Pete Seeger, infamous folk singer, civil rights and anti-war activist, avid environmentalist, died this past week. David Dunaway titled his biography on Pete Seeger “How Can I keep from Singing”. Many weeks ago, it was decided that our choral anthem this week would be “How Can I Keep From Singing”.
For us at First United this day, we see a synergy of Spirit in this confluence of events, there is something the spirit says to us this day. It is the way the spirit works you know, a mystery of our faith.
Seeger believed that powerful music could change the world. He is also famously quoted for saying that being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live…. This philosophy jives with the philosophy that sings through the words of Jesus in the sermon on the Mount. The sermon on the mount is about generousity of spirit.
The sermon on the mount serves as a centrepiece, a signature song if you will, of the teachings of Jesus. It opens with the beatitudes, the words that we just sung. These words capture the impulse of the spirited teachings of Jesus, but capture them by sounding hopeful notes yet also by sounding rather strange and discordant notes, notes that initially sound strange to the ear.
As we listen for sacred spirit speaking to us, the assigned reading for this day is the baptism of Jesus from the gospel of Matthew. As I thought about this text, I was interested in the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, so I read other stories about their relationship in the gospel to see what insight might come from the storyteller. Today, while we follow the assigned reading, we expand that reading by including some of that wider story.
There is a lot in these texts, more than we can possibly explore in a few minutes, and so this morning I want to draw out just one recurring spirit theme, a theme linked to feminist theology, male spirituality and Celtic notion of spirit friendship.
The theme is captured in the words of Jesus when Jesus says “greater than John has never been seen, yet the least in the kin-dom of heaven is greater than he”. “greater than John has never been seen, yet the least in the kin-dom of heaven is greater than he”. The theme is that "the least is greater"
Based on a Reflection by Brian Cornelius. on December 24th
This Christmas Eve, we have been joining our voices with angelic and prophetic voices as we invite the light of God’s love to be re-born in us. On this Christmas Eve of 2013, we cannot help but think of some voices raised in 2013, voices that spoke to our hearts.
Nelson Mandela, one who embodied the love of the Christ-light as a reconciler reminded us that We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. Mandela was not one simply to make grandious statements but applied it to practical living reminding us, with clarity and simple advice, to live love and forgiveness noting that resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. His humility was such that he insisted that he not be thought of as extraordinary declaring “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying and Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.
Might this passion to keep getting back up be born in us tonight?
Alice Munro, recognized for her life-long creative and literary genius, a genius that is ever learning and ever growing, a woman of curiousity who writes The constant happiness is curiosity, because a curious person will put things together, knowing all along that they may be mistaken. You see them going around with notebooks, scraping the dirt off gravestones, reading microfilm, just in the hope of seeing this trickle in time, in the hope of making a connection, in the hope of rescuing one thing from the rubbish.
Can such curiousity be born in us tonight?