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.