to do amazing mission and ministry in our church and beyond.

The material in the “Planned Giving” folder comes from the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and outlines many different ways that individuals may want to make planned gifts to support the work of the church.

“Planning Giving” includes making intentional choices about what will happen to your estate when you come to the end of your life, but it also includes exploring a variety of ways to give during our lives as well.

Normally, we think about giving out of our income. But there are other ways to give that we can explore as well. Giving out of our assets is another possibility, and the folder includes information about how we can do that, with information about Life Insurance, Gift Annuities, and Publicly Traded Securities.

Earlier this year, St. Andrew’s received an anonymous gift of stock, which was given through the Presbyterian Church in Canada. We rejoice in this gift, as we rejoice in the generosity of all who give to the church’s ministries. And we hold it up as an example of another way to give which can be beneficial for the giver and the recipient.

At St. Andrew’s we also have a Memorial Fund. The gifts we receive are invested and kept in perpetuity, and only the earnings from the investment are used…

  • To assist another congregation, a mission field church worker, or Camp Christopher
  • to assist local community groups, agencies or charities who provide care, help, or development to the disadvantaged,
  • to assist students who are preparing for full-time ministry in Christian service
  • to assist young people or adults of the congregation to attend conferences or seminars
  • to assist children in financial need to attend Camp Christopher in the summer
  • and to consider suggestions from the congregation for emergencies or special needs of the congregation

A brochure about the Memorial Fund is included in the bulletin this morning with more details about how your gifts, whether small or large, can make an amazing difference in our community and beyond.

Planned Giving… is all about the spirit of wonder and possibility we see in the eyes of a child holding a dandelion: every seed a wish… every wish a prayer… every prayer a new possibility… that can become a reality as God takes our gifts and uses them to grow and multiply in ways beyond our imagining.

What is your wish for our congregation? For the Presbyterian Church in Canada? Your planned gifts can help make your wishes come true and can provide a lasting legacy for generations to come.