St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon
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The Bookroom

May 2, 2010

Posted on May 2, 2010 in category: Sermons
Tags: , ,

Revelation 21:1-6
Psalm 148
John 13:31-35

Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.
Behold! Behold! I make all things new
My promise is true, for I am Christ the way.

I am proud of our choir today for being willing to try something new by singing “Cantate Brasilia” this morning. The Latin words, though ancient, were new and challenging for us. And the complicated rhythms of the piece meant that we had to work hard to get them right and up to speed. But it was worth it, I think, to sing a new song to the Lord, and to share the enthusiasm and spirit of another culture in making music to glorify God.

Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.
Behold! Behold! I make all things newMy promise is true,
for I am Christ the way.

It’s strange and new for the minister to be delivering the sermon while sitting in a chair, singing and playing an African djembe drum. I’m not even dressed as usual in an alb and stole, but I’m dressed for worship at camp – in jeans and a bunny hug.

I know that new things can be off-putting. We may not be sure whether they are appropriate or not. But I have discovered that praising God can be done with so many different voices and sounds and instruments. And when I bring out the drums at camp or here in the church, I notice that people want to join in. They want to beat the drum, or clap their hands, or raise their voices along with the whole of creation to praise the Lord!

Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.

Behold! Behold! I make all things new
My promise is true, for I am Christ the way.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there have been some new things happening around here lately. We’ve moved some stuff around… like the Communion table is now a little closer to the congregation, and there’s a new piano too. There are some relatively new pulpit falls that came from Parkview Church, and these nice wooden chairs came from Circle West Church, and the orange chairs downstairs, as well as the Christ candle that we lit today, came from McKercher Drive Church.

Actually, those new things are only things. They’re symbolically important, as we make space in our church community for some of the things coming from our sister churches that have closed. But what’s really new in our church is the new people: New voices in the choir, new neighbours in the pew, new co-workers at church events like the Spring Tea yesterday.

I can’t help but think about these new friends of ours… Some are folks who have joined us from a church that has closed. Others have recently moved here from another city or town, and some have found their way back to church or into church for the first time in the last few weeks or months. And I wonder about all the things that are new for them in our church community – not just a piece of moved furniture or a new candle – but new songs, and new patterns for worship, and so many new people to get to know.

Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.
Behold! Behold! I make all things new
My promise is true, for I am Christ the way.

It doesn’t really matter how young or how old you are – new things can be difficult for all of us. I think of the 12 year old girl who is almost too nervous to go to camp for the week. She’s worried about sleeping in a new bed. She’s unsure about making new friends, learning new things, and eating new foods. There is so much uncertainty in going from the familiar patterns of school and family life to the unknown activities of camp life that she almost decides not to go at all… Almost.

The counsellors and staff at Camp Christopher find change difficult too. We notice it whenever we hire a program director who didn’t grow up in our camp. They bring in new games. They change around the daily schedule. They sing some of the songs differently.

Sometimes there are complaints: “Why can’t we do it the way we always used to do it?” Sometimes we see the good in some of the new things. Sometimes we learn, and grow, and change for the better.

Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.
Behold! Behold! I make all things new
My promise is true, for I am Christ the way.

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John comes from that part of the story when Jesus is starting to get his followers ready for a really big change that is going to take place in his life and in theirs.

It’s not that they haven’t been through changes before. They have. The biggest one was probably when they answered Jesus’ call to leave behind their regular lives and livelihoods, and to follow him on a journey of teaching, preaching, healing, and depending on the kindness and hospitality of strangers.

But now Jesus is preparing them for an even bigger change – for another new thing. And this time, he’s probably pretty sure that they’re not going to see it as a positive change that they can easily embrace. You see, Jesus knows that he’s soon going to be killed. As gently as possible, he says: “Little children, I am with you only a little longer.”

“What?” I can imagine them responding, “You can’t leave us, Jesus! We need you! This is the pattern that we’ve become used to. You teach us. You lead us. We follow. It’s working so well… You can’t leave us now!”

But Jesus does not change his mind… if he could change his mind… if it was his choice to make… And he says, “Where I am going, you cannot come.”

“You need to stay here to continue my work. I won’t be with you in the same way – you’re right about that – but I will be with you still by the Spirit of God – in you, and among you, and between you, and around you. I won’t be physically with you, but you will be my disciples still.

“I give you a new commandment” he said, “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.
Behold! Behold! I make all things new
My promise is true, for I am Christ the way.

My experience of living in the Christian community at camp is that it is a wonderful opportunity to learn together what it means to love one another as Jesus has loved us. In the midst of challenges and changes… In the context of trying new things, learning new songs and games and skills and stories, and making new friends, we get the chance to live out Jesus’ new commandment to love one another as we live together in Christian community.

Today, I hope that you will join me in praying for the community at Camp Christopher this summer – for the campers, the Leaders-in-Training, for the counsellors and staff, for the volunteers, and for all who visit the camp.

I am praying for something new and wonderful in the lives of each of those people – a new friend, a new learning, a new experience of being loved, a new assurance of God’s presence and care, a new call from Christ and a new response of faith.

And I am praying for something new in the Christian community that forms there also – new co-operation and patience and understanding, new bonds of love and friendship, and new unity in ministry and mission.

And I am praying for almost exactly the same things for our church community here at St. Andrew’s. May God help us to welcome, to meet, to love, and to encourage one another in Christian community in this place. And may everyone know that we are disciples of Jesus because we have love one for another.

Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.
Behold! Behold! I make all things new
My promise is true, for I am Christ the way