Saturday, June 30, 2012

We Stand on Guard

Canada Day
1 July 2012

Saint Faith’s Anglican Parish
Vancouver BC

Propers:  Isaiah 32.1-5, 16-18; Psalm 100; Colossians 3.12-17; John 15.12-17

For an audio recording of the Sermon as preached at the 10.00 a.m. service, please click here.

            On the first of July 1942 my father was thirteen going on fourteen and my mother nine going on ten.  All three of my uncles were serving in the armed forces, one for Great Britain, two for the United States.  My English grandparents were involved in the home front and my American grandparents paid close attention to the newspapers as they tried to imagine what my uncles were doing.

            Our present Queen was then Princess Elizabeth.  The war in Europe was not going particularly well for the Allies, although the ‘second fronts’ in North Africa and the Soviet Union were beginning to exert pressure on the Axis forces in those regions.  In the Pacific and Asia the naval forces of the United States were beginning, just beginning, to claw back the advances that the Japanese had made in the preceding eighteen months, while British and Chinese forces were chipping away at the Japanese.

            It was into this context that the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, who was to die before the war was over, published a slim book entitled Christianity and the Social Order.  In this book Temple looked back on the social and economic upheavals of the preceding twenty years and cast his gaze forward to the decades ahead.  Among the many ideas that found expression in this book were six principles that Temple believed were essential for a society that claimed to be just.

  1. Every child should find itself the member of a family housed with decency and dignity.
  2. Every child should have an opportunity for education up to maturity.
  3. Every citizen should have sufficient income to make a home and to bring up her or his children properly.
  4. Every worker should have a voice in the conduct of the business or industry in which he or she works.
  5. Every citizen should have sufficient leisure --- two days’ rest in seven and an annual holiday with pay.
  6. Every citizen should be guaranteed freedom of worship, speech, assembly and association.

           To many of those who were in power in 1942, Temple’s principles were seen as a direct assault on their power and their prestige.  As has happened so many times both in the past and in the present, a leader of the church was accused of meddling in the affairs of the state and was advised to go home and mind his own knitting.  Temple responded to his critics with words which I hold to be true and which I have quoted, in one form or another, many times:  “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

           With these words Temple hearkened his readers and critics back to the Greek origins of that institution we know call ‘the church’.  The English word ‘church’ is derived from the Greek word ekklēsia which means ‘a public assembly of citizens summoned from their private affairs to take counsel and action on behalf of the common good of all, citizen and non-citizen alike’.  You and I, members of the ekklēsia of Christ, exist not for ourselves but for those who are outside our assembly.  Upon us God has placed the responsibility to do justice, to love as faithfully as God loves us and to walk humbly with God as stewards of the riches of God’s grace.

            This religious obligation will inevitably lead us to advocate for those who have no voice and who are in any need or trouble.  We will call upon our political authorities to develop public policies that serve the common good of all people rather than the partisan ideologies and interests of the few.  Today in Canada we see a public debate about the role of churches and other non-governmental organizations in the making of public policy.  Although there are those who would wish us to be silent and to tend to our knitting, we cannot be silent when we see children living in poverty, citizens living without decent housing and families struggling to put food on their tables and clothes on their bodies.

            The concerns we have espouse no political agenda, whether Conservative, New Democrat or Liberal.  We espouse the agenda of ekklēsia  as we live out our vocation to speak for the voiceless and to be co-creators with God of the peaceable kingdom so longed hoped for.  Because of this vocation neither silence nor inaction is an option for us.

            Today we celebrate one hundred and forty-five years of this national experiment we call Canada.  We celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth to the throne, a woman who has committed her life to public service.  There is much to celebrate and much for us to give thanks.  But even as our neighbours celebrate, the ekklēsia remembers, we remember, that there is still much to be done.  The six principles Archbishop Temple espoused seventy years ago have not yet been achieved, whether here in Canada or in our world.

            It is fitting that our national anthem speaks of standing on guard.  In so many ways, my friends, this is our vocation.  We stand on guard for God’s reign of justice and peace.  We stand on guard for children and families, especially for those who are poor, homeless or poorly-housed and hungry.  We stand on guard because that is what the ekklēsia is called to do, even when we discomfort the comfortable and challenge the powerful.

            May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life.  May we who drink his cup bring life to others.  May we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.  May our God keep us firm in the hope set before us, so that we and all God’s children may be free and the whole earth live to praise God’s name.  Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2012

An Ordo for Canada Day 2012

canada day
1 july 2012

The Gathering of the Community

The Opening Hymn

‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’  Common Praise #660 v. 1
‘O Canada’  Common Praise #659 vv. 1, 4

The Introductory Responses

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
whose glory fills all the earth.

For the natural majesty and beauty of this country,
we praise and thank you, O Lord.

For the many resources of this nation,
we praise and thank you, O Lord.

For the women and men in this and every generation who have made this country strong,
we praise and thank you, O Lord.

For the freedoms we enjoy,
we praise and thank you, O Lord.

For the gifts of many cultures and peoples who have woven here a rich tapestry,
we praise and thank you, O Lord.

For faith that renews and sustains us,
we praise and thank you, O Lord.

The Hymn of Praise

‘Glory to God on High’  Common Praise #365

The Collect of the Day

Let us pray.

Almighty God,
whose wisdom and whose love are over all,
accept the prayers we offer for our nation.
Give integrity to its citizens
and wisdom to those in authority,
that harmony and justice may be secured
in obedience to your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Proclamation of the Word

The First Reading

Isaiah 32.1-5, 16-18

The Psalm

Psalm 100 from Songs for the Holy One

The Second Reading

Colossians 3.12-17

The Gradual Hymn

‘Blest Are the Pure in Heart’  Common Praise #439

The Gospel

John 15.12-17

The Sermon

An Affirmation of Faith

Let us declare our faith in God.

We believe in God the Father,
from whom every family
in heaven and on earth is named.

We believe in God the Son,
who lives in our hearts through faith,
and fills us with his love.

We believe in God the Holy Spirit,
who strengthens us
with power from on high.

We believe in one God;
Source of all being, eternal Word and Holy Spirit.

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Thanksgivings and Petitions

Confession and Absolution

Come, let us return to the Lord and say:

Lord our God,
in our sin we have avoided your call.
Our love for you is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes away early.
Have mercy on us;
deliver us from judgement;
bind up our wounds and revive us;
in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by the Holy Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Exchange of the Peace

The peace of the Lord be with you all.
And also with you.

The Holy Communion

Offertory Hymn                                   

‘For the Healing of the Nations’  Common Praise #576

Prayer over the Gifts

Let us pray.

Judge eternal,
accept all we offer you this day,
and grant to our nation unity and peace.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Great Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is indeed right that we should praise you, gracious God,
for you created all things.
You formed us in your own image:
male and female you created us.
When we turned away from you in sin,
you did not cease to care for us,
but opened a path of salvation for all people.
You made a covenant with Israel,
and through your servants Abraham and Sarah
gave the promise of a blessing to all nations.
Through Moses you led your people
from bondage into freedom;
through the prophets
you renewed your promise of salvation.

Therefore, with them, and with all your saints
who have served you in every age,
we give thanks and raise our voices
to proclaim the glory of your name.

[Sung to Common Praise #732]
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might. 
Heaven and earth are full of your glory. 
Hosanna in the highest.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. 
Hosanna in the highest.
hosanna in the highest.

Holy God, source of life and goodness,
all creation rightly gives you praise.
In the fullness of time,
you sent your Son Jesus Christ,
to share our human nature,
to live and die as one of us,
to reconcile us to you,
the God and Father of all.
He healed the sick
and ate and drank with outcasts and sinners;
he opened the eyes of the blind
and proclaimed the good news of your reign of peace and justice
to the poor and to those in need.
In all things he fulfilled your gracious will.

On the night he freely gave himself to death,
our Lord Jesus Christ took bread,
and when he had given thanks to you,
he broke it, and gave it to his disciples,
and said, “Take, eat:
this is my body which is given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine;
and when he had given thanks,
he gave it to them,
and said, “Drink this, all of you:
this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you and for all people
for the forgiveness of sins.
Whenever you drink it,
do this for the remembrance of me.”

Gracious God,
his perfect sacrifice
destroys the power of sin and death;
by raising him to life
you give us life for evermore.

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith.
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Therefore we proclaim our hope.
Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory.

Recalling his death,
proclaiming his resurrection,
and looking for his coming again in glory,
we offer you, Father, this bread and this cup.
Send your Holy Spirit upon us
and upon these gifts,
that all who eat and drink at this table
may be one body and one holy people,
a living sacrifice in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Through Christ, with Christ and in Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory is yours, almighty Father,
now and for ever.  Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

[Sung to BAS, p. 918]
As our Saviour taught us, let us pray,
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen.

The Breaking of the Bread

“I am the bread of life,” says the Lord.
“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry;
whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who trust in him!

The gifts of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.


The Sending Forth of the Community

Hymn after Communion                      

‘When God Restored Our Common Life’  Common Praise #583

Prayer after Communion

God of love,
may we who have taken holy things
grow in unity and peace.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

Glory to God,
whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine. 
Glory to God from generation to generation,
in the Church and in Christ Jesus,
for ever and ever.  Amen.


May the Spirit of truth lead you into all truth,
giving you grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
and to proclaim the wonderful works of God;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Lover, the Beloved and the Love,
be among you and remain with you always.  Amen.

Closing Hymn 

‘Let There Be Light’  Common Praise #572


Let us go forth in the name of the living God.
Thanks be to God.

Liturgical Notes

The opening litany was prepared for Saint Faith’s Vancouver.

‘An Affirmation of Faith’ is adapted from Common Worship (2000) of the Church of England, p. 148.

The ‘Confession’ is taken from Common Worship (2000) of the Church of England, p. 128.  The ‘Absolution’ is adapted from Common Worship (2000) of the Church of England, p. 135.

All other liturgical texts are taken from The Book of Alternative Services of The Anglican Church of Canada (1985) and Common Praise (1998).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

The Nativity of John the Baptist
24 June 2012

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Propers:  Isaiah 40.1-11; Psalm 85.7-13; Acts 13.14b-26; Luke 1.57-80

For an audio file featuring the sermon as preached at the 10.00 a.m. service on the 24th, please click here.

            “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”  I sang these words as I was rafting down the Yampa and Green Rivers in northwestern Colorado during the summer of 1978.  Although I had resigned my teaching position at Regis High School in Denver at the end of the academic year, I had agreed earlier in that year to accompany a group of students on an Outward Bound trip.  Since I was one of a very small group of teachers who had any camping and rafting experience, the Principal was holding me to my obligation.

            So, on a calm stretch of river, passing through a canyon known for its echoes, I sang.  First I sang that opening phrase from the musical, Godspell, sung by John the Baptist:  “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”  Then as the echoes began to die, I sang the “Hear, O Israel”, the Jewish confession of faith:  “Shema Yisrael.  Adonai elohenu.  Adonai echad.”  (Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”)

            I have no idea what prompted me to sing these two texts.  Perhaps I was in a pre-seminary frame of mind.  After all, I was bound for seminary that coming September.  Perhaps the sheer beauty of the river and canyon caused my heart to raise my voice in praise of the Holy One whose name is to be blessed at all times and in all places.

            Maybe I was feeling a bit like John the Baptist out in the wilderness.  No doubt there were some folks in the boast and some folks scattered along the river banks who needed to be called, invited to enter or re-enter into a relationship with God.

            Because we Christians have been around for two thousand years, we sometimes forget that we are here, just like John, to point to the One who is to come, to prepare the way of the Lord.  The church, as precious as it may be to God, is not an end but a means to God’s promised reign of justice and peace.  We are messengers, ambassadors if you will, who have been sent out into the world to invite our sisters and brothers to join us in bringing light to those who live in the shadows, in freeing those who live in fear and in liberating those who are held in bondage to ancient hurts.

            But how shall we prepare the way of the Lord?  There are many and various ways, but let me suggest only one this morning.  We prepare for the Lord by offering our neighbours steadfast love, what the Hebrew scriptures call chesed.

            Steadfast love is about planning and working for the long haul.  It is a fundamental commitment to a life-long, a generations-long ministry to all sorts and conditions of people.  Our predecessors here at Saint Faith’s knew what steadfast love was about by  bequeathing physical assets to us to use as a base of operations in this part of the city.  They knew what the needs were in their own time, but they entrusted to us the vocation to identify and to respond to the needs of our own time.  And they prepared the way for the Lord.

            Sometime this week we shall conclude the sale of the Rectory.  While some may see this as a sign of decline, even desperation, on the part of an institution whose relevance has passed, I believe that it has been a decision born out of a deep commitment, an expression of our steadfast love for our community.  We are committed to be here for the long haul and we are prepared to make hard decisions to make this possible.  And we prepare the way for the Lord.

            Later today Christine will be ordained to the diaconate.  The ministry into which she will be ordained is an expression of steadfast love.  She and her sister and brother deacons are the church’s agents in enabling all of us to be the presence of Christ beyond our doors.  They are often voices in the wilderness, comforting the afflicted and summoning the privileged to action.  And Christine and her diaconal colleagues will prepare the way for the Lord.

            Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist.  Canadian Anglicans are one of a handful of Christian traditions that expect this feast to take precedence over a Sunday, a rare liturgical event these days.

            It’s true that the first French settlers saw themselves s preparing God’s way in a hostile wilderness we now know as Québec.  The early English and Celtic settlers who followed the French shared a similar vision in other regions of Canada.  Their visions were imperial and colonial, an attitude that we have struggled in recent years to shed.

            But the vocation of preparing the way of the Lord is not necessarily imperial or colonial.  It is a vocation of witnessing by word and action to a God whose steadfast love remains unknown to many of our contemporaries, whether rich or poor, recent immigrant or descendant of the first European settlers, young or old.  There is a longing in the hearts of so many to know that they are loved and valued, that there is a deeper meaning to life than the acquisition of goods and wealth.  They need to hear us, in our many and varied ways, singing and living these words:  “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”

            And our neighbours will know that ancient hurts can be healed, that darkness can be filled with light, that the shadow of death can be lifted and that peace, genuine peace, is possible.

            “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.”  (Isaiah 40.5ab)  Amen.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Build Up, Encourage and Console

Barnabas the Apostle
10 June 2012

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Propers:  Isaiah 42.5-12; Psalm 112; Acts 11.19-30; 13.1-3; Matthew 10.7-16

Click here for a link to the audio file of the 10.00 a.m. sermon.

Inside, Outside, Inside Out

            Some years ago I was invited to preside and preach at a parish in the Lower Mainland on a Sunday in July.  There was to be only one service and the rector promised that one of the wardens would be present to unlock the doors and to welcome me.

            I arrived about a half hour before the service was scheduled to start.  I tried the front door and found it locked firmly.  I tried the door that was closest to the parking lot and found it locked even more firmly.  I began to circle the building, testing every door until I finally came to a door, partly obscured by a hedge.  When I turned the door knob, it opened easily and I found myself face to face with the promised warden.  "Did you have any trouble finding us," she asked.  "No," I said, "but I couldn't get in the front door or the parking lot door."  "Oh," she said, "no one from the parish would ever try those doors, only visitors."  You may not be surprised to find out that there were no visitors on the Sunday I was there and, I suspect, on most Sundays.

            This parish was an 'inside' parish.  Only insiders had the knowledge to penetrate its defenses and find their way into the building.  Visitors and the uninitiated were kept at a distance as the 'faithful' found a sanctuary within which they could worship undisturbed by unfamiliar faces and presences.

            Let me describe a different parish.  For many years I worshipped in a congregation whose building had been designed by a priest who believed that all parish functions except worship should take place in people's homes and other locations.  Consequently meeting space was almost non-existent, church school space abysmal and office space completely inadequate for any one of the size of an average adult.  Few community groups eve met at the parish and it was always difficult to plan and deliver a parish programme that required space for more than five people.

            The priest who designed the building was committed to an 'outside' parish:  A parish that reached out beyond the parish walls rather than turning in on itself.  But the result was a congregation whose building prevented the congregation from connecting with the neighbourhood.  It was not a natural place for community groups to gather and it is only recently that the congregation has begun to make connections with its neighbourhood.

            At this time in the church's history I believe that the key is for every congregation to be an 'inside out' congregation:  A congregation that nurtures an open life-giving community that looks beyond its walls to embrace its neighbourhood.  An 'inside out' congregation will see itself as 'a light to the nations' and a sign of God's commitment to each and every one of God's creatures.  An 'inside out' congregation offers hospitality to the many and various groups that make the neighbourhood as well as being clear about its Christian identity.  What we do we do as followers of Jesus of Nazareth and in gratitude for the over-flowing generosity of God.

Barnabas the Apostle

            In the early days of the Christian community in Jerusalem a spirit of generosity and compassion seemed to fill the believers.  Those who had resources took steps to ensure that the needs of those who did not were met.  Among the first named was Joseph, a member of the priestly caste who was a native of Cyprus. 

            As a native of Cyprus Joseph was likely Greek-speaking and there were tensions between the 'native' Aramaic-speaking Jews and the 'foreign' Greek-speaking Jews.  Despite the tensions, Joseph sold a field that belonged to him, perhaps part of his Judean patrimony, and gave the money to the apostles.  For this generosity the apostles named him 'Barnabas'.

            I have mentioned before the importance of names in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.  'Barnabas' comes from an Aramaic phrase which means 'son of the prophet'.  Now, when you and I hear the word 'prophet', we think of some one who predicts the future.  To early Christian ears, a 'prophet' was someone who speaks God's word to people.  In 1 Corinthians Paul describes a prophet as one who speaks ". . . to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation."  (1 Corinthians 14.3) 

            Joseph, now Barnabas, was one who acted and spoke in a manner that built the people up, encouraged them and consoled those in need.  Later in Acts it is Barnabas who brings the newly-enlightened Paul to the apostles in Jerusalem and speaks on his behalf.  It is Barnabas who recognized in Paul the gifts that would later lead to an apostolic career that would change the world.

            Barnabas becomes a light to the early Christian community, a prophet if you will, not by words but by deeds.  He crosses the dividing line between Aramaic- and Greek-speaking believers to deliver his gift of money.  He crosses the dividing line between Paul the former persecutor and the apostles Paul's victims to vouchsafe a man who will become one of the most significant figures in the early Christian movement.  Barnabas builds up; Barnabas encourages; Barnabas consoles.  He is, dare I say, an 'inside out' apostle.

Being a Light to the Neighbourhood

            It was during the exile in Babylon that the prophet we know as Second Isaiah spoke the words we heard in today's first reading:  "I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness."  (Isaiah 42.6-7)  With these words the prophet hoped to build the people up, to encourage the people and to console the people so that the world could see, through them, God's faithfulness to the whole of creation.  The people would fulfill their mission not by preaching but by being a just people, a people whose identity was revealed by their actions.

            God made a covenant with Israel to be an 'inside out' people, a people whose corporate life was not turned inward but outward, whose 'chosen-ness' was not a license for exclusivity but a vocation to holiness and to witness.  Last week we celebrated our participation in this call to being 'inside out' when Henry Brendan Murray was baptized.  We did not baptize him to be an insider nor to be a dandelion seed floating through the air in the hopes of finding fertile ground.  We baptized him to be a member of this community of faith and to join with us to build up our neighbourhoods, to encourage those who are weary and to console those who despair --- not just by our words but by our hospitality to our neighbours and our commitment to share our resources with as many individuals and groups as we are able.

            In the weeks and months ahead we will have many opportunities to be Barnabas' in our time and place.  We will see the exterior face of our parish change as we move the playground from its relative obscurity to a more prominent location.  We will become the base of operations for our new Deacon, Christine, as she continues and expands the ministry she has begun here.  We will welcome, for a day in October, any who have need of winter clothing and a warm meal. 

            All this and more we will do because we are followers of Jesus and are called to build up not to tear down, to encourage not to disparage, to console not to wound.  We will make sure our front doors and our side doors are unlocked and open.  We will make sure that our building buzzes with the sounds of a preschool, recitals and the voices of many groups.  All this and more we will do because we are followers of Jesus who honour Joseph called Barnabas.

            And our neighbours will see and know that surely God is in this place and that God is for them as surely as God is for the whole of creation.  Amen.