Monday, July 25, 2011

Upcoming Events!

Windsor Pride is coming up in a couple of weeks and there is a lot going on! Join us for any or all of these!

Friday August 5, 9:30 am, City Hall Square: Pride Flag Raising! The rainbow flag will fly over Windsor City Hall for Pride Week!

Friday, August 5, 6:30 pm, Rose Bowl Lanes: Pride Bowling! This event is family-friendly and free, thanks to the sponsorship of CAW Local 200, Brian Price and SunLife Financial, and the Legends of 2012.

Saturday, August 6, 7 pm, Windsor Pride Centre (422 Pelissier): Then and Now: A Night of Story-Telling. Members of Windsor Pride's 50+ Proud and members of the youth groups read from "Out and Aging: Our Stories" with a showing of the documentary "Just Because I Am." Don't miss this evening of history, stories and new perspectives.

Saturday, August 6, 8 pm, Riverfront Festival Plaza: Summer Sizzle Dance Party! Join us for music and entertainment under the stars! DJ Shawn Riker (Toronto), DJ Josh Karmin (Windsor), DJ Jace (Detroit) spin the music; cash bar and food available. Sponsored by CAW Local 444. Suggested donation of $5 at the gate would be appreciated.

Sunday, August 7, 10 am, Riverfront Festival Plaza: MCC Windsor Pride Service! With special music by the MCC Windsor choir and the duo Roland and Paul (Detroit)--celebrating God's inclusive and overwhelming love!

Sunday, August 7, 12 noon, Ouellette Ave: Windsor Pride Parade! Parade musters in Food Basics parking lot (Goyeau and Elliott) and proceeds down Ouellette to the riverfront. MCC Windsor will have a float--join us to decorate at 11 and then ride the float in the parade!

Sunday, August 7, 1 pm, Riverfront Festival Plaza: Windsor Pride Day! Featuring delicious food, a cash bar area, merchant and not-for-profit vendors, child and youth activities and areas, entertainment including special performances by BIGG WIGGLE, SHE KING and much more! Suggested donation of $5 at the gate would be appreciated.

MCC Windsor Upcoming Events

Sunday, September 11, 2011 Homecoming Service
Welcoming members, former members and future members to a celebration of MCC Windsor's past, present and future! Special guest Rev. Kevin Kinsel, MCC MI/Windsor network.

Join us for these events or any Sunday for our worship celebration, 1:30 pm, 1680 Dougall Ave!

Like a Pebble in Your Shoe; Pentecost 6, July 24, 2011; Rev, Martha Daniels

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Jesus put before them another parable: “The realm of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in a field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable: “The realm of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

“The realm of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the realm of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again, the realm of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the realm of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”


Will you pray with me? Loving God, pour out your grace on us today. Open our hearts and spirits to speak and hear your truth and love; all that you would have us know, that we may work more effectively to bring about your realm here on earth. We ask in your own mighty name, amen.

Wow, this reading sounds like some of my sermons—just all over the place, trying several different metaphors trying to explain or even just discuss the realm of God. A mustard seed, the realm of God is like a mustard seed—or no, it’s like some bread dough—wait, it’s more like a treasure, a pearl…or maybe it’s a netful of fish…

Human language cannot really explain the things of God. I think we all understand that. The best we can do is use metaphors, images, ideas of what God’s realm is like. And so Matthew has come up with this array of images—mustard seed, yeast, hidden treasure in a field, pearl, a pile of fish. If that’s not a bunch of unconnected images, I don’t know what is!

And yet…these all do have something in common. Matthew is trying to convey the idea of something seemingly small, hidden, inconsequential at first glance, something that needs discernment and understanding to see and claim.

That mustard seed—it’s small, but once it’s planted, it grows tall. A little bit of yeast is all you need to make a lot of bread—and don’t forget bread was the main food item in those days. Jesus is indulging in hyperbole here, by the way—there are smaller seeds than mustard seeds and it never grows into an actual tree, and there’s no way that yeast could leaven the whole amount of flour. But that exaggeration emphasizes the point—minor, insignificant things can in fact be very important.

A hidden treasure—how valuable could it really be if someone has forgotten about it and someone else can just stumble on it in the countryside? And yet it is valuable enough for the finder to buy the whole field in order to get it.

That pearl of great price…a tiny thing, easily crushed or damaged—and yet the merchant sells off everything else she has in order to get it—to put all her resources into this one small pearl. Not good business is it? It speaks of a passion—for the perfect, for the ideal, for a willingness to sacrifice everything for a goal.

Finally, those fish… The fishers were using what’s called a seine net—you pull it through the water and gather up everything that’s too big to get through the meshes. So then they had to sit down on the shore and sort it all out. There were, I am sure, old bottles, and sticks, and a worn-out sandal someone threw away, and turtles and some broken pottery and algae mats and fish that were not good eating and fish that were good eating. But they didn’t try to sort them out until afterwards—until the whole catch had been brought in—and when it comes to us, it’s not human beings who do that sorting but angels. There’s a saying I’ve always disliked, usually associated with the military—“kill them all and let God sort them out.” I’d rather change that to “Bring them all in and let God sort them out.”

The realm of God is like that, too—gathering all the people together, regardless of whether they are seen as valuable or worthless or somewhere in the middle. God knows their worth. And after all, even the bottles could be used as a flower vase and some turtles make good soup.

But the truth here is that important things, good things, valuable things, can come from small beginnings or look like they are worthless. A tiny seed, a turtle, an empty field; or a few disciples who were not well-educated, wealthy or important. The smallest things, the most insignificant acts can change the way people look at each other and the relationship they have with God.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon at a fundraiser for Pride—a cruise on the Detroit River. The majority of attendees were not people whom we will probably ever see here in our service—some are simply not interested in church, others have churches they attend already, some we see from time to time, a few are opposed to churches. But my presence there spoke to them in a different way—even if they weren’t aware of it, even if it was on an unconscious level. A pastor, on the river cruise, dancing to the DJ, friends with many of them, talking, laughing, bantering, and yes, drinking a Mike’s Cranberry Lemonade…I was there, I was present for them, sharing their lives and their experiences. It may have been a mustard seed—or a pebble in their shoes, reminding them of God’s presence there, not so much in me but in each one of them—that tiny pebble that won’t go away, but reminds you of its presence with each step.

It’s telling that I am often told by members of the community that they “used to belong” to MCCW or that I am their pastor, or this is their church, when they have no formal ties to the church. What they do have are ties of affection, of understanding that here they are welcome and loved and wanted, even if they choose not to come, or not to come regularly. They know that if they decide to come, they have a place to come to worship. From such little things, seemingly insignificant, great things can grow.

And you know, this is not simply an MCC thing. When I served two small country churches as a Methodist pastor, many people had the same sense about those churches. There was no town cemetery, so every one was buried in Poplar Springs UMC on one side of the ridge or Jennings Chapel UMC on the other side. Most of the families didn’t belong to either church, but they still felt as if they were “their” church—there for them when they needed a church. Those small churches were pebbles, too—reminding people of God’s presence, always.

My sisters and brothers, consider this. Are you a pebble in someone’s shoe? Is MCC Windsor a pebble?

Are we intentional about being those seeds, that pearl, the fish in the net? Are we reminding the people around us of God’s presence with them—always?

There are so many ways to do that, many of them very simple. Just by behaving in ways that are Christian—caring for others by not gossiping or tearing down, showing respect for our sisters and brothers and ourselves in our actions, lifting others up who are in need—that sets an example, a counter-example to those who claim the name Christian and yet act in very un-Christlike ways. When the topic of spirituality arises in conversation with friends, strangers, family--mention church—that you go, that you go to MCC, that you go to MCC Windsor, what you role at MCCW is—you usher, you serve communion, you were once on the board.

That simple knowledge of you—someone who has a face to them—as a Christian who attends church means more than all the sermons, than all the glitzy campaigns or fancy buildings. It’s a mustard seed, a pearl—a hidden treasure.

In all God’s many names, amen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Watching What We Weed" Rev. Martha Daniels

Pentecost 5
July 17, 2011

Romans 8:12-25

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Jesus put before them another parable: “The realm of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in a field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the servants of the householder came and said, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ The householder answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’

Then Jesus left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Human One; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of God’s realm; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Human One will send his angels, and they will collect out of his realm all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in God’s realm. Let anyone with ears listen!


Will you pray with me? Loving God, teach us to be loving and forgiving, to understand that we do not see as you see and that your ways are wiser than ours. You do not see what the world sees, what humans see—you see the truth, you understand our hidden ways and you know when a weed is really wheat. In all your names, amen.

We seem to be on a farming streak in our readings! Last week the reading was about seeds and planting lots of them so they would grow. This week we’re talking about weeds!

One thing we should know about this parable of Jesus—tares, the word translated “weeds” in the reading, are a plant that looks a lot like wheat until it’s very close to harvest time. And they are poisonous, so you can’t just bring them in with the rest of the crop. What a predicament—poisonous, but they look just like the plants you want to keep; you have to keep away from the poison, but they are mixed in with the good. Does that sound like anything in your life?

I think the world is a lot like that wheat field—weeds and wheat all mixed together, and only God and the angels can tell the difference before harvest-time.

I am a huge fan of JRR Tolkien and his trilogy The Lord of the Rings. One of the main characters, Aragorn, is a hidden king who appears when his people’s need is the greatest—a familiar theme in legends. In the book The Fellowship of the Ring, four of the main characters, traveling in great danger and trying to avoid a fearful enemy, meet Aragorn at an inn, and when he attempts to befriend them, are suspicious because he doesn’t seem to be the sort of person who would be on their side. Tolkien, who was not a bad poet, included this poem about Aragorn.

All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not reached by the frost

In other words, Aragorn may appear quite foul—weatherbeaten, ragged, grim, even threatening—but this is the king who is to be, and he will help them in their time of need—and indeed, he saves their lives that very night. He looks like a weed, but is in fact the finest wheat.

Now, Jesus says the “realm of God” is like that wheat field—the good and the bad, the healthy and the dangerous, we’re all mixed up together, and only God can sort us out. The realm of God is a place Jesus clearly feels everyone should want to be—and yet it doesn’t seem to be as much like paradise as one might expect. This parable also suggests that things are not as clear-cut as some people would like them to be—life is not an either-or proposition, up or down, good or bad, yes or no. It’s mixed, not only in general, but—in fact—within ourselves.

None of us are pure wheat or pure weeds. And sometimes it’s hard to pull the weeds—those parts of us we don’t like to think about—without destroying the wheat—the parts of us we are proud of, at least in this world. I can be very stubborn and mulish—which is a weed. On the other hand, that very stubbornness keeps me working when others would have given up or not even begun, and often leads me to find a solution when I thought it was impossible. Sometimes a person is very outspoken—which can be difficult if she’s too blunt and hurts feelings or angers people. But that same person can also challenge people who need to face issues or to realize that their way is not the only way. What we see as a weed God may see as wheat—and vice versa. It sometimes takes a while and more maturity to see what is truly wheat and weed—it sometimes isn’t until the harvest that we can see the truth.

So—wheat and weed. But the point of the parable is not so much about the fact that we are a mixture of weed and wheat, and the world, too, is both healthy and dangerous. I think it’s more about the servants who wanted to try to pull those weeds too early, before they could really tell which was which.

Isn’t that a temptation for us? Are we like those servants, thinking we know exactly who is weed and who is wheat? Do we look at someone and think there’s no way that person is wheat? The Fred Phelpses, the Jerry Falwells, the opposition leaders, the homophobes and the white supremacists, the fundamentalists of any religion and none, anyone who promotes hate of others, who hurts other people—whether physically emotionally, or politically—those are the ones we think must be weeds.

It’s so hard to remember that even those—even the ones who want to hurt us, and do hurt us—they too are children of God and in God’s eyes, their wheat-ness may outweigh their weed-ness. We do not know until that final harvest day which it is—and we do not know that about ourselves, either. If we pray and hope and have confidence that God will see our wheat-ness—all the good intentions, the holy acts, the loving relationships, the reconciliations, the mutual support—if we think God will see past our errors and mistakes, then we have to think God will do no less for others, even those who hurt us. For if God is a God who sees to the heart, then God sees not just to our heart, but to the heart of every person—and pulls out the weeds, but cherishes the wheat in every human heart, even the ones we humans believe cannot possibly have any wheat in their hearts.

I am not saying so much that we should forgive people who treat us badly—although Jesus does say that. The focus here, I think, is on realizing that we don’t know—we simply cannot know—who is wheat and who is weed in God’s eyes. So the Realm of God is not so much that only wheat is found there but that we all are aware that we are both wheat and weed, and content to allow God to be God and wait for God to pull out those weeds—in our hearts and in other peoples’—when the time is right.

It’s about judging—or, more accurately, about NOT judging, not deciding we know who is godly and who is not. We are not the ones who will be doing the weeding!

Our call is to cultivate the wheat in our own lives and in the world—to starve those weeds, but also recognize that they have power and may in fact be wheat someday—God knows, we cannot.

Trust God to know the difference—trust God to heal the weeds until they are wheat, and to harvest all together in God’s good time.

In all God’s names, amen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Plant Abundantly" Message, MCC Windsor, July 10, 2011, Rev. Martha Daniels

Matthew 13:1-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the realm of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the realm of God and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”


Will you pray with me? God of storms and sunshine, of rain and breeze, of sea and mountain; God of the stony path and the rich soil of farmland; make our hearts open furrows for you to plant in; give us courage to sow the news of your love freely and widely, without fear for where it may land. In your own mighty name, amen.

This is one of the most popular of Jesus’ parables, I think. You all remember what a parable is, right? A parable is a story in which the different elements correspond to elements in the real world, with the result of making a point about the real world. It’s like an allegory, but shorter and usually only tries to make one point, instead of many. They are a favourite teaching method of rabbis, both ancient and modern—and Jesus was no exception. He knew that sometimes a story makes a point more powerfully than a lecture, and leaves a lot more open to people’s own interpretation—it allows them to make all kinds of connections.

This parable is one of those, for obvious reasons—it’s easy to understand the parallels, and we all identify with the different kinds of soil at different times in our lives! I could actually preach three sermons on this one parable—well, many more than that, but there are three in particular that I’m thinking of. I could talk about us being the soil, or us being the seed—as Jesus does—or I could focus on us being the sower, the one who spreads the seeds—and that’s what I want to do today.

When a gardener or farmer plants seeds, they don’t generally put in one seed at a time, carefully spaced apart, patting each one down into the soil carefully… No, they pour them in by the handful—or the seederful, for the farmer—knowing that some will sprout and some will not; that some will sprout but not last; that some will grow but produce no fruit; that some will fall prey to bugs or birds or deer or other critters; that there may be too much rain, or not enough; and that, at the last, some will grow full and strong and produce flowers and fruit. There is no careful calculation of the bare minimum seed to plant, because we cannot know what will come—floods, drought, sun, wind, crows—and so we plant enough for all possibilities.

When we talk about God, about the church, about this church, are we abundant enough? Or are we careful, hoping that one or two seeds planted will grow and flourish if we tend them closely enough, hovering over them anxiously? Or do we simply tell everyone, show everyone we meet or talk to or hear about the good news, or at the very least that we love our church, that we love God and what God has done for us?

The more seed we scatter, my sisters and brothers, the greater our harvest.

I am not saying you need to stand on a street corner with a sign around your neck, haranguing everyone passing by—or even just talking to them. Nor are you required to introduce yourself, “Hi, I’m Martha Daniels, and I go to MCC Windsor.” You don’t have to wear your MCC Windsor name tag every day, or MCC Windsor t-shirt, should you be lucky enough to own one—I am, and it’s red! Nor does it mean you can never go to a bar, or have a drink, or watch a sexy movie, or admire a good-looking person walking by. It’s not about following someone else’s rules for life—“A Christian shouldn’t do that,” or “You’ll give us a bad name if you’re seen wearing that or doing this.”

It’s more about our attitude, the way we carry ourselves in the world. If other people can see that we are happy, that we support each other in difficult times, as many of you have lifted and carried me recently—then they will understand what we are about.

What I am saying is that simply living, showing that you know how to care for others and for yourself, is a way to sow those seeds of God’s love. Rather than focussing on one or two people—“Oh, I know they need to know about the church,” spread it far and wide. You never know who will see you caring for other people and take heart from it, and perhaps even decide the church is a place they want to be. Living a life of love and caring touches more people than focussed concentration on one or two individuals.

Be prodigal, wasteful, generous in your spreading of love and care. Even when you are pretty sure that most of the people you’re talking to won’t listen or won’t care, sow those seeds.

I was told once by a seminary professor of preaching that it was rare that someone would come up right after worship, and say, “Pastor, you’ve changed my life.” In fact, if someone did say that, it was pretty certain that it hadn’t changed their life! Because that is just too soon for that sort of pronouncement. Rather, it’s more likely that someone will come to me weeks or even months—once, even a couple years—after a sermon or service, and say, “Remember when you preached about such-and-such? You made me think—you made me mad—you made me cry; and I started doing such and such—I stopped doing something—I’m going to start doing this—I would like to do another thing, if you will help me find the way.” My professor said that all we could do was plant seeds. Plant seeds. Some would grow, some wouldn’t. Some would sprout right up and then die away; others would sprout and grow strong and tall but never bear any fruit. And some would grow up strong and fruitful—but we would never know about it. All we can do is plant those seeds and trust God that they are where they need to be.

We can plant seeds wherever we are—at work, at the bar, at home with family, hanging out at the park, shopping—wherever we are. Maybe it’s by showing that a person can be Christian and LGBT, or LGBT-supportive. Maybe it’s as simple as holding a door for someone, or as complex as offering a presentation on same-sex relationships and Christianity. It might be sitting with a friend through endless cups of coffee as they mourn the end of a relationship. Maybe it’s by selling tickets to a church fundraiser—people will know you go to church then!—or by bringing someone you care about to church with you. Perhaps it’s just mowing your neighbour’s lawn for them, or helping them carry in their groceries. Even if you thinking you are helping only one person, there will be others who will see what you do and recognize it—and you will have planted another seed. There are a thousand and one ways we can show other people we care.

Don’t do something in hopes that it will “make” the person come to church; or that it make the church look good. Plant those seeds because it is what you feel called to do; spread that joiy and hope and seeds widely. Some of them will grow and flourish, and bear much fruit.

In all God’s names, amen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Music, Sweet Music!" July 3, 20011, MCC Windsor, Rev. Martha Daniels

Please note: This was an interactive sermon in which the congregation read the hymns as theology. Therefore, instead of a manuscript, I had notes, and most of the message came from the congregation, in their sharing about the hymns and how they saw God's message im them. Most of the music in today's service was created for and by UFMCC members and clergy.

Matthew 11:16-30

Jesus said, “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Human One came eating and drinking, and they say,‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.” At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Abba God, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, God, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by the Holy One; and no one knows God’s Child except God, and no one knows God except God’s Child and anyone to whom the Child chooses to reveal God. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest

for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Will you pray with me? Creating God, you speak to us in so many ways—in the loving words of friends, in the rustle of leaves on trees, in the mighty crack of lightening and in the rush of rivers. Open our hearts and spirits to your music, speak to us in the ways you know will reach us. As we listen and as we sing your music, give us grace to live the ideals of which we sing. In all your names, amen.

Welcome to semi-house church—maybe this is duplex church? This in not like what we have come to call house church, but not like usual worship either. I'll be talking a bit and then we'll have a discussion.

God speaks to us in many ways, which is why there are many ways of listening to God—prayer, reading and study, communion, baptism. Music is one of those ways—for some people, music is a direct connection with God. We hear music differently than we do speech or noise—it has a direct path to our brain. In the case of song, words and music are tied so tightly in our brains that we often can’t remember all the words to a song unless we sing it.

From early in history, music has been a part of worship. Psalms were used in the worship services at the Temple in Jerusalem, and we read of the early church “singing holy songs” as they prayed together. In the medieval period, plain chant and written music were given a boost by the church—monasteries and convents were renowned for the beauty of their music—but for them, it was simply how they worshiped.

During and after the Reformation, music was banned from churches—it was seen as too Catholic, because so much church music of the time came from convents or was created for Roman Catholic worship. But people soon found they needed and wanted music in worship, and today some of the most beautiful music in the world is a part of worship. Very few faith traditions today do not use music of some kind.

When Troy Perry founded UFMCC, the music was, like the liturgy and the structure of UFMCC, a blend of many traditions. Because UFMCC pastors and members come from so many backgrounds, there’s a wide variety of music in the MCC hymnal,"Our Songs of Praise." So we have spirituals and Methodist hymns, we have Baptist hymns, and Episcopal chants, we have Presbyterian hymns—we have it all, pretty much. What MCC did with these was to inclusify them—make them gender-, race-, and colour-neutral, and to add to some of them verses that spoke to the particular pains and joys of the LGBT community, to the radical inclusivity of the MCC community.

Remember that hymns generally use standard tunes—we know them, even if we don’t know their names—and the verses, the words, are what is usually written by the hymn-writer. There are exceptions, but generally that is the way it works. Here’s at least one reason why—if the tune is familiar, then the singer—the congregation—can focus on the words and what is being said in them. There’s no need to try to learn both tune and words at the same time.

Our opening hymn this morning—as well as the call to worship—were written by Rev. June Norris, the first straight clergy person in MCC. She used a very familiar tune—so familiar that most people can hum along—and if you print the words in a bulletin or put them up on a PowerPoint presentation, they can sing along with confidence. But let’s look at those words we sang: ("Joyful People Come and Worship")

In a few minutes we’ll sing what has been called the protest song of the GLBT rights movement. The African-American rights movement had “We Shall Overcome,” this is ours. It was written by Holly Near, the well-known lesbian singer and songwriter, in response to the assassination of Harvey Milk, the openly gay San Francisco council member. ("We Are a Gentle Angry People")

Before we go home, we’ll sing “We Are the Church Alive.” Many traditions have hymns that are the essence of that tradition—people of that tradition who do not know many hymns or are not very musical will still know that hymn and be able to sing it. For Methodists, it’s “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” For Lutherans, it’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” For Presbyterians, I think it’s “Be Thou My Vision.” For MCCers, this is our hymn. As much as local MCC churches vary—we are not much like MCCD, Divine Peace, achurch4me?, Crave, Life Journey, or Sunshine Cathedral, which are all very different from one another—this hymn speaks to all of us.

God speaks in many ways. God speaks through Scripture, through other people, through events, through that still small voice in our hearts—and God speaks through music. Amen.