Sermons

Weekly sermons

Rev Jenny's First Sermon at St. James

October 1st 2017

Good morning! I am so very happy to be here today. Ever since I heard about this lovely parish, I have felt God’s call to be your Rector. And I must say, you have a stellar reputation! From Bishop Sue Moxley to Canon Rob, and many more, I hear that this is one of, if not the best, parish in the diocese!

That is something of which you can be proud. However, it is also rather intimidating to me as your incoming rector. I had moments where I wondered if I was good enough, or if I would let you down. But I kept moving ahead.

One of my biggest tasks was to get myself, my dog and my two cats from Halifax, Nova Scotia here to St. Marys, Ontario. When I moved from Brights Grove Ontario to Summerside PEI, the cats did not travel well at all. They meowed every 3 seconds, according to my daughter who travelled with me to keep me company. When I asked her to accompany me this time, it was an immediate, no way Mom. Luckily, my best friend, Sheri, agreed to travel with us.

So, I bought a different car cat carrier for them. No go. They still hated it. After many test runs with various options, finally, I decided that they would travel with harnesses and a leash attached to the back seat.

The car was packed, the animals loaded, the hotel along the way was confirmed. Sheri and I got in the car, and we took a moment to pray for safe travels and calm cats.

Off we went. After about one hour of driving, the cats settled and the car was relatively quiet! It felt like a miracle!

It is a long drive and I do not mind driving. This trip would be easy, I thought. I was not travelling in the wilderness for 40 years like the Israelites after all. Actually, it was not the wilderness but the most populated areas that caused me any stress. I have lived in Toronto so was not as concerned by that part of the drive. As to Montreal, I knew there was a new bypass so was not too worried about that part of the adventure either.

Until we missed the bypass! Then God heard me whine! I felt like one of the Israelites then! But, we made it through and the rest of the trip, other than Toronto traffic being slow, was relatively uneventful.

What a wonderful end to the trip when were warmly greeted by Joan and Ivan upon arrival at my new home. Thank you to all who helped clean and prepare for my arrival. It certainly felt like we had arrived at the promised land!

The truck arrived bright and early the next morning and the joy of unpacking began as soon as everything was off the truck and crammed into my little home. But we really didn’t have much food so Tuesday, Sheri and I ventured to Waterloo to go to PetSmart and Costco.

A full car load later, we shut the trunk lid only to hear the doors lock. With our cell phones, our purses and our groceries in the car with the keys.

It was dark. We were alone. We were 50 minutes from home. I do not know anyone’s phone number without my phone. Now what? Of course, my first response was to pray. But I must admit, it again sounded more like the Israelites complaining to Moses. “Really God? Now? Help!”

Inside we go as Costco is beginning to close. We walk up to customer service and I say, “I am not sure you can help me.” To which the two women reply, “Try us. We are superwomen at helping.”

When I told them my circumstance, they were not feeling quite so much like superwomen. But, they lived up to their name and soon had Kia roadside assistance on the line for me, on their phone of course.

But, God wasn’t done helping us out yet. I was on the line with a lovely, very helpful woman, whose calmness helped me feel we wouldn’t be sleeping in the parking lot at Costco. That is until we discovered she happened to work for the American version of Kia Roadside Assistance. Canada has a different phone number.

I think she heard the desperation in my voice because she took all my information, tracked down the correct person at Kia Roadside assistance Canada, and connected me with him. He quickly informed me that he was sending someone out… but that it could take 90 minutes.

Well, at least help was coming, so Sheri and I went outside into the hot night to wait as Costco was now closed and they needed to lock up. Kindly, Bill, a Costco employee, gave us each a nice cold bottle of water.

We sat on a bench and watched all the employees leave. Not much else to see in a Costco parking lot. As the parking lot emptied we wondered what we would do if the 90 minutes passed and help didn’t arrive. But much to our surprise, less than 20 minutes later, we were on our way! God is good.

So, why am I telling you all of this and what does it have to do with our readings today? If you will recall Brenda’s wonderful reading of Exodus, Moses was travelling with the Israelites after helping them escape slavery in Egypt. They were travelling for 40 years in the wilderness and were complaining to Moses at this point because they didn’t have any water. But Moses is fed up with them. God had already provided many miracles for the people. God provided daily food through Manna. Still the people complained and did not trust God. Yes, just like me complaining when I ended up in Montreal traffic even though God has always looked after me so well!

But, like I just needed to trust that God would lead me safely home from Nova Scotia and from Costco, the people just needed to trust our loving God to lead them safely to the Promised Land. In both cases, God did exactly as God had promised.

And God will provide for us as we begin our new journey together. God has been very clear in leading me to this parish. Despite my thoughts of not being good enough, God will give me the gifts I need to be your rector and lead us in our journey of life in Christ. We will get to know and trust each other as we journey. I will be with you for all the important stages of your life from new birth in Christ through Baptism to the Celebration of life when you move on to life in eternity with Christ. We are a family and we will be stronger together through all of life’s ups and down. We will celebrate together and cry together.

We can depend on each other to hold us up in prayer when we are feeling weak but also to be here for us to give us a hug, to bring us a meal. We help each other raise our children. We support each other when loved ones leave behind this earthly existence. We teach each other about God and what it means to be God`s child. We struggle together to find meaning in disaster and we celebrate together in times of joy.

Together, because we are baptised into the body of Christ, we make up one great family. We share a meal at the altar each week that strengthens us to face the journey ahead. As we kneel or stand shoulder to shoulder and share the sacred cup, we are reaffirming our commitment to each other, to God and to the greater family of God. We are gaining strength and committing to sharing that strength with others. Symbolically, we are sharing that Sacred Meal with Christians not only around the world but across all time. We are gaining strength from fellow Christians around the world as well as those across time. We never celebrate the Eucharist individually but always corporately because it is a time of sharing with the whole family of God.

And together, we will welcome the stranger who comes into our church. Together, we will go out and find the lost in our community who need to hear about Jesus and experience His overwhelming love through our actions.

Only God knows where that journey together will take us or how long it will be but my prayer is for a long journey that brings many to the knowledge and love of Christ.

So, when I pronounce the words “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”, know that now I go with you and together we will love and serve our Lord as we prepare for the many years to come.

Liver Lovers by Rev Jenny

October 8th 2017

As some people at one of the churches I have served in found out at a potluck, I do not like liver. I would even go so far as to say, I hate liver. The feeling in my mouth of that texture just sends shivers down my spine. Sylvia had made a great big pot of liver in a magnificent tomato sauce. I had been dipping some very fresh bread into the sauce and greatly enjoying the taste. Then I took a bite of what I thought was beef. I guess others around me could see the look on my face and they began laughing. Luckily Sylvia took no offence and John quickly offered to relieve me of the rest of my serving of the liver. Many others at the table were greatly enjoying their liver.

Now, I could have begun spouting out how it was wrong to enjoy liver as it was so distasteful. I could have condemned them for eating it. I could have told them it was wrong to eat it in front of me. However, I am very thankful that others are able to enjoy liver. What a waste it would be if we did not utilize that part of the animal we have killed. I am called to love all, even the liver eaters. Although I find their practice distasteful in every sense of the word, I am able to be thankful for them.

As Christians, we are called to live a Eucharistic life. Translated, Eucharist means thanksgiving. Therefore, we are called to live a life of thanksgiving, not just one weekend a year. Thanksgiving does not mean eating turkey and pumpkin pie until we explode. It means giving thanks for all that we have. And who should we thank? Well the One who has allowed us to have all that we have of course, and that would be God the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

Yes God has created all that is on the earth and all that is. Therefore we are to be thankful for all that is, even liver. Is that always easy? Absolutely not. When we are given things we do not like, it is very hard to be thankful. When things are not as we like and people do things we do not like, it is hard to be thankful. God the Redeemer makes good come out of everything that happens. We just need to see it. Now some things in our life are much harder to see the good and be thankful for than others. When a child dies or any loved one, it can seem impossible to see the good and be thankful. A parent will never be thankful that a child died but they can be thankful for the child’s life or what comes out of it or any other multitude of things that surround it. Finding out that one is ill is not something we can be thankful for but there will be something in the situation that we can find to be thankful for. We are a people of faith. As such we are a people of thanksgiving.

We know God. We believe in God. We trust God. Therefore, we thank God in all situations. The healing of the 10 lepers is not the central focus of the Gospel lesson. Christ cured all ten. However, the one who returned was healed. The one who gave thanks was given the blessing. The one who returned truly acknowledged Jesus as the Christ and gave thanks.

God does not cause bad things to happen. God makes good come out of all things. We may not see it. We may be so overwhelmed in our grief or fear or sadness that we are not able to recognise the good that comes out of the bad. However, we can be thankful for the good that has come out of this bad. We see God as Redeemer as God redeems this loss with some good.

Again, please remember that God does not cause bad to happen. God mourns the loss just as we do. I have known many people whose children have died. It is never easy. As the saying goes, children are not meant to die before their parents. I have also known some parents who have taken that horrible situation and redeemed it. They could never bring their child back or ever forget the loss. However, they have started a fund to raise money for the cause of death of the child. Or they have spoken to at risk youth. Or even started a fund in the child’s memory for another good cause. Through their actions, God redeems the situation by causing some good to come out of it and for that we are thankful.

And we do not even have to like the way that the good comes about. I am sure that the man that was healed when Jesus spit on mud and rubbed it on the man’s eyes was not thrilled with the method. However, he was thankful for the results.

And we also need to be thankful for the differences amongst us as humans. It is easy to say that it would be a boring life if we were all the same. However, it is much harder to live that. It is hard to be thankful for people how truly are very different from us and whose practices we may find offensive. I do not like liver, as I stated at the beginning. It pains me to watch others eat liver and it turns my stomach. However, rather than hate them for doing something I do not like, I am thankful for them and love them.

As St. Paul tells us, we are no longer Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free but we are all God’s beloved. We are commanded to love not to judge or to hate. We are Eucharistic People. We are Thanksgiving people. As it says on my son’s grave, “give thanks in all circumstances”.

So, when things do not go the way you have planned, when life gives you liver, give thanks unto God who is Redeemer and trust that God will make the liver taste like filet mignon if He can not take the liver away!

Today we are going to turn back to God just like the lone leper. We are here to offer up our own praise to God through our presence, our singing, our tithes and offerings and in receiving Communion. And also today as a further offering to God, you have been given a slip of paper that allows you to put into writing some of the things God has blessed you with and for which you give thanks. Maybe God has turned liver into filet mignon! Thank God for your blessings on that slip of paper and place it in the offering plate and it will be placed on the altar with the tithes and offerings. Or you may use it to thank someone in the congregation who you appreciate. You can hand it to them at the peace or put it in the offering plate and it will be given to them by me.

Let us continue in our service of Thanksgiving as we take a few minutes to recall the ways in which we trust in God in our lives and give thanks.

Come to the Banquet

October 15 2017

Come to the Wedding: What a lovely thing to hear and even to see on our bulletin cover. I picture a beautiful couple, dressed in their finest, sharing sacred vows before their friends and loved ones and then everyone partaking in a delightful evening of great food and fellowship.

So, when we listen to Jesus telling us about a King and a wedding feast for his son, our imagination invariably goes to picture an even more extravagant feast. And true to that vision, we hear the king declare: “my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready”.

Oxen might not be our first choice of meats but we can still imagine an amazing meal offered up to the king’s chosen guests who are all dressed in their finest, come to celebrate the marriage of the king’s son.

But wait, they do not come. As a matter of fact, they not only do not come, they seize the king’s slaves, mistreat them, and kill them. How does the king respond to this horrible act? “The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.”

That is not a happy tale of a beautiful wedding! But then the king seems to redeem the event. He sends his slaves out into the city to invite everyone they see to the wedding. The slaves do just that and fill the hall with both good and bad.

That sounds more like a Christian thing to do, doesn’t it? We are called to feed the poor and the hungry. These would definitely not be the upper crust people who first were invited.

So again, the king’s actions are redeemed. Now the wedding banquet can be fully enjoyed by appreciative people. Whew.

Nope. “When the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

This truly is a horror story! Those invited to the wedding in the first part murder the slaves so the king returns the deed by murdering them and burning their cities. And then when common people were invited into the feast, one man is sentenced to eternal hell because he is wearing the wrong clothes!

This is not some Steven King novel, this is a story told by Jesus. This does not seem like the loving Jesus we usually hear about, does it? If God is the King in this story and Jesus is the Son, God is a very vengeful God and also one who punished people to eternal Hell for minor infractions that are actually beyond their control. The guest somehow got missed when the robes where handed out but is sentenced to be bound hand and foot, and thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'.

Why would Jesus tell this story? Are we supposed to see God as a violent God whom we can’t hope to please? We had better take a closer look at this one!

So, who is Jesus actually speaking to when he tells this story? If we go back a verse, we hear: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.”

Okay, so Jesus is addressing the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. And they recognise it is about them. Whew, we are off the hook. We know that they are bad guys who end up causing Jesus to be crucified just like the people in the story who killed the slaves. God can destroy them because they are bad. We are safe because we know the Son and we are coming to the banquet. This story is not so scary because we are safe!

Or is safety the message of this story? I think not. I think it has more to do with how we perceive God and even more importantly, how we portray God to the world. “Do we—consciously or not—present to the world a God who is easily offended, easily displeased, easily dishonored? A God whose holiness rests on the foundation of a righteous and even violent anger? A God whose need to save face finally trumps his own graciousness and hospitality? A God whose invitation to salvation has strings attached?”

It is easy to say that we would never portray that kind of God but what do our actions say? Examples of extremists who condemn things publicly in the name of God or Jesus are all over the internet. I saw a picture on the internet of a group condemning homosexuality posting a banner that says: “Homosexuality is a sin! Return to Jesus”. What I loved about the picture though was a man dressed as Jesus walking by them with a rainbow sign that says, “I’m okay with it”.

We are called to love our neighbour. Period. God does not define who that neighbour has to be. God does not call us to judge our neighbour. Just love them.

Last week’s sermon spoke of liver lovers and non-liver lovers. It was a light way to point out how we are doing what Jesus speaks about this week. It is not always easy to love others without judging them or condemning them. Each of us is better in some areas than others at this task. Our task is to look at our actions and even our thoughts and see where we might be “sending someone to hell”. Do we look at a person and feel more righteous because they don’t know Jesus like we do? Do we figuratively “send them to hell”? Or how about the drug addict or alcoholic or abuser or homeless person? Or how about the person who goes to a different church or is of a different denomination or worse yet, a different faith or has no faith? Are we subconsciously putting them into the group who will go to hell rather than spend eternity with God? Didn’t they get the correct robe?

Whenever we see differences between us and them, we stand a chance of judging them not worthy of God. While that is a very human thing to do, putting people into categories or classes, we need to guard against using that to place value. Jesus came to save the whole world not just the ones we deem worthy. And thank God for that because not one of us would stand the test of judgement. God created each of us and Jesus saves each of us. That invitation to come to the banquet thank God is now for everyone! So, let people believe we shouldn’t dance, or shouldn’t kneel or whatever they chose to set as the line not to be crossed or you will not make it to heaven. Lets just love and leave the judgement up to God.

“By Jove, I think we’ve got him!”

October 22 2017

“By Jove, I think we’ve got him!”

The Herodians and the Pharisees have plotted together and think they have come up with the ultimate way to corner Jesus and get Him arrested. They have it all figured out. They have asked Jesus to determine if it is right to pay taxes to Rome, ie: the governmental authorities.

The fact that the Herodians and the Pharisees are plotting together in itself portrays just how badly they want to trap Jesus. Both groups wanted Jesus out of the way because he was undermining their authority.

The Herodians were allied with Herod Antipas, the one named king of the Jews, by Rome. They, of course supported paying the tax to Caesar.

The Pharisees, those devoted followers and enforcers of all of the religious laws, opposed paying taxes to Caesar based on religious reasons. They objected to the coin itself. You see, it had an image of Caesar on it and an inscription declaring Caesar divine. Pharisees would quote the first and second commandments as proof: 1: I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me, and 2: You shall not make any graven images of God.

Thus, the two factions believe they have cornered Jesus into a lose/lose situation. If Jesus declared the money should be paid to Caesar, He would then be seen to be a Roman sympathizer. Considering that Rome was an oppressive occupier, that would be seen as a very bad thing to the Jewish people. Jesus would lose any religious support that might save Him from arrest.

If Jesus ruled that even possessing such a coin was blasphemous, while winning Him love from the Jewish people, He would open Himself up to charges of treason and sedition.

Not a position any of us would like to find ourselves in! And very few, if any, of us would find ourselves in that position: facing death no matter which answer we gave, well except maybe when asked, “Does this dress make me look fat!”

All kidding aside, Jesus is in a very tight position. You can almost hear the people holding their breath so they won’t miss His answer, each side holding up figurative “Get Jesus” placards.

But both sides fail to realize who Jesus is. Jesus can’t be trapped. He can’t be cornered. Unless He choses to be. Jesus knows what is to come. He is aware that His time on earth is limited and soon He will be arrested and tortured and killed.

But now is not the time. Ever so calmly, Jesus asks someone to hand Him a coin. He then asks, “Whose head and whose title is on the coin?” “The Emperor”, they answer.

“Well, give to the emperor what is his then but give to God what is God’s”, is Jesus’ response.

We are told the people went away amazed. Amazed is a very interesting word to use here. It is not one used often in scripture. Jesus has placed the responsibility squarely back on the shoulders of the believers. What belongs to the government and what belongs to God?

That is a timeless question still very relevant today. What do we consider as the responsibility of the government to decide and what should be left to faith groups? In our era, very little falls under the domain of faith groups, unlike in the time of Jesus when religious leaders held great power.

But that is not really the point Jesus is making. As humans, we can set boundaries. This matter will be handled by the government and that matter by the church. We pay taxes to the government and tithe to the church. Pretty straight forward.

As believers, we understand things differently than non- believers though. While we pay taxes to the government and entrust them to take care of that money in a way that benefits everyone, we know that they do not have ultimate authority.

We pay our tithes and offerings to the church entrusting the church wardens to utilize our money in ways that will further the kingdom of God.

But the missing part in all of this is who actually owns all that we have? Who gave us all that we have?

God. God created all that there is. We would not have anything but for the grace of God. We can be, and should be, good stewards of all that God gives us. We can amass great wealth. We can have large homes, fresh food in abundance and great friends and family.

But the real wealth comes from utilizing what God entrusts us with to further the Kingdom of God. Do we care for the poor and less blessed? Do we utilize our prosperity to aid others?

We are very fortunate to have been born in Canada or to have been allowed to move to Canada. We have access to many blessings. According to the Globe and Mail:

Canada ranks second in the world when it comes to turning economic prosperity into social progress, says a global ranking released Tuesday.

The 2016 Social Progress Index grades countries on how well they perform in the categories of "basic human needs," "foundations of well-being" and "opportunity." Within these categories, countries are also measured against 53 indicators, spanning nutrition, shelter, personal safety, tolerance and higher education.

What if we had been born elsewhere? It will come as no surprise but the poorest country in the world is the Central African Republic. Just imagine if you had been born there instead.

As of 2015, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), the country had the lowest level of human development, ranking 188th out of 188 countries. It is also estimated to be the unhealthiest country as well as the worst country to be young in.

Now, 80% of that population are Christian. They too are children of God but they have certainly not been blessed in the same way we have. And yet, they too feel blessed. They too are called to care for the poor and underprivileged. And you would be amazed. I have not been to the Central African Republic but I have been to Paraguay in South America were poverty is extreme and living conditions very poor for most. 75% do not have running water or electricity.

But I discovered an amazing thing. We were building while we were there. A group of young boys who couldn’t afford to go to school hung around the job site every day. One very smart young boy who was teaching us Spanish while we taught him English, came by one day and we offered him a package of M&M’s. He gratefully accepted but then ran around to the other side of the building. I followed and witnessed him carefully dividing the package equally amongst himself and his three friends. This little boy, who probably hadn’t eaten anything today, shared what little he did have.

He was not a special case though. Amongst the poorest people there (the majority), individual property does not exist. If I have food and you don’t, I share. If I have two blankets and you have none, I give you one.

They get what Jesus is trying to teach the Pharisees, the Herodians, and us. All that we have belongs to God. We are just the caretakers. And as such, we always have room to do better.

So, whose coin is it? By Jesus, I think we’ve got it!

Disappointment

October 29 2017

I have been craving pumpkin pie. Delicious home made pumpkin pie, smothered in real whipped cream. Being unable to eat anything with wheat, barley or rye in it, that is not an easy craving to fill. At Thanksgiving, my sister brought a pumpkin pie she had purchased at a specialty bakery that prepares solely gluten free baked goods. It had a shortbread crust that was delicious. I had never thought of shortbread for a crust, so I decided to make a pumpkin pie using a gluten free crust. I researched online to see if I could find a recipe for a gluten free shortbread crust. I found one I thought looked best and I began.

Several hours later, the pie was on the counter and had cooled enough to eat. I cut a piece and smothered it in whipped cream, anticipating that mouth watering first bite.

And it was awful. Absolutely disgusting. The shortbread ingredients melded with the pumpkin filling and became an inedible mess. I was so disappointed I could almost cry as I threw the pie out. I had wanted that pie so badly. I had anticipated it for days. Why Lord? It was such a waste and such a disappointment.

Have you ever been disappointed? I can’t imagine anyone saying no to that question. As I read our scriptures for this week, I couldn’t help thinking about disappointment. For forty years, Moses had lead the Israelites towards the promised land. Now, they were within sight of it. God even took Moses up to a high point where he could see all of the promised land.

But Moses was not to step foot in that land. After 40 years. After four of the first five books of the Old Testament leading up to this entrance to the promised land. Moses sees it and knows he can never go there. He dies right then and there without ever getting to what he wanted most in life. Talk about disappointment. We can not even begin to imagine.

Or can we? No, wanting pumpkin pie and not getting it is not comparable. I can bake another, better, one. But what about losing a child or spouse? Or having a marriage break up? Or declaring bankruptcy? Or losing your job? Or losing your health?

As most of you know, my son died in 2005 at the age of 21. I experienced grief like I never had before. But looking back at that grief, I can now understand it to be disappointment. I knew my son was with God and would live for eternity so that was not why I was so grief stricken. It was disappointment that I would never see Rick get married, have children, hug me again. It was the loss of that dream of having a perfect life where my children both grow up, get married and give me grandchildren who bless me in my old age. It was the daily disappointment of hearing a door open or a phone ring and realising a fresh that it was not Rick and never would be.

When I was divorced, I also experienced great disappointment. My dream of happily ever after was shattered.

Many of us can relate to times of extreme disappointment. And we are in good company. Returning to Moses, his journey is filled with disappointment. Think of him coming down from meeting with God and receiving the ten commandments, only to find the people have turned away from God and are worshipping an idol they have made.

Moses’ whole life had been filled with disappointment actually. Though adopted into the Egyptian royal family, he was raised by his own Jewish parents and taught Jewish ways and history. He then had to try to be part of both cultures. At age 40, he saved a Jewish man from persecution by an Egyptian, but the Jews turned on him and he had to escape to the desert for another 40 years. Moses knew he was called to be their rescuer, but the people couldn’t see it.

So, this man, raised as royalty, lives as a sheep herder in the desert for 40 years. This pattern of disappointment continues all of Moses life, concluding with our passage where he gets to see the promised land but not enter it.

And the theme of disappointment is not limited to the Old Testament. Jesus is disappointed when the disciples don’t see His true message and request personal favours, such as the two asking who will sit at Jesus’ right hand in the kingdom. Jesus is disappointed in the leaders of the Jewish faith when they continually try to prove Jesus is false. We can clearly see disappointment in the disciples when Jesus dies and is not the warrior messiah they believed Him to be

Why did God build disappointment into our lives? Why would an omnipotent, loving God allow us to experience such sadness and grief? Couldn’t God make it so that we never have to experience disappointment?

Yes. God could arrange life so that we never experience disappointment. But what would that look like? Everyone would get everything they wanted, and it would be perfect and never disappoint.

We could love for all eternity because no one would die, and we would never experience loss.

But would life become a bland walk through time without any great range of emotions because if we have a high, we must have a low, and that brings disappointment.

But we do have expectations and we do get disappointed. That is part of having free will to make our own choices.

As we can see, disappointment in itself, is not a problem. We feel it and move on when we are ready. Where it is a problem, is when we got lost in our disappointment and let it fester until it becomes discouragement. We stop trying and give up. And then we start blaming. And the most dangerous blame is to blame God and turn away from God. And then we lose that ability to feel that wonderful love that only God offers.

There is an alternative. It is not usually easy though. We can put our trust in God. We can praise God that we have free will and therefore have disappointments. We can praise God that we had a job or child or spouse or health in the first place. We can enjoy and be grateful for all that God has given us rather than concentrating on what is gone and potentially distancing ourselves from God.

Moses did not stop leading the Israelites when he was told he would never step foot in the Promised Land even though he must have been very disappointed. He could have complained because it did not seem fair and he worked so hard to bring the people there. Instead, he kept his eyes on God and placed his faith in God. Knowing that he was about to die and would never set foot in the Promised land, Moses blesses each tribe and praises God.

So, when we find ourselves disappointed, lets remind ourselves that we can only feel disappointment because we are able to love and to have free choice. Being able to get beyond the disappointment may be as simple as rejoicing that we can make another, better pie, or as difficult as celebrating the time we were given with our loved one.

As First Peter 5:10-11 says: And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

So, what is an easy way to keep ourselves on track? FROG Fully Rely On God  

No man is an Island

November 5 2017

No man is an island. John Donne penned these words in the 16th century but they are just as relevant today. More recently, Desmond Tutu referred to the Zulu concept of Ubuntu. Ubuntu, freely translated means, “I am because we are, and I can only become a whole person in relationship with others.”

Today we celebrate All Saints Day. Combined with All Souls Day, this is the time we honour those who have gone before, our loved ones and those whose example we would be wise to emulate. Each of us here will have a different list of people we think of at this time. Each of us, even if we are related by blood, has different people who influence our lives, who we have been in relationship with in one way or another. That relationship may have been fleeting, as in a repair person coming to fix a leaky faucet or it may span our lifetime as in our parents, our children or spouse. But no matter how fleeting, each time we are in any way connected to another person, it will affect our life. That repair person may be late. That may have upset us and maybe we take it out on our coworkers. Or maybe that repair person saw how forgiving you were and wanted to know what gave you that ability to forgive. Both the repair person and us will be affected by that encounter.

That is what Desmond Tutu and John Donne were referring to. Even hermits rely to some degree on others, even if it is just to bring food. Who we are today is a result of all those who have influenced our lives up until this point. And that includes those we have never met. Alexander Graham Bell had a huge impact on our lives, yet I bet none of you have ever met him. Because of his invention, we can now almost instantaneously talk to anyone around the world. His invention has changed our relationships with others hugely.

So, what has all this got to do with All Saint’s Day? Absolutely everything. The community of God’s people is not only those in this room, or those in this city, or those in this world now but also those who have ever lived or will ever live who call Jesus Lord. We are connected to each one of them. Not only will we be companions throughout eternity, but we are also connected as we live today. Just as the late plumber affects our day, the fellow Christians of today shape how we practice our faith and also what we believe. The religious leaders make decisions about our day to day practices. This can be as simple as whether we dip the bread in the wine or drink from the chalice. It can also be as complex as developing the doctrine of salvation. Just within our lifetime, the decision has been made in the Anglican church of Canada to ordain women. That has changed the face of our church forever.

All throughout history, people have affected change that has created the world we now live in and the way we practice Christianity. The Saints of the Old Testament formed the beliefs and practices of the people in Jesus’ time who affected our beliefs and practices. Our beliefs and practices affect the people of our time, but will also influence the people of our future.

Christ’s biggest message was to be community, to work together, to love one another. As we gather to worship, we come together as a community. We can look around and see others who have come to worship God. We can gather strength to face our coming week from those who gather with us. We can make new friends and keep in touch with old ones. We can find others who will help us in times of need and we can reach out to others to offer support.

And we also listen to stories written long ago because they too offer support. We learn from the lessons read each Sunday, lessons that help us strengthen our faith and also face day to day challenges. We gain insight into who our God is, who Christ is and what they mean to us. We also gain insight into what God wants from us and how to live a life that honours God. We offer teaching to our children, so they too can know the love God offers and so that they can develop the support system that will be there for them as we are for each other.

As we take time today to honour those who have gone before, let us also remember that it is us who will create the future, who will affect the Christians of tomorrow. Let’s be careful and thoughtful as we make decisions. Let us prayerfully consider the impact of our actions on the people of our future.

Today, we remember and honour the past. The people who have gone before. As we celebrate the Eucharist, we are coming together with each other but also all other Christians alive and dead. As we come to the altar, the spirits of fellow Christians gather around us and celebrate with us. We are truly in communion at that point. That is the time when all of God’s people are truly in communion, truly acting as one. We are joined with fellow Christians in St Marys, with Christians across Canada and with Christians in faraway countries like Japan or Uganda. And too we are gathered with the Saints and souls of all ages, past and present. It is a powerful image.

So yes, no man or woman is an island. We are never alone and what we do always affects others. Whether we are lost in the woods or lost in a crowd, we are never alone.

Thank you, God for all of the Saints past, present and future.

Lest We Forget

November 12 2017

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

John McCrae penned those words while serving as a doctor with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps in the spring of 1915. The second battle of Ypres was going on around him with terrible bloodshed. But growing among the graves of the fallen soldiers sprang the beautiful blood red poppies, a stark reminder of what lies beneath. These flowers still grow to remind us, lest we forget.

Following the First World War a French woman, Madame E. Guérin, suggested to British Field-Marshall Earl Haig that women and children in devastated areas of France could produce poppies for sale to support wounded Veterans. The first of these poppies were distributed in Canada in November of 1921, and the tradition has continued ever since, both here and in many parts of the world. Traditionally here in Canada, the production and sale of these poppies is done by veterans.

Each year, people recite John McRae’s poem and it helps us visualize the fields not only of poppies but also of fallen soldiers. But the poem also includes another image: that of the larks singing amidst the gunfire. The happy sound breaks through the violence and penetrates the sadness to remind us that life goes on, that nature can survive man’s wars. The poppies and the larks remind us that there is hope in a fallen world. Even when times seem the darkest and pain and suffering try to envelop us, still there is hope among the evil, hope among the despair.

As Christians, this is a theme we are familiar with. Even though we are Christians, we still go through dark times. We still have heartache and pain. However, we have hope. No matter what humans can do, God is still in control. Jesus Christ came to earth, lived as one of us, underwent torture and extreme pain, had His closest friends turn against him and desert Him at His hour of need, and yet still chose to die so that we can have hope. Christ led the way through death. No longer does death need to be a scary thing. And no matter what life throws at us, we can know that we will face eternity pain free and in the presence of God.

But that does not mean that we can sit back and do nothing. Jesus told a story of 10 bridesmaids. 5 had prepared and had enough oil for their lamps even when the groom was late. The other five did not prepare and ended up not making it back in time to get to the wedding banquet. They were locked out.

We need to prepare. We need to be ready. Advent is coming, the season of preparation but it never hurts to get a head start!

I heard a story about a little boy who went into a church one Sunday morning to get out of the cold. He had been trying to sell newspapers, but not a single customer had passed by. He entered the church, hoping to pass an hour unnoticed on the back row. The preacher delivered a powerful sermon about Jesus and his love for us. At the end of the service, they took an offering.

The ushers went from row to row until, finally, one came near to the little newspaper boy. He stopped right in front of the little boy and held out the offering plate. The boy stared at the offering plate, and after a long pause, he asked the usher to place the offering plate on the floor. Then the little boy did something very unusual. He stepped into the offering plate -- first one foot and then the other. He slowly looked up with tears streaming down his cheeks and said, "Mister, I don't have any money; I haven't sold a single newspaper today, but if Jesus did all that preacher said he did just for me, I will gladly give my life to Him."

That little boy was ready to face whatever came his way. Men and women going off to war prepare as well. Death stares them in the face.

Are we ready? Is there something we need do to get right with God? We are not going off to war, thank God, but death is still in our future. In the words of Jesus, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

The poppies still bloom and the larks still sing. The graves may disappear but we will not forget because war is part of the world we live in. We can hate it. We can do our best to end it. But at this time, war is part of our lives. So we must go on. We must continue to send our loved ones off to fight. And they will continue to give their all.

And we must remember. We must remember why they freely go. We must remember why they fight. We must remember that we are blessed to live in Canada where we can walk down the streets and not face the fear of being attacked. We can sleep at night safe in the knowledge that there are not bombs flying overhead. We are free to choose our government and express our views. We live in a fantastic country and we are blessed.

And we owe this to those who go to serve. We owe this to those whose lives were cut short. We owe this to those who did return but whose lives will never be the same. We owe this to those who wait at home for loved ones to return never sure if the knock at the door will come and to those for whom it did come.

Whether we stay and wait or go and fight, we serve this wonderful country. And we are blessed. We are blessed to have those who will go and by those who support those who go. We are blessed to live in a country that does not have a war on its home soil.

So thank you God. Thank you for all who give their all to serve this country and others. Thank you for allowing us to live in Canada. Thank you for the birds that sing and remind us that we do always have hope. Thank you God for allowing us to gather and remember those who gave all they had for us.

Wake up Proper 28 year a

November 19 2017

In a corner of my living room, there is a big leather reclining chair. As I crawl into it, I sink down into the softness of it. I put the foot rest up and wrap a blanket around me as the cat jumps up and settles into my lap and the dog squeezes in beside me. I sip on some smooth Baileys and relax into the peace and quiet.

Or if I am really stressed and/or cold, I slip into a hot bath in the oversized soaker tub and let the cares and concerns wash away.

Then I surround myself in flannel pyjamas and snuggle under the thick blankets as the cats and dog take up their places beside my legs. Warmth and love envelopes me as I drift into a peaceful sleep.

And then the phone rings and I am instantly awake. I rub the sleep from my eyes as I listen to the operator from the hospital tell me about a crisis occurring at the hospital and asks if I can come in.

I hang up the phone, already picking out clothes to wear as I pray for the one I am called to see as well as for their family. I may not know them but God does and I am called to be His body as I race to the hospital to bring God’s peace and healing, in whatever form it takes.

As Christians, we are often all too eager to settle into the comfy chair, hot bath or warm bed. Paul knows that as he writes to his parishioners in Thessalonica. We are comfortable in our knowledge that we are God’s children, that our future is secure. We know where we are going when we die and we find peace in that knowledge. We know that when our time is up, it can come like a thief in the night completely unannounced, but even still we do not worry because we have been woken up to the knowledge that Jesus is Lord. We know he was born, he died and he will come again and we look forward to it. We do not worry about that so we become complacent and rest on our faith that God has saved us.

But Paul is reminding us that we are children of the day, we are to keep awake. It was not enough to awaken to the knowledge of Christ but we must continue to wake up. Just like we cannot wake up one day and decide that we will not sleep anymore because we have done that, we need to continue to wake up each and every day. We need to lean in towards our maker and strain to hear what He is telling us. We need to put on our breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. We are not to rest in the big comfy chair, but ready ourselves for battle. This is not a battle of destruction, however, but one of building up and offering peace, hope and love just as Paul encourages us to encourage each other and build each other up.

Are we asleep in our Christian walk? Are we too comfy and cozy resting in our salvation? Our future is secure but we are to wake up not only to conversion but also discipleship. We continually need to be re-awakened through repentance, transformation and renewal. The disciples slept in the garden of Gethsemane instead of watching and waiting with Christ. We too can fall into that stupor and need to be awoken. We here in the west are surrounded by privilege and can so quickly forget the needs in the world. It is so easy to close the door and shut the world out and there certainly are times we need to do just that.

But are we doing it too much? Are we ignoring the fact that we are the body of Christ Himself and that we need to keep awake? The world needs to wake up to Christ and as Christians it is our responsibility to participate in that awakening. There will be time to rest when Christ has come again but for now we need to stay vigilant. We need to increase the light in our own lives and we need to think of new ways to reach out to those who are in the dark.

Ask any parishioner who has helped at the community dinner, or participated in services at the Nursing homes, it is through outreach that we are ourselves brought closer to the light. How is this parish doing at outreach? Our mission is to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Are we relaxing in our comfy chair with the light of our past accomplishments growing dimmer each day or are we pressing forward, reaching out to the lost who do not know Christ and drawing them in to God’s light? Are we staying awake or are we waking up?

Awakening can come in many forms and there are many ways to be the body of Christ. It may be that we need to strengthen our own faith before we can reach out to others. It may be that we are best able to help by helping others do the hands on helping. Only God knows how we can best be of use so let’s pray about it. Ask God today what we can do to wake up and help.

We have been entrusted with the master’s coins. We have a beautiful building. We have the finances to keep it going. We have parishioners in the pews every week. But are we burying that wealth, keeping it safe until the master’s return or are we using it to reach out to the world and make disciples? Are we doubling the master’s wealth by sharing it or do others even know we are Christians?

Maybe St. Marys doesn’t have anyone who is poor, or hungry or lonely or who doesn’t know Christ. Maybe the mission field here in St. Marys is non-existent. I have only been here almost two months, so I can not say for sure. But even if that were true, I know there are people needing to hear about God in the world. I know that there is work to do. How do I know? Christ has not come again.

So let’s look at our self declared Mission statement:

Our mission is to increasingly become a community that is: Warm, vibrant and welcoming, sharing Christ's love in an ever-changing world, with the community and beyond.

The first part is very cozy but the second is very missional. It calls us to action in the community and beyond.

Looking at a bigger picture, I looked at the weekly Diocese of Huron announcements. I discovered many announcements of bazaars and fundraisers. I discovered many about music concerts. Right at the very bottom, I found one message that could be considered outreach. St John the Evangelist in Leamington is having a free Christmas Dinner on Christmas day for those who are alone. They will also deliver a Christmas dinner to shut-ins.

That was it. In the whole diocesan announcements. Nothing much to show action in the world.

So, I looked nationally. Right away, I saw a picture of an indigenous woman and the title, “A time to heal.” Reaching out to the disadvantaged. I scrolled lower and saw a notice about National Housing Day. I clicked on the lick and found a call to reflection. Not quite the call to action I hoped for but a step in the right direction.

So, I clicked on the report for the Council of General Synod. Surely, I would find some examples of mission and outreach here. I went to a section Key Messages/Word to the Church. Here is what I found.

Planning and Agenda Team co-chair Peter Wall invited council members to suggest 10 words or phrases that described what CoGS did over the course of its meeting.

Key messages members identified were as follows:

1. Thoughtful

2. Enlightening

3. We continued down The Road to Warm Springs

4. Learning to listen

5. We heard both sides of the marriage canon debate

6. Courageous conversations

7. Holy worship

8. Holy manners

9. Heard a lot of thankfulness

10. Remembered the victims of war and prayed for peace

11. Careful stewardship of resources

12. Heard and learned a lot about mission

Do you hear any calls to action? I do not. Is this the issue with our church both locally and nationally that is causing the lack of growth?

Using a very common and maybe often over used phrase, what would Jesus do? Would Jesus encourage contemplation in a comfy chair or action? Let’s get out of that comfy reclining chair our spirits may be in and wake up to new possibilities. God is reaching out to us, just waiting for us to reach back. Who knows how many people we can bring into our church, but more importantly into God’s light, if we just get a little uncomfortable? Let’s put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation and get out there! As St. Paul advises, wake up!

Reign of Christ

November 26 2017

The past few weeks, we have been looking at what God expects from us as His children. Today we look at Christ as our King. The problem lies in picturing Christ as King. Here in Canada, kings are not something we encounter very often, if at all.

So how do we relate to Jesus as King? In this age of self empowerment, how do we relate to having a ruler, someone who has ultimate authority over us? That concept is hard to grasp.

I know that for some younger people I have spoken to, this is especially a barrier to belief in God and Christ. We have raised a generation of people who have such strong self esteem that they can not submit to anyone. They can see others as equal but not as superiors. This is causing changes in the work environment as well as in churches. Those of us raised in previous generations have a hard time understanding what we consider a lack of respect for elders and those in authority.

Looking back over the course of history, we can easily see a degrading of the lines between those of authority and those of lower standing. In centuries past, people knew their class and social status. They knew who was in authority and who was beneath them. People knew where they stood and could understand the concept of a ruler or king.

In many ways, this current blurring of the lines is a wonderful thing. We are all equal in the sight of God. But have we gone so far that it is now impossible for some to imagine a higher power? If all are equal, how can there be a God? Is it too difficult to imagine a God who created all and who reigns above us? And what can we do about it?

Part of the issue with people accepting authority is a lack of respect for those who society gives it to. Too often we hear of those with power abusing it. We hear of politicians who lie and cheat for self gain. Royalty are distant and only seem to be figure heads who take money. People get ahead in business by stepping on others. Parents treat their children as equals and let them raise themselves. Even clergy have been known to abuse the power bestowed on them by abusing those in their care or becoming rich at the expense of the weak.

But the good news in all of this is that God IS still in control. God knows what He is doing. To us it is hard to comprehend. But we can trust God. We can do our part to show that authority is not something of bygone eras. We can teach our children that it is not wrong to respect those in authority and when given positions of authority, we can behave such that we deserve that respect. We can be role models and encourage our children to have role models. And we can talk about our role models and those we accept as authorities.

The importance of having this respect becomes clear as we encounter Christ as King sorting His flock into sheep and goats, with the sheep being rewarded and the goats being punished. Some will say: Our Jesus does would not do that. Our Jesus would not punish people. He would not reject some of his flock and send them to hell. He is the good shepherd.

Yes, Jesus is the good Shepherd. All good shepherds keep their sheep in line. All good shepherds punish the wolves who try to steal sheep. All good shepherds ensure that everyone of the flock are well fed, not just a few. Every good shepherd takes care of the whole flock, not just a few favourites.

Christ is also King, a king who makes sure all follow the laws and does not tolerate evil.

Jesus Himself said “"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

God so loved us that He sent His Son to die in our place. Such radical love demands a response. And our response must be to also love so radically. We must feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, invite in the stranger, look after the sick and visit the prisoners.

But therein lies the issue. How many of us know someone who is starving to death? Or doesn’t have access to clean water? And almost everyone in St. Marys knows everyone else so there are very few strangers to invite in. OHIP covers the fees for the sick and there aren’t any prisons in town.

We are distanced from the severe cares of the world. So how do we do what Jesus wants? Must we sell all our belongings and move to another country where the people’s needs are glaring? Maybe, but that would be a very special calling for only a few. Most of us are called to work where we are with what we have.

Is there something you can do? What interests you? Can you use it to help another? Only you know what you can do, you and of course God. Each of us are blessed with gifts from God that we are intended to use for the good of God and God’s people. Spend some time dedicated to discerning what you are called to do and then do it! Very few are using their full potential. We can give more of our time, talents or treasures.

Have we looked around carefully to see where Jesus is?

And then finding him - have we loved him and cared for him?

What have we done for the biker neighbour who moved in next door. Is he a stranger? Is he Jesus? Or is he only trouble? a man who brings down property values in the region?

What have we done for the widow on the farm two concessions over - the one who rarely gets out because she has very little money because she cannot collect a decent pension since she never drew a salary and paid into the plan while she milked with her husband morning and night?

Is she Jesus? Or is she only the poor old thing that is doing OK because her relatives look after her?

And what about the teenager from up the road who is facing a few months in jail because of drug offenses? Is he Jesus? Or is he simply a kid who has gone wrong, a no good who needs to learn a lesson before he destroys himself and his family?

And what about the young woman, the single mother who is hanging around Tim Hortons at night with her baby. Is she Jesus? Or is she the girl who should have known better? The one who got herself into trouble and who still hangs around with bad company?

What about the drunk who lives a few houses over? Or the divorced man who cannot seem to keep control of his children?

Are they Jesus - or are they simply people who have made their beds and now should lie in them?

Or what about the kids at school who dress in old jeans and have strange haircuts and who are dirty, the ones who seem to be uninterested in the work the teacher sets them? The ones we suspect do not eat enough?

Are they Jesus? Or are they ones whose parents ought to be looking after them better?

My friends - I like to think that no one wants to be a goat, I like to think that we all want to do the right thing, but do we try hard enough to do so? Or do we allow our judgements about other people to blind us to the fact that Jesus is here in our towns right now, that he is here, and that he is in need?

Lord, open our eyes to the needs around us. Help us to serve you.

"Find God" Advent 2

December 10 2017

A few weeks ago, I shared with you about my big comfy chair. I told you about how I relax in its comfortable softness with the dog cuddled beside me and at least one of the cats on top of me. Little did we realize how much that comfortable rest was going to be craved!

It started with a phone call, just like I had predicted. Gloria had passed away. The wheels were set in motion. Lists were made, and food was purchased. Funeral bulletins were started. Meetings with the family were had. Regularly scheduled meetings of pastoral care and Deanery council took place. Home visits continued. The church decorations went up. And in amongst this all, we had a beautiful Common Praise and Chocolate evening attending by many even from the community! The funeral took place, and all went beautifully.

No sooner was it finished though than the tables were rearranged and preparation for the Bazaar and Tea and Scones went into full gear. Tables were beautifully decorated, scones were made, and tea and coffee went on. You welcomed all who came to the bazaar and tea, with a special welcome for Canon Rob and Brock.

That was not even finished before I received the call that Pat had passed away. But first, we had a new service to make happen, the Hanging of the Greens. It was new and different and stretched our comfort zone.

I then met with Pat’s family and the roles were assigned, and the wheels went into motion for another funeral and reception.

And life continued around all our hustle. And almost un-noticed, we snuck into Advent, the season of preparation. And today, our readings begin with, “Comfort, O comfort my people.” (Pause.)

“Comfort, O comfort my people.” A call to crawl into that comfy chair and sip on some Baileys. Ahhhhh. And also, my prayer for my people. You have worked so hard these past few weeks and it hasn’t gone unnoticed nor unappreciated.

This truly is a loving congregation. You stepped up and helped out. You made sure even the little details that brought comfort to the families were taken care of, right down to the butterflies and sign reserving Pat and Ken’s favourite pew.

We may not have slowed long enough to realize Advent was upon us, but we certainly were in preparation mode! We responded to that cry in the desert: "prepare the way of the LORD”.

But wait, were we preparing for the Lord or for funerals and events? Sure, the service preparation was for God but the bazaar and tea? How was that preparing the way of the Lord?

Preparing the way is about making paths straight and every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

True, it is all about making the way to God accessible. Making it easier for all people to come to God.

We have done that and are doing that my beloved. We made it possible for Gloria and Pat’s family and friends to come together, celebrate their lives and break bread together. They didn’t have to worry about cleaning the building, making the bulletins, decorating the church nor the hall, preparing food and drinks or cleaning up afterwards. We made sure tissues were available and shoulders to cry on. All of the other little details were taken care of, so the family could just be comforted by friends and listen to God’s promises in peace.

And do not think that the Common Praise and Chocolate and the Bazaar and tea and scones do not fall under the category of preparing the way for the Lord!

At Common Praise and Chocolate, strangers were warmly welcomed, and we prepared for the season by learning new hymns and practicing old ones. We got to know our neighbours over Hot Chocolate and sweets.

At the bazaar, we shared our talents with neighbours and allowed them to benefit from our labours. We chatted with them and learned little things about them while we told about our products. And they experienced God’s love in action.

Of course, God’s love was also overflowing in our lower hall as delicious scones of many different kinds were lovingly offered up with hot coffee and tea in real cups on pretty tables. Conversations flowed, and laughter could be heard from afar. Even those who were challenged getting down the stairs were lovingly helped by strong men!

So, as we melt into our comfy chairs or drop onto our beds exhausted, we can take a minute and think about the many ways we have prepared the way for the Lord. And we can thank God that we are able to do it! This parish probably has one of the oldest average ages of any in the diocese, due in part to the many who are over 90 years old! And yet, we are active. We can accomplish two funerals, two major events and a special Sunday service while still doing all that we normally do. The Holy Spirit is very evident here.

This Sunday is the Sunday of Peace in our Advent schedule. This is the time to relax and find again our peace. Relax into God’s arms and allow God to minister to you during this service.

Then take that peace out to the world and spread it around. In this world of cell phones and fast food and fast travel, let’s spread peace. Slow down and feel a snowflake land on your nose and wonder in its beauty. Stop and listen to your loved ones, really listen and hear the message behind the words. Do that thing you have been putting off, but which brings you such joy and peace. Do something for someone else that brings them peace.

And most importantly, take time with God. Stop to listen for God’s voice. It may be in the Scriptures or in the sound of the birds. It may be found in the words you write in a journal or they may come to you as you sip on a hot drink. There are many ways to take time with God but they all begin with slowing down. Find peace. Find God.

"Rejoice" Advent 3

December 17 2017

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians was one of those letters that arrives at just the right time and says just the right things. Thessalonica was one of the first Christian communities and this is the first letter in the New Testament ever written. The community has been expecting Jesus to return at any second of any day, but they are beginning to lose hope. Some of them are dying and they fully believed that Christ would return before any of them passed away. They are surrounded by other religions. Most of their friends and business associates are not Christian. They are losing hope.

And then they get this letter from their founder, Paul. He begins by reminding them of how God has chosen them specifically, to be His children. He reminds them of how they turned away from the idols towards the true and living God. He reminds them of his own behavior while he was among them and how deeply he loves them. Paul acknowledges that it has not been easy and that he constantly holds them up in prayer. He goes on to say that although he, himself, cannot come to be with them, he sent Timothy who brings back the good news that they are continuing in the faith. He encourages them to continue to improve and to be a role model for others.

Only after all of this encouragement does Paul tackle the difficult issue of them losing hope in Christ’s imminent return. After building them up, he reminds them that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, that it will come in God’s time. Even if they do pass away before Christ’s return, which of course all of them do, even then, they will still rise in Christ.

Their responsibility right now is to be good Christians. They are to respect those who labour among them, be at peace among themselves. They are to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak and be patient with all of them. They are reminded not to repay evil with evil, always seeking to do good to one another and all.

And then, they are to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, hold fast to what is good and abstain from every form of evil. Do this because God is faithful.

Wise words for a people losing hope. Wise words for us who are surrounded by false idols and lack of faith. Wise words for us who find ourselves struggling to believe in a world that is getting ever further from Christianity.

This letter of Paul’s is not just for the people of long ago in Thessalonica. Allow it to reach out to us as well. Feel the love God is sending to us. Embrace the hope that all will be well.

It is also about rejoicing. Paul tells us to rejoice always and this Sunday is Gaudete Sunday, or rejoice Sunday. It is the reason I am wearing the rose-coloured vestments today.

Here in the middle of Advent, a time of preparation and endurance, we are given a reprieve. We are told to take time out to rejoice. Even though all around us is telling us that we are not happy enough, do not have enough stuff, are crazy to be Christians, we are to rejoice. As a matter of fact, Paul advices to rejoice always, not just today.

And that is not always easy. The people of Thessalonica were being ostracised for their faith. Paul himself, before his conversion, was killing Christians. It was a dangerous time to be a Christian.

We, here in Canada, do not at the moment fear for our lives because we are Christian. But it is still not always easy to rejoice. When money is tight and we cannot get the things we need, it can be hard to rejoice. When loved ones get sick or we ourselves get sick, it can be hard to rejoice. When loved ones die, it can be hard to rejoice. When we see all of the empty pews, it can be hard to rejoice. When the bills to keep the church open are higher than the offerings on the collection plate, it can be hard to rejoice.

When you are a very young girl and an angel appears and tells you that you are going to have a child, it can be hard to rejoice. When your fiancé hears that you are pregnant and not with his child, it can be hard to rejoice.

And yet, Mary almost immediately begins rejoicing when she hears the news. She responds by rejoicing, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”.

Notice that it is Mary’s spirit that rejoiced. In her humanity, she would not be able to rejoice. She was a single girl, pregnant, in a world that could stone her to death for being an unwed mother. But because of her faith, because she trusted fully and completely in God, her Savior, her soul was able to rejoice.

In Thessalonica, when Christians were being persecuted and killed for their faith, people were told to rejoice.

Are we crazy, we Christians? Rejoicing when the world says we should weep and wail.

Well, Mary was able to trust God and because of that she gave birth to our God and savior. The Thessalonians trusted God and they became a role model for future believers.

God’s ways are not our ways. We do not know the mind of God. We do not know what the future holds. But we do know that when we trust in God, all things are possible. We do know that Jesus promised we will be with Him and live forever in a place where pain and sadness do not exist. Through the trials and tribulations that this life brings, through the good times and the bad, God is steadfast and true. Jesus is with us. The future will be amazing. In that, we can rejoice.

So, no matter what the world throws at you, no matter what comes your way, remember Mary and the Thessalonians and most of all, remember the promises of Jesus, and rejoice. And maybe send a letter to someone you love, like Paul did to the Thessalonians. Who knows how it might help them to be able to rejoice.

"Do You Want a Blessing?" Advent 4

December 17 2017

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He has looked with favour on the lowliness of His servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”

Depending on the version of the Bible, Mary is described as “lowly,” “meek,” “humble,” or “humbly poor.” The Hebrews use one word – “anawim.” It means those who are marginalized and excluded from society, those who are oppressed and downtrodden because of their poverty.

Mary is one of the marginalized. One of the poor. A great king would be expected to come from a great mother, not one who is poor, downtrodden and oppressed.

But God does not see things the way we see things, does God? God does not look at the outside gifts: the beauty, the economic wealth, the social status. God looks at the heart, the soul of a person. And Mary’s soul reflected and magnified the Lord. What God gave Mary, she took and gave back in abundance.

Here was a very young woman, younger than our current society would see as a capable adult, who is chosen by God to be the Mother of God. Wow. And she is described as lowly or anawim.

She does not ask, “what is in it for me?” She doesn’t discuss pay or benefits. She says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

We hear her Son using that same Hebrew word, anawim later in the sermon on the mount. Jesus will state that blessed are the anawim: blessed are the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed. Is Jesus thinking of His mother when he says these words? Is He thinking of the woman who is blessed above all women?

What does this blessing given to this poor woman look like? She becomes a pregnant virgin putting her in a position where society can shun her even further, where her fiancé can shun her, and her family stone her. As we know, her family choses to accept her, however, at full term pregnancy, she is required to walk over one hundred miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem where she gives birth in a stable. Soon after, she, Joseph and the new baby are forced to flee to Egypt, leaving behind any family and comfort they may have found, as they hear of all the young boys being killed by the king who fears Jesus and is attempting to kill him.

Life does not get a whole lot better during the rest of the life of Jesus, either. Actually, it gets much worse as Mary, this young mother, is forced to see her son arrested, tortured and brutally killed.

And this is a blessing? As I bless you at the end of this service, is this the kind of blessing you would like?

Merriam Webster dictionary defines blessing as: “approval that allows or helps you to do something, help and approval from God or something that helps you or brings happiness.”

Most of us would think of a blessing as something that helps us, that brings us good things and happiness as we heard in that definition from the dictionary.

But God’s definition is different. We are blessed by God when God gives us what we need in order to do God’s will and to further the coming of the Kingdom of God.

There is a big difference there. I didn’t hear anything about getting rich or happy. It is different because God sees the big picture. God has a goal that is beyond our knowledge or even our imagination. God is moving towards the salvation of ALL people and toward the creation of a new heaven and earth. God’s goal is the end of all pain and hardship. God’s goal is for all to come to know Him and to experience His overwhelming love.

So when we say yes to God’s blessing, God is not offering easy times or wealth or power. God is offering a role in the kingdom of God. God’s blessing equips us to aid in the creation of the New World.

Mary, that woman who was marginalized and excluded from society, who was oppressed and downtrodden because of her poverty, is blessed among women. She did not get wealth or power or status. She is famous because she said yes to God’s blessing, she gave of herself, at risk of hardship and even death, so that God’s will could come to pass.

How ready are we to receive blessings knowing now what a blessing truly is? None of us will be asked to give what Mary gave. But God may ask us to repent of a particular sin we have been trying to hang on to or hide. Or God may ask us to change a bad habit. Or God may ask us to give more of our time, treasure or talents in ways that further the advance of God’s kingdom. All of the things God blesses us with make us into better people. But, like Mary, they may take us to places we never thought we would go. They may stretch us and change us. They will make us kinder, more loving, better role models, and give us more peace.

God is ready to bless each of us abundantly. Are you willing to say yes? Are you ready? Open your heart to God’s blessing and see where God will take you. One thing is for sure, it will be an adventure that will bring you closer to God. So today as you receive the blessing at the end of the service, truly open yourself to God and follow in Mary’s footsteps, say Yes to God.

"Take a look in the Manger" Christmas

December 17 2017

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger”. The birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the very reason we are here today, celebrating Christmas, all stated in a few short words. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger”. Can you guess that this was written by a man, a doctor no less. A very clinical report. Just the facts.

But any woman who has ever given birth, or anyone who has been there when a woman gives birth, knows it is not that straight forward. Actually, we can relate from the very moment Mary finds out she is pregnant. Our response was either like Mary’s experience of a gift straight from God or it is like her saying, “How can this be?”

And then in our final months of pregnancy, every move is like a journey across the country as we get big and uncomfortable. Finally, the day arrives and we come to the time of the birth. And no matter who we have around us, we are alone as we focus on getting the baby out of our body. And trust me, we can relate to Jesus being born in a barn because it is not a glamorous occasion by any stretch of the imagination!

But the moment the baby is born, all of that is forgotten and the angels sing and a bright light shines on the world’s most amazing baby. People drop in with gifts and tell us what a perfect baby we have. They gaze at the beautiful new baby and adore him.

Then, for the next few years, we may as well be in a foreign country like the Holy Family, because it is all new and our primary goal is protecting this baby. Then things begin to go back to some kind of normality and we begin to get comfortable. But even that will not last because soon the child declares his independence, just as Jesus did when he stayed behind at the temple. They hit their preteens or teens and suddenly they are not so dependent on their parents. They go out and do things on their own and do not want to be “mothered”. And the first time this happens, it can come as a shock to the unsuspecting parents who have been in charge of every aspect of the child’s life until now. But our kids, like Jesus, come back to us and the journey continues.

And then the time comes when they truly go out on their own and begin their life’s work. For Jesus, this happened when he was 30 and his mother had to push him along by coercing him into changing the water into wine at the wedding. Most of us hope and pray that our children leave the nest before this! But it happens and they change the world in their own way.

Yes, any parent can relate to the story of Jesus and Mary. But anyone who is a Christian can also find their path drawn out in the life of Christ. At some point in time, we come to the realisation that maybe God is real. It can be a Holy Revelation moment or a “How can this be?” moment but there will be a moment. The idea will grow and take root and then one day it will be born and we will see that it is real. It may not be pretty or glamorous or it may be like a great light appears and angels sing. We each have our own experience of realizing we are the body of Christ.

Then we must nurture our faith. We must feed the belief and protect it and grow into our new body. It may mean we have to turn away from some things that are part of our life just like Mary and Joseph had to turn away from their homeland for a time. But after a time, we return to a new form of normality and life is steady as our faith grows. During this time, we need to surround ourselves with fellow believers who can answer the questions as they arise and guide us on our journey.

A time may come when we will think our faith is fully grown but something happens to test it. We try to go it alone and we come to the realisation that we still need guidance, support and love. More learning and growing needs to happen. We need to continue to be surrounded by those who can teach us and nurture us for a while longer. We need to realize that we are the body of Christ but that body functions best when joined by others.

Then, one day, we will be able to start sharing our faith with others and helping them to come to know God. We might need a little push out of the nest but if we are taking our journey seriously, we will get to this point. Others, like John the Baptist, will prepare the way for us, but ultimately, some day we will step out on our own. For a very few, this will mean entering onto the path of ordained ministry. For most, it is as simple as telling someone who does not believe about why we do believe.

And then the other person has two choices. They can listen and come to believe, or they can crucify that belief and continue on their own. But that is their choice and not the one who shares their faith. All we can do is try. We may get teased or ridiculed or even shunned but we may also experience the joy of seeing another get to the knowledge of Jesus as Saviour.

One thing to remember is no matter where you are on your journey today, take heart and know that it is a journey. Sometimes we get side tracked and sometimes we come to a beautiful oasis but each step of our journey, there are others journeying with us who can offer comfort and guidance and love.

It all begins when we look into that wooden manger and see that beautiful baby and realise that He is the one who died on that wooden cross and rose again to give us new life for ever more. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are God’s beloved, we are redeemed, we are the body of Christ.

Later, as you come up for communion, I invite you as you come, to take time to look in to that manger and remember. And as you gaze at Jesus, also see yourself, the body of Christ. Then when I hand you the sacred bread, really hear it as I declare you to be the Body of Christ.

A Drop in The Ocean

January 7 2018

Have you ever had one of those days where you wonder if what you are doing is really making any difference? I was walking the dog the other day, talking to God as I always do, sharing my thought and feelings and pray requests. As I looked at all I had to pray for, all the people going through difficulties, I asked God that very question, “am I making any difference? It seems like what I do is like a drop of water in the ocean.” Before I could even finish my sentence, the response came as clear as day: “Yes, it is a drop in the ocean Jenny. But you are not alone. Each of those drops are what make up the ocean.

Very humbling and yet empowering. I had the joy of experiencing an ocean when I lived out east. The mighty oceans are made up of tiny drops of water yet they cover 70% of the surface of the earth. They can be destructive as the east coast experienced this week. But they are also very beautiful and are home to wonderous life forms.

Our body weight is made up of about sixty percent water. Our health and survival are determined in many ways by water and hydration. Science and experience has shown us that a person can survive without food for about three torturous weeks. But humans can only survive approximately three days without water. We need it for life.

So, it was a very appropriate image for how I was feeling and God’s response. The difference most of us make in the world is just a drop in the ocean.

But it is still very important. Each time we reach out to our brother or sister, each time we help out in the church, each time we pray for another, each time we send money to a child in a far off country to help them crawl out of poverty, each time we recycle and protect the world, each time we gather with fellow Christians and break bread, each time we persist in resisting evil and repent when do sin, each time we share the Good News, each time we strive for justice...beginning to sound familiar? Those are the promises we make when we come to be baptised. We will have the opportunity to make them again later in the service.

When we come forward and are presented to be baptised, whether we are a child, and someone promises for us, or an adult and we promise ourselves, these are the promises, the actions when we carry them out, which make us Christians. These are the drops in the ocean that will change the world.

And why do we do it? Why do we submit to being baptised? We see something of value. We see others behaving in ways that we want to emulate. We feel the love of God through other Christians who are living up to their own baptismal covenant. We want to share that too.

But also, we are baptised because Jesus was baptised before us. Jesus submitted to being submerged in the muddy water. Jesus came out of the water and was declared beloved by God Himself. We hear the words of Isaiah 64 come to life: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down. God takes on our human form and declares that this is His son, His Beloved, God in human form.

And we are called to do the same. We are called to submit to God through the act of baptism during which we die to our old life and are reborn as a child of God, God’s beloved. We are called to be part of the family, the community of Christians, the parade of saints existing across time and space. We want to make a difference even if it seems like a drop in the ocean.

Bishop Sue, who I had the privilege of being a priest for in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, recently shared this poem written by Walter Brueggemann.

At the Baptism of Jesus

We celebrate that splashing moment at the Jordan,

less muddy than the river is now.

John the Baptist, the voice of demand and challenge,

and Jesus submitting to him.

John recognizes him before the rest of us do.

He called him, “Lamb of God,

who takes away the sin of the world.”

And then he plunged him into the waters of the river.

He is the lamb who suffers and saves;

he loves the world;

he addressed the skewed, distorted

way of the world;

he comes up out of the water and makes new.

We become aware, out of his baptism, of a new world,

a world of grace and goodness,

a world of freedom and opportunity,

a world of justice and mercy and forgiveness,

all from that moment of water… and the dove and the name and the power.

And we remember our own baptism

when we were named and claimed

and called to newness.

In our moment of water, like his,

our world began again;

we are grafted to God’s new governance;

we are summoned into new obedience;

we are rooted in fresh goodness and forgiveness.

We hear the splash of water and pause,

and begin again…

not burdened by what is old,

not bewitched by what has failed,

not cowed by what threatens us.

Now is our time for newness and hope

and love and forgiveness, and we,

after him, re-enter your newness yet again.

from Walter Brueggemann, “Prayers for a Privileged People”

Yesterday was the final day of the Christmas season, Epiphany. Let me also share this call to action.

The Work of Christmas By Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among people,

To make music in the heart.

Go, be that important drop in the ocean. And one day you too will hear our amazing God say, “you are my child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Our line in the Sand

January 21 2018

Have you ever noticed what people who are not Christians perceive Christians to be? It cannot be clearer than my experience with a man I met in Mexico. We were sitting at the same table enjoying a meal when he asked what I do. The change in his demeanor, even the way he was sitting, was immediate. He began explaining why he didn’t currently go to church. As soon as he was done eating, he went back to the beach and met up with another couple we both knew. The first words out of his mouth were: “Did you know she is a priest!” And then he said the words I hear so often. “I hope I didn’t swear in front of her.”

God forbid he swore in front of a priest. Have you ever noticed that some people have a very narrow idea of what a Christian is? Even Christians can try to put God into a tiny box walled in by their own views of what God should be and what God commands.

That is why it is so refreshing to read about Jonah. Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent.

“No way God. Not me. I hate those sinners.”

Yes Jonah.

So, Jonah begins to obey but then chickens out and heads in the opposite direction.

“Wrong way Jonah. Let’s give you some time to think. Let’s have a great big fish swallow you. You can sit in its belly for a few days. That should help you see it my way.”

So Jonah sits in the dark, surrounded by the stuff in the fish’s belly. And he starts to pray. I bet the first prayers were something like this: “Come on God. You cannot really expect me to go THERE! They are awful people. They will never repent. I cannot see how you would ever forgive them. I sure can’t.”

But after three days stewing in that sludge, Jonah reluctantly agrees. Funny how that works when you really don’t have a choice.

So the fish vomits him up onto dry land. Almost like the fish can’t wait to get him out!

Dragging his feet, he makes the journey into the land of his enemies. He tells them what God wants them to hear. And much to his dismay, they listen, believe and repent. Just listen to what happens next:

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’

Jonah was angry because God forgave his enemies. So, Jonah sits in the heat and sun and sulks. But God in His mercy, causes a bush to immediately grow to shelter Jonah. Then it gets a worm and dies. And Jonah is angry that the bush is now gone. He actually says: “It is better for me to die than live”.

But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ Then the LORD said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’

So Jonah first says no to God and God puts him into the belly of a fish. Then Jonah reluctantly does what God wants and then puts himself into a tiny box. We too have times when we are in a tiny box. It can be when we put limitations on the mercy and grace of God. It can be when we put limits on our views of the world. It can be when God wants us to see something we are wrong about.

Yes, Jonah knew that God’s mercy was big enough to include Jonah’s sworn enemies. And Jonah did not like that. He sure didn’t want to be a part of it because it was much more comfortable to hate his enemies than to forgive them.

I would guess that most if not all of us here have not lived through having a country conquer ours. But that does not always stop us from hating another race. Or another religion. Or someone who is different from us in some way. We as humans can have a fear of the unknown and so deal with it through hate. Some of us are better at loving all of God’s children than others but each of us has a line in the sand. Each of us has our Nineveh. For some it is anyone who differs in any way like Hitler who tried to create a pure race. For others, it may be they do pretty well but draw the line at what they perceive as evil.

A friend of mine was home when the police came, raided their home and found child pornography on her husband’s computer. This is an area that many of us draw the line at. We would kick him out and never look back. But I also heard about an 18 year old boy who was sent a naked picture of an underage girl. He sent it to a techy friend to see if the friend could figure out who sent it originally. The 18 year old has been arrested and charged with distributing child pornography.

Does that fall into the same category as the husband? Who should be sentenced harder? Can we imagine forgiving them? What would it take and who would it be harder to forgive? What would you do or say if God called you to preach to pedophiles? Would you run the opposite direction?

Each of us has that line in the sand. Actually, we may have many lines in the sand if we are totally honest. Any time we judge the actions and beliefs of others, we are drawing a line. When we say Canadians are polite people, we are judging. When we say Evangelicals are all too pushy, we are judging and drawing a line. When we say all Muslims are evil, we are drawing a line.

Closer to home, our spouse may react differently to us. Our children can say things that cross our line in the sand. Someone in church may behave in a way that causes us to be unchristian.

Our lines may have been formed by personal experience or they may be formed out of fear of the unknown. My experience has shown that most lines are results of lack of information and experience. The man in Mexico judged me based on his narrow view of Christianity. Had he taken time to get to know me, he might have changed his understanding of the faith and of clergy.

Many times, I have had people say I do not fit into their image of a priest. That can be bad but more often it is good. I am human. Before I was ordained I was human and that didn’t change after I was ordained. I laugh, I cry, I get angry and I fall short of perfection just like any Christian. Just like any human actually.

Every human is created by God who loves them too. Every one of us falls short and needs to repent. That is why I love the story of Jonah so much. Most examples of Biblical people see them turn to God and go on to live a good life. Saul is changed on the road to Emmaus and becomes Paul who goes on to become one of the very Christians he had been persecuting and killing. Joseph embraces and assists the very brothers who sold him into slavery.

But Jonah is more relatable. He balks at the idea of having to do something he doesn’t like and proceeds to run the other way.

We can make it our mission to constantly uncover our own lines in the sand. Then, we need to do what we can to remove them if they go against the true love God asks us to have for all of his people. We are not to share the belief of others or take part in their activities if they go against the will and teaching of God. We are just called to love our neighbour and help them find the forgiveness God is so ready to offer. Or maybe we are the ones who need to turn to God for forgiveness.

Before we get swallowed by a whale, let’s become the best Christians we can. We will never be perfect during our earthly life, but it is still our goal. Let’s play in the sand and see if we can’t create a better sand box.

Perfect Worship- Transfiguration

February 11 2018

At an interview for a new parish, I was asked what a perfect Church service would look like for me. It surprised me, but it was a wonderful question for a prospective rector. It encompassed my faith, my feelings about the prayer books, my ideas of mission and many other aspects of who I am as not only a priest, but as a Christian.

What does a perfect church service look like to you? We looked at that question at our Vestry meeting. Let’s take another moment and think about it. (pause) What is the purpose of a church service? What must it have? How should it feel? Are you changed by it? Should it always be the same so you know what to expect, or should it challenge or surprise you? Who is welcome to come? How do they know they are welcome?

Jesus invited Peter, James and John to come up the mountain with him and pray. It had been a long stretch of ministering and Peter, James, and John were tired. But they were suddenly fully awake as Jesus’ “face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white” while he was praying. Maybe even more astoundingly, Moses and Elijah, who had long been dead, suddenly appeared and began having a conversation with Jesus about the events which were soon to occur.

Peter, not understanding what was going on but hearing them speak of the exodus, fell back on his religious training and suggested he build a dwelling place for them as they do in the festival of the booths as described in Leviticus 23:42-43.

But then Moses and Elijah disappear into a cloud and a voice proclaims: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"

What an awesome experience to be present for. But it doesn’t stop there, the next day as they come down from their mountaintop experience, they are met by a huge crowd surrounding a man and his child. Jesus is immediately put to work healing the boy.

So, let’s take a look at this pericope. What facets of worship, or a Church Service, do you see in it?

We begin with Jesus inviting his friends to come and pray with him. This sets the example for each of us. We are called to share our worship and prayer time with our friends. There are times when Jesus does go off alone to pray, just as we do, but this time he invites his friends.

We are not told what Jesus prays for, just that it changed him. This is the true goal every time we pray. As we come into the presence of God, we bring our requests and it is us who changes through our having asked for help. God knows our requests before we ask but our asking is important because it brings us into God’s presence and allows us to be changed and become more like God. Our faces may not change, nor will our clothes but we will glow with the love of God.

While Jesus is praying, Moses and Elijah come on the scene. They represent the prophets and the law and compare to us reading the scriptures each week. We are reminded that Jesus does not negate the Old Testament but acknowledges it and fulfills it. The conversation reveals what is to come, just as our scriptures do.

As we share in the fellowship of our church, listening to God’s Word through scripture and sermon, we may be inclined to want to stay with those we worship just as Peter did. We may feel that is all we are called to do, just stay and bask in the joy and wonder.

But then, we are reminded of the Baptism of Jesus when a cloud surrounds the disciples and Christ and God proclaims, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" Instead of going under water, the four are surrounded in water (the cloud) and just as God did at the Baptism, God reaffirms the identity of Jesus. We recite the creed each week, so we are reminded of our own baptism and that we are children of God.

After these life changing, faith affirming events, Jesus and the three disciples then leave the mountain and go back into the world. As much as Peter, and probably the others, wanted to stay in that mountaintop experience, they were led back down into the everyday.

We too are called to return to our everyday lives after church, equipped with renewed faith and strength from our worship together. And we have work to do, just as Jesus did. We too are called to heal the ills of the world. We too are called to recognise the poor, the hungry, the tortured. Our service does not end as we walk out those doors. It is then that the true reason we come together is revealed. We take Christ and bring him to out into the world to heal the hurting world. We may feed the hungry or comfort the bereaved. We may teach about God or show God in all we do. And when we do, all will be amazed.

We come together as friends, we pray and worship, we are changed, we hear the stories of what brought us to today, we hear the word of God, we are reminded of the promises we made at Baptism, we are fed through bread and wine to change us ever more into being more like Christ, and then we are sent out to minister to our friends and neighbours.

And that, my friends, is my description of a perfect worship service.

Trust Me _ Lent 2

February 25 2018

Trust me. Two little words and yet they carry so very much weight. And they are entirely circumstantial.

I received an email the other day that informed me I had been selected to receive a huge amount of money from the estate of a woman whose father had died leaving her a huge amount of money. Her uncles had stolen most of it but she found 3.5 million in a secret account. Her father had stipulated in the will that she would need to find a foreign trustee to help. I would get 35% of the money just by helping her. She would get 60% and the remaining 5% would go to “respectable organizations such as charity and the destitute homes around us”. She even enclosed a news article about her parent’s tragic plane crash. She goes on to say, “If you are really sure of your trustworthiness, accountability and confidentiality on this transaction, respond back to me and remove the thought of cheating or disappointing me from your mind when the money is transferred into your account”. She questions MY trustworthiness.

Well, am I dancing with joy at this news? Nope. I just deleted it like the other 16 I received today that are very similar. I tell you, if each email along those lines came true, I would be the richest woman in the world! I will admit, the first time I ever received one of these emails, my heart fluttered for a minute. But I quickly realized I needed to apply that the old adage, “If something seems too good to be true it probably is.”

That same day I received an email from a man I had met a few years ago. He was going through a rough time and needed someone to talk to. Should I apply the same level of trust to this email as I did to the previous one? Definitely not. I had met this person. He was in PEI and there was no huge amount of money involved. He did not even ask for any banking details! Now, do I trust him completely? No. I trust him to be who he says he is but there is still an element of caution.

Another email that day asked if I wanted to meet my daughter and grandson for coffee. This email invoked an altogether different level of trust. I had known my daughter all of her life. She is bone of my bone and blood of my blood. There is no one on this earth I trust more than I trust her. But do I trust her completely? I would have to say no. She is human just as I am. We are not perfect. We do things that are not perfect.

Trust is a very hard thing to pin down. As we can see it changes based on circumstances and who is involved. In our first reading today, God makes a covenant with Abram. He promises Abram that he will be the ancestor of many nations. God even declares that a son will be born to Sarai, Abram’s wife. And from that day forward, they will be known as Abraham and Sarah.

Our reading ends too soon, as far as I am concerned. Listen to the next verse. “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, ‘Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’”

Here we have one of the holiest men that have ever walked this earth. Abraham had a very close relationship with God. They had conversations many times. But what is Abraham’s response to God’s promise? He laughs. We can’t blame him really. What one hundred year old man married to a ninety year old woman would not laugh if told they would conceive and bear a son. We also hear that Sarah’s response is to laugh.

But this was God making the promise. This was God asking Abraham to trust Him. Surely Abraham trust’s God? Well, Abraham’s next response reveals a lack of complete trust as he declares that it will be nice to have Ishmael, his child by his wife’s maid, be the blessed child to father a nation. It is almost as if Abraham thinks that he knows better than God what God truly means. God does not get mad at this. He just clarifies that no, it will be Sarah who bears the son to establish the everlasting covenant but God will bless Ishmael too. What a loving response.

Now in our reading from the letter to the Romans, we hear about Abraham, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Abraham did have a moment of distrust when he put forward that maybe God actually meant Ishmael, but after that, yes Abraham did fully trust that God would do as He had promised. He had faith. And what is faith but a form of trust.

Just as Abraham was one of the most trustworthy men in the Old Testament, Peter is probably the most trustworthy disciple of Jesus. And yet, we hear that he took Jesus aside and rebuked Him when Jesus declared to “them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Even Peter has trust issues. Peter has left all he owned behind and followed Jesus. Peter had heard Jesus teach. He had seen Jesus perform miracles. But Peter wanted a saviour who would raise up an army and defeat their oppressors. He did not want to hear about Jesus dying and he obviously did not comprehend the idea of Jesus rising again after death. Peter trusted Jesus to a point, but we see the line that Jesus had crossed.

Jesus is not as calm in His response to Peter as God was to Abraham. Jesus rebukes Peter and calls Him Satan for putting his human needs above divine ones. Jesus goes on to teach us that we must take up His cross to follow Him. We must trust in God and place our own needs and very lives behind the needs of God. For it is then that we become true believers, trusting fully in God. It is through faith in God, through fully trusting in God, that we save our lives.

These three scriptures help us to see the progression leading to fully trusting in God. We are human. We will never be perfect but the stronger our trust in God, the stronger our faith will be and the more like Christ we will be.

So how do we increase our trust, our faith? We need to stop, to stop what we are doing and spend time with God. It is very easy to spend all our time on other things like work or hobbies or whatever and not make time to develop our relationship with God. The more we pray, the more we open ourselves up to listening for and seeing God, the more we learn from others and scripture, the more we get to know who God is. Just like human relationships, the more time we take to get to know God, the higher the level of trust that will develop. Let’s make getting to know God better a priority for this Lent. Trust me. It will be worth it

High Head and the most High: Lent 3

March 4th 2018

Streaks of clouds soften the brilliant sapphire sky as if too much blue would be overwhelming. But then the cobalt blue slash of the sea breaks across and leads the eye down to the time worn rocks that form the shore. As I carefully follow the foot trampled path, I stop to appreciate the view. Chip, tail high, runs ahead, ready to chase whatever crosses his path. Cranberries ripen in the warm sun fighting for space with the delicate wild flowers.

The silence is broken as Chip scares a bird into flight and it voices its objection. It flies to the nearby island which is barely more that a few very large boulders where it joins its friends. I spot a seal gathering some rays as it rests on a sun warmed part of the rock.

Chip returns, bouncing as if to say, “Isn’t this glorious! Come on. Let’s see what is over that next hill. Come on!”

I venture forward, careful not to step off the trail yet also avoiding falling on the uneven and sometimes precarious rocks. I arrive at the top of the hill and absorb the vast expanse of ocean, stretching out beyond the horizon to my left and the rugged landscape to my right. A warm wind ruffles my hair and I stop to watch a lobster boat just off shore as the fishermen haul in the traps, their hope for a good catch almost palpable.

I stretch out my arms and lift my face as praise escapes from my mouth. God, you are amazing. I am filled with incredible wonder at your awesomeness. The beauty is overwhelming. The diversity of your wildlife fills me with delight. The delicate birds. The ponderous seals. The slithering snake. The ever-working bee. The bitter cranberry and the sweet-smelling flower. Chip’s exuberant gallop across the rugged terrain. Even my muscles which make their presence known as I travel the trails. How did you think of so many forms of creation God? All the little details that go into each and every creature. The variations of pebbles and rocks and boulders strewn across Your land.

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

God’s awesomeness speaks to us in so many ways, nature being just one of them. But what a wonderful way! We look at the stars and see the vastness of God’s creation. We look through a microscope and see marvellous detail. We see a foal struggle to stand and we giggle with joy. A storm erupts with thunder and lightning and we feel God’s power. A butterfly floats on a breeze and we feel God’s gentleness.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

Scripture also reveals the wonder of God. Our heart swells with the love God extends to even the least of His creation. We marvel at the beauty of the written word and how it transforms into the Living Word by touching our souls millennium after it was written. Our minds stare in awe as the seas are parted or the face of Jesus is transformed. We fall to our knees as we peek into the manger and behold God in human flesh. We lean forward to gaze into the empty tomb and are moved to tears. We step forward, trying to catch one last glimpse of Jesus as He ascends to heaven.

Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Through the stories in scripture, we see how other humans have solved problems we may encounter and how God has stood by to guide and assist. God’s patience and forgiveness is revealed as well as His anger. We are taught about what is right and wrong and why it is so in God’s eyes. We are given examples to emulate and others to avoid. We learn that we do not have to be perfect and in fact that we can not be. We relate to Jonah as he runs the other way.

We laugh with Abram as God tells him he is to father a child and yet come to understand that nothing is impossible with God. We grieve with Moses’ mother as she gives baby Moses up to another to raise, yet see the amazing outcome. We learn of physical love through the Songs of Solomon and see the sin of following our physical desires as David kills Bathsheba’s husband, so that he may have Bathsheba for his own. We see an example of trust as Mary says yes to God and bears the Son of God. We learn to put aside the things of the world and follow Jesus through the examples of the disciples. We relate to Peter as he denies Jesus to save himself and learn about love as Jesus forgives even this. God’s unlimited bounty is revealed to us as the disciples pull up the full to bursting nets.

But above all else, throughout the stories and lessons, the beauty and magnitude, the trust and the fear, one thing rises to the top: God loves us more than we can possibly imagine. God’s creation speaks of this love. God laws teach us of this love. God’s lessons show us God’s love. God’s son reveals this love.

God loves us so much, God came to walk among us and show us clearly what love looks like. God goes beyond revealing Godself in nature. God goes beyond revealing Godself in scripture. God came among us and dwelt. God, You are amazing.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Like it or Not: Lent 4

March 11th 2018

Forty years. Forty years of travelling around, never calling any place home. Forty years of living out of a suitcase. Old people have died. Babies have been born, grown up and had children of their own. Whole generations are alive who have never even lived in a home. Whole generations have no comprehension of what slavery is like, of what it means to have every aspect of your life controlled by another. They listen to memories recalled by their elders and just think of them as stories unrelated to their own lives. They hear of the miracles God performed just to allow them to be free and they consider them fables. All they know is the desert and hardship and constant travelling.

Even those who lived through the exodus have faded memories and can only see the current situation. They become impatient. They get tired of the food and the lack of water. And so they whine, and they complain. They lash out at Moses and they lash out at God.

They remind me of my children, especially on a long car trip. Are we there YET? I want a treat. My brother touched me. Mom, make her stop looking at me. I want to go home. I don’t want to go on this stupid trip. Turn the car around. I would rather play with my friends at home.

But it is not just children who behave like this. Even as adults, we get impatient and lash out. Even as adults we get tired of the journey. We grumble. We complain. We lose sight of the destination and get stuck in the moment of discomfort. Like a woman in labour we feel like it will never end.

Times did get very difficult for the Israelites as they journeyed in the desert. They did get very hungry and tired. They had reason to complain. After all, they didn’t even have a choice to go on this journey, it was a decision made by Moses and God. If they had known how long and hard it would be, maybe they would have stayed behind, stayed in a life of slavery. They couldn’t really picture what the end of the journey would be like because it had been so long.

But God knew. Just as parents know that when the car reaches the destination all of the complaining will be forgotten and joy will take its place, God knew. Just like the midwife knows that the moment the mother holds her newborn child, the pain of the labour will be forgotten, God knew.

There are times in life when we lose sight of the destination and we lash out at God. We may turn our backs on God and say that we do not love him anyway. We may feel we don’t even like God. We may even say we hate God.

But God knows our destination. God knows that when we get there, all the pain and sadness will be forgotten. Like it or not, God loves us anyway. Even when we act like unruly children and say, “I hate you!” God continues to love us.

There are things that happen in our lives that we have no choice about. We feel out of control and we do not like that feeling. We may have taken every precaution but still we get sick. We may have eaten only the healthiest foods even though we longed for French fries, but still we have a heart attack. We may lose a loved one and it doesn’t seem fair. And we lash out at God and blame God for all the bad in our life.

But just as God told the Israelites to gaze upon the snake on the stick in order to be healed, God reminds us to gaze upon Him and we will be healed. You see, like it or not, God loves us and knows our final destination. God sees the whole horizon while we see only a cloud.

There are things God does that we do not have any control over. As a child, I hated being a redhead and wished that God had made a different choice. My sister hated that God made me Caucasian because she wanted an oriental sister. (She had heard that every third child born in the world was Chinese.) But we have no control over these things.

Two thousand years ago, God made a decision to be born as a human child, live a human life and be crucified on a cross for us. We did not have any say in that decision. We did not get a vote. Jesus died for me and I did not even get to decide if that was what I wanted. Part of me hates that I did not get to choose. We are forgiven and have eternal life because God decided to sacrifice His son on a cross and we did not ask for that.

But Jesus died on a cross and our sins are forgiven and we will live for all of eternity without pain or sadness. Why? Why would He do that? Because God so loved the world…that is you and me…. God so loved US that He gave His only Son.

Even when we lash out and say we hate God, God still loves us enough to sacrifice His only Son.

Even when we say that we cannot believe in God because of something happening in our lives, God still loves us enough.

Even when we turn our backs and do things God told us not to, God still loves us enough.

And all God asks is that we love each other. God knows we are not capable of absolute love as God is, but God expects us to do our best. God expects us to care for the weak, to comfort the broken hearted, to do our best to emulate the love He has exhibited not only to the ancient Israelites but also to us today. God loves us today just as much as He loved those wandering around with Moses. God loves us just as much as the twelve disciples and the mother of Jesus.

God loves us enough to love us whether we like it or not. So what do you choose today? Will you behave like a child and be angry at God because of a temporary hardship or will you trust that God can see the bigger picture?

Today is known as Laetare Sunday, the one of two Sunday’s I get to wear a pink chasuble. Laetare comes from the Latin mass and means rejoice. We are reminded that we are to rejoice in all things, even the bad things because all things work for the glory of God. God loves us. In that we can rejoice. So today, no matter how bleak things look, be reminded that the 40 years ended and the Israelites came to the Promised Land. Be reminded that no matter how bad things get, our eternity will be in the presence of God who loves us, like it or not.

Our Easter Gift: Lent 5

March 18th 2018

David is a character in the Bible most of us can recall a story about. David and Goliath is a Sunday school favourite with the little guy conquering the giant. Who doesn’t love that! Even as adults we love to relate to David as one who overcomes huge obstacles.

The story of how David is anointed as God’s choice for king is another story that helps us see the smallest come out on top. Samuel, the prophet, passes over David’s seven older brothers and picks little David as the future king.

The generations after David are all defined as coming from the house of David, included Jesus Himself. David is often held up as an example of a good and God fearing man.

But it is best to remember that even David was human. He too sinned. Today’s psalm is a response to one of those sins.

After an afternoon nap, David wanders out to the roof of his palace. Looking down, he spots a very beautiful woman taking a bath. Abusing his power as king, David sends for this woman, Bathsheba, and (in Biblical terms) he lays with her.

Some time later, Bathsheba sends word to David that she is pregnant. This poses a huge problem because Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband is a soldier who is off to war and can not possibly think it is his child.

David is in a tough spot. He recalls Uriah from battle and, after using the premise of inquiring how the war is going, tries to send Uriah home in hopes that Uriah will sleep with Bathsheba and then she can claim the child is Uriah’s.

Uriah, however, is a well-trained soldier. He has been taught that soldiers do not have sexual relations before battle, so he does not go to his wife.

David’s “solution” failed so he comes up with another. He sends word that Uriah if to be put on the front line and then the rest are to pull back, leaving Uriah alone to be killed. This occurs as planned and Bathsheba is left free to marry David. He takes her as his wife, and she gives birth to their son.

However, Nathan the prophet comes to David and tells him about two men, one very rich and one very poor. The rich man has many flocks of sheep, but the poor man has only one little lamb who is raised as part of the poor man’s family. The rich man has a guest arrive and rather than take one of his own sheep, he kills the poor man’s lamb.

King David is appalled at the rich man’s behaviour and declares he will kill the rich man and repay the poor man four times over. Of course, Nathan reveals that David, with his many wives, is the rich man and Uriah, with only one, is the poor man.

Here is a man who has sinned greatly. He killed an innocent man to try to cover up his own sin but in turn sinned much more. And it is weighing very heavily on his mind, as it should.

When we know right from wrong, and chose to do wrong, it should weigh heavily. Sin is not a common word in current society. But it is something that is part of being a faithful person that needs to be discussed and contemplated.

Sin is what separates us from God. Sin is any action which goes against the commandments to love God and to love our neighbour as our self.

God created each one of us, every one of our neighbours. He loves each one of His creations, each one of our neighbours. When we harm another, we harm God.

It is easy to see the sin when we look at David having Uriah killed. We can probably even see the sin when he takes Bathsheba to his bed.

How about when we take a grape at the grocery store? Or swear at someone who cuts us off in traffic? Or ignore a person who is not like us? Or spend our money on luxuries and do not give to the poor? Or spend more to go out to a movie than we give to our church?

The ways to sin are endless. You may have to really stop to think before you can recognise them as sin though. The grape? What harm does taking just one do? There are many grapes there. But someone had to grow that grape. Someone had to harvest it and get it to the grocery store. The store had to pay for it. You did not pay for it, so you stole it.

How is that a sin against God? Well, is that loving your neighbour? Is that treating the store owner the way you would like to be treated? Can I just take something that is yours?

Once we realise that we have sinned, no matter if it seems like a big sin, or a small one, we are to seek forgiveness from God and if possible, the one we have sinned against.

David is confronted with his sin. He repents and is forgiven. However, as the psalm shows, it is not always that easy. David continues to think about the sin. He continues to feel badly. He asks for mercy. We hear words like: wash me, cleanse me, purge me, hide your face from my sins, blot out my inequities, do not cast me out, restore me and sustain me. These are the words of a repentant heart.

David has been forgiven by God. The problem is, David can not forgive himself. And forgiveness can be the hardest part, both for the one needing forgiveness and the one offering it. God does not have any problem forgiving us, but we can struggle to forgive ourselves or others. But forgiveness is a necessary thing if we want to get closer to God. Listen to the words of Desmond Tutu and his daughter in their book entitled, “The Book of Forgiving”.

“Forgiveness does not relieve someone of responsibility for what they have done. Forgiveness does not erase accountability. It is not about turning a blind eye or even turning the other cheek. It is not about letting someone off the hook or saying it is okay to do something monstrous. Forgiveness is simply about understanding that every one of us is both inherently good and inherently flawed. Within every hopeless situation and every seemingly hopeless person lies the possibility of transformation.” (Desmond Tutu, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World)

So, on this last Sunday before Palm and Passion Sunday and Holy week, if you are holding onto guilt or a lack of forgiveness, perhaps it is time to repent and forgive. Let that be your Easter gift to God and yourself.

Peter or Judas: Palm and Passion Sunday

March 25th 2018

As we listened to and acted out the long passion narrative today, there were no surprises. This story is retold every Passion Sunday as we listen in on the last days of our beloved Jesus. We began with the Palm readings which declare Jesus King and end with the Passion which sees Jesus crucified. Most of us are very familiar with the life of Jesus. He is the focus of this story.

What if we look to the margins of the story. Jesus is the focus but there are several other people there who can help shed light as well on this beautiful, yet horrific event. In the words of Eric D. Barreto, a Professor at Princeton: “these characters are not just pure literary adornment or mere narrative flair. They are not just extras on a movie set meant to decorate the background. Instead, these individuals are purposefully placed to point us to the crucified Christ. Too often neglected, these minor characters may help us see the passion with fresh eyes.”

First, we might highlight a seemingly odd couple found early in this long narrative. Peter, as we know, will go on to become an influential leader in the early church and by history be known as the Rock. In contrast, Judas goes down in history as the ultimate betrayer. And yet Mark parallels their betrayals of Jesus.

Both are members of the twelve.

Both are present at the last supper.

Both know Jesus well.

Both profess to love Jesus.

Both betray Jesus.

At the moment when faith was most severely tested, and the cost of discipleship was highest, both Judas and Peter fail. Peter denies even knowing Christ and Judas sells information about Jesus’ movements, so the church leaders can arrest Him. Both Judas and Peter deeply regret their betrayals of Jesus and yet their lives take wholly separate directions. Peter becomes the leader of the church who leads many to Christ. Peter devotes his whole life to Christ.

Judas also recognises the sin he has committed, and he repents. He tries to fix what he has done but the chief priests deny him forgiveness. Judas takes his own life and appears to go to his death unforgiven, seen for all time as the ultimate betrayer. And yet, Jesus had to die. Judas too played his part.

But others were at work, designing a plan to cause the death of Jesus. Jesus' execution is a conspiracy of authorised cowardice and neglected duty. Caiaphas, the chief priest, and his co-conspirators have predetermined the outcome of the fake trial and now only need the pretense of "evidence." They arrange for false testimony but still cannot find a way to condemn the innocent Jesus. Ultimately, it takes Caiaphas' direct involvement to inflate the already trumped up charges of blasphemy, but the office of the high priest cannot put someone to death.

To achieve his ends, Caiaphas turns to Pilate. Pilate is faced with an innocent man and a Chief Priest on a mission. He attempts to calm an increasingly unruly crowd but eventually gives in to their passions rather than justice. When Pilate washes his hands, he does nothing to minimize his involvement. “Because they wanted it” was no excuse. Pilate failed to be the man he was called to be. He failed to honour justice or consider the greater good. The voice of a few outweighed the many and Pilate goes down in history as the man who sentenced Christ to death.

Neither Barabbas nor Simon could have predicted the role they would play in this story. A rebel, Barabbas could not have anticipated a pardon after committing crimes against the government. His death was certain, or at least he would assume it was. An immigrant or traveller from northern Africa, Simon could not have anticipated being ordered to help in the crucifixion of a presumed criminal. We know little about these two characters. We know even less about how their involvement in the passion affected their lives. What we do know is whether as an innocent bystander or a convicted criminal or somewhere in between, the path of God's Son may cross ours at the most unexpected moments.

At the end of His life, Jesus dies alongside two convicted lawbreakers who mock Jesus with their last gasps of breath. From Chief Priest to convicted criminal, Jesus faces a virtually unanimous public shaming, a veritable consensus around Jesus' guilt. As He takes his last breath, Jesus is reminded of the reason He needed to die. Sin filled the very air he breathed.

Yet, even as he breathes His last breath, Jesus is still changing lives. The Centurion who witnesses Jesus’ torture and crucifixion and who hears the crowd’s condemnation, suddenly sees Jesus for who he truly is and believes. Even as Jesus losses His life, truth rises to the surface and a life is saved.

Peter and Judas, Caiaphas and Pilate, Barabbas and Simon, the two criminals and the Centurion: each of them characters in the life of Jesus. And yet each of them, a reminder of the choices we too make as we journey through our lives. Every day we encounter situations that involve choices. As Christians, how do we decide which choice to make? We can choose to further the kingdom of God like Peter or work against it like Pilate and Caiaphas and Judas. We can go along with the vocal ones in the crowd and condemn the innocent or we can speak of the truth of the innocent as Pilate tried. We can pick up the cross like Simon or run away from our sins like Barabbas. We can look into the face of Jesus and deny Him like the thieves and the religious leaders or allow Jesus to change our lives like the Centurion.

God is loving and merciful. God can bring about good from any situation. But God has granted us free will. We have the option to choose to further the kingdom of God or get in its way. Choose well God’s beloved in all that you do and seek forgiveness when you fail, remembering you are not alone in your stumbling but are in the company of some of the best. God can still use you to advance the kingdom whether you are like Peter or even Judas. We all have a part to play. But wouldn’t it be better to be remembered as a Peter?

It is all in how you look at it

April 22nd 2018

Yesterday, a group of about 25 people came into our church as part of an historical tour put on by the St Marys Museum. It was so interesting to hear the presentation and to see people look at the church as a building. They were interested in how it was built and why things were placed where they were.

Every Sunday, we come into this church building. It is beautiful and yet it is so easy to take it for granted. This building, however, tells so much about who we are and what we do.

Take a moment and look around at our building. (pause)

If you looked straight ahead, the first thing you might notice is our beautiful altar. As the tour was reminded, our eyes are lead to the altar up front. Maybe you didn’t see beyond the back of the person in front of you or perhaps it was the stunning stained glass that first caught your eye. Then your eyes might wander to the organ pipes or the choir. The pulpit also holds a prominent position as does the lovely eagle lectern.

Now imagine this is our first time walking into this beautiful building. We enter by one of the three doors. If it is a service time, one of the greeters smiles at us, welcomes us and hands us a bulletin. Where would our eyes go next? If it was our first time at a service, we would begin looking for a place to sit. As we walk up the aisle, we would notice some people talking to each other and some praying. Some might welcome us. Someone might even invite us to sit with them.

If it was not a service time, we would come in the door and probably be awed by the beautiful stained glass. But our eyes would quickly travel to the front of the sanctuary to the altar perhaps gazing up to the light fixtures and ceiling.

Each of these features of our church building are vital. Each speaks to what we believe and who we are. The altar is front and centre for a reason. The altar is where we celebrate the sacrament of the Eucharist, central to our faith being one of our two sacraments. The monetary offering is physically given and brought forward to the altar just like the live offerings of the past to be blessed. We listen as I recount the stories of our faithful predecessors as well as the retelling of Jesus’ last supper. You see me bless and raise the bread and wine and we physically come forward and take the consecrated bread and wine into our hands and body. In the Altar, we are reminded of Revelation 19: 6-8:

6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder-peals, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; 8 to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

On Maundy Thursday, it is so powerful to see the altar stripped and laid bare, a visual reminder of Christ being stripped and laid bare at His death. We can feel the absence of the sacrament of Communion and we feel the loss and separation.

The stained-glass windows speak to us of the life of Jesus in beautiful ways. The light shines through and spills onto us and the altar. The beauty that God has created through Jesus, as well as through all of creation, floods our eyes. We again get a glimpse of being in the presence of God as heard in Revelation 4: 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.

The organ, choir, piano, flute and cellos offer up the beauty of God’s creation for our ears. They give us a taste of what it must sound like in the presence of God.

We, ourselves, are part of the visual as we are the body of Christ here on earth. A newcomer sees Christ in our welcome. We too see Christ in the flesh when we look at each other.

Even the shape of the building teaches us about God. The windows and the roof are peeked to point to God. If you turn the sanctuary upside down, it becomes a boat reminding us to be fishers of people as well as reminding us the many times boats are central in the scriptures.

But one very important thing has been omitted. Our eyes may not even see it unless it is brought to our attention. Off in the corner at the right is our beautiful Carrara marble Baptismal Font. It is carved from a single piece of Marble and was generously donated by Mrs. Rumsey Bryan, nee Margaret Hutton.

We rarely use it, so its relevance can become lost. Shoved into that corner, it is far from a focal point. History reveals it began at the back of the church, close to the entrance. There, every person who entered would walk by the Font on their way into the church. So how did it come to be moved from a focal point to where it is? No one I have spoken to can recall it being moved. It just was.

So, let’s look at the theology, my specialty! As Anglicans, we have two sacraments. Allow me to quote from our prayer book, The Book of Common Prayer, in the Catechesis:

How many Sacraments has Christ ordained in his Church?

Answer. Christ has ordained two Sacraments, as generally necessary to salvation; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord, which is the Holy Communion.

Catechist. What do you mean by this word Sacrament?

Answer. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given to us by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive this grace, and a pledge to assure us thereof.

Catechist. How many parts are there in a Sacrament?

Answer. Two; the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.

Catechist. What is the outward visible sign in Baptism?

Answer. Water; in which the person is baptized In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Catechist. What is the inward and spiritual grace in Baptism?

Answer. A death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness; for being by nature born into man’s sinful state, we are hereby made the children of grace by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We are made the body of Christ through Baptism, the children of Grace. Baptism is the step needed in order to be welcomed to the second Sacrament, Holy Communion. The placement of the Font is a visible sign of our transition from outside the church to being full members. At the entrance, it reminds us of our Baptismal promises and the honour of being children of God. As we enter, we are reminded of our baptism as we come into the sanctuary and as we leave we are reminded as the Baptised to take this gift out into the world.

Now does the Font need to be that beautiful marble creation? No. As I showed two weeks ago, a simple bowl and water is all that is needed (especially when I am too short to safely hold a baby to be baptised). A few years ago, the Archdeacons and Bishops met at a restaurant. The waitress interrupted on several occasions to ask about Christianity. Her final question was “Would you please Baptise me”. She brought a bowl of water from the kitchen and was Baptised by a larger group of clergy than most royalty have at their baptisms.

But we do have a beautiful Font and we do have plenty of space at the entrance of the building, as soon as it can be arranged, our beautiful Font will reclaim its rightful spot at the entrance of the building, becoming again the outward and visible sign it is meant to be along with our altar, windows, crosses, building and us.

Lama Spit

April 29nd 2018

These past few weeks have been a trying time for Canadians. A team of young hockey players and their support staff were involved in a horrific traffic accident.

On April 6, 2018 a coach bus collided with a semi-trailer truck near Armley, Saskatchewan, Canada, killing 16 people and injuring 13. The bus was carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos, an ice hockey team that plays in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League , as well as coaches and others associated with the team. The bus was travelling to a playoff game in Nipawin, Saskatchewan when the crash occurred. (Wikipedia)

Humboldt Saskatchewan is a place few of us would even have heard of. Now it is on the lips and hearts of all of us. Sixteen people were killed, 10 injured and the lives of countless others changed. We have sent donations and cards. Across North America, we have placed hockey sticks by our doors as a tribute.

We are still trying to process the feelings of great loss in Humboldt when another unthinkable event happened: a Toronto street became the scene of mass murder. A lone man drove a rental van through crowds up on sidewalks, killing ten innocent people and injuring 13 others. The dead range in age from in their 20s to in their 80s. Both men and women died. Bystanders compared the results to a war zone. As Canadians, we have always felt and been known as peaceful people. This event threatened us and our feeling of safety all across Canada.

It is so hard to hear about these awful things taking place so close to home. Our first response may be to punish these drivers to the full extent of the law.

And yet, we hear Jesus say: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This morning’s reading reminds us: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

It is easy to feel love for the innocent people involved in these accidents. It is easy to cry for the young men killed before they even really lived. It is easy to express love for the families whose lives will never be the same because of injury. It is easy to love the first responders and the others who stepped in to help.

But what about the family of the driver of the van? Can we love them? Can we express sadness that they too suffered loss? How would we feel if that were our child?

And what about the drivers themselves? Does the love Jesus talks about extend to them? We can understand that the truck driver may not be at fault and the accident was truly an accident. This poor man will have to live with the memory.

But what about the driver of the van? Can we love him? Surely we are not called to love this man who purposefully killed and injured so many?

If we truly believe the Bible, if we truly believe the words we hold sacred, then we must acknowledge that God created this man too. God loves him too. And we too are to love him as God first loved us. God sent His own Son to die for times like this. This man has sinned greatly. But we too have sinned. And we are forgiven. It is not our job to judge. It is our job to love. We do not have to like. There is a difference. We do not have to approve but we do have to love.

When our children make mistakes, we are quick to forgive if we are living as God expects us. Well, God is our true Father, and He too is quick to forgive no matter what the sin. To God, a sin is a sin. We all fall short and need forgiveness.

It is a tough thing to live as Jesus taught us. Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart. But by not forgiving those who have sinned against us, it is us who are suffering, not the sinner. If we continue to hate the van driver, if we continue to hate any person who wronged us, it probably will never affect the wrong doer. The killer will not be aware that a person in St Marys hates them just as they will probably never know that a person in St Marys loves them.

But we will know. Our souls will know, and our God will know. Hatred can eat us up inside and cause us to get ill. Hatred turns us into people we do not like. But love changes us into the people we strive to be, and that God wants us to be.

Like I said earlier, we may never meet the Toronto van driver. But we will have people sin against us. We will have loved ones do things that hurt us. And we too will sin. We too will do things that hurt others. We, God willing, will never cause the loss of life that we hear about in Toronto or Saskatchewan but we will say and do things that hurt someone. But through the love of God, we can be forgiven, by our friends, our family and by God.

And through the love of God we can learn to forgive others no matter what they do to us or our loved ones. A few years ago, I was honoured to preside over the funeral for a man named Randell. One of the many stories about him that touched my heart was this:

Randell was with some friends visiting a farm that had lamas. Randell loved animals. He was feeding them some treats but ran out. One of the lamas who had not gotten a treat spit right in Randall’s face. Randell was shocked but went and got some more treats and gave some to the lama who had spit in his face. That is love. To have lama spit running down your face and still love enough to get more treats and feed the one who spit, that is love.

Even though we all spit in God’s face when we sin, God still loves us and still gives us treats. That is how we are to love each other. Even, and maybe especially, those who sin against us. Thank you, Randell, for that lesson in such simple terms. May we all learn it so well that when people spit in our face and it is running we can still love them as God loves us.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Easter 6 2018 May 6th

We are friends of Jesus. That is not a one-way statement. We are friends with Jesus and He is our friend.

What a powerful statement.

We are friends. Not subjects. Not servants. Friends

That has great meaning to us. Just think of what a gift a true friend is to us. A true friend accepts us for who we are. They know us. During my childhood, there was a poem posted in my home that went like this:

A friend is not the sort to whom you ever need explain. He’s one who knows you inside out and loves you just the same.

Jesus certainly knows us inside out! He created us!

So, what does friendship with Jesus look like? If we have a look at Jesus’ friends while He was in human flesh, we get some hints.

Jesus did not pick His disciples based on whether He approved of everything about them. He knew Judas would betray Him and yet treated Judas as one of His closest friends. Peter denied Jesus. All the others forsake Jesus in His hour of most loneliness when He needed them to stay awake with Him as He awaited arrest. They were far from perfect and yet Jesus called them friends.

That gives us great comfort. We do not have to be perfect. As a matter of fact, Jesus knows we will stumble. And the best part is, Jesus is there, just waiting for us to tell Him all about it and offer us forgiveness.

What else can we learn from the friendships Jesus had? Martha and Mary were close friends of Jesus, so gender is not an issue. Jesus’s friends included tax collectors like Zacchaeus, prostitutes like Mary, people from other faiths like the woman at the well, people possessed by evil spirits or whose bodies are not whole or are diseased, doubters like Thomas, the rich, the poor, the old and the young.

Friendship with Jesus overcomes all boundaries. Anyone can be a friend of Jesus because Jesus is a friend of everyone.

I have a very good friend named Sheri. Actually, I have two. They are very different from each other. One, I have known since I was twenty years old. She and her husband were friends of Roy, my husband. Seri was my matron of honour at my wedding. We had sons born days apart. We raised our children together. We help each other through times of loss and celebrate at times of joy. We talk or have lunch together almost every Friday at noon and have for many years. There were times though when we lost contact. I moved away from Sarnia and it became more difficult to share lunch and phone calls were expensive. But when we did make time, even if years had passed, we still shared a wonderful bond. We are still best friends.

The other Sheri I met in Halifax. At first, we were far from friends. I had been told mean things about her. She did not want to like me because she had opened herself to another priest and been hurt. But then her father became very ill and was near death. Sheri was far away in Newfoundland and needed a priest for her Dad. She overcame her fear and called me to go see her father. I did and as the illness progressed over the next few days and Sheri returned to her dying father, we got to know more about each other.

Then a year ago fall, I fell and broke my ankle and who offered to nurse me back to health? None other than Sheri. Through the necessary boundary break downs of needing help to do everyday activities like making meals, doing laundry, walking, getting bathed and dressed, Sheri and I got to know each other very well.

And you know what, I liked her! She was nothing like the person others had portrayed her as and that I had believed her to be. Now she is one of my two best friends named Sheri!

Jesus is like that. Many think poorly of Jesus and religion. But that is because they do not know enough about them. So many out there think Jesus is all about judgement and punishment. Some know nothing about God nor Jesus at all believe it or not. And they are people who live right here in St Marys!

What a shame. They are missing out on so much aren’t they! Just think about how blessed we are to call Jesus our friend. Through that, we are forgiven of any wrong doing. We can go to Jesus in prayer or through a priest, tell Jesus what we have done and be forgiven immediately. Some of our earthly friends can forgive us of things we have done against them. Others can not get beyond the pain or betrayal. But Jesus is able.

Jesus will listen at any time of day or night. Jesus is there at our darkest hour to offer comfort through the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

Jesus looks beyond what others see as faults. We may not fit the image of a beautiful person to some in the world, but we are beautiful to God. We cannot earn more of His love with good behavior. Even as we do not forfeit His love when we fail. He loves us as we are and not as we should be. We don't change so that He will love us. He loves us so we can change.

Jesus also understands what we are going through. Jesus has “been there, done that”. Jesus lived as one of us. He was hungry, tired, thirsty. He had friends die. He was betrayed. He was misunderstood. He faced suffering and death. Just as we can relate to Jesus and the experiences Jesus had, Jesus can relate to us and our experiences. Jesus frequently reminds us to not be afraid.

Jesus is a friend who loves us as we are and helps us get better. Jesus is a friend who understands and who forgives. Jesus is a friend who is always there with us and for us. Jesus is better than any human best friend could ever be.

And what does Jesus ask for in return? Love God and love others. Share that great friendship with others so they too can know the true and marvelous friendship that can be found in Jesus. Jesus has more than enough love to go around and wants to share it with everyone on earth but needs us to tell others about it and show they how to get it. He just wants us to say, “Come and see”. Jesus will do the rest.

What a friend we have in Jesus!

Guest Preacher Canon Rob Towler

Pentecost May 20 2018

It is good to be here .. Its coming home … And as I prepared my remarks for today – a couple of stories kept coming to mind … and so I’m going to share them with you:

But first – this …. They were a family that hadn't travelled much. They hadn't gone more than two hours away from their home ... and so they NEVER had to stay anywhere but in their own house.

And so when the time came that they had to travel FAR away (and sleep overnight in a hotel) they were filled with both FEAR and EXCITEMENT!!

Everything was so new to them ... and so full of mystery ..... But what REALLY caught the mother's attention was that THING at the end of the hall. Two large metal doors which appeared to open and close as if by magic. The woman and her young daughter watched an old man

struggle to enter through the open doors. When he was inside he painfully reached out to touch something. The doors closed and some lights blinked on and off. Sometime later the lights blinked

again, and after a few moments the doors opened and out stepped a handsome young man who walked BRISKLY PAST them. The daughter looked at her mother (in amazement) and asked what had happened. The mother responded...I have no idea - but quick – Get Your Father … we have to put him in that thing as soon as possible !!

I’ll come back to that in a minute … but I really wanted to tell you two other stories I found myself recalling this week:

1 : MY Confirmation (back in 1970’s)

- Couldn’t have communion until confirmation

- 8-9 months of classes and training and testing (yup, we had a written exam and an oral test)

- The bishop came, and our class was presented (30 of us, dressed in our best and most uncomfortable clothes … girls with a white veil, boys with velour bow ties – because that was the trend in those days).

- Then communion … my best friend Keith and I walked to the altar together, knelt side by side (families on either side of us) … and received our first ever communion. We returned to the front row, and after a few minutes we looked at each other – the taste of the cardboard flavoured wafer still strong in our mouth. And Keith said “I cant believe we waited 8 months for that”.

2 - Imelda Lambertini (born 1322)

- Only child of an Italian Count and his wife and all she ever wanted was to receive communion. But in those days you couldn’t until age 14

- Age 9 convent

- Age 11 on Ascension day she received

- And her 11 year old heart was so filled with joy and love and fulfillment – that she dropped dead on the spot 

Now – in a few minutes, WE will be stepping forward to receive the sacrament … and while I hope you find it more powerful than our confirmation class did … and an inspiration to you and your ministry and the life you live … I pray that you do not have the same reaction as Imelda.

But that’s kind of the way things are .. - Either we build up our expectations to such an unachievable level of satisfaction, that we are

so disappointed (like Keith) - Or it totally overwhelms us (like Imelda)

Now over the years, both Keith and I got past the disappointment of that first communion, and found ourselves deeply moved by how that sacrament fed our souls, and empowered us to live our lives strengthened and supported. It didn’t happen quickly – like I said, over the years. But our society is one that seems to call for immediate results – like the elevator … they want change and they want it NOW!

And we sometimes look at Pentecost in the same way – The Day of Pentecost … often called the Birth Day of the Church. The time when the focus shifted from relying on God, or Jesus, to do all the work … to our being commissioned to take up his ministry and continue it, in his name. And we hear those two great readings:

Ezekiel – the dry bones, and the Spirit breathing new life into them (and immediately they rise and begin to move)

Then the first Pentecost itself – when the Spirit came upon the disciples (and images of a great wind and tongues of fire) – and it stays in our minds. And both of these leave us with the sense that the coming of the Spirit is about immediate transformation .. about transformation and great change happening immediately. But its not .. because the history of the church (some 2,000 years of it) has shown us that while change DOES happen – it doesn’t happen immediately. Pentecost is not about the spirit coming and changing things immediately – but more about the Spirit coming, stirring the waters, empowering us to act, and then (eventually) our response. And we (in this place) know about change … we know that it doesn’t just happen … that it requires lots of prayer and preparation and patience – and that even tho the Spirit is with us in all of that (and has been from the beginning), it still takes time. Time for everything to align – but most importantly time for us to courageously and faithfully take action, and DO what it is we have been called to do.

It’s a lesson we learn that as children:

- The virtue of patience

- That slow and steady wins the race

- And that good things come to those who wait

Pentecost isn’t about the Spirit bringing immediate gratification -- it’s a celebration of the Spirit coming to us -- empowering us -- inspiring us – to fulfill our ministries (in the fullness of time).

*****

In the 1930's a young traveler was exploring the French alps, when he came upon a large stretch of barren land. It was desolate / unwelcoming / ugly. It was the kind of place he wanted to hurry away from. But then suddenly, the young traveler stopped dead in his tracks. In the middle of this vast wasteland he saw a bent over older man. On his back was a sack of acorns...in his hand was a four-foot long iron pipe. He was using the pipe to punch holes in the ground. Then, he would take an acorn from the sack and put it in the hole.

Later the traveler spoke with the old man and discovered that he had planted over 100,000 acorns. He estimated that probably only one-tenth of them would actually grow. The old man's wife and son had died, and this was how he had decided to spend his final years on earth. "i want to do something useful" he said.

****************

Twenty-five years later, the traveler returned to that same desolate spot. What he saw amazed him...he couldn't believe his eyes. The land was covered with a beautiful forest : two miles wide and five miles long. Birds were singing / animals were playing / and the scent of wild flowers filled

the air. The traveler stood there , remembering the ugliness that was once there, and admiring the beauty that was there now ... All because someone cared.

****************

Pentecost is a call to action !! It is a call to us to do our part...to build God's kingdom on earth.

And while we may never see the results of our actions in our lifetime – it doesn’t mean we should stop. But listen to the call, see the greater picture, and plan our response. And take heart -

- We are not alone

- We have each other for support and help.

- And most importantly , the spirit of God is with us inspiring and sustaining (and continues to be with us, now, in 25 years, and forever). Amen.

Isaiah 6 Trinity Sunday year b

27 May 2018 

Every year on the Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate Trinity Sunday. Every three years, the appointed readings for Trinity Sunday are the ones we just heard proclaimed. And almost every year, because it is Trinity Sunday, whoever is preaching will attempt to proclaim a message about who the Trinity is. That is an important message because our God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is central to our faith. It sets us apart from other religions and faith groups.

However, the first reading of the day is truly fascinating and deserves some attention too. So, trusting that we have all heard about the Trinity and those who have not will see me after the service, let’s take a look at the first reading, the one from the prophet Isaiah.

The book of Isaiah is one that is rich in beautiful imagery. In the original Hebrew language, it is poetry. Today’s reading gives us vivid imagery of Isaiah’s vision of God. We first hear:

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.

As a child, God was often portrayed as an old man sitting on a throne. I suppose this is where that came from. However, that God wears a robe, the hem of which fills the temple is a much larger vision than I ever imagined. The temple was a huge structure and if only the hem was needed to fill it, wow.

Next, we are introduced to Seraphs. Seraphs are a class of angels. When angels are commonly visualized, they have human form, are white and have a set of wings. Here we have a different description:

Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

So, six wings! It is only right that two wings cover their faces as no one may look upon God.

And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory."

We join in this when we sing Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. However, I have never witnessed it at the volume Isaiah did.

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

Can you picture the scene? Isaiah was overwhelmed, and I think all of us would be too. God, so large His hem alone fills the temple. Seraphs, unlike anything we have ever witnessed, crying out so loudly the house shakes and smoke fills the room.

I am not sure what I would do or how I would feel but Isaiah immediately feels unworthy. He cries out: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

Isaiah would expect to die after seeing God with his own eyes. The scene alone would be rather terrifying. And Isaiah realises that he is unworthy. He has unclean lips. Of course, that is not referring to his bathing habits. Isaiah is referring to the words he has spoken that are not appropriate for a God-fearing person, let alone one in the presence of God.

All of the times unkind words have slipped out. Lies have been told. Words can condemn. Words can mislead. Words are powerful and too often we forget that. And once spoken, words can not be taken back. Physical wounds heal but words can cause wounds that never heal. Words are powerful enough that God spoke, and the world came into being.

So, what happens to Isaiah when he speaks aloud his failure, when he admits his sin?

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed, and your sin is blotted out."

A live coal from the very altar of God is held to Isaiah’s lips and he is made clean. He is forgiven. Forever I am grateful that we do not have to have live coals held to our lips for our sins to be forgiven. Sometimes, asking forgiveness is very difficult and painful, though it always results in clean lips.

So now Isaiah is forgiven. He is in the very presence of God and God’s Seraphim. Why? Why was Isaiah given this vision?

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"

God had a job for Isaiah to do and Isaiah quickly offers himself. Some of us are quick to offer assistance to any cry of help and some of us have become cautious and do not offer so quickly.

I would like to think we would all respond yes so quickly to a request from God. But listen to what happens beyond todays reading.

And he said, ‘Go and say to this people:

“Keep listening, but do not comprehend;

keep looking, but do not understand.”

Make the mind of this people dull,

and stop their ears,

and shut their eyes,

so that they may not look with their eyes,

and listen with their ears,

and comprehend with their minds,

and turn and be healed.’

So, go and do good works, teach of God and what is to come but the people will not listen. They will not hear. What matters is that you know the truth and that you declare it.

We gather today because we have responded to God’s call. We have said yes. We have had our sins burned away. God now calls us to go and tell others about what we know. They may not listen. They may not hear. They may not understand. But that should not stop us. God is in control and God will look after the rest. We are called only to speak the truth. God help us do just that.

God is Calling 

June 3rd 2018

We are children of God. Because of that, our lives are easy. They are filled with joy and happiness. We see good all around us and we feel great all the time.

NOT! It would be great if once we became Christians our life was perfect but that is not the way it works. Becoming a Christian means we see and believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived, died and rose again. It means we know we are part of the family of God and can take comfort in that and know that God is with us no matter what occurs.

But bad things do still occur. We will still get sick. We will still lose jobs. We will still suffer.

On June 16th 2001, my life was changed forever. My 17-year-old son, Fred, crashed the car and sustained massive head injury and a broken vertebra among other injuries. For those who understand, Fred had a GCS of 4. Anything under 9 is catastrophic. As we sat in the Emergency waiting room, my daughter and I heard those dreaded words from the doctor: Fred may not live.

A child is not meant to die before the parent. I was devastated. I cried out to God in my despair, “Why God? Why my son? Please let him live.”

I bargained. I pleaded. Fred’s basketball team came to the ICU waiting room. They got down on bended knees and prayed. My pastor came to ICU and prayed. My mother and father drove 5 hours to get to us and they prayed. Friends brought food and coffee. Fred’s football coaches came and stood at Fred’s bedside and wept.

Three days passed, and Fred was still in a coma. I had said all I could, I thought, to God. But then I realized I had one last prayer to offer up. It went like this: “My son was yours before he was mine God. For it was you who formed his inward parts; you knit him together in my womb. You love him even more than I do. If you need to take him back, go ahead.”

Just as I finished that difficult prayer, the ICU nurse walked into the waiting room. She said, “You had better come in.” That short hall became long as I dreaded what I would see.

I finally reached Fred’s bedside, ready to say goodbye but God had other plans. Fred opened his eyes and looked at me and my joy was complete.

The road ahead was hard. But I saw Fred work miracles. So many lives were changed. So many had their faith recharged. God used Fred mightily in the four years he lived. We were blessed.

God shone light into my darkest hour. He gave me hope. He made His presence known in a powerful way.

But Fred died later, you might say. Yes, he did. And that too was a very dark and difficult time. But it was made easier through the gift of my knowledge of who is really in charge and who loves me more than I can fathom. As much as I love my son, God loves him more. As much as I cried to see Fred’s broken body, God cried more.

And I was blessed with four years with my son that might not have happened and that helped me get through the time when Fred did go to be with his Saviour. For Fred came to know and love God after the accident in a powerful way and he was able to tell others about his beloved God in ways that changed their lives. The light of God shone from Fred.

We are but clay jars, meant to hold the light of God and to allow it to shine for others. Each one of us is built that way. Each one of us is to allow others to experience God through us. Each one of us is called by God, just like Samuel and the disciples and Paul and Eli.

Now each of our calls will be different. After Fred died, I was called to be a priest. Jeff is called to be a crucifer. Kate is called to be a server. Joan and Vanni and Kathy are called to be wardens. These are important calls but no more important than any others. Some are called to be mothers or fathers. Some are called to be nurses or doctors. Everything and anything we do can be used by God if we allow God to work through us. A nurse washing a patient with love and care shows God’s love and can open a moment of sacred space. Helping a distraught parent cope with a tired child in a grocery store can open a moment of sacred space.

All that God asks is that we be Christ’s apprentices and learn to live for the Father. That is our true calling. We are to love our neighbour, be that neighbour our son, the distraught parent, the patient or the person who lives next door.

You see, when we truly love God, we discover that God truly loves us. God laughs when we laugh and cries when we cry. We desire to learn more about God. We want to be with God. We want to please God. And we want to share that love with others, so they too can experience the true love of God.

It will not give them perfect, happy lives, any more than Jesus’ life was happy and perfect or than our lives are perfect and happy. If that were the case, faith would not be needed because people would see us having perfect lives and become Christians just for that.

So, we are called to share God’s love with others. God's call can come when we least expect it and often to those we least expect. One of our responsibilities as church is to help each other discern God’s call. Just as other people pointed me towards the priesthood, we need to observe those around us in church and see evidence of God’s call on their lives. Young and old, male and female, single and married, shy and social, whoever we are, God has a call for us that is as individual as we are.

So, look for God in your happiness and also your grief. Look for God in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. For God is at work in every aspect of every moment in your life. You can choose to see God or turn the other way. But when you recognise God at work in your life it is a beautiful thing, one that is easy to share with others because you realise in that moment how very much God loves you.

So, take the time and look at those moments, both good and bad, to find the work of God and then tell others about it. “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Thanks be to God.

Things Have Got to Change

June 10th 2018

“Things have got to change. We do not like the way things are being done now so we want a change.” With this week’s election coming to a close, we have heard a great deal about things needing to change. Each political party made frequent announcements how they would affect the change so needed in our province. People were so demanding of change that the outgoing premier, Kathleen Wynne, admitted defeat 5 days before the actual election. And lose, she did. She won her seat in parliament but her party, the Liberals suffered a devastating loss to the Progressive Conservatives and Doug Ford with a majority government.

Why am I bringing up politics today? Politics and religion don’t mix, you might say. Listen in again as the elders of Israel meet with Samuel: Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations."

This tribal society wanted to become a monarchy. Rather than depending on God to rule their lives, the Israelites wanted a king. The only stated rationale for such dramatic social change: they wanted someone to govern them, they wanted to be like the other nations, and they wanted a king to go out before them to fight their battles.

To our modern ears, that sounds reasonable. But Samuel takes offence and so does God. Samuel sees it as a personal attack and in some ways, it was. The people do not feel Samuel’s sons, who are in line to take over, will do a good job.

But God sets Samuel straight. Samuel, as a priest of God, represents God. God clarifies that the people, in wanting a king, are not objecting to Samuel, they are failing to recognize their true King, God. They want a human king, a human politician, in modern terms.

Why would they want that? The same reasons we do. We want more control over who makes decisions for our lives. And we want to have a say in those decisions too. Just like Samuel’s people.

Samuel was advised by God: Now then, listen to their voice; only--you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them." So, Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you.”

Samuel proceeded to warn the people of how much a king will demand from them in time, talent, and treasure and how it will not be a bed of roses.

Perhaps the same could be said to us. Every election we hear about how we need change. Every election we hear wonderful promises made by the polished candidates hoping to win our votes. And every time after election, promises get disregarded or explained away. Hopes for a perfect city, province or country get brought back down to reality and the new government does the best it can with the systems we have, ensuring they themselves get lots of benefits. Just as God warned the Israelites, times will come when we cry out to God in complaint.

But remember, God is a loving God who allows us free choice. Just as the people of Israel chose to have an earthly king, we chose our government. And God allows it. But God is clear that God will allow us to live with our choices too.

Good or bad, God will not interfere with our choice of Doug Ford. Then, like any loving parent, God allows us to succeed or fail based on our own choices.

I have had the joy of having Jorja, Sheri’s daughter, staying with me this past week. She is 16 years old. It has been a while since I had a sixteen-year-old living in my home but come July, Jorja and Sheri and I will all be sharing a home. This past week and their previous visits have given me a foretaste of what is to come. I have previously been involved in raising 5 teenagers: two birth children, two step children, and one nephew. I am not new to the job.

I know that each child will be different and bring different challenges and blessings. This week has reminded me of that.

Jorja is old enough that many of her choices can be left up to her. That can be hard to do, especially for her mother who has never raised a teen ager before.

I am sure that it is difficult for God to allow us to make choices too. God offers guidance, just like a good parent, and like a parent, watches us utilize that guidance or choose to disregard it. And God is there for us no matter what, whether we succeed or fail. God will rejoice with us when our choices work out and cry with us when they do not, just as Sheri and I rejoiced at Jorja’s success at the cheer try-out or would have commiserated with Jorja had she not made the team.

So, if we want change, in our weight, in our job, in our marriage, in the leadership of the country or any other reason, we need to realize what is involved to make that change happen. If we want new leadership for our province, we needed to vote. Sure, the government will be formed whether we voted or not and we accept God as our ultimate ruler. However, since we are not ruled by God alone but also by human leaders, we need to seek God’s guidance and vote accordingly. God asks us to love God and to love our neighbour. Part of loving God is seeking God’s guidance. Part of loving our neighbour, is voting so that our neighbours will benefit, not just us.

Change is part of our lives. Let’s make good choices in all that we do by listening for God’s voice offering advice and then be willing to follow it. What a wonderful world it would be if everyone did that!

Sowing Seeds by Guest Preacher, Sheri Gallivan

June 17th 2018

In today’s Gospel Jesus sets out to TEACH within the telling of two parables. Parables were a simple story told by Jesus to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. These simple stories were of things the people who were listening knew about. Farming and fishing were common activities of the first Century people. And here today in Canada over 2000 years later we continue to have these industries in our country. Most folk know something about the topics which still make them great messengers for sharing God’s word and understanding what it is God wills for us.

The parables we are called to hear again today are the Parable of the Growing Seed and the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

In the Growing seed parable, we are reminded that we humans may scatter seed upon this earth, so as earthly parents we create new human beings and then we or others are left with the challenge to raise them. We are part of that process that helps our young children grow and bloom into adults. The sprouting and growing of each seed is unique and we do not know when we start the planting process, exactly how it will or when it will come to harvest.

The parable of the Mustard Seed reminds us that no matter how much or how little we offer the seed, the seed’s growth is just not dependent on the earthly parents but God, our heavenly Father is the one in real control. In other words, our children have more than our skills to rely on as they mature. Thank God for that.

How should we raise our kids then?

Who is around us that can help guide us?

Who corrects our parenting when we are don’t have it quite right?

Who else is looking out for our children?

Now,(PAUSE) if you have already tuned out of this sermon because you are finished raising your children and / or your grown children have made it clear that they will set the guideposts for your grandchildren or perhaps you don’t have any children, I encourage you to turn your attention to this message again.

Now as parents we may have played a significant role in the creation of our children but so did God. Remember, it was God who created the heaven and the earth, day and night, the first man, the first woman and Jesus Christ so it is with certainty that I proclaim that God can be very integral in the creation and development of our children, (pause) of His children.

God is the Perfect Parent! We are not! Not in old days, not in present days and certainly not in the days of the future. We cannot be Perfect parents. All of us can point out something in our own earthly parents’ skills that we did not think was good and often we make sure that we do not include in our parenting of our children. We too can reflect on our own parenting skills and see they are not perfect. There are tons of writers… psychologists, priests, pastors and parents who claim they have the answers and “the way” to do it perfectly they just lack the insight that as humans we are unable to do “it” right all the time. They do offer skills we can develop and use to help us with our parenting abilities. In addition to these skills and our own reflected evaluation of our experiences growing up we still need God and others to help us.

A few seconds ago, I said that God is the Perfect Parent. I know this because the Bible tells me so:

GOD IS:

Loving… See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

Compassionate… The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 105:8

Giving… 6 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16

Merciful… But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ[a]—by grace you have been saved— Ephesians 2:4-5

Forgiving… If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9

Ever- Present… God is our refuge and strength,

a very present[a] help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

The One Who Makes All Things New… And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

These are the characteristics of a perfect parent. What is our role then in parenting?

Today is Fathers Day. Parenting belongs to mothers and fathers but for today I bring to everyone’s attention this truth:

GOD CALLS ALL CHRISTIAN MEN IN HIS KINGDOM TO BE CHRISTIAN FATHERS. HE COMMANDS AS SUCH THAT MEN ARE SPIRITUAL LEADERS IN OUR HOMES AND IN THE LIVES OF THOSE PEOPLE THEY COME INTO CONTACT WITH, ESPECIALLY HIS CHILDREN

To big of a role for you to fulfill, hogwash. Remember you don’t do this leading of your own power but through the power God gives to you. God knows more than anyone about nurturing children. He should, we are all his children. In Ephesians 6:4 , Paul reminds the fathers in Ephesus of this, “AND, FATHERS, DO NOT PROVOKE YOUR CHILDREN TO ANGER, BUT BRING THEM UP IN THE DISCIPLINE AND INSTRUCTION OF THE LORD”. Through these words God commands Christian Men to emulate his ways. God is the Father that every child needs to grow well. This verse reminds us:

1. That God is patient with us when we need Him to be,

2. That God is firm with us when we need Him to be,

3. That God is forgiving when we need Him to be,

4. And God is encouraging to us when we need to be encouraged.

If God is this to His children and as fathers and Christian men, He calls you to emulate his ways then as fathers, as Christian men you must be all these things to your children, to all of God’s children.

Don’t despair if the child you guide is not getting it right according to you, know the Growing Seed parable talks of our human roles but the Mustard Seed which you may plant in someone’s life to grow into God: that, that is in God’s control and will be awakened and alive and nurtured in His time not ours.

We have free will and our choices determine a great deal to what happens to us in this life. And to some degree we must live with what we inherit. These two things may control our present and own our past, BUT they do not have to own our future. God will control our future if we let Him. As Christian fathers and males you lead by example just as Jesus did. When you see a child; little or big, young or old, broken or well recall who you belong to and to whom they belong to and love accordingly. These parables have taught us over many generations and will continue to teach us with many future generations that it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO WORK WITH THE MOVING OF GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT TO BE PART OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “A GOOD FATHER IS ONE OF THE MOST UNSUNG, UNPRAISED, UNNOTICED, AND YET ONE OF THE MOST VALUABLE ASSETS IN OUR SOCIETY”.

And I agree. Today I remember my dad with a smile and thank God with gratitude for the role he played in my life. He taught me about living life with God, loyalty, honesty, hard work, appropriate self-sacrificing, hospitality, courage, grace, forgiveness, acceptance and so much more in the things Dad did and did not do so that I may live a life joined with God. Other Christian men in my life including my granddad, my Godfather, uncles and “uncles”- you know the elder men in the pews and even the fathers of friends taught me how to live, love and laugh throughout my life. My life was not perfect and nor were any of these men in my life but there was one perfect thing and that was that God was part of my life always. His love was perfect, his presence never left me, and I know love because I know Him. That is the gift my Christian Dad and the Christian men in my life gave to me as I grew from that tiny seed scattered on this earth into the faithful woman I continue with God’s help to strive to become. I give thanks to my heavenly Father for giving me all of this.

Let us Pray for

• great fathers, and not so great fathers

• rich fathers or poor fathers

• healthy fathers or ill fathers

• living fathers

• fathers who have lost children

• those who have lost fathers

• those who have a strained father relationship

• fathers with a strained child relationship

• those who have chosen not to be a father

• and those who may be yearning to be a father

• a father who questions his ability to be a father

• a grandfather or uncle filling the role of father

• all step-fathers

• and Godfathers

• and all Christian men who lead by example

Lord God we ask that you send your love and blessings upon all fathers this day. We give thanks for fathers who have taught us much and made a loving environment to grow up in. We ask for softening, forgiveness and healing in our hearts towards fathers who have brought us pain. We extend great gratitude to you, Our Heavenly Father- for your love, kindness, generosity, patience, encouragement, forgiveness and acceptance. May we who are the recipients of you perfect parenthood extend these characteristics to those we love and don’t yet love.

MERCIFUL Saviour, who didst love Martha and Mary and Lazarus, hallowing their home with thy sacred presence: Bless, we beseech thee, our home, that thy love may rest upon us, and that thy presence may be with us. May we all grow in grace and in the knowledge of thee, our Lord and Saviour. Teach us to love one another as thou hast given commandment. Help us to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil thy law, O blessed Jesus, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for evermore..( BCP)

AMEN

Children in Cages

June 24th 2018

“This is a spectacularly cruel policy, where frightened children are being ripped from their parent’s arms and taken to overflowing detention centres, which are effectively cages. This is nothing short of torture. The severe mental suffering that officials have intentionally inflicted on these families for coercive purposes, means that these acts meet the definitions of torture under both US and international law,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director.

The media has been flooded with images of children being taken from their parents and placed in cages overflowing with children as young as one year old. And we cry at the cruelty.

But not everyone cries at these actions. Some are in full support. They say the country needs to be tough. Scripture is quoted to back up this policy of separating children from parents. Romans 13 is used:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.

I have a hard time even imagining what it would be like to be fleeing persecution and come to the country I see as offering safety, only to have my child ripped out of my arms and taken away, not knowing if I will ever see them again. And then to be told it is God’s will? That we need to obey, or we are disobeying God?

Hitler used similar tactics to try to eradicate the Jews. Children were taken from parents just to cause distress. Jews were not considered human so people were convinced it was okay to lock them in camps, starve them, torture them and kill them.

I am so glad I live in Canada. The land of equality where everyone is allowed the same rights and no child is ripped from a parent’s arms just because of race or religion. The USA, one of the most powerful countries in the world, is like Goliath using their great power to “control”.

But we are in Canada. Peaceful, loving, welcoming Canada.

So quickly we forget in our eagerness to blame others. Tens of thousands of children were torn from their parent’s arms and placed in residential schools because they were indigenous and needed to be “Canadianized”. They were forced to change their clothes, their behaviours, their language, and even their beliefs. Many were further mistreated through rape and assault. Untold numbers of children died while being held in these schools. Records of who they were and where they came from were lost. We needed to solve Canada’s Indian problem.

And these actions were carried out by the church. We apologized recently and formed committees to see how we could help the people heal.

But the persecution against our indigenous sisters and brothers continues even to today. In the 1950’s, less than 1% of children in foster care were indigenous children. In 2016, First Nations, Metis and Inuit youth made up 52 per cent of foster children younger than 14 in Canada, despite representing just eight per cent of that age group, according to Statistics Canada. In Manitoba, it is 99%.

And how about the camps for the Japanese. Beginning in early 1942, the Canadian government detained and dispossessed the vast majority of people of Japanese descent living in British Columbia. They were interned for the rest of the Second World War, during which time their homes and businesses were sold by the government in order to pay for their detention. Despite the fact that most were Canadian citizens.

It is easy to condemn the USA during this high-profile time and what they are doing is wrong. Sinful. But let’s be cautious because we too have been sinful.

But is it sinful? After all, the reading from Romans demands we obey those in leadership positions. And the leaders are given authority by God.

But our earlier reading from Romans needs to be finished. It continues:

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Yes. Love one another. Jesus says that frequently. Love your neighbour as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love does no wrong to a neighbour.

Love does no wrong to a neighbour. Filling foster care with indigenous children does harm to our indigenous neighbour. Residential schools did wrong to our neighbour. Internment camps for the Japanese and selling their homes and businesses did wrong to our neighbours. And putting people in cages, especially separating children from parents and taking them to far off cities and placing them in cages does wrong to our neighbours.

This is not love. Government may seem like an unbeatable foe just like Goliath. Just like Saul and all of Israel, we may be dismayed. But we trust in God. We know that what is happening is evil. We can rise up like David. We can pick up our five rocks like David and fight.

Exactly five stones. It is interesting to note that the 5 stones coincide with five gifts from God exhibited by David.

The first stone aligns with COURAGE - David was not afraid to face the enemy. "Let no one's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." (1 Samuel 17:32)

The second stone aligns with CONFIDENCE - As a shepherd, David often had to protect the sheep from wild animals. This gave him the confidence he needed to face the giant. “The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37)

The third stone aligns with PREPARATION - David didn't go to face the giant unprepared. He went down to the wadi (which is a dry river bed except in the rainy season) and picked out five smooth stones and put them in his shepherd's bag. Then, armed with his shepherd's staff and sling, he started out to fight Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:40)

The fourth stone aligns with TRUST - David did not trust in his own ability to slay the giant. When Goliath shouted at David, cursed him, and was ready to kill him, David said, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. " (1 Samuel 17:45)

The fifth stone aligns with ability - “David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.” (1 Samuel 17:50)

So, armed with his five stones, his five gifts, and God, little, young David was able to defeat the giant.

What do we need to do to stop the evil happening in the USA and right here in Canada? I can not say. But I do know that if we are willing to face the giant, God will give us the tools.

Canada Day 2018

July 1st 2018

On July 1, 1960, in a speech on the Canadian Bill of Rights, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker spoke words that have resonated with Canadians to the present day. His words:

“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all humankind.”

How blessed we are to live in Canada. People have come from every country in the world to live here and make Canada their home. And it is no wonder. God has blessed us with a beautiful country with natural resources that feed, cloth and house each of us, with enough to share.

And we are surrounded in beauty from coast to coast to coast. The Rocky Mountains rise in glory and grandeur and show us the magnitude of God. The prairies stretch as far as the eye can see and declare God’s endless love for us. The rugged coast lines of the East remind us of the power of God just as the rolling hills of Ontario speak of His gentleness.

And we cherish our freedom and security here in Canada. Since 1982 we have been protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which ensures that, even in dire circumstances, civil liberties and the rule of law prevail. Section 2 declares:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

a. freedom of conscience and religion;

b. freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

c. freedom of peaceful assembly; and

d. freedom of association.

Because of this section of our constitution, we do not need to fear meeting openly to worship God in our Anglican way. We can declare our faith. We can proclaim our beliefs and invite others to join us. And if our conscience forbids us, we can abstain from certain activities too.

It also means we can allow and behave respectfully towards worship and faith in other forms even if we do not agree with them. Even though our Constitution was founded on Christian beliefs, we do not live in a single religion nation. Others are free to worship the God of their choice in the method of their choice.

Thanks to our constitution, we are free to move and work anywhere in this great country. We have a vote in who runs this beautiful Canada.

Section 7 of the Constitution allows: everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. We cannot be imprisoned without due cause and if imprisoned, we will be treated fairly.

Under section 15, we ensure equality for all. Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability… At the same time as it protects equality, the Charter also allows for certain laws or programs that favour disadvantaged individuals or groups. For example, programs aimed at improving employment opportunities for women, Aboriginal peoples, visible minorities, or those with mental or physical disabilities are allowed under section 15(2).

I know this is sounding like a high school civics class but at this time where the news is filled with children being separated from families and being kept in cages, indigenous people living in sub standard housing without access to clean water, people of certain races being declared non-human, faith groups being targeted as “unwelcome”, and more, we need to be reminded that we are blessed to live in Canada but that there is so much more to do.

Today is Canada Day and we have cause to celebrate. But what if we are aboriginal? What if our relatives lived on this land long before it was “settled?” Have we treated aboriginals in ways that would make Jesus proud? Do we treat them respectfully and lovingly?

What about Muslims? Or people of colour? Or the LGBTQ people? Or people of different intellectual abilities or mental illness? Love your neighbour as yourself.

On this Canada Day, it is fitting that all of us make a personal commitment to live lives pleasing to the Lord, and then demonstrate that commitment in the unselfish management of our resources, the prayerful support of our leaders and a loving reaffirmation of the principles that have guided our country over the years.

I can think of no better words than those we heard earlier from Colossians 3:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3.12-17

Most magnificent God, thank you for Canada.

Shake it Off Pentecost 7b 2018

July 8th 2018

Did you ever get one of those brain worms? You know, a song that gets into you mind and refuses to leave? Mine this week was (believe it or not) Taylor Swifts hit song, “Shake it Off”!

I truly believe that things stick for a reason. This song stuck because, again believe it or not, Taylor got it right according to Jesus. Not the first person I would think of to give a message from God, true. Maybe the old Taylor who grew up in a Christian home but the new Taylor is a bit more “of the world” shall we say.

But let’s delve into today’s message.

Jesus crosses back over the water, a Biblical indicator that he is returning to the Jewish district. Not only Jewish but His home town. One would think that coming home would be great, the welcome by friends and loved ones, the comfort of being in familiar surroundings…

But this stop is anything but. The people know Jesus from his early years and identify him as the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, who is also joined by his sisters. They have seen him grow up and feel they know him well. They cannot get beyond that image and see Jesus for who He truly is, the Son of God. They cannot “shake off” that view and hence do not witness the wonderful miracles of Christ.

Jesus acknowledges this and leaves. He travels to nearby villages and teaches there, more accepted and listened to by strangers. Seeing what a big job it is to spread the good news, and making good use of His disciples, Jesus instructs them to go out, two by two, spreading the Good News and having power over unclean spirits. He gives them very specific instructions. They are “to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’” Oops there it is! Shake it off!

Shake off the dust. I go for a walk with Chip most every morning. Some mornings, we return with very dirty feet, well, feet for Chip, shoes for me. Before going beyond the entrance of our home, I take a towel and clean Chip’s paws. I do not want all that mud and other gunk to come into the house and mess it up.

Jesus did not want his disciples, or us, to carry any further the gunk from our past, the stuff we have walked through. The disciples would have to face persecution in some of the villages. They would have been called names and not treated with respect. They would have gone hungry because no one would share. They would have times when they were cold and wet when no one would welcome them into their home. Jesus chose to give the instructions at the time when he too had been unwelcomed, in His own hometown. But they were to shake off the dust, leave behind the things that had happened and more forward.

It is so easy to get caught up in remembering and holding on to things that happen in our lives that are not good. When things do not go our way, or we are ill-treated, or we do not get what we feel we deserve, we can have a tendency to get stuck in that temporary reality and define our whole past and hence future around that one incident.

Jesus was well aware of that and wanted to teach his followers of all eras that we need to let go, shake it off.

If Jesus’s disciples had hung on to all of the negative things that happened, they would have become very discouraged and not been able to carry on in their mission to spread the Good News. They could have generalised and said that no one wants to hear about Jesus. They could have given up and where would that leave us today?

Jesus depended on them to carry the message out to others. Jesus depended on them to look beyond isolated incidents and carry on.

Jesus asks the same of us. Bad things happen. People make poor choices and bad decisions. People say things they later regret. People hurt themselves and others. But that does not have to define them. Anyone can change. Anyone can move forward, shaking off the dirt of the past and continuing in the way God wants us to go.

This does not only apply to individuals. The Christian faith has had many times it has needed to shake off the dirt and move forward. We have been persecuted, yes, but we have also persecuted others. Many evil things have been done in the name of God. Many evil things have been done in the name of Christ. Look at the crusades. Look at slavery. Look at Hitler who believed he was a true Christian. Look at the residential homes for Indigenous Children. Every day, even today, institutions are harming others and our world in God and Christ’s name.

We are not alone. Other faith groups do too. I know. But we are called to go out and sin no more. We are called to shake off that dirt and come clean. We are called to let go of past hurts and move forward. Each Sunday we seek God’s forgiveness for things we have done and things we have left undone. When God forgives us, it is gone, never to be seen again. It has been shaken off.

We too are to do that. We are to forgive and let it go. We need to shake it off, whatever “it” is.

If back in 1972, THAT person, sat in your pew, it is time to shake it off. If back in 2001, someone caused you grief, shake it off. No matter what the dirt is that is sticking to you or when it got there, shake it off.

We become very comfortable with old dirt and it may be hard to shake it off because it is stuck on so thoroughly. Old dirt can cause us to do things that are very harmful to ourselves and others. Think of a shoe with mud caked on it. The mud causes us to walk funny. If we have carried that mud for a long time, we may have trouble walking straight. Holding on to past failures or hurts in our lives can be the same. It can be difficult to let them go. We may not know how to live without them. But just like cleaning the mud off of our shoes, cleaning up past hurts and failures will be good for us. Old dirt gets heavy and we will be able to go further without it.

We leave trails of mud wherever we go when we carry that dirt. Old dirt does not just affect us. It affects everything and everyone we come in contact with. It affects our family, our work, our friends and even our church. Just in our own parish, we have old mud. We hang onto old hurts and have trouble moving forward because of them.

But it is time to shake it off and move ahead.

Both in our personal lives and our Christian lives, let’s work towards letting go of past hurts and wrongs. In the words of our Saviour and also that famous singer, shake it off, shake it off!

King Herod 

July 15th 2018

It is a lonely life being the king. Sure, everyone wants to be near me but that is just because of my power. They don’t really want to be my friends though. Even my wife is just after the power and prestige. Don’t believe me? Let me tell you about it!

It all began when I my father, Herod the great, died, leaving me as king of Galilee and Perea. I wasn’t supposed to be king, but my elder two brothers were murdered. Anyway, I became king with all that entails. Sure it was fun. I get to order people around and they have to do everything I command. I get the best food and wine and exquisite clothing.

Some things are not my choice though. I had to marry my first wife for political reasons. However, as soon as I met my brother’s wife, Herodias, wow, I just had to have her. Of course there was that little matter that she was my brother’s wife. And she was also my cousin. And I was still married. But I am the King. I divorced my wife, although she managed to run off before it actually became official, got Herodias divorced from my brother, and we were married. I felt so lucky to have such a beautiful wife. And smart too! I should have known she would cause trouble. But I get ahead of myself.

Not everyone was happy about our marital bliss though. Of course my brother Philip wasn’t but there was also this weird preacher man who lived in the wilderness, named John. He was a different one, that’s for sure. He barely had any clothes and I am told he ate strange things he could find in the desert.

But those are not the weirdest things about him. Crowds gathered wherever he was because they wanted to hear what he had to say. How had this man become so eloquent, I will never know. He was a nobody from nowhere. I heard him speak on occasion and found him quite compelling, until of course he started condemning me for marrying Herodias. I am king. What do I have to worry about Jewish laws for? I make laws. But he did seem to have a way about him, a certain power. When he told people that they could be baptised, dunked under the water, and receive forgiveness for their sins…how absurd. But hundreds upon hundreds of people took him up on it. And they really seemed to be changed. Made me a little afraid of him. Not like my father was afraid when those wise men told him that a new king had been born. No, Dad had every male child killed he was so afraid.

But I was still unsure about this John. So I kept an eye on him. Well, one day, things got out of hand and people were beginning to turn against me because of the things John was saying about me committing, what did he call it, oh ya, a sin against god. This Jewish god, bah. Anyway, this John had so many followers I was getting uncomfortable so I had him arrested and brought to my own prison. I liked the fact that I knew where he was and that the only person he could talk to was me. I quite enjoyed our conversations if the truth be told.

My wife was not so happy about the arrangement though. She wanted me to kill John. But I am the king and she needs to obey me so I kept him alive, in part just to spite her. That didn’t work out as I planned. Turns out she is pretty strong willed and not used to getting her own way. I was beginning to think she only married me so she would be a queen. But I had put my foot down on this one and she didn’t like it one bit. She really hated this John fellow. I don’t think she liked anyone telling her that what she was doing was wrong.

Anyway, I would often go down to the dungeon and talk with John. I was perplexed by him, that is for sure. He seemed to make sense about many things, even if I didn’t want him saying I was committing incest.

My birthday is my favourite day of the year. I do love parties. So this year I invited all of the top men in my kingdom, my courtiers, my officers and all of the leaders of Galilee. I spared no expense. The wine was flowing and the food was abundant. Of course, we had the most beautiful girls dance for us. It was going to go down as the best party in history, or so I thought. It sure did go down in history but not in the way I thought it would.

That spiteful Herodias saw an opportunity and took it. She had trained her daughter Salome well. Salome was bathed in the finest perfumes and her hair was brushed until it shone. She was dressed in the most enticing dress of many veils. She had one covering her face in such a way that only her alluring eyes were revealed. She was at the prime of her life, ripe and ready for picking.

Salome came out onto the floor and all eyes were upon her. Every man in the room had his eyes glued to her every move as she began to dance. She swayed and twirled and twisted into our minds as she slowly removed the veils. I was completely under her spell by the time the dance ended and offered her whatever she wanted as reward for that dance. It pleased us so much that I offered her up to half of my kingdom.

But I did not realise who she was. Her mother had made sure I would not see Salome’s face. She knew the power of her daughter’s beauty and used it to trap me. No sooner was the offer out of my mouth than the girl was running to her mother to see what she should ask for.

Little did I know how right John was when he warned me about marrying Herodias. She is an evil woman. She knew I could be swayed by a beautiful girl and that my brain would turn to mush. She told that daughter of hers to demand the head of John on a platter. A chill went through my heart and I knew I should refuse. But I had all of the most important men of my kingdom present. I could not go back on a promise in front of them.

I ordered the deed be done. I could not go back.

It was not the worst thing I did in my life though. Not long after that horrible day, I was to hear about another compelling preacher who was also doing miracles, so they said. I wanted to see these miracles so when Jesus was brought before me, I was dismayed. There seemed to be nothing special about the man and he wouldn’t even speak to me.

But that is another story for another day. Just learn from me that power is a dangerous thing. It needs to be handled with extreme care. I let it go to my head and it made me believe I was above the law. When I held the lives of these two innocent men in my hands, I made the wrong choice. Do not follow in my footsteps but let them be a lesson for you. Good day.

Gluten Free Jesus

August 12th 2018

About six years ago, I had a life changing event. I was diagnosed “gluten intolerant”. All of those light fluffy buns, that bread, fresh out of the oven, that delicious cake, pancakes on lazy mornings, muffins, crepes, toast and jam, cookies that melt in my mouth: all these things were taken from my life. Even communion bread is now a no-no. And I am a priest! What a cruel twist of life. I love bread. I love baked goods. I would eat chocolate chip cookie dough with a spoon. I made muffins on a regular basis and could easily make half a dozen disappear.

But I could not eat any of these wonderful foods again without not only suffering in the short term from intestinal issues, rashes, and aching joints but also potentially ruining my insides in the long term.

So, I started a gluten free lifestyle. Was it hard? At times. I still have times when I crave foods with gluten. I still have to be around gluten containing foods. I still have to be around others who consume gluten containing foods that look delicious. I see pictures of foods containing gluten everywhere I look. I read about bread and cookies and other glutinous delicacies. I socialise with people who partake and I do not condemn them or make them feel bad for doing it in front of me.

Did it involve changing the way I lived? In many ways, it has. I have to read ingredient lists. I have to research restaurants about gluten content. There are some restaurants I cannot go to any longer. Some friends don’t invite me to dinner because they don’t understand how to handle my new lifestyle. And now I share a kitchen with two people who do not have a problem with gluten.

Do I ever cheat? Sometimes, but I always pay for it later.

Do I regret my decision? Not at all. Any short-term hardship I endure is worth my long term health.

Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

Accepting the bread Jesus offers is sort of like going gluten free. Is it hard? It can be. Just like me and gluten, we may still have times when we crave activities we know go against the Gospels. We still have to be around the things of the world that seem so attractive. We still have to be around others who consume lifestyles that look delicious. We see pictures of inappropriate lifestyles and values everywhere we look. We read about gluttony and infidelity and other worldly delicacies. We socialise with people who sin and we do not condemn them or make them feel bad for doing it in front of us.

Does being a Christian involve changing the way we live? In many ways, it does. We are called to read scripture. We are called to research activities about inappropriate content. There are some places we cannot go to any longer. Some friends don’t invite us to dinner because they don’t understand how to handle our new lifestyle. We may have to get rid of things we had in our house so they wouldn’t tempt us.

Do we ever cheat? Sometimes, but we always pay for it later.

Do we regret our decision? Not at all. Any short term hardship we endure is worth our eternal life.

You see, even after you have eaten an enormous meal of succulent meats, savory dishes, hot buns with melting butter dripping off of them, and mouth-watering delicacies, even then, you will still have to eat again at some point. Even if you try, you cannot live without eating at some point.

But God offers something better than aromatic bread or sugar laden doughnuts or worshipping money and material things. Pornography or lying or stealing or cheating or living at the expense of others, or ignoring the poor and suffering people in order to please ourselves: all of these things may bring short term satisfaction. What God offers is something that will last for all of eternity and only needs to be partaken of one time. We only need to be Baptised one time in order to be given life eternal. That is the true bread that sustains. That is the true water that quenches our thirst. The each week we have the opportunity to be refreshed and renewed by the Word and Sacrament.

Some people scoff at us because we are Christians just as some scoff at me giving up gluten. But that does not make Christianity any less beneficial for our wellbeing. Many do not understand the benefits to being a Christian. I know becoming a practicing, believing Christian may not have the immediate, visible results that my giving up gluten had. Some may not notice much change. I have had many comment that they are not sure if their baptism “took” because they still do things they know are wrong and they do not look any different. They think they want to experience something like Saul did when he became Paul. They want that bright light and the audible voice of God. But I tell them, don’t forget, Saul became blind after he had the encounter with God! We will not all experience an epiphany moment. But we will be changed. Careful examination of one’s life will always reveal God’s hand. As we read the scriptures, as we pray, as we are fed through Word and Sacrament, as we are given absolution, slowly, our lives become healthier. Slowly we become more like Jesus.

And just like I thrill at helping others who need it discover the joys of the gluten free life, we can thrill at helping others discover the joy of a Christian life. What can be better than helping another discover and receive the love of God, life eternal, and the peace that passes all understanding? It is wonderful to help others rest in the knowledge that no matter what, God is with us helping us through this life and welcoming us to the next. What joy can be found in leading someone to Christ and seeing their relief at receiving absolution? What better gift can you possibly give than sharing God?

So, learn from the stories of failure and success of the faithful who have gone before. Receive absolution. Take the bread and remember that Christ has given you the bread of eternal life permitting you to enter His presence and experience His overwhelming love.

Then, take that mystical bread and share it with others. Because there is more than enough to go around. And Jesus is gluten free so is beneficial to everyone who partakes. Eat, drink, and be God’s beloved..

I can do it

August 19th 2018

August 19th already! Summer is flying by. Soon the leaves will be changing, and the nights will be cooler. But right now, we are still in the season of Summer.

Here in the church, we are in the season of Pentecost. The hangings are green and so is my stole.

At this point in summer, parents may be finding the summer long with the children off school. Some children even get to the point where the summer feels long, and they look forward to returning to school. Those who do not enjoy the heat are finding this summer particularly long.

The season of Pentecost is also feeling long. And to add to it, we are again hearing about bread. This is the fourth Sunday where the Gospel reading is about bread. I hope by now, we get that Jesus is the bread of Life. We understand that accepting Jesus nourishes our spirits and that by coming to church we get “topped up” for the coming week as well as for our goal to become more like Jesus.

We have heard about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with just five loaves of bread. The next week, we were reminded that earthly bread does not sustain but the bread from heaven does. Last week, scripture reminded us that Jesus is that living bread.

But this week, it gets a little weird. Jesus tells us we must eat His flesh. Like the Jews, we may be saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" In response, Jesus tells them and us that we must not only eat His flesh, but we need to drink His blood. Jesus tells us five time to eat Him.

Now, if I was a newcomer listening to today’s Gospel, I would run out the door as fast as my legs could carry me. I do not want to be part of a cannibalistic church!

So, just when we are getting tired of hearing about bread, Jesus throws us a curve ball. And, like the newcomer who would be inclined to run away, I am inclined to run away from preaching this Gospel. It is bad enough that we hear about eating the flesh of Jesus more than five times, now I have to preach about it? I can relate to the character of the vicar in an episode of the British TV show, the Vicar of Dibley when told that two of her parishioners wanted to make a chocolate baby Jesus for her birthday. She said she could not bite off the head of baby Jesus even if it was chocolate. It was just wrong.

Well, thinking about biting into the flesh of Jesus is also just wrong if we think in purely literal terms. My sister bit me when we were children because I wouldn’t get off of the swing, but she didn’t actually bite off any flesh. Mike Tyson actually bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off, but he spit it out.

So how do I deal with teaching you to bite into Jesus’ flesh? It is comforting in a way to read a little later in John’s Gospel that the Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" as we will hear next week.

So, I sat at my computer for many hours this week trying to write this sermon. But I was out of things to say. I could not even get started. I was tired. Tired from living in upheaval because of my recent move. Tired from being out late seeing the play Julius Caesar. And tired of trying to think about Jesus as bread, especially eating His flesh. I was tired of trying to do it all myself.

And that is when it hit me. I was trying to do it all myself. Somewhere in the busyness of my life, I had lost sight of God. I had stopped prioritising prayer and Scripture reading. I had placed time with God at the bottom of my to do list instead of the top. I was like a two-year-old saying me do it. And I know better.

I know well how important it is to put God first. When I prioritize God, God lightens my burdens and helps me accomplish so much more.

But it is so easy to let time with God slip down our to do list isn’t it? There are tasks we need to do while the weather is nice, so we put off our time with God.

And summer is the time to go on vacation and we feel we can take a vacation from God time too. We stop prayer time and our Bibles get dusty. But then when the weather is bad, we continue to leave God off our list. We have gotten out of the habit and feel we are doing just fine without God.

But then something happens. For me, it was the fight to form a sermon that opened my eyes. I can be stubborn and tried hard to do it on my own. And God let me try. God always lets us try to do it on our own. God will never force us to follow Him or depend on Him. He is a loving God who is ready and waiting when we are ready to ask for help.

I have told people, as your priest, I am just a phone call away when you want help. Well, God is just a prayer away when we want help. Taking time to stop and talk to God will always be rewarding. We can whisper to God or yell at the top of our lungs. We can be angry, scared, tired or hurting. We can pray words from the prayer book or talk to God the same way we talk to a friend.

What is important is that we pray. God will not judge our praying ability. God will be able to handle our anger and hurt. And God will listen intently. God will hear our every word. And God will answer.

You see, God loves us more than we can imagine. God loves us enough to feed us with the very substance of who God is. When things get in the way of worship, stop and refocus. Come to church and be with friends as we worship our Lord and King and feast on the nourishment from heaven. Come early and pray. Think about what you are saying during the service. Get closer to God and your soul will be fed for the seasons ahead. Your mind will be cleared, and the load will be lightened as you prioritize God.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Death

September 23 2018 

I am to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill me, and three days after being killed, I will rise again. Jesus said this to His disciples while they passed through Galilee.

Not your usual conversation piece. But similar to many that happen every day all around the world but sounding more like: “I am dying. But don’t worry. I will be well looked after, and I will be waiting for you in heaven.”

Death and dying. For the past three Saturdays, a group of parishioners and a few others have been talking about death, dying, and life after death. We had many different views and approaches and beliefs represented. It was not an easy topic but everyone was respectful and appreciated to openly talk about the death of others and their own eventual death.

Even the words dying and death are hard to say. We prefer to say passed away, or even kicked the bucket. And yet, not one of us can go through life without experiencing death, even if it is only our own. Often times though, we experience many deaths before we get to our own. Pets die. Grandparents die. Aunts and uncles die. Parents die. Friends die. Even our own children sometimes die before we do. So why are we so uncomfortable talking about death?

Jesus told His disciples many times that He would be tortured, die, and then after three days rise again. He told then in several ways and at several times. But they did not get it. When it actually happened, they tried to stop it. They grieved. They were dismayed when the tomb was empty and tried to find the body. They were surprised when Jesus actually rose and came to talk to them and even ate a meal with them. They had been with Jesus every day for years. They heard Him talk and saw the miracles. But they did not want Him to die. They wanted Him to live.

We are the same. We want life to go on forever or at least we act that way. We take every opportunity to make ourselves look younger as if to hold back death. If we get sick, we use every medical means possible to stay alive or to keep a loved one alive. We don’t talk about death as if by not talking about it, it won’t happen. We fear death or at least we fear dying.

We have made death into not only something to be feared but something we want to keep distant from. Andrew and other funeral directors do wonderful work. They take care of the body of our loved one from the time of death or when the body is released to them right up to the burial. They lovingly care for the body with respect. They wash the body. They prepare the body so it can be displayed without smelling like death. They use makeup so our loved one looks like they are just sleeping. They lay out the body in the casket and take it to the church when it is time. They take it to the crematorium and collect the ashes. The bring the body or ashes to the graveyard where they have made sure the grave is dug and carpet covers the dirt so we are not reminded that it is a dirty business. After we leave, the lower our loved one into the ground and cover them back up with dirt. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust has far more relevance to them.

Avoiding many of these tasks, we again distance ourselves from intimate knowledge of death.

But I am here to remind you that we will die. It will happen differently for each one of us but we will die. But I am also here to remind you of something far more important. Our death will not be the end. Just as Jesus died and rose again, so will we.

Not the first time you have heard that, I would imagine. And yet, we still avoid even talking about death. I have a revelation for you. Not talking about something does not stop it from happening. And it is far better for all concerned if we can get to a place where our own death and the death of others can be talked about.

I have seen the effect of not talking about death. It is the elephant in the room at so many death beds. The prognosis is death, but the family does not accept it. So, they lose that opportunity to talk to their loved ones about it. They lose that chance to say, I love you and will miss you but I will be okay until I see you again.

People are shocked when death occurs and lost about what to do. They have no idea what their loved one would want and more importantly, they are not sure about what they want or need to help them learn to live without the loved one or to face death themselves.

Sometimes they avoid it altogether and skip the visitation and funeral and just try to move on. Or a loved one insists that they do not want a funeral or visitation, thinking they are doing their loved ones a favour.

And then they can not understand why they keep crying or they keep getting angry. Their grief has no outlet and gets buried with the loved one only their grief does not stay buried.

Ceremonies around death occur in every civilization and have occurred as far back as we can find. There is good reason for that. When we gather with friends and family after a death and tell stories we recognise the importance of that person in our lives. We validate their existence and we allow them to live on in our memories and love for each other. As we wait in line to offer condolences and sit in church for the service, we acknowledge the life of a person who was important to us. We cry and grieve, and it is appropriate and even healthy. Because no matter how we try to avoid it, death will happen.

So, when it enters into your life, do not fear death. Do not pretend it does not exist or will never happen. The disciples tried that, and it still didn’t work. Jesus still died. But Jesus rose again thanks be to God and we will too. So do not seek out death but when death has its time, be comforted that Jesus took out death’s sting and look to life eternal as your next adventure.

We Promise: Baptism

September 30th 2018 

Following the customs of their faith, Mary and Joseph brought eight-day-old Jesus to the temple to dedicate him to God. They came to Jerusalem to the temple where He was officially named and circumcised. As they entered the temple grounds, they were met by Simon, a very pious elderly man who had been promised by God that he would not die before seeing the promised Messiah. He took Jesus in his arms, praised God and then shared some very ominous predictions of Jesus’ purpose and future.

Mary and Joseph then met up with an elderly woman who also spoke of Jesus’ future and who he was. She too then began praising God for being present at this momentous occasion.

We too are present at a very momentous occasion today. Mylan Betancourt-Mclennan is being presented for baptism by his parents Wesley McLennan and Alex Betancourt. They are joined by his Godparents Tanya Salinas and Kyle Frey.

Now, I have not required Wesley and Alex to present “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons" for sacrifice. Thank God we are no longer required to do that. Nor will I be circumcising Mylan, another thing I am grateful not to have to be doing!

But they have been required to present Mylan for baptism at a regular Sunday service. This is a very important part of any baptism. The person being baptised is to be surrounded by fellow believers and welcomed into the community. Later, after I have baptised Mylan, I will walk him up and down the aisle allowing everyone to welcome him. This may seem like a lovely little tradition but it is actually a very integral part of the service. Every person present will be taking part in the service as they promise to do all in their power to support Mylan in his life in Christ.

That promise to do all in our power to support Mylan in his life in Christ is not a light promise. And it is not the first time we have promised to help a fellow Christian. Every person who is baptised here has a community of Christians surrounding them and making this very same promise. Each person here who has been baptised has had a community promise to do all in their power to support them in their life in Christ.

It takes a village to raise a child has never been more true than in the case of baptism. Alex and Wesley are making heavy promises, but they are also counting on the rest of us to make and keep our promise. It is not just the clergy who are responsible for teaching Mylan about Christ. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us. We need to ensure that Alex and Wesley feel welcome and accepted. We need to provide encouragement and also opportunity for them to bring Mylan and that he knows he belongs.

And it does not only apply to the newly baptised. We are to care for and support every baptised person with everything in our power. That teen who doesn’t come any more. That elderly person who can’t come. That couple who stopped coming. That young mother who finds it too difficult to get out the door on time. The list of baptised Christians who don’t come is as big as our imagination.

We have an amazing thing going at this church. We take our baptismal promises seriously. We gather for fellowship, teaching, prayer and the breaking of bread every Sunday and more. We do our best to avoid evil but when we sin we repent together of our sins. We have people who visit and pray for the sick and shut in. We help out when someone is house bound or grieving and could use a hot meal. We feed the hungry through food donations to the Salvation Army. We do our best to live lives that reflect our faith.

There are many ways we help St James continue to be a place where the lost can find comfort and hope and where we can be assisted in carrying out our Baptismal promises. After our service today, when you go into the hall, you will see that some of our ministries have created posters to tell you about the various ways you can be a more active part of this community.

I know many people wait to be asked to be part of a group. Today, I want you to step out of your usual ways and volunteer. I know what it is like to feel like you do not really belong. I attended a mega church where I was one person in a sea of thousands. I was very lonely yet surrounded by people. Think about a time when you felt like an outsider and introduce another person who may be feeling like they don’t belong to your committee or group.

You see, we have a great God who loves us and cares for us and we need to share that with others. We need to tell others about the peace we feel knowing that God is real. We need to share that death is not the end but only the beginning of life eternal. And we need to get involved in St James so that we can continue to expand our good works.

Today Mylan, you are starting on a new journey. A journey of discovery and joy. You belong here at St James and we are here for you. We promise.

Marriage Vows, Baptism and Thanksgiving 

October 7th 2018 

Today we are gathering to not only worship God as we do every Sunday but also to baptise Celine, a beautiful little girl, sister to Perth, daughter of Darcie and Marc. What a wonderful occasion, one full of faith and conviction. Celine’s parents approached me many weeks ago, wanting to have Celine baptised.

It is a wonderful thing Marc and Darcie do today. Marc and Darcie have faith that God will welcome Celine into the family. Marc and Darcie have faith that Celine will grow up knowing that she is loved by God and learning to love God. They have faith and conviction that this is what they want for their child.

Darcie and Marc have strong connections in this parish. Many of you will recall, not that long ago, Perth delighted us with her desire and joy being a crucifer. That began with her copying the actions of our crucifer and holding up a toy cross. Once given the opportunity to take part in the service as a junior crucifer, she was very dedicated.

Marc and Darcie are expressing their faith today in bringing Celine to be baptised. They are sharing God’s kingdom with their daughter, preparing her for a life in Christ.

Jesus showed His great love of children while He was here on earth. God welcomes them. We are told that we are to have the faith of a child. As we look into the face of Celine or any other child, we can see open devotion, lack of fear and sheer joy. Children have complete trust in their parents doing what is best for them. They are not caught up in the cares of the world or distracted by worry or busyness. They have faith that their parents will provide what they hope for and conviction in things unseen.

We can learn so much from children about what our faith should look like. Celine is blessed to have parents who love her enough to bring her to church and dedicate her life to God. Being good parents, they will continue to teach Celine about God and bring her up in the faith. They will bring her to church where she can deepen her knowledge of God and form bonds with other Christian children. Her Godparents will ensure that Celine is exposed to good teaching and sound doctrine.

And some day we pray, Celine will realise what a wonderful gift she has been given and will herself accept that God is her God. And it all begins as I sprinkle Holy water on her tiny forehead and declare her as Christ’s own forever. If we could see as God sees, we might see the cross I inscribe on Celine’s forehead glow with new life and become part of her very being. We might see God smile upon His beloved child. We might even see angels gathered around. But for now, we only see as if through a glass darkly. We only see water poured on Celine’s head and oil manifest as a cross. But we believe and therefore put our faith in “Baptism as a coming into the Body of Christ, in which we become members of one another and of Christ – it is about who we are in Christ, and whose we are: God’s own.”

As I baptise Celine, let us each reaffirm our own faith in Christ as our Saviour and God as our Father and invite the Holy Spirit to move in each of our lives to draw us closer to God. Feel free to take some of the Holy Water and sprinkle it on yourself as an affirmation of that conviction when you come up for Communion.

Marc and Darcie have asked to take part in another form of celebration today. They want to rededicate their marriage vows to each other, exchanged on their wedding day ten years ago. This, too, we all take part in, and I especially invite the married couples present today to sit with their spouse and, if desired, join in recommitment to each other by renewing their own Holy vows.

We have so much to be thankful for today, on this Thanksgiving Sunday. Celine whom we welcome into the family and her parents, Marc and Darcie, who recommit to each other along with the other couples who choose to renew their vows. Marriage and Baptism are sacred in our faith. A person becomes one of God’s chosen at Baptism and at marriage, two people choose to become one with each other under God.

Let us now prepare ourselves to enter into these sacred tasks as we listen to our choir sing the beautiful hymn “This Child of Ours, This Miracle.” If you wish to read the words of this hymn, turn to page 541 in your hymn book.

Pentecost 21b

October 14th 2018 

“Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.”

The Book of Job is the story of a man who “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” He was rich in material possessions, family and faith. Even God holds Job up as an example of a good man.

But Satan comments that Job is only so faithful because he has been protected by God so that nothing bad happens to him. So God allows Satan to do what he will with all that Job has, other than his life.

And Satan does. He causes Job’s beloved children to die, and his servants and livestock as well. Job’s friends turn on him and blame him for all that has happened. Job faces excruciating illness. Even Job’s wife advises him to “curse God and die.”

So, in today’s reading, Job is crying out that he feels distant from God and just wants to come before God and plead his case. Job’s friends have been trying to convince Job that he must have sinned greatly to deserve all of these punishments. They believed that God rewards the righteous and punishes the sinful. Therefore, Job, who had been greatly rewarded must have sinned greatly. Job knows better and continues to declare his innocence until God finally intervenes.

But what is Job’s reaction to all of this suffering? Does Job ask for his children back or his servants or his wealth and prestige? No. Job mourns for the feeling of the presence of God. He longs to feel God’s love.

Compare that to the rich man who comes to Jesus asking how he might inherit eternal life. This man has obeyed all of the laws of being a good Jew. Now he wanted to know how to obtain that one thing that seemed out of his reach. The rich man wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, as if it were a possession he could earn or buy like the rest of his wealth.

Jesus listens to this rich man and hears him. We are told Jesus loved him. Jesus tells him that in order to inherit the elusive eternal life, the rich man need only sell what he owns, and give the money to the poor, and he will have treasure in heaven. Unlike Job who had his wealth taken from him, this rich man must sell his wealth and give it to the poor.

Both men start out rich. One has his wealth taken. The other is told to give it to the poor. Job wants to get closer to God. The rich man wants eternal life. Job is rewarded with a close encounter with God.

The rich man is offered the chance to have a close encounter with God, the chance to spend time with God incarnate in Jesus. But the rich man choses to keep his wealth. He decides that earthly treasure is better than heavenly treasure. And he goes away grieving.

The irony is that Job, who valued closeness with God over earthly treasure is rewarded with both.

So are we to understand that we need to give away everything we have to the poor in order to get into heaven? After all, Jesus said that it is hard for the wealthy to get into heaven. Definitely not. Some do choose to live a life of poverty to serve the poor. Mother Teresa is an example of one who was called to a life of poverty. And no one could claim she was an ungodly woman. But Mother Teresa had a calling to serve the poor. Very few get that calling in the way she did.

So how do we thread the camel through the needle? Because by world standards, every person here is wealthy. How can we be saved? Jesus declares that it is impossible to be saved by our efforts. Only God can save because God can do anything.

Jesus’ disciples question Jesus about this very thing. They have given up everything to follow Jesus so are they now “safe”? Have they done what is needed?

Yes, says Jesus. You have the right priorities. You have valued time spent with God over any material possession. But there is a caution as well. Following Jesus, trusting fully in God, is not a guarantee that everything will be rosy. You will get many wonderful things. But you will also be persecuted for your faith.

Most of us have lived in a time when being a Christian was the norm. Almost everyone went to church. It was those who did not attend church or were of a different faith who were subject to persecution. Not being thrown to the lions but treated differently and shunned.

Our current era is different. It is not the norm to be Christian. Christians are often portrayed as less intelligent. We have a reputation of being judgemental and many Christians have earned that reputation by condemning others who do not fit their definition of godly.

We face persecution from the employer who forbids us to talk about our faith in our workplace. We face persecution when we are forbidden from wearing any visible sign of our faith.

However, many around the world face severe persecution on a daily basis for being a Christian. According to the world watch list: one in twelve Christians face a high level of persecution.

Every month, because they are Christian:

• 255 Christians are killed

• 104 are abducted

• 180 Christian women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage

• 66 churches are attacked

• 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned

These Christians do not deserve this any more than we do. They are not better Christians or worse Christians. They are just Christians who have faith in God’s goodness and long to feel God’s presence.

We can be rich or poor and be a Christian. We can face daily persecution or never face it. The one requirement God has is that we love God more than anything else. We must stand up for our faith when persecuted whether it be a rule at work or a beating. We are to place our total faith in God and put God ahead of material wealth and comforts if made to make a choice. Most of all, we are to come just as we are and follow Jesus.

Pentecost 22b WiiFM

October 21st 2018 

When we become a Christian, we are given a wonderful gift. We are given a life in Christ. We are held in God’s hands just as the wine we will later consume is held by the chalice. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and given a new life. Our body becomes the chalice which contains this new life. Each time we come to the table and drink we are given more of the Holy Spirit, more of the gift from God which changes us ever more into being more like Christ Himself.

James and John ask Jesus: “Jesus, we want you to do whatever we ask of you.” Jesus replies, “are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” Jesus is asking them if they think they can be like Him, do what He is about to do. James and John still envision Jesus becoming a mighty king on earth, a massive takeover by the Roman rulers and Israel becoming their kingdom. They want power and prestige. They want to be the favored ones who are to the left and right of the mighty king as He rules.

And yet, three times now Jesus has told the disciples that He is going to soon die. He has just finished telling them that He is about to die not rule. Listen to the passage immediately preceding today’s:

He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.’

Could Jesus have said it any more clearly? And yet, they still do not hear Him. Why? They have travelled with Jesus for about three years now. How is it that they do not get it? In reality, the positions on Jesus’ left and right end up being filled by criminals when Jesus is on the cross. That is not what James and John envisioned as the places beside Jesus.

In the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest, Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from me.” Then he prayed for God’s will rather than his own. For Jesus, drinking the cup meant partaking of all God had set for him to do. The cup was Jesus’ own life and he drank it to the full, fully offering all of himself back to God.

Even Jesus had a hard time accepting what was to come. It was not an easy choice. Neither is the choice we made when we chose to become Christians. A life following Christ is a life full of challenges. It is not a life that guarantees privilege or power. It is not a life that guarantees glory or prestige. As baptised Christians, we choose to lead a life offers all of our self back to God, one that leads others to a knowledge of Christ. All that we do should point towards God.

In a morning devotional I am reading, when a man is asked if he is a Christian, he replies, “I do not know. Ask my neighbours.”

What would our neighbours say? It is so easy to get caught up in earthly desires. “I want” can get in the way of doing what God wants. It is so easy to ask what is in it for me. But Jesus turns that question upside down. We are to ask what is in it for God and the Kingdom of God.

God created a world that was loving and kind and where all were equal. But we have undermined God and created a world where 1% of the world’s population holds 50% of the world’s wealth. People starve to death while others hoard food they will never eat.

What would our neighbours say? Have we allowed our chalice to be filled with God’s will? Do we become more like Christ every time we come to the altar?

We, as the Parish of St. James, have a responsibility to shine the light of Christ to our community, to bring others to a knowledge of God. Our church’s life is also called to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We are called to be a safe place where the lost can come to find comfort and hope through the body of Christ, which is us, and be led to Christ.

When we bring in food for the Salvation Army, we show our Christian faith. When we pick up a person who needs a ride to church or to doctor’s appointment, we shine with the love of God. When we take the time, resources or money to minister to the needs of the less fortunate instead of using them for our own personal wants, we glow as the body of our Lord.

We are blessed with so much more than we need. Even the poorest among us has access to food, shelter and medical care. It will not be all that we want because there is always more we could have. But there is also always more we can do.

James and John wanted the good life. They wanted worldly power and fame. But that is far from what they received. They did not receive material goods. They received the power of the Holy Spirit. They received the fame of being known throughout the millennium as disciples of Jesus.

And yet, all of this pale in comparison to what they ultimately received. They now live with Jesus for all of eternity. That is even greater than their earthly fame or power.

And that fate also awaits us. As we give to others we may have to do without but that is only for such a short amount of time when compared to all of eternity. If our cup is filled with struggles or illness or other hardships, we can take comfort in the knowledge that it is for but a moment in the grander picture. Others may scoff or persecute us. Others may not understand. We may feel that our small part is not much; but, if we are doing God’s will, if we are living out our Christian faith, if our cup is filled with the Holy Spirit, each little thing we do brings this world closer to the kingdom of God.

So, my fellow Christians, come to the table and drink in deeply. Allow God to fill your cup to overflowing. Allow God to help you change the question from what’s in it for me to what’s in it for God. Turn the question upside down. 

Pentecost 23b

October 21st 2018 

Jesus is on his final journey to Jerusalem. He has chosen disciples, taught them well, performed miracles, spoken to many crowds. The end is near. His next major step is to enter Jerusalem as a conquering King. The disciples stick close to Jesus, not wanting to be left out of the coming glory. Crowds push in, trying to get closer to Jesus.

And a lone voice cries out above the crowd, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The man is quickly reprimanded. How dare he, a lowly beggar, attempt to get the attention of the great Rabbi.

But he will not be silenced. Wrapped in his cloak which declares his poor standing in society, sitting in the dust of the road, the beggar dares to again cry out. “Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Against all odds, Jesus hears him and stops. “Call him here.” Jesus does not go to Bartimaeus and tower over him, asserting his authority and position. No, he calls Bartimaeus to come and stand in his presence, as a person worthy of being in Jesus’ presence.

Bartimaeus leaps to his feet with joy and hope. He throws off his cloak, that most valuable possession which kept him warm and collected the money thrown down to him, and he runs to Jesus.

In words recently heard spoken to disciples James and John, Jesus asks this beggar, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want me to do for you? You have my complete attention. I have stopped my entourage on our triumphal journey to Jerusalem just for you, lowly beggar. You are important to me. What can I do for you?

Unlike the disciples, who ask for power and prestige as if they deserve it, Bartimaeus humbly asks for his sight back. Out of all the things he could ask Jesus for, this man asks to see. Yet, he already sees more than the disciples. He recognises Jesus as the messiah by addressing Jesus as the son of David, the historic form of address for the messiah. He asks for mercy instead of honour. He tells Jesus clearly what he desires rather than asking for whatever is desired as the disciples do.

Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, is a man of faith. His name signifies that he comes from a good and honourable family. Yet, he does not ask to have his honour restored. He just asks to see again.

Brought down to begging for his food, this man just wants to be able to be a productive member of society again, something his blindness took from him. Rather than being served, he wants to serve.

Jesus does as Bartimaeus asks. He restores his sight and declares Bartimaeus well again. And Bartimaeus follows Jesus as He journeys to Jerusalem. We do not specifically hear anything else about Bartimaeus, but we know he followed Jesus and Jesus went from this stop outside Jericho immediately to entering Jerusalem on a donkey where others see what Bartimaeus saw, Jesus as the Son of David, the prophet foretold in scripture, longed for over the centuries.

Was Bartimaeus aware that this triumphal entry was not as it appeared? Could Bartimaeus see more than the disciples who saw Jesus as the earthly king? We do not know.

What do we see when we look at Jesus? Do we see a Jesus who can do whatever we ask? Do we see the servant Jesus who is at our beck and call just waiting to give us our deepest desires? Just believe in Jesus and all will be perfect. You will be healthy and wealthy and happy. Sounds more like Santa when put like that doesn’t it? But all too often, that is the Jesus we pray to. Jesus, help me get this job I want. Help me get this house I want. Get rid of this cold. You know the prayers.

Now, it is okay to pray for these things. God wants us to come to Him in all things. God is good and desires good things for us just as much as we do.

So where is the problem? If God desires us to come to Him for all things, what is wrong with asking for a job or home or health? The difference is in how we see God.

Do we see God as a Santa Claus God who is able to give us rewards for good behavior? Or do we see God as the creator of all, who provides us with all that we have and all that we need?

Do we humbly approach our King or send a quick text of our current requests?

We are called to be the body of Christ here on earth. When we are baptised, we agree to seek and serve Christ. All that we do should be with this in mind. All that we ask for needs to be humbly and with the furthering of the kingdom of God in mind. Our faith is the most important thing we possess. Our faith allows us to see the bigger picture, beyond earthly fame and fortune. Our faith allows us to put the will of God before our own. Our faith is what drives us to serve our neighbours, to feed the hungry, to care for the sick and comfort the broken hearted.

Our faith leads us to pray, Lord, have mercy on me. Our faith allows Jesus to stop all that He is doing and listen to us. He hears us, and our faith has made us well. We have seen Jesus and our response is to follow Him and to serve Him. We no longer ask what is in it for me. Our prayer is now, how can I help you Jesus? What do I need in order to lead others to you?

Like Bartimaeus, our eyes have been opened. We have been given new life. Let’s use it wisely to follow our King.

LENT 2C TIME

March 17, 2019

Looking at the last week, how much effort did we spend thinking about and or managing money? It could be paying bills, planning for the future, worrying about it or any number of ways. Money is a tangible resource: we can hold it in our hands, we can save it, we can store it. Money is actively spent, we chose where to spend it and when. Money is a renewable resource: we can earn more of it in many numbers of ways.

How much effort did we spend thinking about time though? Time is an intangible resource. We can not truly save it or store it up. We can not hold time in our hands. Time is spent without our even thinking about it. And time is a non-renewable resource, just ask anyone who has a terminal disease.

And yet, we tend to devote far more effort to managing our money than managing our time. But, scripture warns us: “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15,16

I would confidently state that it is not a matter of ignorance about how to manage our time. Amazon lists over 10,000 books on the topic of time management. There are people offering seminars and even individual teaching about time management. Resources are abundant.

Lack of motivation seems to be the real issue. Unless we see a compelling reason to manage our time more effectively, we don’t. Each of us knows how or knows where to look to find ways to learn how to better manage our time. But we do not always place a high enough value on the God given gift of time.

As I mentioned in a sermon a few weeks ago, I have come to realise that my time is running out. Of course, it is for all of us and has been since the day we were born. But for me, the idea of turning 60 brought it to the surface. With that came questions. When I stand in front of God, will I be able to say I did all I could for the Kingdom of God? Matthew 25 shows us through the parable of the stewards how we are to manage what we are given and how we will, in the end, have to account for it.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 shows us what will happen in a very visual way: Jesus is the foundation. We build on that foundation. Kind of like the three little pigs really. If we build with straw, our house will be destroyed. But if we build with solid materials, bricks for the pig, gold, silver or precious stones in scripture, our home will survive.

What determines the building material of our house? A simple way to look at it is this: does your activity build up the kingdom of God of tear it down? Gossip, cruelty, lack of assistance to a neighbour in need: these are a few examples of things that tear down the kingdom: straw. Helping the needy, Bible study, prayer: these are examples of things that build up the kingdom: silver, gold and precious stones.

Economics 101 can help us understand. No, I am not going to break into supply and demand curves. I just want to introduce you to one economics concept: Opportunity Cost. This can be explained as: What is given up to use the resource somewhere else.

In a corporation, it might be $200,000 put into advertising instead of buying new computers. For an individual, it might be one hour of TV means an hour of Bible study given up.

We are all given time and other gifts by God. How we use these gifts is up to us. We can look at our priorities to see how to best spend our time. Sometimes, watching TV can be a good use of our time. We may need time for relaxation or to find out what is happening in our world. What is important is we always consider what we are giving up in order to do what we are doing.

Would our time be better spent going for a walk with the dog? Or talking with a loved one? Or helping a neighbour? Any number of things can distract us from doing what is good, what is right. Anything, in excess, is wrong. Even too much time doing things for the church can be harmful to our relationship with our spouse or family. Even too much time spent in time management can be harmful.

So, what are we to do? What is God calling us to do? Victor Hugo said: “He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life…but where no plan is laid…chaos will soon reign.”

Plan what our schedule looks like, keeping the Opportunity Cost in mind. If I go to this or do that, what will I have to give up? What could I have been doing that would better serve God? Very soon, there will be a calendar on an easel at the back of our church. On it, we will see opportunities to do God’s work. It will include Bible studies, special services and special events. It will help us plan and spend our time wisely.

Surround ourselves with like minded people. Develop and maintain friendships with people who also want to prioritize God. 2 Thess. 3:11,14 puts it rather strongly:

“For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work… Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed.”

Be willing to rid ourselves of time wasters and neutral things that aren’t ultimately beneficial. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us “…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles…”

C.A. Stoddards states “We must say ‘no’ not only to the things which are wrong and sinful, but to things pleasant, profitable, and good which would hinder and clog our grand duties and our chief work.”

What neutral and unbeneficial things do we need to get rid of? Each of us will need to look at our own use of time but some areas needing improvement might be:

1. Procrastination

2. Laziness or Apathy

3. Inadequate personal planning & organization

4. Poor use of the computer

5. Reading junk mail, empty novels, magazines or newspapers (If it’s important enough, you’ll hear about it)

6. Too much of anything: Television, movies, internet, crafts, reading, scrap-booking, sleeping, shopping, socializing, sports

It will take time but the benefits of improving our time management are good. As we start to manage our time, we’ll find that we have significantly more of it than we thought we did.

We can relax in what we’re doing because, just as we can relax when there’s money in the bank to cover the bills, we know that we have budgeted time for everything we need to accomplish.

We will love the feeling that our home is ordered, our family is loved and taken care of, our ministry is being done out of abundance and rest and the fear that we’ve missed something rarely surfaces – it feels great!

The tasks and relationships we are involved in will begin to be marked by excellence because we’re allowing the appropriate time necessary to do things well.

And why is excellence important? If we’re people who desire to have influence for God, excellence will increase our ability to do that. Others will be encouraged by what we do. Others will be brought closer to God. “The disciplined person is a flexible person…The disciplined person is always free to respond to every movement of divine Grace.” - Richard Foster. “The purpose of our discipline should be to order our lives in such a way that we are available to be used by God.” -Cynthia Heald, Becoming a Woman of Excellence

Time: a precious gift from God. Let’s learn to use it wisely so we can be more available to be used by God.

LENT 1C ENVIRONMENT

March 10, 2019

Over the next five weeks, we, as a parish, have the opportunity to delve into scripture and learn God’s views about the environment, time, talents, treasure and our mental and physical well being. The sermons will be based on the theme of the week and studies to go deeper are offered Sundays after coffee hour and Wednesday at 10 am. Today we are handing out workbooks that go with our theme. Each week, there is a section about the topic. At the end of each section, we are invited to fill out an intention statement. Today’s is

INTENTION STATEMENT God willing, it is my/our intention to respond to the needs of God’s creation and the environment by lessening my impact on the environment and participating in a carbon fast for ____________ weeks beginning ___________ ______________________________ . God willing, it is my/our intention to respond to the needs of God’s creation and the environment by ___________________________________ beginning ___________________ .

On the very last Sunday, we will be invited to fill out one sheet with all five intentions, put it into a self-addressed envelope and seal it. These will be collected. Six months from now, we will return them to you to see how you have done.

Today’s theme is creation and the environment, a very hot topic. I came across a hymn, written by New Zealand composer, Shirley Murray titled Touch the Earth Gently. The first verse says:

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care: gift of great wonder, ours to surrender, trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

Touch the earth gently is a phrase used by an Aboriginal tribe in New Zealand but it is also a theme throughout the Bible. Right from the beginning, in Genesis, we hear about God’s love for the earth. It is created and God declares it good. Genesis goes on to say:

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.

In Job, we hear the longest speech by God in the Scriptures when God fills five chapters with the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.

The psalms contain many references to the majesty of creation. Psalm 8 is the first that praises God’s world.

And of course, our Saviour Jesus was invested in creation from the beginning. Colossians 1 informs us that “by him all things were created.”

Therefore, as believers in God, especially as Christians, we need to take care of our world. God has entrusted us with this task.

But we are not doing a very good job of it, are we? The second verse declares:

We who endanger, who create hunger, agents of death for all creatures that live, we would foster clouds of disaster, God of our planet, forestall and forgive.

We who endanger: Species are becoming extinct at a scary rate. Plastic waste is taking over our oceans and is killing animals and fish at an alarming rate. The very air we breathe is becoming polluted. The ozone layer, designed to protect us from the harmful heat of the sun, is developing holes. Some blame the industrial revolution. Some blame the atomic bomb for creating a generation who live with a “get it before I am blown up” attitude.

Whatever the cause, we are not being good stewards of God’s amazing creation, are we? We are endangering all living things.

It is a huge problem. Just like we have difficulty wrapping our minds around the diameter of the known universe being 93 billion light years wide, we have trouble wrapping our minds around how a simple plastic straw can affect our planet. Yet the news was full of threats telling us to stop using plastic straws. I had trouble with the straw thing, so I did some research. Canadian statistics are hard to find but the USA uses 500 MILLION plastic straws A DAY! It is estimated it will take over 200 years for a plastic straw to decompose. Each year, one million sea birds and one hundred thousand marine animals die from ingesting plastic. Each year! And that is just plastic. We are endangering life on this planet.

Shirley’s hymn also declares that we actually create hunger. It is so easy to forget that people are starving in this world as we walk down row after row of food at the local grocery store. We are surrounded with abundance. We have so much available to us, we waste it. According to the CBC: the value of all food that is lost or wasted in Canada is a staggering $49 billion... The amount of food is enough to feed every Canadian for five months…The annual cost of avoidable food loss and waste in Canada is $1,766 per household.

Fifty eight percent of food produced is wasted. Yet not every Canadian has enough to eat. Four million Canadians, including 1.4 million kids, struggle to access healthy food.

Second Harvest is a Toronto agency that has come up with a way to stop some of the wastage. They collect surplus food throughout the supply chain and distributes it to agencies ranging from shelters and drop-in centres to breakfast programs and summer camps. That is one answer. But what about us? What can we do?

A good start might be taking care about how much we buy. Even though the sale is a great one, are we going to use all we buy, or will we end up throwing some out? Do we make extra but end up throwing out the leftovers? Can we encourage restaurants to serve smaller, more appropriate portions? Meal planning and only purchasing what is needed can help avoid food waste. Shopping locally and buying locally produce as much as possible can help with the other negative effects of food waste.

Shirley Murrays hymn’s second last verse offers hope.

Let there be greening, birth from the burning, water that blesses and air that is sweet, health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children, regeneration that peace will complete.

We, as Christians are called to set the example. We are to take care of God’s creation. I have barely scratched the surface of the current environmental concerns, but I know we are all aware of the need. We need to stop talking and get to work looking after our world.

Either at the Study Group or on your own, take time this week to fill out your intention statement for Creation. I have also placed a calendar at the back produced by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network that shows ways we can use less plastic for Lent.

Let us pray using the last verse of our hymn:

God of all living, God of all loving, God of the seedling, the snow and the sun, teach us, deflect us, Christ reconnect us, using us gently, making us one.

Amen

LENT 3C GIFTS

March 24, 2019

When I say the word, gifts, what do you think of? Christmas Money. The root of all evil? Or a God given gift? Depending on the day, I bet your answer would change. Money can cause us to do evil things like gambling away our pay cheque. Money can cause us to be envious and never happy. Money can also allow us to do great things to help those with less or to support research for cures to cancer and other dreadful diseases. Good or evil? It all depends.

What does the Bible have to say about money? What does Jesus tell us? There are 500 Bible verses pertaining to the topics of faith and prayer and yet 2,350 Bible verses on money. Almost six times as many references to money than there are to faith and prayer. Wow.

We can conclude then that money is a very important topic to God. And yet, I am a little uncomfortable preaching to you today about money. According to the afore mentioned statistics, you would think six sermons out of 7 would be about money. If scripture talks about it so often, why are we so uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money then? What makes money such a sensitive subject?

Society teaches us that a person’s income is private as are anything that relates to income. Other than the very rich and the very poor, few of us know what another person brings in financially.

Now, do not panic. I am not about to ask you to reveal your income. But the power money holds on our lives can be clearly seen. We earn it, spend it, save it, borrow it, invest it, bequeath it, withhold it. We can help others with money or hurt others with money. We can use it to buy just about anything, including another human. Money is almost universal.

So, yes, the Bible places huge importance on money and how it is used. It can be the most valuable of God’s gifts or the most dangerous. Each person present here today has a theology on money. Each person places a different value on money and utilizes money in different ways. If I handed out $5 bills, what would you do with that money? What if I changed it to $100? Or $1,000? Or $100,000?

Does your answer change depending on the amount? Does your emotion change depending on the amount? Would things change if you found the money on the street? Or it suddenly appeared in your bank account? Or you won a lottery?

Each of your answers tells you something about your theology of money. How you spent the money and where you spent it and also on whom you spent it points to your priorities.

Did the amount of money or the method you received the money affect whether you saw the money as a gift from God? Would you give any amount back to God from what you received? Do you consider these situations different than receiving a pay cheque? How is or is God involved in your pay cheque?

Over the last few weeks of Lent, we have been exploring the topics of creation, time and talents. We have looked at God’s role in relation to each and usually found it easy to see how each affects our relationship to and with God. This week, we look at treasure, a more difficult topic. But need it be so difficult?

A little later in this service, the BCP invites us to quote Chronicles with the statement “Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel, for ever and ever. All that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.” We say this after we hand in our tithes and offerings. All things come of thee: all things come from God. And of thine own have we given thee: we are giving back from what is already God’s.

Our prayers after Communion as found in the BAS do not seem to as clearly remind us that what we give is actually God’s already. That money we place in the envelope or have taken out of our account automatically: that is our hard-earned cash. We worked hard for it. We own it. Right?

All things come of thee.

All things. The five-dollar bill found on the street or given by me. The birthday gift. The salary you earn. All things.

Back in the time the scriptures were written, people would tithe from the crops and animals they grew. The first 10% went to the temple. Some money was around though and even that was tithed. All of these gifts were then used by the priests to feed, clothe and house themselves and the poor, as well as upkeep for the temples.

Has that changed today? One obvious change is we rarely see a chicken placed in the offering plate! However, I have received food from parishioners, even lobster! Our usual practice though is to deal in cash so that is what is put in the offering plate. That money is counted up and put into a bank account where it is used to pay your priest, me, as well as for the heat, electricity, pay the secretary, buy supplies like paper and ink, and other things necessary to run this church. We also use your offering for things like supporting the food bank, helping parishioners in need, running Tuesday coffee and chat, offering services in the Nursing homes and private home for shut ins…just look around this sanctuary and you will see construction paper signs, each one listing one of our outreach ministries. Each one lists something we do to help St Marys. Each one shows a way that we are giving back to God from what God have given us.

But all of this is only possible because of the money we receive each week. The money you put in the offering plate, be it $5 or $500, allows God to advance the kingdom right here in St Marys and area and even beyond! Your money helps St James stay open. Your hard-earned money is also being spent to purchase school supplies for me to bring to Brazil so the church there can advance the Kingdom of God through an after-school program for very poor children.

God blesses us with creation, time and talent. God also blesses us with money. The scriptures are not shy about offering guidance on how to use money. 2,350 references to money. All to remind us that all things come from God and we are to give some of them back as thanks for all God does for us. 2% or 10%, the choice is yours. Let your giving be an expression of your faith. 2 Corinthians reminds us: This is not only a contribution towards the needs of God’s people. More than that, it overflows in a flood of thanksgiving to God.

How we use money says more about our value system than anything we say or do. The way we handle money is a window into our souls. Do we spend more on a dinner out than we give to God? Take some of your God given gift of time, and look at how you use your God given gift of money.

“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’” Luke 16morning with presents overflowing under the tree? Or a birthday where presents arrived in abundance from friends and family? Perhaps you think of a specific present: one hand made with love, or one from Grama that was so wrong for you, or one that changed your life like an engagement ring. Perhaps you remember a time when you were hoping for something and did not get it.

I remember pouring over the Sears’ catalogue dreaming about what I wanted for Christmas. My children cut out pictures from the Sears catalogue and made visual lists so that Santa and I would get it right. Of course, Santa never gave me or my children everything we wanted but Christmas morning was still a magical time of paper and boxes and hidden treasures. Joy filled the room as we discovered our name on the pretty packages. In my childhood home, each of my three sisters had a different tactic for approaching our presents. My older sister methodically opened one present at a time, only looking for another once she had calmly opened the one. My next younger sister searched for every package, creating a stack of them so she could see how many she received, only opening any once she was sure she had every gift with her name on it. My youngest sister would find a gift and quickly unwrap it so she could go on to the next.

Receiving gifts can be a joyous occasion, especially if the person giving the gift knows us well. No one knows us better than our heavenly Father and God gives us wonderful gifts that fill us with overflowing joy. Now, I am not talking about the newest video game or a house you have been coveting. While you may receive those as a result of God’s grace, I am talking about gifts like healing, prayer, leadership and evangelism, gifts given to further the kingdom of God. Things like Liz’s gift for pastoral care, Audrey’s gift for prayer, Caroline’s gift for music, Ivan’s gift for seeing something needing repair and doing it, Karen’s gift of hospitality, Linda’s gift for proclaiming the scriptures, Wayne’s for finances, Arlene’s for the environment, Mary for administration, Barb for leadership, Byron for joy, Jeff for servanthood… I could go on for each of you because each one of you has a God given gift, that when used brings great joy to you and others. We do not always utilize our God given gifts though.

It has been said, “He who buries his talent is making a grave mistake.”

How true this statement is for so many Christians. God has given each believer a spiritual gift that He wants us to use for His glory, but we often don’t use it. We may deny that we actually have a spiritual gift or if we do acknowledge it, we may doubt its usefulness to glorify God, and then just bury it.

But we must realize that God wants us to be involved with His work. He is so gracious that by His Holy Spirit He freely distributes gifts to all who believes. He not only wants us to know our spiritual gifts, but He expects us to grow in them each day.

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:7 “But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Also, in 1 Corinthians 12:7 it says “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Then in verse 11 it states, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”

So, it is clear that each Christian has a spiritual gift. You may ask, what are they for? How do I use my gift (or gifts)? Does God really want to use me?

Let us first look at the question: Why do we have spiritual gifts at all? This will help us to determine the importance of the gifts. To answer this let’s take a look at Scripture. In Acts 1:8, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Here He is sharing with us a primary purpose of the gifts of the Spirit: to give the church power in order to preach Christ to the entire world.

Paul says another purpose of the gifts is to equip the church for “building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). He also reminds us in 1 Corinthians 14:12 that, “So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.” Therefore, our goal should be to establish, build, and uplift the church with our gifts.

Still this doesn’t quite answer the big question of why. Why build up the church? For this answer lets again see what the Word says. Revelation 4:11 says, “‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.’” Colossians 1:16 says, “for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.”

We exist to glorify God. We were created by, through and for Jesus Christ. To testify of His love, grace, and power. God wants to reconcile with us through His son Jesus, and not only with us, but all of His chosen people! That is why we, by His Spirit, are called to be a part of His work on earth. In John 15:8 Jesus says, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” By bearing much fruit, we glorify God, and we can do this by abiding in Him and using our gifts to serve Him and bring others to Christ.

Why you?

You are a special part of the body of Christ. If you are a Christian and are not serving in some way, the church as a whole suffers. It’s like missing a part of the body. You may be able to live a normal life with just 9 out of 10 fingers, but you wouldn’t be able to do certain things as well as you would like. The truth is, the body of Christ has missing parts. They are attached but are missing in action. The church is called the “body of Christ” for a reason. We are connected by our faith in Jesus Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Being members of the body, we need to work together. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 it says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” And in verse 14, “For the body is not one member, but many.” Each of us is a specific body part. It sounds strange but it is a great analogy of the church. In verse 27 Paul says, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” If you read verses 13-27 you will see that Paul affirms the importance of each member. He also declares that we need each member to function properly as a whole body. He says, in verse 26, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

You glorify God by getting involved.

God wants to use you! He has chosen you for the purpose of doing great things for Him. In Ephesians 2:10 it says, “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” God already has plans for us. He wants us to listen to His calling and make ourselves available to serve. Not only that, He expects us to use the gifts He has given us.

Spiritual gifts are also called “grace gifts” and should be valued as gifts of God’s grace toward us. We are called to “bear much fruit” that lasts, and our spiritual gifts play a significant role in doing that.

So what’s next?

The first step is to pray. Pray for God’s guidance and ask Him to use you for His will. Ask Him to open your eyes and ears to His call on your life. He will undoubtedly put some direction or calling upon your heart. There are many existing places and ministries to serve in, or He may tell you to start a whole new one! Whatever God calls you to do, be confident that He will provide a way for it.

Discover your gifts. You may already know what your spiritual gifts are. But, if you don’t, or just want to clarify what they are, there are spiritual gifts tests to help you find out. These tests do not guarantee what gifts you have, but they are helpful tools for you to get an idea of how you are gifted. I have put some copies of a test at the back of the church. I encourage you to take the test, and then talk to other Christians in church or the community to assist you in discovering your gifts. Try serving in different ministries to see what fits and how you can glorify God in your gifts. God may have given you gifts that you didn’t think you could ever have. Or He may transform some of your known talents into spiritual gifts. He will provide gifts for you to accomplish every goal He has for your life. Our spiritual gifts are to be developed as we mature. Philippians 1:6 says, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Don’t be afraid of what He will do with you. Step out in faith and let God use you. The rewards will be awesome.

LENT 4C  TREASURE

March 31, 2019

  Money. The root of all evil? Or a God given gift? Depending on the day, I bet your answer would change. Money can cause us to do evil things like gambling away our pay cheque. Money can cause us to be envious and never happy. Money can also allow us to do great things to help those with less or to support research for cures to cancer and other dreadful diseases. Good or evil? It all depends.

What does the Bible have to say about money? What does Jesus tell us? There are 500 Bible verses pertaining to the topics of faith and prayer and yet 2,350 Bible verses on money. Almost six times as many references to money than there are to faith and prayer. Wow.

We can conclude then that money is a very important topic to God. And yet, I am a little uncomfortable preaching to you today about money. According to the afore mentioned statistics, you would think six sermons out of 7 would be about money. If scripture talks about it so often, why are we so uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money then? What makes money such a sensitive subject?

Society teaches us that a person’s income is private as are anything that relates to income. Other than the very rich and the very poor, few of us know what another person brings in financially.

Now, do not panic. I am not about to ask you to reveal your income. But the power money holds on our lives can be clearly seen. We earn it, spend it, save it, borrow it, invest it, bequeath it, withhold it. We can help others with money or hurt others with money. We can use it to buy just about anything, including another human. Money is almost universal.

So, yes, the Bible places huge importance on money and how it is used. It can be the most valuable of God’s gifts or the most dangerous. Each person present here today has a theology on money. Each person places a different value on money and utilizes money in different ways. If I handed out $5 bills, what would you do with that money? What if I changed it to $100? Or $1,000? Or $100,000?

Does your answer change depending on the amount? Does your emotion change depending on the amount? Would things change if you found the money on the street? Or it suddenly appeared in your bank account? Or you won a lottery?

Each of your answers tells you something about your theology of money. How you spent the money and where you spent it and also on whom you spent it points to your priorities.

Did the amount of money or the method you received the money affect whether you saw the money as a gift from God? Would you give any amount back to God from what you received? Do you consider these situations different than receiving a pay cheque? How is or is God involved in your pay cheque?

Over the last few weeks of Lent, we have been exploring the topics of creation, time and talents. We have looked at God’s role in relation to each and usually found it easy to see how each affects our relationship to and with God. This week, we look at treasure, a more difficult topic. But need it be so difficult?

A little later in this service, the BCP invites us to quote Chronicles with the statement “Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel, for ever and ever. All that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.” We say this after we hand in our tithes and offerings. All things come of thee: all things come from God. And of thine own have we given thee: we are giving back from what is already God’s.

Our prayers after Communion as found in the BAS do not seem to as clearly remind us that what we give is actually God’s already. That money we place in the envelope or have taken out of our account automatically: that is our hard-earned cash. We worked hard for it. We own it. Right?

All things come of thee.

All things. The five-dollar bill found on the street or given by me. The birthday gift. The salary you earn. All things.

Back in the time the scriptures were written, people would tithe from the crops and animals they grew. The first 10% went to the temple. Some money was around though and even that was tithed. All of these gifts were then used by the priests to feed, clothe and house themselves and the poor, as well as upkeep for the temples.

Has that changed today? One obvious change is we rarely see a chicken placed in the offering plate! However, I have received food from parishioners, even lobster! Our usual practice though is to deal in cash so that is what is put in the offering plate. That money is counted up and put into a bank account where it is used to pay your priest, me, as well as for the heat, electricity, pay the secretary, buy supplies like paper and ink, and other things necessary to run this church. We also use your offering for things like supporting the food bank, helping parishioners in need, running Tuesday coffee and chat, offering services in the Nursing homes and private home for shut ins…just look around this sanctuary and you will see construction paper signs, each one listing one of our outreach ministries. Each one lists something we do to help St Marys. Each one shows a way that we are giving back to God from what God have given us.

But all of this is only possible because of the money we receive each week. The money you put in the offering plate, be it $5 or $500, allows God to advance the kingdom right here in St Marys and area and even beyond! Your money helps St James stay open. Your hard-earned money is also being spent to purchase school supplies for me to bring to Brazil so the church there can advance the Kingdom of God through an after-school program for very poor children.

God blesses us with creation, time and talent. God also blesses us with money. The scriptures are not shy about offering guidance on how to use money. 2,350 references to money. All to remind us that all things come from God and we are to give some of them back as thanks for all God does for us. 2% or 10%, the choice is yours. Let your giving be an expression of your faith. 2 Corinthians reminds us: This is not only a contribution towards the needs of God’s people. More than that, it overflows in a flood of thanksgiving to God.

How we use money says more about our value system than anything we say or do. The way we handle money is a window into our souls. Do we spend more on a dinner out than we give to God? Take some of your God given gift of time, and look at how you use your God given gift of money.

“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’” Luke 16 

LENT 5C HOLY OF HOLIES

APRIL 7, 2019

Yom Kippur is the holiest Jewish holiday of the year. This year, it begins just before sunset on October 8th and ends after sunset October 9th. Observant Jews, for nearly 26 hours will “afflict their souls”: abstaining from food and drink, not washing or applying lotions or creams, not wearing leather footwear, and abstaining from marital relations. Instead, they spend the day in synagogue, praying for forgiveness.

The first Yom Kippur occurred when Moses came down from the mountain the second time, having received the 10 commandments a second time. During the days of the first and second temple, the first of which was built shortly after Moses delivering the 10 commandments, once a year, on Yom Kippur, the high priest took off his ornate clothing and put on a very simple white robe. After proper preparation, the priest would then be allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, the inner part of the temple where the tabernacle, or home for God, resided. He would enter via the veils which completely hid the Holy of Holies.

The highlight of the Yom Kippur Temple service was the convergence of the holiest elements of time, space, and life form. On the holiest day of the year, the holiest person — the High Priest — entered the holiest place on earth, the Holy of Holy chamber in the Temple sanctuary, where he would pray on behalf of all his Jewish brethren and secure their atonement.

After the destruction of the Second Temple, a new temple was not constructed. Yom Kippur is now a time for each individual to recognize that every Jewish person is a potential temple for God, and every individual is the serving high priest in his or her personal temple. The goal of the Yom Kippur prayer service is to access the Holy of Holies of this temple. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year—the day on which we are closest to God and to the quintessence of our own souls. It is the Day of Atonement—“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before God” (Leviticus 16:30).

As Christians, we do not celebrate Yom Kippur. This is because, as we hear in Mark 15:38: “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” A very simple sentence that contains so much. The curtain, or the veil, was torn in two. This would open up the Holy of Holies and allow everyone access to God.

Just like our Jewish brothers and sisters, we know that God resides inside each of us. We too pray to God. We too are called to care for our bodies as the temple of God.

Our difference is that we know Christ died to take away our sins. We are cleansed and as such have direct access to God without the need for the ritual purification used by the Jewish priests and modern Jews.

But we still recognise our bodies as the temple of God. We are created in God’s image. As such, we are called to care for these bodies and those of others as they also house God.

So, what does that entail? Unlike the Jewish practice at Yom Kippur, we do not need to abstain from food or drink or sexual relations. We can wash and apply lotions and do not have to don a white robe.

However, when we engage in these activities and every other activity actually, we need to keep in mind that we are caretakers of the body of Christ. How is what we are engaging in affecting the temple of God that we are?

That is actually a very heavy thought. Because God lives in us, we are God’s temple. Legend has it that when a priest entered the Holy of Holies, if he was not properly prepared, he would be killed. How are we preparing our bodies for the indwelling of God? When we sneak that grape at the grocery store thinking no one is watching, do we remember that God is housed within us? When we cheat on our spouse or lie to a friend, do we fail to treat our bodies as temples? When we over eat or do not exercise, what then?

Conceiving of God as actually inside us at all times can change how we treat our bodies. It can also change how we treat others because we must acknowledge that they too house God. Would we treat the homeless woman differently if we truly saw God in her? Would we abuse alcohol or smoke cigarettes?

In days gone by, many people would fast on Sunday until they received Communion. By doing that small act, they recognised their sacred bodies receiving sacred food.

We come forward to receive communion, performing a physical act to remind us that we come to God to receive nourishment and strength from bread and wine that I, as your priest, have consecrated for that purpose for your temple bodies. I have used holy words and holy gestures and placed holy hands upon that bread and wine. I was ordained a priest when Bishop Bob, whose episcopal lineage can be traced all the way back to the first disciples and Jesus, placed his sacred hands upon my head.

Jesus used His physical body in healing people. He laid upon the daughter to heal her. He mixed mud with spittle and rubbed it on the eyes of a blind man to heal him. He broke two loaves of bread to feed five thousand. He walked on water. He was beaten and died on a cross. He physically rose from the dead.

The body of Christ is important. The body of Christ can heal the sick, walk on water and feed the hungry. The body of Christ experienced pain and hunger and joy and sadness. The body of Christ lives on after death.

And we are the Body of Christ. We are the Holy of Holies. We no longer have to send our most holy person in to the Holy of Holies to ask for forgiveness. Christ has torn the veil and brought God out to reside within God’s people. Christ purified our souls so we would be worthy to house our God. It is our job to maintain that house, our physical bodies. And each week, Christ offers Himself anew in the bread and wine, allowing us to be renewed, healed and purified through His sacred body.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish holiest day of the year. Ours is every Sunday.

PALM AND PASSION SUNDAY

APRIL 14, 2019

Two men enter Jerusalem: Pilate draped in expensive robes signifying his imperial power, surrounded by horses, chariots and shining armour. Jesus, at the opposite side of town, dressed in a dusty, well worn robe, surrounded by an equally weary band of common people. One rides a noble steed. The other an unbroken colt. One enters from the West. The other the East. One ready for a show of domination and physical power. The other declaring peace, justice, love and mercy.

Each year we re-enact Jesus’ triumphant procession into Jerusalem. We wave palm branches and bless palm crosses to take home. We are joyous.

But then we quickly jump from the Sunday triumphal entry to the complete mood change of the end of the week. The same people who shout with joy and declare Jesus their king suddenly cry out to have him crucified. They no longer want this gentle king. They want the other, the mighty king who destroys the weak.

Both men were declared King. But who to follow? Who to obey? The people quickly change from one to the other. The choice of who to follow is still one demanding to be made today. Pilate is long dead, but we do have people that rule our lives. We also worship things that can rule our lives.

Are we attracted to the worldly draw of power and prestige that Pilate exemplified? Or do we lean towards the less worldly draw of peace, justice, and mercy, of Jesus?

Everywhere we look, the world leads us towards the choice of power, domination, prestige. Advance in our career and gain power and money. Buy the shirt and look the part. Eat fine foods because we deserve it.

But what about the people we had to step on to get the raise? What about the sweat shops where that shirt was made? How about the environmental harm getting that fine food to us causes?

This saga of Jesus occurred long, long ago. It is so easy to hear it year after year and discount it as just a moving story. But this story mirrors things happening right now, right here. We too have the pleasure of declaring Jesus our king. We too sing of His glory and offer Him praise. We have processed and praised and offered ourselves. We recreate the Last Supper and feast on the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are blessed and sent out. We leave this building uplifted and feeling good about our God and ourselves.

But do we too skip to the end of the week? Do we leave here and suddenly cry, “crucify Him”? Do we switch sides?

Desmond Tutu is a beloved Anglican Bishop who lives in South Africa. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work ending apartheid. He says this about taking sides or even staying neutral:

“Our God is not a Neutral God. We have a God who does take sides. Our God is the God of Underdogs, who will not let us forget the widow and the orphan.Our God is a God who has a bias for the weak, and we who worship this God, and have to reflect the character of this God, we have no option but to have a like special concern for those who are pushed to the edges of society, for those who, because they are different, seem to be without a voice. We must speak up on their behalf, on behalf of the drug addicts and the down-and-outs, on behalf of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized ones, on behalf of those because they have different sexual orientations from our own tend to be pushed away to the periphery. We must be where Jesus would be, this one who was vilified for being the friend of sinners.”- Desmond Tutu

We are called to follow Jesus. We have made that choice and come to church to reinforce it. But we can not leave that choice at the door when we exit this building. We are the physical body of Christ outside these walls as well. We bring Jesus to those who do not know Him in everything we do and say.

That means we need to be people of the underdogs. That means we are to have “a special concern for those who are pushed to the edges of society, for those who, because they are different, seem to be without a voice. We must speak up on their behalf, on behalf of the drug addicts and the down-and-outs, on behalf of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized ones, on behalf of those because they have different sexual orientations from our own tend to be pushed away to the periphery. We must be where Jesus would be, this one who was vilified for being the friend of sinners.”

It is easy to join a celebration, waving palm branches and shouting praise. It is very much harder do what Jesus would do and turn the other cheek when someone offends us. It is hard to speak lovingly to those we see as different or those we have trouble liking. It is hard to stand up for the person who is being bullied because of their skin colour, their sexual orientation, their mental illness. Those who are not as smart, or as pretty, or as rich are too easy to dismiss as less than us. They may act in ways they can not control but that offend us.

At a Broadway performance of The King and I, a young autistic child, who had sat still already for 2.5 hours, began to act up during a scene of the play where a child is being whipped. The mother quickly tried to remove the child, but the child grabbed hold of the railing, refusing to leave. The mother eventually succeeded but not without listening to other attendees admonish her and glare at the boy and mother.

The star of the play was barely off the stage when he took to Facebook to declare: "When did we as theater people, performers and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?"

"I barely had my costume off and I was upset,'' the actor told TODAY.com. "I felt like I had to say something. It's just about having some kind of compassion, walking in their shoes and seeing how difficult it is to be in that position. It's not like they walked in wanting to disrupt the performance. "Parents of autistic children sit there with such fear and terror that this episode could occur. I was watching a mother's nightmare happen, and I just wanted to have her know that what she's doing is right in trying to expose her child to the theater, and there are advocates supporting her."

The star goes on to advise: "'The King and I' is a beautiful, family-friendly show,'' … "Performances should be acceptable to any and every single person. The stares and the glares are not helping. Instead, reach out and ask how you can help as a person."

Do you think that when we are in heaven, God will glare at someone who disrupts? Or will God just love that person? Is God judgemental or loving? The God I know is loving beyond anything I can even imagine. So, if God acts with love rather than power, can we do any less? Follow Jesus or follow Pilate. The choice is ours.

MAUNDY THURSDAY

APRIL 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday. My favourite night of the year. An odd night to be a favourite, some might say. True. But my favourite none the less. Tonight’s service is truly special in that it is a night dripping with rich symbolism that invites us right in to the experience.

Last Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem astride a humble donkey while people shouted praise and threw down their cloaks to protect Him from the dusty road. We mirrored this as we processed from the hall to the sanctuary waving palm branches and singing.

But today, we come to Thursday. We look to see Jesus celebrating the Passover in a borrowed upper room. His disciples gather around to share this annual meal, unaware that their celebration takes on new meaning this time. Each year, they have gathered to remember the time of Moses, when God provided a way to allow their children to avoid certain death.

This year was different. This year, death was not to be avoided but to be embraced, not by all, but by Jesus Himself. We too gather round, not only listening but experiencing some of what the disciples did.

Jesus, as He has throughout their time together, continues to instruct His disciples, and us, as they take their spots around Jesus for the Passover feast. Jesus suddenly rises and takes off His outer robe. He ties a towel around His waist and begins to do the unthinkable. Jesus fills a bowl with water, stoops and begins to wash the feet of the disciples. Jesus, the Son of God, stoops down and takes those dirty feet into His Holy hands and washes them. That is the job of the lowly servants, not the leader. Peter, loving Peter, refuses to allow Jesus to perform this lowly task. It is embarrassing and inappropriate, Peter declares.

“Not so.” replies Jesus. Rulers and leaders of the world may think it is inappropriate to behave as a servant. But the leader of the Universe, God incarnate, declares that, as in Baptism, unless you are washed clean by God, you are never clean. No part of us is too dirty, too sinful for God. God needs to be invited into every part of us, especially the parts we would rather hide.

And so, tonight, I, the leader of this parish, having removed my vestments, the symbol of my station and authority, will, on bended knee, take your feet into my hands and wash them, offering symbolic cleansing of your very souls. My act will remind me that I act for Christ in my leadership of this parish. It will remind me that my role is to facilitate the opening of your eyes and hearts to the love of Jesus. And, God willing, you will lose sight of me and envision Christ Himself as you humble yourselves to have your feet washed.

Having been cleansed, both physically and spiritually, we will continue this celebration with the recreation of the Last Supper. Like the retelling at Passover of the experience of Moses as the people were set free, I will begin with the story of how God has led us to today, through the creation of our world, the experiences of ancient Israel, the lessons passed on through the Prophets and scriptures and above all, the Word made flesh in Jesus.

Using Jesus’ own words, I will bless the bread and wine as we are reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made so that we might be free, not just to escape persecution but for all eternity. We will contemplate Christ’s blood spilling out, yet gathered into the sacred chalice for us to drink. We will ponder the cost paid by Christ as His body was whipped, broken and hung on a cross so that we may take it into ourselves and be made whole.

Humbled by the footwashing and the reminder of the cost, we will venture forward to take the sacrament into ourselves, the promise of things to come.

With the grace of knowing how the story ends, we will not lose hope as we remember Jesus’ death, but lean in, feeling the pain and desolation as the Holy Altar is stripped as Jesus was stripped, hearing the pain echoed in the reading of psalm 22. We will leave, feeling as empty and laid bare as the sanctuary, to go into the dark night contemplating the sacrifice of Jesus.

Tomorrow will expand this Holy experience as we raise our concerns to God, continuing our encounter with the cross.

So lean in. Allow tonight to fully embrace you, leading you into that upper room and taking you through that humbling experience of foot washing, allowing you to witness the cost of the Last Supper, and then depositing us at the foot of the cross that holds our beloved Savior, broken and stripped bare for all to see.

EASTER SUNDAY

APRIL 21, 2019

Welcome. Welcome to St James and welcome to Easter morning. We are gathered here today to commemorate the day, almost 2,000 years ago when Mary, went to the tomb of Jesus and found it empty. I just read to you the version from John’s Gospel, the one chosen to be read every Easter Sunday. John recounts the story in his own particular way. John is a very symbolic writer and stresses that Mary comes while it is still dark. Mary, and hence the world, does not know that Jesus has risen so her world is feeling very dark and sad. She notices the stone rolled back from the tomb and runs to tell the other disciples what she saw. Peter and John jump up and race to the tomb, competing to be the first to arrive, just as they had competed to be first with Jesus when he was alive. They first peek then go into the tomb and find Mary was correct. Jesus is not there. Peter and John go home.

Mary stays though, weeping outside the tomb. She too peeks inside the tomb but this time there are two angels there, one at each end of where Jesus was laid, an image of the arc of the Covenant, the place where God resided in the Old Testament. She turns from this, a very important action as it relates to a turn in faith, and sees a gardener. Here, John reminds us of Adam and Eve encountering God in the garden.

Mary does not yet recognise Jesus though. It is not until Jesus speaks her name, reminding us that Jesus said the good shepherd will call his sheep by name and they will recognise him.

In true love, Mary tries to hold on to Jesus but is told her job is now to go tell the other disciples that Jesus has risen.

The writer of the Gospel of Matthew tells the story with his own flair. In his recollection, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went together to the tomb. In the verse immediately before they go, we hear the church leaders beg Pilate to provide guards at the tomb and to seal it so Jesus’ disciples can not steal the body and pretend that Jesus rose on the third day as he said he would.

As the Marys approach the tomb, there is a great earthquake for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. The poor guards are literally scared stiff and become “like dead men”. The angel then has the Marys look and see that the tomb is empty and tells them to go to the men and relate that Jesus will see them in Galilee.

Mathew’s version is definitely more concise than John’s and Mark’s is even more. He adds Salome to the women going to the tomb and recounts their concern over being able to move the tomb stone. They arrive to find it moved and an angel inside the tomb who tells them that Jesus is not there because He has been raised. The angel then tells the women to go let the disciples know and that Jesus will meet them in Galilee as he had told them he would.

Luke shortens it even further, having Mary and all the women going to the tomb, finding the stone rolled back, and two angels inside. The women are overcome at the sight of the angels and bow down to the ground. But the angels say,” ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.”

Four different versions of the same event, all slightly different. Not surprising really. I am sure if we asked any four people to recount an event, they would tell it in their own way. The legal profession knows this well.

So, what can we glean from these four recollections that is consistent? What truth stays with each writer’s view? The sun is rising in each recollection. Mary is in each. The stone is rolled away in each. The empty tomb is in each. Angels appear in each. Mary is commissioned in each to tell the rest of the disciples the good news that Jesus has risen.

And that, my friends, is the most important part of the story. The tomb is empty. The Son has indeed risen. Jesus comes to each of us in our own way and we are then commissioned to tell others of this good news.

We began this celebration today with the Thanksgiving for Baptism because Baptism is our response to meeting Jesus. Through Baptism, we are joined to Christ and raised to new life in the Spirit. Baptism is our exit from the tomb of death. Because Jesus’ tomb was empty, our tomb is also empty. Because Jesus conquered death, we too have conquered death. Because Jesus rose again, we too will rise again.

Alleluia, thanks be to God.

MOTHER'S DAY

May 12, 2019

My mom is my shepherd; I shall not want. She makes me lie down under cool, downy comforters. She watches me play beside still waters. She restores my soul.

She leads me in paths of respect, responsibility, and goodness, for I am her namesake!

Yea, even though I walk past monsters in the dark, I will not be afraid, because my mom is always near me. Her hands and her voice, they comfort me.

Mama sets the table and cheerfully calls me to dinner even in front of big, mean bullies.

She anoints my skinned knees and broken heart with kisses. She smiles and throws me a towel when my cup runneth over.

Surely God's peace, power, and mercy shall uphold me all the days of my life, for my Mother taught me to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I forget where I got this version of the 23rd psalm but it seems appropriate for this Sunday, being both Mother’s Day and Good Shepherd Sunday! Most of us have experienced Mothers during our lifetime while few of us have experienced shepherds so this rewrite can help us see the true message of the psalm.

God is better than the best mother that ever was. Now some of us had excellent mothers. Some are excellent mothers. I know I have met some pretty spectacular mothers in my lifetime. They have great patience and love with their children. Some even raised children they did not give birth to, such as adoptive mothers and foster mothers.

One mother I greatly admire took in foster children who were “special needs”. Each child had been through a rough start and was coming to her broken and hurting. Most left feeling loved and better able to show love.

Another mother came to me before she ever became a mother. She and her husband had resigned themselves to never being able to have their own natural children and wanted to adopt. They thought I might be able to help. They ended up adopting two young brothers, ages 2 and 4, who had never actually met each other. The boys were shy and nervous but after several months started relaxing and feeling loved and part of the family. A short time later, the couple heard that the birth mother was about to give birth again. They were asked if they would adopt the little girl too. Soon the family became larger as the new baby joined her brothers.

Now some mothers are not like these wonderful moms. They are like the birth mom whose children were taken from her. Or they keep their children but are incapable of showing love. They may not know how or may have been taught the wrong things about love. Many factors can play into making a woman into a poor mother. And some may have been good but not with her own child.

But God is a good mother. God is the best mother. That phrase may seem awkward on your ears: God as Mother. We are used to God as Father, but mother God does not come as easily to us. But God is the creator of all things. We are made in the image of God. Therefore, God is both Mother and Father.

Just listen to Deuteronomy 32:18 “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” And Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

Thus, we are called to think of God as Mother as well.

But what about a shepherd? As I mentioned earlier, not too many of us have encountered shepherds. Ivan has been a shepherd and he told me an interesting fact about sheep. Ivan, please teach us a bit about sheep and their shepherd.

(as needed use the following)

One of my classmates at seminary is a modern-day shepherd. She too gave insight into what sheep and shepherding are like. We like to think of sheep as fluffy, soft, cuddly creatures. They kind of are but they are also not the brightest. They easily get lost. They are not good at finding food or water. They truly need someone to take care of them.

They also like to keep in close contact with their shepherd. Every two hours or less, a sheep will come over and physically touch the shepherd. I am not sure if that is to say, “hey, look at me. I am still here.” Or “oh good, you are still here.”

But comparing us to sheep is a fair comparison. We too can easily get lost and need God to lead us back to the fold. We too need God’s wisdom. And we too can be soft and cuddly. But we too need to touch God regularly, to reaffirm that connection.

Maybe you are here today wanting to reaffirm that connection. Maybe you are looking for God to be the shepherd and guide you. Maybe you want to learn to trust that God knows the way even if you don’t. Maybe you would like to thank God for someone who has been a shepherd on God’s behalf to you. Maybe you want to risk the way of Jesus and be part of God’s ripples out into the community.

You have been given two pipe cleaners today, one long and one short. Use them to make a shepherd’s cross as you think about why you are here today and how you want God to be your Good Shepherd. 

EASTER 5C INVISIBLE FENCE

May 19, 2019

"I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air.”

Yuck. All the things deemed “unclean” coming towards Peter on a blanket. Years of conditioning as a “good Jew” caused Peter’s stomach to clench and his body to want to get away from these creepy crawly flying things. From when Peter was a little boy, he had been taught that these animals were not to be touched and certainly not eaten! It was written in scripture that these are unclean.

But again, these creatures come down on a blanket. And again, Peter backs up in disgust. God is not one to give up though and a third time, that enormous sheet descends with all of the vile creatures on it.

Each of the three times, God declares: 'What God has made clean, you must not call profane.'

A lifetime of knowing right from wrong, clean from unclean. Then suddenly, what Peter knows is turned upside down. Peter was well taught. He was conditioned to automatically steer clear of these creatures.

As many of you know, I have a dog whose name is Chip. Chip is a lovely, friendly dog. He is a dog though and given half a chance, Chip would run off and explore for miles. And the house that Sheri and I bought does not have a fence. We thought of installing a fence but part of the beauty of our home is the openness and green space. So we made use of modern psychology. We bought a wireless fencing system. It is really very simple. I put a collar on Chip or a smaller one on Sheri’s dog, Hershey. Inside the house, there is a device which emits a signal. If either dog gets to the boundary, a beep is sounded. If they continue, a vibration occurs that startles the dog and they must go back inside the boundary to stop it.

I must say, I was very surprised at how quickly the dogs learned where their boundaries are. Other dogs go by, cats sneak past, squirrels tease but the dogs stay inside the invisible boundary. I am not sure the batteries even hold a charge at this point, but the dogs have been conditioned to know where to stay.

Just like the dogs and Peter, we too become well conditioned to know what is right and wrong. At least most of us do. Some do not take to the conditioning or get stronger conditioning elsewhere and break the rules. These can be rules of the family or society or the church or even of God. Teenagers seem to be constantly testing the boundaries. And that can be good. Their parents can draw them back into the boundary or allow them to form their own boundaries. We certainly would not want them to have the same boundaries they had when they were younger. As they mature, they are better equipped to enlarge their boundaries.

One of my boundaries was that instilled into me was that homosexuality was a sin. I held this belief until I went to university and encountered homosexual people. Then I started to question. But it was not until much later in life that I decided to really look into this belief. I had encountered this boundary many times and each time God was showing me the blanket. God was telling me that this was not unclean as I had been conditioned. And finally, it all made sense. Love is love. Marriage is a tiny experience of the great love God has for us so why would God create people who loved same gendered people but not allow them to experience this love.

That is just one example of how God stretches our boundaries as we mature. The lessons God gives are different for each person and each group. Other denominations have not been able to see homosexuals as clean. We are not to condemn them but to love them for who they are and where they are in their understanding.

Each of us, if we allow God to work in us, will have times when our beliefs and boundaries are stretched. It may be as simple as trying a new food or as difficult as accepting a child who “come out”. Over our lifetimes we have had many boundary changes. Women can again be clergy ( I say again because historically, it is not the first time). Women can hold jobs. Indigenous people have been classified subhuman but with God’s help have again been given human status. Plastics have gone from being life changing to life taking. Our views about the world’s resources have gone from believing they were limitless, and God given to use; to understanding their limits and the realization that we are called to care for the world not abuse it.

Each of us has different areas of life where we have developed and grown. Looking back, these areas can become evidence of God’s hands on our lives as we learn better ways to love our neighbours.

As a church, we too encounter times where we have our boundaries stretched by God. The first female rector here, …, stretched boundaries. Rishi and Shaun helped some stretch their views. Moving the altar out from the wall and using the Book of Alternative Services changed our beliefs about right and wrong and love.

As a country, God has shown us new ways of loving our neighbour too. Canada allows same gender marriage. Canada welcomes people who do not share our beliefs and religion. People who look different from us are not deemed less than. Canada is seen worldwide as a welcoming, loving country.

There is still room for growth though. Peter declared: “The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.” He welcomed in the stranger, the unclean, and ate with them. Who are we treating as unclean? Who do we not want to break bread with?

Just as I can adjust the invisible fence for the dogs, God is mending our invisible fences. Jesus commanded:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

God does not put limits on who is acceptable to be loved. God loves everyone and we are called to do the same. In the words of Bishop Curry:

"Being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teachings seriously, letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives, and in so doing helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream." Bishop Curry

EASTER 6C SPIRITUAL HEALING

May 26, 2019

  "Do you want to be made well?" A seemingly simple question that we would expect to lead to a simple answer. Yes, I would or no, I do not. We, as readers or listeners, would likely think, “Well duh! Of course, he would! This man has been sick for 38 years. For 38 years he has waited by this pool that is believed to offer healing if one can just get into the pool at the right time, when an angel stirs it up.”

But the man does not say yes or no. He offers explanations or excuses as to why he has not yet been healed. “I have no one to lift me into the pool.” “Someone always gets in the way.”

38 years of no one willing to help. 38 years of others getting in his way. Interesting excuses. This man has been sick basically all of his life based on life expectancy at the time of Jesus. In all those years, no one has liked this man enough to lift him into the pool. What must he be like if he has not made one single friend in those 38 years and even his own family doesn’t like him enough to help? Not a nice man, one would assume.

This character assessment holds as we see him get healed. He does not even say thank you to Jesus. He does not ask Jesus who he is.

It continues as we listen to the next two verses:

So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’ But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.” ’

He had just been healed after a lifetime of illness but quickly lays the blame for breaking a religious rule on the One who healed him rather than being grateful for the healing. Once he does find out that it was Jesus who healed him, he still doesn’t say thank you. He actually goes directly to the Jews and tells them it was Jesus who broke the Sabbath Law.

We are definitely getting a picture of a not very likeable man. He has no friends, and he quickly turns on the one person who has truly helped him.

But, this is the man Jesus picks to heal out of a crowd of people needing healing. We hear there are “many invalids--blind, lame, and paralyzed.” Surely there was some one more deserving in that great crowd. Well, maybe that is exactly why Jesus picked this man. Maybe it was because this man was so undeserving that Jesus chose to heal him.

Many times Jesus does the opposite of what was expected. Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman at the well. Not only is she Samaritan but she is an adulterer. Jesus calls a tax collector to be a disciple even though tax collectors were evil people who demanded extra money from people above their already high taxes. Jesus eats with Zacchaeus, a corrupt rich tax collector. Mary Magdalen travels with Jesus and is a disciple, even though she has a checkered past as a prostitute. Many more times, Jesus picks the most underserving people we can imagine and offers healing.

Would it not make more sense for Jesus to help those who are deserving of that help? Shouldn’t he limit the blessings to those who earn them, who behave well, who follow the rules? This man Jesus heals after 38 years of illness does not go around telling others of the miracle. He does not spread the “Good News”. He actually does the opposite and turns Jesus over to those who want to condemn Jesus. Where is the logic in that? Doesn’t Jesus know better? Can’t Jesus see that healing this man on the sabbath will come back to Him and help condemn Jesus to death?

Yes, Jesus could help only those who are good, God-fearing people but that is not what God does. And the healing is not the important part. The message is far greater than the fact that Jesus can heal. Jesus has a message that He tries to teach through out His earthly life.

Jesus is showing us that God is not swayed by human ideas. God does not declare one person worthy and another not worthy. God truly loves each and every one of His children and we are all God’s children

We too are called to love like God loves. Jesus shows us that we are to love without considering worth. And that is not easy. We so easily judge others. That person who abuses drugs. That one who takes advantage of the generosity of others. The one who “should be working”, who should be a better parent, who should take better care of their health, who should pray more, give more…the list is endless. We judge others by a standard that is completely our own, not God’s.

Loving unconditionally was not always what we would judge as the best thing for Jesus to do. Healing this grumpy man did not create a follower. It also was one of the things the Jewish leaders used to judge Jesus and condemn Him to death. But Jesus did it anyway. He did not allow the man-made definition of God’s rule to stop Him from healing on the Sabbath. Jesus put the health of a man above the man-made rule. God did not intend the law to be stretched to the extent where helping others was not allowed on the Sabbath. And neither did Jesus.

Unlike society, we are to love like Jesus loves. We are to put away our judgements of better or worse, worthy or unworthy and treat every person equally as a child of God. Jesus has shown us the way and the Holy Spirit continues to help us learn to love as God loves and heal our spiritual ailment of judging.

As I anoint later in this service, healing is offered not only for our physical ailments, not only for our mental ailments, but also, and maybe most importantly, for our spiritual ailments. We are called to bring all of our ailments as God asks, “Do you want to be made well?”

EASTER 7 JERUSALEM SUNDAY

June 2, 2019

This Sunday is designated Jerusalem Sunday by the Anglican Church of Canada and this year it is specifically, “Pilgrimage” with pilgrimage defined as “travel that immerses one in a soulful engagement with a land, its peoples and their history, favouring every narrative.”

I have been to Israel and I have travelled to many places on earth. And I am not alone.

“Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries globally. According to the United Nations World Trade Organization (UNWTO) tourism accounted for 10% of the global economy in 2016 and is projected to increase by 4% or more, annually until 2030.

Last year Israel welcomed 4 million tourists up 14% from the previous year, and up 38% from 2016. Christian pilgrims comprise 56% of those who visit Israel.

A study of Catholic pilgrimage sites in Europe has reported that Western Europe’s 6,000 pilgrim centres are generating over 60 million ‘religiously motivated’ visits each year. This phenomenon is being called a renaissance in pilgrimage; a resurgence of interest to encounter places of spiritual significance.

One might ask is this renaissance in pilgrimage only because travel is becoming more accessible or more affordable. Is it because of an increase in disposable income or the Baby Boom effect, or is something deeper taking place? The churches of Europe are empty but its pilgrim routes are overflowing. What might we learn from this?

What is drawing people to take pilgrimages and what makes a trip a pilgrimage over just a visit?

Last January, I went to Cuba. I stayed at a resort, was offered food that was familiar to my Canadian palate and the level of comfort was designed around Canadian expectations. I was a tourist as I sat by the pool and was brought food and drinks. I was a tourist as I sat in a beach chair with a plush towel. I was even a tourist when I went into town and also when I went to “historic recreations”.

When I travelled to Israel, I too was mostly a tourist. I had very little interaction with any local people. I was taken to sites designed around tourism and shopped at tourist stores. We worshipped in Israel but as a group from Canada, not with the local communities. Now, I did “encounter places of spiritual significance.” But it was as a tourist, not a pilgrim. The two times I felt more like a pilgrim was when I broke off from our group and sat on the hillside where Jesus preached and when I wandered a short way into the desert by myself.

But when I travelled to Brazil, I was a pilgrim. I stayed with local people in a local home. I ate local food. And I worshipped with the local community. I truly immersed myself “in a soulful engagement with a land, its peoples and their history.” I came away feeling a true love and oneness with the Amazonian people. I have a better understanding of being one Body of Christ. My heart broke when I saw the fields where jungle used to be and heard tales of indigenous people being wiped out recently. I experienced the Anglican Communion service in a foreign language while still being fully part of the worship.

Very few of us will have the opportunity to travel to Brazil though or even to Israel. However, we are still able to engage in pilgrimages right here in Canada, in Ontario and even in St Marys! The upsurge in religious pilgrimages mentioned at the beginning call us to look at things a little differently than maybe we have. If a pilgrimage is seen as “an intentional effort to immerse oneself into another landscape seen to be sacred, with a sacred human-divine story, where a resident community of the koinonia in Christ give witness to the Risen Presence of Jesus in the world.” We can make visits to another church a pilgrimage. Join them. Worship with them. Learn about them . . that the world may know the love of God in Christ.

We can make our travels to other cities pilgrimages by going beyond touristy activities and getting to know the locals and their history. We can take an active interest in getting to know other communities even if it is a community right here within St Marys. Get to know what makes them who they are and why they do what they do. Hear about their history and their dreams for the future. Look at the physical environment and see its past and where it is going.

Which brings us back to the questions asked at the beginning of this sermon. “Is this renaissance in pilgrimage only because travel is becoming more accessible or more affordable. Is it because of an increase in disposable income or the Baby Boom effect, or is something deeper taking place? The churches of Europe”, like many in Canada, “are empty but its pilgrim routes are overflowing. What might we learn from this?”

What are these people seeking when they go on these pilgrimages that they are not finding in our churches? I think the answer goes far beyond access to funds. We live in an era of superficial relationships. We may have hundreds of friends online but few who really know us. Communal activities are dying out if they involve physically meeting with others. Online forums, online churches, online shopping, online medical advice, online dating and so many more are possible without leaving our homes. We can sit in our pyjamas and do so many activities that we rarely have cause to leave, even for work.

This is causing people to crave true relationships, even if they do not realize it. People go on pilgrimages to encounter the Sacred not realising it can be found right where they live. God has created us with a desire to be in unity with others, to be the Body of Christ, to be in community.

Although the people of Brazil truly appreciated the school supplies I took down, what they valued even more was that people in Canada value them and recognise them as part of the Body of Christ. They value the opportunity to see and get to know and love others in the Body of Christ and to share their own history and needs and dreams. My Christian family now extends to include people in the Diocese of Amazonia.

Consider a pilgrimage this summer, whether it involves going to a church in the community where you holiday, taking a side trip to include a pow wow, or travelling to a foreign land and immersing yourself in their real lives.

And let’s further develop St James into a place of pilgrimage where people can come and immerse themselves in our community and experience God’s love as part of the family.

I leave you with this prayer by Gerald Butt written for St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem

O Lord soften the stone hearts

of those who preach and practice

intolerance and bigotry;

as the sun’s setting glow

softens the stone walls

of your holy city, Jerusalem.

Lord, the rocky hills, the valleys,

the deserts and the seashores

are filled with the echoes of centuries of pain.

Lord, bring peace to house and village.

Comfort the mothers who fret

and those who mourn.

Lord, keep strong the twisted old root

of the olive tree,

and protect the young vine.

Lord of water and stone,

of bread and wine,

Lord of the resurrection,

feed hope, and bring peace,

to this wracked but beautiful Holy Land. Amen.  

PENTECOST SUNDAY

June 9, 2019

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Falling? Illness? Poverty? Church? Wait, church? Who would be afraid of coming to church? Church is a safe place where everyone is welcome. We are not threatening. So why be afraid to come to church?

This is the place we come to where we are comfortable, among friends. Kind of like the disciples gathering in that upper room. They were all together, in one place. But what happens next is truly terrifying. Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

Think about it. We are sitting here in St James, perhaps singing “Breathe on me Breath of God” when suddenly our books are blown right out of our hands. The windows crash open (shut). The noise is almost deafening.

And then tongues appear above each persons’ head and it looks like they are on fire. Ivan runs for the fire extinguisher while Wanda calls the fire department. Wayne throws the purificator over Jeff’s head to put out the flames and Dave stops drops and rolls.

Mayhem for sure. Very scary too. But what happens next is even more frightening. Each person starts speaking in a strange language. Sophie looks at Moe as if he has three heads when he tries to see if she is okay but can’t understand him.

Things calm down. The flames disappear and everyone speaks English again. Linda asks what this strangeness means. Kate declares that everyone must have had too much communion wine. Joan pronounces that it can not be that because it is only 10:20 in the morning and we would never be drunk at that time of day.

And there we have it. We are not so different from the people who witnessed the original descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. We are judgemental. We are huddled together. We are afraid of upsetting the norm, of things that are different. Now, I know, mighty winds and flames of fire are pretty “out there” but the reactions are not so different.

The Holy Spirit is too easily called the Comforter. We like to think of God as loving and kind but God is also rather scary. The Holy Spirit brings comfort by bringing the truth and sometimes the truth is not what we want to hear. The truth can smack us in the face and knock us over. Just ask the person who hears they have cancer. Or the one who finds out their partner is having an affair. Like a mighty wind, it can knock the wind out of a person.

The Holy Spirit can also knock some sense or truth into us. I love the story Pastor Nadia Bolz Weber tells. If she walked into this church, she would stand out. She has many tattoos and dresses very differently from anyone here. We might even be afraid of her. Her church is also very different. It is a safe haven for the outcasts of society. No one can tell it like she can so let me tell it in her words.

It sure didn’t feel cozy to me last Summer when my congregation experienced a big demographic shift. Some churches might fear drag queens and homeless folks. But All of the sudden last Summer, at House for All Sinners and Saints, we had middle aged people driving in from the suburbs. People who wear Dockers and eat at Applebys. We were a special, DIY kind of church; we made art and sang a capella and we sat in the round.

I started to resent that my precious little indie boutique of a church was turning into a 7-11 and I was terrified that the more edgy, marginalized people who we had always attracted would now come and see a bunch of people who looked like their parents and think well this obviously isn’t for me.

So I called a church meeting for us to talk about the growth and demographic changes at House with the hopes that if the people who had been around House from the beginning just said who they are and what the church has always been about then the new people who really don’t belong there would self-select out realizing it’s really not meant for them. And even while I was planning it, it felt really wrong. Exhibit C: It’s painful to be a pastor when you’re really not that good of a Christian.

Luckily before we were able to be “all together in one place” for that stupid idea of a meeting, the plan changed. The plan changed because I underwent what I can only describe as a heart transplant. This is what the prophet Ezekiel describes when God said to him; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

It didn’t feel like a removal though. Removal is far too pleasant a word. My heart was ripped out. When my own heart starts to feel bitter and judgy and hard, God says enough. And without anesthesia or a sterile environment God reaches in and rips out my heart of stone and replaces it (yet again) with a heart of flesh. You’d think that with as often as this particular procedure happens to me I’d have, like a zip-lock or something installed in my chest for easier access but apparently that’s not how it works.

See, the heart transplant happened when I called my friend Russell who I expected to sympathize with me. But Russell refused to cooperate. Yeah. That sucks, he said. You guys are really good at “welcoming the stranger” when it’s a young transgender person. But Nadia, sometimes “the stranger” looks like your mom and dad. I wanted to hold the phone out in front of me and yell You’re supposed to be my friend! before hanging up.

But I couldn’t. Because in that moment I could feel actual blood and love pumping through my body for what felt like the first time in weeks. Russell spoke the truth. And the truth set me free and that, my friends, is the work of the Holy Spirit. And I’m here to tell you, it didn’t feel like a warm chocolate chip cookie or a nighty night story.

So, when the meeting day finally arrived, I knew what really needed to happen. The new folks with the Dockers needed to tell us who they were and why they were there, so that the young people with the tattoos who’d been around since the beginning could hear what this church was actually about.

I sucked it up and I told them that horrible thing Russell had said to me about welcoming your parents.

Then Asher speaks up and says, “As the young transgender kid who was welcomed into this community, I just want to go on the record as saying that I’m really glad there are people at church now who look like my mom and dad. Because I have a relationship with them that I just can’t with my own parents”.

There we all were: flawed, smug, confused, embarrassed and embarrassing…in other words the very people to whom God sends the spirit to mess everything up. The very people God loves enough to send that wild Holy Spirit to come and snatch out our stony hearts and replace them with the comfort of God’s own.

So, when we get that whisper like a gentle breeze, lets listen. Let’s let God open our hearts and minds and show us how we need to grow, the direction to turn and the people to invite before the mighty wind is needed to get our attention. 

TRINITY SUNDAY

June 16, 2019

There’s an old story about a man goes up to the mountain to meet the guru who lives at the top. After an arduous climb, the man finds the guru is sitting there looking very peaceful and as if he expected the man. And the guru says, “What can I do for you?”

Respectfully, the man replies, “Well, I’ve come all the way from Canada. I have taken planes and trains and walked great distances. I have climbed this mountain because I heard you are a very wise man. What I really want you to do, is I want you to explain God to me, so that I will be able to worship Him the way you do.”

The guru looked at the man for a moment. Then he replied, “A god that you can explain is not a god that you should worship.”

Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday seminarians dread. You see, it is common for priests to challenge their students by asking them to preach on Trinity Sunday. Why? Because the doctrine of the Trinity is one that can lead a preacher into temptation. As a student, you want to show how smart you are. You want to exhibit the great learning that occurs at seminary over the three years you are there.

What better time to “show off” than Trinity Sunday by explaining the Doctrine of the Trinity? Maybe they say this:

We understand the persons of the Trinity subsisting within the inner life of God to be truly distinct relationally, but not as a matter of essence, or nature. Each of the three persons in the godhead possesses the same eternal and infinite divine nature; thus, they are the one, true God in essence or nature, not “three Gods.” Yet, they are truly distinct in their relations to each other.

Or…

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is one God, but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three Persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature"

That might sound great for a paper but it doesn’t really help us understand how 1 +1+1=3 as in, 1 Father + 1 Son + 1 Holy Spirit = 1 God.

Or maybe they know how difficult the Doctrine is so, they pull out a pretzel. The pretzel is a good illustration because it consists of one piece of dough with three holes. Take away any one of the holes and the pretzel isn't really a pretzel anymore. Monks began offering the warm, doughy treats to children who had memorized their Bible verses and prayers. They were used to help children understand the Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The three empty holes in the pretzel represented the Christian Trinity. The monks called these treats pretiolas, Latin for little rewards.

Or maybe they show a hard-boiled egg and relate the shell, yolk and white to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, all being one but separate. Or maybe they talk about a three-part clover leaf. Or water, steam and ice. Or perhaps they refer to themselves as being student, sister and mother but still being one person.

There have been many examples used over the years to try to explain the Trinity. And we humans love to understand things, to have good explanations so we can wrap our minds around them and make sense of them.

And therein lies the problem. The Trinity is a mystery. We cannot fully understand it. Any example falls short in some way very quickly. For example, the egg: if I take it apart to show the three parts, it can never be all one again. I might be able to rest the yolk back in the white, but I can not make the white one again and I certainly cannot put the shell back together. Once Humpty Dumpty falls, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t even put Humpty together again.

So, the Trinity is a mystery. How do we deal with that? Now, I love a good mystery novel. I get wrapped up in trying to solve the mystery before it is actually revealed in the book. Sometimes I am right. Sometimes I am wrong. But the joy is in the mystery.

The Christian faith is based upon mystery. We cannot logically explain the virgin birth or the resurrection. We cannot explain miracles. We cannot explain creation. Oh, we try. Science is doing a great job of trying to explain the origins of the universe. They had made great strides in our understanding.

We no longer take for fact the Biblical story of the world being created in seven days. We recognise that even within the Bible there are two different stories. But even with the most advanced science, no one can explain what existed before matter or how the whole thing started. It is still a mystery.

You see, the guru was right. A god we can fully understand is not really a god. God is (in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.

In our Articles of Religion, we find: There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Even if we just look at the part that says: of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, there is mystery in that. Or maker and preserver of all things both visible and invisible. As we discover atoms and microns and neurons, we scratch the surface of realizing how much is invisible to us, how much is still mystery.

So, if we cannot truly explain or understand the concept of the Trinity, what are we to do about it besides allowing it to remain a mystery? We are to look at the Holy Trinity and see a perfect relationship, perfect communion. Before we existed, God was in relationship. And God created us to be in communion with God. As in the garden, God wanted to talk to us and teach us and supply our every need.

Too often our temptation is to put others down just so we can get ahead, but we see in the Holy Trinity a God who unites and glorifies. So often we limit our reality or our possibilities to what fits into our own finite understanding, but in the Holy Trinity, we see a God who promises to lead us into all truth, into deeper mystery. We are successful in our finances and we have every THING we want so we learn to live without God, or so we think. Then disaster strikes and we lose a loved one or our job or our money. As we turn back to God in our crisis, we realize how much we need God, how wonderful it is to be able to depend on God.

Some years ago, a priest from the US was traveling to another part of the world on a mission trip. There, the priest struck up a conversation with the local Anglican bishop. It turns out that the bishop had visited the US several times and knew The Episcopal Church pretty well. The priest asked the bishop about his perception of The Episcopal Church compared with the local Anglican church. With great gentleness, the bishop replied something like this:

I love your church. The problem is that you have too much. When you have too much, it is easy to forget that you are dependent on God. Here, we do not have enough of many things. Every day, we are reminded that we are utterly dependent on God. This means that we must pray fervently to God every day. We know that we are utterly dependent on God.

How is God one and yet three? That is a mystery. How can God love us more than we can ask or imagine even though we fail to fully understand? That too is a mystery. But what is faith, but a mystery that will only be revealed in its fullest when we meet God face to face. Until then, we believe.