Joy Comes With The Dawn Because Somebody Cared

February 3, 2019

Rev. Darryl Auten

The cover photo of the bulletin today was taken a couple of weeks ago in the early morning just south of our house on 20th street. I began singing that lovely Easter Hymn as a response to the beauty of the sky. Then, last week, when the sky was clear three mornings in a row I saw Venus, Jupiter and the waning moon in its last half together in the morning sky.  Then, this past Tuesday evening with the clear sky, a rare cloudless night, the stars seemed to drop down and there was the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) in the East and the Orion Nebula in the south.  This was a fantastic display that we don’t often see because of the winter clouds. We have been blessed with the night sky and crocuses and daffodils beginning to emerge from their winter rest – if we notice them.  We may choose to see these happenings as the presence of God in the world.  Such responses to the display of beauty do not mean that this is only where we find the HOLY. It is one of the ways we experience God.  Here are some of the other expressions of God’s involvement in our lives every day.


How many of you have cell phones?  Show of hands.  How many of you use the camera feature on your cell phone? _______. How many of you use your phone for googling information?   ____ Do any of you use it just to make phone calls?___


Think of the changes that have taken place in the past 30 years. When we arrived in Salmon Arm in 1988 we carried with us The World Book Encyclopedia which had sections on each of Canada’s provinces, cities and towns.  These sections had maps, statistics and all kinds of imaginable information about who we were as a Canadian people and society.  Then Jeryl and I purchased Mel Hurtig’s Canadian Encyclopedia so that we could have the most current information about our Canada. Whenever I met someone from Saskatchewan, and most of the new people in town were from Saskatchewan from Tisdale, Rock Glen, Wilcox or Marquis – I always went to the Saskatchewan World Book to discover where these towns were located. I even looked up Eye Brow and Lucky Lake our of curiosity. Now, we don’t have discussions about fact or fantasy of where places are located- someone pulls out a cell phone and googles the answer. Technology has taken the very simple connection through books and given us answers from the web. In our Northern Lights Chamber Choir and in the Community Band there are members, conductors and accompanists who have computer tablets on their music stands from which they read the music. Music is now downloaded from our digital library and we have to print our own music that we use at rehearsals.  In just twenty to thirty years we have made a major shift in technology.


Which brings me to what I feel is even more important for us today.  We are here worshipping and sharing a community life “Because Somebody Cared.”  In 1883, long before I was born, in a farm community north of Edmonton  people from Ontario believed that the church and the school were very important institutions. The first building they built was a church that doubled as a school house during the week. That was the home base for my mother’s family because somebody cared for their new community. When I was born, the minister walked three and a half miles each way to my grandparent’s house to baptize me because my mother and father and their parents cared.


When we left the farm and moved to Edmonton,  we lived close to a little mission church that the Methodists had founded in 1912 to support Ukrainian migrants who had moved to Canada.  Those Methodists cared.  That little Buchanan Memorial mission became Buchanan United Church which became our home church. It was there I sang in the choir with George Hall, there that my sister joined the Explorer group with Faith Nent and there that Art Holmes, a member of the church board, made sure I had a job through my first years of University.  I was the caretaker, floor scrubber every weekend.  They all were friends and care givers for our extended family.


It is the history of the church throughout the ages that Christians cared and believed that those who were around them were God’s people. They believed that their work was in the immediate community to give life to that community. At the beginning, St. Paul nourished little churches in Corinth, Ephesus, Phillipi , Thessalonica and eventually Rome. Other women and men of the faith carried their belief and hope to Santiago in Spain, Cantebury, London, Iona and northern Europe to bring the nurture of the Gospel to outlying parts of the world. Because somebody cared back then, belief  flourished many years later in the North Shuswap.  And, though I can’t name the people who built this community, you may be able to give them names. We have inherited and enjoy the value of this building and the people who gather here year by year because people in the past cared.


And we care so that others  in the future may share the “Good News”.  Which brings us to the readings from Jeremiah and Luke.


Six hundred and fifty years before the time of Jesus, the people who lived in Jerusalem and Judah struggled to know who they were as a people of God. Yes, they had recorded stories of the beginnings as a people back to the time of Abraham and Sarah.  The knew the stories of the great kings and the bad kings. They knew about being slaves in Egypt and of being rescued. They had written the  history of their  laws and traditions about how to be faithful and by 650 BCE they were being threatened by armies from empires to the east of them. – first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. How could they survive?  Answer – bold and prophetic leadership from within their own community.  About 626 BCE a thirteen year old boy emerged from the village of Anathoth a few miles north of Jerusalem. Jeremiah was that lad who challenged his king and the Royal Court to reform itself and t become more responsive to the needs of their people. His call was to speak to the people and the court and say it’s time to trust God once again. The lesson which was shared today was about being called by God and Jeremiah’s resistance to the call.  He said, “ I am just a boy.  I don’t think I can do the job.”  And whoever wrote the book of Jeremiah had God answer:  “Don’t say you are just a child. I will be with you and put words in your mouth. You will not be alone.”


For me, that is what faith communities are often best at – supporting and caring for people who cannot always help themselves and who need help. Because someone cared 2600 years ago, because God cared then, a community of people in Jerusalem wrote Jeremiah’s story and preserved it  so that people in our time could come to know that God cares in the midst of crisis.


It was similar in the story of Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth and reading in the synagogue. His local community members were quite impressed when he read to them from the book of Isaiah. Unlike those of us who have modern Bibles with chapters and verses marked in a book to help us find our places, the Jewish Scripture scrolls had none of those marks. Their text was a series of consonants. There were no vowels, just word running end to end through all their writings. Yet, Jesus found the passage he wanted to read – shared it with his compatriots and set it aside to say to them:  “This prophecy is being fulfilled right now.  Here, in Nazareth.”  And the synagogue goers were quite astonished.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, our carpenter’s boy?”


Not being very pastoral, Jesus went on to tell them that a prophet wasn’t honored in his home town, and it wasn’t good men like them who received the blessing of God’s healing in Elijah’s time, but a widow of Zarephath or Namaan the Syrian.   He was not very diplomatic when he indicated that we typically only honor wise ones who come from some distance. An expert always has to be at least 50 miles from home to be recognized for her skill.


This opening story in the ministry of Jesus as told by St. Luke is written to share a wholly different view of what the Good News really is. Luke wants us to know that Jesus has begun a spirit filled ministry that will turn all our expectations upside down. Luke’s story is about poor and outcast people who discover that God cares for them.  He wants people to know that the unimportant people of the world are loved by the HOLY ONE.  Luke says it is  women and slaves, Greeks and Medes and Parthians who are now part of the realm of God.  It is young and old from the North Shuswap, from Chase and Salmon Arm who are important because God cares for them.  And we do too. 


Because others have cared in the past, we are here to care in the present, to bless others and to be blessed.  Let it be so in your life and mine.  Amen.