Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christ on board!

As I am taking time to consider all that needs to be said and done for the last of Advent and for Christmas, there are some things that stands out loudly in the Gospel (Luke 1:39-55; for Sunday morning the 4th Sunday of Advent) that need to be drawn to the fore.

For example, Mary. I marvel at her faith and openness to what God wants to do in her and for her. She is chosen to be the mother of our Saviour. She is called repeatedly as one who is blessed – that is – she is in a close relationship with the LORD. She is righteous before God and she will, from that moment, going to be called righteous for all the generations to come. What an overwhelming honour! God has been near her and watching her and she has been chosen to carry out the mission to bring the Saviour into the world. To at least some, she is going to have to endure the scorn of being betrothed and then pregnant. There was no small risk in taking on what God was asking of her. She would have to insist that she had not had sex with a man. She was going to have to carry on with things so that people could see the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. And she was going to have to prove her faithfulness and devotion to what Gabriel announced to her and call her new born son, “Yeshua” which means “God is salvation”. She had to believe that God was going to come and save his people.

Mary’s faith stands in stark contrast to what was happening with Zachariah. He and his wife Elizabeth were old and in the twilight of their years… having a son and the time to raise him was not possible and sounded beyond foolish, perhaps even insane. It is why when Zachariah told Gabriel that God could not do it, he spent the next several months in silence not able to speak. And when he was given opportunity to acknowledge that what was communicated to him was the truth – tht his son’s name was John, he immediately started praising and glorifying God, along with acknowledging what his son’s life and ministry will be and that he will lead others to the Messiah.  Elizabeth for her part, is the first to greet Jesus and acclaim him Lord, even before he is born. John responds to the presence of Jesus. Elizabeth can see what God is doing in Mary’s life and Elizabeth’s son will work as the Messiah’s forerunner – to announce his coming and presence to the people.

We need to remember that God is faith to his promises and his word. God is working out our salvation through his servants, including you and me. 

As I have been typing this has been rolling around in my head and I will share this song with you: The LORD has proven merciful to Abraham and his descendants and remains so for ever and ever; from generation to generation – including our own. The LORD cares of his son Israel and with his own strong arm, takes him by the hand and leads him in the ways that he should go. In coming down, God scatters the proud, pulls down the mighty and sends the rich away with empty hands. In rising up, the LORD exalts the humble, fills the hungry with good things and takes his children by the hand. The LORD holpens his people by coming to them and declaring the time of their salvation and that he has remembered his mercy, giving them grace to while being faithful to fulfill his covenant.  

So where does this leave and lead us? We as followers of the Lord Jesus, we carry him inside us. How we live is like having a sign around our necks, like the ones we used to see in cars saying, “Baby on board” except that ours might say something like, “Christ on board”. It would serve both as an announcement and as a warning to both the wearer and to those who approach that there is joy in this life and that God is coming to them for the purpose of redemption. God is coming to visit and to save his people. Maybe in the mean time and as we wait for that moment, we need to remind ourselves that it is not we who live, but Christ in us.


Friday, December 14, 2018

We know the Judge.

This week’s Gospel (Luke 3.7-18) has two main things that it wants to talk about: salvation and judgement. And I am certain that the moment you read the word ‘judgment’, the hairs on the back of your neck our on the top of your head stood up. It is not a word we like to talk about, especially when it comes to God and eternity. I think there needs to be a recognition that judgement is coming, and it is important that it does because without it, there can be no mercy and no justice.

All of us will feel it, no matter who we are or where we live or how good or bad we have been. Jesus is the Judge and he will come to judge the living and the dead, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the bad and the good. For us as believers, we need to live in the confidence that we know and live for the Judge and his kingdom. Our trust needs to be in God almighty not in the schemes of man. We need to be reminded that God himself makes that faithful surefooted and enables them to scale the heights of Sinai to enter into his presence because that is where our faith leads us… into his presence.

We are still a people who are waiting for God to make things better, so that things can continue as they have been… but that is not where God is going! All that is in this moment, will be undone at the appearing of Christ. We are being given time to seek God and his salvation. Maybe it is a recognition that when it comes to divine judgement, we are not going to be able to argue with the Judge. It is not like when we think that the referee has blown the call and didn’t get it right and we’re going to let him know it. After all we like to be able to make our opinions heard, often so that we can say something like “I told so” when things don’t work out. It does not work that way with God and so there is a fair bit of fear and concern where God and judgement are concerned.

Luke’s Gospel points out that the Message that comes to us is a message that has both the notes of salvation and of judgement. What we do with what we learn is important – and it has consequences for us and for all we encounter. We have to take the chance and share what is within us, so others can hear the Message and experience the presence of God almighty. And we must learn to put our trust in God, confident that God is going to vindicate you. We need to understand that God has supplied us what we need for the ministry and life we are to live. Living and do for God helps to maintain a right attitude as we wait for the world to be made new.

A lack of a positive response to the Message leads to a fruitless life. We will not be allowed to endlessly use up the soil, so therefore, we must grow and produce the fruit that God has planted within us. We must strive towards salvation and stop worrying about judgement. We are called to the first and cannot control the last. But we do know the Judge. Trust him.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Message to shake the World with

Have you ever considered that we have been given a message that is meant to shake up the world, right to its every foundation? If you stop to consider the Gospel this week (Luke 3.1-6), that is what we are being set up for: a message that will shake the world awake and make its foundations quiver. But how does this happen?

First, let’s consider the context in which the message comes. The message comes to particular people at a particular moment in time, in particular place. Luke notes this for us: The Good News came to John, son of Zachariah (the priest), in the wilderness. But Luke goes further to show who the Message was going to affect, not just Tiberius Caesar – it was going to shake up the whole Roman world! From the person in the street to the fields, the angels of heaven to the local clergy, to the Herods (kings) and their tetrarchies; to the local Roman Governor and on to Roman and to Caesar himself.

If you want to think of it this way, here is what it might look like if Luke was writing to Theophilus in the here and now: “In the 69th year of the reign of her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, when Justin was Prime Minister of Canada and Rachel was Premier of Alberta; when “the Donald” was President of the United States, and  during the episcopacy of Fraser who is Bishop of Athabasca… the word of the Lord came to the servant of the Lord in the wilderness.”

What was the message that God sent to John to preach? God is coming to visit and redeem his people – all of them. God chose John To be the one who would preach the message to have the people ready for the Word incarnate – the living Word – who is Jesus. John became the forerunner of the Gospel, calling people to come to repentance and back to God. Such messengers are not sent to be famous, powerful and rich. God’s messengers come to God’s people because they are compelled to make an impact on the life of the communities to which they belong. They live and work to make an impact on the people around them for the sake of the kingdom that is to be revealed through divine fulfillment.

The Word comes to the one who is ready and prepared; who has dared to et out into the wilderness and remove all those things that would hinder hearing God’s still, small voice. Going out into the wilderness enables us to put aside our things and our schedules and programs and demands so that we can be with God and allow him to speak to and provide for us. Going out into the wilderness means that we are going to learn that we are not n charge and can stop acting like we are in control and playing God. The wilderness teaches us that we need to learn again to listen and lean upon God for us daily bread. It is crucial because God is coming near, and he will, in and through Christ, redeem his people.

If that is not enough to shake the world up, then I am not certain what will. In the meantime, we must work, pray and preach the message to make the Message heard.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hope helps us to rise

There is a line that has been running through my head as we get ready for a new liturgical year and for the seasons of Advent and Christmas: “Hope: does not weigh the heart down.” And that is an interesting thought when so much of the Gospel this week is about the end of things, judgment and so on. The Church is liturgy this time of year likes to focus on hope, joy peace and love. We do this because of how the world is these days. All we would need is a sign in the wider creation and we would know for certain that the end of things, of this life was near. But I have to doubt whether we would get ready for Jesus to come and appear to us. Would we be ready or would we be like it was the first time, where we were not so willing to make room for him?

So often I hear something like, “What is this world coming to?” we are able to put robots that drill into the planet’s surface on Mars and send astronauts to Russia and then onto the International Space Station but seem to be unable to handle so many other things. Situations like Brexit, bombings in the Middle East, the shutting down of the GM Plant in Oshawa, dealing with the economic downtown in the oil and gas industry and the loss of 120,000 jobs, or dealing with the migrants at the US-Mexican Border.  How can we think about hope when the world around us is so hopeless? How can any of the things I have just listed, become good news for us and the community around us?

It is because of what Jesus asks us to do in the Gospel (Luke 21.25-36) this week. Jesus asks us to stand up and look up so that we can concentrate on seeing him and his coming. We love to celebrate the baby in the manger but that is not the advent that we are looking for. Jesus has already come that way. He is coming again on the clouds with his angels and he is coming to judge the earth. Strong talk for an Anglican I realize, but that is what the Word teaches us.

I suspect that there are some reading this who will be fearful of that idea and that I believe that – except that Sunday by Sunday we confess that we are looking for him to come, to judge the living and the dead, physically and spiritually, in the Creed and in the Lord’s Prayer. We confess and pray that Jesus is coming again and that we are looking forward and rejoicing in his coming. Please also understand that I say this to you not because I want to throw a good and proper scare into you. I say it because I know that I shall be doubly judged – for what I have done with Christ and what I have taught you as a leader in the Church.

Standing up, looking up puts us in a good position to be able to reach up. God is already reaching out, reaching down and stretching out to you. All you need do is reach up. Looking up helps us to keep our eyes on Christ. Looking up and focusing on Christ keeps us from the temptation to think that we are God and acting like we are God. We need to stop playing like we are God. That is going to seem like and maybe even feel like death but then God is in the business of redemption and resurrection.

We rise to greet Christ and to draw him back here to be with us forever. We are in the time of preparation to make that happen. There will be joy in getting ready, peace in the waiting and love to undergird us in all that needs to happen. And hope will help us to rise.

Lift up your life and see the coming King. He comes soon. Maranatha!


Thursday, November 22, 2018

The unrecognized King

I want you to stop and consider something as you read this blog, this week: If you were to be arrested and suspected of being a follower of Jesus, would there be enough evidence in your life to convict you? And I am not talking about the sales and the meetings and the other things you do around and in the building we call Church. What is there in your life that people could point to you and accuse you of being a Christian?

The Gospel this week (Mark 13.1-10) is for the Feast of the Reign of Christ the King. It is the focus of all that has been said and done since the Day of Pentecost and this is the end of another year in the Church’s Calendar. Next week will begin again preparing from the Feast of the Incarnation (Christmas) and the coming of the Living Word of God into our space and place.

In taking all of this in, there is a question that gets asked by Pilate in the Lesson that each and all of us get confronted with, “What is truth?”. Now please understand that I am a huge fan of the Star Wars movies. I saw my first one with my dad in May 1977. Ever since, I have always loved going to see the new one when it came out. And like every movie franchise, it has its catch phrases… like when Han Solo says, “I have a bad feeling about this.” There is another phrase from Jedi Knight Ben (Obi-wan) Kenobi and you might recognize it: “Everything things is true, from a certain point of view.” If you need a refresher or if you have never seen the movies, try this out:                             

I point this out because it is the issue that is being addressed. Pilate is struggling with what the truth about Jesus really is and what the leaders of the Jews are accusing him of. What is the truth of all of it? Is Jesus rebel scum trying to upset the political balance in his favour or is he a spiritual leader who has irritated the leadership of the Jews? What is the truth of the situation and how is Pilate to know or figure it out? As a spiritual figure, Jesus is not a threat but if he is a king, then he is a threat to Rome and its maintenance of Empire.

Thing is, Jesus is not a king like any other nor is his kingdom recognizable because of it borders. Jesus speaks to the lowly and the down trodden. He eats with outcast and sinners. He serves rather than demanding service from others. His kingdom is not built on military might or through violence. Those people who belong as citizens of his kingdom, are born from above and are powerful because they have been given power to live that life by God the Father. I spent some time watch footage of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation as the 39th Monarch of the United Kingdom.  The moment that caught my imagination was the “Recognition” when the people pay homage to the about to be coronated queen. Four times the people are asked if they will obey her and each time they resoundingly say yes.  Watch it here:

We know well of course what happens next. Jesus is denied by Rome and rejected and revived by his own. He was then taken beaten and scourged. Then he was marched outside the city walls where with two other men, was crucified and died. His throne was a cross and his crown a circle of thorns. The Good news in all that is that his death and burial are not the end of the story but the beginning. God the Father raised the Son from death and things went on from there.

So what happens when you have the truth standing in front of you? What happens when you are asked to give an account for the hope that lays within you? Would people be able to convict you as being a Christian person?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This is not the end

I have never really been good at preaching on eschatological passages of Scripture, of which this week’s Gospel (Mark 13.1-10) is a part. What is eschatology you ask? It is the study of the end times. I know that most Anglicans tend to live and believe that the world is becoming a better place, slowly but surely. More than likely many believe that the world will slowly become a better place without help. This is something called process theology. Yet the evidence points to the contrary; that things are getting worse in this world, not better. So, it would be natural and normal for us as human beings when considering this world, ask how we will when things are going to be made better, or even perfect? And how will we know when such a thing is going to occur so that we can be ready for it?

This leads me to ask a simple question: what is expected of us as believers and follows of Jesus, in a world that is falling apart? In the last couple of weeks in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has been noted and seen Turing his back on the Temple treasury and then on the temple and its system in its entirety. The Gospel places Jesus in a position of opposition against what is perceived to be the status quo.  This is a dangerous place to be because the mighty and the powerful want and need to keep the system as it is, to keep them in power and in control. So, it would be fitting to respond to the discussion between Jesus and the unnamed disciple as the disciple saying to Jesus, “This place is so great and so massive. Are we really,... we are going to fight all this?”

It has also occurred to me that when Jesus points out that no stone will be left in its spot on top of another, he also seems to be speaking of the stone on his tomb – that it too will be moved. In doing so, will render the changes that the world, that we as people have been looking for. And maybe this is a good time to point out that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus happen in the middle of a city that is in an occupied mess in a world that is in the midst of total upheaval. Jesus did not come to turn the world upside down, to bring it right side up and to turn the community of the Church, inside out. Remember too, there is no faith or trust in self reliance. That is what the faith of the nation had become – a desire to be self reliant and for the maintenance of the status.

Status seekers and those who want to maintain things are in a for a rude awaken because change and the transformation of this world and this life into what God wants it to be, is coming and we cannot stop it. We cannot make deals to prevent it. So, either we are going to have to learn to transform and to live within the will of God, or we are going to have face the chaos. Our faith cannot shield us from the chaos, the pain and the panic that comes from change, but it can guide us through it. Changes are coming to all of us which are going to upset and disrupt our status quo. There is no doubt about that. What is left to us is how we are going to navigate what happens and who we are focused on. Such times are going to force us to either live the courage of our convictions or we are going to have to capitulate to the flow of our society into whatever they believe will make us better.

Maybe that is why I am encouraged to hear Jesus say that these things that we are going through are the beginning of the birth pangs. Or more importantly, this is the beginning not the end. Wars and massive destruction are not what we are looking for, but we recognize that we are going somewhere. Yes, there is pain and suffering in the journeying. Mistakes and misjudgments will be made. We will get distracted and off track and need to be drawn back to the narrow path. What is expected of us is to be who we are in Christ – no more and no less either. And at the end of it all, there will be a new creation that will have new life. With that life there will be a celebration, a feast, the likes of which the earth and heaven have never seen but will rejoice in all the more.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

For all the souls, through thick and thin

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the guns fell silent, signalling the end of what has become known as “The Great War” or “The War to end all wars”. I have been privileged to have known and served with a number of people in a variety of uniforms over the years. People like my maternal grandfather who fought in World War II with Canada’s Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and with Lord Hugh Connaught’s Battalion. As I understand it, he was with the Canadians in Scilly and Italy as well as in England where he taught others to drive various machines. My grandfather told me that his main duties were to go and get vehicles of different kinds off the battlefields and bring them in so that the machines could be repaired and used again. I remember vividly our last Remembrance Day together in 1987; just a short time before he died.

He told me that as bad as the sights were, what was worse for him was the smells of things that would invoke memories. Crossing battlefields and doing your job to keep people moving, to keep winning battles no matter what, there are things: sights, sounds, smells that always stay with you. He served in the Canadian Forces from 1940-45. And though he never said it, life when he came home was forever changed and forever different because of what he went through and what he remembered of those years.

In ministry, I have also had to bury members of the Canadian Forces and help to bury members of the RCMP. Boys (and yes, I mean boys) like Private Steven Maynard and Private Justin Jones. Steven died in a car accident on a Manitoba highway, trying to keep a friend from running into a problem. Justin died with two other members of his unit on a road way in Afghanistan when their armoured vehicle set off an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). And there is Corporal Jason Derry of the RCMP who died suddenly at the Detachment in the community where we lived. He was a neighbour and used to delight our younger son with a flash of the lights and a blip of the siren when he would pass the house in his work vehicle.

It was hard at first, to understand what all this has to do with this week’s Gospel (John 6.35-40) and to connect it with Remembrance Day and the memories that such a day invokes. If there are somethings that these and others have taught me, here is some what I have learned from what they taught me:

·        One cannot fully and truly live, until one learns to go and in the going, unselfishly give.
·      In order for one to know peace, one first needs to receive the grace that only God Almighty can give; without it there can never be peace.
·       Until we are peace filled people, this will not be a peaceful world.
·       That God is not an unknown factor in the equation of life but rather a well loved Father.
·   That hope comes from knowing Jesus and experiencing his resurrection – the mistakes we make don’t have to be fatal and the deaths that we die do not have to be final.
·      That the hope and therefore the life that Christ offers cannot be changed, muted, faded or worn away. Faith needs to be tested (heated) to prove itself and so that it can be found to be genuine.
·         Courage is not the lack or absence of fear, but rather the ability to act in the face of it.
·         Jesus brings divine purpose to our common life and service.
·      Whether we come home to the arms of those who love us or fall into the hands of the One who created us, we are safe and secure.

It is Jesus who gives us bread to eat and life to live, not just for the here and now, but for eternity. Jesus changed the standard and made himself our source for life. Hope for the Christian person therefore comes from being in the presence of and fed by the hand of Christ himself. Christ offers each and all of us hope and life that is spiritual, untainted by fear and mistrust, and that cannot fade away (1st Peter 1.3-9). It is kept for us by the power of God because we trust and believe in him.

Maybe that is why there are no atheists in foxholes or on turbulent airplanes. Like those who have lived and died in battle, each and all of us understand that the only place to find true peace and rest is to know Christ. It is his grace that leads us to mercy and then into peace. Once at peace, then there can be real growth.

Rest eternal grant unto these O Lord and let light perpetual shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Someone through whom the Son shines

What is a saint? Someone through whom the Son shines. Or as my father used to remind me, “In the same way, so let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good work and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5.16.

I am often drawn at this time of year, to John 11 and to the raising of Lazarus and the fall out that happens in the wake of his rising from the dead. I am drawn to it, at least in part because, as I recently shared, I was left for dead. For a time after, I had many friends call me Lazarus because I cam back when I wasn’t supposed to.

I am drawn into John 11 because of the people around Jesus who just didn’t get it – including Mary and Martha, including the Twelve – because all they needed to do was be patient and watch for what God was going to do next. I have known many people over the last 30 years who have told me that they could have been a better Christian if they could have seen Jesus. To that I point out that Jesus himself said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe.” (John 20) We need to intentionally go looking and listening for Jesus in the places and spaces that we live and work and go to school in and play in. Saints are not just people who were faithful a long time ago and we cannot possibly live up to that, so we are not going to try to do so.

Saints are more than the people we memorialize in stain glass whose past actions define faithfulness and greatness in the kingdom, they are people through who the Light. The Son still shines – to light our path and they ways in which we need to continue to walk. And I think that it is important to know that God is still at work in those who have gone before us. Death not the end of things but only the beginning.

This calls us to open our eyes and our ears and to actively search for Christ and when we find him – to love, worship and serve him. We all know that death stinks – we’ve all been there at one time or another. In our modern culture, we like to minimize it, clean it up, fix it up dress it up but never actually deal with the realities of death and therefore of life and how we live it. Can we love the people (our families, our friends and neighbours) enough to actually love them into the kingdom by the ways in which we live for and serve Christ in them? Genuine compassion proceeds from the Father and the strength to live a compassionate life comes from the Son through the genuine power and grace that is the Spirit. Think about John 11.35 which says this, ”Jesus wept.”

Ministering to people means that we come along side of others and we share with them whatever it is that God has given to us. Doing this kind of ministry means that we are going to come alongside the people that are sick and scared, wounded and suffering, even dying, to suffer and maybe even die along side them if necessary. This is an immense privilege and duty, especially for those of us who are called to live daily in such a ministry.

If you want to see Jesus – learn to serve. Because in seeking to find and serve Christ, others will see him shine out in you – another saint through whom the Son shines.

Oh, and Happy All Hallow’s Even too!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A blind man sat by the road and cried...

I find the miracle (sign) in the ministry of Jesus this week (Mark 10.46-52), both encouraging and befuddling all at the same time. It is encouraging because even though he is this close to the cross and all that is going to happen, Jesus is still true to who he is and that gives me hope for what is still to come to me in my own life and ministry. It is befuddling because nothing happens that causes more to happen and for problems to ensue, like people running off and proclaiming what Jesus has done for them when Jesus has asked them not to.

First let me say a word about faith and believing. We seem to think in our modern, Western culture that these are different things. Where Jesus and the Scriptures – Mark in particular – are concerned they are not. In order to believe, one must both trust and participate in order to know that you do believe and are expressing it. Thereby one demonstrates his or her faith. Believing in Jesus is something that everyone can do, including the devil – and he shudders at the thought of Christ. Faith is an action of the body not just a memory of the mind.

See it in the actions and life of Bartimaeus. When he heard of Jesus passing him by and knowing that he was on his way to Jerusalem, to confrontation and probably to his death, the son of Timaeus started calling out to Jesus, by name. People were trying to listen to Jesus as they walked and talked. This fool, this ungrateful blind beggar was disrupting that, making it impossible for them to participate. They tried without success to ‘shhh’ and in fact the harder they tried, the louder Bartimaeus shouted and carried on. So much so, that Jesus heard and said to them – you call him to me. There was both relief and shame that hey had tried to silence this man and now had to do what they should have done in the first place. And why should Bartimaeus have been quiet – he needed mercy, and this might be his last chance in this life to get it. It means he is going to hang on to this moment with all that he worth that he might receive what he needs: mercy.

This is more than just for one man to receive his eyesight back – this for a person of God to be made whole that he might know God better and be drawn into eternal life. Bartimaeus did all he could to get Jesus’ attention and then “sprang up” to get to Jesus, leaving what little he had behind to get to him so that he could receive mercy. He needed to be drawn out his situation – his blindness. This is completely different from the rich young ruler wanted to be done with rule keeping and with the necessity of giving to those in need. This is also completely different from the power and glory seeking of James and John, who wanted to be given seats of honour, power and authority in the kingdom, even above those who they have learned and served with. Members of the community had to help this man get to Jesus so tht they could have their conversation. They had to participate in the miracle and put aside what they think is right and righteous. They needed to stop worrying about having their needs and demands met and consider another – that the other could be restored and made whole.

What did this man do with the mercy, grace and healing he received? He left his old life behind and followed Jesus up the hill and out of Jericho, towards Jerusalem and the cross. He went without anything but himself/ So if lack of a road map and a mission statement did not stop Abraham, if the sea could not stop Moses, if a wall would not stop Joshua, if a giant couldn’t stop David, Bartimaeus had no clothes or bank account, and if death cannot stop Jesus, then what’s stopping you from becoming the child of God you are called to become?


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Trusting in the Presence of God

Nearly 25 years ago, I can remember feeling that I had the world as my oyster. There was a moment when I was newly married, preaching and teaching all over Southern Ontario leading a growing and fruitful ministry. There was even a little money left in the bank at end of the month instead of month left at the end of the money. I could have been this rich, young ruler. But then it all came to a screeching halt.

On the morning of May 29th, 1994 my wife had to rush me to the Emergency Room at the Toronto Western Hospital. I had awakened to discover that I was struggling to walk or talk. And so, off we went into the dark. After time in the Emergency room I was told it was the flu and to go home, drink lots and rest. We had two more trips like this to the same hospital and was told the same thing each time, go home, drink lots and rest. So finally, on the Thursday night, a friend took us to the hospital they would go to – Mount Sinai. It was here, in a bed and in front of a doctor and two nurses that I suffered a grand maul seizure.

After questioning my wife, the doctor thought that this was not the flu and I was swiftly admitted to the hospital. As the doctors investigated, it was narrowed done to some harrowing choices: leukemia, a brain tumour, or meningitis. After a couple more days of testing, it was concluded that I had an atypical viral meningitis. And as the days when by, the doctors grew grim and thought that there was little time left for me. In spite of the fact that they could give me medications to knock out the infection, they could not control the swelling.

I do remember times during those three weeks when Nova would come in first thing in the morning and help me to do morning devotions by reading scripture and visits from friends and colleagues who would pray unceasingly for me to be healed. Of these I can remember praying with our upstairs neighbours Captain Henk and Sue Willems who go out to what is now known as the Toronto Blessing and then come directly to my hospital room to lay hands on me and pray. 

It wasn’t until my 21st day in hospital, when all of the medical measures had been withdrawn and life was allowed to take it course, that the Lord acted. The priest who had married Nova and I (His name is Richard) in May came to visit. The visit was good and it was helpful to see Richard, even if I could not physically see him. I remember vividly the prayer that was offered as he was ready to depart. I remember a hand on my back where the needles had been used to determine that it was meningitis. The hand as hot – but not uncomfortable.

I went from not being able to see or even tolerate light; from hardly being able to hear; from not being to walk that afternoon to the following morning be able to be in my room with the blinds wide open, sitting up, eating my breakfast when Nova walked in. Nova that day encountered one of the doctors who had been responsible for my care noted for her, “Your husband’s case has us baffled. We don’t know why he got sick and we don’t know why he got better.”
I share this not to make myself look great or to look for pity because of what happened. I share it because of what God did in the life of one person and what he continues to in the lives of other people because of that one person. I have been enabled to see what God can do when there is trust, even in the tiniest amounts, in him is in operation.

And for what is it worth, I had been wowed for some time by the Christians who were around me. They had wonderful testimonies of how God broke down all kinds of walls and barriers for them to come to faith because of where their lives had taken them. For a time, I thought myself a puny Christian next to them. The suffering and pain of those days serves a reminder that we are not alone and when things are at their worst. What we need to do is to keep looking to God for his grace and leading in the way that we should go, trusting him to get us there.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dealing with worries

Have you ever wondered why we worry about things? Ever wondered about how to deal with worries? The Gospel this week (Matthew 6.25-33) calls us to consider some things, not the least of which is to consider where our focus is. I say this because I know that where our focus is, there is our faith and strength. And if, as believers, we are not focused on Jesus, does that not lead to fear and frustration because we lack power and courage?

We need to do more than “just believe”. We need to stop and consider that Jesus knows what our needs before we even ask and our simple ignorance in asking. We need to ask, to seek him and to knock on the door until we get not because Jesus acts like a certain jolly old elf but because we need to know what it is that we need. So that when we receive it we are willing to do more that just hold on and treat what we have been given as a personal possession. We are called in this way to seek first the kingdom of God and all that comes with it, starting with righteousness. Keep in mind that the Father calls us into a deeper and deeper relationship with him – that he wants, desires for us to come closer to him so that he can give us all that we need to do what he needs us to do so that others can come into that same kind of righteous relationship with both God and with us.

God’s mercy through us as the Church retrieves us and others from trouble. God grace strives to make us not just holy but whole. Faith makes us ready for Jesus to come again and for what is next – life that is abundant and irrepressible. We come to congregate on this morning to give thanks for all that God has given us. Giving thanks to God keeps us from making idols out of what we have in our lives and us from becoming self idolatrous because we believe that everything depends on us… it does not. Thanksgiving grows because we are in relationship with a God whose giving knows no ending. Trusting God for what we need, is in and of itself an act of faith which is a gift God has already given and we have received. We honour God by taking this moment to praise, to glorify, to pray and to give thanks. Worship causes us to find our focus again and to return to what it is that God is calling each and all of us to.

Fears, misgivings, mistrust and unfaithfulness arise from an unwillingness to accept God at his word and to lean on what he has promised. We often refuse to learn that God is faithful to us all the time. As human beings we are willing to defer to ‘expert opinions’ because of involvements in other matters. We comply with something we know not to be right or the truth because we fear ridicule and being excluded from community because of personal opinions, motives and agendas concerning Church and the Faith we hold in common.

We are dragged into the spot where we are persisting in certain things: to ask, to seek and to knock, and await God’s answer to our needs and necessities. We do so in order that we might become answers to at least a few of our own prayers.

And as a last thought, let’s consider the encouragement of Scripture, specifically Psalm 37.3-7a which says, 

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!"

We need to give thanks, overcome things in the name of the Lord Jesus and focus on what we are called to. He will deal with our worries in ways that will cause us to give thanks and to rejoice.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Salt in the wound

If it seems like Jesus us jumping on his disciples with both feet, that is probably because he is. Mark 9.38-50 is one of the testier parts of the Gospel of ark where Jesus is working on the Twelve to get them thinking more about the kingdom and the needs of other people while at the same time thinking and worrying less about themselves and their lives.

The Gospel this week is about reminding the Twelve of what ministry is really all about. The Apostle John speaks up and points out that they found a man doing what they can do, but he would not fall under their authority, so they tried to stop him from doing ministry at all. It occurs to me that the greatest sign of the kingdom, which is what ministry does. Is your own relationship with Jesus and how you live it out with him and with others? In fact, it is about “being weird” as we live in this world and as we walk into the next one.

Leading ministry does not mean that the leader owns it. Ownership belongs to God and that makes us stewards of what Good has and what God wants done. Jesus points out to the Twelve that it is better and wiser for them to allow people who can do these things t do them because they will not turn on Jesus or the community easily, having done them. It also occurs to me that while ministry needs to be under authority and to be accountable for what is done (because it enables testimony and celebration) it is not just for the chosen few who lead nor is it just about “the Minister”. Moreover, is it not a sin to leave a person in their pain and sorrow, sin and sickness because the right people do not control that particular person? “Whoever is not against us, is for us.”

And let’s look a little deeper into the life of ministry and what we do with how we live and how we act. Jesus’ solution to dealing with what makes us sin and fall, is pretty radical, but it is not our bodies he wants dealt with. It is our capacity to be able to sin. We need to be radical in dealing with your sin. How do we do that? 

Here is some things to consider before you move to radical surgery:
  • ·         Be very careful what you pick up and what you put down; not just with your hands but with your tongue as well. – Let your conversation be seasoned with salt.
  • ·         Be wise in walk you walk into and what you walk away from.
  • ·         Be compassionate with those you choose to see and those you choose to not see.

You show were you are going to live by how you are living. Choose to be salt and light, even if it means sometimes being salt in the wound or light in the eyes. It will sting, it can hurt but then it will heal, life will be restored and all that will be left is a scar as a reminder of how gracious God is. And one last thing? Patience in serving and under suffering brings joy and freedom to those who need it most, including the servant.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Who are we when we come home?

Who are you when you come home? I can remember times when my boys were small, and they would love to come running to the door to greet me. Invariably they would want to be picked up and have my full and undivided attention because I had been out doing what Dad does when he was not downstairs in the Parish Office. They loved to wrap their arms around my neck and hold on for dear life - as if they had not seen me in a thousand years though it had only been a few hours at most. The Gospel for Sunday (Mark 9.30-37) got me to thinking about home. Jesus came home to Capernaum for the last time on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. Jesus came home and to the house where he lived through his ministry and life away from Nazareth. Who was he when he was home?

I ask this question because I often wonder as a priest, who people become when the walk out the doors of the Church and go home from worship – who do they become? I ask because I find it interesting that I can write blogs about life, peace, hope and people respond to that like gangbusters. On the other hand, when I write about things like following Jesus and the realities that we face in doing that, people don’t want to deal with that. People seem to only want the sweetness and light and not reality. Maybe it is reality they are trying to avoid. That’s why it is critical to understand that Mark’s Jesus is at a critical spot because they are going to Jerusalem and the time is short. 

So, it makes it important when Jesus asks them the question, “What were you arguing about on the road?” they were ashamed, not because they had argued, but because of what they had argued about: who was the greatest amongst them. Wanting to be great is a good thing but if you are going to be great in Jesus’ eyes, you’re going to have to be a good servant for everyone. The Twelve were worried about who was going to get position and power, not about the people around them who were suffering. It occurs to me that things aren’t all that different in the Church from then until now. What do you do with a bunch of disciples who are self serving, self interested and self seeking? Jesus knew what to do! He called them into deeper service with him. “if you want to be great, then you must be least and servant of all. We must learn to not only seek to bring people into relationship with Jesus we need to be humble enough to stay with them and teach them what they need to know to be effective Christians too.

Every person you receive and befriend, regardless of who they are, is worthy of the service you can offer them. It is not about you, it is about God and them. Remember the baptismal promise to seek and to serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself? Every person, every life matters because you seek Jesus in them. Every life has significance where the Father is concerned because each of us is worth the life of the Son of God. Even if and even when they cannot give us the power, position and prestige we think that we deserve. Every person is entitled to the care and protection that we can offer through the grace and strength that God gives us.

Moreover, the service that we offer others then becomes thank offering for all that God the Father has given and all that we have received from him. We are sustained in our life and ministry because we are continuing to seek Christ both in the Church and in the world. The Father makes this happen because he is seeking to reconcile all of his creation with himself. As Stanley Hauerwas recently said, “The pastoral task of the Church, is the building up of the Church in holiness.”

This means that when we come home to God, and we are at his table, we are received as a desirable guest but that is not where we remain if we are in relationship with him. We do not, we cannot remain the same and remain with God forever. Our relationships with the Father and with one another transform because we know each other increasing measure. Being holy and righteous are about the relationships we hold not who we become. Such states therefore, are communal and relational much more than they are personal.

So when you come home who are you?


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hope is kindled

There is a great little moment in the last of the Lord of the Rings movies, the Return of the King, when Gandalf the White utters a simple phrase, “Hope is kindled.” He says this to acknowledge that the message has been sent from Gondor to Rohan, that aid in the fight against the enemy Sauron and evil is needed. Rohan under the lead of King Théoden will respond, but will they come in time and with enough strength to drive back the enemy?

I connect this with what we read this Sunday in the Gospel and through out the Scriptures about how God is coming to the aid of his people, whom he loves and how he deals with the separation that has been created between him and them. Which leads me to ask, do you know what the first question is in the Bible? It is God who asks Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”

In the moment when Peter announces that the disciples believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah we have a biblical moment when the flame is kindled and hope springs into the world. But then Jesus orders them to stay silent about it and with God reason. To announce the presence of the one who is going to upset the status quo and who is going to overthrow the government, is not helpful to what Jesus is trying to do and is dangerous for those who would bring such a message. It is ultimately why there is a confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish leadership which led to a conflict with Pilate. This in turn led to Jesus’ death on the cross. This too is a moment when hope is kindled. Jesus told them that he was going to be rejected, suffer and die and three days later, rise again. All Peter could he is that his dream wasn’t going to come true – that Jesus wasn’t going to be the kind of Messiah that he wanted him to be. After all, of what use is a dead Messiah?

Jesus, in rebuffing Peter, looks at his disciples before he says anything. He knows that what he says is going to be crucial. It is why, I think Jesus was so pointed and demanding. He insisted that Peter stop playing God and get with the program. He wanted Peter to follow and learn to lead, even if it meant learn to do it the hard way. Jesus does not have interest in claiming his royal seat through his bloodline. He is not interested in furthering a political agenda.

We are far off and away from God. It is why God asks the question of you, “Where are you?” Jesus came to find us and to bring us home. We are worried about failure. We worry about loss. What we need to start doing and to be aware of is what Jesus is asking of each and of all of us, so that we can together help to build the kingdom of God.

So maybe it is time that we follow Peter and with him get back in line. But let’s be clear, no disciple follows the Master on their own terms. You have a choice. You can live with and for Jesus and all that this means, including what St. Paul would call “light and momentary troubles”. Or you can live your life the way you want, at least for a time and then face an eternity without God on your own. It is totally your choice.

Jesus and his demands on his disciples are clear. He is not looking for men and women to become a band of martyrs. Martyrdom is a gift you can use but once and at the end of your life. Jesus calls you to live for him and that is why he calls for your surrender and submission. As the Scriptures remind us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.4)

Because we seek to follow Jesus in this moment. Hope is kindled. Let’s get to it.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Hope and Light for life

In recent weeks, I have been reminded of the necessity of Christian people learning to be merciful in their actions, especially when dealing with one another. The Gospel this week (Mark 7.24-37) speaks of the necessity of mercy in the stories of a woman who calls on Jesus to heal her little daughter and a man who is brought to Jesus by the community for Jesus to heal because of his hearing loss and being tongue tied. Now maybe at first, these don’t look like mercies offered but we need to consider carefully who these people were that Jesus healed and the impact they had on the people around them, including Jesus.

Firstly, there is the Syrian Phoenician woman. She had some many things against her and Jesus, when he encountered her in Tyre. She had gone in search of Jesus and found him out when he wanted to be in quiet and spend time with the Twelve, to make sure that they understood everything because time was short, and the cross was coming nearer and nearer. Jesus wanted to ensure that his work and his Church would thrive after the Resurrection and Ascension. So, when the woman came to him and interrupted his plan, Jesus did not make it easy for her to make the request. The woman remained undeterred in her persistence for her daughter’s health and well being. I think that this is important to the Markan community because it shows that someone who is thought of as an outsider, an enemy of the kingdom, or worse an insignificant speck, could have faith and receive what God is offer to the rest of his children. This understanding would be huge to those to whom Mark is writing because that is how the Empire and the world are treating them. They are hunted, persecuted and executed for claiming to believe that Jesus is their Lord. They needed encouragement and they wanted more hope for the life they needed to live, if they were going to live it for the name of Jesus.

Secondly then, to get further away from his popularity, Jesus went north from Tyre to Sidon, and then from Sidon to the region of the Decapolis (Ten Towns) where they brought a man to Jesus who had no hearing and only had a little bit of speech. It might be that the man had suffered an illness and lost his hearing. What is certain is that Jesus took him indoors to keep the healing from being a public spectacle. Wet Willies and your spit on another person’s tongue is a dramatic (if not completely icky) action to a modern ear and mind. In declaring that man to be open, Jesus opened the man’s life to all the good and grace that God had for him which in turn allowed the man to opening and plainly praise God for what he has and was doing, in his life and in the life of the nation. 

That is why I found this past weekend so powerful for the lives that were spoken into by the Spirit. The speaker at the youth weekend has the gift of prophecy. He spoke a word to each and every one of the 20 teens that were there because he had been praying for them for weeks. He told them about the things that God could see in them. He told them about how much God loved them and about how much joy there was in God’s heart over them. He worked to help these young people open up to God and to the people around them so that the world around them could hear about the transforming power and love of God for them. People who have experienced this kind of transformation cannot help but talk about God and how God has opened them up – and they keep talking and talking about God and how wonderful God is and what he is doing in Jesus in this world.

This has helped me to realize that true darkness is not the complete absence of light, but rather the total loss of hope. Being around younger people, newer Christians, has reminded me of a long-held belief that when the light and hope of Christ are seen in the life of a young person, then not only is a life saved, but so is the lifetime that goes with it.

Seeing Light and hope in another, is a mercy and a God given grace. I know that this is true in my life and pray is so with you as well.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Come, live your liturgy!

This week, I am off to join youth leaders and younger members of our diocese at Youth Daze. The theme for the weekend is “Be Transformed” based on Romans 12.1-2 which says this:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12.1-2 ESV)

As I have been reflecting on this, one of the things that pops out is that God wants more from you and me that just a head knowledge that allows us to believe in him – he wants that but for us to recognize that he wants more than that. He wants us to get into action. This becomes clear in the doxology that precedes this piece of scripture in that Paul relays all that God has done from the Fall in the Garden to the time of Jesus and how the Father has worked out salvation for his people. In light of all this we are called to live lives that are consecrated so that we can live as Christ does… not as the world demands you to.

Faith expresses itself in living obedience to the will of God in the living of everyday life. God is not asking for the impossible – because that is his job. What the Father is asking is for us to do what is possible for us to do. Why is this important? Because God has you right where he needs you to make his plan work. I can remember being at a youth conference and the speaker was challenging people to be ready to go to China and to go to Africa – which got loud roars each time. What no one was willing to do what was in front of them: to go home, clean up their rooms, make their beds, do their homework and obey their parents. No one wants to do what is right in front of them to make the Gospel heard. The impossible is out of reach and therefore easy to commit to because there is no real thinking that they will have to do it. And yet what is right here in front of us is the scariest thing we will ever do. It has impact in the here and now and on the people whom we are closest to.

For this to happen, we need to become people who put Jesus at the centre of our lives so that everything that we are and everything that we do is driven by Jesus himself. This needs to happen day by day, day after day – not just on Sundays in worship, at Bible Studies, or at Church meetings. Knowing Christ in this moment must and needs to impact on every relationship we have – even if it is only in action. And I am all too aware of the possibility of a living sacrifice crawling off the altar. It happens all too often. Becoming the person that God calls you to be takes time and sacrifice. It is not just about “getting religion” but about learning how to be holy in everyday life. It is about learning to give back a small portion to God of what he has already given to you.

Are you willing to put yourself and your life into the hands of a God who desires to give you mercy and grace, love and peace? Are you willing to come and live the life he offers and learn to live righteously? Come and learn to live your liturgy and see what God will do next in your life.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Are you strong enough - are you dead enough yet?

I am going to deviate a little from what I normally write on (the Gospel Lesson) to write more on the New Testament or Epistle Lesson this week, specifically on Ephesians 6.10-20. It says this,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6.10-20 ESV)

So, let me start here with a recollection from a few years back when my wife and I were recently married and going to a Church called Little Trinity in Downtown Toronto. I recall this little episode because of what happened one Sunday when the list of hymns for the 1997 Common Praise Hymnal was released and the beloved hymn “Onward Christian soldiers” was not on the list. In response that morning, the Rector said to us, “Here’s what I think about that,” and he had the organist blast a few notes and we broke into that hymn and sang it with gusto.

And before some thing that I am all about war and other things, let me point out to you that there is a way that Paul indicated in this letter that we must live in a particular way. We need to live as people who are surrounded with the Truth. We are people who are to move into places and spaces of our communities ready to communicate through both word and deed, the Gospel of God in Christ. We need to put on the breastplate of righteousness and take up the shield of faith. We need to hold closely the word of God which is the sword of the Spirit that can separate flesh from bone and spirit from spirit. In other words we need everything that God has supplied us with to be effective in the living out of the Gospel in day to day living.

The sword (the Word) and the shield (faith) are necessities for consecration, benediction and confrontation with Powers, Dominions, Princedoms, Authorities in heaven and on earth. Salvation matters to every nation, down to the last person.  

And I think this is where we can connect with the Gospel and consider that the only way to stand for Jesus, is to stand with Jesus. We have to abide or remain in Jesus in order to draw on the strength we need to be the effective believers that we are meant to be. We cannot hope to stand the tides of this world without Christ’s strength. We still struggle with evil, within and without. We have been enlisted and equipped to stand as a community in the ongoing conflicts over humanity in the spiritual realm. After all, what God is looking for is strong character and willing hearts are what wins spiritual battles not brute force.

The question you need to consider is simple: are you dead enough yet? Are you able to let go of control and put yourself into God’s hands and rely on the Father to protect and care for all of us? This is why it is important for us to keep coming to the Word and to the Table, so that we learn to listen and to live lives that are dependant upon God.  In remaining and learning to abide in Christ affords us the strength and power we need to live in and for Jesus in day to day life.