Thursday, October 16, 2008
When our children, David, Anna and Owen, were younger, we frequently played re-cordings of Broadway musicals. The three of them, with their youthful abilities to pick the lyrics of songs quickly, devoured these recordings. On some of our road trips, they would entertain us by giving impromptu performances of Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat or The Phantom of the Opera or Jesus Christ Superstar or Cats.
In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats there is a poignant scene where Grizabella, the nce glamorous now shabby cat who left the tribe to explore the world and has suffered that world’s cruelties, returns. She is shunned by the older cats and provokes discomfort among the younger ones. But Grizabella has returned seeking what she can only find among her tribe, the opportunity to be the cat to whom Old Deuteronomy, the chief of the tribe, be-stows the gift of re-birth.
I think that there are few Broadway songs that evoke the despair and longing for meaning as clearly and as powerfully as Grizabella’s solo, ‘Memory’. Perhaps some of you have seen the musical or the film version or even heard it on the radio.
See the dew on the sunflower
And a rose that is fading.
Roses wither away.
Like the sunflower
I yearn to turn my face to the dawn.
I am waiting for the day.
Not a sound from the pavement.
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone.
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet.
And the wind begins to moan.
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days.
I was beautiful then.
I remember the time I knew what happiness was.
Let the memory live again.
Seems to beat a fatalistic warning.
And the streetlamp gutters,
And soon it will be morning.
I must wait for the sunrise.
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in.
When the dawn comes,
Tonight will be a memory too.
And a new day will begin.
Burnt out ends of smoky days,
The stale cold smell of morning.
The streetlamp dies, another night is over,
Another day is dawning.
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun.
If you touch me,
You’ll understand what happiness is.
A new day has begun.
Younger cats come gingerly towards her, touching her, stroking her, embracing her. The older cats gather around her and Old Deuteronomy approaches her and leads her into the light that signifies her new life.
Among the human faculties memory plays more than just a significant role. To lose one’s memory, to become an amnesiac, is to lose one’s identity. But the faculty of memory is both an involuntary and a voluntary function. By this I mean that we arrange our memo-ries, we, in some mysterious way, choose how we remember the events, emotions and per-ceptions of our lives. This mysterious ordering of our memories contributes either positively or negatively to our present and to our future.
Here in our own country we have a constant reminder of the importance of memory in establishing one’s identity. The motto of the province of Québec is ‘Je me souviens’ --- ‘I remember’. But one digs deeper, the motto might read ‘I come back to myself’ or ‘I return to who I am’.
In Deuteronomy memory is an essential element of the life of faith. Fred Craddock writes, “Those who have plenty of food, ‘fine houses,’ herds and flocks, and even gold and silver . . . may become arrogant . . . and even say in their heart, ‘My power and the might of my own hand gave gotten me this wealth’. . . . Such persons have short memories. The way to avoid that corrupting attitude and its attendant behaviour is to remember”
But what shall we remember? For the writer of Deuteronomy we remember first and foremost the commandments of God to do justice, love steadfast faithfulness to God and to other and to walk humbly with God. Second, we remember what God has done and contin-ues to do for the people with whom God has established the covenant. This remembering, however, is not some intellectual exercise but the active ‘. . . recital of the might acts of God’ that continue to define and shape our behaviour as God’s beloved. Our active remember-ing takes place in our acts of formal worship where we proclaim the Scriptures, the chronicle of God’s activity in the life of the people of Israel and the people of the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, but our remembering is also a matter of our everyday living, our conscious re-membering of God’s activity in our personal lives, in the lives of our families and in the life of our community.
Often newer editions of the various translations of the Bible will include headings for various sections of a given biblical book. Two more recent editions, The Jewish Study Bible and the third edition of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, both published by Oxford Univer-sity Press, have the following heading for the portion of Deuteronomy we heard first this morning: ‘The perils of prosperity’.
Prosperity brings peril as well as comfort. Plentiful supplies of food, clothing and ma-terial goods may lead us to confess that God is no longer necessary for my life. As the writer of Deuteronomy says in the last verse of today’s reading as translated in The New Je-rusalem Bible, “Beware of thinking to yourself, ‘My own strength and the might of my own hand have given me the power to act like this.’ Remember Yahweh your God; he was the one who gave you the strength to act effectively like this, thus keeping then, as today, the covenant which he swore to your ancestors.”
The commandment to do justice can fade into the background when we find our-selves among those who are not the victims of injustice in any of its forms. The command-ment to love steadfast faithfulness to God and to others rings hollow when we engage in the North American vice known as ‘rugged individualism’. The commandment to walk hum-bly with God finds no purchase in us when we credit only our own hard work for our achieve-ments and ignore that our efforts depended upon a potential which was not of our own making but upon God’s gracious generosity.
Perhaps the greatest poverty we are likely to experience is that poverty of the spirit which springs from forgetting that all that we are and all that we have has its source in the open-handedness of God. We are called to be diligent and creative stewards of the re-sources given to us by the One who is the source of all life rather than confuse our steward-ship of God’s resources with our ownership. Perhaps many of the woes experienced in con-temporary North American society stem from this corporate amnesia and confusion.
As we gather for this eucharist, we cannot ignore the events occurring here and abroad. Greed and avarice have brought wealth to a few as well as fear, uncertainty and economic hardship to many more. The dynamics of a federal election campaign where sound-bites prevail over analysis and thoughtfulness have prevented us from a calm and dis-passionate discussion of the policies and actions that might mitigate the financial crisis as well as address the significant challenges facing our country economically, environmentally and socially. Conflict in the Middle East makes it difficult but not impossible for Christians, Jews and Muslims to sit down together in order to rid ourselves of ancient caricatures and forge new friendships based upon our common profession of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who appeared to Moses on Sinai, who was present to us in Jesus of Naz-areth and who spoke to Mohammed in the desert of Arabia.
But we are gathered for eucharist, to render thanks to the Holy One for the innumer-able gifts entrusted to our stewardship. We are gathered to proclaim in Word and Sacra-ment the deeds that God has done, is doing and will do for us and for all creation. We are gathered to become agents through whom God has acted, is acting and will act. We are gathered to remember --- to remember in order to challenge the corporate amnesia that our still prosperous and comfortable society can lull us into adopting. We are gathered to dispel the corporate delusion that it is only by our own strength and by our own deeds that we en-joy the benefits of creation.
I mentioned earlier the heading for today’s reading from Deuteronomy, ‘the perils of prosperity’. Let me offer you another. In the French Traduction Œcuménique de la Bible to-day’s gospel reading is entitled ‘the healing of the ten lepers and the salvation of the Samari-tan’. What was the difference between gift of physical healing and the gift of personal wholeness? Remembering the source. Constructing a future by acknowledging the action of God in one’s immediate past.
Whether we sat down at table on Sunday or Monday to share in our Thanksgiving feast, let us remember what we say and do in this present feast of the coming reign of God. Whether we look at our present with dread or with hope, let us remember that the God who gave us life is still active in us and through us. Let us remember with thankfulness the commandments to do justice, to love steadfast faithfulness to God and to others and to walk humbly with God as means towards that prosperity of spirit that God wills for every human being. Let us remember, even as markets tumble, elections swirl and wars rage, that God is not forgetful of us.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
We praise and thank you, O God our Father, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him you have enlightened us by revealing the light that never fades, for dark death has been destroyed and radiant life is everywhere restored. What was promised is fulfilled: we have been joined to God, through renewed life in the Spirit of the risen Lord. Glory and praise to you, our Father, through Jesus your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Spirit, in the kingdom of light eternal, for ever and ever. Amen.
Monday, September 1, 2008
+ Lord, to you we turn, for you have the words of eternal life. Amen.
This past week Paula and I enjoyed the gift of a cruise from Vancouver to Alaska through the Inside Passage. Our ship, the Radiance of the Seas, has been recognized as one of the ‘greenest ‘ cruise ships afloat and it is a marvel of contemporary marine architecture. At the heart of the ship is the ‘Centrum’, a towering atrium some eight decks in height around which many of the core social and administrative functions of the ship are clustered. No day on-board goes by without the necessity of passing through the ‘Centrum’, whether to catch an elevator from one deck to another, to use the Internet, to have a conversation with another person in one of the two bars of the ‘Centrum’ or to walk through to reach the on-board shops and theatres.
But the ‘Centrum’ is not the only focal point in the life of the ship. There are at least five restaurants or cafés on-board the Radiance and one or other of them are operational at almost all hours of the day or night. One can enjoy the formality of the dining room or the informality of the buffet. In the informal atmosphere of the buffet it is possible to create a degree of private space, but in the dining room the older tradition of being seated at a table with people one may not know continues.
Around these two gathering places the elliptical life of the ship flows, bounded by the physical limitations of space and by the customs of centuries of passenger sailing but shaped by human activity. While the design of the spaces may contribute to the experience of being in the ‘Centrum’ or in a dining room, it cannot be denied that the fundamental activ-ity that defines the beauty of those spaces is the activity of human beings, in all their diver-sity, as they gather. A well-designed public space, such as the ‘Centrum’, cannot prevent one from witnessing some of the less pleasant aspects of human life and community. A well-designed dining room with a five-star chef cannot prevent one from choosing voluntary fasting if one’s table companions are disagreeable. What we do in public spaces determines in significant ways to whether those spaces are good or bad, useful or useless, life-giving or life-denying.
In today’s reading from 1 Kings, a reading that could pass us by as just one more ir-relevant story from the history of the people of Israel, we are reminded of this fundamental reality of the divine-human relationship: Holiness does not rest inherently in a place, but in the activity of those who are gathered in that place. Even as Solomon stands in the midst of the building that he has caused to be built for the honour of God’s name, he must declare:
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built. . . . Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.”
Although other religious traditions of the time would understand their temples to be the re-sidence of the god or gods, Solomon’s prayer is an affirmation of the ancient Israelite con-fession that God cannot be contained within the creation. Solomon’s Temple is a focal point for the faith of the people of Israel, a physical aid to their memory, a place where the saving acts of God are constantly remembered. By remembering those acts, their power to transform the present is unleashed so that God’s purposes for the whole of creation can be achieved. Perhaps the most significant petition of Solomon’s prayer comes when he claims that this Temple is not just for the people of Israel:
“Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name --- for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm --- when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.”
When Solomon speaks of God’s name, he does not mean ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Adonai’. Nor does he mean using God’s name as some sort of magic talisman that will compel God to act in a particular fashion. He means telling the story of the God of Israel who created the uni-verse, who made promises to Noah and to Abraham, who redeemed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and who established the covenant with Moses and the people at Sinai. It is the remembering of what God has done that God’s name is ‘invoked’. The Temple with its altar and ‘Holy of Holies’ has but one purpose: It is to proclaim that God has acted, is act-ing and will act to bring about God’s purposes in the kosmos. This is the proclamation en-trusted to the people of Israel and this is the mission into which God has called them.
We are living in a time when many people are seeking holy places and holy objects rather than seeking to participate in the on-going mission of God to redeem and renew the whole of creation. We are living in a time when many people seek ‘holy’ places that are dis-tinct from what they perceive to be ‘profane’ or ‘secular’ places. There is reason to do this: If we can contain God to some holy place or to some holy object, then we can contain God, then we can avoid the dangerous ‘thin places’ where one might actually come into contact with this unpredictable God.
For some people the Bible has ceased to be an authoritative witness to the encoun-ter of men and women to the Holy One of Israel and has become a repository for God. What the Bible says has been confused with what the Bible means. On the other hand, there are people who consider the Bible to be a collection of ancient texts that are more or less irrele-vant to the life of contemporary believers. In doing so, such people have lost sight of the power of the Scriptures to call people to overthrow oppressive regimes, to remove the shackles that bind slaves and to remind us that God cannot be contained in any philosophical or scientific discipline. What both groups have forgotten is that our God is not a tame God.
There are others who hold fast to one or other tradition of the Christian community as the immutable witness to the truth. When we do so, we forget the truth of that old say-ing, ‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead not the dead faith of the living.’ Tradition is and has always been the response of a given human community to the demands of its time and culture. On the other hand, there are those who are quite happy to shed any tradition in or-der to be ‘relevant’ to the present time. When we do this, we can demonstrate a certain ar-rogance towards our ancestors in the faith. Even birds that traverse the wide expanses of land and sea eventually must find a place to land and bear their young.
My friends in Christ, this is a holy place not because of the excellence of its design but because of the faithfulness in Christian life and witness of those who gather here to hear the living Word proclaimed, to hold up before God the needs and concerns of the whole world, to share in the life-giving bread and wine of the holy communion and to be sent forth as agents of that Word, of those prayers and of that Body which we have received.
• When we proclaim the Word, we invoke God’s name by telling the story of God’s holy activity in the world, so that our lives might become symbols of that activity in the here and now of our own lives.
• When we hold up before God the needs and concerns of the whole world, we are not relieved of responsibility but are empowered for act.
• When we share in the life-giving bread and wine of the holy communion, we do so not only for solace but for strength, not only for pardon but for renewal.
• When we are sent forth as agents of the living Word, we become symbols of God wherever we live and work.
May our gathering in this place remind us that every place is holy. May our proclamation of the Word remind us that the Word is very near to us wherever we are. May our prayers re-mind us that God has acted and is acting and will act in our lives and the lives of others. May our holy communion remind us that those who have received holy gifts become the gift that they have received. May our going forth be understood not as an ending of our work but as its renewal in the world. Amen.
[The following sermon was preached at St Andrew's Parish, Langley BC on the 3rd of August 2008. The propers were those appointed for Proper 18A of the Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 32.22-31; Psalm 17.1-7, 15 [BAS 17.1-7, 16]; Romans 9.1-5; Matthew 14.13-21]
+ Gracious God, we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your mouth. Amen.
My friends in Christ, today the Archbishops and Bishops of the Anglican Communion will bring their gathering to a close. They will struggle to prepare a statement to share with Anglicans throughout the world. We can be sure of three things.
i) Some Anglicans will be very happy with what the Lambeth Conference says.
ii) Other Anglicans will be very unhappy with what the Lambeth Conference says.
iii) Still other Anglicans will think that what the Conference says is irrelevant.
My reading of today’s Gospel has led me to five questions that I think might guide the bishops, if they were to ask my opinion.
What is the most important thing that we do?
Early in the third century a group of Christians in
We can lose sight of the power of gathering together in one assembly. Yet, the most important thing we may do as Christians is to continue to gather together in this place and those like it throughout the world, to hear the Word proclaimed, to offer prayer for all of creation, to share in the bread and the wine, and to be sent forth strengthened and renewed.
We come from different places and from different situations. At the beginning of our assembly we need to be reminded of who we really are, God’s people, and what we are gathered to do, the celebration in word and song, in silence and gesture, in action and repose, of the good news of God in Jesus Christ.
When the presider greets us, it is not the friendly greeting of a server at a restaurant or a passer-by on the street. The greeting itself sets the context for the action into which we are about to enter. In the liturgical assembly we are encountering a mystērion, not a mystery to be fathomed out, but a truth which beckons us ever deeper into its truth. Like an onion that grows larger as we peel away the layers, the mystērion whom we know as God wills that we enter into communion and learn what it means to be truly alive.
Frank Kacmarcik, an American liturgical designer, once accompanied the chair of a church building committee on a tour of the recently-completed building just prior to its dedication by the bishop. Frank asked the chair what he thought about the space. “It looks,” stammered the chair, “unfinished.” “Wait,” was all Frank said.
Later that day, as the bishop began the liturgy of consecration, Frank noticed the chair standing with a contented smile on his face. “You’re a miracle worker,” the chair said to Frank, “how did you finish it in so short a time.” “I filled it with people,” Frank said. “No worship space is ever complete without the people of God in it. Holy spaces are made holy by holy people at work within them.”
When asked what was the glue that held the Anglican Communion together, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said this, “We gather.” Despite all the forces that conspire to prevent our gathering, we gather. Despite all the temptations to do something else with our time, we gather. We gather because we know what our sisters and brothers knew in the first centuries of the church’s mission and ministry, “Without the Sunday gathering, we cannot exist.”
What is the first act of the gathered people of God?
At an early point in his public ministry Jesus travelled to
Most of the people in the synagogue that day were amazed, not necessarily because they believed him, but because he was a local boy. How often had they heard him read the appointed lesson while he was growing up? For that matter, how often had they heard that same text? Perhaps they had grown deaf and no longer expected the prophetic text to be fulfilled. It was, after all, the lectionary text for the day, nothing more.
When the reader proclaims the texts appointed for the day, it is tempting to forget that he or she is speaking God’s Word to us. Like the people in the synagogue in
To read the words of the scriptures is to release the power of the Word of God into our midst. The preacher stands before us, small in stature, a known quantity, a familiar figure. Within her or his grasp lies the power to free the Word from the texts that sometimes imprisons it, so that the heart of some one sitting near to us may be “strangely warmed” and God’s new creation begins again to work its transformation of our loneliness, our despair, our fear. It is to the preacher that the responsibility falls to move us from the surface of a text, what a scriptural text may say, into the depths of what the text may mean.
What is our first response to the proclamation of the Word?
When I was first ordained, it was my responsibility to travel with the Bishop and the Suffragan Bishop of
There are, no doubt, many people who share this view. To some of them, prayer seems more like shouting into the wind rather than entering into conversation with the Holy One of Israel who caused all things to come into existence and who has entrusted us with the stewardship of these gifts. To others, prayer has more in common with sending to heaven a shopping list of wants rather than the more difficult task of discerning the presence and activity of God in us and around us.
I confess that I do not know if prayer changes the eternal purposes of God. I do know that prayer changes the one who prays. Prayer orients us to God’s purposes and opens us to God’s grace working through us. God responds to our new-found awareness of the needs and concerns of the world by offering us the means to use the gifts we have. We discover new avenues and ways that seemed obstructed are re-opened. This is God’s work, not ours, but we are the agents of God’s purposes.
Because there is still work to be done, we are lifted from our prayers and into an embodied expression of those intercessions, petitions, and thanksgivings. We are bidden to exchange the peace with one another. From the earliest generations of the Christian people it has been understood that Christian faith requires concrete expressions. To exchange the peace is (a) to acknowledge our fellowship in Christ, (b) to put our bodies where our mouths (or thoughts) are, and (c) to commit ourselves, one to another. Unless we choose liturgical perjury, then the exchange of the peace requires us to consider how we, in keeping with our stations in life and our personal abilities, will work for Christ’s peace in our congregations, our homes, our communities, and our world.
How do we strengthen ourselves for the work ahead?
When I was a child, Holy Communion was reserved for those who had been confirmed. On top of this, it did not seem to be a particularly joyful event. Those who went forward came back with such solemn faces that, for many years, I believed that the bread and wine of the eucharist must taste horrible. When my confirmation day arrived, I steeled myself for the experience. When the bread was given to me, I placed it in my mouth and was surprised by its pleasing “wheaty-ness”. When the wine was given to me, I could not believe that this was the same taste which generations of adults before me had experienced. It was warm and it filled my whole body with such a sense of well-being. I am told that as I returned to my pew, I had a most un-Anglican smile on my face. My more knowledgeable twelve-year-old friends simply dismissed my quiet smile as the first signs of inebriation. But they were right. I was inebriated and I have remained inebriated to this day --- inebriated with the God who through the power of the Spirit makes bread and wine the agents of my incorporation into Jesus Christ.
Christians in the early days of the church had a saying, “Naos tou Theou,
The Great Thanksgiving and the Lord’s Prayer constantly hold before us that this meal is intended to create and sustain a holy people for God. There can be no true reception of the body of Christ in the bread wine if we are not prepared to receive it in our children, our parents, our spouses, our neighbours, the stranger in our midst, and those whose views differ from our own.
Then we share a loaf and a cup. There are few places left in the world today in which strangers will share a cup together. Despite the fears of some, Anglicans have continued to resist the temptation to diminish this visible sign of our communion by using other means. We should take comfort in the fact that after four hundred and fifty years there are still more than seventy million of us in the world!
How do we bring our gathering, our proclamation, our prayers and our communion to an end?
In the Acts of the Apostles the account of Jesus’ ascension is told in some detail. Among my favourite dimensions of the story occurs at the very end. After Jesus has ascended into heaven, the apostles and those with them stand around looking up into the sky. Two angels appear and, in some many words, say, “Why are standing around gaping? Go home. You have a mission to perform and you will soon receive what you need to perform it.”
Our liturgical assembly has gathered, heard the Word of God proclaimed, opened itself in prayer to discern the will of God, and has shared in the meal which renews Christian fellowship and community. But the liturgical assembly does not exist for itself: the Christian faith is not lived safely within the walls of this place and insulated from the world. As William Temple, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury during World War II, said, “The church is the one human institution which exists primarily for its non-members.” We have not been dismissed. We have been commissioned. We have not been sent from Christ (dis-); we have been sent with Christ (com-) to join him in his on-going work of transforming the world.
What should the bishops say?
If I were on the drafting team preparing the statement for the bishops of the Lambeth Conference, I would say that there are only five things to be said, five things that emerge from our Lord’s feeding of the five thousand.
i) Without our regular gathering, we cannot exist. Our gatherings are not exclusive but inclusive, bringing together all sorts and conditions of men, women and children.
ii) When we gather, we proclaim the Word of God not merely recite it. We expect our leaders to help us understand how the Scriptures speak to new challenges in new contexts.
iii) When we gather, we pray. We lift up before God all the needs and concerns of a hurting and confused world, not to be relieved of responsibility, but to be empowered to act as God’s agents.
iv) When we gather, we share in the bread of life and the cup of salvation. When we do so, we do not ask for membership cards or character references.
v) After we have heard the Word, after we have lifted up our prayers, after we have shared in the meal, we go forth into the world in hope and determination to reveal the presence of the
I think that this is enough to say. It is enough to say because there
is still so much to do. Amen.
 Cf. Tertullian: ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’
Friday, August 1, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
[This sermon was preached on Sunday, the 27th of July 2008, at St Andrew's Anglican Church in Langley, BC.]
Propers: Genesis 29.15-28; Psalm 105.1-11, 45c (BAS); Romans 8.26-39; Matthew 13.31-33, 44-52
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, increase and multiply upon us your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BAS)
As was the case for almost all of the first Christian communities, the Roman community had found its roots among Jews living in the city who had responded to the message that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was, in fact, the long-promised Messiah. However, during the reign of the emperor Claudius, Nero’s predecessor, many Jews had been expelled from the city as a punishment for a series of riots in which Jews had been implicated. Under Nero, the enforcement of this edict of expulsion had relaxed and many Jews began to return to the empire’s capital city.
- No single group in the history of the world, whether Jew or Gentile, has lived up to God’s expectations.
- The one saving act in the entire history of the world has been the faithfulness of Jesus of Nazareth to the God of Israel, whom Jesus called ‘Abba’ and who raised Jesus from the dead.
- Any one who trusts in the faithfulness of Jesus to God’s will and who is baptized into that trust has been made one with Jesus through the power of the Spirit and shares in this present time, not only in some distant future, in the life that Jesus shares with his ‘Abba’.
- Who can be against us? No one; God, after all, did not spare the Son.
- Who will bring a charge against us? No one; God, after all, is the one who judges.
- Who will condemn us? No one; Christ Jesus, after all, who died and was raised, intercedes for us.
- Who will separate us from Christ’s love? No one; the Spirit, after all, has poured out the love of God into our hearts.
- so that we can become mustard seeds that give rise to bushes which shelter those who are vulnerable;
- so that we can become leaven that gives rise to bread to feed those who are hungry in body, soul and spirit;
- so that we can become the treasure that gives value to what may seem to be a fallow field;
- so that we can become the pearl that reveals the beauty of God’s creating, redeeming and life-giving love.
No one, whether archbishop or bishop, whether conservative or liberal, whether professor or church bureaucrat, can take from us our basic identity, our true selves. That identity, that selfhood, has been given us by our Lover, God. Through Jesus, God’s Beloved, and in the power of the Spirit, the Love that unites them, God calls us to be agents of love not fear, voices of hope not accusation, hands that embrace rather than strike out.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
[This sermon was preached on Sunday, 20 July 2008, at St Faith's Anglican Church, Vancouver BC.]
Propers: Genesis 20.10-19a; Psalm 139.1-12, 23-24; Romans 8.12-25; Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
According to the Celtic version, the archbishop sent a deacon to pick up
I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God . . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now . . . . Romans 8.18-19, 22
- As we worship this morning, most of the bishops of the Anglican Communion are in
, trying to learn how to talk with one another about matters that divide one Christian from another and how to discover what unites one Christian to another --- even when we do not agree on how best to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth. Some bishops have chosen not to attend, while others have chosen to risk the wrath of their colleagues by going to England . England
- As we worship this morning, the people of the Diocese of New Westminster are facing a future in which legal battles over property will most certainly occupy our attention. At the same time there are congregations who are exploring new initiatives in ministry --- even as the future shape of diocesan ministry is being discussed.
- As we worship this morning, the people of this parish of St Faith’s are pondering how we remain faithful to the ministry established in this community some sixty years ago --- even as we consider how to pay the bills, how to serve our young people, how to support our elders, how to be a community of ‘open hearts, open hands, open minds’.
One perspective on all three of these situations is despair. Another might be cynicism. Yet another might be weariness. But then I think of Jacob and Paul, two men facing threats to their lives, their liberties and their pursuit of happiness --- to borrow from the Declaration of Independence. Neither chose despair nor cynicism nor weariness. Both chose to look at the world as the arena of God’s creating, reconciling and renewing activity. Both chose to look at the world as a place where God is not silent but constantly communicating to us --- if we choose to engage the world expecting such communication.
My friends, I have no illusions about the challenges of our personal and corporate lives. Nor am I a naïve Pollyanna who assumes that a world viewed through rose-coloured glasses is the world as it is. But what I do believe God’s word is to us today is this: Be careful how you look at the world --- because that’s the way it is.
- Jacob believed that the world is a sacred universe in which God acts and that God does speaks.
- Paul believed that the challenges of his time were real but could not thwart God’s purposes for the whole of creation.
- In today’s parable two perspectives are evident. One sees fruitful grain to be nurtured and cared for, the other weeds to be culled. I suggest to you that, from God’s perspective, it is better to expend our energy on tending fruitful grain rather than obsessing with weeds. In a healthy field of grain, weeds find little purchase.
- Those bishops who have gone to Lambeth, regardless of their views on the present controversies in our Communion, believe that it is better to talk directly with those with whom they may disagree rather than talk about them from a distance.
- Those members of our own diocese and parish who continue to seek to share the life of the gospel we have come to know, regardless of the uncertainties of diocesan and parochial structures, are not blind to reality but rather are choosing to live with open hearts, with open hands and with open minds.
Which perspective we choose determines how we see the future. Despair, cynicism, weariness are real emotions --- but they need not become the lens through which one views one’s personal and corporate life. Challenges are real --- but open hearts, open hands and open minds will discover ways of responding that are life-giving rather than life-denying.
Be careful how you look at the world --- because that’s the way it is. Let us pray.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
[The following notes formed the basis for a homily preached at St David's Anglican Church, Vancouver BC, on the 12th and the 13th of July 2008. My thoughts on the Esau-Jacob story were stimulated in part by my unease with the present situation in the Anglican Communion. On the one side are confessional-minded Anglicans who wish to dispel any ambiguity. On the other side are Anglicans who think that the way forward is to set aside credal statements of faith and rely on a particular understanding of post-modern thought. Neither, in my opinion, is the way forward, but the desire for a solution can lead us to accept pottage rather than solid food.]
 Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002) with doxology added by RGL+.
[The following homily was preached at the funeral of the Rev'd Kathy Hoodikoff, VST '07. Kathy was a presbyter of the Diocese of British Columbia serving at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria BC, who died after a sudden and devastating recurrence of cancer on 19 June 2008.]