Homily October 14, 2018
Mark 10: 17-31
A friend of mine likes to tell the story of being a small boy in an old country parish. It was a small church and he always used to sit about 100 yards from the high altar. He remembers being fascinated with the mystery of the Eucharist. These were in the days when the priests back was to the congregation and he was always wide eyed as he watched the movements of the priest blessing the bread and wine. But one of the most baffling parts of the service always came at the end. After the bread and wine had been served and the priest had moved everything from the altar over to the side table, he would once again turn his back to the congregation and make some circular motions with his hands, and then he would sit down. For years my friend tried to figure out what mystical incantations were taking place at that moment in the corner. Then one day the priest asked him if he would like to be a server. He jumped at the opportunity to finally see for himself what was happening in the corner after communion. The service seemed to take forever, when finally the priest started clearing the altar and placing the empty chalice on the corner table my friends heart started to race. This is it. The mystery was going to be unveiled. The priest turned his back to the congregation, reached out his arms and my friends mouth dropped as he watched he watched the old priest…grab hold of the knobs of the thermostat and turn off the heat.
I think on some level we are all captivated with those things that hold a mystery. We want to uncover the secrets. Who doesn’t enjoy the masked magician on TV who shows us how to really saw someone in half? And there’s nothing like a good mystery novel to take on vacation.
Perhaps if we understood how and why things work the way they work we’d feel more at ease in life. Maybe if we could wrap our heads around the mysteries of the universe it would give us more of a sense of accomplishment. Or could it be that it is innate and even natural to our human condition to be inquisitive.
God and Gods ways are a mystery. More often than not they don’t make sense and we can find ourselves scratching our heads to understand why God works in mysterious ways and what it all means for us.
According to Marks gospel, Jesus was approached by a man who was searching for an understanding to a spiritual mystery. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He’s heard Jesus knows a thing or two about God and Gods ways so he comes to Jesus in hopes of being able to get the answer.
I had a spiritual director who once told me to listen closely to peoples questions because that’s an instant doorway to their heart. that he learns more about a person by the questions that they ask.
The question we hear in our gospel reading reveals much about this man to Jesus, which is why Jesus responds the way he does. This is a man who can afford the luxury of asking questions about the good-life-to-come because he doesn't have to worry about the life-he-already-has. His mortgage is paid off. His creditors have been looked after. His stock portfolio is positive. He is secure in the knowledge that he has everything he needs; and he simply wants to know how he can have more.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life”
'Inherit' is an interesting word. The root for it in Greek means 'to inherit a piece of land'. This man simply assumes that eternal life is something he can acquire just as he has been able to acquire his riches.
Which is where Jesus stops him dead in his tracks.
When the man asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life Jesus reminds him of the short list of the commandments. But Jesus specifically tells him the commandments which have to do with our relationship to our neighbor.
When we read the story carefully we notice that Jesus changes one of the commandments we all learned in Sunday School.
ON THE SCREEN
'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness.'
Right so far. But, then, instead of adding the next commandment, "You shall not covet," Jesus changes the list and says to the man,
'You shall not defraud; . . ."
Now, why would Jesus want to go and do a thing like that, you ask? Why replace: 'You shall not covet' with 'You shall not defraud'?
Remember the young man's question - "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" This man had no doubt inherited most of what he owned; and, since what made most people rich in those days was owning property, we can assume that when Mark says "he had many possessions" he meant that he had "many properties". And since most wealthy landowners in those days became more wealthy by acquiring the land of their debt-defaulting neighbors we can understand that no one who had "many properties" had not become wealthy except at the expense of other people.
Jesus isn’t reprimanding the guy because he had possessions. There is nothing wrong with having things. The problems come with our attitudes toward those things we possess. And its not just “stuff” we possess a lot of things in our lives. We possess knowledge, wisdom, compassion, love, patience…(although driving in this city tests that on most days) As we accumulate, its easy to be seduced into believing that our security and comfort come from our possessions, rather than trusting that our comfort and security is first and foremost from God.
It was no accident, therefore, that Jesus decides to edit the Commandments for this man's benefit. Jesus knows why the man is wealthy, and he wants the man to know what he can do with what he has, so that he can truly enter into Gods world. Jesus wants the man to truly understand what it is to become a whole human being…… and be part of the vision that God has for Gods creation.
Go, sell what you own (because the only reason you have what you do is because someone else does not have..the scales are tipped in your favor) and give the money to the poor.
He is to give back to those he has taken from….Even out the scales.
John Shea is a theologian and storyteller and author who once shared a story about the powerful instinct within us to possess things. "He was in Oklahoma City when he was a young man, fresh on the speakers' circuit. He had just finished his talk, and people were coming up to ask questions. He writes,
“An old native American man suddenly stood in front of me. He had a large and elaborate belt buckle in his hands. It was a swirl of multi-coloured beads. Someone had spent their time and talents and gifts to create this beautiful piece. 'Please accept this gift.
He was a little taken aback, but had a quick response: 'Thank you. It's beautiful. But I can't accept it.
The man looked puzzled 'Why not?'
John Shea is not a small man. In his discomfort he pointed to his large waistline 'Well, would you want to call attention to this stomach with a large, beautiful belt buckle,'
The old man did not smile. He simply extended the belt buckle again. 'Please accept this,' he said again.
'It's too expensive,' Shea said, defaulting to his upbringing that taught him not to take expensive presents from people. The belt buckle was hand-crafted and had a look of elegance about it.
'You know,' said the man, 'you can give it to someone else.'
John Shea accepted the belt buckle.
Why does it not occur to us that the things we receive on our life journeys, where they be material, or spiritual, are not meant to be held onto but to be given away?
According to Jesus, we will know and see Gods kingdom, only when we take steps to do something about the way the goods are equally distributed among all of Gods children.
The only way to be fully and completely human is to let go of what you were not meant to possess. Jesus was so confident in the power of letting go, that he gave up his life so that his Fathers kingdom could be ushered in. Now he waits for us, his disciples to bring it to fruition.
Jesus, through his challenge to the man we meet today, has uncovered a great truth for all of us. For those of us who seek God every day, who pray for Gods kingdom to come to this world, and who want to know that there is more to this life than what we can hold in our hands, Jesus has challenged us to see what we have been given by God, and to see that all we have is ours, only because it has been given.
And then once we identify it, to find ways to go out and give it away. That may be our stuff….but it may also be our love, our compassion our time. What do you have that you can give away so that your neighbor may share in the wealth?
Let us humble ourselves enough to let God rule our lives and to live out our discipleship, seeing Gods kingdom as our first priority. When we can do that we will discover the answer to the mystery. We will discover eternal life.
Mark 9:38-50 Pentecost 18
An ancient king once asked his three daughters how much they loved him. One daughter said she loved him more than all the gold in the world. One said she loved him more than all the silver in the world. The youngest daughter said she loved him more than salt. The king was not pleased with this answer. But the cook overheard the conversation, so the next day he prepared a good meal for the king, but left out the salt. The food was so bland that the king couldn't eat it. Then he understood what his daughter meant. He understood the value of salt.
In the ancient world salt was a valuable and scarce commodity. It was used as currency in some countries even into modern times. Archeologists have discovered blocks of salt stored in bank vaults along with other forms of currency.
Today, Jesus tells us to have salt within ourselves. To be the vessels that can dispense value outside of us. Considering the value of salt, Jesus is calling us into quite a mission .
But then Jesus asks, "What good is salt if it has lost its flavor, if it no longer seasons food?" While it’s a great compliment to see his followers as possessing great value, Jesus also knows that if they don’t share that value with others, then they are not fully mindful of what that value means to the world.
"What good is it to be a follower of mine if there is nothing distinctive about your life? If by following me you make no real contribution to the life of the world, if there is no holy power flowing through your life and actions, what's the use of calling yourself my disciples?"
When I was a kid McDonalds did a very successful ad campaign by giving away backpacks and book bags with the slogan “Me, I’m the one”. While I’m not blaming the golden arches for all the problems of the world, I am very aware that I am part of an entire generation that was convinced that “I” was more important than “Them”.
The notion that “I” was the centre of all things and that “I” should do all I can to ensure that “I” was getting ahead and being successful and that “I” needed to safeguard “My” best interest was paramount.
And the powers of the world do a very good job of telling us that this is the way to salvation. The advertisers will tell you that you will be satisfied when you have the newest car or visit the best resort. The government will tell you that you’ll be fine when their policies are accepted. The investment gurus will tell you you’ll find peace when you have this amount of money to retire.
I dare say that same inner lens has crept its way into our spiritual lives as well. Salvation is often understood in terms of my personal salvation. Whether “I” will be saved, whether ‘I” will be judged worthy, whether “I” will make it to heaven.
The worlds standard is to take care of the individual first, then you can go ahead and worry about the others and their needs.
But this is not God’s standards. This is not Jesus vision. This is not the way to true salvation and the creation of a world where justice, peace and wholeness will be realized.
Jesus takes that whole idea of “Me I’m the One”, and flips that concept on its head. He has his followers consider a new way. A way in which their value to the world does not rely on seasoning themselves, but rather relies on knowing that God is seasoning the world through them.
With stark language he hammers in the concept of how far his followers must go to ensure that the world experiences and sees the flavour of the salt that God is shaking on the world through us.
I was having dinner at Crabby Joes on Oxford and Wonderland on Wednesday and the Leafs Canadians game was on. The Toronto scored a goal and the place erupted. One guy yells out, “when the Leafs win the Stanley Cup I’m shaving my head and tattooing Mike Babcock’s face on my bald skull! A bit overstated but we all get his point! This is Jesus today. Using strong overstated language to make his point of how valuable his followers are in giving life to a world that so
"If your hand offends you; cut it off. If your eye offends you; pluck it out. Jesus is making the point that his followers go above and beyond the expected. He taught his disciples that the righteousness to which he called them was a righteousness that exceeds the worlds understanding and makes the world perk up and take notice.
That’s why Christians serve and minister in prisons, hospitals, warzones, homeless shelters and deathbeds. The world says, stay away from those scary seedy places and people. Jesus says, you’re salt..go into those places and be with those people so they may taste the kingdom of God.
As that salt is sprinkled, the world can’t help but “Taste and See” that the Lord is good.
I read somewhere that a new Guinness Record had been set for the shortest sermon. One Episcopal priest stood up one Sunday morning, walked to his pulpit, stood there for a moment, said one word, LOVE, and then sat down. I know, some of you would like for me to attempt a sermon like that some day. But he did say what is at the heart of our faith.
The whole purpose of the Christian faith is to reveal to the world the love of God for the world and to invite people to receive that love and to share it with others.
There is a time honored story about a pastor who was supposedly a great lover of children. One day he looked at the sidewalk leading up to his house that had been freshly poured. Some youngsters were playing in it and leaving footprints in the fresh cement. He rushed out and yelled at the children.
Someone said to him; "Well pastor, we thought you liked children."
He said, "Yes, I love them in the abstract but not in the concrete."
The world is looking for concrete demonstrations of Christian love in action. The world desperately needs to see our love in action. Of what value is our faith if our love isn't stronger: our love for one another and our love for the world? Our love needs to be big enough to take in the whole world. Love can be so petty and so self-centred. Let’s not get caught up in empty claims that our phone company or credit card card company “love us” because we are their customers.
Because when we love more than the world loves, then we ensure our salt does not stay in salt shaker. When we love ore than the world does, that love penetrates into the world.
Salt penetrates the meat and becomes a part of the entire steak. Love penetrates a person’s mind body and soul and resides as part of that individual. We are called to penetrate the world in which we are set. If we do not, of what value are we? If we do not love, more than the world has the capacity to love, Gods beloved children will live in darkness and with hope.
Dis you watch the royal wedding of Harry and Megan. What do you remember most. It probably wasn’t the vows or the music or the fancy hats. If it was the sermon you are not alone. Bishop Michael Curry (Anglican by the way…just saying) made the world stand up and take notice. He flavoured millions of souls with a message about LOVE. Ive heard a ton of wedding sermons about love, I’ve preached a few…but this one penetrated people to the core.
"There's power in love. There's power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.
"There's power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.
"There's power in love to show us the way to live.
"Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.
"A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world - and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.
"I'm talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.
You and I are salt; with a higher standard FOR living not a higher standard OF living, a higher standard for loving. A love that penetrates creation and becomes alive in all people we are put in contact with every day on our journey.
And the best part is, that the more we season the world with the power of Gods love, we will find that all our needs will be met. And that, Jesus promises, is true salvation.
Homily- September 23, 2018
These are a few funny signs I saw on the internet this week.
Caution, Water on Road During Rain
Our Public bar is presently not open…because it is closed
Anyone exiting through this door will be asked to leave.
Some signs are a lot clearer than others. Sign are meant to point us in the right direction or give us helpful information to lead us to our proper destination. And Jesus was a master of using signs. Especially today when we remember the story about Jesus picking up a child and saying, “'Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
What sign could be more obvious than a child. Which one of us sitting here today would be against welcoming a child. Seems Jesus is pretty clear….if you love kids that means you love me. We can all get on board with that.
No one really has problems with children do they?
Yet something struck me odd about just what was going on that day in Palestine when Jesus up the held up the child to his disciples. It was an odd thing to do because it came after they were arguing about greatness. Specifically, they were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. and in response to their argument, Jesus used a child as an example of what it means to be great in the kingdom of God.
It struck me odd because this is not consistent with the Jesus we so often encounter in the gospels. More often than not, the Jesus we see never stated the obvious. The disciples were always confused by what he saying.
The Jesus we meet often turned things upside down when he speaks to people. He returns questions in response to other people’s questions.
He tells stories instead of giving straight answers to people who try to pin him down. And above all - Jesus defies conventional wisdom about how the world operates and suggests that we need to do things that are the exact opposite.
"They who would save their life will lose it, “
"They would be first, must be last."
The giving of the shirt when someone takes your jacket?
Today: "Whoever receive a little child like this, receives Me."
Todays passage only makes sense if child he held up and the welcoming of that child were not so obvious.
As a colleague of mine likes to say, “If the gospel does not shock you, you’re reading it wrong.
In Jesus day, children were not important as they are today. More than half of them did not live to be adults. Many children were killed at birth (particularly girl's). Others were simply put out in the field to starve to death. In times of shortages of food, children were fed last. These were things people did because they felt they had to do them to survive. Moreover, children had no rights. Parents could do to them whatever they thought necessary to make the children obedient or to force them to work for the family. It was not a good time to be a child. Children, along with tax collectors and sinners were considered to be second-class citizens.
So in that context, Jesus saying "Whoever receive a little child like this, receives Me." Would have been shocking.
They were shocking words to those in Jesus day and they should be shocking to us because the gospel is saying that embracing Jesus; that saying that we are accepting of Jesus and Jesus message means that we have to welcome and be in relationship with those who are outside of our personal comfort zone. To truly say, I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior is to seek out and be in relationship with the very ones that we view as being on the outside of our circles of safety.
The greatest followers of Jesus are not the ones who have a perfect attendance record on Sunday. They are not the ones who write the biggest cheques, or say the most prayers or even get to wear the big white collars and fancy robes. That’s not how “greatest” is defined in Gods vision of the world.
If the gospel doesn’t shock you…your’re not reading it right.
Once upon a time these was a Squire who longed to be a knight.
He wanted to serve his king and be the most honorable and noble
knight who ever lived. At his knighting he was so overcome by
dedication that he made a special oath. He vowed to bow his
knees and lift his arms in homage only to his king.
This knight was give the task of guarding a city on the frontier
of the kingdom. Every day he stood at attention by the gate of
the city in full armour.
Years passed. One day as he was standing at attention guarding
his post a peasant woman passed by with goods for the market.
Her cart turned over spilling potatoes and carrots and onions
everywhere. The woman hurried to get them all back in her cart.
But the knight wouldn't help the poor woman. He just stood at
attention lest he break his vow by bending his knees to help pick
up the woman's goods.
Time passed and one day a man with one leg was passing by and his crutch broke. "Good knight, sir, reach down and help me up."
But the knight would not stoop or lift a hand to help lest he
break his vow.
Years and decades passed, the knight was getting old. One day his grandson came by and said, "Grandpa pick me up and take me to the fair." But he would not stoop lest he break his vow to the king Finally after many, many, years the king came to visit and inspect the knight. As the king approached the knight just stood there at attention. The king inspected him as he stood there, but then he noticed that the knight was crying. You are one of the noblest knights I have ever seen why do you cry? “Your majesty, I took a vow that I would bow and lift my arms in homage only to you but I am unable to keep my vow. These years have done their work and the joint of my armour are rusted. I cannot lift my arms or bend my knees.
The King replied, " My servant. Your devotion is second to none and I am grateful. But perhaps if you had knelt down to help all those who passed by, and lifted your arms to embrace all those who came to you, you would have been able to keep your vow to pay me homage today."
If we want to receive the kingdom, we must receive the King. The King of the kingdom of God, is not received by pomp and circumstance and the lure of power Our King, Jesus, is received by humility and servitude - he is received by forgetting about self and entering into the needs of others.
Greatness in the eyes of Jesus is found in the willingness of his disciples to receive, to accept, and indeed to really welcome those they would normally consider un- receivable, unacceptable, and unwelcome.
The king was saying to his disciples, To receive a child is to receive a vision.
Jesus was calling his disciples to a radical new vision of what the Kingdom of God is all about -- a radical new vision of how life can be and will be when God’s vision and Gods dream for the world is realized.
By holding up the child, in the context of an argument about bigger, better, best, Jesus is once again challenging the status quo and calling on his followers to a revision of what it is to live as Gods people in Gods Kingdom.
Despite their lower status, regardless of their inability to contribute and in spite of what they don’t have, children are a sign of worth in Gods Kingdom because they are outsiders.
If we are to live as a Christian community that is a sign in the world that God’s reign is up-and-coming, and that a new world is dawning that promises peace, justice, abundance for all, then it is time to set aside the arguments about power and wealth and prestige and self-importance.
In Gods kingdom, there is no time for bickering about greatness or for arguing about status and prestige. There is no place for defining what is power and authority based on how the world defines it.
The signs of the kingdom will not be obvious for all to see. Jesus calls us, the church, to make them clear. Those signs will be people and things that God holds up as worthy and life giving, so that through them, we will see a vision of what the world can ultimately become. be. A world that is Renewed, Communities that are transformed and lives that are saved.
In all we do and in the way we live with each other, Let us be a community of Jesus followers that has the courage to carry those signs.
Homily Sept 16 2018 (Mark 8:26-37)
Pentecost 15 Year B
I was recently sitting in the office of a clergy friend. The room was covered with pictures and artwork of different biblical stories. There was a picture of Jesus giving the sermon on the Mount, Moses with the 10 commandments, St. Paul preaching in the acropolis in Athens. There was one photograph that jumped out at me. It was an overhead picture of the city of Bethlehem on Christmas day in 2005. It was beautiful to gaze at the landscape of the city and its buildings. Over 65 000 people had gathered on this day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. AS I looked closely at the picture I noticed something askew. There in the background., floating above the crowds and the glory of the holy city, on this, the holiest of days, was a gigantic Tweety Bird balloon!
I asked, “why do you have this picture” he said, I love it because it reminds me of a great theological truth.” Being a person that makes jokes to relieve uncomfortable circumstances I replied, “What , that the gospel writers forgot one important player outside of the shepherds and the wise men.?” He said, No, it reminds me that the gospel isn’t always what we expect.”
My friend makes a great point. When we read the gospels, or the Old Testament stories, or any other parts of our holy scripture, often we are confronted with things that don’t fit.
Take our story this morning from Marks gospel.
Peter always seems to be the one who struggled the most with trying to get his head around this whole life he’s living with Jesus, and this occasion is no different. We have this great scene from Marks gospel of the disciples walking with Jesus. Jesus asks them the question, “Who do people say that I am”. Everyone has an answer. You’re John the Baptist, you’re the prophet Elijah..no, you’re one of the other prophets come back to life. Everybody had a vision of who Jesus was. But it was Peter who seems to get it right.
Peter recognizes Jesus to be the Messiah. Yet no sooner does Peter get a clear understanding of what this all about, then Jesus throws the Tweety bird into the picture. Immediately Jesus starts to go on about how he, the Messiah, must undergo great suffering and be killed. This just doesn’t fit into Peter’s picture of how things should look. Peter can’t see the link between Messiah and suffering.
Messiah meant salvation from oppression. Messiah meant freedom from captivity. Messiah meant God had heard the cries of God’s people and was acting to relieve the misery. Peter was in the midst of Gods action because the one promised was with him. Yet the very one standing beside him. The one he’s been eating and sleeping and traveling with who represents all of those wonderful truths is saying “I have to suffer” I have to be handed over to the ruling class of the day. Jesus is saying that the very ones I am here to free you from, are the ones that will cause the pain.
That’s a tough one for us as well. I think it’s the biggest challenge that we are forced to wrestle with as a people of faith. We profess a faith in a God who created the world and when God was finished, looked it over and labeled it “Good”. We give our hearts to a God who loves and has compassion for the world. A God who wants for justice for humankind. A God who encompasses peace and salvation and wants to deliver us from evil and rescue and restore us from all that hold us captive.
Yet when we look around that’s not what we see. Instead of a world of peace we have war. Instead of a world giving life, we witness people dying with and often for nothing.
This past week recalled the senseless and evil events of September 11. This weekend we’ve been watching hurricane Florence batter the Southern United states, a reminder of how our world can suddenly rear its ugly head and trigger senseless loss of life and massive destruction. Even as a Christian community we all know the sense of fear and helplessness when we hear the news of brothers and sisters suffering, or when we are forced to face our own suffering.
It’s so hard to connect those two isn’t it? God who created all that is good and who loves creation, with a world that is off course and continually disappoints. The 2 just don’t fit.
The good news we see in the gospel today is that the work of connecting Gods love for the world with the brokenness of the world, has already been done. You see,
we no longer have to carry the burden because God has connected those two things. God has attached himself to us and attached himself to all creation in the person of Jesus Christ!
If left up to us, we would constantly be obsessed with the suffering. Through our lens we only see the world from a human point of view. As Jesus says to Peter, if we only set our minds only on human things; things that we feel we must try to figure out and be in control of, then we will not mindful of heavenly things; things that God is doing with us and for us.
Every day, 7 year old Emily walked back and forth to school. One morning her mother looked out the window and saw a few clouds forming overhead. Although the skies were questionable she decided to let Emily walk the three blocks to class. As she kissed her daughter goodbye the winds started to pick up, but she thought Emily could make it before the storm actually hit. About half way down the block the sky lit up and mom say a flash of lightning in the distance. Full of concern she threw on her shoes, searched the closet for her umbrella and raced out the door. She could see little Emily a block away. Every time the lightening filled the sky, Emily would stop in her tracks, run her hands through her hair and just smile. What she is doing, her mother thought. I’ve told her time and time again if you see lightening run to a nearby home or look for shelter. As mom got closer to her daughter another flash of lightening filled the dark sky and once again Emily stopped, looked up and smiled at the sky. When her mom finally reached here she grabbed her daughter by the arm and scolded her. What are you doing young lady? Can’t you see you’re in the middle of a lightening storm? Its dangerous out in the middle of the street.
Little Emily answered, “I was just trying to look pretty cause God keeps taking my picture.
If we are only staring at the danger of storms, we will miss seeing what God is doing in the storms.
The suffering, the storms of life, the hardships that fall upon us are real. And if we had our own way we would choose to just ignore them altogether. That was Peters reaction when Jesus forced him to look at the suffering that Jesus would have to walk through. Peter said,” No, I’m not going there.”
Yet Jesus has Peter refocus his lens…Jesus points Peter to not be fixated on all the suffering and the brokenness of the world, but rather to see God within the suffering
Our faith life, as followers of Christ, is a call to point to the grace and mercy that exists within the brokenness of our world. Our life in Christ is to hold up God’s presence and be focused on the light that exists in the darkness.
If we only focus on the evil of those who slammed planes into the world trade Centre, we would not see the compassion and selfless love of those who ran into the burning building.
If we only focus on what will be lost by a hurricane, we are not focused on what can be given out of our abundance to rebuild and support those who have lost.
And when our brother and sisters in Christ and those we love enter into suffering, Jesus calls us not to ask why these hard things are happening, but rather to set our minds on how we can enter into their suffering with them and provide hope, compassion and love.
That which is of God is visible for us if we are willing to see. The kingdom of God is built by those who setting their minds on heavenly things. God has not abandoned Gods creation. In Jesus, we see that God has entered into Gods creation, as broken as it sometimes seems, so that it can be saved. Set your mind on heavenly things. Perhaps we, like Peter will discover that the very things we don’t want to see become the very things that save us.
September 9, 2018
Mark 7: 24-37
Some years ago we took a family vacation to Kalahari Water Park in Sandusky Ohio. It’s a huge resort hotel, themed in African décor that boasts America’s biggest indoor water park. 170 thousand square feet of water rides that will shoot you through tunnels, race you on mats through dark tunnels and shoot you straight down at 90 degrees into a huge bowl of water. They name the rides so you know right away whether they fit your need for speed. The Zip Coaster, The Tanzanian Twister, Zimbabwe Zipper and the Swahili Swirl. For those of us with queasy stomachs there are more gentle attractions like The lazy River which slowly floats you on an inner tube, or the wave pool where you can sit on the edge of the water and enjoy the gentle rolling water lapping at your feet. So while the kids were spending the day thrill seeking, Margie and I found our favorite ride which is called “Reclining Lawn Chair under Gazebo next to Beverage Hut”
Of course as the day drifted on there came the inevitable line from the kids “Don’t just lay here all day, come and check out some rides.” So I cased the place and decided to try the ride with the least chance of instant death. At least the people that were coming out of the tunnel at the bottom were laughing. So we climbed a few stories to the top of a tower and prepared to climb into a 4 person raft that would take us for our ride through the tunnel. I don’t know if it was because I had been motionless on a lawn chair for most of the day or if I’m just a clumsy oaf, but as I was lifting my right leg into the raft, My left foot slipped and for a split second, myself envisioned myself plummeting through this dark wet tunnel, without a raft, tumbling and spinning to the bottom. But I didn’t. What I felt was one hand on my lower back and another on my shoulder, steadying me and setting me back on my feet. Relieved but completely embarrassed I thanked the 18 year old lifeguard. He laughed and said “No Worries, that’s why we’re here.”
It’s comforting to know that when you lose your footing, sway off balance and seem destined for a fall, that there is someone there that can help steady you, get you upright again and rescue you from certain disaster. It’s good to have someone stand in the gap for you. Those hard to get to spaces, those cracks and holes we get stuck in from time to time.
We have a coffee table in our living room with tiny slits around the edges. Ever try to get a crumb or some dust or cat hair out of these little cracks? The only way is to have a pair of tweezers or a toothpick. Something to use as a go between to help get it out.
We all have fallen into them at some point in our lives. Once you fall into them, getting out of them can become complicated We know that our rides through life will take us to places where we will get stuck. Perhaps you are in that place right now. Stuck in financial worries, health crises, family disputes. Caught in a sense of sadness that you just can’t shake. An awareness within yourself that the person you see in the mirror every morning has lost their way. Perhaps there is someone in your life who this very day is off balance and who you know is ready to fall. Someone who is unemployed addicted, in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Someone who is stuck in a place where they can’t see a way out and whose only recourse is to grind through the day.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus meets head-on, those who were trapped in the gap.
Could they be anymore helpless? In the Jewish world the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman, who comes from other side of the tracks would be invisible enough, but to add to it that she is full of a demon would ostracize her even more. A deaf man who would be shunned because of his condition and deemed sinful due to his illness. These people not able to do anything for themselves to acquire relief from their affliction. This is first century Palestine. There are no ambulances, hospitals, pain killers or 1- 800 help lines. People are used to getting sick and then dying. Of not being cured of their diseases.
You may not know his name but you are probably familiar with his famous character. Michael Clark Duncan played John Coffey in the film The Green Mile staring Tom Hanks. His character in the movie was a death row inmate who was nothing like he seemed. Standing 6 foot 6 and weighing 300 lbs, at first look, one would presume he was an angry violent monster. But we find out very quickly that he is in fact a gentle giant with the mysterious ability to heal. Part of the story is that the wife of the jails Warden is becoming seriously ill, and despite all his influence and power he has not found a way to help her. He finds himself in the gap. Helpless, afraid, and seemingly alone. Even though he has a healer in his prison, he can’t understand how this giant of a killer could be the one to save his wife. And this is where we see the grace that is involved in this mans life. It takes the prison guards, a group of witnesses who had experienced the healing power of this giant man, to sneak him out of death row and bring him to his wife’s bedside so she may be healed. It took someone else, to stand in the gap and act so that new life could be given. It took another to bring the healing to the place where it was needed most. And through this gentle giant named John Coffeyy (initials J.C.), not only was the woman saved, but the Warden, who could not believe because he had not seen, was opened to seeing the world differently.
When trials afflict us, when disaster strikes, when troubles arrive on our doorsteps we need someone to ask for Gods saving help. We cant always do it on our own. We have a need, as hard as it is to admit, we have a need for others.
The demon possessed daughter had no voice as she sat in the gap. . The deaf mute was invisible to the world around him and as deep in a crevice as one could be.
Yet each seemed to have someone. It took the girls mother, as unlikely a source as could be, to stand in the gap with faith and conviction, and ask for Gods saving help. It took a few friends to stand in the gap and bring the healing touch of Jesus to this man so that he could be freed from his chains.
My friends, the good news we celebrate today, and every time we gather together, is that God has fulfilled our need. God has ensured that we have someone to stand in the gap. God has given us, through the waters of our baptism, the Body of Christ. This family of brothers and sisters, comprised of the young and old, male and female. This collection of the people of God who come from a variety of different backgrounds, various and diverse roads, unique and shared experience. What we see here week after week is a true sign of Gods love for us in those God has drawn together through Jesus. Despite our geography, race, politics, education, career and anything else that has the potential to separate us, God has brought together to walk up this isle week after week and touch and feel the one who stands in the gap for all humankind. Jesus Christ our Lord and our friend. This place is more than a place to go to church. This place is here so that we can be the church. That’s a powerful message to take from this place. So that we can live as people of God for each other, so that we can go out these doors and stand in the gaps of those who we know are in need. God has a lot invested in us. And because of that, we can be assured that God will do amazing and marvelous things through us.
We, working together with each other, with a devotion to God, and each other, will be agents of change in our community and our broken world that so desperately yearns for someone to stand with it when it falls.
Next Sunday is back to Church Sunday. A day set aside to invite a friend to church. Not for the sake of the church, but for the sake of the friend. Because God loves them and because God needs them. And mostly because God knows when they stumble they will need a guiding hand to steady them and say
“No worries, That’s why we’re here.”
September 2, 2018
Pentecost 14 Yr. B
As a child of the 1970’s, most of what I know about life came from watching TV. Anything I know about classical music I learned from watching Bugs Bunny cartoons.
My favorite show was happy Days. Every 10 year old boy dreamed of being The Fonz. The coolest guy on TV.
The Happy days show began every week with the opening theme song and pictures and snippets of the characters. The one I loved the most was the Fonz walking up to a mirror. In the back pocket of his jeans is a black comb. He saunters up to the mirror, pulls out the comb, looks at himself and gestures as if to say, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with all of this” and puts he comb back int his pocket. There’s nothing one can do when you’re staring at perfection!
I guess a day doesn’t go by when we don’t pass by mirrors in our lives. Mirrors in which we see images of ourselves, our families, our communities, our church.
If we’re being honest, most of us don’t see perfection staring back at us. Just the opposite. It’s easy to be quite critical of what we see. The world we live in often times seems so broken and scarred.
I saw a survey recently that asked “as a Canadian do you think things are better or worse than 20 years ago. 7 out of ten said worse.
When we look at ourselves we often see our imperfections or our failures and our sins? When we look at the other we see their sins. When we look at our communities we notice our collective failures or the brokenness of the world around us? When we look into our church do we see all that isn’t here or available to us. I would wager that for many of us today the answer to that question is yes. Most of us go through our daily lives only seeing that which needs to be fixed or problems to be solved. The danger that exists in that way is that the flaws and defects become the only vision we have.
You may be familiar with the Greek myth of Narcissus? He was the boy who after a broken love affair, wandered off into the forest and found a crystal-clear pool of water to drink from. When he bent down he saw his own face and became so enamored with his reflection that it consumed his whole being. In time he died a slow and lonely death because he could not break free from his image. The tragedy of he myth is that he was never able to love again.
This can happen to anyone who gets too obsessed with one vision. It can get to the point where we only see “out of order” signs on everything. We can become closed in to protect ourselves. Our vision becomes one of self preservation based on the world’s inability to give us order.
But we are not the subject of Greek myth. We are not a 70’s TV character. We are not bound for eternity to be entranced by the brokenness of the world. We are first and foremost children of God. Gathered here today we are followers of Jesus. And as God’s beloved, as disciples of the One who points to a new vision for ourselves and for God’s world. We have been given a mirror to stare into that reflects back to us the goodness and wholeness that God intends us to see.
That very vision that God has given to us to stare at is reflected in our scripture readings this morning.
All of them give us pause to reflect on how and what we see. The bible is full of beautiful imagery and story and metaphor, specifically written so that Gods people could work out an understanding of how to realize and view God and God’s creation. This was very meaningful to the people of the time because they lived in a world quite different from our own. Its not uncommon to hear someone today ask “Do you believe in God”? That question didn’t exist back then. The question that was asked was “Which God do you believe in?” in that context life wasn’t about proving God as much as it was about trying to understand God. To know that was to try and make sense of the realm that exists outside of themselves.
Our first reading comes from “The Song of Solomon” A biblical book of poems about human love. This short book is a snapshot of how God sees that part of our human experience. It is a picture to help us see how God sees you, his beloved.
The man and the woman in the poem are in harmony with each other. They exist in a garden, like the beauty of the garden of Eden. They are in healthy and life-giving relationship with the natural world around them. As we hear our reading today the woman can’t help but be exited as she hears and see’s her love.
The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. 9 Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. 10My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; 11for now the winter is past, 12The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come. 1 Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
This poem is a mirror into seeing all that God has created is good. To see that God sees his creation and see you as one to be exited about. One that elicits a sense of joy and pleasure. The world is good. You are everything to God.
In the letter from James, we again see this humbling theme of the goodness which God brings forth. This letter was written in the late 1st century to Jewish Christians. These were folks who were struggling with how to live as followers of Jesus while at the same time being anxious about how to hold true to “the Law” which was in their DNA. The Torah and its commandments, laws, food restrictions were such a deep part of who they were as a people, they were trying to come to terms with some of the new teachings of Jesus that were contrary to those laws. So the author of this letter to his community writes the words we heard today, in an attempt to have people see what God loves and what it means to live with that vision being first and foremost. He writes.
‘Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. 18In fulfillment of Gods own purpose God gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”
Once again we see the outpouring of goodness from our God. James tells us that all that God gives; all which God creates; that which is from God, is good. And James tells his folk to be doers. To be active in holding up the goodness of creation for all to see. The goodness of Gods world.
In our gospel reading 14Jesus says “Listen and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
God’s creation is good. God created and formed and breathed life into Gods world and was pleased and said “It is good”. It’s what we, as Gods instruments in the world, put out into Gods good creation that manifests itself.
As Christian communities We need to see the power in that? We need to embrace the possibilities that exist in taking on that understanding. That you, and me and all of Gods children have the capacity to manifest the very goodness and love and care and compassion for creation that God has for the world.
Jesus once said, “the kingdom of God is all around you” Do you see it?
Imagine what our world would look like. Consider the power of staring at that holy truth every single day.
Imagine staring at the church and not seeing empty pews, but rather seeing the gifts and precious creation within the pews.
To not see scarcity or lack of resources, or but to see the abundance that exists because God promised to providing it.
Imagine what our communities would look like to not see what separates us, but to see what binds us. To not fear a stranger but to be at home with a brother or sister.
Imagine what you would see when you stare into the mirror and see that you are the beloved…
Imagine approaching the mirror everyday with arms extended in thanksgiving and see the goodness in ourselves, our families our communities and our church, in this building and beyond, will heal the world.
That’s why God brought us here. That’s why God wants us here. That’s why we have been given Gods Son.
One night a child knelt by his bedside and asked God a question. God, if you love the world so much,Why don’t you do anything to make it better. A still small voice answered back.. ”I did. I created you.”
August 26, 2018 14th after Pentecost
Every Saturday morning, Frank sat at his kitchen table and drank his coffee and read his paper. Every Saturday morning, he looked through his kitchen window and watched his neighbor hang her laundry on the clothesline. Every Saturday Frank shook his head and said “ She needs a lesson on how to clean cloths. Those sheets are yellow and stained and I swear I see bird droppings on them” I should go over and teach her a few things. Every Saturday, Franks wife shook her head.
One Saturday morning as Frank sat at the kitchen table sipping and reading, he was amazed at what he saw. The neighbor was hanging her laundry on the line, but the clothes were immaculately white. He couldn’t believe it! The sheets were spotless, and the shirts were gleaming in the morning sun. “I gues she must have heard me and got her act together”, he said. Franks wife again shook her head and replied. “ She didn’t hear anything from you, I washed the windows.”
Its true for all of us. We see the world through a certain lens. We make judgements and we decide what things mean based on the windows we are looking through. Sometimes the windows are clear and it makes perfect sense. Other times we have to figure things out through a more clouded and stained lens.
That’s where we find Jesus disciples this morning in Johns gospel. Jesus is once again trying to explain to them who he is and more importantly his purpose for being there. We’ve been hearing him over these past weeks talk about himself as bread. The living bread that has come down from heaven. The bread of life that gives life to the world. The food that never perishes. And today the disciples get an explanation about this bread that disturbs them.
Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats of me will live because of me.
Their response is; “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
Their difficulty comes on two fronts.
First, they are struggling with this troubling image of eating flesh and drinking blood. And why wouldn’t they. In their world only, Pagans took part in that kind of activity. The children of God didn’t do that.
For those of us today, and certainly for those outside of Christian tradition who hear these words, these words may disturb and confuse us too.
But its important to remember that these words of Jesus from John’s gospel are like some of the other images of himself. Remember when Jesus said, “I am the Lamb of God” or I am the light the world”. It wasn’t his intent to make people think he was actually a Lamb or that he was actually a sunbeam. If we only see these words and images through the cloudy window of literalism, then we wont see the beauty of the invitation that Jesus is extending.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats of me will live because of me.
Abide in me. These are the words that often get missed in all of this.
Jesus was inviting his disciples to be at home in him. Just as he is at home with God.
Jesus invitation is to know what it is to be part of him so that we can know and enter into the life God wants us to have.
Abide in me. Be at home.
Home is the promise of safety, of security. Home is a place where fear does not have the upper hand. Home is the place where we can let go and where we can trust that there is a safe place to fall.
And this is the second, and most difficult part of Jesus words. This invitation to come home and to know the abundant life that can be found in Jesus, is often one that we struggle accepting.
Yet to be home it is something we all desire.
This week, thousands of University and College students will be arriving on mass into our city to begin another school year. Most of them away from home for the very first time. And what will they do after mom and dad unload the SUV and give them a hug goodbye. They will go into their rooms and surround themselves with home. Pictures of friends and photos of pets. Stuffed animals from childhood and comforters from their beds. Text messages and snapchats from familiar faces now separated my long distances. They will surround themselves with home.
Abide in me….Jesus invites, surround yourself with me.
We all want to be at home with God. God our creator. God who formed us from the earth and knew us before we were born. Yet we find it difficult because the idea that we can come home just because God wants us home doesn’t compute. Shouldn’t we have to give to receive? Nothing is just given and free.
I remember as a young child coming home from school and realizing that I had lost the new hat that my mother had bought for me. For weeks I had begged for it because it had a cool Spiderman logo on it. So walking home that day I knew it wasn’t going to be a good scene. Instead of going home, I went to my friend Billy Bains house and told his mother I had permission to stay. In my fear, in my embarrassment I refused to go home.
We can all smile at the story of a small child but if we are being honest we all have made the decision from time to time that its easier to hide from God than it is to come home to God. We focus on all the reasons and ways God should be displeased with us. Our shame, our regrets, our feelings of unworthiness often steer us away from the life God wants to give us and like the disciples we say…This is difficult. Who can accept it?
A young man once said to me that he could never be part of a church because he was too damaged. He’d done drugs, he’d hurt people, he didn’t even know if he believed in God. How could I be part of a Christian community? When I told him that’s exactly why he should be here and that’s exactly how God wants you, he said..no way, that doesn’t make sense.
This is a difficult teaching, who can accept it.
The good news we hear today as those disciples who gather around Jesus once again, is that our God who wants us home, is the God who has wiped the window clean, so that we no longer see God through our distorted lens, but rather, we see God through the window of the One he sent to lead us home. Jesus.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats of me will live because of me.
I’m reminded of a true story of a soldier who was severely wounded. When he was out of surgery, the doctors said that there was a good chance of recovery, except that the soldier refused to eat anything. The nurses tried everything, but he refused all food, only drinking some water and juice.
A friend of the soldiers offered to fly his father over to see him. The soldier still refused to eat, so his father opened the suitcase he had brought and pulled out a loaf of bread that his mother had made at home in their kitchen on the other side of the ocean. Son, this bread was made by your mother, especially for you. The young man ate his fill and within a week was on a plane home.
When we are out in the world living our lives its easy to lose our taste for the food that fuels our souls. When we abide in Jesus, and come home, we taste the food that gives us life.
Food of community to nourish us. Food of prayer to sustain us. Food of forgiveness to cleanse us. Food of peace to quiet us. Food of immeasurable grace. Given freely and without obligation. This is the food we eat as disciples of Jesus.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Whoever eats of me will live because of me.
As we prepare to enter into this fall season, may we commit ourselves as the community of Holy Trinity St. Stephens, to clear off our windows of doubt, fear, unworthiness and shame. May we see ourselves, and the world outside our doors, through the same window through which God sees us.
A beloved people,
A worthy group,
An empowered community.
A parish that has accepted the invitation of Jesus to eat up all he offers; and who abides in him.
May we come to the table every week and here the words of our God as he says…Welcome Home.
August 19, 2018 Pentecost 13
1 Kings 2: 10-1, 3: 3-14
Some years ago I attended a workshop on all things prayer. The purpose was to learn about types of prayer in a liturgy, ways to pray individually, the history of prayer in Anglican worship and so on…. In one of our sessions we were sharing our favorite prayers. One person referenced the Lord’s Prayer, another spoke of her love of the prayer of St. Francis…and then one young man said his favorite pray was the one uttered by his 7-year-old son. They were at a local swimming pool and his son was standing at the deep end, his toes curled over the edge. Still unsure of himself in the water, he stood there for what seemed to her like a very long time. And just when it seemed that he was going to back away from the edge, he looked up to the sky, put his hands together, and said: "O Lord, give me skills or GIVE ME GILLS!" And he jumped.
As I left the workshop I realized that all the high flatulent information about prayer that I was trying so hard to learn and understand paled in comparison to this one.
Give me skills or give me gills. That pretty much covers all the bases, doesn't it? O Lord give me what I need to overcome what I'm facing; but if you won't do that, give me what I need to endure it. Provide for me the air I need so that I can make it to the other side and have life. Give me skills or give me gills.
This morning we heard about a young guy who was way over his head. Our reading from Second Kings finds Solomon in deep. As the story goes, his father is dead. He is grieving. He is afraid. He is carrying a heavy load. He's no longer swimming in the safety of the shallow end of his childhood. With one swift toss, Solomon is headed into the deep end of adulthood.
And what a deep end it was! It isn't just the loss of his father that Solomon is forced to confront. It is who his father was. His father was. David, the great king of Israel, the slayer of Goliath, the liberator from the Philistines, the unifier of the tribes, the master musician and wordsmith, the "man after God's own heart." So with David's death, Solomon not only took his place at the head of his own family; but he was now the head of the kingdom as well. Ready or not. And it was clear that Solomon was not ready.
None of us are ready when difficult times come upon us. I was chatting with a woman who was struggling with the decision about beginning to prepare her father to move from his home of 55 years into an apartment complex. When she wrote out her pro and con sheet, the pro side was 3 pages long. He has friends there, no stairs to worry about, meals are provided, access to shopping, health care professionals available. On the con side she could only write one line…”Making the move” She said no matter how prepared she thought she was its such a difficult thing to actually move into.
All of us have stood on the edge of the pool. Maybe you are leaning into something today. You know what its like to feel unsure. To be afraid of the unknown, to be in a vulnerable place of insecurity! Will I be able to handle jumping into "deep end".
O Lord give me skills or give me gills.
Solomon was very definitely not ready to take over as King. Despite the fact that he’s grown up in that world and watched his father David and was taught and molded to take over one day, Solomon knew when he was sitting on that throne for the first time that he didn’t have the skills, the knowledge. He didn’t possess the trust and respect of the people in his kingdom. He was full of doubt and uncertainty. He was, in fact, a mess. He was in way over his head.
But the good thing, the saving grace, if you will, was that Solomon knew it. And it is in that deep humility, that willingness to say, I can’t do this alone that Solomon is able to unburden his heart to God. Just listen to Solomon’s plea as he speaks to God,
You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7And now, O LORD my God, you have made me, your servant, king, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.
“I'm not up to this. I’m in this place in my life but I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm scared.
There was once a young girl who wanted to be a piano player, so her grandmother paid for lesson. The young girl practiced all day until she was able to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. As a reward, her grandmother took her to a concert to hear a famous pianist. They got front row seats in the packed theatre. As they were waiting for the curtain to rise, the grandmother went up to the washroom. The little girl saw a set of stairs that led up to behind the stage. Her curiosity got the best of her so she slinked out of her seat and snuck up to behind the stage. Her eyes glowed as she saw the grand piano glistening in the middle of the stage. She walked toward it and slowly climbed up onto the leather covered bench. With her index finger extended she began to play her song…Just as she hit that first note, the curtain rose…and she was staring at 500 people who couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The little girl was frozen. She looked out and saw the horrified face of her grandmother. Then she heard the audience start to buzz as the world-renowned pianist walked across he stage and leaned over her and put his hands on the keys of the piano. He whispered in her ear… “play your song”…and as she hit the first few notes his fingers began to fly across the keys. And a few minutes later, the little girl was on the receiving end of a standing ovation in appreciation for most rousing rendition of Twinkle Twinkle little star that they had ever heard.
What the Solomon story tells us today is that in those times when we are hanging over the edge and wondering how we are going to be able to make it through whatever it is we are having to dive into, that we can stop pretending that we’re diving in alone. We can stop pretending that we have to have it all under control.
We learn the last thing we should do is stop running away from God because God is going to find us anyway. God comes to us in our weakness and says…let me help you play your song.
It wasn’t until Solomon came to God out of his brokenness and realized he didn’t have the capacity to dive in without God that Solomon can make his prayer.9Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil. Not for my sake but for the sake of your people…..your kingdom.
When we realize all that we cannot do, we are in a perfect position to discover all that God can do.
We cannot avoid the challenges set before us, we’re all headed into the deep end at some point in our lives, so we should ask God for what we need to overcome it or what we need to endure it. We should boldly pray for skills or for gills, confident that God will always give us one or the other.
And sometimes, like Solomon, we may even get both. But however the answer comes, God always comes with it. And that is the very best news of all.
Homily: August 12,2018
John 6: 41-51
We are what we eat
I should have known better. It wasn’t like it was my first time. I’d bellied up to a hundred all you can eat buffets in my day. I’ve participated in the many different ways in which a person can tackle to all you can eat. I’d done the “fill your plate with your favourite item and leave nothing for the net guy in line" strategy. I’d attempted the old “I think I’ll eat healthy and go to town on the huge salad bar” routine. I’d even attempted the classic “around the world adventure, where the goal is to eat at least one item from every ethnic food group available.
So you’d think with all that experience I would know the golden rule of what to avoid when I walked into Mandarin all you can eat buffet a couple of weeks ago.
Yes. I got emotionally involved with the dessert section.
I think it’s a ploy of the restaurant to force the patrons to walk right through the middle of dessert section as they escort you to your table. Everyone’s eyes were bulging as we walked past the ice cream table with the 20 different flavours complete with chopped nuts and sprinkles. Or the endless pastry section with nothing less than 2inches of whipped cream falling off every tart. And don’t get me started on the pies or the cheesecake.
So after a small salad, and a bowl of soup I spent the remainder of my time wearing out the carpet between our table and “the den of iniquity.”
As I walked back to the car it felt like I was carrying a piano on my back; and the next few hours were spent motionless on my couch.
It’s true what we take into our bodies is what we can expect to get out of them.
There’s no debating that our Western culture has a vested interest in taking better care of our bodies.
Take a look at the massive health clubs in our cities wit their 3 or four floors of equipment and classes. Walk through Chapters book store and you can’t help but see rows upon rows of books and DVD’s and magazines attributed to nothing but fitness and healthy eating.
We know the value of keeping our bodies healthy and how we will benefit from doing that.
But there is more that enters into us than we can see at the end of a fork.
One of my favourite books and later movies is the J.R.R. Tolkien epic Lord of the Rings. The basis of the story is that an evil Lord has created a ring of power in which he has poured all of his hate and anger into. Everything that can poison a person’s soul with negative and harmful energy has been inserted into this tiny ring. Whoever has the ring in their possession takes on these many negative attributes. The story is about how one tiny and insignificant person is given the task of destroying the ring. We watch him during his journey with the ring as he starts to transform into the wicked persona of the ring itself.
The bigger picture is about how if constantly consume things like negativity, fear, hate, distrust…then we will transform into those things.
We are what we eat.
Too often we
feed on the food that creates harm in our life.
We see commercials for the latest products and feel empty, we see what our neighbours and friends own, and we become envious.
We read newspapers and watch the bad news on TV that always fills the top of the headline list and we can become bitter and lose hope.
We experience the hypocrisy of friends or family or coworkers and people we trust and watch the spectacular falls from grace of some of the rich and famous that we idolize…. we become cynical about people,
cynical about life.
We are what we eat....
and if our only bread is the bread of envy,
and our only drink is the drink of bitterness
if we continually sit down to a buffet of cynicism
we become these things.
But God has made sure that we have another table from which to eat. Today and every day that gods people gather around the table behind me we proclaim The good news. The good news that God has laid out a new banquet on which to feed. A buffet that will transform us and transform the world into the world of God’s dream.
There is an alternative to filling up on what weighs us down.
It is within this Eucharistic banquet we share today that we have been given the very food that can only lift us up.
For the past few weeks we’ve been hearing Jesus words about being the bread of life. The true and living bread. The bread that has come down from heaven that gives life to the world. The bread that satisfies the hunger we all have deep within our souls.
Today’s gospel reading is Jesus’ invitation to us to make that bread a part of who we are.
Jesus said to the people, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
There is a story about a father and son walking along the ocean. The boy said, "Dad, I cannot understand how Christ can live in us and we live in him at the same time." Further down the beach, the father noticed an empty bottle with a cork in it. Taking the bottle, he half filled it with water, re-corked it and flung it out into the ocean.
As they watched the bottle bob up and down he said, "Son, the sea is in the bottle and the bottle is in the sea.
This is the picture of what it looks like when we say we live in Christ. We live under the Lordship of Christ and He lives in us.
And that is never more evident than when we gather around the holy table as we do today. The Eucharist for us is not just a fanciful idea. It’s far from a simplistic ritual. In this Eucharist we are literally making the risen Christ part of who we are. We are sharing in a sacred meal that transforms our very being from the inside out. In this holy banquet God has said "I no longer want you to know me out there, I want to enter into your soul and abide inside you."
This holy meal that we are about to take in is our invitation to have the risen Christ be part of our being
Nothing beats regular meals.
A first-rate meal, well prepared and lovingly served, and relished bite by bite to the very end.
It is here in this place that the meal we need the most to transform us is served. And it begins here when….
We feed on hope when we hear our faith story through the word of God that we read from holy scripture.
We feed on peace when we greet each other in the name of Jesus.
We feed on thanksgiving when we offer ourselves and our gifts to God.
We feed on humility when we open our hearts and our hands to receive the gift of Jesus here with us in bread and in wine.
But perhaps the most important part to know about this banquet, is that when we come and participate and when we eat the bread of life and drink the cup of salvation, we are transformed. Not just for our sakes, but for the sakes of those who are not here with us. we are transformed here, so that we can share the good news with those outside our doors.
Our call as Jesus disciples today is to make sure that others know that God wants to fill them with the bread that lasts forever. That they need not become stuck in a world that seems like the only food they get leads to fear and distrust and shame and guilt. God wants them to know the food that will give them hope….that will give them peace…that will give them life.
This is the good news we have to share with the world…we have been given a banquet prepared with a meal that will fill our souls….and by extension will fill the souls of those God will put on our path this week. Jesus wanted his disciples full, so that Gods dream for Gods world could be made real.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
May we truly become what we eat. May we be transformed into the body of Christ. May we feed the world.
Homily August 5, 2018
HTSSM London (First Sunday of my time here)
I wanted to quickly share a few words of thanks this morning. I know that many things have to happen and many people played a role so that we could arrive at a day like today, so its important to recognize those that have brought us here.
Thanks be to God. Our creator who creates new life from darkness and chaos. Our God who cannot imagine Gods world without us being a part of it. Thanks be to God who through Jesus and the Holy Spirit gave us his church, that we could once again gather together to be his disciples in this day and age.
Thanks To Bishop Linda for asking me to add my name to the list of possible candidates to serve here at HT-SSM. Sometimes a phone call from the bishop makes your gut churn a bit, but I was humbled that she thought of introducing you to me.
Thanks to the folks of St James Roseland in Windsor for their graciousness in support and understanding when I announced that I was being called to serve in a new parish. The priest that you meet today is a product of their willingness to walk with me these past 7 years and I am better for it. I know you know what that is like to have to go through that transition as a community and I ask you to keep them in your prayers as they prepare to arrive at their new beginning in the coming year.
Thanks to your selection committee who took on an incredibly important ministry. They are an example of what true servanthood in the kingdom looks like because they gave of themselves so that others may be served and so that this place may come to its new day.
Thanks to the Wardens who answered the door and let me in on Wednesday. You boosted my confidence!
Thank you to my family. Margie who faithfully travels this road with me and has given up so much of herself to support me in this wonderful vocation.
Thanks to you for coming today. When people say after a church service “Good sermon or nice service”, I always remind them that it wouldn’t be much with you here listen and singing and praying and taking part….I’ve tried it’s quite lonely…
As I said it takes a lot of different folks, a lot work, a lot of little pieces of the puzzle to fall into place so that we can all arrive at a day like today. To be able to get from here to there is never an easy journey. And I’m certain that all of us, in one form or anther, know what it like to be here…yet longing to get to there. That place of newness, that place of hope, that place where the past is remembered and honored and called upon to remind us who we are and what we’ve come through while at the same time not freezing us from discovering us what God is calling us into.
Do you remember the kids table? That extra table that was always set up in the kitchen during those special meals when family and friends gathered? One Christmas my brother and me had a conversation about whether or not this would be the year we could get from here to there.
In retrospect, the kids table did have its benefits. We didn’t have to mind our manners. We didn’t have to listen to grandpa Bob going on about how some guy named Trudeau was ruing the country. (Some things never change) The problem was that even at that young age we were aware that sitting at the kids table meant that you hadn’t arrived yet. There was always the feeling that there was something better, something more at the big table and we wanted so much to be a part of that. We were here, but we desperately wanted to get there.
That restlessness we experience spills over into our spiritual lives. We all want to move from where we are now, to a better place. We all want to be there. Our inherent need is to make it to that place where our burdens are lighter. To be in a safe and comfortable place where we can feel more settled within ourselves. That place where our souls can find peace. If we share one common experience as human beings, it’s a yearning to spend more time in that place of solace and comfort and less time in a place of restlessness and worry.
My hope is that our time together over the months and years at Holy Trinity/St Stephens Memorial will be our journey from here to there.
Here is where we are today, on this new day as we celebrate this new beginning together. Giving thanks for all that which has been done to get here.
There is the dream we share with God. Our desire, our longing to get to that new place is so strong in us because we share it with God. We are Gods children, made in Gods image and through Gods life giving Spirit we are tuned into Gods longing and desire for Gods good world to be in a better place.
God has a vision for Gods world. That it may transform from the nightmare it often seems to be to the dream that God has for it. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God or the reign of God. Gods world as it will be when there is enough for all. Where the sick are comforted, the mourning are lifted up, where the needs of dignity and respect for every human being are met. A world where self giving surpasses selfish taking. A world where swords are turned to plowshares so that growth and harvest rule over death and destruction. A world where, as Jesus tells us today will eat the food that endures for eternal life. Love, peace, joy and grace.
Did you hear about the new minister who had just arrived in town and was giving his first sermon? He chose a passage from the book of revelation. He wanted to speak from the heart so having no notes he began:
Behold I come among you…” But in his nervousness, he couldn’t remember the rest of the Bible passage. Suddenly he could hear the voice of this preaching teacher in his mind, “Slow down and speak with authority.
“Behold…I ..Come…Among…You…” But it still didn’t come.
In desperation he remembered, if in doubt, speak with wild enthusiastic zeal. So pounding on the pulpit he thundered: BEHOLD, I COME AMONG YOU! But to his enormous embarrassment he fell out of the pulpit right into the arms of an elderly lady in the front pew. “I’m so dreadfully sorry!” he cried. “Oh, don’t apologize my dear, you warned me THREE TIMES that you were coming.”
I want to say to you this morning. Behold, I come among you…with Good News.
God has brought you to safely to this new day. Jesus is here with us in bread and in wine. The Spirit has been poured out upon this place.
As Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus so long ago, his words ring true today:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers…musicians and singers, wardens and maintenance people, coffee hour hosts and bazaar convenors, bible study leaders and children and youth ministers, pastoral visitors and dancers…… all to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”
For the building of the dream God has for Gods world.
That’s why we’re here. That’s why we show up.
I imagine that you and I will travel many roads together as we participate with God in our moving from here to there. Some roads will be joyful ones right here in this holy space as you walk up to this table to be fed, or as we gather together to welcome new members of God’s family through Holy Baptism. We will sing and dance, laugh and share. Some roads will be sadder as we sit in a hospital room or a bedside to pray, or as we commend our loved ones Spirit into the hands of Almighty God. As we disagree, walk in moments of fear or strain to see where God is in all of the darkness.
For my part, I commit to be your pastor, your prophet and your priest on this road. I will honour the trust you have given me as one particular part of this Body. A Body that has been empowered and created by God and rooted in the love of Christ. I ask that you faithfully participate with me, willingly offering whatever particular gift of the spirit that God has given you, to travel this new road placed before us.
We have much to celebrate. We have gifts to discover in ourselves an in each other as the People of God in this place.
So as we prepare to gather around this holy table today, may we thankful for what God has formed in this place. May we see ourselves as One Body in this place.
My friends, I think if we do that. We will get there.
Thanks be to God!