Friday, July 24, 2015

'Thanks be to God. There is still work to be done.' (Reflections on John 6.1-21)

'Thanks be to God.  There is still work to be done.'
Reflections on John 6.1-21

Saint Faith's Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Click on the link below to listen to the Sermon as preached at the 10.00 Eucharist on Sunday the 26th.

Louis Weil, my mentor in liturgy, faced every challenge with the same words:  'Thanks be to God.  There is still work to be done.'  Over the years Louis' words have echoed in my mind as our Christian community, the Anglican Communion, has faced one challenge after another.

Some challenges have been of our own making as we have confronted some of the shadows cast by our failure to respect the dignity of every human being.  Other challenges have not been of our making as we have experienced the social, cultural and economic changes of the past fifty years.

Communities respond to challenges in different ways.  Some communities retreat, hoping that the 'good old days' will return but gradually fading into complete irrelevance.  Other communities abandon their identities completely and join whatever bandwagon seems to be garnering the largest number of followers.

But healthy communities face their challenges squarely and assess what the challenge tells them about themselves and about their future.  When we do this, we can then identify what resources we have to meet the challenge with integrity.  I am tempted to call this the 'Weil Option' --- 'Thanks be to God.  There is still work to be done.'

In today's gospel we hear the story of Jesus choosing the 'Weil Option'.  Instead of heeding the advice of the apostles and leaving the hungry crowd to feed itself, Jesus assesses the situation, identifies his resources --- a few loaves and fishes --- and then meets the challenge squarely.  Instead of staying safely on shore and letting his disciples fend for themselves, Jesus assesses the situation, identifies his resources --- chiefly his own self --- and then meets the challenge squarely.  By choosing the 'Weil Option', people are fed and frightened disciples are rescued from stormy waters.

It is no secret that belonging to any community of faith is not an easy sale in today's Metro Vancouver.  During the week families struggle to earn enough money to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.  By the time the weekend arrives, the priority is quality family time and for all the various chores and tasks that need to be done.  Many people feel that 'organized religion' is too restrictive and that communities such are ours do not welcome the questions and concerns contemporary Canadians have.  The excesses of some of our fellow Christians do not help in our efforts to reach out to the so-called 'unchurched' or the 'spiritual but not religious'.

But we are not people who turn away from the challenges we face.  We know what we face.  We have the resources to help us reach out and invite others to join us in offering help, hope and home to all.

We have good news to share.  Our message is one of compassion for all God's people, a commitment to care for 'this fragile earth' and a vision of a future where every creation, human and non-human, will have the opportunity to be fully alive as God wishes us to be.

We have a path to follow.  The Scriptures speak to us of the experiences of many and various peoples over the course of thousands of years as they sought to follow the path woven by God into the tapestry of the universe.  We have the gift of minds that ponder the mystery of God in our own lives and that wonder at each unexpected revelation.  We have a tradition of pastoral care, worship and learning that sustains us in our journey.

We have each other.  Every person here brings the riches of experience, depth of insight and varied gifts that enrich all of us.  Whether younger or older, we share a commitment to take care of each other and to take care of our neighbourhoods.

To be sure there are moments when we feel discouraged and when we wonder whether our day has past.  But that cloud passes and the light of the Spirit reveals to us an opportunity previously overshadowed.

Friends, there are many hungry people who have full stomachs and empty hearts and minds.  There are people who seem to be sailing smoothly but whose passage is troubled.  They are all around us.  We know some of them.  Perhaps we find ourselves among them.  Our challenge is to feed them and to join them on the stormy waters.  We have what we need to do so and God gives us the opportunity to respond.  Thanks be to God.  There is still work to be done.

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