Wednesday, July 29, 2015

There is still work to do

As I wind down for some time to have with family across this country and take some holidays to rest and reflect on the last year, I thought it might be good to take some time with this week’s Epistle and think about the life of the Church as a missional community and what might be ahead of us.

Our Lesson (Ephesians 4.1-13) is a transition from teaching the Church in Asia Minor about the nature of the single confession that every Christian makes, whether that person is a Jew or a Gentile to an exhortation to live a life worthy of the call that God has placed on every Christian – to come to him and to his kingdom. St. Paul calls on each of the believers to forgive each other whatever has happened in the past and to let go of that past so that together, as individual believers and as the Church, can embrace a common present and be prepared for what is to come.

I point this out to say this to the Church in North America, we have too often been told and have bought into the lie that the Church is dying. We have bought into the lie that the Church has no future. How do I know this? Think about what God has said through the prophet Jeremiah to the Exiled people of Israel, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29.11 NIV) The problem with the Church is that it is not dead in North America: it is something far worse. It is become irrelevant. And the world knows it.

God has brought many people, of many different languages, cultures, races and nations together to be his people; his holy nation and his royal priesthood. God us brought us to himself to be his people. And since the kingdom of God has not come to fruition yet, God is still at work. And if God is still at work, then so are we. God isn’t finished yet and as the old saying goes, “God don’t make no junk.” Beyond that, God has broken down and removed himself the barrier that used to be between people. In Christ, he broke down the dividing wall of hostility and made all who take Christ as Saviour to be one people.  

And as such we are called to be a community of hope, of the resurrection and of life, not a society for despair, destruction and death of the whole world. Our response to the world in the face of despair, destruction and death is to hold out to people the courage, the hope and the life that we have with and in Christ because we have chosen to surrender to him. People believe that Jesus is the truth but so often, as the Archbishop of Canterbury recently pointed out about his own self, he did want all the moral stuff that came with being “Christian” when he first came to faith. What stops so many from being followers of the Lord Jesus is not Jesus himself but the thought of what life with Jesus and the Church would be like.

So how do we live to win people to Christ and then the Church? St. Paul lays it out in a simple manner. We are to live in humility, gentleness, patience and loving forbearance. These are the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.23) and are a part of the work of the Spirit in the life of the Church and therefore of every believer. These fruit are more than just a once given, always gotten type gift. They have to be used, developed, and maintained.

So don’t buy into the nonsense of the culture. The Church is not dead. There is a God and he loved the world so much that he has given us bread to eat and his Son to believe in. Until he comes again we are called to hold out life and hope for the world that they might come, receive forgiveness and know that they are adopted into the family of God, becoming beloved children of the Most High.  God is here, and we are with him.

Have a safe and happy holiday. We have work to do this Fall because God is not done just yet.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Working to be a leader and a servant

Do you know what a leader looks like? Would you know a king if you ever met one?  The Gospel this week (John 6.1-21) is about kings and kingship – or in modern day terms about “leadership”.  The world has its ideas and demands of what good leadership is about. And in a democracy, we reserve the right to call in new leadership and dismiss poor leadership. We will here all about that in the next few months through elections and the electoral process both here in Canada and down in the United States.

But let’s come back to the Gospel and the people whom Jesus fed in that lonely place for a moment. The Gospel notes, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6.14-15) People understood what Jesus was claiming about himself and who he was for Israel. The nation had not seen a sign like this since the days in the wilderness with Moses. People, having witnessed what Jesus had done, had their own expectations raised. The people were expecting Jesus as the Prophet God had promised, to be more; do more. The people were expecting the Prophet to bring back the good old days of David and Solomon. This is significant because they wanted to have their own kingdom back, and I suspect because they want to be great amongst the nations of the earth.

What they and the Church these days in North America often miss, is that we are different. We are not called to be like the other nations of the earth, only more glorious. As followers of the Lord Jesus, we are called by God to be A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that (we) may proclaim the excellencies of him who called (us) out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2.9) In essence then, we are called to some more, something bigger something better that we might participate in the coming of the kingdom of God and at the same time, draw others into it as well.

It is not lost on me that these who went seeking the powerful and miraculous Jesus in the place where they had been blessed, where they had eaten and had their fill, to discover that Jesus and the 12 had left and moved on. They searched and searched for him until they found him on the other side of the Lake, unaware of what had transpired overnight between the 12 and Jesus. Jesus himself rejected the temptation to make a fantastic earthly kingdom in favour of the rule of his Father in the kingdom that is to come. Jesus rejected the idea of earthly leadership as he did when it was offered to him by Satan. This is why Jesus withdrew from the people and went to a lonely place and to watch his followers out on the lake who, without him were struggling to get where they needed to be next.   

This is what makes the walk on the water so powerful. The Church gathered in that boat, struggling to learn to trust in the Lord in the rough water. There is another danger that the Church faces and that is thinking that we are on our own. Jesus is always watching, waiting and walking to us and reminding us that it really is him. The question for us is, “Will we let him into the boat?” Someone once quipped that, “If we took the Holy Spirit out of the Church, 95% of what we do would still go on.” The interesting thing is that Jesus, according to John, waited until he was invited into the boat by his disciples. It was not a matter of manners, but of choice. And in choosing to let him in they reached their goal immediately. So there is something important about the life of the Church and the need to recognize the import of the presence of the risen Christ being in our midst. Without him not only can we do nothing, as Church, as a holy nation and priesthood, we are nothing. It is in Christ that we are competent. It is in the presence of Christ that we live and move and have our being.

We must work to seek Christ our King and when we see him, serve those who are with him, in the least, the last, and the lost. After all, did Jesus say that whoever wants to be the greatest, the one who wants to be a leader, must be the last and servant of all?


Thursday, July 16, 2015

On Fidelity

The theme of our upcoming Diocesan Synod is “Faithfulness to the Gospel”. The word “faithfulness” caught my eye and my imagination and so I thought that I might spend some time playing with it to see if I might learn something new about it that I could share with you. It might be that the word “faithfulness” is something that we all seek to be but often find that, sooner or later, we are not. We struggle mightily with this idea of fidelity (of being faithful). We find it almost impossible to be faithful to anything else, anyone else in our North American culture because by enlarge because only the self counts. We live as if only ‘I’ matter: it is my truth, my way, my life that counts. As a consequence therefore, faith and faithfulness fall by the wayside because a lack of faithfulness leads to the degrading of our abilities to communicate with each other, which cause our communities and our society as a whole to fracture and crumble.  

Fidelity, according to an online dictionary ( I consulted is the quality or state of faithfulness. Fidelity is an exercise in exactness, working to be accurate in detail. Fidelity is the effort one puts into whatever is being done to be true to the facts, to a standard that needs to be lived and to the original text of writing. So if I have my understanding correct, fidelity is living out the command that Jesus gave us: love one another as I have loved you. Faithfulness moves from being adverb to be a verb. Faith and faithfulness are not just some that a person has, it is something that a person becomes that quality, enters into that state by living it. And in order to live it, it must be connected to others, beginning with God and then to neighbour. The interesting thing about this word faithfulness is that according to the same online dictionary, faithfulness is “obsolete”.

We are moving into and have come to an age in North American society where we are able to create social situations of “liquid gender”. People are able to choose what gender they are and to create that reality for themselves. More and more in civil society, we are trying to uphold a person’s right to choose for themselves, without regard for the impact on and the consequences for the community in which everyone needs to participate to help maintain community and society. Even within the Church, we fail to recognize that such belief and social action have an impact on the sacraments of both baptism and marriage. So rather than dealing with what is going on, we being to act and sound like the rest of the world rather than resisting the tide and choosing swim upstream. And in living this way we create an inability to be true to the Scriptures and to our relationship with the Almighty.

So what can we do, to stop and try to reverse the degradation of relationships and fracturing of our society? We must be the Church, wherever and whenever we are and are together. We must be the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ when we are apart and be his Church when we are together for worship. We must be choosing to be in worship regularly, to participate in the Eucharist thereby ridding ourselves of our idolatries and being empowered to live his life in this world. And we must make strides to aid each other in our walks, day by day. None of us can do it alone. Being a faithful follower means that we know that God is here and we, as his Church are with him; for now and for always.