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Our church is burgled – Rev. David Shearman puts a theft in perspective

I first knew something was wrong when I drove past the church Wednesday morning and saw the new city police car – you know the one no one wants to see – the one that has no markings on it -the one they use for speed traps.
When I got to the church the police were here and it was obvious – the door frame to Jennifer’s office was shattered to kindling and the money was gone – $500.
You probably read about it in the paper but they didn’t say much more.
It was all the proceeds from the Talent Table to date
The thief also took the pennies from the bucket that says on the label:- plunk plenty pennies to placate pastor
The bare fact is this – the church was burgled.
We don’t know when it happened other than that the church was open when it happened and there were others in the building at the time.
I suppose what that really says is – we have a choice of being an open church or locking ourselves up tighter than a drum and living in fear.
We discovered some ironies to the situation; our insurance deductible is $500.
On Wednesday in the mail the United Church Observer arrived.
On the cover was the head line ‘Crime Proofing’ How to secure your church!
I am going to have a conversation with David Wilson, editor of the Observer about that – just a hair too late by a couple of hours.
But of course all of us on staff had reactions
It felt like a violation of our personal space
After all it is the place where we work, it is comfortable – It is home to us
We also felt a responsibility for the loss of the money; was it something we had or hadn’t done?
And then there’s a thought in the back of our minds, was this indeed still a safe place to work or was this indicative that the trends of the big city have come to Owen Sound again. Our world was upset as we knew it – and how!
Will we ever find the thief? Probably not.
As the police officer said,”I hope they had a real need for the money.”
So do I!
In the great scheme of things, the loss of that money is significant – yes,
but it isn’t significant.
I had to laugh, because that’s the only way sometimes to deal with the ridiculous things that life sends you.
The coincidence of this event and our gospel reading this morning was what made me laugh.
“Stay awake, stay alert! You have no idea what day your master will show up.
But you do know this, that if the homeowner had been there at that time of night, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in”
(Somehow the image of Tongo, our church dog, comes to mind).
“Be vigilant just like that, you have no idea when the son of man is going to show up.”
The passage reminded me very clearly that just as a thief comes to upset and overturn the little world of Central Westside, so the coming of the Messiah will indeed give us that feeling of upset, of violation, of wonder.
It is easy for us to fall into a sense of complacency
And in light of this burglary at Central Westside we have changed some things; we are not doing things the way we did them before.
It was a good and expensive lesson to learn. Without question we were complacent.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Kinda sounds like what we are dealing with in Advent
But you see that Advent is about breaking the complacency that we might feel – breaking the mould of how things are and reminding us that there are other possibilities out there.
Other possibilities that God is bringing into our world and changing things in a radical way and changing things to show us a new way
How radical?
Just read our old testament lesson:
They shall beat their swords into plough shares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
That’s radical stuff
And seem as far away from possibility as the things that we read on the front page of our newspaper and watch on the news every single day.
But that’s what God wants us to do and that’s what God wants us to be
Is it possible?
Can swords be beaten into plough shares and spears into pruning hooks?
Yes, they can!
People who worked for the Lutheran Aid Relief Organization after the war in Cambodia discovered something interesting; unexploded bombs and shells had been dangerously defused and explosives removed, and the bomb casings and the shell casings turned into water troughs for livestock.
I have a colleague who has a lovely set of brass lamps that she bought in Vietnam when she and her husband were there. The lamps came from shell casings and they’re beautiful, she says.
But even more so at a national level, is it possible? Yes!
More than a century ago Argentina and Chile were rattling sabres. You know how nations start to do it – they start to beat their chests and flex their muscles and start moving things forward.
It was over the boundary between the two nations in the Andes. The dispute was whether it was to be at the watershed or the highest point of a mountain range – where the river begins or the highest point.
War was a very real possibility in 1902
The people of both nations are by and large Roman Catholic and they were reminded of a cyclical by Pope Leo 13th, which called for the consecration for the whole world to Christ the Redeemer.
And Christians were urged to encourage their governments to settle matter amicably and without the use of swords.
The governments of Argentina and Chile listened and agreed to submit the matter to arbitration.
The American Ambassador and King Edward Vll of England proposed the solution which was accepted by both sides in 1903.
But that’s not the end of the story; there’s a lovely little codicil to this.
Bishop Benevente in Chile suggested the erection of a statue to remind the people of the words of Christ: “And they shall be lifted up unto the earth and all men drawn to me”
That statue should remind the people that they should be consecrated to a mutual understanding of each other and work towards peace.
And thus was born the sculpture ‘Christ of the Andes’
The Bishop of Argentina picked this up and the result was a 26 foot high bronze Christ holding his right hand out in blessing over the disputing nations and holding a cross in his left hand.
It was placed at 13,000 feet, the highest point of traverse between the two nations. the highest point on a highway in Aspousa Pass. It was readily accessible, in fact it was on the major trade route between the two nations.
But here’s the kicker – the bronze out of which the statue was made – came from old canons.
They took the instruments of war and turned them into plough shares.
War would not be anymore between these two nations.
And it never has.
That’s the difference that Christ coming into the world can make
That’s the possibility that is held out before us – when we claim the waters of baptism, when we gather together at this holy table.
The possibility that something new and different, the reality that we need not study anymore.
When God comes in this time of Advent, he breaks into this world in new and different ways.
God’s coming among us is what Advent is all about.
Are we ready? Are we prepared? Perhaps it’s time to watch and wait?
For the breaking in of God to our world.

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