Affirming Sermon by Heather Robbins May 9, 2021


May 9, 2021

Heather Robbins

 May the words I speak today and the listening of others be acceptable to you O God, our Rock and our Redeemer.

Dear Friends, siblings in Christ, we are here today for a very special reason.  The culmination of more than two years of study, conversations, learning and action of you, the congregants of WUC.  The final steps in becoming an Affirming Ministry in the United Church of Canada and the continuation of the journey of Faith we have been on together.  This journey is now about being Public, Intentional and Explicit about our love for and acceptance of all of God’s people regardless of gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, and expressions.  We are taught in the Gospels and other sacred texts to build communities that include all, but especially the marginalized. We know that in the past and still continuing today that our siblings in the LGBTQT2S+ community face discrimination.  As a loving Christian community of faith, Westworth United Church has taken a bold step to say NO.  We will not discriminate.

What better scripture than today’s lectionary reading could we ask for?  John 15: 9-17 that Ava read for us is spot on for today!  Jesus commands us to love as He has loved.   He reminds us that God is love and that we are at home in this love.

Jesus goes on to further say that this love Christ extends can fill us with joy.

Further to that he talks about friendship. Earlier in his ministry there may have been a feeling of Master over servant but Jesus says that is no longer true.  You are my friends and you are chosen to bear fruit into the world…and that fruit is to love one another and share that love.

As disciples of Christ in the 21st century we too are required to follow Jesus’ commands to love one another.  The importance of friendship is also in this scripture.  This type of friendship is sacred, this is not social media friendship but faithful meaningful friendship that shares God’s love.

Recently, one of Richard Rohr’s meditations was call the Blessing of Friendship.  As you know, Rev. Loraine often quotes Richard Rohr and also invites us to follow his meditations online.  I’d like to share with you that meditation.

 “At its best, human love and friendship are an extension of the divine love and friendship that exist at the heart of the Trinity. It is an overflowing fullness of love and blessing. Irish poet and philosopher John ODonohue (1956–2008) is a modern teacher on the sacred nature of friendship who explains how this blessing can be shared:

A person should always offer a prayer of graciousness for the love that has awakened in them. When you feel love for your beloved and the beloveds love for you, now and again you should offer the warmth of your love as a blessing for those who are damaged and unloved. Send that love out into the world to people who are desperate, to those who are starving, to those who are trapped in prison, in hospitals, and into all the brutal terrains of bleak and tormented lives. When you send that love out from the bountifulness of your own love, it reaches other people. This love is the deepest power of prayer.

 Prayer is the act and presence of sending this light from the bountifulness of your love to other people to heal, free, and bless them. When there is love in your life, you should share it spiritually with those who are pushed to the very edge of life. . . . In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have. . . . Love is the source, center, and destiny of experience.

 A Friendship Blessing

May you be blessed with good friends.

May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.

May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where

     there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.

May this change you.

May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold

     in you.

May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and

     affinity of belonging.

May you treasure your friends.

May you be good to them and may you be there for them;

     may they bring you all the blessings, challenges, truth,

     and light that you need for your journey.

May you never be isolated.

May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your

     anam ċara.

Today I feel grateful to be in the presence of friends  – siblings in Christ as can be expressed.

There are many expressions of love, but Agape Love is what friendship is about. As we become an Affirming Congregation in our ministry to each other and the world, this inclusion is broadened to include every kind of isms.  Racism, Sexism, ableism, ageism. We are called to strive for inclusion of all – to love our neighbour as ourselves. Not only our human neighbour, but all of Creation – our planet Earth, our home requires our love and care as well.

I think today has been as memorable as is possible considering the restrictions of public health because of the Covid 19 pandemic.  Our original hope was to have a fun, colourful, big splash, a party with cake and balloons, and hugs and high 5’s.  And we will, someday, down the road when we can gather together in person. Thank you to all who supported this initiative and gave our committee feedback, came to the learning lunches and listened and discerned.  The Ad Hoc Committee includes Rhea Y (who was chair throughout most of the time leading up to the vote at the annual meeting) Dorcas W, Petra T, Andrea F, Kathy J, and me.  Kathy has moved away but was an integral part of the committee early on.

Some may say that we are stepping outside the boundaries of what’s norm, but much of society is opening up to becoming more inclusive in every way.   We know that there is lots of work to do and to show our love to others in the way forward. As John O’Donohue said in the above quote, “send your love out – the more love you give away, the more love you will have.”

One of my favourite hymns is, ‘My Love, Colours Outside the Lines’ by Gordon Light.  It reminds us that our love needs to go further than what is expected.  That we need to dare to be brave and go faithfully into the future.  That is what this congregation, this community of faith has done.  We are now on the next stage of our faith journey together.  Jesus said, “Remember the root command: Love one another.”

Thanks be to God.

MV 138. My Love, Colours Outside the Lines                        Gordon Light.

Since its beginning, the church was meant to be a place of chosen family—a community of outcasts and outlaws, dreamers, prophets, and humble disciples of Love. In the company of Divine Presence, we create belonging and nurture justice. With gratitude for the sacred labours of love in this community as we are together apart, we give thanks for donations that further the ministry of Westworth United Church. You may give through the donation button on the website, e-transfers, PAR (pre-authorized remittance) or cheques mailed to the office.

Prayer of Dedication                                                     

God of Justice, even as we celebrate your love for the LGBTQIA+ and Two-Spirit community today, we remember the church has not always done so. We acknowledge the harm that continues to be done in your name today. As our offerings are dedicated, we bring also a renewed commitment to interrupting prejudice and practicing solidarity. We press on together until people of every sexual orientation and gender identity can live freely and without fear, receiving the love and support all people deserve. Thanks be to you, our guide and our help in making it so. Amen.

Hymn MV 150.   Spirit God, Be Our Breath.          Embracing Change.  Heather