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.


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.


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!



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. 


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.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

What do you smell?

What do you smell when you walk into your Church building?? I ask the question because of something that is in the Gospel this weekend (John 12.1-8) – that the act of blessing and preparing Jesus for what is about to happen in his life, is fragrant and it fills the entire house. That is very different from what it was not that long ago when Lazarus died and Jesus wasn’t there to prevent. The house smelt and felt of sadness and fear. It smelt of anger and disappointment. After all, Jesus good have made things better and stopped all that nonsense.

But then what is going on in the house is both weird and a reversal of the first time that Jesus was in that house. Martha is in the Kitchen cooking and given directions to others. Lazarus is at the table with Jesus and the apostles, learning for the Teacher. Stop. Think that one through. A man that was dead and laid in the grave is learning and sitting at the table with Jesus and the others. How wild is that!

And then Mary does something to turn the situation on its head yet again. She takes something that is of great worth in her life, a pottery container of pure nard. Her family would have saved up for it to present it as part of her dowry when she got married. She breaks off the top and pours generous amounts of it on the only part of Jesus’s body that she can easily reach: his feet and shins. Mary lets down her hair and begins to rub the oil into his legs and feet using her hair as a towel. The fragrance fills the entire house with the scent of the nard. Mary understood what was happening and she responded to it by using what she had in the situation. She recognized the moment as a moment of blessing and of grace and she seized the opportunity to show kindness and caring for her Teacher. It was a sacred moment. For the two of them and for those who watched the encounter happen.

Then enters in Judas Iscariot who is noted as a thief and he attempts to steal the moment and the joy by being spiritual. He points out that the nard is now useless to sell and has been wasted on an act of devotion. The Gospel points out that Judas would help himself to what was in the purse. Why would Jesus allow the treasurer to steal from the group… doesn’t he know that Judas is a thief? Is it not possible then Jesus is trying to give Judas every opportunity to turn things around and really believe in him rather than leave him in his own agenda? Let’s face it: sin, left unchecked and undealt with through confession and absolution, festers and grows into death.

That is why we celebrate Jesus and what he has done for us on the cross. He has paid the price and offers life to those who will live in him. He did in his life what was necessary for us to have life. He made an oblation of himself, once offered. A full perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. God visits and redeems his people.

And I ask about what you smell because in my last parish when it was raining after a short period of sun, you could smell the incense in the woodwork. It would come wafting out as a reminder of the presence of God among his people as they pray. A reminder of why we worship and why we pray. Thanks be to God.                                      


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Crossing the Threshold

It might surprise you to know that God is more interested in the brilliance of your repentance that in the darkness of your sin. It is not about how bad you’ve been but about how ready you are to live the life that you were created to live. And he is interested in inviting you to his home and to his Father’s table that you would come in, sit down and dine with him. (Luke 15.1-3; 11-32) Please understand that there are going to be other people there, they might not like it – that Jesus invited you to come and sit down. They might not like you, but then, I remember once hearing that you can pick your friends, but God chooses your family. They are going to have to learn to live with it. The parables of “the lost and found” are to help communicate to people who don’t know what it is like to be lost or dead, though many of them are lost and/or dead themselves.

The parables tell us about God: who God is and the nature of God. Parables tell us about how God acts and what God does. So, if we think about the home of this family and the two boys, one ought to ask which boy is lost? Surely it must be the younger one and so he was. He needs to discover what it was that he had with his father and he did not have on his own – love and compassion. What about the older brother, what does he need? What about joy? He has everything else in his life that people say they want: a nice home with parents who love him. He has a job and wealth. He has peace and security. But there is no joy in his life. He is so busy trying to be good and to be faithful and to not be the family black sheep that the joy of living life is pretty much removed from his existence. Both of those boys from a good home are lost and dead on the inside.

What is the saving grace? The fact that the Father is not willing to sit on the sidelines, wringing his hands and do nothing. He wants to have better and deeper relationships with both of his sons. He wants to be able to show his sons just how much he loves them and takes pride in them and their accomplishments. This is why when the Father sees the younger son coming home, he rushes to greet (and kiss) him as a sign of peace between them. He welcomes the boy home and returns him to his place of honour, puts a robe on him and places a ring on his hand to display his sonship and authority within the household.

He then crosses the threshold to go again to the older boy who is hiding out in the barn having heard the celebration in the house and being told that his little brother is back. He laments that his Father never gave him anything like this – not even a goat to prepare and have as a meal with his friends. He has failed to enter into his Father’s life and to participate in it and in doing so to learn how to rejoice over the lost being found and the dead being found alive. His Father tries to draw him into the house, to leave his selfishness behind but then leaves him to stand in the middle of the yard and allow his conscience to argue with him. After all, brothers are brothers.

When it comes to me and you, I often hear people say things like, “Oh, I am not religious, I am spiritual.” And they’re more likely to believe in “The Force” than in an everlasting Father. Yet God is moving over the threshold to come and draw us into the house so that we too can join the celebration. God desires to welcome us home so that we can have what we were made for: a relationship with him and with each other. It is what we hope and long for.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

It is Good News, if you want to hear it

The past few weeks in this world have been hard, dangerous and deadly. An airplane crashes in the Ethiopian wilderness taking 157 lives including 18 Canadians, People got to prayer in a New Zealand city and a man walks into that place of prayer with weapons and 50 people die and other 50 are injured. In Holland, a family argument erupts in gunfire, three more dies while another eight maybe nine people are injured and taken to hospital in Utrecht. And we must not forget the people in southern African who have recently had to deal

I get asked why, if God is good, does he allow such things as these to happen in the world? Why does he allow pain and suffering and death? Why doesn’t God do something about it? Well, in fact, his answer to all of it is his Son. His answer to it all is Jesus.

It is important for people to recognize that without Jesus, there is not one of us right with God; not one. There is nothing we can do to earn life with God and there nothing that we can give that will make us acceptable to God. All of us have sinned (hamartia) and fallen short of the mark, of the glory of God. And we need to understand that sin can and will not survive in the presence of a holy God. If that is what we bring before God, then we will not survive.

Now, let’s keep in mind that Jesus suffered as we have but did not sin. The Gospel that Jesus and the Church proclaims is a call to come to life and not face death and the grave. Such a message is a mercy to those who are in sin and are dying (not broken!) because God in Christ calls the world to himself and he stands between you and the disaster (death and the grave) that is coming, working at drawing you to himself. This is mercy. The Gospel is about moving from glory

Repentance is necessary if we are to deal with the sin that is in our lives, in our congregations and in our communities. Repentance is more than being sorry for the wrongs that have been done, whether it is what has been done or not been done. Sorrow is a first step and the ground on which the change may start. Repentance is more the stepping out and stepping up to live the life faithfully that God has called us to live according to the new covenant we have with him in Baptism. We are called to live out that covenant living in love with one another and in the upholding of the Spirit that we might live a life that has the fruit of repentance.

We need to be ready to live the new life in the new creation and we need to live it in the here and now by (1) acknowledging and confessing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, (2) being responsible stewards of all that God has given us, (3) to live confidently in the provision of what God has given us for life and ministry, (4) be ready for him and faithful in all that we do and say, and (5) be ready because there is trouble ahead or we might miss out on what God has for us in the days ahead.

Repentance is not about the darkness of your sin but the brilliance of your repentance. It is not about how bad you have been but about the change that has come into your life because you are living it towards God now. Repentance is about turn away from the world, with its demands, assumptions, attitudes and actions. We do this to be able to live the values and the practices of the Kingdom of God.

This world is dying and coming apart. Christ and his cross are present to draw people to himself and to call them from destruction into life. Therefore, this is the day, this is the hour when we turn to God and begin to walk toward him again. That is Good News for everyone if they want to hear it.