Saturday, January 16, 2016

God Is Great. God Is Good. God Is Generous. (RCL Proper 2, 17 January 2016)

RCL Proper 2C
17 January 2016

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

You can listen to today's sermon at the following link:

            Between 1987 and 1995 our family were members of Saint Anselm’s Parish on the University Endowment Lands.  It was in that parish that our children were first introduced to the eucharist and to Christian community.  To this day we have friends and acquaintances from those years.

            When the children were still quite small, the parish decided that it was time to change the wine we used for communion.  I can’t remember the reasons, but they really don’t matter.  Over the course of several Sundays we tried different wines, some white, some red, some sherries, some ports.  None seemed to satisfy the tastes of the congregation.

            Then one Sunday we discovered the ‘right’ wine.  Paula, the children and I went forward for communion.  We each received the bread and the wine.  David turned to the congregation, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and announced, ‘That was GREAT!’.  The decision was made and a new wine became the wine of Saint Anselm’s.

            ‘That was GREAT!’  In times such as ours it is easy to forget that we are the beneficiaries of God’s greatness, God’s goodness and God’s generosity.  The troubles in our world, in our country, in our communities and in our personal lives can cloud this fundamental reality:  God is good and the signs of that goodness are everywhere to be seen.

            To the people of Israel who have returned to their own country after decades of exile, the prophet Isaiah proclaims that God is good and the signs of that goodness are everywhere to be seen.  It is true that the city of Jerusalem must be rebuilt.  It is true that the Temple has to be raised from the rubble.  It is true that the people live between competing empires.  But they are back in their land.  God has not forgotten them and the signs of God’s promises fill the air they breathe, the soil they till and the faith they share.

            To the guests at the wedding feast in Cana a social disaster is looming before them.  No one wants to be known as the bridegroom who under-estimated what was needed for his wedding feast.  Imagine what his new in-laws will think!  But God is good.  Jesus is present at the feast and, with a little reminder from his mother, decides that a sign of God’s goodness would be beneficial.  Hundreds of litres of water are transformed into wine.  The water becomes what water is meant to be:  a source of life, a source of joy, a source of renewal.  The wedding planner is happy.  The guests are happy.  And Jesus’ disciples realize that God is in their very midst.  The signs of God’s goodness pop up in unexpected places and we are bidden to pay attention.

            The Christians in Corinth were an unhappy bunch of folk.  They disagreed about theology.  They were not ashamed to discriminate against other Christians on the basis of wealth, gender and social status.  Their eyes were closed to the possibility that God’s goodness might be found in unexpected places.  So Paul writes to them about God’s generosity and reminds them that the gifts necessary for the well-being of the Christian community will be found in unexpected people.  A slave might become the teacher of a master.  A woman might become the leader of a male-dominated community.  A child might become the source of God’s prophetic word.  God is great.  God is good.  God is generous.  Open your eyes, Paul says, and look at the signs around you.

            Yesterday people from all over Canada came to remember the life of Bishop Jim Cruickshank.  There were tears as befits the passing of one of the Church’s wisest leaders, one of its faithful teachers and one of its most compassionate pastors.  There are those who have said that we shall never see his like again.  But even as I grieve Jim’s passing, I cannot wholly share that sentiment.  Last week we baptized five children in this Parish.  Who knows what they shall become?  Who knows what gifts God has given to them?  If Jim were still with us, I know he would say:  God is great.  God is good.  God is generous.  Watch for the signs.

            This week the Primates of the Anglican Communion met in Canterbury in an atmosphere of tension and conflict.  When they emerged, their recommendation that our sisters and brothers in the Episcopal Church be excluded from leadership roles in the Communion has caused outrage, disappointment and defiance.  Some Anglicans now speak more openly about the end of the Anglican Communion as we have known it.  Yet, even as this unhappy course of events unfolded, on Wednesday night our Bishop and Diocesan Council declared the birth of a new parish, the Parish of Saint Mary Magdalene.  Born from the ministries of Saint Mark’s Kitsilano and Saint George’s VGH, Saint Mary Magdalene, named after the first witness to the risen Christ, is a sign of new life rising from the challenges of the past.  Which shall we remember?  The recommendation of the Primates or the new Parish in our Diocese seeking to be the body of Christ in this place and at this time?

            Friends, I have no illusions about the challenges of the present.  There are times when, as a pastor, priest and teacher, I am brought to the brink of despair.  But God is great.  God is good.  God is generous.  Parents bring their children to be baptized and new opportunities present themselves.  Two small parishes throw off the shroud of the past and don a new cloak for the future of their ministry.  Here at Saint Faith’s, we continue to be a place of help, hope and home for this neighbourhood and beyond. 

            Let us drink the new wine that God offers us in Christ.  Let us rejoice in the gifts that God gives us in creation and in our sisters and brothers.  Let us face our challenges in a spirit of hope rather than fear.  For God is great.  God is good.  God is generous.  And we are the living signs of that greatness, of that goodness, of that generosity.

1 comment:

Chris Thacker said...

Thanks once again Richard. Church here is RC and in Spanish. Eucharist easy to follow but sermons beyond my "tourist" Spanish so really look forward to yours. Had to chuckle at a young David saying the wine was "great". Chris