#WeekendPlans: “Walking with Jesus” @ChaplainSherrie 4/23/23

If you were walking on the road with Jesus, what might he say to you? What might you say back to Jesus in return?

Following the Way of Jesus involves a conversation, an involving conversation. It is a conversation for possibility. A conversation for new life.

Rev. Dr. Sherrie Connelly

Join us this Sunday, April 23, 2023, for a zoom sermon with Rev. Dr. Sherrie Connelly, where we will explore walking with Jesus.

Fellowship begins at 10:30 am, Worship, 11:00 am.

2/12/23 #Sermon: “How Hard Is It to Choose Life?”

How Hard Is It to Choose Life?
Pastor Dave Fekete, Ph.D. — Edmonton, Church of the Holy City
February 12, 2023

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Matthew 5:21-37 Psalm 119:1-8

This sermon grew out of frustration—no, not frustration, exasperation. Although it grew out of exasperation, I won’t be lingering in exasperation in it. I’m going to use my experiences as a springboard to launch into theological reflection that I think we all can benefit from, myself, included, of course.

My ministry takes many forms. Foremost, it is here in the Edmonton Church of the Holy City. But since I am known in Edmonton, as a Pastor, people sometimes, well often, turn to me for Pastoral Care who aren’t members of this Church. And since my call came from God, not from a specific organization, I answer the call to ministry whenever it comes, from whomever calls me into ministry.

I’ve realized that there are two types of people who come to me: people who want Pastoral Care, and people who do not want Pastoral Care. Yet both types come to me and ask for Pastoring. My task is to determine which are the ones who really do want Pastoring, and the ones who don’t. Unfortunately for me, the only way I can determine this is when I enter into the Pastoral role. And I do so whenever anyone, anywhere reaches out for help.

This sounds funny, doesn’t it. You may wonder, “Why would someone ask for help who doesn’t really want it?” I, myself, didn’t know that such people existed until experience taught me otherwise. In fact, it’s very common.

Let’s consider our story from Matthew. In our Matthew story, a good Jewish church-goer is on his or her way to the temple to offer God a gift. Of course, Jews would not be called church-goers, technically, because they went to temple or synagogue. But the idea is the same. So our good churchgoer is on their way to observe religion in the way that they know. But what’s wrong with this picture?

Our good churchgoer is involved in anger with someone, with insulting them, and with dehumanizing another human. And someone has a beef against them. And yet, they are on their way to church. What’s wrong with this picture?

Isn’t love the whole point of church? “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” the song goes. It’s what makes a person a follower of Jesus,

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”

(John 13:35)

So what does this good Jewish churchgoer think that they are doing bringing a gift to God at the Temple, with a heart burning with anger? What’s he or she doing? The prophets are full of verses from God saying that God does not want sacrifices, anyway. Sometimes, God’s language is sharp, in fact harsh. God says it all in no uncertain terms in the very first chapter of Isaiah:

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls
or of lambs or of goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more!
13 Bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and calling of convocation—
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove your evil deeds
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil;
17 learn to do good;
seek justice;
rescue the oppressed;
defend the orphan;
plead for the widow.

We tend to want the easier, softer way, don’t we?  We want people to fix us without us doing any of the legwork, ourselves.  And so, rather than removing the rage in his or her own heart, the good church-going Jew thinks she or he can go through the church rituals and be all right with God.

But let’s get back to the two types of people who ask me to be their Pastor.  Let’s talk about the ones who mean it. I have a friend who self-identifies as a non-believer.  Yet he shows me more respect on account of my profession than a whole, whole lot of others do.  One afternoon he asked if he and his son could come to my apartment for a visit.  He had just experienced a personal tragedy he couldn’t cope with.  He wanted someone’s help and he knew that I’m a Pastor. When he and his son came over, he meant it.  He’s doing great, now, about a year later; he’s going to make it.  He listened to me when he asked me questions point blank and I answered him point-blank.  He appreciated that.  The few words I spoke when he asked took root in his soul’s soil and he nurtured them and they grew into healing herbs.  That, and I sat with him.

Then there’s the other type.  And I’m not going to spend much time talking about them. It’s not their fault.  Have you ever heard the saying, “Be careful what you ask for, you might get it?” That’s these guys.  They don’t know what they’re asking for.  They ask me for help, and then they tell me what it is they want me to do, how I’m supposed to help them.  They do! That’s how clueless they are.  Then, when I really do start to help them, because I do have the capacity to see where they need help, they start resisting and throwing up roadblocks and making excuses why they can’t do things that will heal them. 

Please allow me a moment to clarify. When I took ski lessons, my ski teacher watched me and he could see the issues I had with skiing, and he knew how to assist me with them.  It’s like that with Pastoral Care. I once told a friend that I was going to interview Grandmaster Chen.  My friend said that they would want to know about the role of awareness and consciousness, and gender.  Then, my friend would want to know about physical limitations due to age, injuries, other-ambled, PTSD, addiction, peace, and non-violence, and all the conditions people live with.  Do you see what my friend was doing?  My friend was telling Grandmaster Chen what they, themself, knew, and basically telling Grandmaster Chen what they wanted him to know.  Let me spell out what I mean, for a minute. What if awareness and consciousness isn’t in Taoism and Taiji? What if peace and non-violence aren’t things Grandmaster Chen thinks about or teaches? And does Taiji have anything to do with addiction or PTSD at all? You don’t tell a teacher what they are supposed to teach you. You ask a teacher, “What do I need to know?”

Grandmaster Chen Zhonghua

In fact, in my very first interview with Grandmaster Chen, I fully admitted that I was in an awkward position. I was interviewing someone about a subject that I knew nothing about. He just said, “Let’s see how it goes.” Once, I went in and said, “I don’t think today’s interview will take very long. I only need clarification on a couple points and ideas.” He said, “We’ll see.” In fact, our interviews are going very well—I would estimate we’ve had about 15. I wrote one up in article form and Grandmaster Chen posted it on his international web page. I am in the process of writing up a second article.

So God says,

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life!”

(Deuteronomy 30:19)

When you put it that way, it’s hard to understand. Who wouldn’t want blessings?! Who wouldn’t choose life over death?! The sad fact is, when sickness is all you know, and when a person is sunk in sickness they can’t see what health looks like from that vantage point. People don’t want to let go of all that they know. The sad fact is, sickness feels good. It isn’t good, but it feels good. (When I lust, I enjoy it. Didn’t I think that I was having the time of my life getting drunk night after night, and partying in bars, and what did all those teetotalers think they were doing sober???) And so, sick people throw up roadblocks, and make excuses, and resist anything other than what they know, what they’re used to. It’s what Jesus experienced on Earth, and made Him say,

How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks
under her wings, and you were not willing.  35  Look, your house is left to you desolate

(Luke 13:34-35)

And usually, it goes on and on and on like that until the sick person can’t take it any longer. Then they really do want help. And I’ll be there when they’re at that point. So will a lot of people.

I expect most of us are somewhere on this spectrum. Some of us knew when we needed help; we asked for it, and meant it; and we got it. And then, sure, we all have our blind spots. The psychologist Carl Jung talks about our Shadow that we try to hide—hide from others so they won’t see our character defects. But especially we hide the Shadow from ourselves because we don’t want to see embarrassing deficiencies in our character. But if we are on The Path, we’ll come to. If we’ve learned the skill of self-examination and self-amendment, we’ll apply it in our ongoing spiritual growth.

“Whoever has will be given more”

(Mark 4:25)

We will be given more, if we keep seeking—abundance, overflowing. So when God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life!” Let’s choose life!


Lord, here us when we call to you, and when we call, come. Lord, we can’t do this by ourselves. Lord, we need your help. Lord, here us when we call to you. And when we call, come. Lord, in our head, we know that you do hear us, that you hear us, always. We say these words for us, for our own conscious contact with you, Lord. And, Lord, when we say, “Come, Lord,” we mean for us to come to you. Bring us to you, Lord. Bring us upward into the light. Lift us up out of the bondage of self, that our works may bear witness to you.

And Lord, we are tempted to be distracted by the cries of tribe and clan. Our culture is at risk to
dissolve into factions, and for neighbor to oppose neighbor in the name of competing truth claims. Help us to see that we are all your children. You are the Parent of all of us, and we are one spiritual family. Help us to understand one another in difference, and reach out to each other in the spirit of Christian love.

And Lord, we ask you to watch over those who are ailing in body or soul. Comfort them and their families. And, Lord, we ask for you to bring your healing to our loved ones, families, and friends. And, Lord, we pray that you bring the gift of your healing power to all who are suffering, whether it be in body or soul.

#WeekendPlans: “Making Choices” w/Pete Toot, 11/6/22

The theme for Sunday is “Making Choices” and we will be exploring the connections between voting in an election and everyday spiritual decision making.  We won’t delve into politics in any partisan way, but we can discover a few things from scripture and Swedenborg’s teachings that can guide the way we deal with having decisions made on our behalf.

Sunday, the 6th of November’s service is hybrid, in-person/Zoom.

Fellowship: 10:30 am, Worship: 11:00 am Zoom link shared with church members and their guests.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Thanks be to G! and P! and C!

The feat of learning new technologies and tweaking things and readjusting is made to look easy by these three, who keep our worship services flowing, all amidst a pandemic.

Thank you so much to Gloria and Pete Toot and Rev. Clark Echols, whose tireless devotion to our churches brings enjoyment, connection and spiritual fulfillment to the members of the New Church of Montgomery and the Glendale New Church. We couldn’t do it without you.

This morning‘s service: “Extravagant Love”

We hope you will join us this morning at 10:30 AM for fellowship and 11 AM over zoom,for worship service with Reverend Dr. Sherrie Connelly giving our service. The subject she has chosen is extravagant love.

Our Lord God is everything to us, offering an extravagant love, generous, all giving, comforting and protecting.

This extravagant love extends into a deep forgiveness, even in the knowledge of human beings’ great imperfections, as we become repentant. Still, Our Lord God is loving us fully, just the same.