Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Celebration of the Life of Estelle Stevens

Today Saint Faith's celebrated the life of Estelle Stevens, M.D., physician and psychiatrist (19 September 1926 to 4 December 2012).  It was a celebration of a fruitful life filled with joy and challenges.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Making the Familiar Strange

RCL Epiphany 3C
27 January 2013

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

To hear the Sermon as preached at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist at Saint Faith's, please click here.

In October of 1963 my family returned to the United States after three years abroad in England and Germany.  We had left the front lines of the Cold War only to enter into the front lines of a new conflict:  the civil rights movement of the sixties.

At first my life was quite insulated from the turmoil that was occurring elsewhere in the country.  Colorado Springs was a military town, so I was accustomed to having classmates who were Afro-Americans and Latino-Americans.  But I was too young to understand the more subtle dimensions of prejudice.

For example, no one I knew studied Spanish.  Colorado's first European settlers were Spanish colonists who had moved north from Mexico and settled in southwestern Colorado.  But among my peers in the 'Highly Academically Talented Students' cohort, none of us were encouraged to take Spanish.  We were directed towards the study of French, German or Latin.

Although there were many Afro-American students in my elementary, junior high and senior high schools, I cannot remember any who were in my classes.  No one ever made any overt racist remarks, but now that I look back over the distance of fifty years, it is the absence of Afro-Americans in those courses that I remember.

It was 1965 that I became more aware of the growing tensions within my country and within my own city.  On the 14th of August a young man, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, was shot and killed in Hayneville, Alabama.  He had left his school in Cambridge, Massachusetts in response to Martin Luther King's call for young Northerners to come south and help register Afro-Americans as voters.  Daniels died shielding a young Afro-American woman from an attack by an unemployed highway workers.

Now you need to know that I am a Myrick.  My father's mother was a Myrick and our family is spread all over what is now northern New York and the New England states.  Although we never met, Jonathan Myrick Daniels was surely kin to me given that he came from a small town in New Hampshire, a hop, skip and a jump from the Myrick home region.

When asked why he was going to help in the voter registration movement, Daniels wrote that he had been strengthened by the singing of Mary's song in Evening Prayer:  "'He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek.  He hath filled the hungry with good things.'  I knew that I must go to Selma.  The Virgin's song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead." (Holy Women, Holy Men, p. 526)

Now Mary's song is familiar to many Anglicans.  It has been a regular fixture in our forms of evening prayer since 1549.  In our three-year lectionary it appears frequently during Advent and there are some of us who know it, in one version or another, by heart.  On the one hand, it is a familiar text; but on the other hand, it has extraordinary implications for us.  For Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Mary's song sustained him on his path to unexpected martyrdom.

It is the possibility of the familiar to become unfamiliar and extraordinary that I find at the heart of today's reading from the gospel according to Luke.  Although we do not know a great deal about the synagogue liturgy at the time of Jesus, I think that I can say this:  Jesus did not choose the text; the text chose Jesus.  Jesus had arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and, as was the custom, was given the opportunity to read and to comment on one of the regularly-scheduled readings.  When the attendant gave the scroll to Jesus, the attendant had already unrolled it to the reading specific to that Sabbath.  What we hear today is the unleashing of the familiar to change our lives.

I have now served as a priest through ten cycles of the three-year lectionary.  My actual experience of the lectionary actually reaches back to 1970, so I have heard these readings fourteen times before.  But I am aware that I do not always listen to the readings.  I do not come expecting to be surprised, expecting to be summoned from my daily routine into unexplored country, expecting to hear God speaking directly to me through the words spoken by the day's reader.

But Jonathan Myrick Daniels seems to have done so and he went south 'to proclaim release to the captives' and 'to let the oppressed go free'.

Let us not be lulled into inattention by the familiar.  Let us come to worship expectantly and prepared to hear God speak to us through the words that God has used for so many millennia to summon the people of God to action.  Let us come to worship in the confidence that God's word will speak what we need to hear to heal our lives, to comfort our woes and to lead us into paths unknown.  For surely the Spirit of the Lord is here and the familiar words and actions still have power to transform us.  Amen.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Liturgical Ordo for the Third Sunday after Epiphany

The third Sunday after Epiphany
27 January 2013

The Gathering of the Community


Opening Hymn

‘When Morning Gilds the Skies’  Common Praise #2 vv. 1, 2, 3, 4


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all.
And also with you.

Almighty God,
to you all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hidden.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Canticle of Praise

Gloria in Excelsis [i]

Collect of the Day

Let us pray.

In you, O Lord our God,
we find our joy,
for through your law and your prophets
you formed a people in mercy and freedom,
in justice and righteousness.
Pour your Spirit on us today,
that we who are Christ’s body
may bear the good news of your ancient promises
to all who seek you.  Amen.  [ii]

The Proclamation of the Word

The First Reading

A reading from Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8.1-3, 5-6, 8-10)

            1 All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate.  They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel.  2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding.  This was on the first day of the seventh month.  3 He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.

5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.  6 Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

8 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

            9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.”  For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.  10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

After the reading

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.

The Appointed Psalm

Psalm 19.7-14 with the Refrain from Songs for the Holy One

7 The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; *
            the testimony of the Lord is sure
            and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8 The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart; *
            the commandment of the Lord is clear
            and gives light to the eyes. 


9 The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; *
            the judgements of the Lord are true
            and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, *
            more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey, *
            than honey in the comb.


11 By them also is your servant enlightened, *
            and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how often they offend? *
            Cleanse me from my secret faults.


13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; *
            let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound, *
            and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable in your sight; *
            O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.


The Second Reading

A reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12.12-31a).

            12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

            14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.  15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?  20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.  21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this.  But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

            27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.  29 Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  30 Do all possess gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  31 But strive for the greater gifts.  And I will show you a still more excellent way.

After the reading

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Thanks be to God.

The Gradual Hymn

‘The Spirit of the Lord’  Songs for a Gospel People #115 (sung twice)

The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke (Luke 4.14-21)
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

            14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.  15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

            16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom.  He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 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,
                  19 to proclaim the year of the Lords favour.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.  The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

After the Gospel

The Gospel of Christ.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

The Sermon

An Affirmation of Faith

Let us affirm our faith in God made known to us in Christ through the Spirit.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.
God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world
to be holy and blameless before God in love.

God destined us for adoption as the children of God through Jesus Christ.
With all wisdom and insight
God has made known to us the mystery of the divine will,
a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ,
things in heaven and things on earth.

In Christ we have obtained an inheritance
so that we might live for the praise of the glory of God.
We have been marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit,
the pledge of our inheritance as God’s own people. [iii]

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Petitions and Thanksgivings

Confession and Absolution

Compassionate and forgiving God,
we come to you for the forgiveness of our sins.

For turning away from you,
and ignoring your will for our lives;
compassionate and forgiving God,
save us and help us.

For behaving just as we wish,
without thinking of you;
compassionate and forgiving God,
save us and help us.

For failing you by what we do
and think and say;
compassionate and forgiving God,
save us and help us.

For letting ourselves be drawn away from you
by temptations in the world about us;
compassionate and forgiving God,
save us and help us.

For living as if we were ashamed
to belong to your Son;
compassionate and forgiving God,
save us and help us. [iv]

May our compassionate God, the life-giving Trinity, forgive you your sins
and bring you to the fellowship of this table
with all the saints for ever.  Amen. [v]

The Exchange of the Peace

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

The Holy Communion

Offertory Hymn

‘Let All Creation Bless the Lord’  Common Praise #419

Prayer over the Gifts

Let us pray.

Loving God,
before the world began you called us.
Make holy all we offer you this day,
and strengthen us in that calling.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Thanksgiving at the Table

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.

Blessed are you, gracious God,
creator of heaven and earth;
you are the source of light and life for all your creation,
you made us in your own image,
and call us to new life in Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Therefore we praise you,
joining our voices to proclaim the glory of your name. [vi]

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest. [vii]

Holy, mighty and merciful Lord, heaven and earth are full of your glory.

In great love you sent us Jesus, your Son, who reached out to heal the sick and suffering, who preached good news to the poor and who, on the cross, opened his arms to all.

In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:  Take and eat; this is my body given for you.  Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks and gave it for all to drink, saying:  This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.  Do this for the remembrance of me.

Remembering, therefore, his death, resurrection and ascension, we await his coming in glory.

Pour out upon us the Spirit of your love, O Lord, and unite the wills of all who share this heavenly food, the body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all glory and honour, now and for ever.  Amen. [viii]

The Lord’s Prayer

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. [ix]

The Breaking of the Bread

We break the bread of life,
and that life is the light of the world
God here among us,
light in the midst of us,
bring us to light and life.

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

The Communion of the Community

Communion Hymn

‘Like the Murmur of the Dove’s Song’  Common Praise #635

The Sending Forth of the Community

Prayer after Communion

Let us pray.

Gracious God,
our hands have taken holy things;
our lives have been nourished by the body of your Son.
May we who have eaten at this holy table
be strengthened for service in your world.
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.

Recessional Hymn

‘I Am the Light of the World’  Songs for a Gospel People #24


At the discretion of the Deacon or Assisting Minister.


            Liturgical Note:  Unless otherwise indicated, all liturgical texts are taken from The Book of Alternative Services (1985) and may be emended for more inclusive language.  Texts from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) are used under the terms of the Waterloo Declaration of Full Communion between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.  Biblical texts are from the New Revised Standard Version.

[i] Rupert Lang, Carol Mass.

[ii] Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 59.

[iii] Ephesians 1.3-14 (New Revised Standard Version) arranged for liturgical use by the Rev’d Dr Richard Geoffrey Leggett.

[iv] Common Worship (2000), 128 alt.

[v] Common Worship (2000), 136 alt.

[vi] ‘Preface of the Lord’s Day 1’ in The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 218.

[vii] ‘Sanctus’ from Rupert Lang, Carol Mass.

[viii] Thanksgiving at the Table V in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 65-66.

[ix] The Book of Alternative Services, 918.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Good Water, Better Wine

The Second Sunday after Epiphany
20 January 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Isaiah 62.1-5; Psalm 36.5-10; 1 Corinthians 12.1-11; John 2.1-11

Click here to hear the Sermon as preached at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist at Saint Faith's.

            Few texts are as difficult to preach in our time as miracle stories.  We have lived through the scientific revolution that began at least four hundred years ago and that revolution has taught us to be suspicious of explanations that rely on the supernatural or on faith.  Perhaps our difficulty lies in what we think a miracle story is trying to tell us.

            For some people miracle stories are the theological equivalent of the ‘Hail Mary’ pass in North American football.  The game seems lost; only a last-minute pass of considerable length through a mass of defenders will result in the winning touch-down.  The quarterback backs up, lets the ball fly through the air and we all hold our collective breaths to see if the receiver down the field will catch the ball to win the game.  Most of the time such efforts are not rewarded with victory, but we can still hope.

            The miracles told in the Hebrew scriptures and in the New Testament are read by some Christians as reminders that the possibility exists in the midst of unbelievable difficulties and tragedies that maybe, just maybe, God will intervene and make everything right again.  Even the editor of the biblical book we know as Job gave into this temptation.  Job has three parts:  (i) the beginning where we hear how Job ends up losing everything he has; (ii) the longer middle section made up of conversations between Job and three other persons where the incomprehensible mystery of ‘why bad things happen to good people’ is explored with greater and lesser success; and (iii) the conclusion where God gives dear old Job everything back and more to make amends. 

            We all want things to turn out well when we are faced with what seem to be insurmountable challenges.  We cannot rule out God’s mysterious transformation of tragedies into stories with happy endings, but this is not why miracle stories have been collected and re-told in our Scriptures.  Miracle stories are signs that point to what God is doing in the world in the here and now.[i]  In other words, miracles are vivid reminders that if we have the eyes to see, the hearts to embrace and the minds to explore, we shall discover that all of creation, every moment of our lives are filled with the glory of God and with the evidence of God’s desire to heal creation and bring us into abundant life.

            In today’s reading from John’s gospel we hear the familiar story of the miraculous transformation of water into wine by Jesus.  Like the steward of the feast we are tempted to look only at the vast quantity of wine that appears just at the right moment in the feast and conclude that this is the meaning of the story.  But it is not.[ii]  The miraculous transformation of the water into wine is a sign of what God has begun to do through Jesus of Nazareth and what God continues to do through the body of disciples who have eyes to see, hearts to embrace and minds to explore the mystery of God’s transformation of the ordinary stuff of our lives into agents of God’s saving purpose.[iii]

            Let me also say that this story is not a story about Jesus’ repudiation of Judaism.  Some commentators have suggested that the fact that the water was in containers intended to be used for the Jewish rites of purification is an indication that this story implies a rejection of Judaism.  On the contrary:  this is a story about something emerging out of Judaism and rooted firmly in God’s promises made to the people of Israel and to those of us, as the apostle Paul says, have been grafted through Christ into these promises.[iv]

            So what do I think this story says to us?  First, I think that this story reminds us to look around us expecting to find signs of God’s activity in our everyday lives.  Most of our contemporaries live in a world which they believe to be filled with signs of God’s absence; we, on the other hand, have the eyes to see, the hearts to embrace, the minds to discover the signs of God’s presence in all places and in all times.  While I am the first to admit that I do not know ‘why bad things happen to good people,’ I am also the first to admit that, even in those situations, I am always surprised to find signs of God’s presence, signs of God’s transforming love.  A Palestinian physician loses children to an Israeli shell and then writes a book entitled, I Shall Not Hate.  Children are killed in a small town in Connecticut and their parents and others commit themselves to the Herculean task of challenging the gun-culture of the United States.

            I also think that this story encourages us to remember that God uses what we have and who we are to achieve extraordinary things.  Our culture is driven by an advertising environment geared to generate feelings of envy and scarcity.  We are rarely shown images of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  No, we need this car or this technology or this cosmetic or this fashion accessory.  But at Cana in Galilee Jesus takes ordinary water and turns it into the best wine the steward has ever tasted.

            It strikes me that the Christian tradition has understood this for a very long time.  Even though this story has nothing to do with a theology of Christians in marriage, it is regularly read at weddings.  But actually there is something to this:  two ordinary people begin a relationship that has the potential to become something more than the sum of its parts.  If the couple is open to the power of God’s love to transform their water into wine, then they have the opportunity to do, as Mother Teresa was wont to say, ‘something beautiful for God’ and, I should add, for us and for all the world.

            What is true of a couple beginning their married life is also true of congregations.  For sixty-five years we have been a sign of God’s loving presence in this community.  Over those decades our society and our neighbourhood has changed.  We face challenges that the founders of this parish probably did not envision.  But they have bequeathed to us good water in good jars and God seems to be transforming jar after jar into the best wine.  One of our tasks is to offer God and our founders continued thanks for the gifts we already have and to pray that God will give us the wisdom and the will and the perseverance to see their transformation, to embrace the opportunities and to discover what shape our ministry shall take.

            So, my sisters and brothers, let us open our eyes, our hearts and our minds so that we can give glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  Amen.

[i] “. . . the miraculous abundance of good wine is a sign of God’s presence among.”  (The New Interpreter’s Bible, IX:540).  “. . . in the abundance and graciousness of Jesus’ gift, one catches a glimpse of the identity and character of God.”  (The New Interpreter’s Bible, IX:540).

[ii] “John uses the term sign to refer to Jesus’ miracles, because for John the significance of the miracle does not rest solely in the act of the miracle itself, but in that to which the miracle points.  That is, the deed reveals the doer and points to the significance of the deed as an act of eschatological salvation and God’s significance.”  (The New Interpreter’s Bible, IX:539).

[iii] In this text the word ‘first’ (arche) should be understood to mean ‘the beginning’ rather than ‘the first in a sequence’.  (The New Interpreter’s Bible, IX:539).

[iv] “It is inaccurate to describe this miracle as Jesus’ rejection of the waters of purification and hence a symbol of Jesus’ rejection of Judaism.  Rather, jars stood empty, waiting to be filled.  Jewish vessels are filled with a wondrous new gift (cf. 1:17).  This miracle is thus neither a rejection nor a replacement of the old, but the creation of something new in the midst of Judaism.”  (The New Interpreter’s Bible, IX:538).