Saturday, July 16, 2022

Setting Aside Worry and Anxiety -- A Reflection on Luke 10.38-42



Setting Aside Worry and Anxiety

A Reflection on Luke 10.38-42

 

RCL Proper 16C

17 July 2022

 

Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral

New Westminster BC

 

            Many years ago my mentor and friend, the late Louis Weil, returned home to Texas after a stressful time as a faculty member at the Seminario del Caribe in Puerto Rico.  He was both physically and spiritually exhausted and was uncertain about his future, as a priest and as a teacher.

 

            Louis was the child of a mixed marriage.  His father was Jewish, his mother a Baptist.  Among his father’s friends was a rabbi with whom Louis had always had a good relationship.  So Louis decided to talk with his father’s friend, confident that he would get a truly impartial, third-party opinion so to speak.

 

            After Louis had unburdened himself and laid before the rabbi all the worries and anxieties that were plaguing him, the rabbi sat in silence for some time.  Then he said, ‘Louis, if Jesus is who you believe him to be, why are you so burdened with these anxious fears and doubts?’  Now let me be clear.  The rabbi was not questioning Louis’ belief.  He was asking Louis to return to the roots of his belief in Jesus as the Christ and, to use the words of the Christian scholar Marcus Borg, to ‘meet Jesus again for the first time’.  Perhaps Louis like Mary of Bethany might decide to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen for a while.

 

            I am often brought up short when this brief episode from the life of Jesus is read.  It is, like the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story that is quite familiar to all of us.  It has even become the origin of a phrase used from time to time in conversation – being a Martha or a Mary.

 

            There are several ways to interpret this story.  A frequent approach is one that suggests that Martha represents the ‘active’ life and Mary the ‘contemplative’ life.  Jesus seems to be saying that the ‘contemplative’ life is the best form of discipleship because the ‘active’ life tends to be prone to distractions and obstacles to Christian life.  Earlier in the Gospel, Luke gives his own version of the parable of the sower, found also in Matthew and Mark, where seed falls on various soils.

 

The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance. (Luke 8.13-15)

 

            Another way of reading today’s gospel is to do so in the light of the cultural attitudes towards women and discipleship in the time of Jesus.  Martha of Bethany is fulfilling the classic role of the woman of the household – making sure that everyone is fed and that obligation of hospitality is met.  Mary, on the other hand, is boldly assuming the posture of a male disciple – kneeling at the feet of Jesus to listen to his message.  When Martha complains, not to her sister but to Jesus, Jesus praises Mary for her courage and discernment.

 

            But the more I hear this story, the more I am convinced that the key to understanding this tory is in the final two verses:  “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10.41-42)

 

            My friends, who among us in this waning pandemic, in this time when religious communities such as ours navigate difficult waters, in times of economic and social stress, are not ‘worried and distracted by many things’?  We often avoid facing the depth of our worries and anxieties by plunging into a kind of ‘busy-ness’ that simply aggravates our feelings.  Our health suffers; our mental and emotional health suffers; our relationships suffer.  Even when our ‘busy-ness’ is associated with ‘good’ causes, we may find less and less fulfillment in them; they become burdens rather than joys, obligations grudgingly accomplished rather than ministries freely undertaken.

 

            It’s not that the work we are doing is unimportant.  It’s because it is becoming more distant from its source of energy and purpose – the saving word we encounter in Jesus of Nazareth.  I am very aware that, in my own life right now, the voice of Jesus is fainter than I would wish it to be.  Like Martha I have been doing what is good and proper, fulfilling the ministry that was entrusted to me when I became your Vicar and your Archdeacon.  But I know that I am both worried and distracted.

 

            Worry and distraction are emotions that are signs that we need to pause and to listen to Jesus.  Jesus speaks to us in many ways – through the Scriptures, through prayer, through times of rest and re-creation – to remind us that ‘God is working (the divine) purpose out as year succeeds to year’ (The Hymnal 1982, #534).  Just as we need to ‘keep our eyes on the prize’ and to nurture our peripheral vision of the path before us, we need to be intentional – a frequently used and frequently ignored adverb – in maintaining our connection to the source of our life, our strength, our hope.

 

            We are not being asked to choose between being Martha or Mary.  We are being invited to be disciples whose service is shaped by what we have heard at Jesus’ feet.  We are being invited to be disciples who, upon hearing the living Word, rise to the challenges we face, unburdened by worry, undistracted by anxiety, freed by love, by hope, by faith to do and to be infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Keeping an Eye on the Plough


 

In today's episode of 'A View from the Vicar', I look at the Gospel for this coming Sunday, Luke 9.51-62, and how it relates to our on-going commitment to reconciliation.

Click HERE to listen to my thoughts.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Imagine It. Work for It. (Easter 2022)



 Imagine It.  Work for It.

Reflections on the Resurrection

 

RCL Easter C

17 April 2022

 

Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral

New Westminster BC

 

         For the newly-established United States, first decades of the nineteenth century were significant in the formation of its national character.  With the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, the country more than doubled in size and settlers quickly moved into the watersheds of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  The national unity forged by the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 began to be tested by the question of slavery, unresolved in the early days of the Republic and now urgent as new states clamoured to join the Union. 

 

         A religious revival had swept through the western regions of New York and Pennsylvania and many Christian communities were rent asunder by conflict.  Among the affected communities were the Quakers of the region.  Mostly farmers and merchants, the Quakers were quiet folk who were just emerging from the troubles caused by their pacificism and their internal conflicts over how they were to behave as citizens in this new country.

 

         One young Quaker minister, Edward Hicks, became a prominent preacher and travelled throughout the area.  His cousin, Elias, was the leader of a movement within the Quakers that had challenged the established order of the Quakers with views that struck at the root of many Quaker teachings.  In the midst of all this religious and political turmoil, Edward Hicks found himself inspired by the vision of a peaceable kingdom expressed in Isaiah 11 and repeated in today’s reading from Isaiah 65.

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. . . . No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime . . . .   They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. . . . They shall not labour in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord – and their descendants as well.  Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.  The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent — its food shall be dust!  They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

 

Over a period of more than twenty years, Hicks, who had been trained as a decorative artist, painted at least sixty-two versions of his dream of this new creation God had promised to the faithful.  One version is printed on the cover of today’s worship bulletin.

 

         As Hicks grew older and conflicts continued to rock his religious and political communities, his paintings became expressions of his own emotional state.  In early versions, the Christ Child rests its hand gently on a lion that seems to be smiling.  Later versions have the Child grasping tightly on a more menacing lion, as if the Child is restraining it.  The backgrounds become darker and one has the sense of a faithful man who is doing his utmost to hold on to his imagined future where all people and animals lived in harmony and peace.

 

         Hicks knew his scriptures well.  I’m sure that from time to time, particularly at the worst of times, he recalled the words of the prophet Habakkuk:  

I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart;  I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.  Then the Lord answered me and said:  Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.  For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie.  If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” [1]

 

And Hicks waited and painted and hoped and worked for that future.

 

         Two thousand years ago a small community of women and men awoke from the nightmare of their last few days with their teacher and friend.  No one could have imagined what the faithful women would find early on that Sunday morning – an empty tomb, scattered clothing and a vision of angels who were surprised at the women’s reaction.  This experience and the experience of other disciples over the course of the following months fuelled their imagination.  They dared to believe that a new world was indeed possible.  They believed so firmly in this new world that they worked for its realization by sharing their dream with others throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

 

         To be sure there were and have been moments when this dreamed-for future seemed to be more than just distant.  Powerful forces sought and still seek to thwart the realization of this future.  At times the community of disciples itself have acted in ways that were not faithful to the dream and we have had to undergo conversion and reformation and reconciliation.  But the dream, the vision of a new earth in which all God’s children can be free, a world in which the dignity of every human being is respected, a creation tended and cared for as God’s precious gift, has never lost its power to inspire us and to empower us to work for its fulfillment.

 

         This Easter we gather after an pandemic that has tested and continues to test all of us.  We gather at a time when violence continues to plague millions of people throughout the world.  We gather at a time when the effects of climate change have been felt all over the world and in the Lower Mainland.  These are, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Paine, times that try our souls.  These times and our own personal needs and concerns may even cause us to shut down our imagination, to forget the dream and to lay down tools.

 

         When I ponder the challenges of Christian witness and ministry in our times, I sometimes hear words from Bishop Gordon Light’s hymn, ‘Draw the Circle Wide’: [2]

God the still-point of the circle, 

‘round whom all creation turns;

nothing lost, but held for ever, 

in God’s gracious arms.

 

Let our hearts reach far horizons, 

so encompass great and small;

let our loving know no borders, 

faithful to God’s call.

 


 

Let the dreams we dream be larger, 

than we’ve ever dreamed before;

let the dream of Christ be in us, 

open every door.

 

When God raised Jesus from the dead, God showed us that our dreams of a world in which ‘life’ not ‘death’ is God’s last word is not a false hope or a unrealizable dream.  Within each one of us and within our community there is a faithful imagination fuelled by the Spirit.  That same Spirit not only fuels our imagination but empowers our hearts, our minds, our souls and our strength to work for what we imagine.  There will be false starts, failures and disappointments.  There will be losses and moments that border on despair.  But there will also be successes and moments when the world we dream is closer than we think.  God is the still-point of the circle, and nothing is lost but held forever in God’s arms. 

 

         Because Christ is risen, our hearts can reach far horizons.  Because Christ is risen, our loving need not know any borders.  Because Christ is risen, our dreams can be larger than we’ve ever dreamed.  Because God, working in us and through us and sometimes despite us, can always do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

 



[1] Habakkuk 2.1-3.

 

[2] Common Praise #418.

 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Victoria Atkinson White: Leaders need not choose between improving and creating


Here are some thoughts from Victoria Atkinson White's essay on improving and creating, published at https://faithandleadership.com/victoria-atkinson-white-leaders-need-not-choose-between-improving-and-creating

  • "(In the report, 'Faithful', Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston) explore the natural tension between 'loyalty to what has been and a desire to be part of what is next.'  In doing so, they reflect on the need for religious institutions to embrace 'two concurrent and vital jobs that need doing:  improving and creating."
  • "Improving is learning new ways to do what we already know how to do; creating is learning new ways to do what we don't yet know how to do or may be prevented from doing by polity and practice."
  • "Some churches lean toward a 'never stop improving' mentality.  They are established and know how to 'do' church.  They have been successful in the past, as evidenced by their physical plants and generations of tradition.  This stability and legacy can be an asset, both reputational and social, yet at the same time, as 'Faithful' notes, the associated bureaucratic structures can stand in the way of creating new ministries in the face of the unknown."
  • "Improving, while it might sound like the lesser of two choices, is an important job.  If a church already knows how to do something well . . . , then it is only good stewardship not to abandon what works but rather to 'never stop improving' it (for example, with technology, safety and training)."
  • "Church starts and new faith communities operate from more of a 'let's build something together' posture.  They see needs that are not being met and create new gatherings to address them.  These initiatives are often experimental -- coffeehouses, yoga studios, after-school programs, Christian social entrepreneurial ventures -- which means many of them fail."
  • "Nonetheless, they are learning new ways to do what we don't yet know how to do, new ways to minister, that established churches may find more challenging."
  • "The good news, as the authors of 'Faithful' write, is that the work of improving and creating need not be an exclusive choice.  Both jobs must be done.  There is a place at the table for both those who are loyal to existing religious institutions and those who are eager to usher in what the church will look like next."
  • "'New expressions of community need support, stability, and access to the wisdom of our traditions,' (ter Kuile and Thurston) write.  'Established religious institutions need the joy of nurturing new expressions of our own highest values.'"

Saturday, February 5, 2022

A Call to Venture to Places Yet Unknown: Reflections on Luke 5.1-11 (6 February 2022)

 


Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral

New Westminster BC

 

            I have many favourite stories in the New Testament and today’s reading from the Gospel according to Luke is one of them.  Peter, weary from a long and unsuccessful day of fishing, has returned home and is probably looking forward to putting his feet up and thinking that tomorrow will be a better day.  But Jesus, a person I think Peter already knows, asks a favour and Peter agrees, allowing his boat to be a floating pulpit, so that Jesus can address the crowds on the shore.

 

            As Jesus winds up his sermon, I can almost feel Peter’s relief and desire to return to shore and the comfort of his home.  But Jesus has other plans and, for whatever reason, Peter agrees to put out further into the lake.  What happens next we all know.  Poor old Peter’s life is turned upside down and will never be the same again.  Poor old James and John experience the same fate for having pulled alongside to help their partner haul in the nets full of fish.

 

            This gospel story is rich with observations about God’s call to all of humanity to participate in the work God is doing in Jesus and, by extension, in the beloved community of disciples who follow in the path of Jesus.

 

1)   God’s call comes to us unexpectedly and to people whom we might not expect to be called by God to share in God’s work.

 

2)   God’s call comes to us in the midst of our daily work, wherever we might find ourselves.  For God every place is holy ground, a thin place where the world as it is and the world as it can be touch.

 

3)   God’s call  comes to us as a call to be co-workers with God in bringing the world as it is and the world as it can be into closer connection.  When the world as it is comes into contact with the world as it can be, there is both transfiguration and transformation.

 

4)   God’s call comes to us as a call to proclaim the good news of God in Christ.  The Greek verb translated as ‘to catch’ actually means ‘to rescue from the peril of death’.  The death we all face is one that Paul described last week in 1 Corinthians 13, a death that comes when we do love ourselves and others as God has loved us in Christ.  The good news is not a doctrine but proclaiming and embodying the truth that “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13.4-7)

 

5)   God’s call comes to us and irreversibly changes our way of looking at world and how we live in it.

 

            Today’s gospel reveals that Jesus’ message is now horizontal.  It spreads outward and outbound from Jesus and, after his resurrection and ascension, outward and outbound from the beloved community of his disciples.  Our daily lives become the stage for a cosmic drama, one where every human being enters the theatre as a member of the audience but leaves as an actor in a play without walls.

 

            In April of 2010 I returned to my office from a faculty meeting at Vancouver School of Theology.  The meeting was no different from any other nor did we discuss anything controversial or troubling.  But, as I sat down at my desk, I know that I was done and that I was being called from a place of comfort to something unknown.  When I told my family about my decision to leave VST, I thought that they would be surprised, but they weren’t.  They had known for sometime that God was calling me away.  Their surprise was that it had taken me so long to heed the call.

 

            God calls to each one of us and invites us to put out our nets – even when we are weary and dispirited and uncertain.  But God knows and we know that there are many who need to be rescued by the Love that will not let us go, a Love wider than the sea and deeper than the ocean, a Love that promises abundant life in the midst of difficult and uncertain times, a Love that embraces us even as we flop around in the boat of life.  

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Love Is Hard Work: Reflections on 1 Corinthians 13.1-13 (30 January 2022)

RCL Epiphany 4C

30 January 2022

 

Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral

New Westminster BC

 

            One of the downsides of being an academically trained liturgist is that I am frequently irritated by what I see on television or in films.  For example, in the film Master and Commander, set in the Napoleonic Wars, there is a scene of the captain conducting a burial at sea using The Book of Common Prayer.  The crew begin to recite the Lord’s Prayer and say, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’  But, as I know, in the prayer book that they would be using, the phrase goes, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.’

 

            You never want to be seated next to me if the television program or film we’re watching has a wedding scene.  It never fails, especially when the scene is set it what appears to be an Anglican church, that the couple beams at each other during the exchange of the vows and says, ‘I do.’  Anglican wedding services have always asked each of the partners individually, ‘Will you give yourself . . . to love . . . , to comfort . . . , to honour and protect . . . ; and forsaking all others, to be faithful . . . so long as you both shall live?’  To this question the individual responds, ‘I will.’

 

            When the Christian community gathers to give thanks for the marriage that is taking shape and to bless the commitments and vows being made, we are not interested in whether the couple does love each other.  They probably do, especially in this moment.  What we’re interested in is whether they will love each other.  Will they continue build and strengthen their relationship and endure and persevere ‘for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish for the rest of (their) lives.’  Love, in the Christian tradition, is a choice we make each and every day, a decision to fulfill our baptismal promises in this particular and intense relationship.

 

·      Love means saying we’re sorry and repenting.

·      Love means seeking and serving Christ in the one to whom we’ve committed our life, loving them as our closest neighbour.

·      Love means striving for justice and peace in our own household by respecting the dignity of those to whom we are most closely bound.

 

Love means this and so many other things.  Love is more than a feeling; love is a choice, a verb of action, more than some cozy sensation akin to sitting in front of a fire on a cold winter’s day with a warm beverage, more than a romantic sentiment on a greeting card.  Love is hard work.

 

            That love is hard work is, I believe, at the heart of Paul’s famous ‘hymn to love’.  We hear it read at weddings, portions printed in greeting cards and in other media.  For so many people it’s become a kind of ode to romantic love, something humans often do when we want to tame something we realize may actually demand a great deal of us.  And Paul does not mince words in describing how hard the work of love can be.

 

            Think of all the things that Paul says are not love:  impatience, unkindness, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude.  When I look at that list and then look closely at my own life, I already feel a bit overwhelmed.  I can hear the people in Corinth, after they heard these words, either hanging their heads in shame or sputtering defensively about all the times that they think Paul has been impatient or unkind or envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  After all, that’s what we’re tempted to do when someone holds up a mirror and shows us how we are seen by others. 

 

            But there is good news here as well.  Paul reminds us that we are all works in progress.  This is not an excuse to continue to shirk our responsibility to love others and ourselves as God has loved us in Christ, but a reminder of our human limitations even as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises in the age to come.  I find Paul’s reminder helps me as a tool of self-reflection by taking the risk of delving into why I’m impatient or unkind or envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  For example, I tend to envious of what I perceive as the advantages of others when I am seemingly blind to the advantages and gifts that have come to me, unexpectedly and undeservedly.  I tend to be impatient when other people seem to refuse stubbornly to look at the world as I see it – how rude!

 

            Certainly two years of a pandemic has stressed our ability to love as Christ loved us and as Paul exhorts us to love.  For some of us our resources of good will have been seriously drawn down.  For others of us we protest perceived wrongs and injustices rather than acknowledge that we do not live in a perfect world, and we are not led by perfect leaders.  Perhaps more ominously, we seek scapegoats to blame for all our perceived wrongs and purposely hide all our mirrors so that we can avoid real self-examination.  Just like the people of Nazareth are outraged when Jesus tells them that his ministry leads him beyond the confines of his hometown and province and into the wider world of non-Jews, women and others who are not socially acceptable folk.

 

            Love, the kind of love God shows to us in the creation of the universe, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, in the renewing and life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, never ends because God’s work is not yet finished.  You and I, as imperfect as we are, are agents of that work in this time and place.  From time to time we even catch a glimpse of ourselves as God is leading us to become:  icons that are not perfect but faithful representations of the world as it can be, not just in some unknown future, but here and now.  Love is hard work, but it is the only work worth doing. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Today in Our Hearing: Reflections on Luke 4.14-21

 


Today in Our Hearing

Reflections on Luke 4.14-21

 

RCL Epiphany 3C

23 January 2022

 

Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral

New Westminster BC

 

            During my first year in seminary I was transformed by being introduced to the Jewish Scriptures.  Our professor, Father Joseph Hunt, worked hard to lead us out of the typical Christian view of the so-called ‘Old Testament’ as a lengthy introduction to the ‘real’ Word of God found in the Gospels and apostolic writings into an understanding of the richness of the Scriptures as Jesus and the first Christians knew them and treasured them.

 

            I remember vividly one occasion in that transformation.  We had travelled into Milwaukee with Father Hunt to worship at a local synagogue.  The building had originally been a theatre, so the seats sloped down towards the central platform where the service was led.  At one point during the service I tried to find a place to put down the Siddur, the Jewish prayer book, I’d been given when we entered.  There weren’t any book racks on the seats.  I was sitting on an aisle, so I put my book down on the step that was almost level with my seat.

 

            It couldn’t have been more than a minute or so before I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder.  As I turned to see who had touched me, my prayer book appeared in the hand of the older gentleman who was sitting directly behind me.  As I took the book, he gently and very kindly said to me, ‘We do not put God’s Word on the floor.’  He smiled as one might smile at a well-meaning but not particularly observant young student – which I was – and we returned to our prayers.

 

            Since that day I have never knowingly put a hymnal, a prayer book or a Bible on the floor since.  I’ve been known to juggle books on my lap or slip them beside me on the chair but never on the floor.

 

            It’s not always easy for Christians to embrace this veneration of books that bear our sacred texts.  In Jewish congregations there’s even a special feast that comes in the fall, Simchat Torah, literally ‘rejoicing in the Torah’.  On that evening the Torah scrolls are brought out their tabernacles and carried through the congregation with singing and dancing.  People will kiss the tips of their fingers, touch the scrolls and then kiss their fingers again as the scrolls pass by them.  It’s a celebration that the annual cycle of readings from the Torah has come to an end and a new one is about to begin.  Imagine if we, on the Sunday before the beginning of Advent, were to carry the Bible around the Cathedral, singing and dancing, as we celebrate the end of this year’s lectionary cycle in anticipation of the new one that will shortly begin.  I sometimes do imagine it.

 

            When Nehemiah, Ezra and the other leaders read the Torah to the gathered assembly of the returned exiles in Jerusalem, they were renewing the people’s knowledge of God’s promises after decades of exile in Babylon.  The people were not hearing some ancient and irrelevant texts of interest only to a limited few.  They were hearing God speak to them afresh and they wept as it entered their hearts, minds and souls.

 

            When Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, he was most likely reading the passage appointed for that Sabbath’s service, the lectionary text for the day.  Everyone had heard these words before, but they were still expectant.  They knew this hometown boy was more than he seemed.  And he didn’t disappoint them:  ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4.21)  ‘Today,’ Jesus says to them, ‘today God’s promise of renewal and reconciliation and restoration has begun.  Right here.  Right now.’

 

            What Jesus’ audience in Nazareth did not know on that Sabbath is what we have come to know:  God’s promised renewal, reconciliation and restoration is a work in progress, something that some biblical scholars have called ‘the already but not yet’.  But, after all these years and after hearing all these Scriptures more times than we can remember, we may not be as expectant nor as hopeful as the returning exiles in Jerusalem or the occupation-weary Jews of Nazareth.  After two years of this pandemic, we’ve all grown weary and may sometimes feel as if we’re just going through the motions while we await some liberating word from our provincial and federal medical authorities.

 

            God’s promises may not yet have been fully fulfilled in our hearing, but there are already signs that God is accomplishing that which the Scriptures proclaim.

·      Good news is being proclaimed to the poor, whether they are hungry for food and in need of clothing or they are hungry for faith and in need of hope.

·      God is liberating us from our captivity to a disregard for this ‘fragile earth, our island home’ and from a narrow view of who are our sisters and brothers.

·      God is opening the eyes of many to see God’s work in the world and giving us courage to speak of what we see to those who are not sure.

·      Despite our disappointments and our doubts we catch glimpses of God’s favour, God’s graciousness and compassion, peeking out in the most unexpected places.

Today the Scriptures are being fulfilled in our hearing—for those who have ears to hear, hearts to love, minds to ponder, hands to serve.

 

            Forty years ago, Bishop Bill Frey handed me this Bible both when I was ordained to the transitional diaconate and when I was ordained to the presbyterate.  I’m pretty sure that many of you have one of these in your own homes, perhaps one given to you on your own special occasion.  When I pick it up, I feel its life and the potential the words it contains have to empower us to do ‘more than we can ask or imagine’.  Every time you and I open it, it is as if we are in the synagogue at Nazareth and the attendant has handed it to us.  Every Sunday or any other occasion when the reader stands at the lectern, all around us, perhaps most of all, within us, are hearts and minds and souls waiting expectantly for the promises to be fulfilled.

 

            These promises have already been fulfilled in our hearing; of that I am certain.  But may God grant that they be fulfilled in their completeness very soon, for we are all waiting and hoping for that day when ‘we and all (God’s) children shall be free, and the whole world live to praise (God’s) name.’  Amen.