Service for July 5: A Goulash Life

Here is the link to the service: https://youtu.be/VV2r9qgiEHc

Here is the print content for the service:

Deep River Community Church

July 5, 2020:  A Goulash Life

Introduction/Welcome

Prelude: Tapestry by Carole King

Opening/Approach:  Four months ago, I was supposed to be on my way to Ireland today.  Whenever we believe we can make definite plans for our lives, we risk being wrong.  Life comes with many twists and turns which make life real. In the curves, on the straightaways, the tough climbs, the rest spots, and the relaxing down hill cruising, the Holy Mystery is with us, sharing our journey.  We enter into worship of this Holy Mystery who journeys with us.

We begin with our Statement of Identity:  We are an open, welcoming, and diverse fellowship exploring and striving to live the all-encompassing love of Jesus.  

Prayer of Approach:  Holy One, thank you for using this time of worship to guide us and encourage us as we continue our life journeys.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Opening Hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus  TBOP 746

Humour:  Goulash Bridge

Story:  Journey in Life’s Goulash of Unplanned Changes

–7 years ago: church canoe trip

–6 years ago:  Greek changes

–last week: Goulash exploration

Prayers:  Thanks for the experiences in our journeys through life

Thanks for what is and will be provided for people we care about who are having a difficult time in their journeys.

Thanks for all those who help us along the way on our journeys.

Silent prayer time

The Lord’s Prayer

Offering:  While we continue to be grateful for all that is being offered, often at personal risk, by many people, we are also grateful for the opportunities summer brings from time at the beach to hikes on mountain trails and picnic gatherings with families and friends.

Holy Mystery, thank you for using our celebrations of life to strengthen us for living and for using the generosity of us and others to make your love real for those who have difficult journeys at this time.  Amen.

Hymn:     Give me the Faith  TBOP 584* (new)

Reading:       Matthew 11:16-30 

Anthem:  “His Yoke is Easy” from Handel’s Messiah

Exploration of the Word: A Goulash Life

Closing Hymn:  I Heard the Voice of Jesus  TBOP 671

Commissioning:

In a life with a mix of experiences and situations,

we choose the yoke offered by Jesus,

to live for the good of all with love and courage.

Benediction

Postlude:  Sometimes I feel like a motherless child  African-American Spiritual (in support of Black Lives Matter)

Exploration of the Word:  A Goulash Life

Traditional Hungarian goulash included a variety of vegetables including peppers and carrots and usually lots of paprika.  Sometimes it includes potatoes.  The cuts of meat used are usually tough cuts with lots of cartilage which produces the thickener for the stew or soup.  In life, the hard experiences produce the most memories and some of them make us stronger, more resourceful and ready for a more flavour-filled life.  Other flavourings such as thyme, basil and bay leaves may be used and the vegetables may include celery.  The essential ingredients include cubed meat, onions, one or more other vegetables, paprika, and the sauce which may be thick or thin.  The savoury brown sauce connects all the ingredients, just as the goulashed bridge hands were connected by being playing cards. Our reading is a stew containing several pericopes, a fancy word for independent bits of scripture, connected by all being words ascribed to Jesus in this reading.  While it is written as all being said at the same time, I find it difficult to imagine a situation where all of them would have been appropriate at the same time, unless Jesus had been having a really bad hair day and needed to rant.  After reading the passage, I thought life can be like this passage, shifting in tone, focus and experiences, sometimes unpredictably, including lives lived trying to follow Jesus.

There are those moments when we feel totally disconnected, like the opening complaint by Jesus about not dancing to the music or mourning with the mourners. The example given was calling John possessed by a demon, rather than recognizing the worth of what he was saying and calling Jesus a drunk and a glutton when he was showing how to embrace life.  I suspect there were many moments when most of us felt temporarily disconnected from life as we worked through the new order of things initiated by Covid-19.  In other places in the Gospels, Jesus would take time outs to pray, to get re-centered.

In those moments of disconnection, if possible, taking a time out to reflect or pray becomes important to remaining grounded.

There are times when countries or organizations or communities seem to be getting it all wrong, and we need to rant, like Jesus did against communities which obviously rejected what he was saying and doing.  I wonder if this rant was by Jesus or by the author of Matthew.  We do not know where his audience was, but it was supposed to be a crowd in a city, and we do not know what was achieved by his rant if it was his rant.

In our own lives, we need to be careful about the subject and audience of our rants.  Some rants need to be with no one present, and some need to be in settings where they can actually help make a difference.  We need to be clear with ourselves about the reason for our rant: is it because we did not get our way, or is it because something really bad is happening?

One important thing about what Jesus said in this rant was his understanding of the reason for the destruction of Sodom.  The traditional church explanation for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was their practice of homosexuality.  It is clear from each place where Sodom is mentioned by Jesus in the Gospels that their sin was failure to be hospitable, to practice the hospitality that was expected of all communities in the Middle East.  In a land that depended on travellers and traders for news and goods, where bandits were almost everywhere, it was important that walled communities provided hospitality to all travellers. The sin of the communities in this rant was failure to be hospitable to Jesus and rejecting what he offered.

Have you ever felt really sad or angry and had a child come to you and sweetly offer you a hug or a simple gift?  The shift in mood is dramatic.  Jesus was condemning those cities, then shifted to being thankful to God, though his words require pondering.  “Thanks for hiding these things from the wise and intelligent and revealing them to infants, for such was your gracious will?”  The question of who is wise and intelligent opens this pericope up a bit. 

When wisdom and intelligence is equated to what most people think, we hear this passage in a new way.  Infants have not been brainwashed by their culture yet. 

Wise, intelligent people said people would die if they travelled faster than something around 60 miles an hour because their breath would be sucked out of them.  Some wise, intelligent men thought women were unfit to vote or hold public office, even when the reigning monarch was a woman.  What has passed for wisdom and intelligence has been repeatedly proven to be folly.  The key part of this statement is infants, people who still see the world as it is, not as they imagine it to be. 

John saw a society disconnected from the will of God, and leaders who liked society the way it was said he was possessed.  Jesus saw the disconnect and chose to celebrate relationships and the abundant love of God and was dismissed as a drunkard and glutton. And the savoury sauce of Jesus connects the opening pericope with this pericope about God hidng understanding.  The last sentence of this pericope bothers me the most: “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  The “whom the Son chooses” bothers me. While I accept that Jesus may have said some of the other parts of the reading, this line feels like a claim by the community of the time about being the ones through whom people can come to know God.  Similar claims continue to be made by many faiths and denominations.

From thankfulness to God, the reading moves to a favourite passage for many: “Come to me all you that are weary, and I will give you rest.”

When we finish eating a good goulash, our hunger is sated, and we are ready to rest, to hopefully feel more at peace with the world.  I am not sure if Jesus said these words, but parts contradict large pieces of the rest of the reading, especially the “I am gentle and humble in heart” part.  It is the gentle, filling beef contrasting the onions in our opening part.

To repeat part of my theme from last Sunday, serving or following Jesus can be an easier life than others that may be imposed upon us.

For most people, following Jesus can be a kind of goulash with times that are a bit watery like the sauce, spicy like the paprika, pungent like the onions, or filling and tasty like the tender beef. Each of our lives is a different goulash, like the many varieties of Hungarian goulash, with or without some of the ingredients in other’s lives.

To me what matters is the savoury sauce that connects the ingredients: our beliefs about or relationships with the Holy Mystery, beliefs and relationships that can ground us through the highs and lows and variety of experiences in our lives.  Those beliefs or relationships can take us through the contradictions in life, yielding lives that are good, tasty, filling lives.  In life, in death, in life after death, God is with us.  We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

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