Saturday, June 29, 2013

True Patriot Love

Canada Day
30 June 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC
         During the 1830’s and 1840’s the area we now know as ‘Germany’ did not exist.  There were kingdoms such as Prussia and Bavaria and large areas ruled by aristocratic families such as Baden-Württemberg.  Some of these little fiefdoms were no larger than the Diocese of New Westminster.

         Politically these states were predominantly conservative and aristocratic.  If the state had a legislature, its membership was usually reserved for the politically dominant members of society.  But it was during the 1830’s and 1840’s that a spirit of reform and revolution blew through these German-speaking states.  Many Germans were inspired by the American and French revolutions, while others found their inspiration in the constitutional monarchy taking shape in Great Britain during the reign of Victoria.

         In most of these small states, however, the forces opposing such changes were stronger than the reformers.  Thousands of reformers were either imprisoned, exiled or killed.  Many found their way to North America, especially the larger cities of the United States.

         One of these reformers was the writer and publisher Carl Schürz.  He fled Germany after the violent suppression of the reform movement and finally settled in Wisconsin where he became active in the Republican Party.  In those days, the Republican Party was, for the most part, a liberal party seeking either to restrict slavery to the southern states or to abolish it altogether.

         As a foreign immigrant and a known liberal among liberals, Carl Schürz was frequently attacked by his opponents as being ‘un-patriotic’.  He was, after all, a foreigner and there were and are plenty of Americans, even plenty of Canadians today, who do not trust anyone they consider to be ‘foreign’.  Once, when his patriotism was challenged by an opponent, Schürz famously responded, “My country right or wrong.  When right, to be kept right.  When wrong, to be put right.’

         With these words Schürz expressed what I believe to be the essence of how Christians are to relate to the countries in which they live.  We are, after all, members of a movement that began two thousand years ago and counts among its member people of every race and nation, men and women, ‘cradle’ Christians and ‘new’ Christians.  Our fundamental identity is as members of the body of Christ who are committed to the words of the prophet Micah:  to do justice, to love steadfastly and to walk humbly with God.

         On Canada Day it’s interesting to remember that when the first Christian communities were asked to describe their assemblies for worship and teaching, they chose a political rather than a religious term to describe these assemblies.  They said that the Christian assembly, the Christian people, was an ekklésia, a word that in ancient Greek meant a political assembly of citizens who gathered to make decisions for the common good of the community.

         It’s also interesting to remember that when the first Christian communities were asked to describe what their worship and teaching was, they chose another secular rather than religious term to describe what they were doing.  Christian worship and teaching was leitourgia, an ancient Greek word meaning a public work voluntarily undertaken for the common good.

         When we put these two words together, we have a striking portrait of what it means to be a Christian living in any state.  We are a public assembly of people who are committed to the common good of the entire community.  When we gather, our worship and teaching are a public work that we voluntarily undertake for the common good.  We are gathered here today, first and foremost, to work for the common good; not our personal gain, not our personal agendas, but for the common good of all the people among whom we live and work, whether they are Christians or not.  When we are sent forth from this place, the eucharist we have shared is food to strengthen us as we work for the well-being of our neighbours.  The teaching that we have shared, whether from the Scriptures, the prayer, the hymns or the sermon, are meant to help us use our time, talents and treasure to build up our communities, our neighbourhoods and our countries.

         This means that, from time to time, our governments might find us annoying.  Why is that?  Governments such as ours, democratically elected, even if by only a minority of the total electorate, are always tempted to play to their own supporters.  It is a natural temptation to which we are all prone, but this is a problem when one is elected to serve, whether in municipal, regional, provincial or national government.  Once in government, one’s obligation is to work for the common good and the common good sometimes challenges one’s political base.

         It is the church’s task, so long as it exists, to speak to the powerful about the needs and concerns of the whole community, especially those who are vulnerable, voiceless and easily dismissed.  We are called to hold before the powerful the prophetic call to do justice, to love steadfastly and to walk humbly before God.  We hold before our leaders the principles by which we expect them to lead, even when those principles may require those leaders to replace political platforms with bridges that lead to hope and equity.

         As Canadians we have much for which we give thanks to God, to our ancestors and to those who work tirelessly, day after day, for the common good.  As Christians our duty is gather Sunday after Sunday, year after year, in our public assemblies to remember what makes the common good and to be strengthened to work for that common good, even when it is costly to ourselves, even when it means challenges our leaders and risk being thought of as ‘un-patriotic’ or impractical.

         What is the ‘true patriot love’ of which we sing today?  It is a love of justice, a love that is steadfast, a humility that knows we are the stewards of God’s bounty not its possessors.  It is a love that dares to keep our country right when it is right, a love that dares to put our country right when it is wrong.  It is a love that fulfills the motto of the Order of Canada, a motto taken from the Christian scriptures:  ‘Desiderantes meliorem patriam.’ --- ‘They seek a better country.’  (Hebrews 11.16).

         For that better country, we stand on guard.  For that better country, we shall work.  For that better country, we shall always hope.  Amen.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prepare the Way of the Lord

On Sunday, 23 June 2013, our Deacon, Christine Wilson, preached on the first anniversary of her ordination to the diaconate.  We anticipated the celebration of the Birth of John the Baptist, the occasion of Christine's ordination.

Click here to hear an audio recording of her sermon at the 10.00 a.m. eucharist.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Forgiveness: Imagination Fuelled by Courage

Today I discovered that nothing that I had written the night before had helped me to say what I wanted to say about the story in today's gospel of the woman who washes Jesus' feet with her tears and anoints him with precious oil (Luke 7.36-8.3).  When I arose this morning, the outline of a sermon began to emerge and took shape during my drive into the city and during my trial run at the 8.00 a.m. eucharist.

Click here for the Sermon as it finally took shape at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thoughts on the Life and Witness of Sally Baker

Today Saint Faith's celebrates the life of Sally Baker who died at the beginning of May.  She was one of the living stones upon which this parish has been built and we give thanks to God for all that Sally gave to this place of help, hope and home.

Click here for an audio recording of the Sermon as preached at Sally's funeral today.

Thoughts on the Witness of Sally Baker
15 June 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

         In the summer of 1976 I accompanied a group of high school students on a summer tour of Germany.  At the time I was under-employed, so the invitation from the teacher who had been my supervising teacher during my teaching practicum was a welcome one.  I had lived in Germany from 1961 to 1963, but, due to my father’s security clearance and the reality of the Cold War, most of our family trips had been from Germany to England to visit my maternal grandparents.

         Our tour began in Frankfurt, then on to Heidelberg, north to Berlin, finally south to a small town near Regensburg where we were to spend most of our time being hosted by local families.  From Regensburg we travelled south to Austria and then to Munich, just in time for the 4th of July 1976, the bicentennial of the American War of Independence.

         One morning we took a trip into the surrounding suburbs and small agricultural towns that surround the city of Munich.  We pulled into a car park in an area surrounded by small farms and the homes of commuters.  We had arrived at Dachau, one of the first concentration camps established by the Nazis in the early 1930’s.  Several hours later a very different group of students and chaperones left.

         You may know that the persecution of the Jews in Europe by the Nazis and their allies was not secret.  Jews throughout Europe attempted to flee, but the majority of western democratic nations were unwilling to accept an influx of Jewish refugees.  The United Kingdom accepted some, mostly children.  The United States accepted Jewish celebrities, but not many.  Canada accepted very few indeed.

         In 1937 a young seventeen-year-old woman had begun to work as a secretary in the Chinese consulate in London.  China had been invaded by the Japanese and the government of Chang Kai-shek controlled only a limited part of the country.  One day, she told a group of us, a well-dressed European gentleman came to visit the Chinese consul.  After he had left, the consul provided all the secretarial staff with a form letter granting visas to China for any Jewish applicant who presented her or his passport in person or by mail.  The secretaries did not need to consult the consul; each one of them had the authority to issue the visas.  And so they did.  We know that some Jews found their way to China and then to other destinations due to the visas issued through the London consulate.  I am sure that somewhere in the Israeli archives there may be a census of the survivors of the Shoah who escaped by this means.

         What some of you may not know is the identity of that seventeen-year-old woman I have just described.  Her name is Sally Baker and may her name be remembered as a blessing for ever.  She was one of the few non-Jews who worked for the rescue of the victims of the Nazi persecution.  She died before I could ask her to tell me more about this story.

         In the Jewish tradition there is a saying:  To save one life is to save the whole world.  I have no idea how many people are alive today whose parents or grandparents were the recipient of a visa signed by Sally.  I have no idea how many contributions to human society and culture have been made by people whose families were saved by a simple signature.  But I can say this:  our world is richer for the simple actions of Sally, working the Chinese consulate more than seventy years ago.

         I tell you this story because people often come to funerals with voiced or unvoiced questions about what happens to us after we die.  These are real questions to which no certain answer can be given, but they are questions that I ponder as I enter my sixties.  I am sure that I am not alone.

         What the Christian faith teaches is that we are meant for eternal life.  Eternal life is more than just a future hope in a life in communion with God, with each other and with all those who have gone before us.  Eternal life is fundamentally a dimension of our present lives; it means living each day guided by the core values of our faith:

  • to do justice;
  • to love steadfastly;
  • to walk humbly with God.

To live out these values is to experience the fullness of life in the present and to know the presence of God in every facet of our living.

         Sally knew these values; Sally lived these values as well as she could.  She knew eternal life even as she hoped in God’s promise that this life continues beyond the grave.  She did justice and our world is richer.  She loved steadfastly and we mourn its absence in this moment even as we hope to know it in the future.  She walked humbly with God and rejoiced in all the wonders of God’s creation, wonders that we hope she is even now reveling in their beauty and diversity.

         One life can change a world and Sally’s life has changed the world.  For this, even at the moment of her death and our sorrow, there is only one word to say:  Alleluia!

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Order of Service for Pentecost 4 (Proper 11C) --- 16 June 2013

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
16 June 2013

The Gathering of the Community

Gathering Music

Processional Hymn

‘Let Us with a Gladsome Mind’  Common Praise #398


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.

The Deacon or an Assisting Minister says,

God our creator,
you know the secrets of our hearts.
We ask you to forgive our sins,
known and unknown.

For turning away from you,
and ignoring your will for our lives:
God of compassion, forgive, save and help us.

For behaving just as we wish,
without thinking of you:
God of compassion, forgive, save and help us.

For failing you by what we do, think and say:
God of compassion, forgive, save and help us.

For letting ourselves be drawn away from you
by temptations in the world about us:
God of compassion, forgive, save and help us.

For living as if we were ashamed
to belong to your Beloved, Christ our Lord:
God of compassion, forgive, save and help us. [i]

The Presider says,

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. [ii]

Let us praise the God who gives us new life
through the reconciling love of Christ and the work of the Spirit.

Hymn of Praise

‘Glory to God’  Common Praise #702

Collect of the Day

Let us pray.

Merciful God,
your ready forgiveness makes us bold to confess our sins.
Grant that we may die to sin
and become fully alive by faith in Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. [iii]

The Proclamation of the Word of God

First Reading

A Reading from Second Samuel (11.26-12.10, 13-15)

            When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him.  When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

            But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David.  He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought.  He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him.  Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.”  Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man.  He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

            Nathan said to David, “You are the man!  Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel:  I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more.  Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?  You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.  “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.”  Then Nathan went to his house.

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

The Psalm

Psalm 32 with the Refrain from Songs for the Holy One

Holy One, show us the way we must go.  (sung twice)

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
            and whose sin is put away!
Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, *
            and in whose spirit there is no guile!
While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
            because of my groaning all day long.
For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
            my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

            Holy One, show us the way we must go.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
            and did not conceal my guilt.*
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” *
            Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
Therefore all the faithful *
            will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;
when the great waters overflow, *
            they shall not reach them.

Holy One, show us the way we must go.

You are my hiding-place;
you preserve me from trouble; *
            you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; *
            I will guide you with my eye.
Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *
            who must be fitted with bit and riddle,
            or else they will not stay near you.”
Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *
            but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord; *
            shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Holy One, show us the way we must go.

The Second Reading

A Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (2.15-21)

            We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.  And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.  But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!  But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.  For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

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

The Gradual Hymn

‘As Long the Hart for Flowing Streams’  Common Praise #541

The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke (7.36-8.3)
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

            One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.  And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.  She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair.  Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him — that she is a sinner.”  Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”  “Teacher”, he replied, “speak.”  “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them.  Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.”  And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

            Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities:  Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

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

The Sermon

An Affirmation of Faith

Let us affirm our faith in our God.

We believe and trust in God the Lover,
source of all being and life,
the one for whom we exist.

We believe and trust in God the Beloved,
who, in Jesus of Nazareth, took our human nature,
died for us and rose again.

We believe and trust in God the Love,
who gives life to the people of God
and makes Christ known in the world.

We believe and trust in one God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen. [iv]

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Thanksgivings and Petitions

The Exchange of the Peace

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

The Holy Communion

The Offertory Hymn

‘A Prophet-Woman Broke a Jar’  Common Praise #463

The Prayer over the Gifts

Let us pray.

Blessed are you, O God, maker of all things.
Through your goodness you have blessed us with these gifts:
ourselves, our time and our possessions.
Use us and what we have gathered
in feeding the world with your love,
through the one who gave himself for us,
Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen. [v]

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.

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. [vi]

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. [vii]

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. [viii]

The Breaking of the Bread

How shall we repay you, O Lord,
for all the good things you have done for us?
We will lift up the cup of salvation
and call upon your name.
We will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call upon your name.
We will fulfil our vows to you
in the presence of all people. [ix]

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

The Communion of the Community

The Communion Hymn

‘I Come with Joy’  Common Praise #60

The Sending Forth of the Community

Prayer after Communion

Let us pray.

God of abundance,
with this bread of life and cup of salvation
you have united us with Christ,
making us one with all your people.
Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit,
that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world
and continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. [x]

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.

The Recessional Hymn

‘Sing Out, My Soul’  Common Praise #362

The Dismissal

The Deacon or an Assisting Minister sends the Community forth.  To these words the Community responds,

Thanks be to God.

Concluding Music

[i] ‘General Confession of Sin 1’ in Common Worship (2000), 128 alt.

[ii] ‘Absolution 4’ in Common Worship (2000), 135 alt.

[iii] Scripture Prayer for Proper 11C Series 2 in Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 149.

[iv] ‘Authorized Affirmation of Faith 1’ in Common Worship (2000), 144 alt.

[v] ‘Offering Prayer 3’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 107.

[vi] Lang ‘Nicaea’ Sanctus.

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

[viii] Songs for a Gospel People #12 sung by the whole community without repeats.

[ix] Psalm 116 edited for liturgical use by the Rev’d Dr Richard Geoffrey Leggett.

[x] ‘Prayer after Communion 3’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 114.