Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Undiscovered Country

RCL Palm Sunday
17 April 2011

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC        

         Today begins a week of reflection and liturgical celebrations that will be filled with the reading of the Scriptures and rituals that will bring us face to face with the central experiences of our faith.  I have decided that this week of intensity is best served by brief reflections rather than lengthy sermons.  I hope and pray that this decision aids you in your journey through Holy Week.

         Just about this time last year I came to the realization that the time had come to leave Vancouver School of Theology in order to explore other ways of being a pastor, priest and teacher.  After more than twenty years as a member of the faculty it was not an easy decision to make, but I knew that it was the right decision for the right reasons and at the right time.

         But I cannot claim that this decision has been without moments of uncertainty.  This is not the easiest time to look for work if you happen to be a white man in his late fifties who has spent more than twenty years in a rather specialized professional position.  I have learned that making the right decision is not without its costs and has unforeseeable consequences.

         Yet, if we are honest, then we all know that any decision that is worth making has unforeseen consequences.  We can do our research, ponder all the options and even develop a Plan B, but there are always circumstances beyond our control.  Which one of us, for example, when we made our decision to follow a particular career, knew where it would lead us?  Which one of us, when we decided to marry, knew how our married life would shape our future?  Which one of us, when we made the decision to have children, knew how they would change our lives?

         Today we begin a week that is filled with unforeseen consequences.  When Jesus of Nazareth entered the city of Jerusalem, he only knew that his presence would likely bring about a confrontation between himself, his followers, the Jewish authorities and the Roman government.  What he did not know is how that confrontation would end.  All he knew was that God, the One whom Jesus called ‘Abba’, had sent him on a mission “to bring good news to the poor . . . to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4.18-19).  What he could not know is how those who were not poor and those who were the oppressors would receive the good news.

         What Jesus did know is that the call of God is a persistent voice that cannot be silenced.  It calls to us and beckons us to go on journeys whose destinations we cannot always know or predict.  While we are on these journeys, we have a sense of rightness, a sense of being truly ourselves, but there are often moments of doubt, even fear, as we travel on.  We choose to heed the voice that calls us and we follow, sometimes confidently, sometimes hesitantly, the pilgrim path of faith.

         In the weeks and months ahead we shall walk our own pilgrim path of faith as a parish.  We may be called to make decisions using all the wisdom God may give to us but without knowing with certainty all the consequences of our decisions.  What is certain is that the quiet voice of God is speaking to us and calling us to the undiscovered country of the future.  Although we cannot predict all the outcomes, we can be sure that the God who is calling us promises life, fullness of life, to all who would undertake the pilgrimage of faith.

         When we leave our worship today with palm branches in hand and with song in our hearts, we join those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem without fully understanding the implications of their welcome nor knowing how the week would end.  We have the benefit of knowing how that week did end, not in death but in life.  This is the faith in which we walk, trusting in the voice of the One who calls us.  Amen.

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