Thursday, April 2, 2020

What God is going to do about it.


On Palm Sunday five-year-old Jason had a very sore throat and had to stay home from church with a sitter. When his family returned from the Church service, they carried several palm fronds. Jason asked them what they were for. "People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by," his father told him. "Wouldn't you know it," Jason fumed, "the one Sunday I don't go, and He shows up!"

This will for certain be one of the oddest Palm Sundays of my nearly 30-year ministry. It will be odd because it will be almost totally silent. Palm Sunday s one of those services where we let our liturgy out for a walk. Literally. This is the Sunday where we go for a walk around the Church in procession singing hymns like “Ride on, ride on in majesty”.  There would be tambourines and noisemakers and lots of voices signing as they strode along. That will be happening this year. This year, there will be silence and I suspect I will be straining to hear the rest of creation cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

In the Gospel for Palm Sunday, Jesus rides in on a donkey to the City of Jerusalem. As he and the others go along a people gather into a crowd calling on Jesus “Son of David have mercy on us!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” People were looking for healing and mercy so that their lives could be better and they could do better things, do more things and have a better life. They wanted safety. They wanted to be rescued. They wanted to be blessed. Most of all they called for God to be merciful.

You know what mercy is? That is when one person stands between another person and the second person’s disaster, and first-person calls the second to himself to avoid the disaster. That is why Jesus and his death on the cross is crucial. He is lifted up so that we can see him and be drawn to him. God is providing mercy through executing judgment so that we can have that mercy and that rescue, that salvation. Through the cross, Jesus takes our judgment and our punishment. We, in turn, receive the mercy, the grace and the peace of God that passes all our human understanding. We are healed by the stripes he took for us. The cross teaches us about who we are and how far we are going to take this to make sure that we are in control. The cross also points out what God is going to do about it.

We are to follow, even chase if necessary, Jesus up the hill as he makes his way up the hill at Golgotha. We are to seek out the opportunities to build and reconcile relationships. We are to call out for healing and for rescue in the midst of the storm. We are prevailed upon to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus up the hill. We need to count the costs of following and not following Jesus. We need to guard our message and our integrity. We need to be wise in the ways that we walk and act, including our service of God.

Take time to look for Jesus. He is here and he has shown up. Cling to him!

Jason+

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Responding to life's crisis


In this time of minimalized ministry, I have been taking time to watch and listen to various clergy and preachers to see what is being said about the Covid-19 pandemic and how we should respond to it. There seems to be a common theme of “Choose faith not fear” amongst us. We all have two dogs in this fight: one called faith and the other called fear. Fear at this moment is only natural and total human. We are in a state of fear, of chaos, of sickness and of death. People ask me which is stronger faith of fear? Want to know which one is the strongest? It’s the one you feed. In point of fact, only a fool would have no fear in all that is going on. But there is the other side of things. Where is your faith? Do you remind yourself of what Jesus said, “Who among you can add a single hour to your life by worrying?” What do you believe at this moment? Who do you trust in times of trouble and of fear? Do you choose Jesus?

There is a reality setting in for many of us that we are not in control. This present crisis has highlighted this fact. We are tempted to think about ourselves and do want we want because what doctors, nurses and the governments are supposed to do, is look after us if we get into trouble. I suspect that this is why we are seeing governments at various levels restrict and curtail liberties that we are used to enjoying. Work is shutting down. Schools, gyms, restaurants, even Churches are closed. We are not to be within 6 feet of each other. And yet there are still some who think that this is someone else’s issue, someone else’s problem. It does not affect me. I am not sick. I am going to continue on as usual until I have to change. This is not helpful and is not caring for yourself nor for the people around you.

On the upside, there are some things that we can do and should do in this time of restrictions that are not against the law. These are things that can build us up and allow us to be caring of others and even to effectively proclaim the Good News of God in Christ. (h/t to Nicky Gumbel from Holy Trinity Church, Brompton in the UK as I draw from his inspiration)

Stay Prayerful
Many will know the story of Jesus getting in the boat with his disciples to go across the lake and they end up getting caught up in a storm that is powerful enough to sink the boat. Keep in mind many of these men in this boat are experienced fishermen. They were watching the waves, rain and bracing themselves against the winds. They grew afraid. Where is Jesus? He is in the stern fast asleep on the pilot’s cushion. (Luke 8.22-25). In frustration and fear, they wake Jesus and ask him, “Don’t you care if we die?” Jesus gets up from his nap, and speaks to the storm and says, “Be at peace, be still.” Jesus then turns to his disciples and  asks them, “Where is your faith?”

In moments like this, we are tempted to look at the storm, the things that are going on around us. Such things can cause us to despair and event to fall into depression. Notice what the disciples did, they went to Jesus with their fears and frustrations and asked him to do something about it. Jesus spoke to the storm and calm the situation because his disciples asked him to. It is a simple prayer and of course, God cares for each and for all of us. We need to make our petitions known to God and do so with thanksgiving that God is already there in the situation working for us and for good. We need to be prayerful which not just words, but also keep an attitude of altitude. This means that we know that Jesus in the boat and we are with him. Because we are tempted to fix our eyes on the storm, we need to work at fixing our eyes on Jesus. We can ask for Jesus to stop this illness and to bring health and whole back to us.

Stay wise
One of my favourite verses of Scripture that I use in my own life is “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2nd Timothy 1.6-7 ESV) So, it makes sense for me to say to you, have faith and use soap. When you wash your hands, instead of singing Happy Birthday, sing the Doxology and give thanks to God. We can choose to have faith over fear. We can choose to limit the amount of cable news we get, the amount radio news we listen to and we can choose to fill ourselves to listen to music, make time to pray and to worship which will take our eyes from the storm and help us to focus on Jesus. We can choose faith and put fear in its place.

Stay kind!
Maybe this is a no brainer but there is no need to hoard when we go to the grocery store. People are hoarding hand sanitizer, wipes, toilet paper, flour, meat and other things. We need to consider carefully the examples of the selflessness of others and then try, as best we can to follow in that way. I think of a priest in Italy who came down with this horrible virus and his parish went out and bought him a ventilator so that he could survive and continue to serve his people. Then he heard of a young boy who needed the ventilator and he demanded that he be removed from his and the machine be taken to the boy. Shortly after the priest died of the illness but the boy he gave the machine to, lives. Be kind to others. It is life-giving. Be generous and let us make sure that we care for the vulnerable.

Stay united
Remember to stay united with one another. We are fighting a virus, not one another. Never waste an opportunity to extend forgiveness or for reconciliation. Invite people to the online services and there might be opportunities to share the Good News with those who need it.

Stay Connected
Be wary of isolating yourself to the point where you cut yourself off from everyone else. There may need to be physical distance, but we need to stay connected. There are lots of ways to do this through phones, emails, texting, video chatting, even old fashion note and letter writing.

Stay Confident
Finally, I know that when I discovered what might be coming in terms of illness and that as a person with an “underlying health condition” I was going to increasingly isolate myself for my protection I found myself angry because I could not control what was happening and going to happen. It was a reminder, that as much as I like to think I am in control, I am not. But then I know that Jesus is and that he has called me into the boat to be with him in this storm. Jesus is in control. Jesus reigns. He came to us in flesh and blood. He suffered and knew pain. He has been through it all including death and the grave and yet he lives. And because he lives, he is in the boat and he is in control right now.

Let us put our eyes on Jesus. Let us cast our burdens on Jesus for he cares for us. Let us choose faith over fear. And let us remember we are in the palm of his hand. He has us so much more than we have him. Thanks be to God for that.

Jason+

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Are you blind?


The furore of the last few days and the decisions of the last 24 hours have left a few people relieved and some others reeling just because of the speed and magnitude of the decisions. I have no doubt that when (and not if) we come through the other side of this latest crisis and latest virus, that a scene, not all that different from what happens in John 9 is going to take place.

I discovered that people with powerful testimonies of God’s rescue and restoration had to endure much pain and suffering to obtain them. We don’t and we didn’t consider much less get that as human beings. I know I didn’t. I used to sit as a student in the Church Army College/Headquarters in prayer meetings on Thursday nights with a cast of characters, including my classmates. Many of them had wonderful and occasionally very funny stories to tell about God reached out to them when they thought life was coming to an end. There was a logical progression of things – who you were before, what Christ did to transform you and how your life is different now from the first.

We are told of a man (in John 9) born blind. He was clearly known to Jesus and to his disciples because they could look at him and know at least a few things about him. The disciples assumed that there must have been spiritual wrong in this man’s life: why else would he have been blinded. So, it is a natural question: “Who sinned? Did he? Did his parents? Who is responsible for this tragedy? Who needs to be blamed?”

Is it not incredible, that Jesus points out that it is not about the man or his parents but about God and the kingdom? This man’s life is about putting on full display, the grace and glory of God for the world around him to see. Then, interestingly, Jesus ducks out and goes away. He disappears almost completely along with the disciples. What gives? Where did he go? Why did he leave? Did anyone see where Jesus went?

If there is a single lesson that I have learned about being healed, it must be this: there is life at the end of the miracle that needs to be lived out like a light in the darkness. As believers, we are called on to reflect his light through our lives so that even though Christ seems absent. And that takes work to be reflective of his light, his love, his life. And doing so we bring Jesus to the community and make him visible. It is why the man with new eyes says to those question him about Jesus asks the question, “Do you want to be his disciples too?”

The goal of John’s Gospel is a simple one: that having encountered Jesus that you would believe in him and through him, have eternal life. Those who look to accuse Jesus of being a false healer and teacher, of breaking the rules of the Sabbath are then told by Jesus that because they claim to know God and his ways are actually blind. They are blind to who God is and to what God is doing. It is interesting that unlike the man with new eyes, the religious people are willing to sit there with mud on their faces and refuse to go and wash, remaining blind to the reality of what God is working amongst them. Being blind, leave them guilty of not recognizing the presence of God amongst them and therefore are sinning by calling it the power of evil.

It is his light in us and it is up to us to make that next move. He has come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Ought we not to be 'pumped' about God being present here, in this place, at this moment and to be with him? Should we not take that next step to bring light to the darkness, hope to the helpless and courage to those who are frightened. Should we not feed the hungry, clothe the naked and befriend the lonely and the stranger? Should we not offer them Jesus, that might have life in his name?

Jason+

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Come and see then go and tell




You need to come and see and then you can go and tell… did you know that? I think you might have. The Gospel this week is about the day after Jesus is baptised and revealed to be the Messiah (John 1.29-42). He walks by John who baptized him the day before. You remember. John had objected to the idea that he should baptize Jesus – he wanted Jesus to baptize him. Why was it important for John to baptize Jesus? In a word, revelation. John did not know for certain that Jesus was the Son of God until this fact was revealed to him by the Father and the Spirit. There was the bird coming down to him and a voice that John could hear. At that moment, John knew that he knew that it was Jesus that he needed to tell other people about.

Hence, this is why he loudly declared the next day that Jesus was “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… behold him!”. We use it in our eucharistic worship to declare that we too see Jesus and recognize him for who he truly is. We come forward to receive the bread and the wine so that we can participate in and declare ourselves to be a part of his body in the world. From there, we are sent out into the world (having been broken up like the bread and dismissed from the presence of the Lord) to see and serve Jesus in the world. In fact, we are living out our own baptisms, is spite of the fact that most if not all of us don’t remember the act of being baptised our own selves.

We are compelled to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbour as ourselves.” It is something that is promised in act of baptism and continues in the living out of that baptism: that we are going to actively search for Christ and wherever and whenever we find him,  serve him in the places and spaces and in the people we discover we are neighbours with. It is not upon us to fix them, agree with them, like or even like them. We need to leave the notion that we remain trapped in high school behind and disabuse ourselves of such notions.

It is incumbent upon us to serve Christ wherever and whenever we find him, seeking to love him through our service and love of those who we find to be our neighbours. We do this not as individuals but as a community of believers. We see and receive Jesus together and then we through out the rest of the week seek Jesus, to find him wherever we ourselves go. There is a pattern to the ways in which we witness to Christ’s presence in this community.  We look for Jesus and when we find him, we receive him that we might know him. In knowing him, we can tell others about our encounters with Jesus and how we saw him. This will encourage others to seek him where they are and where they go, so that they can see Jesus and know him for themselves.

If there is to be another generation of the Anglican Church of Canada across this country then there is a necessity in people, believers and followers of Christ to draw people who have not seen into their lives, their homes, their schools and workplaces, their churches. We need to invite and draw them in so that they can see and receive him and then go out and tell others what they have seen.

Jason+

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Worried about the Future?


I was recently challenged to get back to writing my blog because there are folks who have nothing to read and are missing the Skypilot (h/t: cousin and fellow pastor Teresa) so I will endeavour to do so and to do better now that there are things that are winding up and finishing up around me. If you are not aware, I have been the administrator of my diocese (acting as the bishop while we await our new one) as well as being the pastor to a very active parish for some time now. Our new Bishop will be consecrated on February 21st, 2020. Please keep us all in your prayers.
                                                                                                                                                                Jason+

______________________________________________________________________________


I once walked into the local General Store in the community where we (Nova, Joshua and I) were living. It was a day or two before New Year’s for 2000. Everyone was anxious, wound up, fretting about what was going to happen because when those who invented the computer calendar that so many of our things ran on, was not what might have been, people freaked out over the future. There was genuine fear over how life was going to continue, given that we are so dependent on our electronic devices; everything from furnaces, to fridges, cars to computers. My family and went to spend that evening with friends. They invited us to join them for fun and games and, just in case, for heat if things should fail.  

My trip to the store was an interesting jaunt. I walked into the store all bundled up because it was only -45 degrees centigrade outside. Before I had a chance to start removing at least some of the clothing to prevent sweating, someone exclaimed, “Oh, look! There is the Minister. Ask him!” One of the well-known locals came over to me and she said to me, “Sir, we were just having a chat about what this world is coming to… what do you say the world is coming to?” I answered matter of factly, saying, “To an end of course!” This brought the people in the store to a screeching halt and you could hear a pin drop wait for what was going to happen next. Realizing that they did not hear what they wanted and to allow the shock to wear off, I asked for a few minutes to go and retrieve the items I had made the trek to the store for… and it would allow me a moment to think about what to share next.

As humans, we like a level of certainty and being able to feel like we are in control. John in the Gospel (Matthew 11.2-11) wanted some assurance that the hardship and the work that he had done in proclaiming the Messiah was not wasted. He wanted to know what the future looked like. He wanted to know that his hope and faith weren’t thwarted. Jesus tells John’s disciples to go back and report what they see and hear: that the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear and the dead live. The poor and those in need are hearing and receiving the Good News! Blessed is the one who does not fall away on the account of how the kingdom is going to come and going to look because of me.

You and I are still waiting for Jesus to come (again). We are waiting for him to come again. What makes us doubt Jesus though he holds the future? What keeps us from participating in the incarnational ministry of the Church – of presenting and representing Christ in the community?

What did I eventually share with those people in the General Store? The Good News that I do not know what the future holds but I know who holds the future…  that God holds our future. Through all the topsy turvy things that can and do happen in this life and what is coming in the next. I let them know that when they put their faith in Christ it is not a matter of holding on to him for dear life as it is to remember that he has a hold of them. No one can take them out of the palm of God’s hand. It is why he came to us the first time. It is why we wait for him now. God has a hold of us and of the situation. He is coming again.  Thanks be to God for that!

Maranatha!                        

Jason+

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The bread of our lives




What kind of bread do you eat? What kind of bread do you at in your spiritual life? As I stop to consider things in my own life, I recognize that there are at least two kinds of spiritual bread: life and strife. It is not hard to spot the folks in the life of the Church who eat the bread that gives life and those who eat the bread that brings strife. You can see such things in the life of the Church of Thessalonica.

There are Christians who are busy, doing what they need to do in terms of life: working, marriage, raising a family and so on. And then there is a group that has heard that someone is teaching that Jesus has come back and they are missing him, so they stop working and become a burden to the people around them because they expect to be going heavenward any moment now. They fear not making it to heaven and getting out of here.

The basic message of the Thessalonian letters is to remember that it is God who keeps you. God keeps you blameless until the day of Judgement (because you have been justified by faith in Christ). God calls you and through his call on your life - he sustains you. He gives you his life. And we would do well to remember that God is faithful to keep his word though he will do it in his own way and in his own time. God’s ways are not ours and his speed is not necessarily ready warp speed. This means that we need to learn to be patient and remain steadfast because God is working all things out for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

What do we do to live in a steadfast manner? Here are some things that the Letters indicate to us that we need to be doing:
  1.      .     Encourage and build up one another in love as people and in the work that is ongoing in the life of the Church.
  2.       There needs to be respect for the leaders of the Church. They are worthy of the Church’s respect because they serve God and the people of God, honouring them both by their service.
  3.       Be patient with those who are struggling and have compassion for those who are in pain and suffering within the Church. The world sees how we treat our own. It is part of our witness. 
  4.           We must warn the idle in the faith that Jesus is coming; strengthen the fearful, assist the weak and the young believers in the faith.
  5.           Make sure that there is no retaliation for wrongs and to strive to be kind to every believer and to those who are outside of the community of faith.
  6.       Choose to always be joyful – a person of hope. Pray unceasingly not just in words but also in actions and in attitude.
  7.       In every circumstance, give thanks to God so that God remains in focus and you keep moving towards God and the kingdom.
  8.       Keep looking up into the eyes of the Master.

It has been my experience that as we do the things that we need to do that we do not have to worry as much about not doing the don’ts. Worried about missing out? Do what is being asked of you and as you do, wait with anticipation. God will sustain and grace you with his life as he draws you into the kingdom. He is the bread of our lives. 

Jason+

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

It is time to go finishing again.


Since it has been a while since I last preached at St. James’, I thought that I would make this my final entry into this blog which I have been working on for the past many years and hundreds of entries. I want to begin with a question: “Yarn dis marn?” – that is high Newfoundland talk for “Have you got any fish this morning?” Now please understand that this is the question that Jesus, standing on the beach on the shores of the Lake of Galilee, asked of Peter and the other disciples (John 21:1-18). Peter decided to go fishing and some of the other disciples went with him, including the disciple Jesus’ loved and another unnamed disciple. They got ready and launched out into the water. They fished all night but caught nothing.

In the morning, Jesus asks them the question, “Yarn dis marn, me sons?” The reply was swift. “Narn” or neither one, sir!

“T’row yer net to port! Dats where the fish are to be found!” When they did so, the amount of fish in the net was so large that they could not bring it into the boat.  This is when John, the beloved disciple, recognized the risen Jesus and told Peter. Peter, in turn, made himself presentable to greet Jesus and was the first over the gunnels to do so. The rest or the would-be fishermen tied off the top of the net and rowed for shore with the net in tow.   

This is when they discover that Jesus has lit a fire from coal and has fish and bread already for toast and the pot on the fire for mug up. It was an opportunity to go back to that night when Peter, after boldly trying to proclaim that he would die with Jesus and then the mess with the fellow’s ear, denies he even knows Jesus. We go back to that moment of weakness, the point of denial and offence so that there can be forgiveness and reconciliation – for Peter and for the community. Peter is restored to his place within the community so that he can grow into the leader that he will need to become for the community in time under the work and guidance of the Spirit.

Maybe it Is about following Jesus that this blog has been about for the past 11-12 years. So, there are some things about ministry that I have learned want to share as we finish up:

1.       If you catch people, Jesus will make them clean. You need to follow his direction and get out into deeper water and let down your nets for the catch. Jesus will fill the nets.
2.       We need to learn to see Jesus in our Galilees; that is, we need to find him present in our circumstances, our ongoing life and ministry.
3.       The mistakes we make are not fatal unless we refuse to seek forgiveness and restoration.
4.       The deaths we die are not final unless we choose ourselves over Christ and all that has to offer us.
5.       We need to recognize that ministry is done in relation to the Good Shepherd. Power and authority for it comes from him and is given for the care and feeding of his flock. We live and do as he does.
6.       We need to recognize that people around us are prepared to hear the Gospel and to participate in Christ. Our society wants to know what it is that God is thinking and saying, even if there is trouble hearing when it is not what they want to hear.
7.       We need to know that we are not called to be prosperous or successful. We are called to be faithful, fruitful and joyful. It is dangerous for us to think that all that God wants for us is to be happy, successful and satisfied.
8.       We need to remember the words of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “Those who dream of Church but not of church community becomes the destroyer of that community.”
9.       We must remember that it will be messy from here to eternity but if we are going to move mountains, we need to start by picking up a pebble.

May the Lord bless you as you seek him.

Jason+