Friday, December 14, 2012

Don't Just stand there, repent!

The past few weeks have been an adventure in terms of ministry. There have been a lot of moments of sudden ministry where the phone rings and off I go into whatever it is that that need to get into. There has been a lot of grief. A man dies an unexpected death in a far away city and then only days later his mother dies in an accident on a dark street in your own city. Another young man chooses to end his life and there is no one to explain why, leaving a lot of unanswered questions for his family. Even in my own life there has been a moment, where in caring for family members, making a simple left turn suddenly becomes a major incident trying to miss a wayward pedestrian and feeling the impact of a truck on the back end of my van.

It surprises some I guess that life is like that. There are moments that shock and surprise us.  John the Baptist wasn’t fooled. He saw the life of the people around him and the way of the culture and the country and in his preaching he didn’t pull any punches. He went to the heart of the problem and he challenged the people around him to do what they needed to do where God was concerned. They knew what they needed to do because of his preaching but failed to head what scripture teaches and would not listen to anyone but themselves and their own rules; rules they invented for themselves.

John was not confronting the “down and out” poor who were looking for relief and rescue from God but the “up and outs” who were looking to make sure that they had done what was necessary to have a good life, a blessed life and a nice, tidy reward at the end of it all. John wasn’t speaking to the non religious or to the irreligious person of his day but to those who were active in the faith community and to those who were actively seeking God. He was speaking to the people who were looking to be built up spiritually and for people who were looking for the kingdom to come in some great and awesome manner. John told them all, “You are a bunch of snakes, really big and awesome sinners before God.”

The interesting thing is that the people were ready to hear such a message and they accepted the verdict, “You’re right. We are separated from God. We are a bunch of snakes. What can we do about it??” This is the call to repentance and to allow God to work in our lives. People so often fear God, as if he is Simon Cowell or another celebrity on a reality show acting as a judge of what is before him.  God’s judgement is tempered with mercy; that is God is reaching out to you and to me with his love and his grace that we might be diverted from the coming disaster. With God there is forgiveness for missing the mark and for falling short of who and what we are supposed to be. He offers not just change, or even regime change – though these things will happen. God is offering us transformation of our hearts and our minds that we might be totally different people, new creations. And if God is offering us that in Christ shouldn’t that give us hope for the future and confidence in the present to be the people of God?

Are you ready and waiting for God to come to you with a word and with his presence? You be the preacher. The presence and the witness to his coming and allow him to come through you. It will shock and surprise many but will they respond to God?



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A promise big enough to save the world

There is a promise that has been made by God to the world, but I wonder if the world has ever considered it. God has promised to save the world... but then you knew that, right? I had a conversation with a parishioner in recent days and she told me that one of the hot topics going on around the city right now is the discussion about the end of the Mayan calendar and therefore, as some might suggest, the end of the world itself. People apparently are openly not doing things because the world is going to come to an end on December 21st because that is when the Mayan calendar runs out. This will definitely be bad news for the economy because nobody is going to finish buying for Christmas if they really believe that. And the folks who have been working in the Banks and at the credit unions and credit card companies are going to be unemployed because we aren’t going to need them either. Let’s not forget those who are in places and positions of power and prestige. There will be no more kings, queens, princes and princesses, no more powers and principalities and powers. There will be no more politicians and elections.

But salvation is not going to come from within. There isn’t a Justice League, with Superman, Wonder Woman or Aquaman. There won’t be friendly neighbourhood Spidey-man to come swooping in nor will there be the Wonder Twins to active their powers to come to our rescue. As human beings we can anticipate disaster. We can plan and prepare for Armageddon and try to protect ourselves from what may come. But we cannot avoid it. We cannot stop disaster. And as W.H. Auden once said, “We who must die, demand a miracle.”

Help is coming and this is what Advent is all about. Our rescue is on its way and it is coming through God himself. What we need to do is wake up; stay alert and be on our guard. We are called to pray and to pray that we will be given the strength to move through whatever we must go through and then escape. We are called to stand before the Son of Man.

There is another important truth in all of this: we often wait until the last moment to choose sides and until it is time to go to start packing for the journey ahead. We are called to stretch out towards the coming King, concentrating more on him and less on what the Empire can or is going to do to you, me and the rest of the Church. We cannot control Caesar and what the Empire does. We can only live out the message and boldly proclaim Jesus as Lord. We are called not to bring down and rebuild structures. We are to show love to those who have none, share grace for those who need some and give hope to those who have none. Through it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, we are to be watchful, pray for the coming of the kingdom and wait for the King. He is coming. He promised he would.

Marantha! (Come Lord Jesus, come soon.)


Sorry I have been away

Sorry I have been away over the last bit. It has been a busy time. Nonetheless, lts get caught up and start with this video which I came across this morning.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Full Churches don't fall down.

I was excited to hear the news that the new Archbishop of Canterbury had been selected. No doubt there would be some interest in who the person might be to follow Archbishop Rowan Williams. I believe the choice of Bishop Justin Welby is a good choice. It will be important to watch how people in the Anglican Church around the world respond to this appointment. Lord knows there is going to be some reaction, both positive and negative to this news.

When I heard the news, I went to Youtube to see what I might find in terms of Bishop Welby’s preaching and speaking. I came across his first charge to the Diocese of Durham where he has been bishop for less than two years. He was for a time Dean of the Diocese of Liverpool before he became Bishop two years ago. In his charge he said some things that I am now mulling over in terms of the Church and how the Church needs to be in mission in the coming years. For example, Bishop Welby suggests something simple: “Full churches don’t fall down.” That is why we need to be about the mission of the kingdom into which we are being drawn. We are called and drawn by Scripture, tradition and reason in to the mission Dei to build communities because that is what this Community does. We need to be making disciples. This is the purpose for which Christ came and it is the reason for the Church to exist. As another Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, once said, “We need to present the claims of the of crucified and risen Christ in such a way that people will repent, believe and receive him as Saviour and learn to serve him as their King, in the fellowship of his Body, the Church.” (emphasis mine)

No amount of planning, programming or vision can supplant the difficult and necessary work of making disciples. It is important to make people aware of the need for rescue and salvation. But if we as believers and especially those of us, who like me shepherd the flock, fail to see it increase then we fail miserably at what we have been called to do. Our mission is not to keep doors of a particular denominational building open. Closure of a building is not failure. It is an end and a beginning. To find the new beginning we must effectively witness to what God is doing in our city and communities. We need to go and find God wherever God is and take our stand there with him. Taking such action will cause people to be drawn to you and other people to grumble about you.

And this leads to something else I heard the Archbishop elect say, “Diversity without enmity.” Who on the face of this planet, are we called not to love? We are called to love the sick, the poor, the needy the dying. We are required to love those who hate us and to do good to those who persecute us. Thus I haven’t met yet the person I am not supposed to love in Christ name. In fact Christ reminds me, when you do it to the least of these, you do it to me. Acting like that will give you the chance to tell other people about Jesus. How do I know this is true? Well then let me tell you this and I’ll finish up:

During service at which my wife and I were married, the Church building was pretty much full. There were lots of people, family and friends. Into this scene at the back of the Church came a homeless man who found the door open and the place full. It was at this moment, this nameless man came across a church not only full of people, but full of a group of people who knew Jesus and the majority were trained evangelists. One of these trained, the Late Captain Ray Taylor, took the man to the kitchen, got that man something to eat. And as the man ate, Captain Taylor told this man about Jesus. To me, that is what the Church is about, waiting for the Bride and Groom to appear, for there to be a great celebration and in the midst of it all for people to be led and fed at the banquet table so that they might truly live.

Remember, full churches don’t fall down. GO and do the work of an evangelist.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our common priesthood

It is hard to believe but it will be five years ago this Thursday night (All Saints Day) I was ordained a priest in the Church of God. I thought that I might interweave some thoughts about this Sunday’s Gospel lesson with some reflections on what priesthood means to me now, in the light of this anniversary. To start with, the Sunday’s Gospel lesson is John 11.32-45. It is the recounting of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. In particular, there is one verse that I want to think about and that is the last one, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Why is such a thing important to us? We cannot say that we are not involved in the everyday things, including the miracles, which God does in people’s lives. God does and we are called as God’s people to participate. How do we know that this is true? Consider the whole story of the raising of Lazarus... it starts with Jesus not being anywhere near Lazarus. News is brought to Jesus from the home and the community of Martha, Mary and Lazarus that the man is sick and dying. Jesus receives the news and tells people that this sickness will not end in death. And then goes back to teaching, preaching and sharing, remaining in that same place two more days. In the meantime, this close friend dies.

Then, suddenly, Jesus announces that he is going back to Bethany to be with the people he knows. A disciple pipes up and points out that there are people in Jerusalem and around the city who want Jesus dead for what he did in the temple (knocking over tables, spilling the coins and chasing out man and beast with a homemade whip). “Why would you go back there, people want you dead?” questions the disciple. So Jesus tells them all, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I am going to go and wake him.” the disciples smile and say, well then why are we going, if he sleeps he will get better.” The disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was speaking of Lazarus’ death and that he was going to raise him up again. So Jesus bluntly tells them, “Lazarus is dead and I am going there to raise him. I am glad that I was not there so that you can believe the truth of what I do now.”

We need to keep in mind that all of this speaks both to what was said by Jesus in Chapter 10 about being the Good Shepherd and the Gate and at the same time foreshadows what is to come in the city and on the hill and in the cemetery three days after. Jesus is showing his disciples what is going to happen and challenge them to believe in him despite what they think they see and know. He wants them in this moment to reach out in faith.

If I connect this dying and rising event to the priesthood and what my time in the priesthood has been about, it has been exactly that: trying to see Christ in both his dyings and in his risings. God is in the destruction of a hurricane, in the earthquakes and tremours. God is with not only the strong and the rich; he is with the weak and the vulnerable. He is with the sick and the dying as well as the youthful and the exuberant. What we need to do is seek him. We seek him to really see him. And when we have really seen him, we then can move to serve him and those who are around him.

If the Church “militant here in earth” is ever going to become the Church victorious and the Church at rest there is going to have to be some work done to make know the words, the life and the grace of the person of Jesus Christ. We are called to be the ones to unbind the one who was called from sin and sickness into health; from sin into righteousness; from death into life. The Church needs to walk with the Master through the Valley of the Shadow of death, knowing that the cross is behind us and that we can face what is ahead with hope, fortitude and mercy.

We can do this because our common priesthood is rooted in the soil that the foot of the cross. It is the  same soil from which each of us is drawn and formed. It is the soil upon which we rebelled against God and chose ourselves instead of him. It is the same ground in which the cross was cradled and on which Christ suffered, bled and died for us so that the devil, evil and the grave were finally defeated. Such ground is sacred and therefore becomes the altar from which we proceed and celebrate. Some will go boldly and with great enthusiasm while others will follow in steadfastness and with patience but we go together to love and serve this city and let God worry about the rest.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

what would you have Jesus do for you?

Helen Keller was once asked what was worse than life without sight. In response, Keller simply replied, “No vision.” That is what sticks out for me this week through the Gospel: a lack of vision. For sometime now Jesus has been working to get the twelve to see and understand that the road leads to Jerusalem, up the hill to Calvary, down the hill to the cemetery and then right through the grave to resurrection three days later. All the disciples cold see was what Jesus death would mean for them and their little lives. They were wondering how they would get to be in power or positions of authority. Where was their wealth and fame to come from? That is why we learn of a man named Bar-Timaeus. (Mark 10:46-52)

Here is a man who leaves both his profession (begging) and this only real possession (cloak) behind when Jesus calls for him to come. Others have been trying to keep him away and still others trying to keep him from disturbing Jesus and those who are listening to him. Such actions make Bar-Timaeus all the more pushy and loud, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Like Jesus, James and John and the rich young ruler, Bar-Timaeus has a plan and it is a simple one: get to Jesus and he will heal me. So when he is called and assisted by those who had been trying to keep him quiet to come to Jesus he immediately gets up and goes and leaves the old life behind. Even before he gets to Jesus his life is already different because he is coming to the Master in response to his call. He has left everything that has been his life behind for the possibility of a new life, a new way of being because of an encounter with Jesus. The end of the old ways and the old life is the beginning of the new life and the new way of seeing.

For a long time, Bar-Timaeus has been in the margins of his community and his faith. Even his name notes this for the name “Bar-Timaeus” means one of two things: (1) son of my impure ones, noting that he was born blind because his parents were sinners, or (2) “ransomed one”. I like the later because it speaks to what God does in the life of this and how he is enabled to follow Jesus. Thus in this man we are called to see God at work to remove the barriers and to draw together the holy nation, the royal priesthood of all those who believe and serve him. There is a greater sight to which we are call drawn and to which every Christian must come: the face and person of Jesus. It is Jesus who stopped and had mercy in calling Bar-Timaeus to himself. It is Jesus who responded prayerfully to Bar-Timaeus’ request that he might see by giving him this eyesight. And in giving the gift of sight and of vision, Jesus enabled Bar-Timaeus to follow him into the city and to the cross.

Not only did Bar-Timaeus get his sight, he saw things in a new way. He saw colours and the vibrancy of creation. He saw the state of human life and people as they were and as they could be. Bar-Timaeus could see the world in ways which God wants all of us to see the world but refuses to. We would rather claim that we cannot see and that we do not wish to know because it doesn’t fit with what we want to see for us and for others. And where did this gift of sight take Bar-Timaeus; to Jerusalem, to the cross and to the resurrection.

So in considering all this, what would you have Jesus do for you and for us?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Serving your way to a good seat

How do you know when you are a leader? When you turn around and discover that people are following you. That’s what the Saint James and Saint John saw in Jesus. (Mark 10.35-45). And I deliberately call them saints because that is who they became. It also reminds us that saints are not the glorified leadership we sometimes make them out to be. Saints, like all Christians, are not perfect. They are forgiven. What is amazing is the fact that Jesus is telling them for the third time that he is going into Jerusalem where there will be a confrontation, he will suffer and die, and then in three days time rise again. The amazing part is that the people who would be leaders in the Church sometime soon still do not get it. The all of the twelve want power and fame and position. James and John decide to beat the others to the punch and ask first...

They try to set up Jesus first. “Master, we want you to do something for us.” To which Jesus responds, “What would you have me do for you?”  “Grant a place for one of us at your right hand and the other will take the left when you bring in the kingdom,” ask the brothers. So Jesus turns the tables on the brothers and interviews them for the spots they so desire. “Can you go through the pain and the suffering I will go through? Can you immerse yourselves in death like I will?” To this the brothers boldly nod and agree that they can go through these this, suffer and die with Jesus. Jesus tells them that this will be so but there is a catch. He does not control who has what power or what seat. That belongs to the Father and the Father alone. It is not in my power to give it to you.

When the others heard about this, they were up in arms. So Jesus called them all together and set the record straight. Power and position are for possession and promotion like the rest of the world but for service in God’s world. If you wish to be great in the kingdom of God then you must serve – I have come to give and to serve, including giving my life as deliverance, a rescue for many.

There is a great desire in people to be in control in a world that still seems to be so out of control. If we ran the world it would be a better place. We would put things right and do it better than the guy before us and better than anyone else can. The problem is though, many good, smart and powerful people have tried. They have tried and all have failed. Moreover, being “lords and ladies of the manor” is not the style of leadership that Jesus modeled in his own life and it is not to be the model of leadership within the Church, ancient or modern. Leadership does not come from the fashions you wear or from where you sit in Church, it comes from the service you give and offer to God through the Church and in the world.

The only way that we are going to let the world know that Jesus is real, is here and is here for them is if we are willing to take the risks that are going to lead to us suffering and in some cases dying for our faith. We need to recognize that suffering in front of power and glory, in the face of the governments and kingdoms of the world is how the Church was built and that the life of the Church is the blood of its martyrs. We as the people of God need to offer something that is more real than the unreal, unattached lives that our society lives these days. Our life both as individuals and as a community needs to serve as a wake up call to the rest of the world. We are not here for any other purpose that to help the world see and know Jesus that the world might know him, love him and learn to obedient serve him as Lord. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Are you blessed or are you a blessing

Have you ever heard the saying, “The one who has the most toys when he dies, wins”? Or what about the saying “The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys”? Or did you ever hear about the woman from Beverly Hills died, was buried in her favour car and if a family member did as she asked he would get 2 million for following her wishes? No?...

Now, you might wonder why I bring this up... Easy. This is the way the world thinks. It is   about trying to fill the void that so many of us feel when we seek to be independent, wealthy, famous and so on. It is not that any of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but stop and ask yourself a simple question: “What is missing from their lives that the need these things even in death?”

The young, rich ruler came to Jesus with a simple question, “Good Teacher, what (more)   must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17-31) How did Jesus respond to that question? “Why do you call me good? No one is good - except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.”

“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” declared the man. And Jesus looked at him, really looked at him and then he loved him. “One one thing you lack then, go and sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me.” The man went away sad because he was a man of considerable wealth.

First, let me say to you that I have gone right back to the original language, and there is nothing in the Greek that says that the man has to destitute himself and his family to give to others. He is expected to sell everything but then out of the sale give generously to people who cannot bless him and who have nothing to give him in return (so he thinks). It is not so much that the man loves his money as it is that the man loves whatever else he gets that his money can give him. Power, prestige, position and so on. Thus he thinks that he is asked to give up on what everyone around him says is his good fortune and God’s blessing.

Second, it is not enough just to not do the don’ts, we need to do some of the dos. We are called to love our neighbours, to do God’s work; to do good to those who hate us and persecute us. We are called to rid ourselves of our agendas and the false sense of safety and satisfaction that we have done all that needs to be done. We have not done everything that needs to be done nor have we fulfilled everything that needs to be done in preparation for the coming of the kingdom and the true Jerusalem. In being a believer, it is necessary to not only keep ourselves pure, but to make sure that we are fulfilling whatever it is that God has given us to.

Third, please stop and consider what used to be a blessing in your life and in our life as a congregation. What still is a blessing and what is perhaps now a curse? Blessing is not a sign that one is finished and that we can sit idlely by but rather an opportunity to do more ministry, and to build up things further. Being blessed is a moment to go and to be a blessing.

Last, I will ask you to consider the words we used to hear at funerals “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; bless be the name of the Lord” I would take this to mean that there is a lot of give and take in a relationship with God. Everything that we have and everything that we are comes from and returns to God. Does this mean he wants my Dodge? Not exactly. He wants the use of it to make ministry happen and so he finds ways to provide it to me so that my family can have an impact on this city and this diocese for the sake of the Gospel and the coming kingdom. And if God wants this from and for me, what about you? How have you been blessed? How will you use the grace, the gifts, the talents that are within you? Or will you turn and walk away? It is your choice and it is time to walk or to walk away. You get to decide. I invite you to come with us.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gratitude and Gravy.

The Thanksgiving Holiday here in North America has a long and storied tradition. Many think it was the pilgrims in the United States that started the tradition. Most don’t realize this but Thanksgiving is older than that. It actually started in Newfoundland in the 1520’s as an act of thanks for safe arrival in the new place from Europe. Moreover, people these days seem to forget that this is a moment of great spiritual significance. The early “liv’yers” in Newfoundland like those who followed into Plymouth Rock 100 years later, were devout Christian people. They recognized that they were prayerfully dependent upon the grace of God for their well being and being able to give thanks was an important thing. We seem to have forgotten that. We often take what we have been given for granted and assume that we are entitled to the good fortunes we have and we are thankful we are not our neighbour.

Perhaps that is what makes the gospel this week so jarring (Luke 17:11-19). It is made clear where Jesus is going and why he is going there. He is going into the city and its going to be, well... it’s going to be murder.

Along the way, coming into a village, he was met by a small band of brothers who were lepers. These men were exiled and outcasts from their communities, their families, their children and their marriages. They heard Jesus was coming that way and so they waited, they hoped and they prayed that they would be healed. When the moment came, they approached him but did not get to close. They called out to him, calling him “Master” and in effect gave themselves to him, asking that they would be made well.

God’s purpose in Christ is to have mercy; to rescue people and to make them whole. God desires to have mercy on the human race and in doing so to fundamentally transform the way in which life is lived on this earth. God wants to change the way life is being lived in this city, in this church. God wants to start those changes with you. So Jesus asked them to obey the Scriptures and to do what the Law requires to re-enter in to the life of the community and so they do. In the going they discover that they are indeed healed and that is when there is a choice to be made: do they keep going to the Temple and the priests? Do they just forget what they were asked and go home and surprise everyone? Or do they go back to the place where the journey began and there give thanks?

Only the one person that no respectable man would give the time of day to, came back and offered praise for what had been given. A foreigner. An out-of-towner. One who was not supposed to know any better is the one who came back to God and to give thanks because we recognize that we have been blessed. We know that that we have been healed and have been given to. When this man came back he got low. He assumes the position of worship and of adoration, flat down on his face at the wonder that had been given him. Then he is invited to go and participate in all of life, not just having found the healing he desired but also finding the faith that will help him to live that life that is to come.

In this we too are called. In this we too can rejoice. In this most of all we can give thanks to God in Christ for what is yet to come... Now let’s pass the gravy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pass the salt, please.

Salt. We are constantly warned about the effects of too much salt on our bodies. We are told on television. We are told by doctors. We are told by family and friends. We are told not to use to much and it would be better not to use it at all. I want to point out to you that there is a physical and a spiritual consequence to a lack of salt in one’s life. Physically we need sodium and without a bit of salt in out bodies, our health fails and we can die from a lack of salt. Too little salt is as dangerous as too much.

The same is true spiritually for the individual and for the Church. We are already salt if we are believers in the Lord Jesus. No lines, no waiting. We are in this moment as people and as a community, salt. It should be noted that slat never stops being salt but it can lose its effectiveness. It can become something less than what it once was. The spiritual life can become diluted and insipid. Ineffective. Useless. All it becomes good for is being thrown out. Somehow a lot of why I am saying sounds familiar in the life of the Church... doesn’t it?

So what do we do? First of all we are called to recognize what we are: SALT. The Church is salt in the world. What does salt do? Salt penetrates deep into whatever it is given to. Salt brings out what is hidden; both the good and the bad. Salt preserves what it penetrates and it draws out the flavour of whatever it penetrates when it is cooked and consumed. Salt helps to retain water which is necessary for life to happen.

So what should the Church do? In short, it needs to participate. We need to be recognizable as Christian people in the world. We need to penetrate our society and preserve those parts of it that best reflect who God is and what God does that this city and the nation would recognize that God is amongst them. The Church needs to be self disciplined in its work in and with the world. The Church needs to be wise and disciplined in its witness to the world about God. We need to confess Christ; him crucified and risen from the dead. We need to remind this world that God has come to us, all of us. And in the going we need to live a life that is not just morally pure but live a life in the service of others.

People in the Church complain about the lack of young people. What draws in the younger generation is a faith that is not only deeply held, but that actually has an impact, in a positive way, on the life of another. Faith needs to lead and to go somewhere. Faith is not solely about one person anymore. It is about all of us. The way we live and the way we serve is watched. My generation is watching the Church with a great desire to see the fellowship grow and a drive to go and make Christ known. Conversely, my generation is not interested in the past or in trying to maintain the Church as it has been for our parents and grandparents. We will not support the structures of the past but rather concern ourselves with the mission and the kingdom. In the short term, that may make us a financially poor Church, but one worth being a part of as we focus on reaching out to the least, the last and the lost of our communities, cities and nations. We will become again that has no wealth to offer but will offer what we do have: health and rescue in the name of the Lord Jesus. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Out on the sidewalks and into the Kingdom

Last Sunday morning, in the midst of getting ready for the Sunday morning Eucharist, I went out to the big front doors to make sure that they were unlocked so that the early birds coming for the service were able to get in. When I open the door I spotted a little fellow out on the sidewalk. He couldn’t have been more than a couple of years old (or so I thought). He was there chatting with one of the clergy who was here for the service. It was in this moment that I realized that he was not wearing pants and that I had not seen him before. I went over to him and asked him his name. He mumbled something that I could not understand. I noticed that there was a medical alert necklace around the little boy’s neck and so I could my wife, who kindly brought the boy a pair of pants and I went to the kitchen and got him a cookie to munch on. Realizing that he could be seriously lost and ill, I decided to call the police.

In the meantime the same priest outside came across the babysitter who was of course frantic and worried about the little boy. The parents had gone to get groceries and had left the little boy in the sitter’s care. In a flash, he had gone from playing with a computer tablet to disappearing and the search was on. There was much relief and even a smile as the police constable arrived took his notes and went on his way again. Everyone was thankful that the little boy was back where he needed to be again.

I share this moment of ministry with you for a simple reason. Children, whether we realize it or not, are amazing teachers and terrific mirrors. They show us who we truly are and they can teach us how to be servants if we will let them. They will in their own ways reflect our attitudes and repeat all the things we say and do, without too much thought on their part. I think that is why Jesus took a child and put that child amongst his self seeking, me first disciples and challenged them to think not of themselves but of the one who needs to be cared for and to actively seek out those in need as if it were Jesus himself (Mark 9.30-37).

The 12 had been disagreeing with each other on the road as to who was going to fulfil what role when Jesus got to Jerusalem and wiped out the Romans and the religious authorities – when he returned the kingdom of great King David to the people of Israel. This in the face of the fact that Jesus had told them he was going to face persecution, suffering and death and after three days rise again from the day. They missed it. They didn’t get it. They were more worried about themselves and the places they would occupy in a kingdom that was not going to come than in hearing that it was that was going to happen.

So Jesus takes a little child, who has no money, no status in human society, no power to wield nor titles to hold or to confer. He shows them that power and authority is not something to be held and sought for the individual person. Rather such things are given by God to men and women who are going to serve in the building up of the kingdom, the world that is come. Power and authority, blessing and prestige are there for those who will serve the naked, the sick, the lost, and those who are imprisoned. Grace and mercy will be given to those who show it and to those who will proclaim release and jubilee to those who desire it.

We need to remember that Jesus comes to each of us and to all of us because we too have forgotten who he is and who we are. He comes to each and to all to help us discover not only who he is and thus who we are in him and for him. He comes that we might discover our own Galillees that we would effectively reach out with all that we have been given: power, authority, gifts, grace, love and so much more. All that is asked of us is that we offer three simple things: our actions, our prayers and our suffering. This is our common priesthood. It is what each of us needs to do and it is what all of us can hold in common. We do so for the sake of the One who did these things for us and for the rescue of those who will follow after us into the kingdom, those both great and those like a little boy on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Its time for mission not for monuments

There was a headline that caught my eye on the front of the last Anglican Journal. It was a statement that the Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand made about her Cathedral and what has happened to her diocese in the months since a devastating earthquake rocked Christchurch and has rendered so many church buildings, home and other buildings unusable. And that got me to thinking about some of the Church buildings that I have known in my own life.

The building in which I was baptised was torn down for a parking lot. The building where I came to faith, was confirmed, learned to do services and to serve at the altar is now in a museum static display. The building where I learned to preach, was vacated by the congregation because they could not keep going financially. In my first summer in full time ministry as a student, I participated in the closure of a building and the sale of that building to private interests. In the five years that I served the congregation where I was ordained priest, I had the deep privilege of burying about half of the active congregation in the church’s cemetery.  The interesting and most important thing to me wasn’t the buildings and whether they remained standing and in good shape or not. It was the community and whether they we’re vibrant and alive or not.

So If I go back to that list of places I have been in my spiritual journey and identify them for you, it might make a bit more of an impression upon you. I was baptised at St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, BC. They were on their third and biggest building when I visited them about 20 years ago. I was confirmed at St. Clement’s, Houston, here in the Diocese of Caledonia. They have a much bigger and very pretty building than when I was there as a teen. I preached my very first public sermons at St. Christopher’s, Downsview, ON. that is now home to a vibrant Chinese congregation that was planted there after my time. I had the chance to go back and share with them and preach. And last but not least, St. Peter’s Church, Westport, White Bay, Newfoundland where I was ordained priest. In my time there, the parish closed three buildings to go from seven churches to four. The Sunday attendance went up and so did the finances. We worked hard to bring our buildings back up to snuff and still maintain a self supported parish with a full time priest.

What was the difference? Why did we grow? We claimed ownership and stewardship of our local mission. The focus of all the work on all these church communities was primarily on the community; on the people rather than on the buildings. We learned to pray as a community and we took the time to study the scriptures together. We had to learn to genuinely seek out Christ in our neighbours and to think of others ahead of ourselves. We did this because we discovered that in most cases what we had was not a financial problem but rather a spiritual predicament. We had been trying to husband very small fires which around which only a few could gather rather than lighting and carrying torches to go and find those who are sick, broken, in need and the dying both physically and spiritually. And in the process of lighting the way for others to come into our communities, we found some light for ourselves too.

How do we build our Church communities across this vast diocese? We draw people in by sharing with them ourselves and our lives. We need to focus on reaching people and caring for them. People are not going to care about fine sounding vision and mission statements. The world around us is waiting to see if God is still here and present in his Church and if God and his Church still care enough to do the deed and speak the word that needs to be spoken. We need to find new ways of being who we really are through rediscovering our enthusiasm for mission, to seek out the least, the last and the lost of our world and draw them in. In doing so we build for the time when there will be no buildings to worship in. The Church – the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church – is here because God has made it so. We, in turn, are here for the world because God his here for this world and to participate in it. Or as retired bishop and theologian N.T. Wright might put it, “Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world.” We are called and drawn to help others be ready for the new city, the new life and the world that is about to come. This is the time for planting for dreaming and for reaching out.  It is time to think and to live mission, not to build monuments or write our epitaphs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Persisting into the blessing and the Kingdom

Jesus took his disciples north to territory where most of the crowds would not follow, into modern day Lebanon. Jesus led his disciples towards people who were not going to be openly hospitable towards them. He wanted to take some time to find out what the 12 knew and to have some time with them. But his desire to be left alone to do some important teaching and listening was interrupted by his fame and a call from a woman who persisted in asking for her daughter to be healed and released from the demon that effected her.

So why did Jesus refer to her and to her child as “dogs”. There are many in the Church that are unsettled by this image of Jesus, that he would apparently be mean and nasty to a woman who had a sick child. But one needs to stop and consider what was actually said and what Jesus was actually saying to understand what he was up to.

Jesus pointed out this woman that this was not the time for the healing and feeding for those who were outside a particular group. This time was meant to feed and strengthen those who would in time and trail have to declare Jesus as the risen and ascended Lord. There would be a time to bless and heal everyone, but not now. Interestingly, the woman did not give up. She persisted. She was unwilling to stop. She would not give up. When she was apparently being brushed off, she kept right on going. And as a result of her willingness to do so, that is when she was blessed and her prayer was answered. She had a hope and she was not willing to let the hope or its future go. Because of her persistence, her daughter was healed and free of the evil that was destroying her.  

What does our world, our Church look and sound like when God is in charge? When people who are without hope are given hope; when people who are blind are given sight, and people who have been formerly deaf are able to hearing; when people who are imprisoned are set free and those who are in debt are forgiven and those who are dead are raised to life... that is what the kingdom of God looks like.  
How do we see it? We need to look beyond the past to the future that we might make this present different; better. We need to move from looking for a blessing to being a blessing around us; giving thanks for all that we have been given. When God is in charge, the Church and the world become fundamentally different; transformed.

Why should we become a blessing? It comes back to this mom who would not stop, would not give up, and would not go away. In the days that followed, Jesus healed another man from the North and fed another 4000 people, just has had done before. Others benefited from her persistence and opened a path for them to receive “all the benefits of his passion”. Yes the world is messed up. Yes there are divisions in the Church and there are all kinds of problems there too. Everything seems apparently in chaos. All we seem to do is go round and round in circles and nothing ever seems to change, perhaps in large part because we don’t want to look past all the things that we think are important, to the things that God wants us to focus on.

We are called to be kingdom people. We are made to be resurrection people. We are to be people who are not hobbled or fettered to the whims and will of this present world. We are called to build our Church towards that great moment when we will see God face to face. So let us persist in the risk of faith, continuing to be people of hope, that we might dream and change the world according to God’s will and plan. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sacred Cows make great Hamburgers

Maybe you have heard the expression, “Sacred cows make gourmet hamburgers”? This week’s Gospel Lesson (Mark 7:1-8; 14-15; 21-23) got me thinking about the things we hold sacred and what exactly is it that we, that I hold to be sacrosanct? What are the sacred cows that each of us holds on to and makes “untouchable”? We all live our lives and we like to think that we have everything in hand and under control. If we want something we go out and get it. All it takes is making the payments on the Visa or the loan or whatever, right? It’s good for the economy and it is good for us, right? It’s our house, our car, our kids, our city and our church... there for it must ours... right?

The challenge that I perceive being made by Jesus in the Gospel to those to whom he was speaking (including and in particular his disciples) is a simple and yet hard one in our North American culture. He is asking us to come out from behind the culture and its traditions and be people who are going to listen and follow God according to what God calls us to do. Which would you rather do love and do what God commands or make up a rule that, in your own mid at least gets you around having to do what needs to be done.

We have our rules and our laws. We live in a society where such rules and laws are made by the lawmakers and we are to obey the rules set down for us. But how faithful are we really at obeying them? How many times have you gotten into a car or other such vehicle and broke the law by speeding?
And I am not just talking about on the highway, what about in town? Do we think we get away with such behaviour because we are not stopped and ticketed by the police?

The reason I pick on this is that I think that is the way most of us, including me, like to live. It is okay if we can get away with it. It is not really breaking the rules; just making them bend and stretch a bit. Therein lays the problem. We have made our own rules and decided what is right and safe for us and have disregarded what it could and does do to other people. Such thinking and doing is where Jesus steps in and says, no way, no thanks. Why, because we become like the rabbi who was so determined to honour God by washing his hands properly before he ate out in the wilderness, his friends who came to join him found the rabbi nearly dead of thirst from not drinking enough water which he had in ample supply.

Maybe I can get what I am trying to say better this way, through the verses of a favourite psalm of mine, “Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass. He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:3-7) Christianity is about the relationships we maintain long before we worry about the traditions we keep. We need to trust in God and wait for God to act.

And in the meantime maybe we could start considering those things that need to be let go of so that they can find their ways to the BBQ... Ah, hamburgers! Can you smell the sizzle?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Have you found zoe?

There is a story about a young soldier who, late on a Friday afternoon took his girlfriend to a local clergy and asked if he would marry them. “Have you got a license?” the solider waggled his head, saying, “No sir, we were too late getting to the court house.” the clergy apologised and said to the young couple, “I am sorry but I cannot marry you without the license.” In desperation, the young couple pleaded with the clergy and said, “Please sir, couldn’t you say a few words to get us through the weekend?”

I have a two or three words for you. Important words. Greek words. And they are crucial to understanding what we have heard in the last few weeks through the bread of life series in the Gospel of John. The first word is logos or word. You remember! In the beginning was the Word... God’s logos is the source of his power and his life. God’s logos was active part of the acts of creation. But more than that, God’s Word became flesh and blood. The logos became sarx as one of us with flesh and blood. The Word made his dwelling amongst us so that we could see his glory. His presence was as real. The flesh and blood Word showed us who God is through the signs that he offered. The Word offered the opportunity for us to find life, zoe. This is why John at the end of his gospel tells us plainly that there are many other things that he could have written to show that Jesus is the Christ, but he recounted these this that we might believe, that is trust and participate (pisteou) in Jesus and find that we have both a life and a lifetime in him. After all where else can you go and get a meal that will last you an entire week?

Many of us don’t mind that we are dependent upon daily bread. But there is a very real and very important challenge that is presented to us by Jesus in the Gospel: are you staying or are you leaving? You are not called to suffering but to love and to compassion for those around you who do not have life, the kind of life that God has offered to you in Jesus. You are called to stay and to remain in Christ so that others might experience Christ in the flesh through you. They need to experience the quality of your life in Jesus Christ not just hear about the length of an unattainable life in some distant, unattainable place. They need to know that the life that is offered and lived from this holy table is something worth having and something worth sharing.

There are many who think they know the Christian message, the Gospel, and they are scandalized by the demands that the Christian life makes upon them. They want their ways and their things, their rights and their life. You can be a good person and not go to church, right? Certainly. One can be a good and moral person without ever darkening the doorway of church building. However, zoe the abundant, eternal life that God offers is only possible through the person of Jesus Christ who is God’s way, God’s truth and God’s life for us. Faith and believe are far more the intellectual assent to doctrines and teaching. When you stop and examine what is written about Jesus in the Gospels, what you will find is a man who came from God who chose to love and have compassion for those who need life, to tell the truth about God to people who have been lied to and told that their life belongs themselves and for their own possession instead of in service first to God and then to neighbour. People need to discover again that their life can be sustained in Christ through their submission to the divine life and Word of God.

It will not be an easy road. There will be suffering, pain, and loss. You will lose things you treasure and people whom you love will misunderstand and turn their backs on you. Jesus showed us this.

So it comes down to a simple question... have you found the words that will give you life? Where will you go and what will you do with that life? Do you want more than just a weekend? Are you willing to stay when others are not? Come and participate in Christ’s life that you might truly live and bring that same abundant life to others in his name. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rest and "Reno" for the Soul

There is a need for rest. Christ invites us to come to him and to rest... to come aside to a quiet place and rest awhile after all that has been said and done. It has been a year since I first stood in this pulpit as the potential new Rector and Dean. So much has happened in this past year and so much more needs to happen in the next few weeks as we host Synod and move into another year of full time ministry within in this congregation and this city. But in this moment, there is a need for rest. There is the call from Christ to come aside with him and rest with him and in him.

Actively proclaiming and sharing the Good News of what God is doing in Christ is hard work. There is a constant and consistent “disturbance” in the life of those who minister the Gospel. There is a constant drawing up the grace and strength that is given to the leadership of the community and their abilities to provide for those around you because you find that they too are without a shepherd. Anyone who finds themselves in ministry is going to feel that urge to try and meet the needs of the people around him who are in need, who are sick, harassed, wounded, dying. It is a Christly thing to want to do so. Jesus himself is moved in himself to want to do things for the people he loves (Mark 6.34).

We are familiar with the words of Psalm 23 and the first line in particular that reminds us that the Lord is our shepherd and that we will not lack what we need. What happens when what we need is rest? Stop for a moment and consider what the psalm goes on to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” One of the things I hear in the words of the psalmist is that we are to rest in places that are provided for our benefit, to have places to be still to hear the voice of God and feel the stillness of the Spirit and there are paths that we will be guided to so that we will be able to enjoy the service we give to God and find that we can love our community and neighbours in the process. We are called to be contented people in a world that constantly demands self gratification and self satisfaction.  We are drawn to find our joy and our satisfaction in God and in the real and healthy relationships that we hold with each other rather than the frenetic stampede to that next thing, that next experience that is supposed to make us complete. What we need more than anything in this chaotic life is a chance to rest: to turn off the 24 hour news channels, shut down the computers, put away the smart phones and iPads so that we can find a place without the wireless signal and just be for a moment. And having been quiet to sense God’s presence, then to seek out the community of God (the Church) so that we can offer prayers and praise to the One who not only leads through the Valley of the Shadow of death but who also makes grace and mercy doggedly follow us wherever we go until we find ourselves in his house and his eternal presence.

So ask yourself this: what one thing will you give up this week to give you rest? And what one thing will you do to help you find that green pasture, that stop beside peaceful water so that the Lord can do some renovations on your soul? After all didn’t Jesus say, “Come to me all that labour and are heavy ladened, and I will refresh you”?

Monday, July 16, 2012

A promise is a promise even for old men.

Promises. We hear people making promises all the time about what they will do, how they will act, how they will repent even when they are in trouble... you know the kind of promise I am talking about! O God if you’ll get me out of this I’ll... Promises come from different places and spaces telling us that we need this or that o make our lives complete. Our lives won’t be better until we purchase this item. And this item will be backed with more promises of fulfillment is backed up will all kinds of promises about what will happen and what the product will do for us and how long it might last.

The thing about promises made by people in this world, in this life is that they are at best, temporary. They are made whole heartedly and with the best of intentions but in the end the promises are only as strong as the person who made them. Does that make me sound cynical? Perhaps. But then I think about the promises that God has made to people in the past and how he has and continues to fulfill those promises right up to this moment.

Let’s take Abraham as an example. He had a real challenge in that he didn’t have a pattern to follow like we have. He was going totally by faith and by feel through his relationship with God. And there were times in his life when he let fear come in and when he would decide for himself where he was going to find and take his bread. It led him in to a life of compromise, so much so that he would nearly hand his wife over to another man because the other man thought she was his sister. This was a half truth. Sarah was Abraham’s half sister. Having been warned by God the man in question would not only back away from Sarah, he would also bless Abraham because of the vision and presence of God that the man had received. Three times Abraham and Sarah were told that they would receive a son. They laughed and they doubted. How could an old couple, well beyond their years of raising children, suddenly be blessed with their own.  Is it not better to use human ways with human wisdom and create heirs that way?

In the days after the birth of Isaac, Abraham would send Ishmael away and he would have other children by another wife after the death of Sarah. but none of them were going to take the place of Isaac and participate in the promise to be a nation which would become the sole possession of the Lord, a holy nation and a royal priesthood before God in the world.

In this we can take comfort: God is still building his nation, calling and drawing in the children of our father Abraham. God is still fulfilling his promises to Abraham and Sarah. From their faithfulness came the family, the nation and the Saviour that will be the One whom we will live with and for in the world that is to come. God through the ages has been faithful to his promises and in that we can rejoice and give thanks as we continue to live it out as our fathers did.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Preach the Word - use words and actions!

There is a great little movie based on Geoffrey Chaucer’s “A Knight’s Tale.” It is about a young man who is given the opportunity to change his life by being a squire to a knight. After many years of faithful service, young William finds himself in a spot where poses as a knight to feed the other members of the household because his master has died. William’s nemesis Prince Adhemar, constantly undercuts William and asks him, “You have been tried, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting. In what world could you have you beaten me?”

If there is anything that I would countenance about Adhemar, Herod Antipas, the rulers and princes of this world is it that they are often fearful that there might be someone who is their equal. And if they have an equal, that means the prince and all he can command and possess means and is nothing. Thus he is nothing. Therefore, there is a great need to debase and reduce anyone who might be a threat or a possible rival to nothing so that the great prince can remain mighty, at least in his own eyes.

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 6:18-29) is about others and how they can and will respond to the Good News of the Gospel and to the person of Jesus. Many People around Jesus and around Herod are hearing of the great and awesome things that are happening. Everybody and their uncle has an opinion about who Jesus is and what he is doing. Herod himself thinks that he might have second chance after having John executed... that John is back and is coming to him and for him. Herod had been near the holiness of John. He had been impressed with John. He kept calling John to preach to him over the objections of the court and of his wife, Herodias. John was blunt and clear. Herein is a problem that we often face in the Church in North America these days: Herod was impressed, even frightened of the message he was hearing and wanted to respond but would not dare. He would not change his life in such away. He could hear the message but would do precious little to alter his life to conform to the message. He was impressed with the commitment and was touched by the holy but he would not allow himself to be changed. It had consequences.

Like young William we need to learn what it means to be noble. We need to learn what it means to be committed to our own transformations, whatever the cost is. Nobility, or in our case Christian character is not just something we are born into, it defines us and our actions. As Christian people we are called on by our risen and ascended Prince to live a live that us upright and straight in a world that is tilted upside down through our sin. We live in a world where giving service and making sacrifice are laughed at and scorned because it means that we have to put self aside in favour of others and their needs and dreams. We are called to live our lives as marked out people through how we love and treat each other. Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples, by this (sign), all will know you to be my disciples, by your love, one for another?

If we are who we say we are – Christian people – then ought we not to be more and more like our Master? Shouldn’t we be ready to stand up and be counted, knowing that we live in a culture that is not going to want to hear about giving, self sacrifice, and faith in the name of Jesus? We are being tried by fire, and our faith is being tested. Others need to see this so that they can come to see the news and the life that we proclaim is real and not just some fanciful thinking or “pie in the sky” hope. The world needs to see that we have been tried, that we have been measured; that there is substance to the message and truth that we proclaim.  Let us be prepared to serve, to give, and to sacrifice that we might win some and draw them into life and life in the kingdom and our Prince so that we can say to them – may God have mercy on you and save you if it is his good will. Welcome to the new world.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Looking for a rescue?

This week’s lesson (Mark 5.21-34) accounts two stories of two women and the power of God to rescue people from death. So allow me to retell it to you. Jesus has just returned from the far side of the Sea of Galilee and from foreign territory back to the Holy Land. He is surrounded by a multitude of people and into the multitude comes Jairus and then an unnamed woman with a blood issue. Both are desperate because they are in need of healing. Jairus comes to Jesus on behalf of his beloved little daughter because she is under the power of death and life is about to cease.

Jairus comes to Jesus and pleads in many different ways with to come to his house and rescue his daughter from the power of death. And in typical Markan fashion Jesus agrees and they immediately depart for Jarius’ house. It should be noted that only certain people were allowed to make the journey with Jesus. But even before the crowd could be left behind in the care of the remaining disciples, Jesus feels the touch of the unnamed woman and stops to address her situation with a simple question: “Who touched me?”

The unnamed woman had been suffering for a dozen years under the care of many different doctors with an issue of hemorrhaging. She was physically ill, emotionally awash and financially depleted trying to regain her health. She made up her mind that she was going to get to Jesus, risky though it was. People around her could turn on her in an instant, injure her or even kill her and that would be the end of it. On the journey to find Jesus, she kept telling herself over and over was, “if I can touch just the hem of his robe, I will be rescued.” When she found Jesus, she , made her way to him as he started out, reach out and touched him. Jesus in that moment, felt power go out from him and he turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched me?” Someone, maybe one of the disciples, incredulously replies, “Don’t you see all the people? And you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

Jesus waited and finally from the back of the group, because it always needs to come from the back somehow, the woman again pushed her way forward in fear and trembling to tell the whole story and make clear what had been done for her. Was it because Jesus want the recognition for a miracle? More than like, he didn’t. So is it possible that he wanted to strengthen the unnamed woman? This is more likely what he was trying to do. Life was not to be the same for her after the encounter with Jesus. She told her story and then Jesus confirmed the good thing that had happened in her body and told her to go and really live and stay rescued.

In the midst of this comes the news from Jarius’ house that the girl has died and there is no need for Jesus any longer. Jairus’ servants plead with Jairus to leave Jesus alone now because there was no more life. Jesus, ignoring the servants, now pleads with Jairus and asks him to continue to believe in what is about to happen and to witness what God will do in this little one. So they went on together with the amazed disciples and grumbling servants in tow. When the group arrived at the house, there was a mighty uproar going on because the professional mourners weeping and singing because that is what one does when another person dies. It was part of the customs and the culture of the village. Jesus entered into the home and asked why there was such a commotion going on. The girl was not dead but only sleeping. He was laughed at and they called him crazy. They knew what death was all about. So Jesus chased them out of the house, into the growing darkness of the evening.

Then he took the parents and the disciples into the room to where the girl was. As the other’s watched, Jesus when over to the bed, picked up the girl’s hand and said to her, “Little Lamb, I say to you, get up.” She open her eyes, sat up and with assistance sat up. Then with continued support, she stood up and began to move around the room because she was able to do this on her own just as she did before. Jesus then charged those who witnessed this not to tell anyone else what both happened. Then she had something to eat to show that the rescue from death was both successful and complete. Since when did a ghost need lunch?

So out of this all then, let us consider an important question, “What have we said or done that has made someone else’s life better, stronger or at least different in a positive way in the past week?” and what will we say or do that will bring life to someone near and dear to us in the next seven days? Who will we try to rescue from death?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reflecting tremendous amounts of Gratitude

What would several months of being unable to talk, do for your attitude towards God? Or more importantly, after the silence, what would be your first words. I suspect in this day and age, there would be a lot of laughter because there are many who would still be able to text and life would continue on as if nothing had changed. I know this to be true of my teenage son and his friends who will text people who are in the same building, even in the same room and sitting side by side. What would happen to a world that is so crazed by the abilities of the computer age do if all the servers in the country when down? What would the technophiles if they had to communicate either by phone (without video) or had to speak to each other face to face (without screens or any sort video)? What would they do if such people had to speak to each other face to face and actually communicate with each other, without the machines in between? Would they know how?

If I am sounding a bit like a knuckle dragging troglodyte (caveman), it is maybe because I see a need in our technological culture and society to, turn all the technology off once in a while so that God can speak to us. And it is not just the machines that we need to turn off, there are lots of things in our lives that we need to turn off or turn away from so that we can be ready to here God – a key component in being effective disciples and a productive Church. Please understand that I am a big user of modern technologies and I find them helpful. But there are times when it becomes necessary to ignore the technology and turn it off so that you can be you.
Think of Zachariah, who doing a liturgy of the incense, offering all kinds of prayers is approached by the angel Gabriel with a message that is meant to bring not only Zachariah and Elizabeth joy but is the beginning of God doing something great that will bless the entire human race. The child to be born will prepare those who will follow God, for the One who will lead them into the kingdom. But instead of rejoicing and being thankful that God was about to act, Zachariah doubted that God would use this dried up and useless old couple to bring about the advent of God’s presence on earth like it used to be... you know... back in the good ol’ days right after creation began.

Zachariah was in the middle of his prayers, in the middle of his ritual when God came to him through a messenger.  And because he could not believe and would not surrender to the good news brought to him, he had his speech turned off. It gave him time to stop and really listen everyone and everything around him; perhaps for the first time in his life. He was free to listen and to consider all that was coming to him. it allowed him to here and to see this great thing that God was going to do in his family.

And because he could not believe in the message and would not surrender to the good news brought to him, he had his speech turned off. It gave Zachariah time to stop and to listen to everyone and everything around him; perhaps for the first time in his life. He was free to listen and to consider all that was coming to him. The inability to speak allowed him to here and to see this great thing that God was going to do in his family.

When the time was right, he show is faith in the message by giving his only son the name given to him by the angel and then he could not only talk, he could not help but sing! And in doing so, Zachariah displayed an abundance of gratitude not only for the gift of his son, but also for the great things that God was going to do in and through his son for the life of the nation. Maybe this is a lesson that we all should have to learn. Growth never comes from grumbling but from praise and thanksgiving. And gratitude is perhaps the willingness to see what God is giving and from there be prepared to act in whatever we are led into, to see the kingdom come, not just to a completed end, but also for it to bear all the fruit it can.

Can you imagine then, what a little silence, to hear God speak to you can do for you, your family and your nation?