Friday, October 28, 2011

Being still and getting ready to fly

As I sit here in my new office and reflect on the week that has been with the arrival of our things, the problems with getting our car here from down South, the business and the busy-ness of ministry... it is a wonder that we can hear anything, especially the voice of the Master.

Last fall, some clergy friends and I took the time to read a book together about clergy pastoral self care and there was an image out of that book that I want to share with you. When things are crazy and you find that you are at the end of the proverbial rope, what do you do and where do you go. For myself I need a bit of personal sacred space. And for reasons that I don’t always understand it seems to be at my desk. That is my sacred space, my little altar. It is not a very public space like the one up stairs in the sanctuary or even the one in the Chapel. My desk is where so many things begin and end. It is the space where I plan ministry, it is where I prepare to preach, it is where in some sense I lead from in terms of administry of the parish. It where I fill out the registers that note who has been baptized and who has been married and even those who have been buried and move to their reward. This little place is one of the most sacred places I know.

And in a space like this, I can also be still... be still and know that God is God. I can take in the words of scripture and the Spirit reminds me not only of their power but also of their grace and ability to draw me near and to heal me. In the hurried life we live, we can hear God say, I give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary and the young stumble and fall; but those who place their hope in me will renew their strength – they will mount up with eagle’s wings – they will run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.           (Is.40.29-31)

So take some time and learn to find your sacred space and then pray and connect yourself with God that you would move and live have your life in God's transforming and altered strength

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bearing the message of the Christ

A word from Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi from the Anglican Diocese of Jos, in Nigeria - from a speech he made at the Lausane Congress in Capetown, South Africa, Thanks, your Grace!

The Gospel can be explained - Michael Ramsden

here is a video worth watching -  Many thanks for the good word Michael!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Learn to love

As I read and considered the lessons for Sunday coming (Matthew 22.34-46) I could not help but find myself humming the words to a song that I taught the Sunday School a couple of weeks before: “He came down, that we might have love.” Now perhaps to the modern mind that might sound silly. We most certainly recognize that within each person there is at least a certain amount of love and that we have love to offer and share with other people. What seems to not be recognized in our modern society is where love comes from. Most people would shudder at the notion that God has already shown them love and wants to teach them how to love others. And this is so in large part because of what was once taught about God and how God was... well was “the God of Maude” The title character of the 1970’s sitcom was constantly saying to her husband, “God will get you for that Walter!”

And such memory brought out another. I remember encountering a priest in my early years of ministry who was convinced that there where different Gods – the God of the Old Testament who was spiteful and vengeful, allowing the Israel to overtake and overcome the nations in the promised land; a god who was bent on murder and pillage. Then there was the transcendent God that gave the Ten Commandments and was far removed from the picture and from what was going on amongst the people and just wanted people to behave rightly. And last but not least there is one last god – the one who sent Jesus, the one who is kind and gentle and posses very little threat of any kind. The hymn “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” comes to mind.

It seems to me that there is more to loving a person than just having the “warm fuzzies”. Truly loving another person takes time and commitment. Even the Old Testament recognizes that it is important to care for the other by not violating or hurting them in any way. Here’s what I mean (and many thanks to Lindy Black over at Sermon Fodder for the help!): Leviticus 19:9-18 spells out what is involved in loving one's neighbour.  The person who loves his or her neighbour:
        • will not reap the fields bare, but will leave some for the poor (vv. 9-10).
        • will not steal (v. 11).
        • will not deal falsely (v. 11).
        • will not lie (v. 11).
        • will not swear falsely by God's name (v. 12).
        • will not defraud a neighbour (v. 13).
        • will not keep a labourer’s wages overnight (v. 13).
        • will not "revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind" (v. 14).
        • will not render an unjust judgment (v. 15).
        • will not be partial to the poor or defer to the great (v. 15).
        • will judge the neighbour with justice (v. 15).
        • will not engage in slander (v. 16).
        • will not profit by the blood of the neighbour (v. 16).
        • will not hate your neighbour (v. 17).
·  will not take vengeance or bear a grudge (v. 18).

Moreover, Leviticus also says "you shall reprove your neighbour" (v. 17), suggesting that love is tough where toughness is needed –– confrontational so that wrongs might be righted and obstacles to relationships removed. 

And if that is the case, then it should be easy should it not? Well not for us as human beings. We need to know just who our neighbour is, just in case we discover that we have loved the wrong person. That’s why Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan – that we might discover and truly love that person with everything that we have, looking after the needs of that person. We are challenged by Jesus to give and to love and to care for people, even when we are laid down in the dust or are hanging and dying in pain. If we can begin to learn to live a love like that then we can celebrate and feverently pray to God in worship together that we might be filled up more and more with unceasing, untiring love. Love of God and of neighbour must balance out so that we can truly love and know love. Let that be our goal this and every week in Jesus’ name.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Go out and render!

What is there in this world that we really have? Cars? Homes? Clothes? Food, perhaps? In recent days I have realized that there are lots of things that I call my own but in reality, they are not mine. My possessions are here in this world and they are of this world but they are not mine. Over the years, I have worked and money was given in compensation for that work and with that money bought things like food, clothes, and cars and shared them with wife and family. But none of these things has ever been truly mine for my own possession and consumption.
Jesus challenges us to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to give to God what belongs to God. I believe that this is more than a statement of how to use our money. It is a call to set our priorities straight so that we can do what we can through giving to the world through government while remaining faithful to God in all the things that God calls us to. The problem that we each of us must face is what we really value? And it is more than likely that we are going to value that which we hold dear – the very things I have already described. What is there in your life or in mine that God did not give? We have forgotten to some extent that God knows what we need and what we are going to need. And that is why we so often pray, “give us this day, our daily bread”. It is not just to make sure that the deep fridge is full of the multigrain substance we like to have with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning. It is to stop and acknowledge everything that we have is there by grace and that we are thankful for it.

Moreover, everything that we see that is not ours seems to hold a better value than whatever we have in our grasp. That beautiful movie screen size projector television looks great in the store but what does it really do at home? And it’s not just the physical things like homes, cars and the like. Its also relationships like marriages, with children and neighbours and with important people in the community like political leaders and even Caesar. If we let it, life becomes a constant race to be one up on each other. Doesn’t such ways and life pull us away from what really matters?

Letting go of those things that we think we have in our possession enables us to better stewards of what we have because we know that those same things are not ours but that all belongs to God. So let us remember some simple things that will help us to do just that:

·         Remember that we will not be forsaken and forgotten – we are promised this in scripture over and over again.

·         Remember that we always belong to God and because we belong to God we have each other.

·         Remember to surrender ourselves to God because we are his that his power and grace would be evident in our lives and in the world.

Let us go and let us render, in Jesus’ name.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Many are chilled - a few are frozen.

It has been said that, “many are chilled, only a few are frozen.” I discovered this simple little truth in my time in ministry in a small village in northeast Yukon. It had been a beautiful day the day before. Only – 3 degrees. Overnight, as is common in that part of the world in December, the temperature dropped and the mercury nearly fell out of the thermometer. When we woke, it was a bone chilling -45 degrees. I walked to the to the school to help clean up from the previous night’s Christmas concert and the pancake supper. Coming home I wanted to start the van to let it warm up as we wanted to take Joshua to the nursing station. It was a mistake to start the van which had not been plugged overnight. In doing so I “blew up” the power steering pump and could not drive the van.

It was an interesting experience walking like most others in the community did that time of year. It would take some time to get anywhere because you had to be dressed properly to go outside in weather like that. And to get properly dressed took time. There were layers of clothing to put on and no skin could be left exposed because it would freeze in seconds. And I quickly discovered that I was know not just for my large parka, I was known in the community by how I walked how fast, how far and by what or even who I was pulling on a bright red sled.

Getting ready for Sundays during his period. It was a particular challenge as I walked back and forth the church every five hours starting at suppertime Saturday night and to meet the challenge and stay healthy, I had to remove some of the outer wear so that I did not sweat and then go back out into the winter weather. Five times a day around the clock I would dress, walk feed the fire and return home.

I share this with you to help reflect on the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14). “Many are called,” Jesus said, “but few are chosen.” To me this is an ongoing dialogue that is been happening between religious leaders and Jesus (and his disciples in including the early Church) over what Jesus is teaching now that he is teaching in the Temple and in Jerusalem.

Jesus compares the religious people of his day to those who have originally been invited to the wedding feast which has now finally come time. Everyone who was invited is told that it is time to actually come and participate. The time for waiting is over and the time for doing and acting is now. Who actually responds? Is it those who are well aware of what time it is? Is it those who are well versed in Scriptures and are aware of what God asks of them? In large part, it is not. It is those who have not known or not heard the message, who are invited and because they have been invited they choose to come. The servants - the prophets – call the everyday individual who will heed God’s call and are drawn into relationship with God because of what God provides for them.

And in this is a particular point that the Church and the leadership in particular should heed: many are called, only a few are chosen. Chosen leaders are not their own. They are chosen, selected particular individuals upon God is pouring out his grace and mercy for so that each leader can minister fully and effectively to those he and she finds around him and her. Ministry is not just about the one person who wears the signs and symbols of the faith – it is about all of the community. The inability of such a person to fail recognize this will fail and find themselves out in the dark searching for their teeth so that they could begin nashing them all the while wondering what it was that went wrong.

Remember that while we wait, we work for him who is Lord of this vineyard and in him we live and move and have our being. Let us move into what God provides and be good stewards of it.