Sermon by Murray Scanlon for Parkview United Church, August 31, 2014. Sermon Topic: The risk of judging – and what business are we in?


Sermon by Murray Scanlon for Parkview United Church, August 31, 2014.   Sermon Topic:  The risk of judging – and what business are we in?

Luke 7


It was a large church in an upscale part of the city. They were celebrating their 100th anniversary and had invited a special guest speaker. Since it was a special event, all the men were wearing suits and the women were in their finest dresses. The church was full of people. And it was this particular Sunday that Mark, a student at a nearby university, decided that he would come to this church.


Mark had attended church while he lived at home and thought that it was time to get back into the practice of attending church. However, Mark did not own a suit – he had clean blue jeans and a t-shirt and sandals – and long hair. When Mark arrived at the church, it was already full and so he made his way down the center aisle – looking for a place in the pews. And so he made his way forward – until he was at the very front row and still no place to sit. So he did the obvious thing – he sat down on the floor.


An elderly man – dressed in a three piece suit – his silver hair combed neatly – a member of this church as long as anyone present could remember – slowly rose from his seat in the back row – and walking with his cane – made his way slowly forward down the center row towards the front row. As he passed each row, the people fell silent. They all knew what was going to happen. The elderly man finally stopped at the front row beside Mark – and tapped Mark on the shoulder with his cane. Mark started to get up but the elderly man stopped him. Then the elderly man did something quite unexpected – he set his cane down on the floor and sat down beside Mark.


The guest minister said – you will forget in a few short weeks what I say here today – but you will remember what you saw here forever.


In our reading, Jesus takes Simon – the Pharisee – to task. The Pharisee knows that the woman is a sinner and said to himself that Jesus should know what kind of woman had washed his feet. She was a sinner and had no place in Simon’s house. But Jesus tells her that her faith has saved her and that she should go in peace. However, Simon had been judged by a higher authority and he was found wanting. And so, today, I want to talk about two things – judging others and then – what business are we in.


First – about judging others. You know that when you are wrong about something, you really don’t need anyone else to tell you. But when we know that we are right and the other person is wrong, then there is this sense of moral superiority that creeps in. And the worst thing that can happen is that we start to enjoy that sense of superiority – to be one up on the person who is wrong. And so we become smug about it. If only we would listen to that voice in our heads that says, “Nobody is that right.” Because the world can change and suddenly we may find that we are no longer right.


When I was in university, I took many courses that dealt with accounting. What I liked about it was that there right answers and wrong answers – everything seemed clear-cut. And then, in my last semester, I took a course in Accounting Research. And the professor said in the very first class, “Everything that you have learned over the last four years is wrong. And I am going to spend the next three months telling you why it is wrong!” It was rather devastating to hear – four years of hard work and studying and to be told that all we had learned was wrong. And so we had three choices – to drop the course, take the course but ignore the professor or open our minds to what he had to say.


And so it is in life – we can feel that we are right and it is our role in life to judge others against what we believe is right and wrong. But it is when we judge others that we ourselves are judged. We think that everything that we are to judge is out there in front of us but the problem is that, when we judge, we do it from our point of view and our prejudices. We look at others and we judge them. But in reality, we need to include ourselves in the judgement.


For in the instant that we judge others, we reveal our lack of insight, our lack of intelligence and our lack of sensitivity. Our values, our perceptions and our wisdom are all revealed when we judge others. When we judge others, we must be very careful because, every time we do it, it says something about us.


Our judgement of other people’s characters reveals so much about our own characters. If I am critical of the gifts and accomplishments of others, I need to ask myself, “Why am I so bitter or jealous or resentful?” My criticism of others reveals much more about me that it does about the people that I criticize. It reveals my pettiness, my insecurities and my lack of grace. When I criticize others, it diminishes not only them but makes me a smaller person.


But if our judgement of other reveals our own frailness and shortcomings, it also should increase our sense of responsibility. What is it that I mean by this? Well, let me give you an example. There was a young girl who was living in rural America at a time when the schoolhouse was only one room and all eight grades were together with only one teacher.


And one day, she complained to her mother about the lack of opportunity that was available to her because of the school that she attended. And her mother replied, “Don’t complain to me about that. I have given you life and being; I may not be able to give you much more but I have given you that. And it is up to you to do what you can with it.”


You may feel that the mother’s response was a very hard answer but it was also a life saving answer. It stopped the girl from feeling sorry for herself and it deepened her sense of personal responsibility and it strengthened her will. She was changed by her mother’s response and the change came when she realized that life was not on trial – she was. She was not asking the questions; life was.


And it can be like that when we come across a situation in this world that disturbs us – perhaps even upsets us that we feel some sense of rage about what is happening. We are upset when we see the homeless in our communities; we are upset when we see people who are victims of war and our hearts go out to the suffering children in our world.


And we may ask God why he allows so much suffering in our world and why he does not stop the injustices that we see every day. Perhaps we even say that God just sits in heaven and does nothing. And yet it may well be that our sense of indignation about what is happening in our world is not matched by our sense of Christian compassion.


We would rather ask God the question than acknowledge that we may be part of the answer. We forget that it is God’s intention that we should be instruments of his good purpose. If we are going to judge God, then we had better be prepared to answer God’s question back to us – what is it that we are doing about these very injustices that cause us such distress. Because we often have within ourselves the power to right these wrongs that make us judge God’s apparent inactivity in our world. If we are going to ask the questions, then we had better be prepared to answer the questions as well.


And finally, if we are going to judge others – to express our criticism of them – then we have to realize that it does not end there. We try to think that whatever we say or do ends right there. We seldom think that our criticisms, especially if they are harsh, do make a difference in the way that those that we criticize feel and in what they do.


And the same thing applies to ourselves – when we judge ourselves – when we question our lives, our goals, our values, what is important to us – when we do this and make decisions on what we will pursue and what values we will hold, it does not end simply with the decision that we make.


Our judgments about ourselves will lead in one of two directions – they will be our joy or our sorrow, our fulfillment or our emptiness – for we can expect no more from our chosen values and directions than what they can deliver.


Let me make this clear. If what you are after is power, you had better forget about affection – for it is difficult to have both. If you have made up your mind that life is purely quantitative, then you had better keep your scores up. If you are only interested in justice and not in mercy, then you had better not make any mistakes. If what you are after is security, then you had better forget about ecstasy. If you are going to live by the sword, then you had better carry one. Do you know why? Because our judgments really do come back to us – for better or worse. We really do, in the end, reap what we sow.


This story of grace and forgiveness on the part of Jesus reminds me that I am prone to judge others and dismiss those with less than spotless pasts as not having any value – without much prompting at all. But a story like this reminds me that this is not what the church that I serve or I should be about. Contrary to what I or many other people may think, I, and the church, should not in the morality business. I, and the church, should be in the grace business. Or in the context of this reading, we are to be in the forgiveness business.


If you take nothing away from this text but this point, it will be quite sufficient because, quite frankly, when we forget it, we get into trouble.


Several years ago, Tony Campolo wrote a book titled, “The Kingdom of God is a Party.” He tells of flying to Hawaii to speak at a conference. He described checking into his hotel and trying to get some sleep. Unfortunately, his internal clock woke him up at 1 a.m. The night was dark, the streets were silent, the world was asleep but Tony was wide-awake and his stomach was growling. He got up and prowled the streets looking for a place to get some bacon and eggs for an early breakfast. Everything was closed and he ended up in a grungy dive in an alley in the rough part of the city.


As the story goes, Tony quickly learned that this place, in the wee small hours, was regularly frequented by homeless people who had no place else to go this hour of the night. On this one particular night, one of the women there mentioned that the next day would be her 39th birthday and in her entire life, she had never had a birthday party. 39 years old and no birthday party. When the homeless group moved on, Tony asked the man behind the counter about what they had just witnessed.


The man confirmed that the group was all regulars – including the birthday girl – Agnes. Tony wondered about the possibility of throwing a birthday party for her the next night. So they did.


At 1:30 the next morning, Tony was back. He had crepe paper and other decorations and a sign made of big pieces of cardboard that said, “Happy Birthday, Agnes.” The counter man had made a cake and had gotten word out on the streets about the party so the place was jammed – wall-to-wall homeless people.


At 2:30 on the dot, the door swung open and in walked Agnes. Everyone was ready – they all shouted and screamed, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” Agnes was blown away. She was stunned. Her mouth fell open. Her knees started to buckle and she almost fell over. Wow!


Once things started to settle down, Tony got up on a chair and said, “What do you say that we all pray together?” There in a hole in the wall greasy spoon restaurant in the middle of the night with half of the homeless people of Hawaii listening, he prayed for Agnes – that her life would be changed and that God would be good to her.”


When he finished, the counter man leaned over, and with a trace of hostility in his voice, said, “Hey, you never told me you was a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to anyway?” It was one of those moments when just the right words came. Tony answered him quietly, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for homeless people at 2:30 in the morning.”


The man thought for a moment and then said, “No you don’t. There ain’t no church like that. If there were, I’d join it. Yep, I’d join a church like that.”


Now. One more time. What business are we in?



Sermon by Barb Dejeet for Parkview United Church Sunday, August 24, 2014. Sermon Topic: PRAYING IN THE MESSINESS OF LIFE


Sermon by Barb Dejeet Sunday, August 24, 2014.   Sermon Topic:  PRAYING IN THE MESSINESS OF LIFE


He was just a little boy on a week’s first day. Wandering home from Bible school, and dawdling on the way. He scuffed his shoes into the grass; He even found a caterpillar. He found a fluffy milkweed pod, and blew out all the “filler”. A bird’s nest in a tree overhead, so wisely placed up so high, was just another wonder that caught his eager eye. A neighbour watched his zigzag course and hailed him from the lawn; asked him where he’d been that day and what was going on.

I’ve been to Bible School, he said and turned a piece of sod. He picked up a wiggly worm replying, “I’ve learned a lot about God”. “M’m, very fine way,” the neighbor said, “for a boy to spend his time. If you’ll tell me where God is, I’ll give you a brand new dime”.

Quick as a flash the answer came, nor were his accents faint, “I’ll give you a dollar Mister, if you can tell me where God ain’t”.


I recently finished reading the book by Linda Douty “Praying in the Messiness of

Life”. The book is about renewing your relationship with God. It reveals that a relationship with God is not only possible in our messy world but it may become the most important reality in our life.

Please pray with me: Good morning God, we come to you this morning with open hearts and minds waiting to hear what you have to say to us. Bless the words of my mouth and those that hear them. AMEN.

Have you ever wanted to understand prayer more clearly but it became more mysterious as you grow older. A young woman felt like that and was so frustrated that she found herself in the office of her pastor. She said defiantly, “Look, I have something important to ask you and I won’t betray your confidence if you’ll just tell me the truth. No preacher talk, just the unvarnished truth.” The pastor hesitated, then motioned her to sit.

The words came tumbling out of the young woman’s mouth. “I pray fervently for people to get well and they die. I pray for marriages to be mended and they end in divorce. I pray for peace in the Middle East and violence escalates. Do any of the prayers really matter?? Just tell me why YOU pray. No sugar coating OK?

He slowly cleared his throat and uttered the words that stayed with her forever. “When I feel the way you feel right now, I rest on this one thing. I pray because Jesus prayed.  If I call myself a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, that means I follow his lead. And despite his own times of confusion and frustration, Jesus continued to pray and pray and pray. The pastor was not saying he understood prayer, he was saying he was committed to it.

We’re not called to get it right, we are called to PRAY.

Since her talk with her pastor she has been living in the candid answer given by her pastor; paying attention in the Gospel stories about how and when Jesus prayed. Have you really noticed when Jesus prayed??? He prayed in all circumstances—celebration times, times of heartache and disappointment, up times and down times, times of confidence and confusion—all of it.

We are called to do the same, trusting that the same God who gives us the instinctual urge to pray is somewhere hearing our prayers.

I would like you to think of all the different times you pray… grace before meals, before meetings, at bedsides, gravesides, and jails, before a trip, when fearful or anxious, thanksgiving, before surgery, in songs, and many more. I would say we pray without ceasing sometimes.

Do you drive in the silence of your radio or conversation with anyone? I find it very calming and refreshing. That is when I feel closest to God sometimes. Have you noticed who prays around you?? In restaurants, at sports events. Bedtime prayers with children can be very moving.

Have you ever thanked God your eyes opened in the morning? I have because I know someone else whose eyes didn’t.

According to Linda’s book, we are to pray with our body, breath, mind, senses, silence, surroundings and circumstances. The verses of scripture read earlier referred to these areas. For me the another great place to pray in silence besides my car is walking a labyrinth. This is such a sacred walk and time. If you have never walked one, you should try it.

Remember Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane…he was “deeply distressed and troubled”. Scripture says “he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him” (Mark 14:35). In many circumstances Jesus prayer instinctively, talking with Someone with whom he had a relationship of friendship and familiarity and irrational trust. Do we speak to that Someone like that? Spontaneously?? His “Abba” was a reality whose love he could trust even in bewilderment and fear. Do we pray like Jesus did, in times of desperation and in times of delight? He prayed for healing and prayers of thanksgiving.

If this One who is at the center of our Christian story prayed in agony on the cross, in doubt in the garden of Gethsemane and in triumph on the Mount of Transfiguration, then this attitude of infused prayer must be a vital part of our own Christian experience. Jesus prayed without ceasing because his relationship to God filled every fiber of his being and infused every moment of his days.

Prayer is the primary way in which we give God an opportunity to work with us. We do not have to use fancy words, or be dressed in our finest clothes, or be kneeling to talk to our Friend. Our prayer can be utterly candid –“Well God, I’m not sure that this is going to work, but I will give it a try anyway. If you can do something with my pathetic stabs at prayer then I’m willing!”

If prayer is about relationship rather than results, then it must be less about getting what we want and more about nurturing this amazing invitation to divine friendship. As human beings, we want to harness prayer—possess it and use it. Meaningful growth in prayer ceases to be a matter of what we can get from God but how we exist in God.

Pastor Holmes illustrates this point as he comments on the familiar story of the prodigal son. The young son wants his share of the property now and leaves. The older son complains because the father has given him nothing even though he has worked really hard in the fields, never disobeyed or partied with his friends. Both these boys are selfish and the father is lavishly generous.

As are all of Jesus’ parables, it’s a story of abundance. Notice that both sons treat the father the same: they do not care about him or his presence; they only want his STUFF. Isn’t that how we pray most of the time? We ask God for STUFF: “Heal this disease, make this work OK, and answer my petition”. But we don’t simply open ourselves to God’s presence. How seldom we pray, “God, no matter what happens, I just want to be with you.” It comes from our fear that there won’t be enough blessing. When we feel that God does not answer our prayers, it is probably because we’re just asking for God’s STUFF. But God’s answer to our prayer is always the same: “You are always with me and all that is mine is yours.” Our response to that should be “God you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

Prayer is not a category, or a compartment but a connection. It cannot be put in a box to be contained. It will always spill over the edges. Part of growing up in our faith is growing up in prayer. And that involves our willingness to consider the boundless horizons of prayer.

The words “let your life be a prayer” sound interesting, but how would one go about doing that?? How does that get lived out in the roller coaster of everyday existence?

I guess praying without ceasing might be a good way to start. Does that mean mumbling all the time….no. Since prayer is a relationship rather than a result, we should consider what we do when we live in close relationship with someone. We’re in that person’s presence: we go about our daily tasks with awareness of and respect for him or her. We hang out together. We make time for each other. Conversation arises naturally as we share our concerns, our ups and downs. We try to be our authentic selves…no masks or pretense….in a safe container of love and support. It’s amazing that the God of the universe offers us this kind of kinship! Sometimes it seems as though we’re like fish in the ocean, looking for water—searching urgently for the divine presence when we are swimming in it. God is with us all the time….praying without ceasing.

God makes us aware that prayer is integrated into every moment of the day and every cell of our body. Everything is a part of our spiritual self— family life, church life, community life, social life. Existence becomes immersed in an attitude of prayer not simply words of prayer.

This prayerful guidance is like a dance…the tango, where the partners move in sync with each other, where the dance becomes instinctual. The dance partners move smoothly around the room because one leads and the other follows. Our dance with the Holy Spirit as our guide can be that integrated. Our will becomes synchronized to the divine will. That close connection is the result of practice, trust and abandonment to God’s guidance.

Consider the words of this meditation on such guidance:

Meditate on the word Guidance. “DANCE” is at the end of the word. Remember that doing God’s will is a lot like dancing. When 2 people try to lead, nothing feels right. The movement doesn’t flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.

When one person realizes that and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the music. It’s as if two become one body, moving beautifully. The dance takes surrender, willingness and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other.

G = GOD, U I DANCE do you dance with?

There are many mysterious reasons to pray

  • Jesus prayed

  • We’re created with a desire to pray

  • It’s our entryway into the heart of God

  • It allows God to show us who we are

  • It leads us to participate in God’s will for the world

  • Our lives are shaped by the praying.

  • It connects us to a Love greater than our own.


As we pray with our lives, with everything that we are, we can enter that place of freedom and abandonment to God——- even in the messiness of life. LET US DANCE WITH GOD. AMEN



Sermon by Gail Fricker for Parkview United Church, Aug 10, 2014. Sermon Topic: Don’t just stand there … pray something. (Mathew 6:5-13)


Sermon by Gail Fricker, Aug 10, 2014.   Sermon Topic: Don’t just stand there … pray something. (Mathew 6:5-13)



Have you ever had a no-good, terrible, very bad day? Have you ever been so frustrated that you just cry? Have you ever felt that you just didn’t what to do – well let me tell you a story ..


There once a mother of a teenage son (and I know how frustrating that can be!) This mother had been in an energetic mood all morning. She had baked pies that she had just put in the oven, and she had just finished hanging out the laundry to dry when the phone rang. It was the school nurse. She was calling about her son, Ben. ‘He had come down with a high fever, he was in the nurse’s office, but would she please come and take him home.’ Of course she would. It was an upsetting call. Ben had had some health problems lately. The doctor had put him on a number of asthma medications last spring, and he really wasn’t very god at remembering to take it.


She was thinking about this as she grabbed her keys, then she remembered the pies. She calculated how long it would take to drive to school and back, how long the pies need to bake, and figured she had enough time, so she left them in the oven and drove over to the school.

When she got there, Ben’s fever was worse and the nurse suggested that she take him straight to the doctor. That was exactly what she thought too when she saw him. He looked terrible – white and pasty, with beads of sweat on his forehead and trembling. It did not look good.

They went directly to the doctor’s office. She drove as fast as she dared and was so glad that they took him right away. The doctor handed her prescription and told her “get him to bed and start him on this right away.”

By the time they got home, and she got him onto bed, and she headed out to the mall to fill the prescription, she was feeling rather frazzled. She’d totally forgotten about the pies in the oven. She dashed into the mall, got to the pharmacy, got the prescription filled, and got back to the car.

She reached inside her purse for the keys. They weren’t there.

Then she saw them. They were hanging in the ignition switch, in the locked car. She ran back into the mall and finally found a pay phone – which was not easy in the age of cell phones. She called home. When her son finally answered, she just blurted out, “Ben, I’ve locked the keys inside the car!”

The boy was just barely able to speak. In a horse voice he whispered, “Get a wire coat hanger Mom, you can get in with that.” Then the phone went dead.

She began searching for a wire coat hanger, trying hard not to think about how her son would know such things. She found wooden hangers, she found plastic hangers in abundance – but shops didn’t use wire hangers anymore. After combing dozens of stores, she finally found one that was behind the times just enough to use wire hangers.

Hurrying out of the mall, she allowed herself a smile of relief. As the stepped off the curb, she halted. She started at the wire coat hanger, and then she realized that she had absolutely no idea what to do with it!

Then she remembered the pies in the oven and the washing on the line with dark cloud looming. All the frustrations of the past hour collapsed on her and she began crying. Then she realized that she didn’t need to just stand there – she could pray something. So she began,

Dear Lord, my boy is sick and he needs this medicine, my pies are in the oven burning, the washing is on the line with rain clouds looming, and my keys are locked in the car, Lord. I don’t know what to do with this coat hanger. Dear Lord, send me somebody who does know what to do with it, and I really need that person NOW, Lord, Amen!”


She was just wiping her eyes when a beaten up old car pulled up to the curb and stopped in front of her. A young man, twentyish looking, in a T-Shirt and ragged jeans stepped out. The first thing she noticed about him was the long stringy hair, and then the beard that hid everything south of his nose. He was coming her way. When he drew near she stepped right in front of him and held out the wire coat hanger.

Young man,” she said, “Do you know how to get into a locked car with one of these?”


The young man gapped at her for a moment, and then he plucked the hanger from her hand. “Where’s the car?” She led him to the locked car. He took one look at the door and the window, a couple of twists of the coat hanger and bam! Just like, the door opened!

When she saw the door open, she threw her arms around him. “Oh, the Lord has sent you. You are such a good boy. You must be a Christian.”

Stunned, the young man stepped back and said “no ma’am, I’m not a Christian and I’m not a good boy. In fact I just got out of prison yesterday.”

At which point she jumped and hugged him again even harder, saying “Praise God! He sent me a professional!”


Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something’. The story may make us laugh. But really it is very true. We can probably all think of times when we have done just that – prayed! It may have been in the heat of a moment, and perhaps we weren’t really expecting our prayer to be answered. And if it was answered, we may have subconsciously thought it was just a coincidence. You see, we don’t need to understand how prayer works. We just need to pray. Paul told the Philippians to ‘bring all their requests to the Lord in prayer.’ And James tells us that prayer is powerful and effective. And, if we wait until we understand everything about prayer – we might never pray. Let’s face it, we might not understand all about electricity, but does that stop us from flicking on the switch for lights? And in the same way that we are not surprised that the lights come on when we flick the switch – we also shouldn’t be surprised when our prayers are answered. We just need to pray!


So what is prayer? Quite simply it is the way in which we communicate with God. It may be prayers of praise (like our songs this morning), prayers of thanks, prayers of confession, or petitions for help. In the United Church, we tend to focus on verbal prayer, but it can also be quiet meditation on an image or a text, or internal silent contemplation. Think of all the different ways that we communicate with each other: we talk, send emails, text, use body language, we might write poetry or sing songs, we might share silence together … the list could go on. And these are all ways in which we could communicate with God too. We might keep a spiritual journal; read silently during a time of devotion; use our bodies to sit, kneel, make a sign of the cross, place our palms together, raise our hands, or meditate while walking; we can express our feelings to God through songs, dance, even graphic arts; and we may spend time with God in contemplative prayer and meditation. It doesn’t matter which way we choose to pray, the important thing is that we communicate. A relationship, whether it is a relationship between people, or a relationship between a person and God – is all about communication. I am sure that we can all think of times when a relationship has broken down because of a lack of communication. Marriage counselling self-help books are full of advice about ways to communicate to improve your relationship. If we stop communicating with God, then our spiritual relationship will also not grow.


And it is easy to throw out a pray in a time of crisis, but to grow in a relationship, we need ongoing communication. At a recent wedding that I attended, there was a couple who had been married for 70 years. When they were asked what their secret of a good marriage was, they said they had a “date night” once a week; a time when they could just be together without others. Jesus tells us that we should spend time alone with God. He tells his disciples:
“when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father.”

– in other words, spend time alone with God. The time of day doesn’t matter. If you are like me, you may be a morning person; perhaps getting up a little earlier when the house is quiet and there are not demands of the day, may be the best time for you. For others, you may be night owls, and taking time before bed when the day’s demands are behind you is best. The time doesn’t matter – what matters is taking the time. Not just every Sunday in church, but time alone.


Some books on prayer also suggest that finding a quiet place to pray is also helpful. In the gospels we read time and time again that Jesus withdrew from the crowds to find a quiet place to pray; the garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives. As I travelled in Asia, I saw a small alter in almost all the houses I visited – a place to come and quietly meditate. It seems foreign to us in our western society, but perhaps we too could create a small sacred place in our homes. It doesn’t need to be a separate room, maybe just a corner where you have perhaps a cushion, a spiritual symbol like a cross or a picture, a bible, maybe some music, perhaps a candle, an incense burner or a small bowl of water. A place that is sacred, where you can be still and pray with God.


Jesus’ disciples realized how important prayer was for Jesus – it grounded him and enabled him to be connected with God. They wanted that too – that is why in Luke’s gospel we are told that they asked Jesus:

Lord, teach us how to pray.”

Jesus taught them what has become known as the Lord’s Prayer. The words of this prayer have been repeated countless times every day for more than 2000 years, and they are repeated by billions of Christians every Sunday during worship. Whether or not Jesus intended this prayer to be repeated by rote over and over again, or whether he intended it to teach us HOW to pray, and WHAT to pray using our own words – this is debate for scholars to argue over. What I do know, is that prayed with intention, the Lord ’s Prayer is a very profound prayer. It leads us to pray with greater specifics for the world we live in, the people we know, and the problems we face.

Our Father in Heaven

There is something comforting that Jesus teaches us to address God as a child would address a parent – a father or mother. It reassures us that God loves us with the unconditional love of a parent. And the word “OUR” is important too – we do not stand alone in our relationship with God. We are part of a greater universe of brothers, sisters and all creatures, with a responsibility to love and care for each other.

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Jesus is reminding us that we live in God’s world, and that we, as Christians should live our lives to carry out God’s desire for a world of love and peace. It is so easy for us say these words with our lips, but our lives often say “MY name, MY kingdom, MY will.”

Give us this day our daily bread

The word ‘bread’ in Jesus’ prayer is clearly a metaphor meaning all the material necessities of life. In our global world we might add to the list – healthcare, education, the arts, equal opportunities, freedom from violence, and so forth. In short, when we pray for daily bread, we pray for it all – for ourselves and for everyone else. OUR bread. There are no exceptions.

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those that have sinned against us

We know that God forgives us time and time again for the ways in which we fall short – that is what Grace is all about. God forgives us because God loves us, and God wants to be in a relationship with us. But in this prayer, Jesus reminds us that we must also forgive others. It is through forgiving others that we restore relationships. We can think of places in the world where there is currently little forgiveness; maybe even in our own lives. If the cycle of forgiveness does not replace the cycle of violence and retribution, then there is no hope. Mahatma Gandhi once said

And eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

In this prayer, Jesus is telling us to forgive and pray for the world.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Jesus understood the world that we live in. He lived here too. It is full of trials and temptations. Trials to tempt us to act in an unloving and self centered way; trials of loss of a loved one, of a job, of security; trials of illness, of physical or mental pain; trials from natural disasters causing fear, suffering, dislocation, famine.

The list could go on. We are fragile creatures all too easily harmed and harming others. It would be easy to give up hope and sink into depression; to succumb to enticements of alcohol, drugs, self abuse. Jesus’ pray teaches us to acknowledge our vulnerability, and to ask for God’s presence in the dark places.


Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer because he knew it was important. Jesus spent time in prayer because he knew it was how he could communicate with God. I don’t even begin to understand everything about prayer, but I do know that God does listen when I pray. I also know that when you pray with faith – God does answer you – maybe not in the ways that we expect and maybe not instantly. If taking time to pray daily is new for you, I challenge you to find a quiet space and time to be with alone with God. Use a journal to write down what you want to praise God for; what you want to thank God for; what you want to ask forgiveness for; who you want to pray for, and what you want to ask for. Find your own way to spend time with God – but most importantly – don’t just stand there … pray something!


Let us pray. – We will begin by saying the Lord’s prayer together.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven

Give us today our daily bread,

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,

Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.

For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours,

Now and forever. Amen.

Sermon by Gail Fricker for Parkview United Church August 3, 2014. Sermon Topic: Open Doors


Sermon by Gail Fricker August 3, 2014.    Sermon Topic:  Open Doors

The brief book of Ruth is a story about open doors and open relationships. Naomi is Jewish. She leaves her homeland together with her two sons and her husband because there is a great famine. They leave Bethlehem and they go to Moab, a totally different culture, to seek a better life. They are immigrants – no different from immigrants today. They leave behind them everything that they knew was familiar, and they head off to a place where they hope they can build a new life.


I can identify with this story – as an immigrant from England, I too left everything that I knew – friends, family, fish and chips wrapped in newspaper! – There wasn’t a great famine in England, but it was during the iron rule of Maggie Thatcher, and if you worked in the arts, the economic cuts were just like living in a famine. I came to Canada, wondering, just like Naomi, if I would be welcomed; wondering if I would make new friends; wondering if I would be able to make a living in the arts to support myself.

Naomi finds that the doors of Moab was open to immigrants – just like I found that Canada welcomed me. Her two sons marry Moab women ….. just like I married a Canadian. And life was good to them … and me.

But in time, Naomi’s husband and her sons die, leaving the three women alone. It would have been hard for them. Not only because of the grief that they were facing, but also because of all the chores and things that they would have to do without the help of their husbands. And remember – it would have been much harder for women to be independent in those times. Naomi decides to return to her homeland, hoping to find conditions there improved, and Ruth decides to go with her.

And so the story is repeated a full circle. Ruth, just like her mother in law, closed the door on all that she had known: family, language, religion and social customs. With only an older woman as her mentor, she went to strange land to begin life again. This bold decision opened doors for both of them. They opened the door to new life, new friends, and for Ruth, a new faith too.


Ruth and Naomi opened doors in a wider sense as well. They were open to a relationship that crossed many boundaries. Race, religion, custom and age separated these two women. But the Jew and Moabite linked arms and walked through the open door to a new future. It’s a story with a happy ending – Ruth was accepted and married Boaz, a wealthy landowner, and became an ancestor of Jesus.


But what does the story have to do with us today? It speaks to us of many different kinds of open doors. Ruth and Naomi are an example of the kind of friendship that can develop when doors are open. Someone once said that if we do not have a friend who is 20 years our senior and one who is 20 years our junior, then we are poorer for our isolation. We have closed doors. It must also follow that if we do not have friends who are richer and poorer, who are less and more educated, and who come from different cultures, religions, sexual orientation, or ethnic backgrounds from ourselves, then we living in a kind of cultural poverty.



It is easy to feel empathy for those whose painful stories we hear in the news. But how do we feel when someone who is different from us moves in next door? Do we greet the refugee, the immigrant, the homosexual to our neighbourhood, or do we worry about the effect it might have on the value of our house? Are the doors of our homes open to those who are different? How would you feel if your son or daughter wanted to marry someone from a different culture or sexual persuasion? Are the doors of our own church open wide to those who come from different traditions than our own? Are we open to listening and learning and hearing the voice of God from others?



The Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and others readings that were read to us, really are very similar to passages that we can read in our Christian Bible – and yet I for one know really very little about other religions. I didn’t realize that Judaism speaks of “the way”; Islam speaks of “surrender”; at the heart of the Buddhist path is “letting go”; and Taoism teaches we must “let ourselves be empty, to be reborn”. All phrases that sound like they could come from our Christian Bible. But, as a child I was taught that Christianity is the only way. I grew up with a sense of superiority over other religions – they were wrong and we were right. But, traveling the world as an adult has taught me to appreciate the richness of other cultures. Spending time in mosques or Buddhist temples, I have found myself asking – doesn’t God love us all? Surely the door to God is not closed to others?


In a book called ‘The Heart of Christianity’ by Marcus Borg, I recently read a passage that struck home to me – it said that in many ways all religions are the same – just different roads to God. Imagine a mountain with many paths leading to the top. At the bottom of the mountain the paths are wide apart, but as they lead higher and higher up the mountain, they converge at the top. Yes other religions have different rituals, but if we are open to it, isn’t it possible to sense the presence of God in rituals that are foreign to us? I recently had the opportunity to walk a labyrinth – a maze like circle drawn, or carved in the ground. It was actually originally a pagan ritual, but has been adopted by Christians as form of mediation. It was certainly foreign to me as I walked around it – and yes, at first I felt uncomfortable. But I also most certainly felt the presence of God.

In Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he cautions them not to judge others for their differences. Perhaps it is time to examine our own prejudices and hear the voice of God a new? Can we open doors? Take some time to meditate as you watch these images, and ask God to open doors for you.