Saturday, August 31, 2013

Only One Moving Finger

Dear friends,

The sermon notes that follow are the beginning of a process of thought that has not yet reached its maturity.  I am pondering what it means for us as Anglicans to have lost our privileged position in society even as we remain a means of God's saving compassion in a world focused on privilege, prestige and power.  I hope that you will be patient with me as I work these thoughts out, whether in future sermons or essays.  In the meantime, may God give us hope, guidance and joy.


RCL Proper 22C (Series 2)
1 September 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Propers:  Sirach 10.12-18; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13.1-8, 15-16; Luke 14.1, 7-14
         On the 15th of October 1906 the sometime Anglican Bishop of Shanghai died in Tokyo where he had retired in 1883.  His name was Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky.  His life’s pilgrimage began in Lithuania as the son of Jewish parents, continued to Germany, then to the United States where, after time spent in the Baptist and Presbyterian churches, he became an Anglican deacon.

         He answered a call for missionaries to China and, during his travel to Shanghai, he learned how to write the Chinese language.  From 1862 to 1875 he served in Beijing where he began his translation into Mandarin of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.  In 1877 he was elected Bishop of Shanghai and, in addition to his pastoral work, founded Saint John’s University, some of whose alumni established Saint John’s College at the University of British Columbia.  He also turned to translating the Bible into Wen-li, another form of the Chinese language.

         But Schereschewsky’s tenure as Bishop was cut short by Parkinson’s disease and he was virtually paralyzed by the disease.  He retired as Bishop in 1883 and then spent twenty-three years in Japan.  During those twenty-three years he continued his translation work having the use of only one finger.  When interviewed four years before his death about his disability, Schereschewsky said, “I have sat in this chair for over twenty years.  It seemed very hard at first.  But God knew best.  He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted.”

         In all of our readings today there is a common thread:  Walk humbly with your God.  The author of Sirach expresses it simply, “Pride was not created for human beings” (Sirach 10.18a).  But let us not confuse humility with groveling, self-denying abasement.  Humility mean recognizing who we are, what are our gifts and what role is God calling us to play in the great drama of salvation.  Perhaps Bishop Schereschewsky did not achieve all his dreams for his ministry in China, but he left a foundation in his translation work that later Christian missionaries and teachers built upon.  With one finger he gave the Christians of Shanghai and the surrounding region the resources necessary to share their faith with others.  And he did it well.

         I cannot help but think that we Anglicans are living through a time when the pride of our past has come home to roost.  After centuries of assuming our place at the head of the table, we are being asked to vacate our privileged position and to move to a less exalted place.  Our heritage of beautiful buildings, inspired music and dignified liturgy serves as a constant reminder of who we were while, at the same time, presenting us with a challenge:  Who do we wish to become?  What gifts do we bring to life in the twenty-first century?  What role is God calling us to play in contemporary society?

         I will not try to answer these three questions today, but I can say that I believe that many Anglicans are willing to walk humbly with our God.  We are seeking to embody in our lives and in our public ministries the qualities the author of the letter to the Hebrews describes:

  • Learning to love our neighbours as ourselves.
  • Showing hospitality to strangers, especially to those who have no knowledge or experience of the Christian faith.
  • Remembering those who are held prisoner to hopelessness, hunger, homelessness and addiction.
  • Honouring the loving relationships with which God gifts us.
  • Building up the lay and ordained leadership of our communities.
  • Doing good and sharing what we have.

Losing our privileged place in society may be the best thing that has ever happened to us.  We have been liberated to return to our roots, a movement begun in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, empowered by the Spirit to share with God in the work of renewing the creation.

         Setting aside the sin of pride and taking on the mantle of humility does not mean denying the wisdom we have gained over two thousand years or denying the knowledge and skills God has given us to meet the needs and concerns of our neighbours and our world.  Mrs Lucardi, my Grade 8 algebra teacher, once said, “It ain’t boasting if it’s true!”  There are things that we know; there are things that we may do better than anyone else.  But humility also is found by acknowledging what we do not know or do not do well.  Humility means partnering with others and becoming a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

         So, my friends, the summer has come to an end and we’ve work to do.  Part of that work is clearing our garden of the weeds of centuries of Anglican pride and planting the seeds of Christian humility.  It is a humility that celebrates what God has done for us and for all creation as we ask for the wisdom to know what God would have us do in the coming year and beyond.  It is a humility that dares to use the wisdom, knowledge and skill we have in companionship with others, whether of our faith or not, who will bring their own wisdom, knowledge and skill to our common task. 

         Remember this:  God’s work may only require one finger, a finger guided by the Spirit and strengthened by the love of Jesus.  With such a finger God can do great things.  Amen.

Monday, August 26, 2013

An Order of Service for Pentecost 15 (1 September 2013)

Here is Saint Faith's order of service for this coming Sunday.  There are some new elements for September.  We are still using Series 2 of the Revised Common Lectionary.

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
1 September 2013

The Gathering of the Community

Gathering Music


Processional Hymn

‘The Kingdom of God Is Justice and Joy’  Common Praise #631


The Presider greets the Community.

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 then says

God of compassion,
you raise us to life in the Spirit:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You bring pardon and peace
to the broken in heart:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You make the torn and divided
one by your Spirit:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. [i]

Then the Presider says

God of love,
bring us back to yourself,
forgive us our sins
and assure us of your eternal love
in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. [ii]

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

Hymn of Praise

‘Praise to the Lord’  Common Praise #382

Collect of the Day

Let us pray.

Almighty God,
in your goodness, you provide for the needy.
Remove from your people the pride of place
and the pursuit of power that mocks humility.
Open our hearts in generosity and justice
to the neglected and lonely,
so that, in showing esteem for others,
we may honour and please you
through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.  Amen. [iii]

The Proclamation of the Word of God

First Reading

A Reading from Sirach (10.12-18).

            The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.  For the beginning of pride is sin, and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.  Therefore the Lord brings upon them unheard-of calamities, and destroys them completely.  The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers, and enthrones the lowly in their place.  The Lord plucks up the roots of the nations, and plants the humble in their place.  The Lord lays waste the lands of the nations, and destroys them to the foundations of the earth.  He removes some of them and destroys them, and erases the memory of them from the earth.  Pride was not created for human beings, or violent anger for those born of women.

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

The Psalm

Psalm 112 with the Refrain from Songs for the Holy One

Refrain (sung twice)Holy One, give us true and faithful hearts. 

1 Hallelujah!  Happy are they who fear the Lord *
            and have great delight in the divine commandments!
2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land; *
            the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches will be in their house, *
            and their righteousness will last for ever.
4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright; *
            the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

RefrainHoly One, give us true and faithful hearts. 

5 It is good for them to be generous in lending *
            and to manage their affairs with justice.
6 For they will never be shaken; *
            the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.
7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumours; *
            their heart is right; they put their trust in the Lord.
8 Their heart is established and will not shrink, *
            until they see their desire upon their enemies.

RefrainHoly One, give us true and faithful hearts. 

9 They have given freely to the poor, *
            and their righteousness stands fast for ever;
            they will hold up their head with honour.
10 The wicked will see it and be angry;
they will gnash their teeth and pine away; *
            the desires of the wicked will perish.

RefrainHoly One, give us true and faithful hearts. 

The Second Reading

A Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (13.1-8, 15-16).

            Let mutual love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.  Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.  Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.  Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

            So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

            Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

            Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

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

The Gradual Hymn

‘Alleluia’  Common Praise #714 (sung three times)

The Gospel

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke (14.1, 7-14).
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

            On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

            When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable.  “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.  For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

            He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

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

The Sermon

An Affirmation of Faith

The Deacon or another Assisting Minister says to the People

Let us confess the faith of our baptism.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.  Amen. [iv]

The Prayers of the Community

Intercessions, Thanksgivings and Petitions

The Deacon or other Assisting Minister bids the People prepare for the Prayers.

The Exchange of the Peace

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

The Holy Communion

The Offertory Hymn

‘From All the Wind’s Wide Quarters’  Common Praise #43

The Prayer over the Gifts

Let us pray.

Holy God,
gracious and merciful,
you bring forth food from the earth
and nourish your whole creation.
Turn our hearts towards those
who hunger in any way,
so that all may know your care;
and prepare us now
to feast on the bread of life,
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.

We give you thanks and praise, almighty God,
through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ,
our Saviour and Redeemer.
He is your living Word
through whom you have created all things.

By the power of the Holy Spirit
he took flesh of the Virgin Mary
and shared our human nature.
He lived and died as one of us,
to reconcile us to you,
the God and Father of all.

In fulfillment of your will
he stretched out his hands in suffering,
to bring release to those who place their hope in you,
and so he won for you a holy people.

He chose to bear our griefs and sorrows,
and to give us his life on the cross,
that he might shatter the chains of evil and death,
and banish the darkness of sin and despair.
By his resurrection
he brings us into the light of your presence.

Now with all creation we raise 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 and gracious God,
accept our praise,
through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who on the night he was handed over
to suffering and death,
took bread and gave you thanks,
saying, “Take, and eat:
this is my body which is broken for you.”
In the same way he took the cup,
saying, “This is my blood which is shed for you.
When you do this, you do it in memory of me.”

Remembering, therefore, his death and resurrection,
we offer you this bread and this cup,
giving thanks that you have made us worthy
to stand in your presence and serve you.

We ask you to send your Holy Spirit
upon the offering of your holy Church.
Gather into one
all who share in these sacred mysteries,
filling them with the Holy Spirit
and confirming their faith in the truth,
that together we may praise you
and give you glory
through your Servant, Jesus Christ.

All glory and honour are yours,
Father and Son,
with the Holy Spirit
in the holy Church,
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

Creator of all,
you gave us golden fields of wheat,
whose many grains we have gathered
and made into this one bread.
So may your Church be gathered
from the ends of the earth
into your reign of justice and peace. [ix]

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

The Communion of the Community

The Communion Hymn

‘Eat This Bread, Drink This Cup’  Common Praise #63

The Sending Forth of the Community

Prayer after Communion

Let us pray.

Almighty God,
we give your thanks
that you have refreshed us
through the healing power of this gift of life.
In your mercy, strengthen us through this gift,
in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another;
for the sake 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

‘Canticle of the Turning’  Evangelical Lutheran Worship #723

The Dismissal

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

Thanks be to God.

Concluding Music

[i] ‘Kyrie Confession:  Spirit’ in Common Worship (2000), 133 alt.

[ii] ‘Absolution 9’ in Common Worship (2000), 136 alt.

[iii] ‘Scripture Prayer for Proper 22C (Series 2)’ in Revised Common Lectionary Prayers (2002), 182 alt.

[iv] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 105.

[v] ‘Offering Prayer 1’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 107 alt.

[vi] ‘Sanctus’ by David Hurd (New Plainsong), Common Praise #689

[vii] ‘Eucharistic Prayer 2’ in The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 196-197.

[viii] Common Praise #744.

[ix] ‘The Breaking of Bread 3’ in The Book of Alternative Services (1985), 212 alt.

[x] ‘Prayer after Communion 1’ in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 114 alt.