Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The called and the chosen

As I sit here at my desk, wondering what to write this week, I find myself reflecting on my ordinations and ministry of the past 23 years. It is indeed no doubt because of the upcoming ordination of a friend and colleague to the sacred priesthood this weekend. There is a large collage that hangs beside my desk that has pictures of the night I was ordained. There are pictures of me before the bishop during the examination. There are pictures of me standing proudly with my fellow clergy after the deed was done. But as I consider the collage, the most powerful ones are those of me being encircled by the Bishop and the clergy and the hands being laid on me as the sentence of consecration is spoken over me.

I wish that I could properly convey to you what that moment was like. There had been the craziness of a clergy having his keys locked in his van. There was a moment of incredible, even powerful silence as the Bishop and I were alone in the vestry, each to his own thoughts and prayers as we prepared for the service ahead. I remember and recall the power answer of “Yes, it is” from the congregation when the bishop asked if it was their will to see me ordained a priest.  Yet it still comes back to that moment of the hands. I felt the heat, both natural and spiritual of the hands as they came down and stretch out to me. The weight of all those hands on me, made me vitally aware of the responsibility being placed on me as a presbyter. And yet at the same time a feeling of community and connectedness with my bishop and fellow clergy that seemed to deal with the burden of responsibility and the load that leadership in the community brings.

Speaking of community I can remember a situation, just before my ordination to the priesthood where I was visiting a grieving family. We had gathered in the family home to plan the funeral service for the deceased man in the community. It often happens that in the midst of grief, there are lighter moments. In one such moment, midst the tears, a family member told a story and out the deceased that was quite funny to help me k now and understand who their loved one was. And the story being funny, everyone laughed including me.  This I think shocked another member of the family because she asked me if it was okay for me to laugh at jokes and tales. In reply with a big smile told her, “Don’t worry. I am only a deacon yet. The bishop will remove my sense of humour when he ordains me priest.” The laughter helped to ease the pain and the tears for a few moments and it actually help to form deeper relationships with the family and drew them back into the church community so that they could heal and be supported by the community.

What does this have to do with the Gospel? Everything. We are part of a worldwide community of people who believe, follow and proclaim the Lord Jesus. There are many who are called by God to come and enter into his kingdom and there are a few of us who are to lead the community under the authority of God preciously because they have been called and chosen. The clergy have been called by divine grace and that call has been recognized by the Church and those called are chosen to lead and serve in and beyond the Church. Just as the Church is called by God and through divine grace signs and proclaims the kingdom, midst both the laughter and the tears of this life and into the next.

When you get a chance this week, ask an ordained person about how they heard the call of God on their life so that you can see and hear the call of God upon you. Then together seek, seek and serve Christ where you together find him in the least, the last and the lost.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Don't let the sun go down on your anger

There is a phrase from Scripture that has been with me this week and I think the Gospel (Matthew 5.21 -37) drew it out. The phrase? “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  Such a thought got me thinking about what exactly is it that I am holding on to at the end of the day? Scripture so often counsels us not to worry, not to fret because God is in control. There are things that I cannot control or change. I can pray, encourage, counsel others but I have to at some point, let it go and let go into the care of others and most especially the care of God.

This should remind us that God cares not only about us as people, he cares about us as a community. He works on the relationships between us and they too matter to him. The Gospel calls on us to work at our training in righteousness so that we can be effective Christians. We are to deal with conflict in a righteous manner and be mindful of the state of our heart and mind.  Why? Because we are before God! God calls on us as his ministers to live as his children. That means we are to live in integrity. We are to be faithful to the promises we make and honour our commitments, especially those of us who are married to a spouse. We are to live in such a way that vows and oaths are all but unnecessary. We are to live such a life that we will not allow each other to be alone or abandoned. We are with each other through thick and thin; plenty and famine. And our life together in community should show the life in the kingdom to those around so that they too, will want to join in.  

God genuinely cares about us and the relationships we have. This is why we are called upon to leave the offering we have brought to God before the altar (before we ask that it be offered) and go and find the brother or sister that we have been struggling with and work to make things right. We can trust God to look after the gift until we return to the altar and then we can with pure hearts, quiet minds and clean hands offer the gift we have rightly.

We have a tradition in our Church of “passing the Peace” and that is what the “Peace” is all about. It is not about greeting and saying good morning to friends and neighbours. It is about intentionally seeking out that one person with whom we have “a thing” and sorting it out before we present ourselves at the altar to offer, to receive, be bless and go give. It is not enough just to apologise though that is important. It is about making things whole and asking God to do that – because there is no health in us! How can we give fittingly to God when we refuse to forgive someone else. Such things dislocate the heart and muddle the mind which in turn, thwarts worship and disrupt life.

So this week, take the time to seek out those whom you need to make amends with – without worry about who was right and wrong – and seek to move that relationship forward so that when it comes time to move towards the table, we come with joy and in righteousness, both with God and with neighbour. Chances are you will sleep better too!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Of Salt and Light - let go the moron!

There is a phrase in the Gospel for this Sunday (Matthew 5.13-20) that I have been thinking about. “You are salt for the earth.” It could be translated another way... “give up the morons.” That means, we need to let go of the things in our lives and in our faith that make us ineffective or worse causes our walk to be diluted or defective.  

Salt is always by its very nature, salt. It never stops being salt. Moreover, salt is meant to do and to be a number of things. It is meant to prevent decay as a preservative. It is mean to protect the purity of what is inhabited. It is there to add flavour to whatever is there so that it is tasty.  But here is the thing: we are talking about faith and the Church; all those who call and claim to be Christians. Jesus is calling each and all of us to live out the life of the kingdom in this present age. That is why we are “blessed”. We are to sign the life that is to come in the time of the kingdom of heaven. We are in other words, enabled through God’s blessing and grace, to show what life with God is like and will be like in the kingdom and do so in the here and now. We are called to live a life that is totally transforming by first living it and then over time sharing it.

But in all this, salt and the Church can become diluted and insipid. It can become less than it is. It does not cease to be what it is but it can become less. Diluted and insipid faith in the Church is not the way – there is no light or half version. Jesus calls us to live in the grace and the power that is afforded to us as children of God. We are called to let go of those things that weaken and inhibit our and live with everything that God gives you.

And we are in this moment also light. Light is always light. Lights shine out in the darkness. So who lights a candle and then puts it under a basket. Who lights a lamp and then promptly hides it away? No one I know. Certainly no one who was without power during and after a storm – so why are Christians running and hidding the light within them in our society? There are too many within the Church who seem to have come to believe that being a Christian is a bad thing and that the faith is all that is wrong with the world. That makes us sound like the late Christopher Hitchens, an atheist.

We have come to think in this “enlightened” age that we are the light or at least because we can flip a switch, push a button or turn a dial that we can control light. All we need do is open the fridge door and the darkness retreats from the light. Problem is, the light within a Christian is not his or her own. It is Christ who lives within and it is God’s glory that shines out. Where will you take it, what will you bring to light, both about God and about the people around you?

We need to learn to live a better Christian life than worry about living by the rules and being obedient to what’s been taught. We are called love – as Christ has loved us- those we find around us. We need to live in such a way that we fulfill the law and learn to accept the grace and forgiveness when we fall short. Then we show the full extent of who God in Christ is for the world. Then the good news of God in Christ is made manifest for people to reach out for and to hold on to.

We are tasty and we are lit up. So remember the last beatitudes, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe.” Come live the life and do so in Jesus name!