|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:
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