Friday, January 22, 2016


Home. It is the place where we don’t have to ask if we can come in and where there will always be a welcome no matter where you have been, how great or bad you are, or how late it has gotten. There is hopefully a place like that for all of us that we call home. And the way that Luke describes Nazareth like that for Jesus. It was the place that nourished Jesus from the time he was little until he left to find his cousin John receive baptism and go into the wilderness.

When he comes home again he does what he has been doing all along: he goes to the Synagogue and is invited to preach – because they have heard about what he has done elsewhere. There is a certain amount of expectation that he is going to do something spectacular because, after all he is one of them. He follows his usual pattern but only to a point. They applaud him for his kind words and declaring that salvation is coming and that there is going to be freedom.

Bu then things get harder and worse and difficult because Jesus also tells them that there will be no grand demonstration of grace and power because they were expecting something without really believing in him. Jesus then goes onto point out that enemies of Israel were save in the days of both Elijah and Elisha but not any of the widows and orphans in Israel. In doing so Jesus pointed out to them that the Gospel is for those who know their need of God and his salvation and are ready to received it – regardless of who they are. The Good news of God is meant not just for the few or the nation. It is meant for everyone who knows their need of God and is willing to put their faith in Jesus.

Having been accused of wanting a dog and pony show and worse of being faithless, many in the own are enraged and they move Jesus out of the synagogue out into the streets and to the edge of the hill on which their town is built so that they can throw Jesus off of it and stone him to death. The situation becomes in a real sense, a “cliff-hanger”. Yet Jesus walks away and takes his disciples and makes for Capernaum.

What does this all mean? Well, I think first what we can take from Isaiah and from Luke is the understanding that God is in control. And just as importantly, he has anointed his servant and sent him as an ambassador from him to us, to you and to me. And Jesus has been sent for a purpose: to fix the broken hearted, to free those bound by sin and despair and to find those who are lost and in need of God’s salvation and bring them home to the Father. Most of all, Jesus and by extension, his Church,  is sent to proclaim jubilee – freedom from all debt and a clean slate in life so that one can begin again.

And if God is in control, then it is God’s mission that we are on, not our own. Did Jesus himself not say to his own disciples, "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15.16 ESV) I take this to mean that God wants spiritual fruit from all of us not for some of us to be religious nuts.

One of the things that I think is important for us in terms of remembering, is to realize that God is not calling us to be what we were in the 1970’s and 80’s. Many think that this was the golden aged of the parish and the diocese. It is often thought of as the “good old daze”. Either we own our past or it will own us. Those days carry powerful memories for many including myself but we are not there anymore and if we continue to put our hand to the plow and keep looking back we are going to find that we are of no use to the kingdom to which we are called.

We must become a fresh revelation of the man Jesus Christ to the city in which we live. As a pastor, priest and teacher of the Church, I present Christ to all of you through word and sacrament so that together, we can represent Christ to this city. We can do these things because we have sought and seen Christ in worship and prayer together. Thus, as we live our lives, others can be shown who Christ is through who and what we are and are becoming.

We must treat others better than ourselves – those who are less honourable with dignity and with more honour; to share the pain and difficulties of another. In short we are not to live like the rest of our culture but rather to live as God would have us live. Even if that means that we must live counter culturally to the world around us and potentially in conflict with the wider culture. Be prepare to be more like Jesus and understand that we may become a sign to be spoken against, even within the Church.

Most of all, remember that the Gospel is meant for every person you meet. Live so that you can shine the light and the life of Christ in your own life; so that others may see Christ in you and give glory to our heavenly Father. We do this for him and for the sake of the coming kingdom.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Miracles are possible, but they are not cheap.

The Gospel this week could be preached on in several different ways. Most would probably deal with the ideas around marriage and the culture we live in. Others might home in on things like motherhood and family life and what our communities might look like if this or that was to happen. I remember treading that line in front of my newly elected Bishop during a sermon a number of years ago now at a Diocesan ACW Conference. People wanted me to speak out and to confirm at least their suspicions about other people if not expect me to confirm their entrenched positions. But that is not where I am heeded this week. I am headed into service and to serve the Lord and his people in ordinary time.

Do you know what “ordinary” time is and means to the Church? Ordinary time is that space where there is no major celebration or festival going on. No Christmas. No Easter or Pentecost to deal with – just ordinary time in which we get to see and to learn to follow the Lord Jesus. The Gospel for Sunday (John 2.1-11) is a lesson in learning how to listen and do as God tells you.  Obedience we call it. To listen and then do as directed. To not listen and not do as we are directed in God’s ways, does not make us disobedient. It makes us irrelevant. God can use that but it is not the same as listen, understanding and doing as God the Holy Spirit compels us.

Mary is the person I would focus on here. When she is told of the problem – there is no more wine – She goes to Jesus with it. Not to the Steward/MC. Not to the host of the feast. She goes to Jesus. And seemingly, Jesus gives her a hard time (grief) tormenting over being asked to deal with it. “What is the fact that there is no more wine got to do with you and even more so me? My time is my time.” Now I am fairly certain that Jesus had a smile on his face when he said this and I am certain that he was teasing her. He also I am certain recognized that his mother’s faith in him, not just as her child but know that he could handle what was given him – it is why she was depending on him. And we know this because after he teased his mother Mary, she turned to the household slaves and gave an instruction as a person of authority: “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

It took some celebration time to get those large washing jugs filled: 60-80 gallons each. While glasses were clinking and people were reveling, the household slaves were packing the water in from a well somewhere in the community. And they did as they were instructed, filling each vessel to the brim and each could hold no more. And there was I am sure, some fear and awkwardness when they were sent to the MC with water they had just brought in. It is only when the MC taste the water now turned into wine (not knowing the background to all of this) goes to the groom and compliments him for being a great and kind host. Why? Because the household is bringing out better and better tasting wine instead of bring out the inferior wine because nobody can taste or cares about the difference.

What does this tell us about God? And what should it say to us about our relationships with Jesus, individually and as a Church. Well, first we need to pray. We need to ask God for “those things that are requisite and necessary for the body as well as the soul.” Then we need to trust that God is going to do something with those prayers. I have heard the concerns of many in the parish that we cannot replicate the same minor financial miracle of last year and do what was done last year. But then I would point out that we didn’t know how we were going to survive last year either. But by the grace and will of God, we did. And in doing so we were blessed. And not only were we blessed but we blessed the Bishop, the Diocesan Executive Committee and the other parishes by giving what we had to give.  We need to recognize that this is God’s church and that we are God’s people. We are indeed blessed. And because God is blessing us we need this “ordinary” time to be a blessing in this place, in this city and beyond. We must, if we are to be effective in our faith, good listeners and then put what we believe we are hearing into actions that will glorify God and draw people into his kingdom.

I leave this piece of Scripture with you to think about: 
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. 11We have spoken freely to you,a Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:1-13 ESV)