Friday, April 29, 2016

Always being in trouble

Are you in trouble? Do you want to be in troubled waters? Then consider this:

 There once was a man who was trapped on the roof of his house in the middle of a flood. The waters swiftly surrounded the house and kept rising and rising. In the hopes of rescuing him, a neighbour drove his pick up to the house of the trapped man and shouted, “Jump in the back! Jump in the back! I’ll get you to safety.” But the man on the roof shouted back, “My God will save me! My God will come and save me.” So the neighbour left and the waters continued to rise.

A short time later, two people in a boat came along and wanted the trapped man to come and get in the boat. They pleaded with him saying “Jump in! Jump in! And we will get you to safety.” But the man refused and so they pair left him there on the roof waiting for God to save him.

Not long after that, as the water was to the roof now and the man who was trapped could feel the house moving in the water, a helicopter came along with a basket on the rope. The pilot called down to the man on the roof trying to urging him to get in the basket. He told him that the house was about to be destroyed and the man had no time left. But still the man on the roof steadfastly refused to get in the basket and go to safety, claiming that God would save him. As the pilot hovered and watched, the man on his roof was swept away in the current with his house and he drowned.

When he appeared before the throne of God he was cheeky and asked the Almighty why he had not come down and rescued him from the flood. God said to the man, I did try to save you. I sent a truck, a boat, and helicopter. What more could I have done for you that I did not do? Next time, jump and get in!

The Gospel this week deals with troubled waters but these waters had a good purpose. If you could get in when the waters were stirred up, you could be healed. But you had to get there first and that meant that there was going to be some of the necessary pushing, shoving and bullying to get there. The man in the story that is confronted by Jesus has been infirm for a long time. 38 years he has been in this situation... had he been in this “House of Mercy” (for this is what Bethesda means) for all of that time trying to get better by getting into the water but not getting any help to get there. So there has been years of futility and possibly one is on the verge of giving up if one has not done so already.
So in my mind, the question Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” is a logical one.

Are you ready to be healed or have you given up. It is a question that all of us need to face from time to time. And the healing that comes may not what we expect. God does not always ask and sometimes people are healed when no faith has been seemingly present. Jesus looks at this man, his faith (or lack thereof), the pain, the sorrow and the mounting frustration and chooses to offer him another way.

One of the things that we need to consider is that in this part of John’s Gospel, the sovereignty of God is being tested. How does and how should God act? Why does he offer mercy to one person in a place of mercy and not to another? Why should someone be healed on the Sabbath? Isn’t that against how God works because there are six days in the week to do work and only one to rest? No rule breaker can be on par with God! Does this Jesus really believe that a man can be on par with God?

And where did Jesus disappear to when the Jewish leaders wanted to know who it was that performed this miraculous work on a Sabbath. Remember something important: it was not yet time for there to be a blatant confrontation between Jesus and the authorities. What John’s Gospel is trying to show us is the differences in the people who do believe and don’t believe in Jesus. He is showing us what happens when one person – a cripple has his whole life true and upside down - by saying yes, not only to being healed but in saying yes to Jesus.

So I would put the question to you gentle reader: who is Jesus and who is he to you? There were many in Israel who claimed to be believers in God but would not accept Christ because they looked at him from a purely human point of view. They were not able to see the “signs” God was doing in Christ and the lives that were being changed as a result. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ and do you receive his abundant, eternal life as your own?

Let this Church be a Bethesda – a house of God’s mercy for those who are in trouble - so that people can come in and find rest and healing. Let every day in this place that there is between now and when Christ comes again be a Sabbath where people can come in and find the “rest” of God Almighty and in doing so find physical recuperation and spiritual refreshing.   


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How would you live if love were real?

ove is a word that gets thrown around a lot in this day and age. Many people use the word and often link it with sex. To be loved is to get sex and to have sex one must be loved or at least desirable in some fashion. But there is none of this in the Gospel (John 13.31-35). The command to love one another is born out of the love that Jesus (and therefore the Father has for us). Jesus calls on his followers to love each other in the same manner that he has loved each and all of them.  

So it is important to note the conditions under which the command is given. According to the Gospel we are into the “Farewell Discourse” and Jesus is talking to his followers about what is important for him and for them in the hours, days and time ahead. Within this context there are two things that we must be mindful of: a) Judas has just left to arrange for Jesus’ arrest and b) Peter’s impetuous insistence that he will go to the cross and to death with Jesus. He will fail and deny Jesus three times over that night.  Therefore the command to love each other comes in the midst of both betrayal and denial. Love and forgiveness will not find Judas but it serves to bring Peter back after failing and falling.

If we go deeper, the call and command to love one another means that we are going to “agapaos” or love those we know best. It may mean that we have been hurt by that person, possibly believe we have been betrayed or even denied in some fashion by someone within the Church. We are still called to love that person as Christ loves them. There is no other standard. We are called to love in all circumstances and occasionally in spite of them.

Jesus points out that God is glorified through our relationships and the working out (with fear and trembling) our salvation just as he has been glorified through the incarnation ministry of his Son Jesus. If God is glorified through us loving and looking after each other then how you live this life matters. It matters to you, to God and to everyone around you. Your life matters in every moment. Your life matters from here to eternity. Know this, how will you live your life from here on out? Will it be all about you? Will it be about drawing people into the kingdom and into eternity? What will you do with your life?

In this moment, as Captain Raymond Taylor used to tell us when I was in College in Toronto, “Be ready boys! Be ready to preach, pray or die at a moment’s notice and maybe do all three.” We are being called to the new creation and to inhabit the new City. We are called on by Christ to love and care for each other in ways that will draw others. We must live in such a way as to show others that we are ready to live in the new City and not just prepared to by into the old ways of the old life and the Empire. The new creation is sacred and there is a future for humanity with abundant life, and is filled with hope and peace. There will be no more death, or tears or mourning or terrorism. There will be no more sickness, disease, or malnutrition. God will make all things new. God will do this for those who follow and those who believe. And love will be brought to its perfection.


Friday, April 8, 2016

The Life of a wayward fisherman

There is an interesting phrase that fisherman use when they catch nothing in their nets: “waterhaul”. And interestingly enough, it is the same term that is used no matter where you are on the coast of Canada in a fishing community. To bring in an empty net was a “waterhaul”. So when we consider the Gospel this week (John 21:1-20), we go back to Galilee, back to when Jesus first found his disciples and called them to follow him and what where they doing? Fishing! And apparently, they were not doing very well at it.

This is a story of going back so that the community could go forward. This is a story about going back to that night when Peter made the bold promises of never leaving or forsaking Jesus even though others would – Peter would remain. But then he failed. He denied Jesus around that charcoal fire.

I link that to the life of the Church today. There are times when we as individuals and as communities of faith and mission have fallen short and fallen down and failed to listen and to do as God has asked. We did not heed the warning to not act precipitously and in doing so, have ended up in Peter’s situation. He has always wanted to be bold. He was the one who spoke up and proclaimed Jesus as Messiah first. He was the one who would not let Jesus wash his feet until he found out that he needed to have his feet washed. Peter tried to kill someone when they came to take Jesus away but failed. And most of all, when he could have stood up, he didn’t... and this is the man who is going to lead the Church?

What I find powerful is that Jesus restored him and Peter went on led a very powerful ministry amongst the Jewish people. He had to be shown how to love Jesus not just push a button and like him. That is why we celebrate the Eucharist on Sundays: so that we can eat and drink together so that in turn we can be empowered to go out and raise the dead.  Who would you take with you to the local cemetery to raise a dead person? That at the core of Christian ministry is what we are doing – raising the dead. Can you do it yourself? Of course not. It is about people meeting and beginning to see and know the person of Jesus Christ for themselves, instead of believing what the world thinks about Jesus and of him. It is why we eat together – so that we can proclaim the Lord’s death in real terms until he comes again. We preach the Gospel by taking Christ in through bread and wine and sharing his presence with those whom we meet and share every single day.

Our mistakes are not fatal unless we choose to live with them only, failing to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Our deaths are not final unless we choose to abandon hope and community, God and neigbour

The Church is the community of the Net. We bring them in and Jesus makes them clean. But we must go out and catch them. As I have so often heard, the Faith is caught, not taught. Let us eat and then rise and go. There is fishing to be done. Christ is waiting.