Thursday, December 12, 2019

Worried about the Future?

I was recently challenged to get back to writing my blog because there are folks who have nothing to read and are missing the Skypilot (h/t: cousin and fellow pastor Teresa) so I will endeavour to do so and to do better now that there are things that are winding up and finishing up around me. If you are not aware, I have been the administrator of my diocese (acting as the bishop while we await our new one) as well as being the pastor to a very active parish for some time now. Our new Bishop will be consecrated on February 21st, 2020. Please keep us all in your prayers.


I once walked into the local General Store in the community where we (Nova, Joshua and I) were living. It was a day or two before New Year’s for 2000. Everyone was anxious, wound up, fretting about what was going to happen because when those who invented the computer calendar that so many of our things ran on, was not what might have been, people freaked out over the future. There was genuine fear over how life was going to continue, given that we are so dependent on our electronic devices; everything from furnaces, to fridges, cars to computers. My family and went to spend that evening with friends. They invited us to join them for fun and games and, just in case, for heat if things should fail.  

My trip to the store was an interesting jaunt. I walked into the store all bundled up because it was only -45 degrees centigrade outside. Before I had a chance to start removing at least some of the clothing to prevent sweating, someone exclaimed, “Oh, look! There is the Minister. Ask him!” One of the well-known locals came over to me and she said to me, “Sir, we were just having a chat about what this world is coming to… what do you say the world is coming to?” I answered matter of factly, saying, “To an end of course!” This brought the people in the store to a screeching halt and you could hear a pin drop wait for what was going to happen next. Realizing that they did not hear what they wanted and to allow the shock to wear off, I asked for a few minutes to go and retrieve the items I had made the trek to the store for… and it would allow me a moment to think about what to share next.

As humans, we like a level of certainty and being able to feel like we are in control. John in the Gospel (Matthew 11.2-11) wanted some assurance that the hardship and the work that he had done in proclaiming the Messiah was not wasted. He wanted to know what the future looked like. He wanted to know that his hope and faith weren’t thwarted. Jesus tells John’s disciples to go back and report what they see and hear: that the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear and the dead live. The poor and those in need are hearing and receiving the Good News! Blessed is the one who does not fall away on the account of how the kingdom is going to come and going to look because of me.

You and I are still waiting for Jesus to come (again). We are waiting for him to come again. What makes us doubt Jesus though he holds the future? What keeps us from participating in the incarnational ministry of the Church – of presenting and representing Christ in the community?

What did I eventually share with those people in the General Store? The Good News that I do not know what the future holds but I know who holds the future…  that God holds our future. Through all the topsy turvy things that can and do happen in this life and what is coming in the next. I let them know that when they put their faith in Christ it is not a matter of holding on to him for dear life as it is to remember that he has a hold of them. No one can take them out of the palm of God’s hand. It is why he came to us the first time. It is why we wait for him now. God has a hold of us and of the situation. He is coming again.  Thanks be to God for that!



Thursday, November 14, 2019

The bread of our lives

What kind of bread do you eat? What kind of bread do you at in your spiritual life? As I stop to consider things in my own life, I recognize that there are at least two kinds of spiritual bread: life and strife. It is not hard to spot the folks in the life of the Church who eat the bread that gives life and those who eat the bread that brings strife. You can see such things in the life of the Church of Thessalonica.

There are Christians who are busy, doing what they need to do in terms of life: working, marriage, raising a family and so on. And then there is a group that has heard that someone is teaching that Jesus has come back and they are missing him, so they stop working and become a burden to the people around them because they expect to be going heavenward any moment now. They fear not making it to heaven and getting out of here.

The basic message of the Thessalonian letters is to remember that it is God who keeps you. God keeps you blameless until the day of Judgement (because you have been justified by faith in Christ). God calls you and through his call on your life - he sustains you. He gives you his life. And we would do well to remember that God is faithful to keep his word though he will do it in his own way and in his own time. God’s ways are not ours and his speed is not necessarily ready warp speed. This means that we need to learn to be patient and remain steadfast because God is working all things out for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

What do we do to live in a steadfast manner? Here are some things that the Letters indicate to us that we need to be doing:
  1.      .     Encourage and build up one another in love as people and in the work that is ongoing in the life of the Church.
  2.       There needs to be respect for the leaders of the Church. They are worthy of the Church’s respect because they serve God and the people of God, honouring them both by their service.
  3.       Be patient with those who are struggling and have compassion for those who are in pain and suffering within the Church. The world sees how we treat our own. It is part of our witness. 
  4.           We must warn the idle in the faith that Jesus is coming; strengthen the fearful, assist the weak and the young believers in the faith.
  5.           Make sure that there is no retaliation for wrongs and to strive to be kind to every believer and to those who are outside of the community of faith.
  6.       Choose to always be joyful – a person of hope. Pray unceasingly not just in words but also in actions and in attitude.
  7.       In every circumstance, give thanks to God so that God remains in focus and you keep moving towards God and the kingdom.
  8.       Keep looking up into the eyes of the Master.

It has been my experience that as we do the things that we need to do that we do not have to worry as much about not doing the don’ts. Worried about missing out? Do what is being asked of you and as you do, wait with anticipation. God will sustain and grace you with his life as he draws you into the kingdom. He is the bread of our lives. 


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

It is time to go finishing again.

Since it has been a while since I last preached at St. James’, I thought that I would make this my final entry into this blog which I have been working on for the past many years and hundreds of entries. I want to begin with a question: “Yarn dis marn?” – that is high Newfoundland talk for “Have you got any fish this morning?” Now please understand that this is the question that Jesus, standing on the beach on the shores of the Lake of Galilee, asked of Peter and the other disciples (John 21:1-18). Peter decided to go fishing and some of the other disciples went with him, including the disciple Jesus’ loved and another unnamed disciple. They got ready and launched out into the water. They fished all night but caught nothing.

In the morning, Jesus asks them the question, “Yarn dis marn, me sons?” The reply was swift. “Narn” or neither one, sir!

“T’row yer net to port! Dats where the fish are to be found!” When they did so, the amount of fish in the net was so large that they could not bring it into the boat.  This is when John, the beloved disciple, recognized the risen Jesus and told Peter. Peter, in turn, made himself presentable to greet Jesus and was the first over the gunnels to do so. The rest or the would-be fishermen tied off the top of the net and rowed for shore with the net in tow.   

This is when they discover that Jesus has lit a fire from coal and has fish and bread already for toast and the pot on the fire for mug up. It was an opportunity to go back to that night when Peter, after boldly trying to proclaim that he would die with Jesus and then the mess with the fellow’s ear, denies he even knows Jesus. We go back to that moment of weakness, the point of denial and offence so that there can be forgiveness and reconciliation – for Peter and for the community. Peter is restored to his place within the community so that he can grow into the leader that he will need to become for the community in time under the work and guidance of the Spirit.

Maybe it Is about following Jesus that this blog has been about for the past 11-12 years. So, there are some things about ministry that I have learned want to share as we finish up:

1.       If you catch people, Jesus will make them clean. You need to follow his direction and get out into deeper water and let down your nets for the catch. Jesus will fill the nets.
2.       We need to learn to see Jesus in our Galilees; that is, we need to find him present in our circumstances, our ongoing life and ministry.
3.       The mistakes we make are not fatal unless we refuse to seek forgiveness and restoration.
4.       The deaths we die are not final unless we choose ourselves over Christ and all that has to offer us.
5.       We need to recognize that ministry is done in relation to the Good Shepherd. Power and authority for it comes from him and is given for the care and feeding of his flock. We live and do as he does.
6.       We need to recognize that people around us are prepared to hear the Gospel and to participate in Christ. Our society wants to know what it is that God is thinking and saying, even if there is trouble hearing when it is not what they want to hear.
7.       We need to know that we are not called to be prosperous or successful. We are called to be faithful, fruitful and joyful. It is dangerous for us to think that all that God wants for us is to be happy, successful and satisfied.
8.       We need to remember the words of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “Those who dream of Church but not of church community becomes the destroyer of that community.”
9.       We must remember that it will be messy from here to eternity but if we are going to move mountains, we need to start by picking up a pebble.

May the Lord bless you as you seek him.


Thursday, April 4, 2019

What do you smell?

What do you smell when you walk into your Church building?? I ask the question because of something that is in the Gospel this weekend (John 12.1-8) – that the act of blessing and preparing Jesus for what is about to happen in his life, is fragrant and it fills the entire house. That is very different from what it was not that long ago when Lazarus died and Jesus wasn’t there to prevent. The house smelt and felt of sadness and fear. It smelt of anger and disappointment. After all, Jesus good have made things better and stopped all that nonsense.

But then what is going on in the house is both weird and a reversal of the first time that Jesus was in that house. Martha is in the Kitchen cooking and given directions to others. Lazarus is at the table with Jesus and the apostles, learning for the Teacher. Stop. Think that one through. A man that was dead and laid in the grave is learning and sitting at the table with Jesus and the others. How wild is that!

And then Mary does something to turn the situation on its head yet again. She takes something that is of great worth in her life, a pottery container of pure nard. Her family would have saved up for it to present it as part of her dowry when she got married. She breaks off the top and pours generous amounts of it on the only part of Jesus’s body that she can easily reach: his feet and shins. Mary lets down her hair and begins to rub the oil into his legs and feet using her hair as a towel. The fragrance fills the entire house with the scent of the nard. Mary understood what was happening and she responded to it by using what she had in the situation. She recognized the moment as a moment of blessing and of grace and she seized the opportunity to show kindness and caring for her Teacher. It was a sacred moment. For the two of them and for those who watched the encounter happen.

Then enters in Judas Iscariot who is noted as a thief and he attempts to steal the moment and the joy by being spiritual. He points out that the nard is now useless to sell and has been wasted on an act of devotion. The Gospel points out that Judas would help himself to what was in the purse. Why would Jesus allow the treasurer to steal from the group… doesn’t he know that Judas is a thief? Is it not possible then Jesus is trying to give Judas every opportunity to turn things around and really believe in him rather than leave him in his own agenda? Let’s face it: sin, left unchecked and undealt with through confession and absolution, festers and grows into death.

That is why we celebrate Jesus and what he has done for us on the cross. He has paid the price and offers life to those who will live in him. He did in his life what was necessary for us to have life. He made an oblation of himself, once offered. A full perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. God visits and redeems his people.

And I ask about what you smell because in my last parish when it was raining after a short period of sun, you could smell the incense in the woodwork. It would come wafting out as a reminder of the presence of God among his people as they pray. A reminder of why we worship and why we pray. Thanks be to God.                                      


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Crossing the Threshold

It might surprise you to know that God is more interested in the brilliance of your repentance that in the darkness of your sin. It is not about how bad you’ve been but about how ready you are to live the life that you were created to live. And he is interested in inviting you to his home and to his Father’s table that you would come in, sit down and dine with him. (Luke 15.1-3; 11-32) Please understand that there are going to be other people there, they might not like it – that Jesus invited you to come and sit down. They might not like you, but then, I remember once hearing that you can pick your friends, but God chooses your family. They are going to have to learn to live with it. The parables of “the lost and found” are to help communicate to people who don’t know what it is like to be lost or dead, though many of them are lost and/or dead themselves.

The parables tell us about God: who God is and the nature of God. Parables tell us about how God acts and what God does. So, if we think about the home of this family and the two boys, one ought to ask which boy is lost? Surely it must be the younger one and so he was. He needs to discover what it was that he had with his father and he did not have on his own – love and compassion. What about the older brother, what does he need? What about joy? He has everything else in his life that people say they want: a nice home with parents who love him. He has a job and wealth. He has peace and security. But there is no joy in his life. He is so busy trying to be good and to be faithful and to not be the family black sheep that the joy of living life is pretty much removed from his existence. Both of those boys from a good home are lost and dead on the inside.

What is the saving grace? The fact that the Father is not willing to sit on the sidelines, wringing his hands and do nothing. He wants to have better and deeper relationships with both of his sons. He wants to be able to show his sons just how much he loves them and takes pride in them and their accomplishments. This is why when the Father sees the younger son coming home, he rushes to greet (and kiss) him as a sign of peace between them. He welcomes the boy home and returns him to his place of honour, puts a robe on him and places a ring on his hand to display his sonship and authority within the household.

He then crosses the threshold to go again to the older boy who is hiding out in the barn having heard the celebration in the house and being told that his little brother is back. He laments that his Father never gave him anything like this – not even a goat to prepare and have as a meal with his friends. He has failed to enter into his Father’s life and to participate in it and in doing so to learn how to rejoice over the lost being found and the dead being found alive. His Father tries to draw him into the house, to leave his selfishness behind but then leaves him to stand in the middle of the yard and allow his conscience to argue with him. After all, brothers are brothers.

When it comes to me and you, I often hear people say things like, “Oh, I am not religious, I am spiritual.” And they’re more likely to believe in “The Force” than in an everlasting Father. Yet God is moving over the threshold to come and draw us into the house so that we too can join the celebration. God desires to welcome us home so that we can have what we were made for: a relationship with him and with each other. It is what we hope and long for.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

It is Good News, if you want to hear it

The past few weeks in this world have been hard, dangerous and deadly. An airplane crashes in the Ethiopian wilderness taking 157 lives including 18 Canadians, People got to prayer in a New Zealand city and a man walks into that place of prayer with weapons and 50 people die and other 50 are injured. In Holland, a family argument erupts in gunfire, three more dies while another eight maybe nine people are injured and taken to hospital in Utrecht. And we must not forget the people in southern African who have recently had to deal

I get asked why, if God is good, does he allow such things as these to happen in the world? Why does he allow pain and suffering and death? Why doesn’t God do something about it? Well, in fact, his answer to all of it is his Son. His answer to it all is Jesus.

It is important for people to recognize that without Jesus, there is not one of us right with God; not one. There is nothing we can do to earn life with God and there nothing that we can give that will make us acceptable to God. All of us have sinned (hamartia) and fallen short of the mark, of the glory of God. And we need to understand that sin can and will not survive in the presence of a holy God. If that is what we bring before God, then we will not survive.

Now, let’s keep in mind that Jesus suffered as we have but did not sin. The Gospel that Jesus and the Church proclaims is a call to come to life and not face death and the grave. Such a message is a mercy to those who are in sin and are dying (not broken!) because God in Christ calls the world to himself and he stands between you and the disaster (death and the grave) that is coming, working at drawing you to himself. This is mercy. The Gospel is about moving from glory

Repentance is necessary if we are to deal with the sin that is in our lives, in our congregations and in our communities. Repentance is more than being sorry for the wrongs that have been done, whether it is what has been done or not been done. Sorrow is a first step and the ground on which the change may start. Repentance is more the stepping out and stepping up to live the life faithfully that God has called us to live according to the new covenant we have with him in Baptism. We are called to live out that covenant living in love with one another and in the upholding of the Spirit that we might live a life that has the fruit of repentance.

We need to be ready to live the new life in the new creation and we need to live it in the here and now by (1) acknowledging and confessing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, (2) being responsible stewards of all that God has given us, (3) to live confidently in the provision of what God has given us for life and ministry, (4) be ready for him and faithful in all that we do and say, and (5) be ready because there is trouble ahead or we might miss out on what God has for us in the days ahead.

Repentance is not about the darkness of your sin but the brilliance of your repentance. It is not about how bad you have been but about the change that has come into your life because you are living it towards God now. Repentance is about turn away from the world, with its demands, assumptions, attitudes and actions. We do this to be able to live the values and the practices of the Kingdom of God.

This world is dying and coming apart. Christ and his cross are present to draw people to himself and to call them from destruction into life. Therefore, this is the day, this is the hour when we turn to God and begin to walk toward him again. That is Good News for everyone if they want to hear it.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

God wants to be faithful to you

I have been considering a phrase this week: “Don’t be afraid, you’re getting good news” and how Abram must have felt about hearing this from God (Genesis 15: 1-18). What was the good news? “I am your shield and your great reward.” Let’s, of course, remember that when God says this to Abram, the man has already rooted up his family and his work, moved them to another country. They have been through famine and then moved to another country where they ended up in trouble because Abram started to live a compromising life by passing his wife off as his sister. He was only half right, for she was his half-sister and she was very beautiful. He did not want to be killed so another man could have her and so there was a compromise. They came back to the Promised Land and there was still no baby. Lot separated from his uncle and went on his own, was captured and then rescued by God. Lot’s wife in the escape, became a pillar of salt outside the community. Still, Abram had no son, no heir. Abram has all that he could need and more but there was no son to pass on things to when it was time. The heir was a slave.

Abram laments the fact that there is no son. No heir. There is no continuation of the family line; no participation on creation. For all that he has, there is one thing that Abram wants that he is not able to get for himself. He needs God to make it happen. He laments his situation and points out to God that he has no seed – no sperm to make it happen. He reminds God that God promised him a son and calls on God to be faithful to his promise. Lamenting or complaining about life puts us in touch with our deepest hurts and our most powerful hopes. In complaining, we are also learning what is important to God and what his will is, that we might align with God’s will. As Scripture might remind us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.3)

And if you know the story of Abram, you will know that things happen, people made decisions and choices and out of that, Ishmael is born to him: the son of the body. Yet God asks for Abram to be patient. Abram waited decades for God to fulfil his promise of a son. His wife was 90 when she conceived and birthed a son, named Isaac. He became the father of Jacob who had 12 sons who became the heads of 12 tribes of Israel. Ishmael too was blessed and became a nation because of his father.

Where does this leave us? We can also complain or lament our situation to the Father, but I think there are some things that we need to remember when doing so. This is to help us align with what God wants to do in us and through us. First, we need to remember to pray not just gripe. We have desires, wants and even needs that we want God to respond to. God can respond to us and our requests and do so with power. In complaining, there is still a hope within us that God will respond to us and our requests – even if it does not look like it is possible. Abram knew this. Hope expresses the fact that God is present both effectually and faithfully so. Prayer is a way of realigning ourselves with God because we know that God wants to be faithful to us and answer our prayers.  More than that, God not only renew his promise of a child but expanded it to become a nation that Abram could not number. And Abram believed what God said to him and called him righteous and friend.

Moreover, we need to see that the Good News that we receive is that the child sent to us, the son is given to us the answer to our need for God dealt with death. IN order to be faithful to Abram and Sarai, and to David and to all those to whom God has made promises over the millennia, God became flesh and dwelt among us. God with the flesh on walked up the hill dragging his cross and gave his life so that we could in turn walk with him into eternity. That eternity for all of us begins in the here and now when we put our trust and begin to participate in Christ. God will get to the goal. God will fulfil his promise, even though there is pain and suffering, through blood and water and even through death itself. God wants to be faithful to you too. 


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

the end of this season and the beginning of the next

Dear Fellow Skypilots.

after considerable thought and prayer during my winter break, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to find something else to write about. where blogs are concerned. There are some readers who have been with me since I started writing this blog more than 10 years ago. I also know that there is a few who are using this blog as a devotional for personal use and even at public worship. I am deeply moved and gratified to know that there have been folks out there who have been reading and inwardly digesting the Scriptures with me. 

I have decided that I will write my last Skypilot blog during Holy Week 2019.

That said, I am planning a new blog about growing Anglican congregations, especially in the Canadian North and how we might reach more for the sake of Christ and his Gospel. I think I am going to call it "Hand to the Plough", to acknowledge the area in which I live now and the growth I think we can achieve in the Church if we see to working to plant and grow for the Lord.


Touching the sacred

I have noticed that there has been a drop in the readership of late and it often happens when I start talking about following Jesus as one of his disciples. Readership goes up when I talk about love and hope (hope in particular) and I think that is what the wider world is looking for. The difference is that they want it so that they can feel better about how they are living and what they are doing. The crunch comes when the Gospel and Jesus himself insists on change within a person so that they might become more like him and at the same time, help to draw the kingdom and people together. So maybe we need to understand that words have to be backed up with action as it is this week in the Gospel (Luke 9:23-43). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has been proclaimed by Peter as the Messiah and Jesus has begun to teach them what that means. Jesus tells them that they are going into the City of Jerusalem, that he will be betrayed, be rejected and beaten; that he will suffer and be killed but then rise again three days later. What people need (and still need to get) is that Jesus has come, the Chosen sent by the Father, to visit and redeem his people.

Words need to be backed up by actions. Sacred words necessitate sacred action. From the witness of the disciples who were on that mountain, we see this in some simple ways. First, when they get to a spot, Jesus begins to pray. If we want to see the Church grow, then we need to be more about prayer, and we will be called to this during Lent. But prayer is more than the laundry list of issues that we push at God and expect him to do something to make our lives better. It is important to make our thoughts and needs known to God. At the same time, we need to live lives that allow us to live as though we are ready to answer to at least one or two of the things we have asked God for. Prayer is about a relationship with God and how God, through what we ask of him, changes our hearts so that we can ask things within his will and ask rightly so that prayers can be answered. As James would remind us: you have not because you don’t ask and when you do ask, you ask out the wrong motive (James 4.2-3).

This tells us that we need to spend more time in prayer not less, so that we can see God at work in the world and recognize him and what he is doing in the midst of the turmoil and tragedy of this world. It also should move us to action so that we are seeking, search and discovering what it is that God is doing, starting within our own people. Too often, too many people tend to treat the Church and its ongoing life as a hockey game. That is, they think that if they have the right people, saying the right things and doing at least a few things, then the build should be full. There is a place for what I will call “attractional ministry” to do things that will draw people to the Body of Christ. If we don’t do something to draw people in how then can we earn the possibility of speaking the Good News to them? The core of any Church’s ministry is to learn to genuinely love one another.

How often do we have people disappear for a while and then return because life is back to some sort of “normal” – I’m okay now and everything is fine. How often do we have members that leave because of some sort of illness or other kinds of circumstance that makes a person think that they are not welcome in a sacred place like this – even to go as far as thinking that God hates them? How often do we seek them out to draw them back in? It reminds me of the different times that I have had parishioners get mad with me over the years, because “the Church” did not visit. I pointed out to one lady (unsuccessfully I might add) that the Church had been looking after her: doctor, nurses, lab techs, custodial staff… she had tried to verbally box my ears for not showing up sooner because until I had been there, the Church, and therefore Christ was not present.

Christ has raised up his people, his Body to visit and redeem his people. God does visit and redeem his people. But we need to see him. We need to hear him, including when he is at prayer. Plus, we need to walk with and enable people to come to a spot where they can let go of their agendas and begin to carry their crosses and to live the dream that God has for them. Seeing and knowing Jesus – reaching out and touching him meant to make us better than happy. Touching Jesus is meant to make us whole and help us to walk with him into eternity.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

You might be blessed and headed for the kingdom

I thought I would take some time to consider this week, the idea of living in a level place. Jesus this week preaches in a “level” place (Luke 6.17-26) or maybe on a plateau which would play with the Gospel of Matthew nicely (Matthew 5-7). The reason that I am interested in a level place is because of what it would have meant to the people who were listening to and considering Luke’s Gospel as original hearers. You see, a level place is a place of corpses, disgrace, idolatry, suffering, misery, hunger, annihilation and mourning. Jesus comes to bring the kingdom to such places in this world and to have it exist in the midst of such places.

Jesus proclaims the kingdom in level places to show that the present realities are going to change. Jesus comes to draw people to himself. You see this and hear this in the Gospel: people are coming from all over to hear, to be healed and to be rescued from evil. People are coming to Jesus so that they can be made healthy and whole. Jesus was healing and restoring them all. God is visiting and redeeming his people. The Gospel is preached so that people will now that change is coming and that life will be transformed by the coming and presence of the kingdom of God. It is a reversal of the life we know in this level place. This does not mean that life is going to be turned upside down but right side up from its inverted stance. And this is going to happen through turning the Church inside out.

Life will go from being what you can do and be in your own strength to living life from within the missional community empowered by the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. Which I think brings us to the idea and reality of being blessed. I think it is true to say that being blessed is not about getting what you want – though in North American culture we seem to act that way. It also is not about the absence or dismissal of trials and troubles. Being blessed enables and draws us through trials and tribulations, helping us to overcome obstacles and opposition. What we need to keep in mind is that these things are temporary – that we will come through them by the grace and strength of God. And heaven is not the place we wait for to get away from all that.

Did not Jesus himself tell his followers (which includes us) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16.33)

There is pity for those who have all that they want and desire in this life because they have not recognized that they have been blessed and not brought the resources, their time, talents and treasures to bear on the missional community so that we can proclaim together the Good News of God in Christ. Their accounts have been paid in full and they will at some point experience the emptiness that the prosecution of their personal comfort and happiness has brought them. The good news is that a person under their woeful verdict is invited to repent and return. It might not be painful and there might not be suffering in this moment but it will become evident at some point and you will have received what you wanted.

Therefore, if you discover that you are poor in spirit and you need God, you just might be headed to the kingdom. If you find that you are hungering for right relationships with God and with the people around you, you might be headed to the kingdom. And if you find yourself in an increasing state of mourning for the way life is being lived in this world, you just might be headed for the kingdom.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Launching out into deeper waters

My first visit to what has become my adopted home came in the summer of 1989. I was a Youth Delegate from the Diocese of Cariboo to General Synod 1989 in St. John's, NL. The Theme of the Synod was “Launching Out”.  While there was a lot to learn and to learn at the Synod, it was the weekend I spent in Norman’s Cove that made the impact. We passed by “Jelly bean Row” with its many brightly coloured hoses and had a nice meal at the “Flake House” in Quidi Vidi Village. But it was getting out into the smaller communities like Norman’s Cove, Chance Cove and area that I began to get a real feeling for what life was like in most of the rest of Newfoundland. And please remember that this was Newfoundland before the Cod Moratorium. There were still lots of trawlers tied up to the wharves along the Newfoundland coastline.

It should also be clear that God has a sense of humour because some years later, I married a girl from rural Newfoundland. It is where one of our sons was born and it is where I was eventually ordained deacon and priest; in a small fishing community on the eastern shores of White Bay. I share this with you to say to you that I understand fisherfolk. I have laughed and sometimes fought with them, ate and drank with them, and shared with them in their joys and sorrows. I baptized their little ones, married their young ones and buried their dead. I share this with you because I can understand what those men were thinking when Jesus showed up and wanted to make use of the boat towing along the dirty big anchor of a crowd along behind him (Luke 5:1-11). They had been working all night and nothing to show for it. Fishermen of every culture call it a “water haul”. What comes in the boat is nothing but water. Plus, the nets needed work to be mended be ready to go again the next day. It was a simple enough thing that Peter put out a little way from the shore while continuing his work with his brother while James and John continued on shore. Everyone was listening to the word of God.

One of the things that I think I need to point out, is that if you are going to listen, you will learn and know things from what you hear. And if you know things then you are prepared to act on what you know. You act on what you know so that you can be obedient to what you have been taught. Obedience is never a coincidence and it cannot be an accident. From obedience flows blessing. If you do not listen, you are not just disobedient. If you do not listen, one becomes irrelevant to the work and purpose of God. As was often said to me when I trained for ministry, “You have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, you should listen twice as much as we talk.”

Obedience means that we do what we need to do, even when it seems like the thing you are going to do is crazy. Being obedient when it seems crazy allows of the glory of God’s presence to shine through the follower and the rest of the community of the Faithful. Obedience allows the Church to go from being a group of people in loose association to being welded together in a tightly knit community. That’s what happens when the Master wants to go fishing, even knowing the conditions and the situation are right by our standards. Are we the kind of people who will follow Jesus’ lead, put out into deeper water and let down the nets for a catch? It is okay if there are grumblings and complaining, if there are questions about how God is going to make it happen, it is okay. God is not defeated by these things. It's okay, so long as we are committed to doing it. We don’t have to have the right person for a leader. We don’t have to have the right program or bible study to draw people in. What we need is the willingness to venture out into this chaotic world and throw a line to someone who wants to get into the boat – maybe even desperately wants into that boat. God will provide what we need. Then there will be an opportunity to tell them why you were there and able to affect their rescue from the water.

Often, what keeps us from going out deeper is fear. Fear of being rejected by those who need to be thrown a lifeline keeps us from getting into deeper waters. Fear of failing… of having tried before and nothing good came of it and so do not want to try again. We have fears of wanting to be liked but thinking people don’t respect or like you because you act and sound different. We carry fears of not wanting to offend people with our faith and yet know that we need to be able to share what we have.
What is the antidote? Courage! And remember courage is not the absence of fear (“fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” – Psalm 111.10) but rather the ability to act in the face of it.  We need to put fear in its right place, then we are enabled to act.

In doing this, we can invite those around us to come back to God and through that, to become a part of the missional and eschatological community; to receive the Holy Spirit so that there is courage to launch out into deeper waters so that the nets can be let down and people be drawn into the Church. And we are encouraged to be ready to go with Christ – because we will be catching other people and Christ is our pilot in this process. With God, everything is possible for the Church. God is visiting and redeeming his people.

One last thought in all of this? Whatever Peter, Andrew, James and John heard, it was life-altering because it caused them to leave all that they had known for an uncertain path behind a Teacher they had come to trust. It didn’t happen all at once but certainly the overflowing boats because they listened and followed must have moved them in the direction of following.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A sermon to be fired for!

This week we are the “back nine” of the lesson that we started last week. We get to hear how Jesus speaks to the hometown faithful, how the faithful respond to being challenged (Luke 4.21-30) by Jesus for their long held privilege.

We must get the mission into our lives – through hearing the word of God and understanding how we are to respond to what we have heard. And this is not just about listening to the Scriptures as they are read to us, it is also about hearing how Jesus is proclaimed in our midst through the Sermon, and how we recite our belief in the articles of the Creed and how we pray in the Prayers of the People, including the General Confession and believe it or not the Peace. The response that we make to the reading, exposition and hearing of the word is faith, prayer, and extending the right hand of fellowship to one another.

Then we need to get the mission straight within our lives. We do this by acknowledging the presence of the Spirit on our lives to teach us and lead us. Therefore, we need to learn to listen to the Spirit and what the Spirit is saying to us through the word and through prayer - this includes the Eucharistic Prayer which reminds us of how much God loves us and how far Jesus would go to express that love in visible and tangible ways, including the cross. We need to know the story of salvation and to understand that we are not alone in proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ. We have the Spirit and we have each other to celebrate and to commiserate with.

Then we need to go and live out the word in the strength of the Spirit and do what God is asking us to do so that the kingdom can be made real in the lives of people. We need to understand and be ready to deal with things that come our way. We need to be ready to give the reason for the hope that we have within us and the joy that we live in.

Most maybe aren’t aware, that there are two sides to a sermon: (1) there is the preparation and the preaching of a sermon and then (2) there is the hearing and demonstration of a sermon. Most people are present or aware of the hours that go into a sermon – even the poor ones. The reading and research that needs to happen so that the preacher can be enabled to show Jesus to his or her listeners is extensive. Plus, there is a lot of listening that goes on in meetings, visits to different places and time with different people.  Coupled to this is the where the hearer of the sermon is at, with all the things that they come with: family problems, money concerns, worries about the children; not personal thoughts and beliefs about God and themselves. All of these things come to bear on what they are hearing as the preacher is preaching.

Which leads me back to the reaction of the hometown folks, when Jesus confronts them and says to them, “Physician, heal yourself” …  you know, go on, impress us! In fact, Mark tells us that he could not do much in his own home town accept heal a few people. Why? Because those who knew him and his family weren’t able to believe the news that he was communicating – after all he was just the carpenter’s son. What does he know!?!

Some amazing and amazingly hard things happen when divine grace meets human privilege. Speaking the things of God from the heart of God to the people of God is a fearful thing. Keep in mind that prophets and preacher alike know the hearts of the people they are sent to – remember Jonah, the only prophet God had t speak to twice, to get him going in the right direction?
What is the core of our mission? To know Christ and to make Christ known in the world. What people do with Jesus once we have been faithful in giving people a clear message and a clear picture of who Jesus is and is for them – then there is a possibility. But our mission must be epiphanic: it must make Jesus real to the people around us. We need to be incarnational and embody Jesus to aid people in seeing and knowing him. Let us be that for him in his name.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Mission: Possible

Maybe you remember the old TV show Mission: Impossible? The lead mission agent. Gets the information and then disseminates that information to the team so that everyone can join in the task to bring it to completion. Major difference though, the lead agent, is the message as well. So there is for us a need to get the mission in, get the mission straight, and then get the message out – to proclaim it.

Essentially, this is what Jesus does in the Gospel this week (Luke 4.14-21). He comes back to the Galilee and begins to go into the various places of worship, read the scriptures and actively proclaim among the people, that God is at work, fulfilling his promises to his people. In time, he goes home to Nazareth and they are happy to see him. The people cannot wait to go to the Synagogue on shabbat, to hear what Jesus has to say. After all Jesus has done all these great and wonderful things in these other places, so it should be extra special since he is here among us! He is invited to read, and the attendant brings him the Isaiah Scroll. Jesus opens it up to discover that it opens to a piece of Isaiah that he can use to define his ministry through the experience of his baptism.  Here is what the Prophet Isaiah said,

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release from darkness to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of our God’s vengeance, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who grieve in Zion—to give them a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise in place of a spirit of despair. So, they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61.1-3 NIV)

What can we learn out of this quote from Isaiah? Firstly, that God is God and there is no other besides him. Secondly, we know that God is in charge. He is the one who brings the anointing (blessing and empowerment) for ministry. He is the one who chooses his anointed and is the one who sends his anointed one to his people with and for a purpose. What is that purpose? To proclaim, to give and provide for those who are in need. The Good news that we are to share? God is visiting his people in the person of his son, Jesus and Jesus is redeeming God’s people.

What else can we learn? We are reminding that God’s word is living and active. The question is, “Can you dig it?” What God was doing then he is doing now. Here. In this place with this people. We are called to live for Christ that we might bring the kingdom into this place so that people can experience Christ and his people and that means.

Too often, too much of the Church has been willing to adopt the secular culture and ways of doing things. And too often the Church has been sounding and looking like a poor imitation of secular society which as left it struggling to get people to listen and pay attention. So instead of being relevant the Church becomes extraneous noise that the wider culture chooses to block out. What the Church needs to be doing is to draw attention to God and to ask society whether they are for God or not. After all, as John Wesley once put it, “When you set yourself on fire, people like to come and watch you burn.”

Why should we come to worship? Is it just to watch the preacher burn? Because Church is far more than just a group of like minded individuals who come together at 10:30 am on a Sunday morning to do something that the rest of the world does not want to do – experience God. The Church is so much more than an association. It is, as I was recently reminded, more than an organization, it is an organism. We come to this place because we desire and hope for an experience of the holy. We come to the sacred place to be in the presence of him who would rather die than live without us. We also come to be with one another. God has determined that I need you and for some reason, you need me. Together, we are the Body of Christ.

And each and all of us have something that we can do, something that we can offer to God and to each other – a gift, a skill, or a talent. How that can be used needs to be worked out by the parish leadership so that it can be used to benefit the life of the entire community to the maximum.

Remember a few simple things:  
  • ·         Ministry is done in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit – like Elijah.
  • ·         Ministry is done for the reform of community not to act in opposition to it.
  • ·         with God, the impossible just takes a little longer.
  • ·         We bring the kingdom to people through living like Jesus.
  • ·         We live as servants to the will and to the word of God to enable restoration and reconciliation.

This will help us to get the mission in, get it straight and get it done, in Jesus’ name.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Divine Art of wine making

I was thinking about the divine art of wine making this week. At one point it was all the rage and it seemed like everyone, well almost everyone was doing it. In fact, my father and mother-in-law got good enough at it that they made all the wine for a family wedding when the youngest of my sisters-in-law was married. We know that wine, regular or sparkling including champagne are used to mark special occasions. As kids, it was a big deal to be able to get a sip of wine at a special meal. This of course included First Communion when one participated in the Eucharist for the first time.

The Gospel this week (John 2:1-12) is a reversal of sorts from Luke when at Christmas time, there was no room for the Holy Family in the local Inn and we were challenged to make room for Christ in our lives. The reversal? We experience the grace of God in watching what Jesus does to help a newly married couple in a place that is not home for him. By making wine available, Jesus did an awful lot – certainly more than just keep the party going. If you dig deeper in John’s Gospel, one of the things you discover is that wine, new wine is analogous to new life. Without wine there is no party. Without God’s grace there is no life! So, if you want to look at it this way, Jesus’ wedding gift was an abundance of wine, and therefore of life itself.

Bringing the food to help sustain the celebration was your gift to the newly wedded couple. It was expected that not just the couple, but the entire community would involve themselves in making sure their was enough to be eaten and drank over the course of the week of the wedding feast.  Therefore, running out of wine was not just an embarrassment to the couple and their families, it was a sign of failure of some kind on the part of the community to display hospitality to one another. There is a necessity of not just a shared hospitality (its nice to take something to the wedding to share) but also of a shared responsibility for one another.

It does in fact remind me of the times that I was at feasts amongst different First Nations and their traditions. This included supporting the family and the tribe at feasts, giving gifts and money to support the reason for the feast – weddings, funerals and so on. You have at least something to make sure that you could be seen giving so that when the time came, people would share with you, especially in times of need. In giving then, you would build up the honour of your name and the honour of your family and tribe.

Jesus, in giving the wine, lifted a burden and in doing so showed us who he was and why he was here among us. Many will make a big deal out of the 160 to 180 gallons of wine. Isn’t that great, isn’t that wonderful. But in doing so, something more powerful began to happen. Those who were following him, those who were his family and his disciples put their faith and trust in him to provide what is needed. That is an important idea. Too many of us live like what we have are the dregs and that we are at the bottom of our last barrel. This means that the party and life are over.

Bringing out the best later gives hope that the best is yet to come. Receiving grace in the moment brings joy and happiness. Plus it brings hope to the future because of who we want to spent the future with: Father, Son and Spirit and because of who they are to us. That is the divine art of wine making

And did you notice? All this happened on a Tuesday! Mary gave directions to the servants to obey her son and they did, right to the last drop. They filled each vessel to the brim in anticipation of what Jesus was going to do next. God revealed himself to the Israelites on a Tuesday on Mt. Sinai and revealed himself to the Church at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Will we make room for him and will we take in his life that we would live for him?


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Don't forget, he was baptized too!

A number of years back I had the opportunity to visit the Church where I was baptized. My parents took me as a six month old to be baptised at the Church near my grandparents because we were leaving the area and they felt it was important to have this done for me (to me?). if there is one thing that is important, one thing I want everyone to remember about being a baptized person, it is this: it is not about how wet one gets as it is about how one works to live it out everyday afterwards.

Think of it this way. I remember my ordinations and things about the nights that the Bishop ordained me deacon and priest. But as important and happy as those occasions where, I have realized in the days since that this day, this day after those moments, is the most important day. It is important because this is the day that I get to serve the Lord. It is a day that I get to, through the Holy Spirit, have impact on the lives of those around me for the sake of him whose Gospel we proclaim.

And that’s when it hit me – pow! In Luke’s Gospel it is written, “Jesus was baptized too.” (Luke 3.15-17, 21-22) The Gospel reminds and recounts that fact for us. In particular, it was the “too” that caught me off guard and captured my imagination. You see, Jesus, along with a good many other people, responded to the call to come and be baptized. I know that there are people who will react to the fact that he is the Son of God and if so why did he need baptism and the forgiveness of sin? He didn’t. Jesus chose to identify himself with us and our situation and he fully entered into our life and situation. We needed the forgiveness and he showed us how to start the life that would lead to reconciliation with God and to eternal life with God and all those who love him. He laid down the pattern that we as a community were to follow. God in Christ participates so that we can repent and be reconciled to God and to one another.

And let’s not forget that baptism is not a personal affair – I know from research that I did on a project when I was studying to be ordained, that there was a “crowd of people” there on the feast of the Transfiguration in August 1969. My parents and grandparents, various and assorted aunts and uncles, including my Godparents. Baptism is the beginning of life in the community of Christ for every individual. Coming for Eucharist is the maintenance not only of your own spiritual life but also the life of the community to which all and each of us belong. The Church’s community and ability to do what is it called to do is diminished by people not coming to worship and experiencing the presence of the Almighty in sacrament and word as well as in one another. Worship is the fuel that moves the Christian in daily life. Its like driving a car without gas: if we are to live without taking time to pray and to worship, Life stalls, cannot move and if not remedied, causes community and mission to break down.

Therefore, baptism is by no means a private activity. It is deeply personal to the person being baptised and for the family, friends, and community that gather to be apart of the event. But it is not left there. There is a moment in the Service where I take the newly baptized to introduce them to others, so that the congregation can meet and greet them – not just at worship but in everyday life and living. Baptism lived out this way means that we are choosing to be led by and follow Christ, empowered by the Spirit. We have to learn to see Christ in each person we meet and know. We have to soak up and drawn in the presence of Christ so that people can see him in us because we radiate his light and his presence. We are to be his hands, his feet and his face to the world, so that they can see and know what Jesus looks like, even if they do not know him or his presence. As we spend time with Jesus we will begin to look like, sound like, and please Lord, act like him. 

Those who come to the call to repentance and who believe in Jesus are being empowered by the same Spirit that works in Christ, that was part of creation, is at work in each and all of us. Therefore, we are to live in such a way as that we sign the presence of the kingdom and to embody its reality in the life of the wider community. We do this so that people will ask, “what’s wrong with you? Why do you still have joy? Why can you still have hope?”

Baptism is a human response to the Spirit and the fact that God is at work in us and in the world. What will you do in response to him? Don't forget, Jesus was baptized too!


Friday, January 4, 2019

Let Christ be incarnate in you

Here is a simple thought: to fulfill the divine mission, God became incarnate. Incarnational ministry is God’s idea. We celebrate with cards and creches, with trees, lights and gifts of various kinds. But we move now from Advent (from the Laitn “ad venite”, to come) to Epiphany (Greek for “to uncover or reveal”). We will get to see through the next several weeks, how God is going to redeem his creation – because there is more than one group of people on the earth whoa re waiting for, praying for, hoping for. The magi had been watching all through the creation for some time to see the sign they were looking for. When they got it, they got ready and got on the move to go in search of the child that is proclaimed to be the King of creation.

It is interesting that they went to Herod’s court to find out more about the One they had come in search of. The Magi in doing so, must have heard of Herod the great, his infamous temper, and jealously towards rivals. Reputations, deserved or no, are hard to live down. None of that dissuaded them from the encounter with Herod and his court. The news of a new and true king being born for the people would no doubt have been more than a nine days’ wonder in Jerusalem because a new king meant fresh trouble for everyone. Those in power would be afraid of being displaced and would act in dreadful measure to ensure that the status quo is maintained.

It might be helpful for you to know that the Magi were no allies of the Roman Empire – politically or religiously. Proclaiming Jesus, the true king in the court of Herod, an appointed monarch of the people who was acceptable to Rome.  It would be important to also note that the Magi when to Jerusalem and on to Bethlehem to see the boy king they traveled hard, risked much and were rewarded at the end of the search with seeing the heavenly born Prince of Peace. They knelt down and worshiped him and offered gifts – gold for royalty, frankincense for prayer and the presence of God, and myrrh for health and long life.

Herod, for his part was lost in fear that there might be one who could take his throne. When he realized that the Magi were not going to lead him to his rival caused him to react and send soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every boy from new born to the age of 2. We know that Herod was not successful, for Joseph to Mary and Jesus to Egypt where they remained for a time, until Herod was dead. And then, under the command of dream they returned to Nazareth.

Where does this leave us at the end of this Christmas season? We are witnesses to the truth: that Jesus is God with the flesh on. Telling others about the truth is a life shaking thing to do for both the receiver and the speaker. Speaking the truth, even when it is done in love is not always going to receive a positive reaction. It can anger people just as easily as it can bless and set people free. It reminds them that they are not in control. Truth needs to be spoken in love and needs to sometimes defy authority when necessary.

So, we must consider that in proclaiming Jesus, that following the Morning Star is not a easy thing and therefore should not be a blind venture. Faithfulness will lead us into times of risk, places where we are going to need faith and courage and following directions out of dreams that will require trusting hearts and obedience in doing as we have been asked as we follow the Star. And I can witness to the fact that when we are faithful to what God asks of us, it is a joyful thing to be found faithful and worthy of your calling and service of Christ and the Gospel – even if there are fetters and chains. It is not about the circumstances we are in or possessions we do or do not have – it is about being found with and in Christ. It is about knowing that Christ is here and that our redemption is at hand. Let Christ be incarnate in you.