Saturday, July 28, 2012

Food for the Journey

RCL Proper 17B
29 July 2012

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Focus texts:  Ephesians 3.14-21 and John 6.1-21

For the audio recording of the Sermon as preached at the 10.00 eucharist, please click here.

A Public Work for the Common Good

            Recently the House of Bishops published a statement reaffirming our church’s practice of welcoming all baptized Christians to share in holy communion in Anglican congregations.  But the question of who is welcome at the table has become a matter of public discussion and dispute these days.  Our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has set up a task force to explore this question and has asked me to one of the members of this task force.

            Given the debate within our church, it is serendipitous that we now come to a series of Sundays when our lectionary focuses on the sixth chapter of the gospel according to John.  In this section of the gospel John has Jesus engage in a lengthy discussion and, at times, debate with his followers and others about the meaning of ‘the bread of life’.

           So I thought that I would begin this series of Sundays with my own reflection on the five ‘movements’ of our eucharist.

            (1)  We gather as people whom God has called to share in the divine mission of creation, redemption and renewal.    

           Early in the third century a group of Christians in Asia Minor were arrested and brought before the local Roman magistrate.  They were charged with violating the imperial edict forbidding the gathering of illicit religious sects.  The magistrate asked them to recant their faith and to obey the imperial edict.  Their answer was simple, Without the Sunday gathering, we cannot exist.”  Their confession of faith was seen as a confession of guilt and their execution followed immediately.

            We can lose sight of the power of gathering together in one assembly.  All of us fear the anonymity which can happen when we participate in a large gathering of any sort.  Yet, the most important thing we may do as Christians is to continue to gather together for worship 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.

            To be the ekklÄ“sia means to be the assembly of those who are called out for a special purpose.  Originally used to describe the assembly of free men gathered to make decisions for the common good of the polis, ekklÄ“sia now describes the Christian assembly, summoned by God to serve the common good of all creation.  When we come together for worship, the dispersed people of God are given an opportunity to ‘collect their wits’ and to remember who we are and what we are to do.

            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.”

            (2)  We gather to proclaim the Word of God not just to read the words.

            At an early point in his public ministry Jesus travelled to Nazareth, the town in which he had been raised.  He entered the synagogue and was invited to read the appointed reading from the prophets.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Jesus read, “because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me 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.”  After sitting down, Jesus said to the assembly, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[1]

            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 Nazareth, we have heard all of this before; sometimes the words roll off the surface of our minds and hearts like rain rolling off the roof of a building.  Yet, we never know when there is someone sitting next to us, in front of us, behind us --- dare I say, in us --- who need to hear the Word of God again --- for the first time.

            When the preacher interprets the words we have heard, he or she seeks to release the power of the Word of God into our midst.  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 into solidarity, hope and commitment.

            For this reason Anglicans have been loathe to omit a sermon or a homily or some reflection on the text or texts read on a given occasion.  There are many Christians in the world today who know what the Bible says.  There are fewer who have reflected upon and be trained to comment on what the Bible means.  All of us intuitively recognize the importance of context in human communication.  Often we will respond to a statement or questions by asking, “What do you mean by that?”  Likewise, the Scriptures have a theological, historical, social, cultural, and literary context that influences what is meant by what is said.  It is to the preacher that the responsibility falls to help us move from the surface of the text into the depths of its meaning.

            (3)  We gather to offer our intercessions, petitions and thanksgivings.

            When I was first ordained, it was my responsibility to travel with the Bishop and the Suffragan Bishop of Colorado on their parish visits.  On one such occasion, I accompanied the Bishop, Bill Frey, to a parish in which there was considerable dissension.  I joined him as he listened to three representatives of the congregation give their interpretations of the situation.  After each one had spoken, the first asked the Bishop, “Well, what are you going to do about this?”  “The first thing I am going to do is pray,” responded the Bishop.  At this the second person turned to the other two and said loudly, “See, I told you he wasn’t going to do a damn thing about it!”

            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 how prayer participates in the eternal purposes of God.  But 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.

            Our confession of sin is a prayer that all that prevents this grace from working in us may be lifted from us, a prayer that our spiritual arteries may be cleared of the clots which prevent the blood of the Spirit from reaching our muscles.  And lest we believe that these prayers and this cleansing are meant only for ourselves as individuals, as personal possession, the liturgy brings us to our feet and face to face with the other members of Christ’s body.

            We are lifted from our prayers 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.

            (4)  We gather to share in the bread broken and the wine poured for us.

            One of the central passages of the New Testament for the history of the Holy Communion is found in chapters 10 and 11 of 1 Corinthians.  In these chapters Paul describes his understanding of the eucharist and gives instructions about how the eucharist is to be celebrated.  At one point Paul writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?  The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”[2]  To the Corinthians Paul is saying that the person who would rightly participate in the eucharistic meal must be prepared for communion with more than Jesus Christ.  Those who truly discern the presence of the body of Christ know that the body of Christ is not only on the altar:  it is in the pew in the person who is next to us.

            Christians in the early days of the church had a saying, “The temple of God is the people of God.”.  While buildings and places of worship are important as shelters for the work of the church, they should not be confused with “church”.  “Church” means people not buildings; “Church” means a people who, through the power of the risen Christ, have been given a share in the mission of God in the world.  That people needs to be sustained, fed, and strengthened in its mission.  The eucharist is food for the journey not a reward for regular attendance.

            Perhaps the oldest and most constant part of the liturgy is the Lord’s Prayer.  For two thousand years, whenever and wherever we have gathered, we have joined in this prayer.  Perhaps, however, the most difficult petition ever spoken is contained within it:  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”  We impose a risky condition on God’s activity in our lives.  For those who cannot forgive, forgiveness is unlikely.  What we cannot give, we cannot truly receive.

            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! 

            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.
            (5)  We gather so that we can be sent forth to participate in God’s mission.

            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.”

            The shortest section of the eucharistic liturgy is its ending.  The presider may offer a brief prayer.  We join in an act of faith.  We may even sing a hymn and clear the sanctuary of its personnel.  The presider or an assisting minister says, in some many words, “Why are you standing around?  Go home.  You have a mission to perform and you have received the gifts you need to perform it.”

            The prayer after communion sets our action into its context.  We are reminded that the eucharistic meal is not to be praised but to be used.  This meal forms us into a missionary people and sends us out into a missionary field.

            So when the eucharist ends, let us go home or go to school or go to work or go on vacation.  We have a mission to perform and we have received the gifts we need to perform it.  And should we find that mission difficult and should we find our strength flagging, there is always another Sunday, either next week or the great Sunday of the promised reign of God.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

[1] Cf. Luke 4.16-21.

[2] 1 Corinthians 10.16-17 (New Revised Standard Version).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Expect the Unexpected Heroines

Mary Magdalene, Apostle
22 July 2012

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Readings:  Judith 9.1, 11-14; Psalm 42; 2 Corinthians 5.14-18; John 20.1-3, 11-14

Below are my notes for my sermon today.  I decided to keep the celebration of Mary Magdalene rather than the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.  You can hear an audio recording of the actual sermon as preached at the 10.00 a.m. eucharist by clicking here.

(1)        If I were to describe my basic academic orientation, it would be say that I am a historian.

(a)        I value the stories of our past and I am primarily interested in why things happened in the way that they happened.

(b)        I am interested in how people in various times and places understood their actions and motivations and how their cultures influenced their response to the challenges of their times.

(c)        For this reason I have always loved historical fiction.

(d)        Good historical fiction, in my opinion, seeks to do two things:

(i)         Connect us with history in a new way and

(ii)        offer us a new perspective or perspectives on that history by means of historical and fictional characters.

 (2)       Judith is a work of fiction written by a Palestinian Jew some one hundred and twenty-five years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

(a)        It tells the story of a fictitious woman who lives in a fictitious town during the time of a fictitious punitive raid conducted by the Assyrians.

(b)        Judith is

(i)         a childless widow who manages her own affairs;

(ii)        a woman who takes initiative away from the waffling and useless male leaders of her community;

(iii)       a woman who hatches her own plot and executes it;

(iv)       a woman who is not afraid to use deceit and seduction to protect her community and

(v)        a woman who conducts the military strategy that eventually defeats the Assyrians.

(c)        She is an unexpected heroine whose story has been accepted as God’s word to us by some traditions and rejected as God’s word to us by others.

 (3)       The commonly-held image of Mary Magdalene is almost as much a work of fiction as Judith is.

(a)        Mary Magdalene has a number of different faces.

(i)         Most Christians think of her as a prostitute ‘saved’ by Jesus.

(ii)        Others think that she is a woman from whom Jesus cast out seven ‘demons’.

(iii)       Still others think that she is the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with oil and her own tears.

(iv)       Some think that she is all three.

(b)        But what we do know is this:

(i)         she is a woman who remained faithful to Jesus even to the cross

(ii)        she is the first apostle, that is, the first person to have a vision of the risen Jesus and who then fulfills his commission to her to proclaim this news to the fearful and disbelieving men who formed Jesus’ closest circle.

(c)        What we can say is this:  She is an unexpected heroine whose story is one of the foundation stones upon which we participate in the story that God began in creation, continued in the saga of the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus and lives on in us through the Spirit.

 (4)       You and I are not outside history; we are history.

(a)        Sometimes we ‘write’ ourselves; we consciously shape our lives in a particular way.

(b)        Sometimes we feel swept along by history as if we had no role to play in it.

(c)        Of these two I choose to believe that we are not passive passengers in the vessel of human history; whether we are ‘great’ or ‘small’, we are the actors who make history by our choices.

(i)         Even though we know that Judith is a fictional character, what matters is that the writer chose to write a story about a person who by the expectations of the time would not be considered an ‘actor’ in history.

(ii)        In doing so he confronted the prejudices of his own time and presented an alternative understanding of how God might act in our lives.

(iii)      Even though we can claim with certainty to know who Mary Magdalene was, other than a woman from the Galilean town of Magdala, what matters is that we know that she chose faithfulness to Jesus over security and was willing to risk ridicule to tell a bunch of men a fantastic story.

(iv)       In doing so she laid the foundations for the early Christian movement and we are all heirs to her faithfulness.

 (5)       Here at Saint Faith’s we face a number of challenges, but we have chosen to make some decisions to shape the history of our future.

(a)        No one can say with certainty what the outcomes of our choices will be.

(b)        What can be said is that our choices will tell the story of a community that chose faithfulness to the mission of Jesus.

(c)        We may find ourselves being unlikely heroes of this chapter of God’s story in Vancouver --- but we will not be the first.  It seems we have been called into a life-long relationship with a God who finds childless widows and women of uncertain pasts to be the actors of God’s great drama of creation, redemption and renewal.

(d)        Let’s do our best to make our story is as a good as the ones that have already been recorded in God’s great drama.  Amen.

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Open Letter to My Jewish and Christian Colleagues

19 July 2012

Dear Members of the Vancouver Jewish-Christian Dialogue,

When the news of the bomb attack in Bulgaria came to my attention, I knew that I could not share only private thoughts with one or two colleagues.  So I write to you as Co-Chair of our Vancouver Dialogue, but first and foremost, I write as a Christian who exercises a leadership role within my tradition.

Here in Vancouver Christians who use the Revised Common Lectionary have been following the story of David's rise to become the monarch of a united kingdom and the establishment of Jerusalem as the political and religious heart of his kingdom.  These readings remind us that the Holy Land is not only a religious symbol but the historic home of the Jewish people.  They also remind us that conflict has often been part of that history and that concern for land and security has been a never-ending dimension of Jewish life.  These readings also serve to remind Christians that God's covenant with Israel has never been revoked and that we, as Christians, understand ourselves, by God's gracious act, to have been grafted onto this olive tree.  

This summer we face the anniversaries of two terrorist attacks on the Jewish community:  the attack on the Jewish community in Buenos Aires and the murder of nine members of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich.  These anniversaries only serve to punctuate the continuing anti-Semitism in our world and the targeting of Jewish communities throughout the world for acts of violence and terror.

These anniversaries and other acts of violence against innocent civilians come during a summer when several churches in North America have debated or will debate resolutions regarding the State of Israel and how these churches can give impetus to a lasting and just peace for Israelis and Palestinians.  These resolutions have generated concern and criticism within the North American Jewish community as well as putting stresses on relations between Jews and Christians.

I ask my Christian colleagues to undertake to strengthen the personal and collegial relationships that they have with their Jewish neighbours and colleagues.  Now is the time, today is the day, to embody the covenantal love with which God loves all of us.  Now is the time, today is the day, for Christians to ask the leaders of our churches to make unequivocal condemnations of violence against any members of the Jewish community, whether in Israel or elsewhere in the world.

I ask my Jewish colleagues to remember that you are not alone.  You have colleagues here in Vancouver and elsewhere who are committed to the peace and security of the Jewish community.  We hold you and all victims of violence and terror in our prayers and in our consciences as we work with you for the peace of Jerusalem.

Shabbat shalom,


(The Rev'd Dr) Richard Geoffrey Leggett

Co-Chair of the Vancouver Jewish-Christian Dialogue

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
7284 Cypress Street
Vancouver BC V6P 5M3

604.266.8011 (office)
604.266.8096 (FAX)
604.828.6704 (mobile)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jerusalem My Happy Home

RCL Proper 15B
12 July 2012

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Propers:  2 Samuel 6.1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24; Ephesians 1.3-14; Mark 6.14-29

To listen to the sermon as it was expanded and preached on Sunday, the 15th of July, please click here.

           In the film, The American President, a widowed and beleaguered U.S. president falls in love with an environmental lobbyist.  It’s an election year and the president’s conservative opponent senses an opportunity to exploit this relationship for his own political gain.  One of his points of leverage that he exploits is the fact that this lobbyist, as a university student, was photographed burning an American flag at a campus protest.

            For Americans there are few more provocative and divisive acts than burning an American flag.  Burn the flag in a public gathering and the public will stir from its general political complacency and divide into two camps.  One camp will denounce the act and renew calls for either a federal law or a constitutional amendment to ban such expressions of free speech.  The other camp will defend the act if not the views expressed as falling under the protection of the constitutional right to freedom of speech --- even if it makes one’s love of country transform itself into righteous indignation and anger.

            I know this well.  I am a member of the last group of American nineteen-year-old males who were subject to possible involuntary conscription into the armed forces and service in Viet Nam.  My own family, immediate and extended, has a long history of military service, beginning in the American War of Independence and continuing to the present-day.

            Burning the flag arouses such passion because a flag is a symbol.  Symbols cannot be easily divorced from what they signify.  A flag may be a piece of fabric, but it represents, it embodies, the community whose symbol it is.  In this symbols differ from signs.  If you run a ‘stop’ sign, you’re likely to receive a fine but no one will picket your home!  Burn the Qur’an or the Bible in a public place and you’ll probably qualify for police protection!

            For the people of Judah and Israel, the two regions of David’s kingdom, there was no more powerful symbol of the divine presence and their history than the Ark.  Twenty years earlier it had been captured by the Philistines, the enemies of the Hebrews, and Saul had done little to recover it.  Even when the Ark was returned, it was enshrined in a town well within striking distance of the Philistines.

            Shortly after receiving the allegiance of the northern region of Israel, David set out to capture the hill city of Jerusalem, long held by the Jebusites, a non-Hebrew people.  By taking the city and making it his political capital, David had scored a coup:  A strong capital with no associations with either the northern or southern tribes.

            But David takes one more step to solidify his reign and to demonstrate that he is truly the beloved of God.  He brings the Ark to Jerusalem and in one fell swoop creates a new and powerful national symbol:  Jerusalem the Golden, the political and religious centre of David’s kingdom, where both God and the monarch dwell.  Over the millennia kingdoms and empires and international mandates would rise and fall, but Jerusalem the Golden has remained a powerful symbol for Jews, then Christians and, more recently, Muslims.

            Symbols take root deep in our personal and collective identities.  They are like gemstones that refract light and seemingly change their appearance depending upon the viewer’s perspective.  To this day I am never really sure what colour eyes Anna and Owen, our younger two children, have.  They are ‘sea-eyed’ Celts whose eyes can be blue or green or grey or some blend of all three depending upon the time of day, one’s point of view, even their mood.  So, too, are the symbols housed deep within us.

            Right now Jerusalem continues to be at the centre of political and religious conversation, debate and conflict.  Both Israelis and Palestinians claim part or all of the city as their respective national capital.  Jews, Christians and Muslims have public and unsettling conflicts over the custodianship of important religious sites.  No one can find middle ground because there is truly so much at stake.  When symbols are involved, compromise can sound a lot like treason or heresy depending on where one stands.

            A sermon on a Sunday in July is no place for an attempt to lay out a proposed solution to peace in the Holy Land.  But these past few months have been ones which have tested the relationship between Jews and Christians and Muslims.  Various Christian churches have discussed, debated and voted on proposals to boycott Israeli products and to divest from businesses that are either Israeli or have significant financial ties to Israel.  In the months ahead I hope that our ten-year-long dialogue will not founder on this shoal and that we will find ways to strengthen our existing friendships and to work in a manner that contributes to a just and lasting peace for all.  I ask your prayers for our dialogue in Vancouver and for all people who live in the Holy Land, an ancient and continuing symbol of our faiths.

            In the letter to the Ephesians, our second reading today, I find a perspective on symbols that may point a way forward, whether for the Middle East or for Jews and Christians in Vancouver or for any human relationship, personal and corporate.  For the writer of Ephesians the primary symbol of God’s creating, redeeming and renewing purpose is humanity:  people in relationship with God and with one another who share in this creating, redeeming and renewing work.  What is important to God is what you and I do with the concrete symbols of our relationship with the Holy One, whose name is ever to be blessed.

  • Do we use these symbols to build up or to destroy?
  • Do we use these symbols to heal or to wound?
  • Do we use these symbols to embrace those who differ from us or to exclude them from our fellowship?
  • Do we use these symbols to liberate our sisters and brothers or to oppress them?

            These questions are not just for those who have power and influence in the wider world.  These are questions for every person and every congregation to ponder and to act upon.  If the writer of Ephesians is correct, and I confess that I believe the writer to be correct, then how we use our symbols to build up, to heal, to embrace and to liberate our sisters and brothers, whether across the seas or across the street, is the most important religious obligation we have as people who live in relationship with God, the Holy One of Israel, who has been made known to us in the witness of Jesus of Nazareth and who is made visible in us through the workings of the Holy Spirit.

            So let us pray and work for the peace of Jerusalem and all the little Jerusalems in which we live and work.  Let us use the symbols of our sacred places, our buildings and our worship well so that the glory of God, a humanity fully alive, might be revealed in us and through us.  Then we shall not be ashamed to dance like David before the Ark of God’s presence, this fragile earth, our island home.  Amen.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Making the Familiar Strange

RCL Proper 14B
8 July 2012

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Propers:  2 Samuel 5.1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; 2 Corinthians 12.2-10; Mark 6.1-13

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

           In 1963 my family returned to Colorado Springs after a three-year tour of duty in Europe.  We quickly settled back into our life and found a new parish to call home.

            Saint Michael’s was a new parish, only five years old when we became members.  Most of the parishioners were either members of the United States Air Force or civilian employees of the federal government.  My mother and I joined the choir and an association began that will be fifty years old in October of 2013.

            Among the members of the parish was a retired Army colonel and his wife, Jon and Elma Nottingham.  Since our own grandparents lived at some distance, my father’s parents in upstate New York and my mother’s in metropolitan London, John and Elma ‘adopted’ my sister and me as their foster grandchildren.  For the next forty years they occupied a special place in the life of my family until their deaths in the early years of this century.

           Shortly after I was ordained, I found myself at lunch with Grandma Elma and Grandpa Jon.  Throughout the meal Grandma Elma kept call me ‘Father’ Richard this and ‘Father’ Richard that.  Finally I said to her, “Grandma Elma, you’ve known me since I was ten years old.  You don’t need to call me ‘Father’.”  “I know, Father Richard,” she said and gave me another piece of lemon cake.  The moral of the story:  Don’t tell your grandmother, whether foster or birth, what to call you.  She has known you too well and too long and will do as she pleases.

            When Jesus returned to Nazareth, no one was really interested to hear about his adventures in the big wild world nor were they interested in any prophetic mumbo-jumbo.  Jesus was a local boy and he would be treated just as he had been treated all his life.  Familiarity does not breed contempt as much as it breeds a reluctance to allow someone to assume a role other than the role that people are accustomed to having this person play in the life of the community.

            I may have been ordained, but Grandma Elma would decide how to address me, whether I liked it or not.  Jesus might have been doing some extraordinary things elsewhere, but here in Nazareth he was just Mary’s boy and he better not try to play any other role.

            For sixty-five years Saint Faith’s has played a particular role in the life of this neighbourhood.  Those of us who are congregants know these walls as housing a place of physical and spiritual care, a place where God is worshipped and the sacraments administered and a place where we have come to learn God’s wisdom.  To many of our neighbours, however, we are primarily a place for recitals, for meetings and for the occasional rummage or boulevard sale.  That we might have any other role in their lives is not on their horizon.  We are familiar, but few are willing to allow us to become slightly more strange and compelling.

            While our familiarity has not bred contempt, it has bred an indifference and a lack of expectations that extraordinary things might be taken place here, a place that has become an ordinary fixture in the local landscape.  As the summer waxes and wanes, however, we will have opportunities to invite our neighbours to see what extraordinary things God is doing for us and with us.

            In two weeks’ time the Kidney Foundation will hold its second annual community fair.  We shall figure prominently that day.  Why?  Because the Kidney Foundation’s concern for the physical well-being of Canadians is our concern as well.  So let us tell our neighbours and friends to come and to see what the church is really about.

            Over the next few months the playground will be re-located on the 57th Avenue side of our property.  Why?  Because the care of the little ones, whether the children of parishioners or not, is so important to us that we are prepared to change our ‘public face’.  So let us tell our neighbours and friends to come and to see what the church is really about.

            In early September we shall celebrate our sixty-fifth anniversary as a parish.  Our property will echo with music and we shall continue outdoors with food and festivities for everyone, members and non-members alike.  Why?  Because our neighbours need to see that we are here for them.  We tend our grounds, paint our building and provide public space so that life is richer and our life together stronger.  So let us tell our neighbours and friends to come and to see what the church is really about.

            In October we shall ‘take a bite out of winter’ by providing free winter clothing to those who have need of it.  All will be welcomed to warm food and fellowship.  Why?  Because we serve a Lord who comes among us poor and naked and hungry.  Our neighbours need to see that there is more to life than acquiring more goods and capital, that real human life is shaped by servanthood and the use of privilege for the good of others rather than self.  So let us tell our neighbours and friends to come and to see what the church is really about.

           What our neighbours need us to do is to witness to a deeper dimension of human life, to the mystery of what it means to be part of the human family.  But website, Facebook and print advertising won’t be enough.  Each one of us will need to go forth and to tell our story to everyone who will listen.  People need to hear why you and I continue to participate in this way of life.  They need to learn why this ordinary, familiar place is really extraordinary and wonderfully mysterious.

            Jesus sent out his earliest disciples in pairs to tell their contemporaries that their familiar world was about to become unfamiliar.  Every Sunday you and I are sent out to our own familiar world with a message of home, hope and help to our contemporaries.  We have good news to share; let us share it.  We have hope and healing here; let us proclaim it.  We have purpose and ministry here; let us invite others to share it.  Amen.