Wednesday, May 30, 2018

getting rest and getting into blessing

Keeping Sabbath these days is not the tradition it used to be. I can remember the debates over Sunday Shopping would happen and where or not the big local Mall “orchard Park” for those who know Kelowna, would be open for business. There are many in our communities who don’t know what a Sabbath is and why it is important to keep it. And you think that I am going to tell you next that it is important to go to Church for worship – after all it is my job as clergy, right?

Sabbath is not just about putting bums in pews. In fact, it is about coming to worship on the Day of the Resurrection to meet with Jesus and with the rest of the community of Christ so that we can be refreshed. In the ancient world, the seventh day – the last day of the week – was the day of rest. In ancient Israel I was meant not only to concentrate on God but also to remember what as a people, they once were. They were slaves. Sabbath was and is meant to remind the people not to act or to be like the Egyptians were to the Israelites, when the Israelites were slaves.

Sabbath was a gift of rest – a gift to deal with the ongoing curse of labour because of the Fall and the loss of Eden. Sabbath was to bring refuge to those who labour and were heavy ladened. It is not an accident that many of the poorest people in this country are having to work two and three jobs because they must make ends meet and to maintain a kind of life style. The world in rush to accumulate wealth, position and power, denies the working poor their sabbath and we all suffer for it.

Sabbath is about enjoying God and the relationship we have with him and then to be able to so the same with one another. The Church is one of the last bastions of community. Many within the Church think that the community is about to be lost because we are in the throws of generational change. Here is a reality that we need to grapple with. We need to begin to reverse the effects of the secular revival of the 1960’s and 70’s when we began to believe it was all about us and what we want. We are only interested in ourselves and our own opinions. We need people who are going to begin to think about someone other than themselves.

Then we need to teach those same people what commitment is and how to make it. There is to much in our society that belittles and degrades commitment to the point where it is easy to make. So, when it comes to Baptism, we have people who wish to have the sacrament without the training and the commitment to faith and community that Baptism necessitates. We are raising a generation of people who do not know what it means to be committed to anther person for anything. Today’s younger people, for example, do not know what it means to be married… for as long as you shall both live instead of for as long as you both shall love. Commitment is more about what you feel then what you say or do. Love one person in Holy Matrimony is not just about one person it is about being family and community, including the Church. People fail these days to think about the wider picture and think (selfishly) that its about them and what they want, and it is okay to go and get it no matter what one must do to get it.

Sabbath is about knocking do the idols we have allowed to be put up in our lives. It is about getting to see the bigger picture again so that we can be able to carry out what it is that God asks of us. After all, what is more important: keeping rules to keep some people happy or proclaiming forgiveness to people so that they can be made right with God and with neighbour? Our Sunday School Potluck last Sunday is case and point: did we feed the poor? Did we offer help? Did we offer hope?

We, as the Body of Christ need to offer the plain truth to the people around us so that they can see the reality of the life of Christ in us. Our common life needs to evidence Christ’s life within us and between us, living out in every day life, the dying and rising of Christ. And we need to do so that we can discover that we are not abandoned to our own devices but rather that we are drawn further into the sustaining life of God. That we are raised up and sent back, just as Jesus is, to those who need to see and to hear the message of the kingdom.

Want to see God at work in your life, in your church – take a break from the pattern and make friends. In this way we do not miss out on things, the blessings that God has for us as we rest in him.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Living into rebirth and getting wet in the process

This week’s Gospel ought to be familiar to most people – John 3.1-17. But it occurred to me that this might the year where we are going to hear it repeatedly through out the Lectionary. And because it is well known and because I have been preaching on it for some time. What is there that could be new and that needs to be said?

Well first, let’s consider Nicodemus. He is a teacher and a leader of the People of Israel. He is powerful and wealthy. He has a seat on the ruling council. Jesus impresses him: what he is seeing and hearing through teaching and sings of power. He comes to Jesus at night not because he is afraid to be seen with Jesus but because it is the time that he can really investigate things so that he can figure out whether to believe in Jesus. It is possible in Nicodemus’ mind that Jesus might be the one who has been sent to inaugurate the kingdom. Nicodemus is at least open to this possibility where many others of his class are not. What if Jesus is the one to bring the kingdom? What then?

After introductions and complimenting Jesus, Nicodemus suddenly finds that Jesus goes to the heart of the matter that he is struggling with. Jesus tells Nicodemus straight out that unless one is born of both water and the Spirit, unless one is born from above, you cannot see and know the reign of God. In order to be a part of it, one must be altered by water (death) and the Spirit (rebirth).

Death as a way of reordering one’s life. There are no more cellphones. No more meetings or work. There is no more plans or holidays, calendars or dates. The life into which we are called and reborn is not like the physical life into which we first came. Nicodemus recognized that as being foolish – and he and we would be right to think so. This rebirth that Jesus is taking about is not physical but spiritual. As Saint Paul would point out, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20 ESV) The Christian life is one that has been altered by experiencing death through baptism in water and then rebirth through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. No one can see or participate in the life of the kingdom unless then are born again in this manner.

And to go deeper in this thought, there is a need for those of us who proclaim and teach the Christian faith, ought to be aware of the ability of God’s love and power to change the lives of people. Moreover, such people cannot claim to be ignorant of the same – as Nicodemus is wanting to do. God’s power and love which transforms people’s lives is not limited to the physical here and now. God promised that his people can and will receive new hearts and right spirits. Nicodemus for all of reading and learning about the Bible should have understood this. Jesus doubles down on stuff like this when he tells people that, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10.15 ESV) So unless we recognize that we need to receive (because we cannot demand anything) from God and we need to die to self while allowing God to fill us up and change our agenda we cannot participate in the kingdom.

Jesus did not come to this world to point the accusing finger and tell us that we are wrong and bad. Jesus came to show us and to assist us in the way that we need to live so that we live into the reign of God. Jesus extended his hands to bless, to heal and to draw in those who are the least the last and the lost in this world. It is why, when the Bishop confirms someone and lays hands on that person, he prays, “Defend O Lord, this your servant, with your heavenly grace…” God enables you and I to love and serve him because he wants us as a community to participate in the transformation of this world through giving, through self sacrifice so that other people might have their lives made new. He wants us to live a life that enables the transformation of others, through death and into rebirth.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Left behind for a purpose

Can you believe it? He left us behind! But as the Gospel points out, there is a purpose to his leaving and it is more than we think. The Gospel this week is the Gospel for the Feast of the Ascension, when Jesus is taken up into heaven (Luke 24.44-53). It is important to have it on a Sunday because the Church needs to hear this part of the story because it is where Jesus directly engages us to get into and take over the ministry that he had been leading- enabling us as the community of his Body to do what he does.

It is also important to me personally because the Feast of the Ascension is the Day 11 years ago May 17th 2007) that I become an ordained person as a Deacon in the Church. Anniversaries are important for the simple reason that it affords the opportunity to reflect upon how God has been faithful to each and to all of us over time. A Feast Day should do the same thing for the Church.

One of the things that I have been reminded of his week, is how God, through human history has enabled us to do the things that bring us closer to him and build the community that God calls us to be. Consider for example, how leadership was passed on in the Scriptures – from Master to learner. The Learner receives not only the teaching of the Master but also the spirit and the blessing of the Master.  Abraham to Isaac, Isaac to Jacob and Jacob to his 12 sons who fathered the 12 tribes of Israel. Then there is Moses to Joshua to lead the people and Elijah to Elisha among the Prophets, David to Solomon and Zachariah to John.  So, it should not be surprising that Jesus does the same with those who are to be his apostles (sent ones).  And I mean more tan just the Twelves when I say apostles. Yes, the twelve were important but we need to remember that Jesus sent his Church – all his Church to witness to him, in life and death and resurrection. The entire community is meant to engage in the ministry and mission of the kingdom. Every believer receives the same power, the same blessing and the same Spirit to take on and do the things that need to be done to fulfill the mission God has in mind.

Next it is important to note that Jesus as he is blessing his people, is taken up – he takes his and therefore our humanity into the heights of heaven. There is a Graham Kendrick Song called “Meekness and Majesty” which expresses this well:

Wisdom unsearchable, God the invisible
Love indestructible in frailty appears;
Lord of infinity stooping so tenderly
Lifts our humanity to the heights of his throne.
Oh what a mystery, meekness and majesty,
Bow down and worship, for this is your God;
This is your God!

Who and what comes back to us terms of the Pentecost, after the Ascension is just as important. We receive the Spirit and the continual blessing of Christ to carry out the Father’s will. All the power and authority we need to carry it out has been given. What we need to do is act on what we know and what we have been given. For the Church to live out its mission we must know Christ. For the world to see Christ they must first see him in and through the Church.

Faith and trust in Christ reveal themselves best in obedience to the commands of Christ and living them out in our everyday lives. At the Back of the Church, I am going to post a sign that says, “You are now entering the mission field! Wait for the power and then move in the blessing!”