Saturday, April 27, 2013

Come to Joppa!

RCL Easter 5C
28 April 2013

Saint Faith's Anglican Church

           Yesterday Katherine Cotton, Peter Hatfield, Pam Sywulych, Christine Wilson and I spent the day at Saint Dunstan’s in Aldergrove attending a workshop on evangelism led by Michael Harvey, one of the founders of the ‘Back to Church Sunday’ movement.  What intrigued me was Michael’s clarity about what his ministry was about and what it was not about.  He came to help us learn how to confront our fear about uttering the following nine words:  “Would you like to come to church with me?”
            Nine words that form the substance of an invitation to do something beautiful for God and for God’s creation.  Nine words that invite someone to be part of a community that has good news to share in a world filled with bad news.  Nine words to ask a friend or a neighbour to join in seeking the truth in a world in which lies and falsehoods abound.  Nine words that can transform the life of someone we know.
            It is fitting that the workshop was held on a day before a Sunday when we hear today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, a reading filled with invitations made to ordinary people that lead to them becoming something more than ordinary.
            Peter, who tells the community at Jerusalem the story of his encounter with a Roman solider, was the first of today’s characters to be invited into a relationship with the living God.  Minding his own business and fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Peter had a good life.  Then his brother Andrew came along and invited Peter to meet Jesus of Nazareth.  Led by the Spirit of God, Peter said ‘yes’ and he began his roller-coaster career as a follower of Jesus who came to exercise leadership among the earlier community.  Without Andrew, however, there would have been no ‘rock’, no leader of the apostolic community.
            Then comes the second invitation behind Peter’s story we heard today.  All we know about Cornelius is that he was a centurion, a non-commissioned officer in the Roman army.  He was stationed in Joppa, just north of modern-day Tel Aviv, and had a sizeable household.  We also know that he was a ‘proselyte’, a Gentile who followed the Jewish religion but had not officially converted to Judaism.  Such a conversion would have meant the end of his career and many Gentiles who were drawn to the religious and moral teachings of Judaism shared Cornelius’ religious journey.
            The mystery is how Cornelius came to be a ‘God-fearer’, a term often used to describe proselytes.  Did another Gentile invite him to visit the synagogue?  Did a Jew in Joppa invite him?  Did Cornelius find himself in a synagogue out of curiosity, a way of better understanding these people among whom he had been sent as a representative of imperial Rome?  Luke, the probably writer of the Acts of the Apostles, doesn’t tell us.  But one thing is clear:  Cornelius was invited by a warm and living body to explore the path of the Law and the Prophets.  Led by the Spirit of God, Cornelius said ‘yes’ and eventually he becomes the first convert among the conquerors of Judea, a turning point in the story of the Christian movement.
            There are other invitations in chapters 10 and 11 of Acts.  God invites Cornelius to send messengers to Peter.  God invites Peter to consider that God’s plan might stretch beyond the limits that Peter seems to think define that plan.  Cornelius’ messengers invite Peter to come to Joppa to visit the home of a Roman soldier.  Time and time again the invitation is extended; time and time again the Spirit of God leads people to say ‘yes’.  Each ‘yes’ transforms the world:  the fisherman becomes the leader of the apostles; the soldier becomes a follower of a crucified and risen rabbi.  Each ‘yes’ contributes to transformation of a Jewish renewal movement into a movement that now spreads its message on every continent, in hundreds of languages, in thousands of forms.
            At the heart of the message is a call to a life shaped by the justice, steadfast love and humility shown in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Our message is not about institutions, about buildings, about styles of worship; it is a message about a God who is for us not against us, a God who seeks love not servility, a God who chooses to create rather than destroy.
            This is good news to a world that is filled with bad news, whether acts of terror, wide-spread hungry and poverty as well as greed that is willing to sacrifice impoverished workers on the altar of profit.  The truth that we proclaim is not a truth that seeks to enslave others but rather seeks to set us free from fear and free from the powerful who see people as means to achieve their own advantage.  The humility we are called to live is one that knows that we, as a community who follow the way of Jesus, exist primarily to take care of our neighbours and our neighbourhoods by doing all that we can to help all our sisters and brothers live abundantly.
            But the path we follow is not meant for ourselves alone.  It is a path that all who are made in the image of God are welcome to walk.  What they need is an invitation to walk it.  Just as Andrew invited Peter to meet Jesus, just as some unnamed person invited Cornelius to follow the way of the Law and the Prophets, so do our friends and neighbours who face the challenges of life need someone to say, “Come and see.  Come and discover a way of life that brings hope in the face of despair, a God who is with us even when the waves seem to crash over us, a community that reaches out to friend and stranger alike.”  Our only task is to make the invitation; the rest is in God’s hands.
            It is within our power to become Andrew’s for today’s Peter’s.  It is within our power to become the friends for today’s Cornelius’s.  We are inviting people to share with us in working for justice in a world marred by injustice, to share with us in showing steadfast love in a world marked by passing fancies and fads, to share with us in living humbly with God so that all God’s creatures may be free and enjoy life in its fullness.  Amen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Come and See

Second Sunday of Easter
6 April 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

            If I were ever sent into exile and told that I could only take one of the four gospels with me, I would quickly answer, “John”.  I think that John is the best story-teller of the evangelists and has an ear for dialogue.

            Take, for example, one of the earliest conversations recorded in John:  Philip, Nathaniel and Jesus (John 1.43-51).  Philip has just met Jesus and has become convinced that there is more to this rabbi from Nazareth than meets the eye.  Philip goes t his friend, Nathaniel, and tells him that he has found the one foretold by Moses and the prophets.  Nathaniel’s cynical response is well known:  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  All that Philip says to his friend is this:  “Come and see.”  And Nathaniel rises up and goes and sees.  For Nathaniel nothing will ever be the same.

            There are two aspects of this story that I want to point out to you.  First, Philip has a life-transforming experience.  Second, Philip does not keep that experience to himself.  He goes and searches out his friend so that Nathaniel has the opportunity to decide whether he wants to share in that experience.  Perhaps Philip knew that Nathaniel needed what Jesus was offering or perhaps Philip was counting on his friends curiosity, we don’t know.  Might we go so far as to think that Philip believed Nathaniel had something that Jesus needed?  Who knows?

            Then we have today’s story about that first week after the events of Holy Week.  Peter and the remaining apostles have an extraordinary encounter with the risen Jesus.  Out of that experience, they arise themselves, empowered to overcome the blindness to what God is doing in the life and teaching of Jesus, a blindness that the evangelist John calls ‘sin’ (The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, 1949).  It will be their mission to make God known in the world so that everyone will have the opportunity to make the same decision that they have made, the decision to follow Jesus and to participate in God’s saving work in the world.

            So, what is the first thing Peter and the other apostles do?  They go and find Thomas, the only member of the community who has not been with them to see and to hear Jesus.  We can only guess why Thomas had not been with them:  fear, disappointment, disillusionment, anger at God’s failure to protect Jesus.  Thomas’ response to his colleagues gives us a hint:  It is not doubt but Thomas’ own deep longing that their words are true.  His longing is so deep, so painful, that he cannot bear to hope without fearing to despair.

            Despite all these emotions, Thomas joins them and, just like Nathaniel, Thomas has a life-transforming experience.  From Jerusalem Thomas is thought to have gone east, if Christian tradition is to be believed, as an apostle to those peoples who lived beyond the boundaries of the Roman empire.  It is possible that he ended his days as a missionary on the southwestern coast of India.

            “Come and see,” said Philip to Nathaniel.  “Come and see,” said the Eleven to Thomas.  “Come and see,” generations of believers have said to their friends, friends who might be like Thomas, disillusioned, doubtful, seeking or simply unaware.

            All of us who are gathered in this ‘upper room’ of Saint Faith’s have had some experience of the risen Christ that has transformed our lives.  Perhaps we were lonely and found in this community a home where we have been treasured and nurtured.  perhaps we found ourselves in some need or trouble and discovered or were led to this community to receive the help we required.  Perhaps we were disillusioned or uncertain about the meaning of our lives or our relationships and found in this community hope and a purpose to believe in and to work for.

            Whatever the reason, someone said to us, “Come and see.”  Like Nathaniel and Thomas, we rose up and followed, discovering here or in some place very like this place home, help and hope.

            All around us are people, some whom we know, some whom we do not, who are homeless, helpless and hopeless.  For some the needs are material, for others emotional and spiritual.  But whether material, emotional or spiritual, the needs are real.

            Whether friend or stranger, whether rich or poor, they all await someone who will say to them, “Come and see.”  May God’s Spirit awaken in us the courage that is already in us so that we may speak those words to those who need to hear them.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Liturgical Ordo for the Second Sunday of Easter

Second Sunday of Easter
7 april 2013

The Gathering of the Community

Entrance Hymn

‘Christ Is Risen, Christ Is Risen’  Common Praise #220


Alleluia!  Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

May his grace and peace be with you.
May he fill our hearts with joy.


‘This Is the Feast of Victory for Our God’  Common Praise #242 vv. 3, 4

Collect of the Day

Let us pray.

O God,
you raised up Jesus Christ
as your faithful witness and first-born of the dead.
By your Holy Spirit, help us to witness to him
so that those who have not yet seen
may come to believe in him
who is and was and is to come.  Amen. [i]

The Proclamation of the Word of God

The First Reading

A Reading from Second Kings (7.1-16)

            Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord:  thus says the Lord, ‘Tomorrow about this time a measure of choice meal shall be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’”  Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “Even if the Lord were to make windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?”  But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat from it.”
            Now there were four leprous men outside the city gate, who said to one another, “Why should we sit here until we die?  If we say, ‘Let us enter the city, the famine is in the city, and we shall die there’; but if we sit here, we shall also die.  Therefore, let us desert to the Aramean camp; if they spare our lives, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.”  So they arose at twilight to go to the Aramean camp; but when they came to the edge of the Aramean camp, there was no one there at all.  For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “The king of Israel has hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to fight against us.”  So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys leaving the camp just as it was, and fled for their lives.  When these leprous men had come to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent, ate and drank, carried off silver, gold, and clothing, and went and hid them.  Then they came back, entered another tent, carried off things from it, and went and hid them.
           Then they said to one another, “What we are doing is wrong.  This is a day of good news; if we are silent and wait until the morning light, we will be found guilty; therefore let us go and tell the kings household.”  So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and told them, “We went to the Aramean camp, but there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied, the donkeys tied, and the tents as they were.”  Then the gatekeepers called out and proclaimed it to the king’s household.  The king got up in the night, and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Arameans have prepared against us.  They know that we are starving; so they have left the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’”  One of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, since those left here will suffer the fate of the whole multitude of Israel that have perished already; let us send and find out.”  So they took two mounted men, and the king sent them after the Aramean army, saying, “Go and find out.”  So they went after them as far as the Jordan; the whole way was littered with garments and equipment that the Arameans had thrown away in their haste. So the messengers returned, and told the king.
            Then the people went out, and plundered the camp of the Arameans.  So a measure of choice meal was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord.

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

The Psalm of the Day

Psalm 2 with Refrain from Songs for the Holy One

Refrain (twice)

Why are the nations in an uproar? *
Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?
Why do the rulers of the earth rise up in revolt,
and the princes plot together, *
against the Lord and the anointed of the Lord?

“Let us break their yoke,” they say; *
“let us cast off their bonds from us.”
The One enthroned in heaven is laughing; *
the Lord has them in derision.


Then God speaks to them in wrath, *
and in rage fills them with terror.
“I myself have set my anointed *
upon my holy hill of Zion.”

Let me announce the decree of the Lord, *
who said to me, “You are my heir;
this day have I begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance *
and the ends of the earth for your possession.


You shall crush them with an iron rod *
and shatter them like a piece of pottery.”
And now, you monarchs, be wise; *
be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the Lord with fear, *
and before whose presence bow with trembling;
lest God be angry and you perish; *
for the divine wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are they all *
who take refuge in God!


The Second Reading

A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (5.27-32)

            When [the temple police] had brought [Peter and the apostles], they had them stand before the council.  The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this mans blood on us.”  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.  The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

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

Hymn before the Gospel

‘Jesus Is Risen from the Grave’  Common Praise #232 vv. 1, 2, 4

The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (20.1-18)
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

            When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the [Jewish authorities], Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
            But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
            A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it in my side.  Do not doubt but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”   Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
            Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

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

The Sermon

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father,
who with the Father and the Son
is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Petitions and Thanksgivings

The Exchange of the Peace

May the peace of the risen Christ be with you all.
And also with you.

The Holy Communion

Offertory Hymn

‘We Walk by Faith, and Not by Sight’  Common Praise #244

The Prayer over the Gifts

Let us pray.

Blessed are you, O God, ruler of heaven and earth.
Day by day you shower us with blessings.
As you have raised us to new life in Christ,
give us glad and generous hearts,
ready to praise you and to respond to those in need,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen. [ii]

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;
we give you thanks and praise
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord;
for he is the true paschal lamb
who has taken away the sin of the world. 
By his death he destroyed death,
and by his rising to life again
he has won for us eternal life. 
Therefore, joining our voices
with the whole company of heaven,
we sing our joyful hymn of praise
to proclaim the glory of your name.

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. [iii]

Blessed are you, O God of the universe. 
Your mercy is everlasting
and your faithfulness endures from age to age.

Praise to you for creating the heavens and the earth. 
Praise to you for saving the earth from the waters of the flood. 
Praise to you for bringing the Israelites safely through the sea. 
Praise to you for leading your people
through the wilderness to the land of milk and honey. 
Praise to you for the words and deeds of Jesus, your anointed one. 
Praise to you for the death and resurrection of Christ. 
Praise to you for your Spirit poured out on all nations.

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.

With this bread and cup
we remember our Lord’s Passover from death to life
as we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Christ has died. 
Christ is risen. 
Christ will come again.

O God of resurrection and new life: 
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us
and on these gifts of bread and wine. 
Bless this feast. 
Grace our table with your presence.
Come, Holy Spirit.

Reveal yourself to us in the breaking of the bread. 
Raise us up as the body of Christ for the world. 
Breathe new life into us. 
Send us forth, burning with justice, peace and love.
Come, Holy Spirit.

With the ever-blessed Virgin Mary,
blessed Joseph, blessed Faith
and your holy ones of all times and places,
with the earth and all its creatures,
with sun and moon and stars,
we praise you, O God,
blessed and holy Trinity,
now and forever.  Amen. [iv]

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. [v]

The Breaking of the Bread

Lord, we died with you on the cross.
Now we are raised to new life.
We were buried in your tomb.
Now we share in your resurrection.
Live in us, that we may live in you.

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


Hymn after Communion

‘Now the Green Blade Rises’  Common Praise #237

The Sending Forth of the Community

The Prayer after Communion

Life-giving God,
in the mystery of Christ’s resurrection
you send light to conquer darkness,
water to give new life,
and the bread of life to nourish your people.
Send us forth as witnesses to your Son’s resurrection,
that we may show your glory to all the world,
through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.  Amen. [vi]

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.

Closing Hymn

‘That Eastertide with Joy Was Bright’  Common Praise #231

The Dismissal

Let us go forth in the name of Christ.  Alleluia, alleluia!
Thanks be to God.  Alleluia, alleluia!

[i] Scripture Prayer for Second Sunday of Easter, Year C, in Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 115.

[ii] ‘Offering Prayer for Easter’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 64.

[iii] ‘You Are Holy’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), #525.

[iv] ‘Thanksgiving at the Table IV’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 111.

[v] Songs for a Gospel People #12 (lined by presider).

[vi] ‘Prayer after Communion for Easter’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 65.