Wednesday, April 19, 2017

By faith and with hope, not by sight

There is a great little cross made of stones that hangs in the hallway of the Deanery. It carries an inscription that says: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2nd Corinthians 5:7). Every time I think of Thomas and the missed encounter with Jesus in that upper room and then to have him come for Thomas and challenge him to have hope at least, that what he is hearing from others is true  I cannot help but wonder when I am face to face with the Lord Jesus, what will happen.

There have been lots of little encounters with Jesus over the years, some more memorable than maybe others were. But there is one that comes to mind that I feel compared to share. It’s about the night my dad died and an encounter with God that has remained with me from that night until now. Maybe it is because I was recently told that a friend has the same cancer my dad did and hearing what is going on brings back these memories.

Specifically, I was with my dad, in his hospital room the night he died. We had been watching some American political show and there was a moment when I turned to him and said that I wished that he was well enough to have just one more political debate with me. As I watched my father, he took a few shallow breaths and then became very still. In shock and disbelief, I rang the buzzer to call in the nurse that was caring for dad (“Bronco Brenda” dad called her) to check on him. Having been with so many others when their time came, I knew that I knew what the determination was going to be. Sure enough, the pain and suffering were over. In that moment, dad died and passing from this life into the care and comfort of the God he has spent my lifetime teaching me about.

My sister came to spend a few minutes with dad, to say a farewell, I said some final prayers and then we departed because the hour was late and the road was darker than usual. I wanted to get back to my mom. When I got into my dad’s van, I sat for a moment to collect myself, preparing to drive back out to the house. So I turned on the radio. The radio was on a secular station but suddenly there was a Christian worship song “I can only imagine” playing. It was written by a young man that had lost his father to cancer just before I did. It was all about what he thought his dad’s first encounter with Jesus and what that must have been like. It is what I think of now as the “Thomas moment”, where faith is lost in sight and there is no denying it and all one can do is respond, “My Lord and my God”.

I was reminded in that moment grief and sorrow that I was not alone. I was drawn into that moment and shown that we (dad and I) were in the presence of living Christ and because he loved us, we would not be alone nor abandoned. That is the hope that Jesus called on Thomas to have. It is the hope and the faith that Christ gives to you and to me in this Easter season. We can lean on each other and we can help each other to be aware of Christ in our midst. Even when things have been hard and hope is flagging. We remind each other that we continue to walk as yet by faith and in hope, knowing that one day faith will be lost in sight. One day those tears that have been shed with be wiped away for the last time by those same hands that took the nails for us. Hallelujah!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Peace on a little hill

As I sit here at the desk, looking at the mountain of planning, preparation and production that is going to take place this Holy Week, I stand agog at all that needs to be done. First there is the planning for the service that are going to take place this week: Maundy Thursday with the foot washing and the stripping of the appointments of the Church as well as my family who have been in France for the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge arrive home. The following morning some of the Churches here are coming together at the Cathedral to observe Good Friday and the cross. After that comes Easter Day and there is double the pleasure. I have two Eucharists to celebrate, one with the BAS and one with the BCP. I will also welcome into the life of the Church at grand total of 17 people through Baptism. Plus the Contractor is on the Cathedral roof, rearmouring, sealing and shingling it. Plus we are getting ready to host a Diocesan Synod the Friday right after Easter and we will, God willing, elect our new diocesan bishop. And to add to the fun, I have been nominated for Bishop.

Now, you might think that this list might turning into a rant or a laundry list of complaints. In the middle of all of this manufacturing and mayhem, I have found myself think about a little hill just outside the old city walls where we saw just how far God would go to reclaim us from our depravity. And I know that you might think that is rather harsh, calling human being depraved. Scripture recognizes our need for rescue and our total in ability to rescue ourselves. We need rescue. As I look at those three crosses and how those men died I can honestly say that there is no help, no health in us. We cannot pull ourselves up by our boot straps to meet God and be good. It is not in us to do so. And we are all so capable of sin  and of evil. We need to be rescued.

That’s why I want to be ready for Easter: so that I can come to the Tomb and be surprised again at that depths of the love and the power that it has taken for us to be redeemed, refreshed and renewed. I want to discover the depths of that vacant tomb to recognize that Jesus is not there, he has been raised from death. I want to be reassured that because he lives, so do I. The tomb was vacant before the women (Matthew 28.1-10) arrived there. The tomb was opened for a simple reason. It was vacant already. Jesus didn’t need to be let out, we needed to be invited in. We need to see the place where he was laid and to be led there by the women who were there. We need to hear the words of the angel who spoke and made sure that we knew what God was up to – that Jesus was true to his word and that he has been raised from the dead, as he told us.

I want to be surprised by meeting Jesus on the road, or in the boat. I want to have a moment of worship of him who would rather die than live without us. I want a sacred moment to touch the hands and the feet, to know the depths of the sacrifice he made for me; not just to know that it is all real and true but so that my love and devotion can be further deepened both for Christ and for those whom he also bled. I want to know that the work that is being done, the sacrifices that are being made, the prayers that are being made are working together for the good of those who belong to Christ and the good of those who surround us.

Having had such wonders, I want to be enabled to go and tell this world that he has been raised from the dead and that means he is Lord. I want to be able to share the wonders of being in Christ’s risen presence with my brothers and sisters. I want us to come together in mission and ministry. I want us to find our Galilee so that we can worship and serve him in freedom.

Brothers and sisters, we are the best evidence of his ongoing life. It’s our dyings and risings that matter now. He lives in us. We need to live in such a way that we are offering our hearts, our lives and in doing so give ourselves to others. We need to live lives that show we have been redeemed, refreshed and renewed. We must live as people whose values and actions have been changed because we have encountered and are living in the presence of the risen Christ.

Live your liturgy, starting on that ancient hill, and then go find Jesus. Find Jesus, worship him and serve him. He did not die and be raised from the dead to spare you getting wounded. He did what he did so that we could take on his wounds and make them our own.