The Musings of Jeff Doucette

Blog

Welcome to my blog.  I hope my thoughts touch a part of your story.

view:  full / summary

A farewell to Becca but not to #BeccaToldMeToo

Posted by jeffdoucette on February 22, 2018 at 7:40 AM




Love one another, as I haveloved you.
Jesus


 

Yesterday morning a young 18 year old named Rebecca was sent home to God surrounded by 700+ people in Riverview, NB which was my old parish when I was a priest. But she was better known as Becca of the #BeccaToldMeTo movement that has swept around the world. Three years ago Becca entered a hospital not feeling well expecting to receive antibiotics and then leave. She left with a diagnosis of a brain tumour with not much time to live.


 

She was asked what she wanted as a bucket list before she died. She replied nothing but for people to do random acts of kindness to make the world which was in a mess a better place by filling it with kindness.


 

This caught the imagination and the hearts of people in her local community and people began to respond. She began a web page called Becca's battle with Butterscotch. https://www.facebook.com/groups/892307520858849/?ref=bookmarks" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://https://www.facebook.com/groups/892307520858849/?ref=bookmarks  She named her cancer butterscotch because who could hate something that sounded so good. This young girl had no idea what was about to happen and how she would inspire stories from every age group of people doing random acts and simply replying "Because #BeccaToldMeTo".


 

We are in the season of Lent and my former Catholic faith was good at telling Lent was about sacrifice and giving up...but not me. It was about taking on the story of discipleship and loving as Jesus loved. It does not take much to love, to be generous, to make a difference in someone's life. We can spend our energy hating, plotting revenge, condemning or we can love and be generous. This sounds so simplistic it can border on the ridiculous. And it is true.


The heart when bound up by anger and hatred and revenge and condemnation has no room for love. But when we love and look for opportunities to do simple acts of random love...then there is no more room for anger and hatred and revenge and condemnation. Why? Because we look at people differently like Jesus did. This was why he did not waste his time on revenge against the authorities who made his life Hell. He loved and loved and loved some more. Not only spectacular acts of healing...but simple gestures of eating and forgiving and welcoming. There was then only room for love.


 

Try it today...bit by bit let random acts of generosity and love take over our hearts and we will look at others differently. And so we send you home to God Becca, but your #BeccaToldMeToo movement will become a part of us as we move forward in love.


Until next time,


Rev. Jeff

 



Be Generous for Lent...make a difference!!

Posted by jeffdoucette on February 16, 2018 at 8:20 AM


Something special happens when we are generous with what we're given. Being irredeemably Anglican, my friend calls generous gifts, large or small, "sacraments of the heart".
Fiona Mearns, Stewardship UK


I grimace when I hear people say "I am giving up__________for Lent. I hear it all over the various denominations. I keep thinking why" What good is it going to do to give up chocolate or cookies etc for Lent. What difference is that going to make when on Easter Sunday you binge in a feeling of swollen pride from a sore stomach and the fact that in realty nothing has changed in your life.


Where did we go so wrong in our teaching about church and the Season of Lent that it got reduced to insignificant self-sacrifice? Lent in the early church was about an intense 40 day gut check for those who wanted to be Christian, asking themselves if they had it in them to imitate the life of Jesus and turn from how they were living in the midst of Empire. As someone put it so well on Monday..."Along the way I discovered that Jesus dying on the cross and me giving up chocolate was not a really fair exchange!".


Lent for me, is a time to tell that particular part of the story of Jesus where he took a deep breath and made the turn towards Jerusalem and the authorities to look them straight in the eye and not blink. His eyes were focused on God and every gesture Jesus did, both big and small were "sacraments of the heart" meant to transform the world.


This Lent I am working from two models. #40Acts and #BeccaToldMeTo which challenge me in how generous I am in thinking of others to transform the world. Random acts of kindness that take us out of our own "MeMeMe world" into the "YouYouYou world". How do I react to situations in life where even the smallest thing may transform someone's life? Will I go there and shrink back? Will I look at the world straight in the eyes with the eyes of God? Will I respond like God?


www.40Acts.org.uk is a British daily challenge to "get over myself" and get outside my comfort zone and dare to be generous, and more generous in ways I might not have been. In a world that continues to say "look fter yourself and stockpile material wealth", Lent calls us to look at things another way.


#BeccaToldMeToo is an amazing movement started by a young girl diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago in Moncton, NB. When asked what she wanted basically as she was preparing to die she responded: For people to be kind to one another and to do acts of kindness" (I am paraphrasing). Well people have responded and this movement has become so incredible that it is transforming communities and when people see #BeccaToldMeToo they know what it is about.


Yesterday's 40Acts challenge was to give anonymously. I went out to breakfast with a group of my clergy colleagues. I arrived first on purpose and motioned for our waitress who always takes great care of our group.  I told her about 40Acts and how today's challenge was to give anonymously.  I asked the waitress to pick anyone in the restaurant (but not my clergy friends as they did not deserve it...lol...and we both laughed. She came to me to refill my coffee have way through the meal and passed me a bill and smiled. I said nothing to my group of friends gathered. At the Cash the waitress told me that she saw a lady sitting alone eating by herself and she looked sad.  When she told the lady her breakfast had been paid for she was shocked saying no one had ever done that.


We are used to getting thanks for things we do and sometimes we get bitter if no one recognizes us.  But I love people's stories and I wonder about this lady and what she might have been living that brought her to the restaurant to eat alone. What was happening in her life? I will never know but I hope my gesture brought her a bit of joy and reflection about why someone would do that. One never knows what this might cause in her own life.


Jesus' life story were stories of random generosity to people in need...by him and by others. And these acts from his healing to stories of a small child giving over his bread and fish became sacraments of the heart to be shared.  And the season of Lent immerses us in this story of little and big moments that transformed lves.


And so how will you live Lent? Reducing it to giving up chocolates or cookies? Or will you immerse yourself in those generous moments that can become a sacrament of the heart? Your choice my friend...I choose generosity.


Until next time,



Jeff

Pushing ahead in the storms of life...

Posted by jeffdoucette on January 23, 2018 at 7:30 AM



Part of my writing and personal growth is leading a morning prayer and evening prayer reflection online for CASA : An Experiment in Doing Church Online (a FaceBook page anyone can join). I offer you what I shared yesterday morning with my CASA friends:


Monday Jan 22nd Morning Prayer

 

In 2007 I left church ministry as a priest. I had to make a decision if continuing in priesthood was for me. It was not a decision I took lightly. I decided to do an 8 day silent retreat which for those who know me would laugh. But it was an incredible experience. I went to the Jesuit Retreat House in Guelph, ON. This was done while I was on sabbatical with L'Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill, ON.


 

Each day I would sit (not the only thing I did by the way) in a common area that overlooked the gardens and this incredible sculpture of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It captivated me, it spoke to me, it disturbed me, it comforted me, it tugged at me. The sculpture was there through all types of weather, leaning forward, clutching its outer robes. It seemed to be in the midst of stormy weather but the look of determination on the face of Ignatius drew my head from side to side like a puppy looking curiously at you when you speak to it. I kept discovering different aspects each day of this work of art. It seemed like nothing could hold him back, no storm of life at that moment, he pressed on.

 


There was a sense of being sure, of pressing on, of not giving up. I noticed also that where it seemed he was clutching his robe…it looked like it was right over his heart. Maybe he was feeling the beat of the Holy One, the relationship of faith, and feeling he was not alone but accompanied and this strengthened him.

 


Often when I have lived difficult moments I have thought of this sculpture and this retreat. It has sustained me and carried me forward as I touch the heartbeat of both mine and the Holy One that has become one.

 


May you not feel alone in those moments where you might be struggling this morning. The Holy One walks with you and so does this wonderful CASA group who hold each other.


Until next time....


Rev. Jeff

How Barb's story touched my faith journey

Posted by jeffdoucette on January 22, 2018 at 7:05 AM





Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (Mark 1:14-20)


(I began my sermon yesterday by asking the congregation)…”Who have been the people who have influenced your faith story and why?”


I want to tell you about one person who influenced my faith journey. You have heard me mention her name before. Her name was Barb Noble. Barb was the church administrator at my friend Phil’s church in Moncton, NB. She is also my friend and she was Mandy’s mom whom you have heard me talk about often. But Barb was special and touched my faith story. She was the mother of two daughters and being a single mom to two girls who struggled in each their own way, it was not always easy. But with all of life’s challenges, Barb was involved in the world of church and depended on her church community for strength. Her faith in God was unshakeable and she fed off her faith as she lived with her two girls doing the best she could taking care of them and wanting nothing but the best for them, dignity for them, every opportunity for them.


And then she got the news…she had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and her doctor did not give her a good prognosis. She was devastated, I was devastated, her girls were devastated. Our church community of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Riverview, NB was devastated.


At the time we were in the midst of preparing for a major workshop with Father Gerry Copeman of Sault Saint Marie on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and children of school age. This workshop was about the process of Adults and children of school age who come to us wanting to join the Catholic church through Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist or by a profession of faith. We had a total immersion font at the church where the adults and young people were baptized by total immersion who went through this process. So we had people from all over the Eastern part of Canada and the US who joined us.


As part of the weekend we celebrated mass together. During this Saturday evening service we let Barb know that we were having mass and where she might not be ready to be with the regular Sunday morning crowd, she was welcome to come be with us. We were not sure she would be ready.


But lo and behold Barb jumped at the chance because she knew a few of us and sat with us. At one point in the service where we would profess the creed together, Father Gerry instead chose to renew our baptismal promises like what was done at the Easter Sunday service . As he asked us question after question we responded “We do!!!”. He then invited us to go to the big Immersion font and to sign ourselves with the waters of baptism in whatever way we felt comfortable. Well many went forward and dipped their fingers in the water and made a sign of the cross and then came Barb’s turn. I was behind Barb and watched as she knelt and put both hands deep into the water and poured water over her face immersing herself deep into the baptismal waters.


She could have stayed in her seat and cried and raged against God. She could have asked “Why me God? What did I have to hear that diagnosis?” And these questions would have been okay for God to hear. Barb could also have stayed home and shut herself off from her church community, her faith support system asking why she should go and pray to God. And that would have also been understandable to God.


But Barb reached deep into the baptismal font and called upon the waters to strengthen her for this journey. On the bottom of the font was a large cross and she reached into the waters that held that cross which spoke about life and death and new life and she marked herself with that water without hesitation. Those of us who knew Barb all had tears streaming down our face in awe of the faith of this woman who did not back away but instead walked forward in defiance of the news of cancer and embraced her journey and knew the faith community had her back.


And what was powerful also was in the midst of Barb’s own cancer treatments, she found a new call from God. She thrust herself into the world of cancer and reached out to people with similar diagnosis who struggled to get funding for medication, outreach services, food etc. And she used her church administrator knowledge and began to make calls and would not take no for an answer and was soon getting government agencies to make exceptions and change their minds and fund necessary things for other cancer patients. She was organizing food boxes to be delivered to these families in need.


One of the times I took Barb for her treatments when I was her priest, she was so busy checking on other patients and asking about the status of various things and taking mental notes and arranging phone calls from them to her for follow up. And I was in awe of this woman who was not only a dear close friend…but became an example of what it meant to be a disciple.


This gospel today speaks to us of the calling of the early disciples. And I often wonder what it must have been like to trust this man Jesus. I often wonder what they saw in him. Did his eyes see into their hearts and stories? What made them leave their lives and follow him? And most importantly, how did they pick up their lives and broken pieces after he died and rose from the dead? How did they find the inner strength? What happened at that Pentecost? What was it about Jesus’ life that made the disciples do what they do? I am not sure how I would have responded if Jesus had called me. Would I have said yes? But then again maybe the story is not about what happened then…but what happens now. How do I answer the call of discipleship today, knowing the Jesus story, but applying it to my own life? I can only think that maybe not only did they see Jesus but maybe other faith examples in their lives like Barb in my life.


Barb touched my faith journey deeply and helped me to see how in the midst of those difficult moments to reach into the waters of baptism, into our own stories of life and death and new life and embrace the cross and believe and move forward in faith like the disciples did.


For me Barb was one of the disciples that day…she left everything she knew at the baptismal font and began a new journey in the world of cancer as a disciple showing other cancer patients the kingdom of God.


Barb had asked me to sing a song I wrote called “Until We meet Again” to the tune of O Danny Boy at her funeral. But I made the decision to leave as a priest and moved up here to L’Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill. Barb continued to fight her diagnosis but was finally told there was nothing else they could do and this news reached me here in Ontario. So I made the decision to make a special trip from Richmond Hill to Moncton, NB to surprise her. I had no idea how long she had. As I entered into her room no one was there. I walked back out and walked down the hall and she spotted me as she walked slowly up the hall towards me and hollered out to me. We embraced and went back to her hospital room.


I told her I might not be able to make it to her funeral but had my guitar and wanted to keep my promise. But instead I wanted to sing the song to her while she was still alive. As I began to sing it she began to cry and then began to sing along with me and tears streamed down my face. A nurse walked in and heard us singing and saw the tears and quietly backed out giving us time together. I told Barb as I left that I would not say Goodbye but I’ll see you soon. Walking out of that room leaving my friend was one of the toughest things I have lived through.


Barb was my close friend and an incredible example of a disciple who heard the call not once but twice and said yes. It has been 9 years this past December that Barb went home to God. There is hardly a day I do not think about her and effect on my own faith life.


I try each day to hear God calling me, encouraging me, prodding me and inviting me to once more take the path of discipleship and like Barb I reach into the waters of baptism and mark myself with the Jesus story of life and death and new life. Ministry is tough and can be draining and yet can also be life giving and incredible.


I found out that this gospel story can touch me and speak to me some two thousand years later. It can continue to call me in the example of others if I look for it around me. And it offers encouragement and example and witness. May each one of us find those examples in our own lives and find the courage and strength to say yes once more as disciples! The world needs us.


Until next time,


Jeff


Passing on our story as God's people

Posted by jeffdoucette on November 13, 2017 at 11:00 AM


   We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God... Psalm 78



I remember growing up when I was probably 12 or 13 and one of the Wednesday gatherings at our little church in Plaster Rock. I heard one of the most scandalous things to ever come out of my priest Leo’s mouth. As he went up the steps out the door he waved at us and hollered “Don’t keep the Faith…” I gasped thinking what an awful thing for him to say. Then after a planned pause…he finished his sentence with a grin and the words “Spread it!!!” I think three of the elderly parishioners needed to be helped back up before we all broke into a grin and laughter. This phrase “Don’t keep the faith…spread it!” became a favorite phrase and reminder to us all from him.



“Keep the faith” is a phrase we often hear. For those of us who are Blue Jays fans that should have been the motto for 2017. It seems to be the eternal motto of Maple Leaf fans. Habs fans like myself just usually pray to Saint Jude patron saint of hopeless cases or to Saint Anthony, patron Saint of lost things hoping Carey Price their goalie finds his form once again. But I digress…where was I?


Oh yes…”Don’t keep the Faith…spread it”. That could be the motto for the psalmist in today’s psalm. The People of Israel were in Exile and in the desert. They were wanderers and had begun to wander away from God and their story. They were losing their identity and so the psalmist challenged the faithful to pass on the sacred history of God’s activity among them, the chosen people. They had become unfaithful to God, losing hope, losing sight. And so the passing on of the tradition was an integral part of reconnecting with this faithfulness between them. It was crucial to maintain their identity as a people of God. And the only way to stay the People of God was to tell the story of the people of God.



The Psalmist pleads with the people to remember their story and tell their story to one another and especially to their children who in turn must tell it to their children. This story of God who was loving and faithful and forgiving and ever present to them. It was interwoven into their story in how they lived out this relationship. And if they stopped telling the story, their story would die. And nothing else would matter.


So how do we stay connected to our identity as God’s children, as followers of Jesus? Or more importantly does it really truly matter to us? How do we stay connected to our story as God’s children or followers of Jesus? When I left as a priest, I never left my identity as God’s child or as a follower of Jesus. I searched out churches to help me redefine my identity as God’s child and how to move forward no longer a priest. I did so because my relationship to God, to the greater people of God was important to me.



For me Sunday is where we hear our story for the most part…in the readings, in the singing, in the passing of peace. We can certainly find God in nature but the stories we hear here together. And we hear them often and sometimes over and over and that is okay because we change, our life situations change. There are some days Dawn our music director and I go…”ACK!!! Not that reading again”. But it is a reason I very rarely write out a sermon so that I cannot be tempted to just go back when stuck and use the same one hoping you won’t remember it from three years ago. I don’t do that because I have changed since the last time, and you as a church family have changed. We are living different things and situations and we see how that reading can speak to us and challenge us. And in those stories we discover God in a different way and it touches and transforms our lives. And we find the courage hopefully to share those stories together as a church, as a family back home, in the world wherever our day takes us. And our words and actions speak of a faithful God who walks with us, talks to us, invites us, loves us, forgives us, encourages us. And we in turn pass that relationship on in the stories we tell and actions we do.


I see evidence of how this is passed on by parents to their children as they come up here for children’s time. You can see prayers are taught, God language and God questions are taught and it is wonderful. As Christians, as followers of Jesus, as members of Dunbarton-Fairport United we need to tell our story. In the same way we have told our story for 182 years. And not about how we have survived leaks and floods and bad roofs. But about how God has been there with us at the beside of a sick loved one, or the graveside of a family member or friend who died. Or when someone has sat with us when we have raged at God in anger, cried from the depths of our heart. Or when we have welcomed the marginalized into the story of our faith. Or as we will do in a few moments when some may come forward hurting in body and spirit to be prayed with and anointed with oil.



We have a Visioning committee that is gathering again this week to look at the future of our church congregation…not only buildings and finances…but how do we continue to tell our story as a church family of Dunbarton-Fairport to one another and to the world. We as a United Church in general are asking ourselves the same question. We have voted overwhelming on all the church remits in favor of a new structure, to look at how we are church and tell our United Church story with as much vision and hope as 90 years ago when the United church was formed. How do we move outside the current structures and ways of doing things to be able to continue to tell our story of faith as a United Church?



We live in Exile today also. It is a time of uncertainty, of change. We can choose to panic, to turn us away from the story or let ourselves become distracted. If we do that the story of God gets left on the table to collect dust. Don’t set our story, our identity aside. Don’t panic or give up. And especially don’t say “I am too old”. Faith is timeless, Courage is timeless, Hope is timeless. Our story is timeless. Embrace it, live it, tell it, share it.



Don’t keep the Faith…spread it!!!!!


Until next time...


Rev. Jeff


Offer or throw a cup of cold water???

Posted by jeffdoucette on July 4, 2017 at 4:00 PM




Matthew ch 10:vs 40-42

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

 

So we have talked about welcoming in our congregation…a lot! Through the Affirming process, through conversations over the past months over different situations. Summer time we talk about welcoming relatives…some we want…and well some we could live without. We welcome friends around the BBQ, or for a refreshing beverage on a warm evening in our back yard. We welcome strangers often here in our church both on Sunday and during the week. We welcome new ideas or maybe we struggle to welcome ideas that are not our own or that we do not agree with. We welcomed a whole group of people at our house yesterday for a Canada day celebration. Welcoming is at the heart of who we are as God’s people.

 

This past Thursday night I gathered with group of people who have become a circle of support for Lynne and Elizabeth Leyland of our church family. Lynne has been working with a PHD student around welcoming and accessibility issues for people with developmental disabilities. Next Sunday I am excited that Lynne and Elizabeth will share their story with us and invite us into the world of welcoming families who live with disabilities of all kinds.

 

The concept of welcoming is at the heart of our Scripture passage this morning. Matthew’s gospel goes right to point in just two verses and talks about the critical importance of welcoming in the message and mission of Jesus.

 

All of Chapter 10 in the Gospel of Matthew is about Jesus calling his disciples and preparing to send them out into the neighboring villages. He has invited them to listen to him, to welcome his ideas, his vision of God’s hospitality, of an invitation for belonging. Jesus faced opposition to this message. He got blank stares by times from his disciples, he got raised eyebrows from those standing around listening and more often than not he got open hostility by the local authorities who were not open, nor willing to listen to this concept of hospitality. They refused because it was not about following the their rule of law, of separation of people into groups and statuses. Jesus wanted people to know God had a house with many rooms for all people…those often around Jesus lived closed off in fear of losing power.

 

You see Jesus would not play those games…because they were not of God, not of freedom for God’s people. They were more about power and structures and individuals closed to God’s spirit. Jesus wanted his disciples to know that this message of openness and inclusion and hospitality came from God. And he wanted them to bring this message and let it seep into every crack and crevice of society. Into every situation in home and work and social gathering. It was not about playing the game of the authorities of exclusion…but changing the rules of the game to challenge the status quo, the whispers, the outright attempts to exclude and divide.


Jesus came with a simple message of Love God, love your neighbor and yourself. This was about letting God and neighbor into our space and believing that you had a space, you belonged even when others told you or made you feel that you did not.


A sense of belonging is so crucial to the message of God’s kingdom. Jesus wanted everyone around him to know they belonged: The Samaritan woman at the well, the Prodigal son, the woman with the hemmorage, the man with the withered hand, the dying 12 year old, Lazarus, Zacchaeus in the tree, Simon Peter, the thief on the cross, Pilot and so on. Jesus’s message was one of inclusion, of welcome of biblical hospitality.


Jesus was about sitting down and asking for a drink of water from Jacob’s well from the Samaritan woman. Jesus was about welcoming home the Son who had turned his back on his father wasting his fortune. Jesus was about turning around when the woman with the hemmorage touched his cloak and commending her faith. It was about refusing to listen to those who dictated what one could do or not do on the Sabbath and healed the man with the withered hand. It was about touching the hand of a dead 12 year old child to breathe life back into her. It was about engaging his cousins Mary and Martha’s faith and calling forth Lazarus from the tomb and his bandages. it was about inviting Zacchaeus down from that tree and inviting himself to his home to eat with him and offer him salvation that day. It was about looking into Pilot’s face to allow him to see that the truth awaited him in the face of Jesus.


It was about welcoming the thief on the cross into God’s kingdom that day. It was about forgiving Peter on the seashore after his resurrection and offering him forgiveness three times for the three times he denied him.

 

You see Jesus was about those moments of intimate conversation, of an invitation to taste God’s hospitality. And the taste of God’s hospitality was like a refreshing cold cup of water on a hot day that quenched a thirst. Whereas so often these and other figures from the gospel stories had cold water thrown on their hopes and dreams to taste God’s welcome, inclusion, hospitality…this sense of belonging as God’s children.


So often we believe God’s hospitality, God’s invitation to inclusion, God’s invitation to belonging is ours to control. If people are a certain way, believe a certain thing, agree with what we say, keep things as they always have been, do not try and change anything, fit into a set of rules and structures, well then we will distribute a membership card to them allowing them to enter…as long as they also take a box of envelopes or a PAR form.


But that is not what the Scripture passage says. Hospitality, welcome, inclusion, belonging belongs to God and God only. God has made space for us…and asks us simply to move over in our seats and allow someone else into our row, our personal space, our church so they can taste this cup of cold water, this cup of love, of forgiveness, of a seat at the table, of knowing a conversation of hope awaits each one of us.


But we hear stories again and again of people who feel they have had cold water poured over their hopes and dreams of finding a place to be welcomed, to belong. And they have turned and walked away. We all long to be loved to be welcomed to be listened to.



Jesus loved those deep long conversations with people that quenched their thirst to be heard, to be loved, to be welcomed, and to be valued. He never poured cold water over their hopes and dreams and desire to belong.


As a community, let us choose to remember our Mission Statement that we adopted during our Affirming process…we voted to live into the following:

 

As the opening words of our United Church creed says: “We are not alone, we live in God’s world…”

At Dunbarton-Fairport United Church we promise to :

• Be open to all people.

• Welcome you regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, differing attributes and abilities both physical and mental, cultural identity, economic circumstance.

• Continue to be challenged to greater inclusion and justice seeking for all of God’s creation.

• Encourage all as disciples to respond to the needs of the wider community and the world with both Christian service and witness.


This is what the gospel speaks of today…may we continue to live into this sense of biblical welcome, hospitality and belonging. Jesus did and we are called to follow the example of Jesus.

 

Rev. Jeff

What Borders Would You Cross with Jesus? A reflection on the Festival of Preaching 2017

Posted by jeffdoucette on May 24, 2017 at 11:30 AM









The absence of hospitality and affirmation block the kingdom of God.

            Bishop Yvette Flunder at the Festival of Homiletics 2017


 

We need to build wells not walls.

                        Rev. Anna Carter-Florence at Festival of Homiletics 2017


 

If we do not preach what is happening around us then we have either checked out or do not pay attention.   Rev. Amy Butler at Festival of Homiletics 2017

 


Think of a time when you felt on the outside, unwelcome, unnoticed, ignored, looked at, judged, evaluated, laughed at, dismissed. Describe the situation in your mind and sit with it for a moment. How did that make you feel?


This past week I attended the annual Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio, Texas. I was one of 1800 registered for this delicious smorgasbord of preaching and worship and music and conversation. The theme for the week was “Preaching on the Borders”. It was a time to sit back and reflect on ministry, on being church, on preaching, on attitudes of our congregations and ourselves as ministers and preachers.


We heard various scriptures passages from The Good Samaritan to the Woman at the Well to the Prodigal Son to Jesus being turned away from his home village to the woman born bent over to various of the Epistle writers. It was wonderful to sit back and let someone else prepare worship and a sermon. But that did not mean we had it easy…for the topics preached upon were meant to challenge and nourish us and get us to ask questions about the state of our congregation’s sense of welcome as well as our preaching. We were asked point blank how far we would be willing to go in our preaching? Did we dare cross borders like Jesus with our church families? Or were we worried we might rile them up? We were challenged to look at our own preaching and how we approach Scripture and how we engage conversations with our people.


Two weeks ago I preached on the story of Jesus as gate to the sheep and challenged you my own church family to seriously and honestly ask ourselves just how truly welcoming we really were. http://jeffdoucette.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/44522955-how-do-we-treat-our-own-sheep-   To ask ourselves what we do when we hear stories of people being hurt by our words and actions, who chose to leave and not come back or stay away or leave various committees. And to be honest if you remember that morning I was a little scattered before the service, and you might have noticed that I wrote my sermon out which is highly unusual for me. But I had something to say and I was nervous as I wrote my sermon and I was worried about how people might react. That is what happens when you ask people you love to be accountable for words and actions.


I remember last year that I was told in my evaluation by M and P that some (never know how many and yes I can share this because it was said about me and my right to share it with you) wanted me to stop talking about the Affirming process. My reaction to them was the following: “So let me get this straight…I have been asked to stop talking about the Affirming process. Now you hired me to be the minister of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care of this congregation. So lets look at what that means. The Affirming process is about asking us to look deeply and honestly at ourselves and our church family to see how we welcome everyone…okay. Now let’s look at my job description. Minister of Word means I preach the word of God which is a series of biblical books that talk about God’s hospitality and love to us without any ifs or buts or conditions. Minister of Sacrament means celebrating with you our two sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, which by the way are sacraments of welcome and inclusion. Minister of Pastoral Care is to look after not only the wellbeing and care of our church family but also for those wherever I go and whomever I meet. So you see my whole ministry is embodying the Affirming process…so no I will not stop talking about it.” My preaching can be compromised: (1) If I want peace fearing conflict (2) If I struggle with insecurity and want to be liked more than preach about difficult issues.


In my sharing with other minister colleagues, we all feel the same so often. We struggle with our self image as ministers, whether we are doing enough and whether it is good enough. As someone so wonderfully said at the Festival this week…”the longest walk I take as minister is from my chair to the pulpit”. We try week after week to welcome you, to nourish you, to walk with you in all you live. We try to bring the gospel to life, to make space for you and hope to show you God.


But the church community is but a part of my ministry. I also walk with various outside moments as church. I walk with PFLAG Durham and the LGBTQ community and have been building relationship with them. I walk with the Pickering Islamic Center and the Durham Muslim Moms in building friendships and walk in the footsteps of justice with them. I walk with Faith and Light as chaplain to families with members with developmental disabilities. I walk with the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement in their march for justice and inclusion. I walk with families who grieve but have no church affiliation through local funeral homes.


We had been asked so many times how far we were willing to go as pastors over the border to meet people where they were and to listen to them and their stories. So often I hear “We could cure our finances if we could just get more people in our pews…” And I think…”So you want people so they can give you money?” We become so preoccupied thinking the role of the gospel and my preaching is to get people to give money so we can build buildings and fix leaks. But my preaching is meant to reach out to hearts not wallets. I often wish we just met in a field or a back yard or a park…and the gospel was about our hearts. Our energies go into finances so often that we miss the point of the gospel.


I told different people in Texas that by times I had to meet for a committee meeting in our office administrator’s office and smiled. I was not complaining…even though it drives me when I hear complaints from some in our church who do. It means our church is busy welcoming people. And we are. We have a weekend respite program for families with children on the Autism spectrum. We have a tutoring group that works with young people, we give space to local Afghan women to learn English. We offer space for one who teaches children and adults to paint. We give space to the local scouting movement. We have space for one other church who worship in our space and soon we will welcome the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement who are starting a new community from our church. We have a Martial Arts Dojo that use our space, a yoga group and a daycare downstairs. The local Afghan community use our space often for their gatherings. We host the annual Rotary music festival and various concerts. This is crossing borders and welcoming people from all walks of life for various reasons. I am sure I am missing something.


But welcoming is more than just rental to pay for costs…it is building relationships in the community, it is opening our doors to people and welcoming them. But it is also looking at how we welcome those who come through our doors…those who are already here…those who have not been around for a while or even have faded away.


It is about challenging our attitudes and asking ourselves if we are living up to the gospel call to biblical hospitality. It is about asking how we respond to people on the borders, on the margins. It is about asking ourselves if we have driven people back across borders so that we have a safer distance. It is about checking our privilege and yes we have privilege as church. It is about listening to where we are being called to go as disciples and to ask if we are willing to relocate because of the gospel. By that I mean to leave our comfortable space to relocate to where we find ourselves face to face with someone in need.


Rev. Anna Florence-Carter said “We need to build more wells, not walls. We need wells where deep conversations can happen”. This can only happen when people feel safe and welcomed and have that sacred space to open up their story and feel God and a community who welcome them.


Rev. Will Wilimon said it best “The best times in ministry is when Jesus kicked, prodded and pulled me over the border. Can you say the same thing about your discipleship? Because if not, then you are missing out on something. He then proceeded to tell us about going to a Jesus Rave with young adults and also to Saturday night Drag Queen Bingo…now that is some serious border crossing.


I would love to keep this conversation going…maybe a one on one coffee or maybe a coffee group…send me a note. I would love to cross the border with you.

 


Jeff

 


Are there any borders you do not dare cross as a welcoming church?

Posted by jeffdoucette on May 24, 2017 at 11:20 AM





The absence of hospitality and affirmation block the kingdom of God.

         Bishop Yvette Flunder at the Festival of Homiletics 2017

 


We need to build wells not walls.

             Rev. Anna Carter-Florence at Festival of Homiletics 2017

 


If we do not preach what is happening around us then we have either checked out or do not pay attention.    Rev. Amy Butler at Festival of Homiletics 2017

 


Think of a time when you felt on the outside, unwelcome, unnoticed, ignored, looked at, judged, evaluated, laughed at, dismissed. Describe the situation in your mind and sit with it for a moment. How did that make you feel?


This past week I attended the annual Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio, Texas. I was one of 1800 registered for this delicious smorgasbord of preaching and worship and music and conversation. The theme for the week was “Preaching on the Borders”. It was a time to sit back and reflect on ministry, on being church, on preaching, on attitudes of our congregations and ourselves as ministers and preachers.


We heard various scriptures passages from The Good Samaritan to the Woman at the Well to the Prodigal Son to Jesus being turned away from his home village to the woman born bent over to various of the Epistle writers. It was wonderful to sit back and let someone else prepare worship and a sermon. But that did not mean we had it easy…for the topics preached upon were meant to challenge and nourish us and get us to ask questions about the state of our congregation’s sense of welcome as well as our preaching. We were asked point blank how far we would be willing to go in our preaching? Did we dare cross borders like Jesus with our church families? Or were we worried we might rile them up? We were challenged to look at our own preaching and how we approach Scripture and how we engage conversations with our people.


Two weeks ago I preached on the story of Jesus as gate to the sheep and challenged you my own church family to seriously and honestly ask ourselves just how truly welcoming we really were. To ask ourselves what we do when we hear stories of people being hurt by our words and actions, who chose to leave and not come back or stay away or leave various committees. And to be honest if you remember that morning I was a little scattered before the service, and you might have noticed that I wrote my sermon out which is highly unusual for me. But I had something to say and I was nervous as I wrote my sermon and I was worried about how people might react. That is what happens when you ask people you love to be accountable for words and actions.


I remember last year that I was told in my evaluation by M and P that some (never know how many and yes I can share this because it was said about me and my right to share it with you) wanted me to stop talking about the Affirming process. My reaction to them was the following: “So let me get this straight…I have been asked to stop talking about the Affirming process. Now you hired me to be the minister of Word, Sacrament and Pastoral Care of this congregation. So lets look at what that means. The Affirming process is about asking us to look deeply and honestly at ourselves and our church family to see how we welcome everyone…okay. Now let’s look at my job description. Minister of Word means I preach the word of God which is a series of biblical books that talk about God’s hospitality and love to us without any ifs or buts or conditions. Minister of Sacrament means celebrating with you our two sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, which by the way are sacraments of welcome and inclusion. Minister of Pastoral Care is to look after not only the wellbeing and care of our church family but also for those wherever I go and whomever I meet. So you see my whole ministry is embodying the Affirming process…so no I will not stop talking about it.” My preaching can be compromised: (1) If I want peace fearing conflict (2) If I struggle with insecurity and want to be liked more than preach about difficult issues.


In my sharing with other minister colleagues, we all feel the same so often. We struggle with our self image as ministers, whether we are doing enough and whether it is good enough. As someone so wonderfully said at the Festival this week…”the longest walk I take as minister is from my chair to the pulpit”. We try week after week to welcome you, to nourish you, to walk with you in all you live. We try to bring the gospel to life, to make space for you and hope to show you God.


But the church community is but a part of my ministry. I also walk with various outside moments as church. I walk with PFLAG Durham and the LGBTQ community and have been building relationship with them. I walk with the Pickering Islamic Center and the Durham Muslim Moms in building friendships and walk in the footsteps of justice with them. I walk with Faith and Light as chaplain to families with members with developmental disabilities. I walk with the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement in their march for justice and inclusion. I walk with families who grieve but have no church affiliation through local funeral homes.


We had been asked so many times how far we were willing to go as pastors over the border to meet people where they were and to listen to them and their stories. So often I hear “We could cure our finances if we could just get more people in our pews…” And I think…”So you want people so they can give you money?” We become so preoccupied thinking the role of the gospel and my preaching is to get people to give money so we can build buildings and fix leaks. But my preaching is meant to reach out to hearts not wallets. I often wish we just met in a field or a back yard or a park…and the gospel was about our hearts. Our energies go into finances so often that we miss the point of the gospel.


I told different people in Texas that by times I had to meet for a committee meeting in our office administrator’s office and smiled. I was not complaining…even though it drives me when I hear complaints from some in our church who do. It means our church is busy welcoming people. And we are. We have a weekend respite program for families with children on the Autism spectrum. We have a tutoring group that works with young people, we give space to local Afghan women to learn English. We offer space for one who teaches children and adults to paint. We give space to the local scouting movement. We have space for one other church who worship in our space and soon we will welcome the Roman Catholic Women Priests movement who are starting a new community from our church. We have a Martial Arts Dojo that use our space, a yoga group and a daycare downstairs. The local Afghan community use our space often for their gatherings. We host the annual Rotary music festival and various concerts. This is crossing borders and welcoming people from all walks of life for various reasons. I am sure I am missing something.


But welcoming is more than just rental to pay for costs…it is building relationships in the community, it is opening our doors to people and welcoming them. But it is also looking at how we welcome those who come through our doors…those who are already here…those who have not been around for a while or even have faded away.


It is about challenging our attitudes and asking ourselves if we are living up to the gospel call to biblical hospitality. It is about asking how we respond to people on the borders, on the margins. It is about asking ourselves if we have driven people back across borders so that we have a safer distance. It is about checking our privilege and yes we have privilege as church. It is about listening to where we are being called to go as disciples and to ask if we are willing to relocate because of the gospel. By that I mean to leave our comfortable space to relocate to where we find ourselves face to face with someone in need.


Rev. Anna Florence-Carter said “We need to build more wells, not walls. We need wells where deep conversations can happen”. This can only happen when people feel safe and welcomed and have that sacred space to open up their story and feel God and a community who welcome them.


Rev. Will Wilimon said it best “The best times in ministry is when Jesus kicked, prodded and pulled me over the border. Can you say the same thing about your discipleship? Because if not, then you are missing out on something. He then proceeded to tell us about going to a Jesus Rave with young adults and also to Saturday night Drag Queen Bingo…now that is some serious border crossing.


I would love to keep this conversation going…maybe a one on one coffee or maybe a coffee group…send me a note. I would love to cross the border with you.

 


Jeff

 


How do we treat our own sheep?

Posted by jeffdoucette on May 8, 2017 at 1:15 PM





The following is my sermon from yesterday's Sunday service for May 7th.

 

4th Sunday of Easter…Homily

Title: How do we treat our own sheep?


 

Our Scripture passage this morning is from the gospel of John ch 10: vs 1-10


“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


One: Hear what the Spirit is saying to us this day.

All: Thanks be to God.

 


SERMON


 

So honesty time here. I know nothing about sheep. I have never owned them and have never visited a farm with sheep. I have never met a shepherd. I have driven by places with sheep. I have stopped a few times to take pictures of them alongside the road but they always run away afraid of me. I tried calling them back…but that just seemed to make them all the more afraid of me.


Sandy and I were excited when our next door neighbor Bill announced he was putting up new fencing because they were going to get sheep next door which meant also a donkey and that excited Sandy beyond belief. But it was not meant to be as Bill’s cancer came back strong. We passed a prayer shawl around for him during one of our services. And the cancer eventually took Bill home to the God he loved so deeply. In his honor, Sandy and I donated money to Save the Children which provided three sheep to families to help them earn incomes.


So by times I am a little jealous of the disciples in the gospel stories who got to experience some of these encounters first hand with Jesus. I visited Israel in 1997 with a group of pilgrims but it is nothing like actually being there in the midst of one of these stories. But Jesus was a storyteller and knew how to connect life with faith. He knew how to speak to his disciples in simple terms that they could understand and apply to their everyday lives.


And so this Sunday morning pulls us into the world of sheep and shepherds, gates and enclosures, thieves and bandits and invites us to find a way to apply it to our own lives.


But first let’s look at the text. It comes in John’s gospel following the story we heard in Lent about the healing of the man born blind. This man who was healed by Jesus and had his sight restored. Yet in that story we had the local authorities who had him cast out as an outsider, a sinner because he had no sight and so someone in his family or he himself must have done something wrong and therefore deserved it. Jesus did his best to make sure they knew that this notion was not in line with God’s thinking and God’s love. If they continued this line of thinking…well they were no better than a thief or bandit that tried to climb over an enclosure to harm or steal the sheep from a Shepherd.


I love this image of Jesus comparing himself as a Shepherd who cares for their sheep. This job was not for the faint of heart or timid people. It required courage, an unwavering love and willingness to protect their flock and to be in their midst with a comforting familiar voice. They laid their own lives on the line protecting the sheep. They were looked down upon as a lower class. The sheep knew the voice of the Shepherd that took care of them and could distinguish an intruder’s voice up to no good. Much like animals can sense our energy and know our moods. Look at dogs for instance, before they hear a word or a gesture they can pick up on our energy. I think it must be the same for sheep. They are not as stupid as we make them out to be.


And Jesus also uses the image of gate to describe himself. A gate was important to sheep. It brought them into an enclosure of safety at the end of a journey and allowed them a sense of comfort and security. A shepherd I imagine when out in the fields might try and find an area that seemed like an enclosed space so they could keep an eye on them at night. And back at home in the morning, the gate was opened out into the pasture to find food and water. And this cycle continued.


So what do we do with this gospel passage? How might we apply it to our lives. Well let me suggest one way of looking at it…my take on it from some discussions I have had this past week.

 


Maybe we could look at our church as an enclosure for those who gather here each Sunday, but also during the week for many reasons. It is meant to be a place of safety, a safe space I call it. And so this enclosure or God’s sheep pen if you wish is meant for us to be able to breathe out from life and what we encounter. It allows us as we breathe out to breathe in God, to breathe in God’s word which can speak to what we live, to breathe in God’s music which can lift our spirits and to breathe in God’s people who gather around us like Shepherds who care for us.


But what about the other sheep of our church family? Those who left us, have drifted away or even those in our midst who have felt unwelcome. How do we act around each other? How do we treat one another? Do we even notice they are not here? By times I have someone who asks “if such and such was here for our service”. I answer “I don’t take attendance when I preach”. It is funny when I reach out I always worry people are thinking I am taking attendance and I often say “I’m not taking attendance”. I just noticed you have not been around and hope things are ok.


Also I might be here and there before the service talking to people and then to my seat so we can start on time. So I don’t necessarily see people who I might think come in but do not. It can be so easy to come into our own little space, trying to find the same seat and not move outside our own row. And so we can become unaware of people and those who are not here. That is one of the reasons I love to come early, to be around to talk with people, hear what is happening in their lives.


Are we willing, and I include myself when I say this, to look at how we interact with people? How welcoming are we really? And again let’s pause before we answer that question honestly. We may have said or done things to isolate people who no longer come. And before we know it, a week ends up a month, then months and then a year etc. And so often the work of pastoral care is left to me as minister solely. But this is the work of the entire congregation. We are all called to be Shepherds and care for one another for we hold within us the spirit of the Good Shepherd from the gospel today.


I have had stories of people who have told me they no longer feel welcome, they feel like outsiders, they feel no one cares. Are we willing to reach out and call, visit and see how they are doing and we miss them at church gatherings.


If we have hurt someone, are we willing to reach out and make amends and start fresh. And maybe we need also to be careful and how we speak to people. What we may find funny may be hurtful to another and isolate them even more. Or maybe the way we approach something within our congregation is hurtful and divisive. Sometimes we close our circles within a congregation and they can be perceived as a clique. I have been to presbytery meetings where I have gone down for coffee and there have been discussions going on and I have felt alone. And often I would just turn around and go back upstairs and sit in the church by myself. When the shoe is on the other foot and I see someone alone, I try and motion them to come and join us. I have seen visitors come and join us for different events only not to come back because they were being ignored.


It is not easy to be in community. It can be downright messy. And even though Church should be different….sadly often it is not. But the gospel calls us as Shepherds to look after the sheep, God’s people, one another, those around us. We all need to be loved. And for some reason life can get so busy that we seem by times to just look past people.


Verna Myers, who is a diversity and inclusion expert has a great line. She says “Diversity is being invited to the party…Inclusion is being asked to dance”


Jesus was an expert in inclusion…that image of Sheep and Shepherd is one of inclusion, of safety, of love. Jesus said “I am the Good Shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me!” Do we know our sister and brother sheep and truly care about one another as the Shepherd does? Think carefully….before we answer yes.

 


Jeff

Good Shepherd Sunday May 7th, 2017

Transfiguration Sunday and #BeccaToldMeTo

Posted by jeffdoucette on February 27, 2017 at 9:50 AM





“This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

(Gospel of Matthew ch 17 vs 5)


 

"I wanted to leave my mark. I wanted to do my part to change the world,"

Rebecca (Becca) Schofield of #BeccaToldMeTo


 

People often ask me how I get ideas for my sermon. Here is how I got my idea for today’s sermon. It began with a conversation with my friend Mandy from Moncton. You have heard me speak of Mandy often. She is the daughter of my friend Barb who died seven years ago from breast cancer. She is remarkable and has a great sense of humour, a big heart and we are great friends. So one of our conversations this week started like this…


 

Mandy: What are you giving up for Lent?


Me: I don't give up for Lent. I do random acts of kindness…like www.40acts.org.uk


Mandy: Does Sandy do Lent?


Me: Same as me...


Mandy: How come you don't do Lent?


Me: I do Lent...I don't give up candy or things like that. I think it is more important to do acts of kindness. Giving up something only does something for me...where as acts of kindness helps others. Now on the other hand if we gave up gossiping or things like that...that is different. Or if you give up candy and donate the money you would save to a charity.


Mandy: Have you heard of #beccatoldmeto


Me: yes I have...it is awesome. My friend Jeannette in Moncton told me about it. So you could do some things like that to help people. #beccatoldmeto that would be a great way to do Lent. This is what I tell my people.


Mandy: How do I do it?


Me: I am actually going to talk about her in my sermon next Wednesday or maybe even this Sunday.


Mandy: I wish I could be there to hear it. Did you join Becca's facebook page?


Me: Can you get me the link please?


Mandy: Just search Becca's Battle with Butterscotch. (Pause for about a minute) I added you to Becca's group.

 


So I went to the page and heard about her story. One from my congregation posted this link to me on her story. http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/19/health/iyw-teen-cancer-request-trnd/index.html Becca has terminal cancer and the doctors have told her she has between three months to a year to live. For anyone to process this, is difficult…but a 17 year old is beyond my comprehension. And so she had but one wish…for people to be generous to one another, to make a difference in a world that is full of hatred and division.


On this facebook page which has almost 15,000 followers you will find great stories of random acts of kindness. People have been touched by her story, moved by her story, compelled by her story, challenged by her story. This has become a movement that has certainly touched Riverview and Moncton, New Brunswick. And I know this place all to well. I was a Catholic priest there for a number of years at Immaculate Heart, being replaced by my buddy Phil Mulligan.


So I reached out to her parents and told them about our prayer shawl ministry at Dunbarton-Fairport. We have people from our church or connected to our church who love to knit and crochet and then when we get a request (and it could be for anybody inside or outside of our church family…known or unknown), we pass the prayer shawl around our Sunday service from hand to hand, young and old and people take time to pray for the person, to send good wishes, positive energy, however they wish to be present. I always begin by bringing our young people up and we lay hands on it together before they head out to church school so they will be able to participate in this wonderful ministry. And then it is passed from person to person in the congregation and after the service it is taken to the person that they may know they are surrounded by the love and prayers of a church family. Well it turns out they already received one from the Church and Anne proceeded to remind me that I was the priest there when their oldest daughter Gabrielle was confirmed many years ago. I smiled that I was still connected to the family in a small way.


I began to scroll down and read some of the stories. One heard Becca had needed blood transfusions and felt compelled to start giving blood to help others. Another cut her long hair and donated it to a charity in Ontario here that makes wigs for children with cancer. Another bought a meal for a person on a country trip on the train who ran out of money. Another paid for groceries for the person in front of them. Another man who had health issues was helping my friend shovel after a snow storm because #BeccaToldMeTo and it was story after story after story of random goodness and generosity. And each time an act of generosity happened…the person would smile and repeat #BeccaToldMeTo and of course people knew the story.


And so of course this #BeccaToldMeTo phenomenon touched my own heart and goes to the heart of the gospel passage today we have just heard. This is the story of the Transfiguration from Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 17:1-9) where Jesus takes some of the disciples up Mount Tabor. This passage is on the heals of Jesus asking his disciples the famous question “Who do people say that I am?” Well of course the answers vary. And then when Jesus begins to talk about his death, Peter wants nothing of it and Jesus takes him to task, saying “Get behind me Satan!” which is pretty harsh in my books. But Jesus must feel that maybe they are not getting the core of his message which is simply “love one another as I have loved you!” and takes them up the mountain. Then in a script from a Hollywood movie, we hear the voice of God say “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” It is like God saying “Guys this is not rocket science…listen to Jesus…Love one another…it is pretty simple”.

 


We so often think as Christians that we have to bring about world peace or cure cancer or some major. When in fact it is in the small acts of love and generosity that is what is being asked. Jesus did not do major things…he did simple acts of love one person at a time. He did not try and change a whole city or town or village…he simply tried to respond generously to the person he met. And so he healed people to give them back their dignity. He forgave people and allowed them to start over. He hugged children, ate with tax collectors and prostitutes and showed them they had incredible value in God’s eyes. And he asked his disciples to do the same.

 


This moment on the mountain together was a simple reminder to come back to the basic message of love. To leave behind the noise and chatter of their world which tried to scare them away from this message. And we also have much noise and chatter that tries to make us fearful, suspicious, look after our own needs only. But the gospel message of Jesus says otherwise. If someone needs to be forgiven, forgive them. If someone needs to be loved, then love them. If they are hungry then feed them. If they are thirsty give them something to drink. If they are alone, marginalized, then be with them and let them know they are not alone. If someone tries to persecute you or get revenge, do not respond with persecution or revenge. That does not advance love.

 


#BeccaToldMeTo brings me back to the basic message of love of neighbor whether we know them or not…like Jesus did. And the season of Lent for us as Christians is about hearing the story of Jesus who went to the cross because of his radical all inclusive love. And the local authorities could not, would not embrace that message because they would have to change their lives. Transfiguration Sunday we celebrate today reminds us we are called to change our attitudes and return to love. And in doing so we transfigure or change not only ourselves but the world…one person at a time.

 


And this morning on the way in I realized that when you look at Becca’s name it could mean:

 

Because

Every

Christian

Cares

Always


Or at least we are called to care always. Lent brings us back to love if we have strayed away. And so Wednesday we begin the journey of Lent once more. Becca is facing her own story of the cross and the tomb and resurrection…and simply asks people to love. And Jesus will face the story of the cross and the tomb and resurrection…and simply asks people to love.

 


And we will continue to love because #BeccaToldMeTo and #JesusToldMeTo. And we hold Becca, Gabrielle, Anne and Darren in our prayers on their journey.

 


Rev. Jeff Doucette

 


Rss_feed