“Peace to This House” – July 3, 2016

“Peace to This House”

July 3, 2016 – 7th Sunday after Pentecost – Year C

Peace to This House!   Peace to you – peace to you – peace to you – peace to you – peace to you – peace to this house!  To each of us, let us draw in a deep, long breath and delight in knowing that peace dwells deep within.  With that assurance come the equally comforting proclamation “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  We rest in the profound grace that God’s kingdom is as close as the air we breathe and the hugs we share.  The peace that rests in our bones, is deep and abundant.  We are lavished with grace upon grace, and delight upon delight.

Blessings flow over you like a gently cascading river pouring droplets of abundant love and mercy over your dry skin.  You soak it up.  You delight in the feels good.  You know it is for you.  You experience God’s overflowing peace.  This is a place of sanctuary where you find refreshment and new life.  God’s kingdom abides deep within you.  Peace to you!

It is out of this place of deep grace that our hearts are open to respond to and hear Jesus’s call to share that peace and Good News with others.  So Jesus called on a group of 35 pairs of folk to go into towns and villages and do just that.  They didn’t need anything special – just the wonderful opportunity to talk and heal in God’s name.

Imagine that you have received the Word and are nudged to go up and down the Okanagan Valley and offer peace to all who will be open to you.  Perhaps it is not so far as the towns and villages of the Valley, but rather right here in Penticton. You will not carry your purse or a bag, but simply your most basic self.  When entering a house your blessing of “Peace to this house” will come from a deep place of calm and grace.  If food and drink is offered, you will partake.  Cure the sick.  A gentle hand of caring can bring about much healing.  The spirit seeks the delight of knowing that the kingdom of God has come near to those you visit.

However, some will not welcome your message.  Yet, even then, God is near.  Rejecting the awesome abundance that God offers seems so strange to us.  Yet, there are untold numbers of people who are rigid in their refusal to receive the transforming grace that Jesus brings to life.  His message is one of delight and beauty and unconditional love.  And that is why he sent his beloved followers out into the hillsides and the towns and cities to prepare the people for his transforming way of life.  Jesus reveals life of wholeness where healing, acceptance, and forgiveness is granted to his followers.  What a gift of grace!

On Wednesday of this past week and Friday June 3rd I had the wonderful privilege of presenting bursaries to 9 tremendous grade 12 graduates.  I attended the Pen High grad a month ago and Princess Margaret’s grad this past week and saw incredible gratitude and awe as $185,000 3worth of bursaries were distributed to grateful recipients.  I listened to fabulous speeches offered by principals, the Director of Education, Valedictorians and others of the community.  They reinforced the importance of service to others, and making a difference.  As each graduate walked across the stage I became a proud Mom or at least guardian of each of these fine young adults.  Their incredible honesty and vulnerability was touching and admirable.  They have dreams and they are going to make a difference in our world.  The teachers have done an amazing job of helping to build self-esteem.  But it is the parents and guardians, grandparents and aunts and uncles, neighbours and Sunday School teachers and friends who are significant influences on these young folk.  They are the ones who model for them how they are to step out into the world and bring peace.  We are the people that our young people look to for example and support.  We are Christ for them.  We cannot fail them.

As many of you are aware, we have an interesting collective of Pen High students who love to hang out on our front steps and gather in our window wells and fire escapes.  When I come in and out of the building I try to engage them, sometimes with more success than other times.  A recent conversation with 4 grade 10 students told me about how they liked seeking refuge here because no one picked on you.  You weren’t bullied here at Penticton United Church.  We are a place of Peace.

Recently I met with a bereaved family and learned that their Mom’s involvement in the UCW did wonders for her self-esteem and sense of belonging.  Mom had struggled all her life with not feeling good enough.  But because of the UCW she knew peace.  She belonged. 

In one of the churches I previously served they had a Monday gathering called “Sip and Serve.”  A group of about a dozen folk would gather at 9:00 in the morning and pick up brooms, dust clothes, toilet scrubbers, and screw drivers and went to work cleaning and repairing the church building.  At precisely 10:30 they would stop and gather for coffee or tea and conversation.  It was then they would learn who was ill and needed a visit, who was in a new relationship and they celebrated, who was having financial difficulties and needed referral to one of the service agencies and the conversation and socializing continued, until the call to return the cleaning supplies to their proper places was heard, and this led them to the door to their cars and trucks.  They understood that the kingdom of God was near.

If God wrote a want ad perhaps it would read like this: “Kingdom workers needed immediately.  Urgency of task and shortage of workers makes it mandatory that we expand our labour pool immediately.  Recent resignations have left many openings.

Frequent absenteeism will force us to make unwanted cutbacks in services unless we expand work force immediately.  Ability not as essential as availability plus an excellent training manual is available.  Training manual has been tried and proven over the past two thousand years.

We hire regardless of sex, race, or age.  Diverse backgrounds welcome and even helpful.  In the past we have used peasants and poets, kings and fig pickers, fishers and doctors, harlots and queens, young lads and wise old women. 

Main qualifications:  firm faith in Christ, a soft heart and a thick skin.

Work not suitable for everyone.  Must be able to withstand criticism of fellow workers and shirkers who often insist on their rights while ignoring their responsibilities.”

I have great faith that peace abides here in Penticton United Church.  I also have great faith that there are many kingdom workers.  You have heard Christ’s call to live out peace in all you say, do and are.  You are committed to being peace-seekers in bringing the kingdom of God to all with whom you encounter. 

And so I say again “Peace to This House!   Peace to you – peace to you – peace to you – peace to you – peace to you – peace to this house!  To each of us, let us draw in a deep, long breath and delight in knowing that peace dwells deep within.  With that assurance come the equally comforting proclamation “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  We rest in the profound grace that God’s kingdom is as close as the air we breathe and the hugs we share.  The peace that rests in our bones, is deep and abundant.  We are lavished with grace upon grace, and delight upon delight.  So be it!  Amen.

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