Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Superman or Saviour?

When I was a child back in the 1970’s there was still on television the original Superman series. Superman was played by an actor named George Reeves. I loved to what those shows and laugh at the folks who knew Clark Kent and knew Superman but never seemed to put it together that they were one in the same person. People loved the fact that Superman would fly in, crash into a situation, and save the day and fly away again and then write all about it in the Daily Planet. No one every questioned him as to why he would do it. No one held him accountable for the damage and destruction that he cause and why? It’s a bird. It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman! It has occurred to me that people of authority don’t have to tell other people that they are people of authority. For Superman, it was easy as the big “S” on his chest – you know, the symbol that stands for hope? If he had a bat silhouette on his chest, then we would know him to be Batman. If he had a swimsuit and scales, more than likely he is Aquaman. For Jesus in the gospel there was a triumphant entry where many cheered and cried out things like, “Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!” He came on a donkey proclaiming peace and claiming his kingship. But there was no epic contest with the archvillain being locked up or otherwise incapacitated. There was a death and a resurrection and there was a freeing of prisoners. And all that with out a cape or superpowers to make it happen. It is true that actions speak louder than words. It is also true that the words and authority we pay attention to also gives them power and legitimacy. That us why I think Jesus asked them to answer his question first. He knew that they believed in their own authority. He understood that they believed they had authority. It was tenuous though because it depended on others. The High Priests (Annas and Caiaphas) and the Elders did not accept John’s call to repentance and change. They rejected it. And at the same time they did not want the people to know this because the people would become angry with them. The leaders would lose a lot more than control if they denied John as a prophet. Hence, they said they did not know and so are no better of at the end of this confrontation. Then Jesus tells them a parable that must have enraged them about two brothers – like any of the brothers of old – Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, David, and his brothers, even Moses and Aaron. One is asked if he will go and work in the Father’s vineyard. He tells his father he will not but then goes later and does as his father asked of him. The other brother tells his father he will do as he askes but never makes a move towards the vineyard. The upsetting part is that the less observant folks, the prostitutes, the beggars, the impure and the imperfect are going on ahead into the kingdom of God ahead of the religiously pious and those who love their own power and authority. This series of disagreements are key to what is going to happen to Jesus. The leaders cannot defeat Jesus verbally and so they will resort to action which means betrayal and handing him over to the Roman Government which leads to his execution on the cross. Superman has died. More than once. Jesus only once. And Jesus is raised from the dead, no more to die. The difference between Superman and the Saviour? One can save you in the moment of distress. Such a rescue can be praised. The other can make you new and ready for the life that is to come as you follow him into the kingdom and that is utterly worth a heavenly celebration. Jason+

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Watch what you are building

At an incredibly early hour this morning, my family and I were awakened by someone trying to beat down the kitchen door. I quickly got dressed and rushed down to the door to find out what was going on. Flashlights were being aimed at the door. Oddly, I felt some relief. I flicked on the front door light and was greeted by two rather tall RCMP Constables! I asked if I could help them. They wanted to know if I had called 911, they were searching for a person who had called. His name was Vince and he was in trouble. Everyone in the house had be identified so that the Constables could continue their search elsewhere. The RCMP left. I turned out the lights and followed my family back upstairs. As I tried to get back to sleep, I could help but think of a simple question: “what kind of world are we building?” There is so much for people to be afraid of: sickness and disease, unemployment, homelessness, addictions, mental disease, climate change, political scandals and our leaders lacking ethics. Oh and there is the present threat of coronavirus and death is several ways. We all at points in our lives, wish for life to become some sort of utopian state where we do not have to lock our doors at night. We want a world where everything is good and nothing disturbs us, especially late at night when we are in bed. This brings me to our Gospel for the week (Matthew 20:1-16). The workers who worked all day thought that the Vineyard owner was been unfair in not only paying a day’s wages but even more so in paying those who have worked all day done much of the heavy lifting and had to do it is the heat which is stressful, the same amount. It seemed unfair to those who had worked hard. Only thing is, they got what they agreed to. A day’s wages. It is what people who work at their religion want to get paid. God honours that desire. He pays them. And then people feel unfulfilled, and even cheated though they receive what they agreed to work for. They do not recognize that we are in a struggle against omnipresent death. So long as they have and receive the world is an okay place. Moreover, people these days, seem to think that God is like a Santa. We give him a list and he suppose to put whatever it is we want out there so that we can be happy. Worship is meant to help us remove our idols. Prayer is meant to so that our hearts, our minds and thus our lives align with the Spirit and the will of God. Even within the Church there are going to disappointments and consternation over who has what. It has often been that way in the life of the Church as much of the epistles attest to. Do we as a community of faith recognize that we are in God’s vineyard? Do we recognize that the work we do is his, to build a better community? It is time to get out there and work with and for Christ,because beloved, it is getting dark out there again! Jason+

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Freely you have received, freely give.

Why is it in this day and age, that people are unable to be merciful but, want mercy when they are in trouble? Why do people want to be rescued if they are in charge of their lives and they get to live their truth? Maybe it is because so many people have difficultly with things like sin, evil and judgement. It is things other people say, do and believe that are evil but essential we believe that we ourselves are good and therefore are not part of the problem. We are entitled to hold on to things like anger and resentment towards someone else, including God because we got hurt, we were wronged and we are going to make sure that the offender, the villain is going to get what is coming to them. So maybe our first issue is that we, even as Christians, struggle with the idea of forgiveness. The issue comes up again in terms of dealing with other Christians in the Gospel this week (Matthew 18:21-35) in the parable of the unmerciful servant. The conversation between Jesus and the Twelve continues from last week in being reminded of how to deal with someone who has offended you. Peter asks Jesus if the norm that the rabbis teach about forgiveness is to forgive the offender three times, then would Jesus agree that seven times would truly be merciful? Because after the seven time which is twice as much, you can walk away from a person and have nothing else to do with them, be they friend or even family? Jesus astonishes them with tell them, “not seven times, but 77 times.” What I believe Jesus is suggesting that there is no limit to the number of times that we should forgive a person. It is not about how many times you have to forgive another, but that you make a habit out of forgiveness for every person in your life. Our heavenly Father calls and wants you to be merciful as he is merciful to everyone, including you. This is why Jesus tells “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” to the disciples. Mercy and forgiveness must become a part of who we are and how we live. Forgiveness is like suntan lotion. You can dab it on your skin but it will not do you any good unless you rub it in so that it becomes a part of you. The Lotion can only protect when it is a part of you. Jesus tells of a servant who was called to his king’s palace and the king announced that there was going to be a settling of accounts. The servant owed an outrageous some of money 60 million denarii. One denarius was worth a day’s wages. And because he owed this much, and could not pay the some (the debt of a small country) the king directed that the servant and his family (wife and children, at least) be thrown into prison. The debt would never be paid off not even over several generations. Even so, the servant pleaded with the king to be forgiven his mismanagement and set free. The king regarded this pitiable servant and decided, through a gift of outrageous grace and mercy, to forgive the servant. He set the servant and his family free. However, the servant did not take the lesson to heart. He went and found other servants of the king who owed him money, a whole lot less money and had them thrown in jail until their debts were paid back in full. We are not told why he did this only that he did. Was it is pay back some of the debt? It is clear that very soon after he had forgotten the generosity and grace he had been shown and was a plague upon his fellow servants to make himself me secure. Servants of the king in the palace heard what this unmerciful person was doing and reported it to the king. Enraged the king had the man and family arrested and thrown in jail for the rest of their lives. Being merciful is a lot harder than needing it. There are moments when others hurt us in some fashion, and we want our pound of flesh. Christ calls on us to let go of our desire for so called justice. We are called upon to leave the hurt and the anger behind. Please understand, forgiveness is a process and not just an event. Please also remember that the forgiveness is a process. Things are going to happen. Treat people with charity. Things from your past are going to bubble to the surface and you are going to have to let them go again. In doing so, you are having mercy, not only on others but on yourself. You are not allowing the conflict within you to erupt and causing combat between you and others. And is this is of help remember what we pray when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins (our debts) as we forgive those who sin (are indebted to us) against us.” Are we ready to have God judge us as we judge one another? Are we ready to forgive as we are forgiven? After, did not Jesus say himself, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”? Jason+

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.


It might be surprising to you but clergy these days when they are trained for ministry, one of the things that they have to learn is how to deal with and manage conflict within the life of the Church. Does that surprise you? One of the things that I have learned over the years, is that conflict, which happens within a person is inevitable. People deal with conflict within themselves all the time. Personal conflict gives rise to a number of really good pieces of music it, especially country music. The old hurting songs that talk about the wife leaving husband behind with kids to feed and crops in the fields that need to be harvested. The dog has died and the cat won’t speak to anyone anymore. “Picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille!”

If conflict is inevitable then combat is most often optional. We can choose how to act on what goes on inside us. And the way in which the Gospel calls on us to deal with conflict is interesting. It is put on the injured party to confront the other person and to try and gain satisfaction/relief from the situation. If that does not work, then try again with a couple of witnesses who may be able to help you work things out. If you cannot prevail to get a satisfactory outcome, then everyone goes before the church (local congregation and you try again to settle matters. If the offender does not listen will not act with contrition, then the offender is excommunicated and treated as a tax collector or a public sinner. Modern people at this point would think that this is where they could wash their hands of the offender. Would Jesus have? I do not think so. I believe Jesus would have continued to sort things out and draw that offender back into the life of the congregation.

I would point out to you that there are so many people, not only outside the Church who need forgiveness and thus of healing, but there are as many inside the Church who need the same thing. Are they finding it? And need and the desire for forgiveness goes well beyond the absolution of the Eucharist. Absolution is the reminder of God’s willingness to forgive, to heal and to bless as he is to remove sin and sent it as far as the East is from the West.

We need to consider God and his divine nature. The Father forgives iniquity, heals disease, redeems from the Pit. He crowns the faithful with steadfast love and mercy. God satisfies his people with Good as long as they live. The Father renews the youthful vigor of his people like that of an eagle. God is not foiled by numbers and is not stymied by our failures. In fact, he works all things to the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. The Father by his very nature (and contrary to common thinking) leans always towards showing mercy and grace; slow to anger and swift to bless. Divine anger is swift to dissipate; bygones are bygones. God does not operate on an ‘eye for an eye’ basis, always looking to get revenge and to balance the books. He is sympathetic to our nature and our plight as people he created and that through sin, have been separated from him.

That reminds me of a parishioner, who in the middle of a Lenten sermon, got on her feet and rejected the idea that she was a sinner in a rather loud manner. She said to me, “I am just fine. God likes me just the way that I am. I am not a sinner.” Thing is, there is a misunderstanding about what a sin is. It is what everyone else does and you do not. It is more than about what we do, it is about what we do not do. It is the things that we did not do well and where we fall short of the mark. The Gospel calls us back to God, to come and be transformed into the creations he intended for each and all of us to become the marvelous creature we were meant to be. We are called to be more than right and work on rights, we are called to be righteous.

Lastly let me remind us all of what Jesus himself has said: “Love your enemy. Turn the other cheek. Do good to those who persecute you. If you are angry with your brother or sister, you are liable to judgement. If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. Do not resist an evil doer. (Be perfect (in mercy) as your Father in heaven is perfect (in mercy)”.

So how do we handle conflict? We have two ears and on mouth. We should listen at least twice as much as we talk. We listen so that we can ask clarifying questions to better understand what is being shared with us. We need to take care in how we speak to each other, including in social media. We listen o learn how we might serve another person and how to lead in various situations. Let us be known in this community (inside and outside this congregation) for how we genuinely love, how we genuinely love one another. Is that easy? No, but consider the alternative by looking around you. 


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

THE LIFE OF THE ORDAINED DISCIPLE: The sanctified imagination

There is a necessity in having a sanctified imagination, that goes beyond “What would Jesus do?” That is the issue that Jesus is dealing with where the disciples are concerned in the Gospel (Matthew 16.21-28). Last week, Peter acclaimed Jesus as the messiah, God’s anointed One. But then Jesus orders the Twelve not to tell anyone else who he really is. Weird isn’t it? They finally get it right and now he is telling the not to talk about it. That is when Jesus begins to talk about his mission and how it will be fulfilled: by going into Jerusalem, being handed over; beaten, suffer, die and then three days later, rise again.

Thing is, for Peter and the rest of the Twelve, they had their own visions of what was ahead and it did not include things like suffering, pain and death. They had what they thought was a reasonable understanding of the way forward. With Jesus in the lead there was a good prospect for victory and for Israel to become its own nation. They would break the wheel of violence, hatred and retribution and they would have their kingdom back and things would be good again. That was their vision of the kingdom. Jesus focused his sights, his thoughts on another way.

Jesus’ kingdom is built upon mercy and forgiveness on faith hope and love which allowed for him to break the cycles of hatred, violence, and war. Such a vision sets Jesus against the current system and its status quo. A system that worked to end his life and roll right over him. It is a situation that Peter and the others could not have imagined much less chosen to collide with and disrupt. The Twelve could not see that a cruciformed life that offers more that the status quo could be a better life. After all, who in the wider world doesn’t know the phrase, “Eat right, exercise daily and die anyway”? The way to life into that cruciformed life is to learn to give your life over to Christ first and then to others so that they can rise and live. Because it is not we who live but Christ in us.

What is needed in this moment, is a sanctified imagination. Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. And we need to focus more on what Christ wants and less on what we want. If we make time to spend with him we are going to find that we want is going to change is not circumstances but what we want because we are closer and closer to Jesus. We will come to want more and more has he does. Our wills shall align and we will seek to do for others as he does for us. Therefore, in this moment, “Our focus needs more focus.”

Can you imagine God raising Christ from the dead? Can you imagine your life in this moment without him? We trust and we act not because the end of the world is near but because Christ is amongst us already. Can you imagine life without Christ and without the hope he brings? Try asking for what he wants in your life, in your church, and then act on it in some small way. See what Jesus calls you to next.



Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Life of the Ordained Disciple: Gotta have faith!


In recent months, I have been watching Christian apologists (people who are schooled in the defending of what the Church believes) answer questions put to them and how they deal with all of the hot button issues of our time – from “How can we think that there is a God; to “Am I going to hell?”; to “Why can’t you affirm same sex relations?” I am not going to tackle those important issues here except to talk about God and what it means for us as humans to have faith in God.

So let me begin with the question asked in the Gospel, “Who do people say Jesus is?” There is a long list of thoughts: a good man, a good teacher/rabbi, healer and exorcist, wonder worker, prophet, and potentially the messiah. There are some who believe that he is John the Baptist come back to life or a prophet from long along like Elijah, who has come to usher in the new Davidic Age (the good ol’ days) by getting rid of Rome and becoming their own country again.

Other Gospels (Mark in particular) thinks of the journey of being a disciple is the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” Whereas in Matthew, we concentrate on the place where the question is asked: Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea is home to all of the known religions of the world in that day, including the Temple of Pan, all of the Greek stuff, all of the old religious stuff from the past and all of the new stuff too. Jesus is interest in asking the question is two fold: What do you believe and what are you committed to?

Faith is not something you can earn to put in the bank. Faith are not bonus you keep on a card to earn free stuff. Faith is about a relationship that you have with something or someone else. After all, who in their right mind questioned whether their vehicle would start and bring them to Church and will take you safely home after the service is done? How many times have you sat where you are now and did not check to see if the pew would hold you up? It is a relationship that you have come to trust. And you trust your car and you trust your seat because it has not failed you… right. Neither has Jesus! We come into this place to declare to the universe that we are in relationship with the living God and that Jesus Christ is Lord. And some good news? Faith is not about points or deposits it is about trusting in and participating in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus on a daily basis. When we are faithful through trusting Jesus and participating in him, we have the whole thing which means that he has the power and the grace not us. Jesus is the powerful One. In Jesus, we are made complete and we are competent to proclaim his Good News.

So how does this work out in life? How do we know that we have faith? Well, you are probably sitting down to read this message. Did you check the device you are sitting on before you sat down? A pew or a computer chair. Had you sat there before? Did you check it out then too? I am certain that where you are sitting now, you have done so before, perhaps many times before. You have learned to trust that device. Learning to trust Jesus Christ works in the same way. You may not even know how many times you have trusted him to come through for you – and unaware of answered and unanswered prayers and how that has affected your life. Maybe, it is time to recognize that you are a person of faith – a mighty man or woman of valour. Maybe it is time to take a step forward, a step out, a step up and do something that you believe God is calling you to no matter how big and how little you believe it to be. Then watch as God uses it for his kingdom and his glory. And then do it again and again.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020



Are you aware that from crumbs there can be a great feast? Are you aware that it is not what you put in your stomach that corrupts you and your life but rather what you hold in your heart and let out of you that makes you unrighteous? What you speak and ask for, affects your life and the lives of those around you, including what you have with God. In the Gospel this week (Matthew 15:10-28) we get a vision of were the men following Jesus are in their faith and following of the Lord Jesus.

In the first part of the story, the Twelve communicate to Jesus that those listening to his teaching, especially the Pharisees, were offended by what he said. Jesus was questioned by those who followed his as to whether or not this is a concern for him. In reply, Jesus told this friends that he was not because the blind will lead the blind into the ditch, and they will not get where they are going in spite of the best of intentions. They will not catch nor pass you on the way to the Kingdom. I perceive this as a reminder to the Church that you can claim to have faith and therefore trust in the Lord but unless you exercise that trust and step up to do that thing God is asking of you, your faith is dead. If you are doing lots of things at Church but are not taking the time to spend not only with the Lord but also with in the community of believers to which you belong, then your works, however noble, are empty.

Moreover, I have been taught that when one preaches, the preacher needs to make the congregation glad that the came to hear or angry at what they have heard. I have had people over the years tell me that preaching is boring, is irrelevant, is pointless. I suspect that the reason for this is that such folks have tuned out because, if there is clear teaching of the Scriptures and there is clear proclamation of Jesus Christ, that what they here is going to make them angry because it is not going to match with what they believe personally. So they choose to be deaf and blind so that they do not have to be responsible for what is going on. Difficulty is, in failing to hear there is no opportunity to go and do and therefore to obey God. This makes members of the Church, not disobedient but rather irrelevant. We miss out on all those things that God has prepared for us. We do the Lord’s will not because we want to be blessed to receive. We have been saved, blessed, and enabled to see and to serve. Failing to do so has consequences not only for you but for those who need to be rescued, healed, and made whole.

This brings us to the rest of the lesson for this week. There is a woman who understands who and what Jesus is and is determined to find mercy for her little girl. She has the faith that is needed to persist in asking Jesus to do for her, what her daughter needs. What does she need? The little girl needs to be released from evil. She works at things, calling out to Jesus for mercy and is met with silence. Finally, the Twelve ask Jesus to dismiss her because she is being disruptive to what they are doing and there is no rest for her and no avoiding her demand. She was willing to stand between the life of her daughter and her daughter’s destruction so that she might save her life. Is this not what the Church should be doing? Comforting the grieving, feeding and giving drink to those who hunger and are thristy, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, and befriending the lost and the lonely where we find them?

In a real way, we are being shown what it means to trust in Jesus and it does not mean that we have to feed five thousand people. It doers not mean that we have to heal hundreds of people. Trusting does not even mean that you need to walk on water with Jesus. Seeking for jesus to have mercy on another is not just about that one life but about us all. It is especially for that one life and for the lives that this one life will touch over a lifetime. It is about the children that can come and jointhe nation and the nations welfare. It is not just about the present predicament but all that is to come. This woman persists because she can see by faith that there is enough for her daughter and for herself. This is the reverse of Jesus challenging his disciples to feed that multitude on the other side of the lake. The unnamed woman actively proclaims the same things that the Twelve did in the boat.

Jesus finally answers her, showing her faith to the Twelve. Jesus gives the woman the mercy and the relief she seeks. She returns to her home to find her daughter whole.

Where does that leave us? We don’t have to plead with Christ to make people whole, but we do need to ask and we do need sometimes to persist on praying, caring and sharing with people so that they can receive whatever  it is that God has for them. As the Scriptures remind us, Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” God desires to feed, heal and bless his people. Let us go, that we might join in that feast, crumbs, and all.



Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Life of the Ordained Disciple: People don't walk on water


Maybe it is not noticeable but there are people walking on the water in the Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33) this week. People do not walk on water, do they? People can, sail, boat, swim on water. There is kayaking, fishing swimming and treading water but what about walking on water? They can and do when they walk with Jesus. Often things are loss on us when we think about Jesus these days and we think about Peter walking on water, believe that for Jesus, walking on water is a perfectly normal thing to do. it is Peter doing the abnormal thing. Thing is, people don’t walk on water.

Maybe that is why the Twelve though Jesus was a ghost. Ghosts float and they do not have to obey the rules, like gravity. They float and pass through walls. They are other worldly and because of that, they produce fear in people. Jesus left his perch on the hill as he watch the disciple work at making it back to the other side of the Lake. Jesus had sent them away because there was a plan afoot to take him and make him king by force (revolution). Jesus had spent the time in prayer and dealing with his grief in the presence of his Father. He came onto that lake through the wind and the waves renewed, because he spent time with his Father.

Jesus walked out to the boat and to his disciples on the lake. What had Jesus been waiting for? What was Jesus praying for? What was he walking for? The boat was already many stadia away from land – well out into the Sea of Galilee. They were sailing against the wind and the water is rough. The conditions, not unlike the ones we sail in, are hard and dangerous. They are taking a risk in doing what Jesus has asked of them. Nonetheless, they are not alone. Jesus has been watching and praying. Jesus is coming to them through the storm. When the disciples saw him doing this they cried out in fear because they though that they were done for; that death was their fate.

It is interesting that they know it is Jesus as soon as he speaks. And Peter, being Peter wanted to attempt the same: to walk on water. Much can be made of why he wanted to but let’s consider that Jesus called him over the gunnels all the same. Peter did fine walking on the water until he took his eyes off of Jesus and started looking at and considering the storm and the fact that he was out in it. He cried out again for Jesus to save him, just like they did when Jesus was asleep on the pilot’s cushion and they were in a storm. Peter is rebuked for failing to live the faith that he has learned and the trust he had in Jesus at first.

One last thought? When Jesus and Peter came back to the boat, they were walking on the water together. They got into the boat together and together the disciples proclaim Jesus to be the Messiah and worshipped him right there in the boat. They went on to the other side where things continued as they had before. People were being healed. People were losing their demons. People were being made whole. And the power of the Father in Jesus made it so. People were being changed by know the healing and the love of God.

Maybe people need to walk on water.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

The life of the Ordained Disciple - The One legged cup of Tea

In living as an ordained disciple of Christ, there are lots of challenges. It is at its most challenging than when I sit the in kitchens, living rooms and other living spaces of those who follow with me. For example, I remember going to see a family who was coming for baptism. They had a little boy who was born into the family and they wanted to have him welcomed into the Church, so tht he could come and participate with the rest of the family. I remember that visit because the wife, sitting in a chair across the room from me, was visibly shaking because of my presence. It might have been because we were of different ethnicity and therefore cultures. There where differences in things like height, gender, and education. But we had two things in common – the desire to be followers of Jesus and the desire to welcome the little boy into the life of the community that was our congregation. The family through experiencing hospitality of the Church received a welcome and thus depended their faith and their commitment to the life into which Baptism drew them.

I can recall times when I have been welcomed into a home and the mid day meal has just been finished but my host haul every back out to make sure that my needs are looked after – including the rabbit that still had the head on. There would be tea, bread with jam, and cookies of all sorts. It was difficult to say no and not just because of the cooking and the baking. It was hard to say no because people were offering their hospitality to care for me and sharing their lives with me. A very deep relationship comes to be a part of the congregation as the pastor moves around and shares in this way with the people he is to care for. There is a deep and abiding mutuality in sharing your life with another, which to me is what a welcome and hospitality are all about. There needs to be more hospitality shown in the life of the Church, regardless of the doctrines and opinions that each person holds. After all, Jesus himself said, “whoever welcomes you, welcomes me. Whoever welcomes not just me but the One who sent me.”

Part and parcel of being an ordained disciple means that I work to create sacred space, a living altar if you will, where people can bring their hopes and fears, their troubles and thoughts and make them known to God. Pastoral visits can be such a thing that is long remembered by those who participate n it. Such an example is a lady, very dear to me, who was also my warden. I would often (unintentionally) be there at dinner time and a bottle of stew would be heated up for my mid day repass. The family still recalls those moments and the man of the house would blame my youngest son for getting crumbs under his own chair – even when I was there without my family. There would be lots of laughter and the occasional tear or struggle.

After learning that I was diabetic, I created this new thing that a old timer called “a one legged cup of tea”. I would ask for the mug, the tea bag, the hot water, and a spoon (the leg!). I did this to do as I suggested above, to create sacred space and time between a parishioner and myself so that I could accept their hospitality and be apart of their lives for a short time.

This sometimes makes me think that we need to make every Sunday morning a back to Church service – not just for the newcomer and for those who have been away for a while, but for those who have been here for weeks, months and years on end. We gather on Sunday around the Lord’s table for a meal and to celebrate all the good thing going on and to pray for all the things that need to be prayed for because what we pray matters. As St. Paul would point out, “We walk as yet by faith, not by sight” and thus we need to communicate with God about the things going on around about us because “We only know in part and only see in part.”

And maybe I need to point out that the Church – the missional community here on earth – is to the Divine mission, as burning is to fire. The Church is not on a mission. The Church does not have a mission, it belongs to God. The Church is mission. It exists for the express purpose of drawing into its fellowship those who do not already belong to it. We live our everyday lives in such away that the world will see and hear Christ and consider him and his kingdom. We do this, one legged cup of tea at a time.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

The life of the ordained disciple

Have you ever stopped to consider what it takes to be an ordained disciple of Christ? I ask that question of you as well as of myself, no matter what your order is.  There is a simple challenge that every ordained person has to live with every day: how will I live out the dying and rising of Jesus this day? Jesus in the Gospel (Matthew 10:24-39) calls those who would follow him to not find their life but lose it for his sake. Jesus calls for total commitment even if it means your life. There is nothing and no one more important to the disciple than the Master. And every servant is watched and there is nothing that goes unnoticed, not even when you give a cup of cold water to someone who needs it.

The life of the ordained disciple is one that is called (perhaps not unsurprisingly) to total commitment. That commitment means that there is always the potential of a cross and of death as well in the near future. The Gospels often note such a thing. After all, whatever fate befell the Master, the servant ends up waiting for it. Ministry calls for such servants to be vulnerable and left to cultivate a dependence upon God the Father on a daily basis. The disciple looks to the Father for provision and for protection. The disciple is given authority to heal the sick, exorcise evil, cleanse the leper, and raise the dead. We are called to recognize that we are to be peacemakers and not peacekeepers and that peacemaking can be a rather messy business.

Because of that, fear of the messiness if not fear of everything in general, is the biggest disabler of ministry and worship. It is a driving force in our economy. It is used by politicians to gain and hold power by making people of afraid of what could happen if they do not remain. Fear is often used to maintain the status quo. There is fear in the Church because of shrinking numbers in congregations. There is fear because there are shrinking budgets. There is less and less energy giving to seeking the least, the last and the lost and more and more concentration on self preservation and on maintaining life as it used to be.

Maybe every Sunday needs to a back to Church Sunday? It is for certain that the Christian faith lives only one generation at a time. So what are we going to do in the present to pass things along to the next generation of Christians? Let me give you an example of what I mean. When I was little, my father would sit on the edge of my bed at bedtime and teach me to pray this way: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” I would make my list of people I wanted God to bless mommy, daddy, sister, grandmas and grandpas, aunts, and uncles, and so on. I mention this because when I was older and away from home, jet lagged and all that I was late going to bed one night while visiting with my parents. As I pasted their room on my way to bed, I could hear my father beside the bed, pray the same prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep … God bless…”

It was for me as an ordained person, the beginning of the immersion of my life into the life of Christ. And while I have learned how to pray extemporaneously, What I remember most is the light and the deep sincerity of those moments of shared prayer and what it would have meant in the lives of those who were remembered.

Moreover, Christian discipleship and leadership are not about this like titles and positions, except that they announce who a person serves and who a person is meant to lead. So for example, I am a Rector and a parish priest. I serve the people of my parish. I am also a Dean and I serve and care for the clergy and people around me in the Diocese as an experienced priest and pastor, providing leadership in concert with my Bishop and fellow clergy through teaching, preaching, and proclaiming Christ. It is not about being good or saying and doing the right things to get into heaven. We proclaim good news and we do go deeds because the Light and the Truth are already in us, leading us to the life and the land that God is preparing for us. Remember that salvation is a gift to be received and not a prize to be sought and won.


Friday, June 12, 2020

On Being Disciples and Making Disciples

Have you ever considered what it is that draws people to become followers of Jesus? Was it is style of dressing? Was it his appearance? Was it his preaching and the way he lead liturgy? Was it his teaching and doctrine? What was it about Jesus that drew people to him? Maybe we need to closely consider what it is that the Gospel this week (Matthew 9.35-10.23) is saying to us in the light of everything that we have been through in the past three months and consider again what it is that God is calling us to. Remember too, that we are chosen, called, blessed, and sent just as the early apostles were. Who did Jesus send anyway? Simon called Peter, who denied him, fishermen, a tax collector, a government rebel, those who are really not all that well known and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him to death. He gave them all authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness, just has Jesus had been doing all over the North of Israel. People were coming to be relieved of evil. People were coming to be healed. People were coming to be made whole. People were coming to hear what God was saying and what God wanted of them.

And there is something that needs to be pointed out here: the message was anything but milk toast. I was taught (by a Baptist pastor) that you make them mad or make them glad that they came to church, but never bore your congregation. Jesus message was simple enough, “Repent and believe for the kingdom of heaven has come near you.” But there is a reality about the Gospel that many North American Christians miss. The Gospel has a nasty but important way of getting in the way of what people want and what people think is good and right because the Gospel is calling us to what is best in Christ. It is the struggle that Saint Paul describes in Galatians 5 where he makes it clear that those who live according to the flesh will not inherit life with the blessed and that those who live in the Spirit have crucified the flesh will all of its demands and desires so that they are no longer controlled by the flesh. This is good news for the Church because it means that the community will be empowered to overcome the obstacles that are in the way, so that those who needs to come into the fellowship of the Church will come because Christ will make his Church victorious.

We must not only be followers of the Lord Jesus, we need to also be makers of disciples, and together we baptize them and together we teach them everything that Jesus has commanded us knowing that he is one among us. Others will define how we believe out of how we live and what we teach. AND! Jesus will be with us in the going and the doing of it. He will be with us and he will participate – even to the end of the world and of time. Freely Christ has given to us all that we need. Freely we must give in return because our hands were empty, and the Father has filled them. We go and in the going we received the hospitality of those who believe the message we preach. And we go because of the eschatological urgency because there is a time and an end of grace, to invite those who would come to do so and follow us as we follow him.

We must also remember that not everyone is going to like us, appreciate our message; want to come and join us. There will be struggles. There will be opposition to us because of the message will proclaim. People will want to stop that; to silence us and “deal” with us. If that sounds scary then remember that wherever we go and whatever we do, we are the Lord’s own chosen people, his priesthood, his holy nation. That where he sends, we go and what he asks of us we will do to glorify his name and make his deeds known to the people of this earth.

What is the Spirit saying to you? What is God giving to you that you might give and serve another? You are his chosen and Christ is blessing you and sending you to where you need to be. The next step is up to you. 


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Getting turned inside out

This is normally the Sunday you let the junior member of the Clergy preach. Why? Because they will note that it is Trinity Sunday. In noting that it is Trinity Sunday they will take on the monumental task of trying (in one sermon no less!) to explain God and how God is God, being three beings and yet one God. What I have come to discover is something simple: God has revealed himself as Father, Son and Spirit and that they are indeed 3 persons, one God. As such, we need to recognize that the commission that we undertake is from God, with God and for God’s sake. We need to see how we as individuals and as a community fit into this mission and how we are chosen, called, blessed, and sent by Christ, in Christ and for Christ and his kingdom.

The Godhead works together in community to make redemption and salvation possible and available to all those who will come in the response to God’s call upon them and their lives. “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined He also called; those He called He also justified; those He justified He also glorified. What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:29-31 ESV) 

What I believe is important in look at and considering God is not the mental math we try to wind ourselves in because we have to figure God out. Rather God wants us to God as a community of mission working out the redemption and salvation of the creation that God loves and created, that he might be with them and enjoy them forever.

The feasts of Ascension and of Pentecost (and of Easter as well) that the work of the Church is to multiply the efforts that Jesus himself was making. The Church is to reach out into the world and draw into its fellowship, those who are called and bring them in. So in a real sense, this is the day that the Church gets turned inside out so that we can work at turning the world right side up again. Maybe you think that I might have slipped there. I did not. You see, the world when it fell from its original grace into the sin with the ensuing chaos, destruction, and death, it fell like a piece of bread you have just buttered on to the floor, butter side down. God has reached down to pick us up and there is still the need to clean up the floor. That is where the Church comes in.

We are the Body of Christ and we are called to participate in the drawing of people into relationship with Christ through the life of Christ at work in all of us as the Church. As Bonhoefffer once said, ““The Church is the Church only when it exists for others... not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  Letters and Papers from Prison. And I think it needs to be said that trying to be rational, or philosophical is not going to do the job we are asked to do. We need to be a part of the revelation and the experience of living for God and with Christ through the Spirit.

In this moment, we go from being inside, in the upper room, hiding in the dark, fearful what happens next and praying we are not found out. Now we go from being in that room to be outdoors knowing and understanding that we live in perilous times and in a wound and broken Church. How do I know that? We live in a world where we see 20-25 seconds of a 9 minute video and suddenly the world is a fire for all of the injustices in the world. Have you noticed? What about the store owner or manager that called the police to come for Floyd George and the cashier that was handed a potentially fake bill? Why have they not been considered for anything? What about the person who took the 9 minute (8 minutes and 46 seconds) of video and stood there while another human being dies and no one is offended by that. How come? And lastly the wife of the police officer who immediately filed for divorce: did she do it to avoid the media glower? Did she do it to protect the property she has in case things go badly to protect the lives of their children?

Not that long ago, we remember that Good Day when Jesus died of asphyxiation. We recalled the pain, the darkness, and the suffering on that hill, not just of Jesus but of others as well. We can evoke the silence and the fear of the Saturday that leads into the joy, wonder and amazement of Easter morning. The questions remain before us though: what is our next move? We are called. We are chosen. We are blessed and we are sent. And as Archbishop Rowan Williams would point out, “The hardest place to be is where we are.” Are we staying in or getting out there?


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Breathing on us for renewal

I have to admit that the struggles to do ministry in the past few days have made me wish that we could go back to the days when we were younger. I wish we could go back to the days when we were not so dependant upon technology as we seem to be these days. In fact, I went 21 years in ministry without owning a cell phone. Sure there were times when I would use my wife’s cell for safety but often, we lived in places that were not well all that friendly to technology. The 40 minutes I spent in the car by myself between places was a change to get away from it all. I freely admit that I miss that.

This Sunday we will celebrate and participate (I hope) in the Feast of Pentecost – the 50th Day of Easter. Jesus came to that same place, to that Upper Room where he had spent his last night with his followers before his arrest, the trials and his crucifixion and death. It was the place of refuge from what might happen to them in the light of everything that happened to Jesus.

Jesus had promised to immerse them in the Holy Spirit for power to be witnesses of his life death and resurrection. We as the One, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, so that his people might draw men women and children into a relationship with him and thus, into his kingdom. Let us keep in mind that Pentecost is not just about the coming of the Spirit but the fulfilment of the promises of God around Easter and what he would do for his people. The Spirit comes to and resides in everyone who believes that Jesus is Lord. And in fact, Scripture is clear that when a person declares Jesus as Lord, they do so through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are called to declare that Jesus is Lord through the whole earth and to serve these whom we find to be our neighbours. As we live and serve the Lord, we make known the reality of his incarnation in us. We do these things with amazing love and incredible power so that people around us might see him in us. The immersion of believers into the life and work of the Spirit is foundational and of first import to the work of the Church here on earth.

As a first step, if we are going to take the message of God around the world, would it not be essential to take this message, this news home first? Many are called to the kingdom and there are a few who are called to lead in that work. God calls whom God calls. The Church like the people of Israel is his people, his royal priesthood, his holy nation and therefore his own possession. The Spirit rests upon all those whoa recalled and believe led by a chosen few. And the power that was available to the Church in those early days is still available today – for you and for me in the exercising of ministries.

We can set people free or we can leave them bound and in darkness by how we live and share the Good News with them. The Church’s failure to make known the Good News means that we fail to bear witness to Christ in the world, leaving people in darkness and unable to grasp just who Jesus is. The Church in those circumstances is unable to participate in the life it thinks it has in Christ leaving it both powerless and lifeless. Maybe that means that we need Jesus to come through our barricaded doors at least one more time so that we have to struggle anew with what it means to declare the Jesus has risen and that means he is Lord. We need to see Jesus in our midst, ready and willing to engage us, to breathe out his Spirit upon us so that we are willing to go and help set people free.

If in the going, there are going to be struggles, issues, and problems; if there are going to be disappointments and plagues, then we must remember that Jesus sent us and he is with us in the going and doing of ministry.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

My phone is dying!

Have you ever heard a person cry out, “My phone is dying, my phone is dying!” and then demand that you give up your table so they can sit down and plug they phone and charge while they continue to play Candy Crush? Have you ever done something like that to another person? In this digital age, we obsess with whether our electronic devices are going to continue operating for us and is there a source of power we can tap into to make sure that we can use our digital devices.  Have you ever considered that there are ways in which we need to live so as to care for our lithium batteries so that they give us the most? The very first time you put it on to charge, there are recommended lengths of time for the battery to be charged. How we treat the battery and how often it is charge have a lot to do with how long the battery will last and what kind of service it will give over its lifetime.

The Christian life is no different in that regard. We are now in a ten-day waiting period before we are completely charged and ready to do what God asks of us as individuals and as a Church community. Without waiting and preparation for what is ahead, there could be no blessing and no source of strength for worship or blessing, there is no boom for the work that needs to happen for the kingdom of God to be established in people’s lives. If we do not prepare then we are weak. How did the first disciples prepare for the Charge of Pentecost? They prayed, they worshipped, and they focused on Jesus and on the Father, giving thanks and blessing. Without these things, we are a weak battery and ill-prepared for the job ahead.

It is why in the Easter litany, we have been asking for the believers to be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, so that we can take the joy and the life that Jesus made possible to  the world, that they would see and know him and receive that life because they have seen and known Jesus in us. We are filled with the life of the Holy Spirit for that very purpose. Receiving the Spirit into our lives makes us supercharged to carry out the mission that Jesus has in mind for us. The Holy Spirit is at work in each and in all of us and has been since the very thought of our creation by the Father, creating, renewing and sustaining each and all of us as we work to seek, to see and to serve Jesus in others.

I know that when my time of ministry and life here on earth is done, I don’t want to stand before the Master, and for him to ask me, “So, how was it?” for the only response I am able to give him is, “Well… I survived”. It is not that I would fear wrath but rather that I would disappoint and make him cry because I chose not to completely offer myself to him and use everything available to me in the life of the Spirit to win people into the kingdom of God.

We follow the Lord Jesus, bodily risen from the dead and raised to the right hand of God the Father almighty that he would rule in power and with authority until such time as he is to come again. He lives in this moment, close to the Father, to make intercession for the saints (you and I) and his eyes are fixed on us and all we do and his ears hear all that we say and think. Let us ask our King of glory that we would be given the power and whatever else we need to complete the work, the mission, to draw people to him and that there would be a wonderous celebration of all the saints in light and to the pleasure of our heavenly Father.


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

It is a part of our nature

In consideration of the context of this week’s Gospel (John 14:1-14) it is important to know where Jesus said these things, to whom he said them and when he said them. The where is easy: in Jerusalem, in the Upper Room. The when of what he said it was the night he was betrayed and arrested by the authorities while at supper with his disciples. They were celebrating the Passover. Judas had made his plan with the authorities and had been paid the price of his betrayal – 30 pieces of silver. When he discovered at the table that he could bend Jesus to be a political Messiah, he tried to stop the trail and execution but failed. It cost Judas dearly. Peter had promised to be faithful even if it meant his own death. Jesus told him that he would deny his Master three times before the cock crowed in the morning.

That last night, this one last chance was meant to encourage his followers to live the life and walk the road ahead of them. Jesus called on them to live like him, to walk and talk like him. We need to look live and act like Jesus. Jesus to the time to tell them about the road ahead and about the promises of presence and other things.

He tells them not to allow their lives to be shaken to the core by what is about to happen. Jesus encourages the disciples (and his apostles) to go on believing in the Father, which is important but to also continue believing in him. Please understand that faith is far more than head knowledge and a choice to believe that God is here. It is a life that is given into the living of that belief, that you trust the Father and the Son to enable you to have that relationship, welling up into eternal life. Our relationships with God and with one another can grow up and out to become eternal life because God sustains them and eternity is a part of his nature.

So we are challenged in the midst of grief and loss to not allow our lives to be shaken to the core. We are asked to put our trust in God for the way ahead. We are called personally and corporately to love and to believe (that is, to trust in God and participate in what God is doing). We are called to serve and eat together. We are called to hold things in common. Christ calls us to these things and to unity in him so that we can know him and the Father better. Unity, in this case, is not about conformity. It is far more and far above one’s personal or a Church’s corporate theology. We are together for the sake of Christ and in doing so, for the needs of one another who are called into community with him and with us. Jesus prayed that The Father would bind us to him and to one another by and not by fine-sounding doctrine. The unity that Jesus prays for and seeks for the Church is about a deep and profound love rather than for fine sounding doctrine that puts up walls that divide.

Deacon Stephen (Acts 7) would have recognized this. He was called into the ministry of a deacon to enable the Apostles to preach and teach the Word. The awesome thing is that he was able to serve at the table, meet the needs of his community and it doing so was enable to preach and minister to those he was responsible for. Stephen was a man attested to for being a man of deep faith and full of the Holy Spirit. He was known for being full of grace and for his deeds of power through the working of the Spirit. The Book of Acts describes Stephen as the protomartyr because his life, arrest, trial, condemnation, and execution were carried out in a mirrored way to the way the Jesus did. Keep on thing in mind though, not all of us are called to be martyrs. If you are gifted as a martyr, you will only get to use your gift once and at the end of your life.

How we live and how we give to the point of giving and living sacrificially is important first for the life of the Church, then of the winning of the world. The Church is the medium through which God transmits his message of grace mercy and love. We know the way home. It is in Jesus and through Jesus that we live and move and have our beings. Living like Jesus at this moment is what we are called to do so that we can draw others into our fellowship and make our way home together.


Friday, May 1, 2020

There are two kingdoms. Which will you chose?

As I sit to write this week, I am aware that Sunday, May 3rd is a major anniversary for me. I was speaking with a long time friend and brother priest who reminded me that May 3rd was coming and that the day marks the start of our 30th year in full-time ministry. He asked me if I was aware of it and what I thought about it. Sheepishly I admitted that it had not really crossed my mind because of all that had been going on in the day to day stuff in recent weeks. As I have pondered these things and looked at a journal I keep of my ministry, I came to realize just how faithful God has been to my family and to me over and over again through the years. So I want to tie this together with some thoughts I have about the life and ministry over the past 30 years and what still needs to happen because, in the immortal phrase of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead yet.”

This Sunday is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the lessons reveal Jesus and the Father to be such. In fact, in the Old Testament, God is extolled as the Shepherd of Israel. So it is not a surprise for Jesus to reveal himself as the Good Shepherd. He connects his life and ministry both to his Father and to the life and faith of the People of Israel. The Gospel Lesson is a statement that Jesus makes to leaders of the faith in Jerusalem after the healing of a man who was born blind (John 10:1-10). The basic tenor of the speech is about choosing whether you want to live in the Empire or if you would rather seek a better kingdom. That is why the man born blind lives out his faith and is tossed by the religious leaders – he chose to follow Jesus rather than be led by pretenders. Which do you choose, the status quo of the Empire or the freedom of the kingdom?

Human beings because of who and what we are, like to have things that stay the same. The lack of change leaves us thinking that we are in control. Consider carefully who things went for the people of Israel before they were freed by the acts of God on their behalf and what happened between the people and God once, they were across the Red Sea and away from Egypt. Even in the aftermath of the plagues and the moment of being rescued through the Red Sea, the People of Israel started complaining about there being no water, no bread and no meat. They complained and complained and yet God comes through, providing water in the desert, manna in the evenings and birds for meat (Exodus 16 and 17). Yet they kept on complaining saying things like, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you brought us out into the wilderness to die?” we would rather live in chains and be slaves to taskmasters because that life is easier and more predictable than learning to trust that God is going to provide and that we have to depend on him for our daily bread.

That is the biggest lesson I have had to learn and in fact, am continuing to learn. That I need to seek Christ to find my daily bread, my life in him. He is the gate over which I come and go from the sheep pen. He knows my name and calls me to come and follow him each day. He knows my needs, my hopes and fears, and through them draws me, calls me and encourages me. Thus the call on my life is about being willing to give away to others and to serve other people, giving where I can, making sacrifices when necessary.

Let’s go into a better kingdom, you and I.


Thursday, April 23, 2020


In the past few weeks, I have heard a lot of strange phrases uttered, like “the new age of COVID-19” and learning to “live in the new normal”. Well okay, the second one I have used my own self to talk to people about dealing with loss and death. I do it to help them understand that there is a path that needs to be walked and that they can walk it because they are not alone. But there is a list of things that we need to be aware of that can help us to live that new life.

For example, we are to “self-isolate” or to quarantine ourselves to protect lives – including our own. We need to work out our economic troubles and worries. Some demand that the Government support their way of living so that it does not cost them anything. In my own life and ministry, we are dealing with the pandemic and now we are dealing with a flooded church hall. The Church has been broken into and there are looks and doors to fix. There are other important church building issues that need attention but are going to have to wait until things are back to whatever normal looks like. This is when I realized that we need to remember that we must not lose sight of the fact that this is not about us but about God and his Church.

If we consider the words of this week’s Gospel lesson and the Walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) There is a great phrase I heard, listen to a bunch of videos as I worked away – Mary Lower, a Christian musician and comedian said, “When the dead sit up, the funeral is over!” The walk to Emmaus then is about three simple things: (1) get the story in, (2) get the story straight and lastly (3) we need to get the story out. (Becky Pippert, “Out of the Saltshaker”) In asking the question, “What things?” Jesus invited the people he was walking with to share what they knew and saw of the events in Jerusalem. They had taken the events of Holy Week in and thought that things were at an end. Things had been really bad on Friday on that hilltop when hope died.  In walking with them and talking with them, Jesus opened up the Scriptures and showed them how Christ had to suffer and die and rise again – helping them to get the story straight. Then at the table together, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them. This caused the people who had been with Jesus to get up from the table and run the seven miles back to the City of Jerusalem and report what they had seen and heard to get their story out.

In doing so they were sharing with others, including Peter, who had seen the risen Jesus the same day.
Remember now, when the dead sit up, the funeral is over. And we have our story to tell. It is not just that Jesus lives, but that because he is alive, Jesus reigns. We need in this time of plaque (and that is what this is) to get the story in, get it straight and then get it out into the community because we have a message that will help people live in hope and with courage. We can help people to turn to God and to begin build relationships with God and with those who God is redeeming. But we must become reenchanted with our story – the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. That he has been crucified and raised from the dead for you and for me. He lives and he reigns.

Do we have the courage to become re-enchanted with our message and through the message to rediscover our first love? We cannot afford to preach a lukewarm, mediocre gospel because if it is true. And because it is true is life-giving. And if our message is lifegiving, it is the most important message in the entire world. This message can make and does make all kinds of real difference in the world and that, beloved, matters to the world who is looking for and in need of some good news and hope in this age of COVID.

Love people perfectly. Live life totally. Be what people need you to be in this moment and serve where you are sent. Be ready to be a help in another person’s trouble and remember, it is Christ himself we serve. In this way, we will get his story out.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

What God is going to do about it.

On Palm Sunday five-year-old Jason had a very sore throat and had to stay home from church with a sitter. When his family returned from the Church service, they carried several palm fronds. Jason asked them what they were for. "People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by," his father told him. "Wouldn't you know it," Jason fumed, "the one Sunday I don't go, and He shows up!"

This will for certain be one of the oddest Palm Sundays of my nearly 30-year ministry. It will be odd because it will be almost totally silent. Palm Sunday s one of those services where we let our liturgy out for a walk. Literally. This is the Sunday where we go for a walk around the Church in procession singing hymns like “Ride on, ride on in majesty”.  There would be tambourines and noisemakers and lots of voices signing as they strode along. That will be happening this year. This year, there will be silence and I suspect I will be straining to hear the rest of creation cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

In the Gospel for Palm Sunday, Jesus rides in on a donkey to the City of Jerusalem. As he and the others go along a people gather into a crowd calling on Jesus “Son of David have mercy on us!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” People were looking for healing and mercy so that their lives could be better and they could do better things, do more things and have a better life. They wanted safety. They wanted to be rescued. They wanted to be blessed. Most of all they called for God to be merciful.

You know what mercy is? That is when one person stands between another person and the second person’s disaster, and first-person calls the second to himself to avoid the disaster. That is why Jesus and his death on the cross is crucial. He is lifted up so that we can see him and be drawn to him. God is providing mercy through executing judgment so that we can have that mercy and that rescue, that salvation. Through the cross, Jesus takes our judgment and our punishment. We, in turn, receive the mercy, the grace and the peace of God that passes all our human understanding. We are healed by the stripes he took for us. The cross teaches us about who we are and how far we are going to take this to make sure that we are in control. The cross also points out what God is going to do about it.

We are to follow, even chase if necessary, Jesus up the hill as he makes his way up the hill at Golgotha. We are to seek out the opportunities to build and reconcile relationships. We are to call out for healing and for rescue in the midst of the storm. We are prevailed upon to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus up the hill. We need to count the costs of following and not following Jesus. We need to guard our message and our integrity. We need to be wise in the ways that we walk and act, including our service of God.

Take time to look for Jesus. He is here and he has shown up. Cling to him!


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Responding to life's crisis

In this time of minimalized ministry, I have been taking time to watch and listen to various clergy and preachers to see what is being said about the Covid-19 pandemic and how we should respond to it. There seems to be a common theme of “Choose faith not fear” amongst us. We all have two dogs in this fight: one called faith and the other called fear. Fear at this moment is only natural and total human. We are in a state of fear, of chaos, of sickness and of death. People ask me which is stronger faith of fear? Want to know which one is the strongest? It’s the one you feed. In point of fact, only a fool would have no fear in all that is going on. But there is the other side of things. Where is your faith? Do you remind yourself of what Jesus said, “Who among you can add a single hour to your life by worrying?” What do you believe at this moment? Who do you trust in times of trouble and of fear? Do you choose Jesus?

There is a reality setting in for many of us that we are not in control. This present crisis has highlighted this fact. We are tempted to think about ourselves and do want we want because what doctors, nurses and the governments are supposed to do, is look after us if we get into trouble. I suspect that this is why we are seeing governments at various levels restrict and curtail liberties that we are used to enjoying. Work is shutting down. Schools, gyms, restaurants, even Churches are closed. We are not to be within 6 feet of each other. And yet there are still some who think that this is someone else’s issue, someone else’s problem. It does not affect me. I am not sick. I am going to continue on as usual until I have to change. This is not helpful and is not caring for yourself nor for the people around you.

On the upside, there are some things that we can do and should do in this time of restrictions that are not against the law. These are things that can build us up and allow us to be caring of others and even to effectively proclaim the Good News of God in Christ. (h/t to Nicky Gumbel from Holy Trinity Church, Brompton in the UK as I draw from his inspiration)

Stay Prayerful
Many will know the story of Jesus getting in the boat with his disciples to go across the lake and they end up getting caught up in a storm that is powerful enough to sink the boat. Keep in mind many of these men in this boat are experienced fishermen. They were watching the waves, rain and bracing themselves against the winds. They grew afraid. Where is Jesus? He is in the stern fast asleep on the pilot’s cushion. (Luke 8.22-25). In frustration and fear, they wake Jesus and ask him, “Don’t you care if we die?” Jesus gets up from his nap, and speaks to the storm and says, “Be at peace, be still.” Jesus then turns to his disciples and  asks them, “Where is your faith?”

In moments like this, we are tempted to look at the storm, the things that are going on around us. Such things can cause us to despair and event to fall into depression. Notice what the disciples did, they went to Jesus with their fears and frustrations and asked him to do something about it. Jesus spoke to the storm and calm the situation because his disciples asked him to. It is a simple prayer and of course, God cares for each and for all of us. We need to make our petitions known to God and do so with thanksgiving that God is already there in the situation working for us and for good. We need to be prayerful which not just words, but also keep an attitude of altitude. This means that we know that Jesus in the boat and we are with him. Because we are tempted to fix our eyes on the storm, we need to work at fixing our eyes on Jesus. We can ask for Jesus to stop this illness and to bring health and whole back to us.

Stay wise
One of my favourite verses of Scripture that I use in my own life is “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2nd Timothy 1.6-7 ESV) So, it makes sense for me to say to you, have faith and use soap. When you wash your hands, instead of singing Happy Birthday, sing the Doxology and give thanks to God. We can choose to have faith over fear. We can choose to limit the amount of cable news we get, the amount radio news we listen to and we can choose to fill ourselves to listen to music, make time to pray and to worship which will take our eyes from the storm and help us to focus on Jesus. We can choose faith and put fear in its place.

Stay kind!
Maybe this is a no brainer but there is no need to hoard when we go to the grocery store. People are hoarding hand sanitizer, wipes, toilet paper, flour, meat and other things. We need to consider carefully the examples of the selflessness of others and then try, as best we can to follow in that way. I think of a priest in Italy who came down with this horrible virus and his parish went out and bought him a ventilator so that he could survive and continue to serve his people. Then he heard of a young boy who needed the ventilator and he demanded that he be removed from his and the machine be taken to the boy. Shortly after the priest died of the illness but the boy he gave the machine to, lives. Be kind to others. It is life-giving. Be generous and let us make sure that we care for the vulnerable.

Stay united
Remember to stay united with one another. We are fighting a virus, not one another. Never waste an opportunity to extend forgiveness or for reconciliation. Invite people to the online services and there might be opportunities to share the Good News with those who need it.

Stay Connected
Be wary of isolating yourself to the point where you cut yourself off from everyone else. There may need to be physical distance, but we need to stay connected. There are lots of ways to do this through phones, emails, texting, video chatting, even old fashion note and letter writing.

Stay Confident
Finally, I know that when I discovered what might be coming in terms of illness and that as a person with an “underlying health condition” I was going to increasingly isolate myself for my protection I found myself angry because I could not control what was happening and going to happen. It was a reminder, that as much as I like to think I am in control, I am not. But then I know that Jesus is and that he has called me into the boat to be with him in this storm. Jesus is in control. Jesus reigns. He came to us in flesh and blood. He suffered and knew pain. He has been through it all including death and the grave and yet he lives. And because he lives, he is in the boat and he is in control right now.

Let us put our eyes on Jesus. Let us cast our burdens on Jesus for he cares for us. Let us choose faith over fear. And let us remember we are in the palm of his hand. He has us so much more than we have him. Thanks be to God for that.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Are you blind?

The furore of the last few days and the decisions of the last 24 hours have left a few people relieved and some others reeling just because of the speed and magnitude of the decisions. I have no doubt that when (and not if) we come through the other side of this latest crisis and latest virus, that a scene, not all that different from what happens in John 9 is going to take place.

I discovered that people with powerful testimonies of God’s rescue and restoration had to endure much pain and suffering to obtain them. We don’t and we didn’t consider much less get that as human beings. I know I didn’t. I used to sit as a student in the Church Army College/Headquarters in prayer meetings on Thursday nights with a cast of characters, including my classmates. Many of them had wonderful and occasionally very funny stories to tell about God reached out to them when they thought life was coming to an end. There was a logical progression of things – who you were before, what Christ did to transform you and how your life is different now from the first.

We are told of a man (in John 9) born blind. He was clearly known to Jesus and to his disciples because they could look at him and know at least a few things about him. The disciples assumed that there must have been spiritual wrong in this man’s life: why else would he have been blinded. So, it is a natural question: “Who sinned? Did he? Did his parents? Who is responsible for this tragedy? Who needs to be blamed?”

Is it not incredible, that Jesus points out that it is not about the man or his parents but about God and the kingdom? This man’s life is about putting on full display, the grace and glory of God for the world around him to see. Then, interestingly, Jesus ducks out and goes away. He disappears almost completely along with the disciples. What gives? Where did he go? Why did he leave? Did anyone see where Jesus went?

If there is a single lesson that I have learned about being healed, it must be this: there is life at the end of the miracle that needs to be lived out like a light in the darkness. As believers, we are called on to reflect his light through our lives so that even though Christ seems absent. And that takes work to be reflective of his light, his love, his life. And doing so we bring Jesus to the community and make him visible. It is why the man with new eyes says to those question him about Jesus asks the question, “Do you want to be his disciples too?”

The goal of John’s Gospel is a simple one: that having encountered Jesus that you would believe in him and through him, have eternal life. Those who look to accuse Jesus of being a false healer and teacher, of breaking the rules of the Sabbath are then told by Jesus that because they claim to know God and his ways are actually blind. They are blind to who God is and to what God is doing. It is interesting that unlike the man with new eyes, the religious people are willing to sit there with mud on their faces and refuse to go and wash, remaining blind to the reality of what God is working amongst them. Being blind, leave them guilty of not recognizing the presence of God amongst them and therefore are sinning by calling it the power of evil.

It is his light in us and it is up to us to make that next move. He has come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Ought we not to be 'pumped' about God being present here, in this place, at this moment and to be with him? Should we not take that next step to bring light to the darkness, hope to the helpless and courage to those who are frightened. Should we not feed the hungry, clothe the naked and befriend the lonely and the stranger? Should we not offer them Jesus, that might have life in his name?


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Come and see then go and tell

You need to come and see and then you can go and tell… did you know that? I think you might have. The Gospel this week is about the day after Jesus is baptised and revealed to be the Messiah (John 1.29-42). He walks by John who baptized him the day before. You remember. John had objected to the idea that he should baptize Jesus – he wanted Jesus to baptize him. Why was it important for John to baptize Jesus? In a word, revelation. John did not know for certain that Jesus was the Son of God until this fact was revealed to him by the Father and the Spirit. There was the bird coming down to him and a voice that John could hear. At that moment, John knew that he knew that it was Jesus that he needed to tell other people about.

Hence, this is why he loudly declared the next day that Jesus was “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… behold him!”. We use it in our eucharistic worship to declare that we too see Jesus and recognize him for who he truly is. We come forward to receive the bread and the wine so that we can participate in and declare ourselves to be a part of his body in the world. From there, we are sent out into the world (having been broken up like the bread and dismissed from the presence of the Lord) to see and serve Jesus in the world. In fact, we are living out our own baptisms, is spite of the fact that most if not all of us don’t remember the act of being baptised our own selves.

We are compelled to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbour as ourselves.” It is something that is promised in act of baptism and continues in the living out of that baptism: that we are going to actively search for Christ and wherever and whenever we find him,  serve him in the places and spaces and in the people we discover we are neighbours with. It is not upon us to fix them, agree with them, like or even like them. We need to leave the notion that we remain trapped in high school behind and disabuse ourselves of such notions.

It is incumbent upon us to serve Christ wherever and whenever we find him, seeking to love him through our service and love of those who we find to be our neighbours. We do this not as individuals but as a community of believers. We see and receive Jesus together and then we through out the rest of the week seek Jesus, to find him wherever we ourselves go. There is a pattern to the ways in which we witness to Christ’s presence in this community.  We look for Jesus and when we find him, we receive him that we might know him. In knowing him, we can tell others about our encounters with Jesus and how we saw him. This will encourage others to seek him where they are and where they go, so that they can see Jesus and know him for themselves.

If there is to be another generation of the Anglican Church of Canada across this country then there is a necessity in people, believers and followers of Christ to draw people who have not seen into their lives, their homes, their schools and workplaces, their churches. We need to invite and draw them in so that they can see and receive him and then go out and tell others what they have seen.