When my youngest son Ethan was growing up, he was the one that got involved with computers. He was not one to dismantle and put them back together, instead he spent a lot of time learning about software and how it works and putzing around the with the computer internal systems. He went to college to study computers and now works using computers. I do not understand what he does[…]
[…] – although he tells me that he is on the bleeding edge of technology. The first time I heard that term I thought that he had made a mistake is what he said – bleeding edge – I thought he meant leading edge – but no, I was wrong, in the tech industry, work that is moving into new frontiers, that goes where no one has gone before…is called ‘bleeding edge’. Ethan is working with robotics, he is the one who is designing a system that will move an industrial size vacuum and floor washer around a large commercial space – and because what he is doing is not so much creating software as is giving decision making capacity to large sized vacuum cleaner – it is called bleeding edge – this is the technology that will move with us into the upcoming years – this is the stuff that our grandchildren will know as second nature, this is the future.
I wonder what the bleeding edge is in our churches, what progressive, future forming ideal are we engaged in. Are we making a difference, leading the pack, moving towards an exciting future following the call of God, … Or, is our bleeding edge a literal thing, actually referring to the state of the church where our numbers and finances and influence are bleeding out – bleeding out faster than they have at any other time in history. Is what is going on in our churches today a palliative moment where we are just putting in time waiting for the end where the cultures bleeding edge overwhelms us?
No – I actually don’t think so – I think that the church is changing, and it is clear that the church no longer looks, or feel or is what it was a few years ago – but, I really believe that the church is as relevant and meaningful and important in 2015 as it was 90 years ago when the United Church of Canada came into being, as it was 2000 years ago as the first disciples of Jesus began to form this crazy institution to which we belong.
This formation of church, the United Church of Canada came into being 90 years ago on June 10. And it was bleeding edge….In 1925 the United Church of Canada was new way of doing church and it was different and leading edge of it’s time – the bringing together different denominations to create a national church was a radical idea – up until this time churches held ties to where they came from – the Presbyterian church of Scotland, the Methodist Church of England, and the Congregationalist could track some of its early origins to the Mayflower. By coming together in 1925 the churches were making a stand as a unified protestant faith organization. This church came into being by an act of parliament and became the first National Church of Canada.
Over the years the United Church of Canada has been a leading edge church when dealing with issues of the day. We have prided ourselves on being a social justice movement. In 1936 we ordained Lydia Gruchy, the first ordained woman in the United Church of Canada – The Anglicans did not ordain woman until 1976. (50 years later) Many other protestant denominations still do not ordain woman for ministry in the church and of course the Catholics do not ordain woman either. Bleeding edge – because when you look at who is in the pulpits these days – more and more are woman – at last Saturday’s ordination service in Hamilton Conference, 5 woman were ordained and one man, one of the woman had cerebral palsy.
The United Church has taken controversial stands on issues that have placed it on the bleeding edge – in 1988 long before many other churches dared, we agreed to a motion at General Council that anyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation could become a member of the United Church of Canada and any member of the United Church of Canada could seek Ordination for ministry within the church. This was very controversial within and without of the church. And in the year 2000 as the nation began to recognize the right of Gays and Lesbians to be able to be married the United Church General Council passed a motion to honour and walked in solidarity with the LGBTQ population by offering ceremonies of covenant relationship within our churches by our ministers and then in 2005, when a motion was passed in parliament we began preforming same gender marriages. Again this was not without controversy as I imagine many here remember.
The United Church has also been cutting edge in right relations and in 1986 years before Stephen Harper, the then moderator of the United Church of Canada, Bob Smith at General Council in Sudbury, apologized to the Native People for our role in Residential Schools and cultural genocide that Justice Murray Sinclair spoke about this week in the Truth and Reconciliation Report. And we have been cutting edge theologically with the ‘new curriculum of the 1960’s’ and and and – throughout all of our 90 years we have been trying to be cutting edge – to be sharing the good news of God in a way that is meaningful and relevant and matters and makes sense and speaks into the culture of the day.
Jesus ministry is our example of bleeding edge ministry. The story we read today shows us just how radical and formative this ministry is to become. The story in Mark 3 is the beginning of Jesus ministry – he has just begun to become who he was called to be – but what he has begun is already blowing the people’s minds – So far he has been baptised by John in the Jordon – spent 40 days in the desert – called his disciples, and began to exorcise demons and healing people. He is being mobbed by those seeking to be healed, to meet this man who can unwither a hand, and bring calm to freaky people, and helping people get on feet they have not been on for years. As you can well imagine even in an age where social media does not exist, and letting people know what is going on in your life is not a click away – it must be just amazing stuff that is happening for within a few days and weeks crowds of people are swarming Jesus and his followers so much that that they need to get in a boat so they won’t be overwhelmed with the crowds. Jesus and his disciples have just had mountain get away moment, where Jesus commissioned them to go out and preach the Good News and cast out demons and then they go, the newly formed band of 13 – Jesus and the 12 – they go back to Jesus home town, and meet a mob of people who have come to see if all the hype about this man and what he is doing is true.
What Jesus is doing and saying strange and different to the people of his day and it is clear that his family gets that this is not normal and that something extraordinary is happening – and all the local officials are saying that he must be crazy – he must be possessed with the devil – because he can do these amazing things – and who is this God he is talking about – a God that heals and loves and cries out for justice….who is this God that does not play by the rules or respect the culture. This God that Jesus is talking about pushes at all the boundaries.
This radical ministry that Jesus is beginning, that already was threatening the authorities, that had his family worried for his safety – what Jesus was doing and saying and talking about, is as radical today as it was then. It is funny isn’t it that someone who is talking about loving God and neighbour, that the first shall be last, that sinners and prostitutes have just as much of a welcome in God’s kingdom – that words about compassion and kindness and forgiveness could be threatening – but they were then and still are today– imagine if everyone in the world lived as Jesus calls us to, where no one is treated better than the other, and justice prevails, and honesty just is, where all are fed, all are welcome and God gets in. If everyone lived like that than what would happen to our economic system where value is placed on people not prophet, where success is not about how many toys one has or how big a bank account one has accrued, success is measured in how much of yourself you give to another. And what would happened to our class system, where it did not matter who your parents were, or whether you had status, no one better than another, no monarchy and upper class or lower class either – no one caring if you are white, black, green or purple – whether you are male or female, whether you love a man or woman – all that matters is that you love each other…careful – this is really radical stuff I am talking about here – Jesus was killed for it…
Bleeding edge ministry – that is what we are called to. Ministry that loves as God loves and cares as God cares and sees each and every other human being in the world as God does, as God’s beloved child… and then God’s kingdom can come and God will will be done, and earth is heaven. Amen.