May 24, 2020
Acts 1:1-11 Psalm 93 Ephesians 1:15-23 Luke 24:44-53
Long ago in my youth I remember someone speaking about the basic rules of reporting the news known as the 5 W’s. In order to write a good news story a journalist needs to know who is in the story, what the story is about, where did the event happen, when did it happen, and last but not least, why did it happen? You can add to the 5 W’s the letter H which stands for how did it happen. Our current N. S. news items are hitting all the W5H points as newscasts try to report the facts of the recent tragedies. After all the questions have been asked the facts of the stories can then be checked by anyone who takes an interest in knowing the truth. There are other methods of record keeping that go beyond the skills of a journalist that help keep us informed such as photos, videos, diaries, fashion trends, and popular music to name a few. Each genre will cast a different light upon a subject that reveals the truth after the 5W’s, and the H as used to probe the subject. Take fashion as an example, the style of dress for women between the 1900’s to 2000’s is a record of the women’s movement all over the world. Knowing the who, what, when, where, why, and how of events reveal fascinating details of importance.
A record of events is a useful tool to use in discerning the truth of a matter. Written records can reveal interesting facets about our society, our organizations, our governments, and also how the body of the Church has functioned. I suspect historians will have ample evidence of how the Church reacted in this strange time of COVID 19 and much will be revealed about us in regard to how we face the challenges before us and how we coped into the present day. Keeping the written record of certain details can help with financial investments decisions, point government toward what direction to take, and help educators to plan curriculums. During this time of COVID 19 our financial institutions, governments, and educators are using investigative questions to interpret:
Who is being affected
What is happening in their sectors
Where is it happening most often, or not happening at all
When does their response become a question of timing
Why it is important to not ignore current trends
How can they as an institution best address the problems that arise, or how to celebrate the successes that are happening.
Recently, I and other members of the parish have been asked by the diocese to record numerous details about how we are functioning during this time of crisis. The answers that we are asked to supply to their questions seem rather frivolous, but not so much when we place them in the context of the 5WH what we can learn.
Thank goodness we have a record of what happened between Jesus and his disciples in their final encounter and from the written record we can discern the truth of the story and this will help guide us in discovering who we are, what we are suppose to do, where we are to go, when we are to do it, and how to do it. In this mornings scripture we have a written record of the final moments spent by Jesus with his followers before he left his kingdom here on earth to ascend upward to the heavenly kingdom of God.
I have two points from the accounts written in the Book of Acts and the Gospel Luke from today’s message that I wish to review. One point is about the author of the story and the other is about the story itself. It is often found in the case of scripture that the questions of who wrote the story and why they wrote the story is as important as the story itself when trying to discern the truth. In Acts 1: 1-11 the questions of WHO wrote the story and WHY the story was recorded reveal significant details. The writer is Luke, a close companion of the apostle Paul, who writes to Theophilus an unbeliever. WHAT Luke is doing in writing the letter is the work of an evangelist, he writes to Theophilus to present to him an account of what he knows about the claims made about Christ so that Theophilus can have a clear understanding of all that he needs to know about Jesus to make an informed decision. Without going into a lot more explanation about the investigative tools used by scholars, the account of Jesus ascension is backed up by many more written accounts of the same event that tend to prove that what was written is the truth, not a made up story. Basically, because of these investigative tools Luke’s credentials as a reliable source are to be believed.
The second review is of the two stories as they are told:
#1 The question of who.
Before Jesus leaves for good he verifies his credentials to his followers. He states, everything written about him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets has been fulfilled, therefore he presents reliable evidence that can be compared to him and his ministry, and can be verified as truth by others, such as the details about his birth and of how he died. The proof of what he says establishes the question of Who he is, he is the Messiah, the Son of God.
#2. The question of what.
The record of the story reveals the truth around the question of what it is that Jesus did. The answer to what becomes revealed as the explanation gently unfolds like that of a cloth that has been rolled up and tucked into each role of the cloth is the evidence of the truth. In revealing the truth of his identity Jesus confirms his role as the Messiah. Next, he reveals the evidence of how he suffered and died and was resurrected. Next to be unrolled in this explanation of what happened is that the find out that through Jesus act of sacrifice the sins of humanity and our wrongdoings are forgiven once and for all. Metaphorically, as the cloth is completely unrolled the explanations reveal what Jesus accomplished for us, and the end of his life and his story we discover that we are offered a new beginning, the greatest “do over” of all time! This is what the story is about.
#3 The question of where.
Where does this event occur? The answer Jesus says is in Jerusalem. It begins there and then spreads out into all the nations of the world. The evidence of the truth in his statement is before us today. In the last 100 years, the number of Christians in the world has quadrupled from about 600 million in 1910 to well past 2 billion presently. Today, Christianity remains the world's largest religious group.
#4 The question of when.
The when of this story does not seem to be as important as the other facts because the time frame of Jesus ascension was in the first century, a long time ago. But when we ask the question of when the event occurred from another perspective, we recognize that Jesus ascension happened as the last act of his ministry. In his last moments he was not concerned about goodbyes and hugs and well wishing. He continued as he had done all along. In his final hours he continued to teach, he continued to share time in fellowship with them, he revealed a future revelation of what was to come, and he blessed them. When on his final day he continued with his ministry he reveals to us the length of our ministries, our ministries are to be like his, all the days of our life.
#5 The question of why?
The story of Jesus ascension and the account of the letter written to Theophilus were recorded because story telling was the major mode of communication to the masses at that time. Storytelling was one of the few ways of revealing truths. The story of Jesus ascension became a written record because the followers of Jesus wanted to keep the story accurate and safe from being tampered with. In this way the story of this event, as a written account, could easily travel further and reach more people than by the storytelling of one person.
#6 The question of how.
The how of the story of Jesus ascension remains as much a mystery today as it was then. Our scientific mind wants an explanation about the ascension which science cannot provide. Because science cannot provide us with the answer of how, for some people this reduces the record of this account to that of a myth, or a tale of folklore. For others, the evidence revealed by the use of the 5WH method should lead us to say, “Because I don’t understand today how the ascension happened, it does not mean that I won’t understand it tomorrow”. To this point, in former periods of history we did not understand that the earth revolved around the sun, until the proper questions were asked and the answers were discovered, nor was the evidence of how an illness (a virus) can be transmitted from one person to another was only discovered by asking the questions too investigation that we now know how this happens. This should be cause enough for all us to think that the mystery of the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit do not need to be proved for them to have relevance in our lives. I am confident the passage of time will reveal this answer. For now, the evidence of the truth found in the question of how, is in how the world and the lives of billions of people have been made whole because of faith in Christ and the answers to the questions of why. Let us not get caught up in doubts, but rather be investigative in the questions we ask about our faith and be caught up in in promises of hope offered in Christ, as revealed in the recorded story.
You are the Witnesses
44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”
45-49 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is especially important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”
50-51 He then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising his hands, he blessed them, and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven.
52-53 And they were on their knees, worshiping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes.
May 17, 2020
Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66: 7-20 1Peter 3: 13-22 John 14: 15-21
R-E-S-P-E-C-T is a well known 1960’s rhythm and blues song which began to play in my head earlier this week. I apologize for not knowing the music artists of today, such as Adele and Drake, and knowing something about their music, but I am a woman from another era and I speak about what it is that I am familiar with. Aretha Franklin’s version of the song “Respect” is the version that I am familiar with and today I wish to focus on an attitude of respect. When Aretha sings this song, she is referring to her boyfriend and telling him whatever it is that he want’s she has it to give. Whatever he needs, she’s got it, and she says, “All I'm askin’, is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit)”. I enjoy turning the lyrics of popular songs around by replacing the intent of the original artist’s words with what it is that I understand about God. My theology, or what I understand about God and how I relate to God is different from the intent of the words used by the original artist. When Aretha sings, “All I’m askin”, is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit)”, I relate these words to the love and care that God has for us like that of the atmosphere that we find in a loving home, and as it appears to me, the majority of people give no serious thought of their relationship between themselves and God. In the words of the song I hear God asking for a little bit of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I do believe the issue of respect is heavily embedded into the first lesson for today. The Book of Acts is a record of an account of Paul explaining to the group gathered at the Areopagus that they are offering their respect to images carved out of stone. Paul tells them about the God of his belief. The one true God who created the world and mankind. He passionately speaks of how God created us to be flesh and bone, he he bestowed upon us heart and soul, and of how God is always near and always present. He speaks of how the God that they worship is made by them out of a carved and chiseled stone. The God of Paul’s faith is always near and present and that mysteriously WE LIVE, and WE MOVE IN HIM! The God of Paul’s faith is not removed and far away like their Gods. Paul tells them the relationship that we have with God is a lifelong relationship and the sooner that this relationship between us and God begins the better it will be for us. He ends with telling them that if they were not aware of these facts God will overlook their lack of understanding, but as soon as they know better, the difference between that of worshipping a God of stone and a God that abides with us, they are expected to change. If they do not change, they are basically disrespecting the God of all time and the God all things. The idea that all of us have a time and a season in each of our lives to gain a healthy respect for God is backed up by what is written in Psalm 66. It appears that during our lifespan there will be times of training, and times of refinement, and a time for the lessons of life to sink in. During these times of hardship, we learn that God is always near and that God provides. If you feel that the COVID pandemic is pushing us to our very limits and that we are being road tested on the highway toward hell, then you are not alone. The psalmist encourages us that even though we may not feel like we have the support of God or feel confident in God’s love and protection during these difficult times we most assuredly do. During our lifetime we gain an understanding that God has all that
we need and knows the truth of what we deeply want. The confidence that we place in God becomes a show of respect that builds in strength and intensity over time. There are other elements in this mornings message from 1 Peter that high-light the elements of respect. It is easily recognizable to view God firmly positioned in the world of the ancient Romans and in today’s post-modern world. If we suffer for doing good Paul tells us we are still better off because we have gained understanding and we have gained wisdom. In acknowledging, whether privately or publicly, that both our heart and our attention are focused on our relationship with God we show our respect for the relationship that Christ has formed for us between us and God. Nestled in this message of the hard times that may fall our way is the valuable insight provided by Paul in regard to our efforts and the mysterious relationship of those who accept the role of God as the creator of all and our role as God’s creation. We have been shaped to be in a life of communion and relationship with God and Paul shares with us the reality that there are many people who do not understand this bond between us and God and they reject this special opportunity offered to them. Paul tells us not to be discouraged by this outcome. I bring up this point of being disheartened because of what is written in the gospel lesson this morning. Jesus is sharing with his disciples that even though he will not always be with them the Holy Spirit will always be present, to always be with us and to be near us, it will be the Holy Spirit’s presence that comes after Christ and acts on behalf of God, in essence the Holy Spirit is the active presence of God. He says to those gathered, ‘The world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and your about to come alive”. Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirt that comes to abide with us and to live in us. The world around us will see Christ because he lives in each of us through the presence of the Spirit. From a local perspective I ask the question, “How will communities around us, such as Karsdale, Annapolis Royal,Parker’s Cove, Clementsport, Granville Centre, Perotte, or Round Hill see the living Jesus through us. It can happen in three ways. Firstly, by our dedication, secondly by our words and actions, and thirdly by our prayers. Praying that the people who we are in contact with will have open minds and discerning hearts to accept the messages of the Gospels. We can pray that our faith in Christ will be respected by what it is that the world witnesses through us and their respect toward God will grow as well, “just a little bit”. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Amen. John 14:15-21 The Spirit of Truth 15-17 “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he will provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world cannot take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you and will even be in you! 18-20 “I will not leave you orphaned. I am coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you are going to see me because I am alive and you are about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I am in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you. 21 “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”
May 10, 2020
I wonder if other priests get a feeling of uneasiness as I do when they hear comments about prayer. Comments such as, “I prayed to God and God did not answer my prayer”. This thought often drifts into my mind when I read passages such as John 14: 13 which says, “ From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it”.
The promise of answered prayer is a promise of consistency, that if we ask Jesus for something he will give us what we ask for. His promise of answered prayer is comforting and reassuring, and many people call upon this promise in times of need. Therefore, why does Jesus not always give us what we ask for, especially when we pray for people who need their health restored, or why is our world not freed from the effects of pollution when we call upon God to help the earth and change the hearts of those who pollute?
Over the years I have found answers that satisfy me that counter any doubt that I may have about unanswered prayers. I can summarize in one word my response to this eternal question of why God did not answer my prayer when asked, it is the word “trust”. I become anxious when I am confronted with the question about unanswered prayer, not because I cannot give an answer back, but I get anxious because of the disbelief and doubt that appears to be embedded deep within the person who asks the question. I get the sense that no matter what my reply may be they have made up their minds about what the answer will be. I often find people are not searching for the answer to this question, but rather they are offering what they perceive as a failure of God to their unanswered prayers as a testimony against my beliefs. In other words, here’s the proof Rev. Nita that God is not faithful to his promise.
In 1 Peter 2: 7-8 it says, “ To you who trust in him, he’s a Stone to be proud of, but to those who refuse to trust him, the stone the workmen threw out is now the chief foundation stone. For the untrusting their questions about unanswered prayer can become a stone to trip over, a boulder blocking the way”. I guess my years of attending church, praying, studying scripture, developing projects, leading youth group, numerous other volunteer efforts, and trusting in God have been years of building upon the cornerstone of the foundation laid by Christ. During those years I have come to understand that I am like one of the stones that is laid upon the foundation. I have been asked to take on many of the tasks that Jesus undertook, to trust in what I am doing, and in doing so, sometimes I have become the instrument of another persons prayers being answered.
Prayers that are not answered in the ways that we wished for have likely been answered with a silent and unresponsive no by God. Why people are not healed when we pray for healing I cannot give an answer to, but I can say it is a matter of trust. Unanswered prayer can be painful, and it hurts and it devastates our lives when loved ones are not healed, but I believe in the mystery of faith and I believe that I am to trust, even though I did not receive the answer I wanted, all that unfolds is under God’s authority and under God’s love. I am willing to trust that someday I will understand fully what I don’t completely understand today.
As you may already know, the cornerstone (or foundation stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure. To make a comparison between Jesus and that of a foundation stone is to make a comparison between our trust in Christ and how he is at the very base of all that we follow. He says, “I am the way (road), the truth, and the life. If I am to be one of the stones laid upon the true foundation of Christ’s teachings then I must have the confidence to trust that he is the way forward toward discovering the truth about how God heals. I must have the confidence to trust that he wants nothing but the best for us, and I must have the confidence to trust that we have been fully accepted by God. The foundation stone of Jesus upholds liberation for all peoples. The foundation stone of Jesus gives me the confidence to expect the best and my expectation of receiving the best helps supports me. The foundation stone of Jesus gives me the confidence to accept that healing comes in many forms. In Jesus I place my confidence and my trust. At the present time there is a lot of discussion concerning consumer confidence. As each province in our country begins to reopen and businesses prepare to balance the ways that they operate with public safety in mind. The big question being asked is, “Will consumers start buying once again?” Will our doubts about the economy and our personal finances become a stumbling block and we are presently in a difficult situation whereby in the Annapolis Royal area we have a high proportion of our local businesses that operate seasonally and are heavily dependent upon tourism. We find ourselves in a difficult situation, sometimes as the business owner, sometimes as a bystander. When will the tourists have the confidence to return? Will we have a tourism season this year? As the effects of the pandemic begin to transition from a short term struggle into a long term problem home owners will continue to hold mortgages, tax bills wait to be paid, medical prescriptions need refilling, and hungry mouths are waiting to be fed. As a faith community it becomes more important than ever for us to be responsive in ways that we can help. We should buy from local businesses when we can and we must become advocates to petition our governments, banking institutions, and insurance companies to be lenient during these unprecedented times. Offering loans to businesses that cannot afford to take on more debt is not helping, telling businesses that their taxes will be deferred, but an interest rate will be applied to the amount owing is not helping. I have heard of insurance companies offering lower rates for car insurance because of reduce driving, that is helping. Confidence will return when we recognize that everyone holds a share in the financial pain and we find ways to be helpful, not hurtful.
I guess Covid 19 has turned me into a political creature, but my outlook is also balanced with a healthy measure of confidence in God. I long ago decided that even if my prayers are not answered in the way that I hoped for that they were being answered. Not receiving what I wanted does not mean that I have not received what I needed. I have learned to trust and not allow distrust to be the stone that I trip over. If I can be of help to those in this present time who are struggling I will do what I can do. I know I can’t help everyone, and I know sometimes I will fail, but I pray that I will succeed more often than fail. I will not allow distrust and skepticism be the boulders to get in my way. I will continue to pray. Won’t you join me and continue in prayer. Amen.
May 3, 2020
Acts 2: 42-47 Psalm 23 1 Peter 2: 19-25 John 10: 1-10
Make Yourself at Home
The most common, and the most understood meaning for the phrase “make yourself at home” is as an invitation of welcome. Come on in, be yourself, relax, be comfortable, treat this place as if it were your own. This is, in a small part, some of the impression that this Sunday’s gospel message had upon me. Jesus speaks of sheep, of a shepherd, he speaks of a sheep pen and how the sheep pen is am image of security and of the how the shepherds voice , if it is followed, will likewise offer safety and security. Psalm 23 also picks up the theme of security and safety. I especially like the phrase that says, “. . . you let me catch my breath . . .”. All these statements and images left with me the impression of a home, of an invitation to come in and to relax, to ultimately feel secure and safe. These are fitting images for the theme of this Sunday which is sometimes known as Good Shepherd Sunday. In our mind we see a vision of a green pasture the offers safety and the oversight of a caring and loving shepherd. This is indeed a comforting message of good news.
Unlike last Sunday’s message when I had a lot to say about adapting for the future and for us to be open to change, the invitation to come to another persons home and to relax, along with the images of sheep and lambs living in a safe and secure pasture, doesn’t really seem to send the same message. In fact, the message from 1 Peter, that of being a servant who should expect to be treated badly by others and the message of the good shepherd does not really seem to fit together at all, except in fact they do fit together well and their messages do hold meaning with today.
Let us begin with the image of a servant and the image of a slave. Sometimes we think of them as being “one and the same” when they are distinctly different. A servant is a a person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed to help keep a house, or a servant is recognized as a follower, a supporter, and a helper of others. It is this latter definition, that of the follower and helper, that we will examine because I believe this is the meaning and the intent of the author of 1Peter when he speaks of being a servant.
Peter is writing to the various churches in Asia Minor who are the followers of Jesus and who are recognized as helpers and supporters of the early Church. He is telling them to expect hard times ahead, that they are to be prepared for their day to day lives to b changed and that they should expect their lives to be changed because of the relationship they have with Jesus.
In the safe social circles of the early church the first century Christians were expected to extend themselves outside of their familiar social circles in response to following the voice of Christ. They are be the true servants of Jesus, to follow his example and to be a support and help to others. They are reminded, as servants of Christ, that if they have any masters who treat them badly, they are to persevere in their efforts. Today the most common example of this kind of scenario, of being a follower of Christ and persevering and having someone be a master over us happens within the work place whereby resentment against an employee, or toward a co-worker will steal from the other person their peace of mind, their sense of who they are, and possibly their purpose in life.
We may very well find ourselves in the role of the servant and having to persevere against prejudice directed toward us.
The key to this message and the liberation it offers is found in the act of forgiveness. To forgive others, or events that have happened to us that have caused us harm is an extremely difficult act of Christianity. No one said it would be easy, in fact Peter says so when he states, “ ………What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason. There is no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you are treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.”
It is in times like these that that the comforting words of Jesus message about following the voice of the shepherd, of green pastures, and the opportunity to catch ones breath we recognize the invitation that has been extended to us "to come in and make yourself at home”. To live a life as a servant of Christ is to live a life in support to others and to offer help, it also means that we will receive back from Jesus the same gifts of support and help that we need.
If we continue with the comparison between us and sheep, and Jesus as being the gate keeper and shepherd, we should acknowledge that there are other kinds of thieves, other than human thieves that can scale our walls of defence and steal us away. There are events and situations that can capture us and remove us from our sense of security, such as the current pandemic, a loss of income and job security, the loss of social connections and friends, or having our property vandalized. The events of the past two weeks, with the most recent being the downed helicopter of the Armed Forces and the loss of life, this event alone is enough to steal our sense of peace and security.
There is good news however, there have been many times in my life when I have been led by the still waters of Christ and in the midst of anxieties I have been refreshed. I have discovered that when I call upon God and wait upon Him I find that I have time to catch my breath. Best of all, in my relationship between myself and Christ I find that if I need to find peace, I will find it, if I need healing I will be healed, if I need to be liberated I will become liberated. I know I always have an invitation to come into the presence of God and to make myself at home, to be myself, to relax, and to be comfortable, and to be treated as God’s own. To accept the invitation to come on in and make yourself at home is an invitation well worth accepting. Amen.
John 10:1-10 He Calls His Sheep by Name 10 1-5 “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he is up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him, and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them, and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.” 6-10 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So, he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to
no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep did not listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
April 26, 2020
Fans of the former TV show Red Green will recall him reciting at the end of each show The Man’s Prayer, "I'm a man, but I can change, if I have to, I guess.” This statement brings a slight smile to our face as we recognize this twist of sincerity as a comedic play on how we can change, if we want to, but many times it becomes a half hearted attempt because we really do not desire change. Of course, this made me wonder if Red Green’s statement can be applied to us in our spiritual lives and in our daily lives. I decided to explore this a bit further
I ask this question, “Why do we seem to resist change rather than to embrace change. There are many factors, but one of the significant reasons for resisting change is the unexpected unknown of what will happen if we change our way of doing things. At this present time COVID-19 is the cause of change and we are presently facing the unknown and are trying to figure out how our lives will be changed. We ask the question, “When will our lives become normal again? I think a lot of us are hesitant to use the phrase, “. . . when life gets back to normal . . .” because the normal that we knew before the pandemic will not really have changed, we will still need to make payments, buy groceries, celebrate special occasions, but some of our former habits and practices will be replaced with a new kind of normal and this means change has happened.
Much of our new normal will be created out of necessity. Our thoughts become filled with more questions about what the future will be like and we wonder what lies ahead. We ask many questions such as, “Will we be back together by the middle of June, or will it take longer for restrictions to be eased?” We question if Harvest Thanksgiving will happen, it is after all in October and October is the beginning of the flu season and we have been warned to expect a second wave of COVID 19, likely in the fall during flu season. How long will the important social distance rule of two meters apply? Will the Ecumenical Fall Fair be cancelled like so many other large gatherings? Can our Sunday School happen with the energy filled youth that we are so blessed with, or will the ACW monthly meetings gathering around the board room table continue like they have? We recognize that all these activities will continue, but they will have been changed. All these possible changes can leave us feeling shocked and somewhat confused over what to do.
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were in a state of shock as they walked and talked over the recent events. The claims made by others that Christ was alive confused them. How can this be? A lot of what they knew about normal had changed because people do not die and come back to life! The obvious truth of upheaval was right before them, their daily lives had been interrupted by tragedy, their Passover practices had been threatened by disruption, and some of them were now in hiding, isolating themselves to protect themselves against arrest. There was nothing about these circumstances that was normal, and they were likely unaware that their current circumstances would require them to change and to adapt.
In the next few weeks our stories of scripture will tell us how the lives of the apostles changed. Once more questions bubble to the surface. Did the apostles want their lives to change”? The answer is, “Likely not”. Did they have to make changes in their day to day lives because of what happened, the answer likely is, “Yes they did”. For them to carry on Jesus ministry and to become the bearers of the Good News they had to make changes to their normal way of life. I believe their source of strength to carry on in their new life was founded in the words of the psalm chosen for today, Psalm 116. The key verses (12-19) outlined for the disciples what they needed to do in the face of change and instability.
1.) “. . . I will lift high the cup of salvation . . .”
2.) “ . . . I will pray in the name of God . . .”
3.) “ . . . I will complete what I promised God I‘d do . . .”
4.) “ . . . I will do it in the company of his people . . .”
On the night of Christ’s betrayal and arrest Jesus and his disciples would have sung Psalm 116 as part of their Passover celebration. We cannot dismiss the words of this psalm and the meaning they hold. To lift high the cup of salvation is a reference to the blessings of God poured out on us, but it is also symbolic of the cup of blessing that we share in the Eucharist. When we gather once again at St. Luke’s we must continue sharing Holy Communion as we did before. Although so much of our world around us may change this is a practise that we cannot afford to do without. We will likely need to make changes in how we celebrate the communion, but it is a key element of our spiritual life and it is one of the ways that we will move forward in this time of change. Jesus told his disciples to share this meal as often as they could when they met. It was important to him; it was important to the apostles and it is important to us.
Psalm 116 also speaks about prayer. We have always known the importance of prayer and how prayer connects us with God and with one another. When we pray it is particularly important to acknowledge and declare before others the goodness of God and credit to God all the glory due to God. This is laid out clearly in Psalm 116. Prayer is yet another important element that will help keep us together and keep us strong.
On the night of the Passover meal when Jesus sang the words, “ I will complete what I promised God I’d do”, we know that he was making a pledge and announcing that he would keep his promise and allow his death to be a holy sacrifice to cover our sins. He would stand in for us and take our place, he would bear the pain and punishment that was ours. Jesus kept his promise and so should we.
Jesus disciples promised that they would go out into all the world to preach the Good News and to baptize, likewise we have promises to keep as well. I am specifically referencing a promise that we made as a parish that connects us with Psalm 116 and with COVID-19 and the mass shootings of last weekend. Our mission statement, “Together we worship, we care, we serve our communities” is a form of promise that we accepted, and Psalm 116 directs us to complete what we have promised. I witnessed a wonderful example of this last week when it was suggested by a parish member that a Vigil of Light in the memory of those killed in the Portapique shootings be organized. Their suggestion was a caring and thoughtful way for us to be a support for others inside of our church community and outside of our church community. Because of their suggestion a Vigil of Light was held on Wednesday evening in Annapolis Royal that became part of the healing process for so many. We will continue to offer the important ministry of caring and in doing so it will strengthen not only others, but it will support us as well.
Psalm 116 has given us the directions to worship, to pray, and to care for others, but there is one more suggestion, all these things are to be done in the company of God’s people. I am happy to say that we work very well together as a community of God’s people and during this time of difficulty all of you have supported each other in significant and wonderful ways. What it is that we say, and what it is that we do as God’s people is watched by others, we become witnesses of the Good News. For this alone we cannot relax on any of the practices mentioned in Psalm 116 when our parish reopens. As the parish reopens, we must be willing to adapt and change as we must, yet not let go of the ways that have always kept the church and her people a strong, active, and vibrant people. Like Red Green we can change if we must, but unlike Red Green our promise will not be half hearted. Amen.
Sunday, April 19, 2020
Acts 2: 14, 22-32 Psalm 16 1 Peter 1: 3-9 John 20: 19-31
“May nothing but God’s truth be revealed through these words and nothing but God’s truth be received. “
As I read through the passages of scripture chosen for today I found key phrases that seemed to jump out at me, and with each phrase that jumped out, I found myself taking a closer look at what was said and to think about how it related to today. Here are some examples.
In Acts 2: 23 Paul wrote “ . . . he was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, . . .”. The words, “took the law into their own hands” caught my interest. My mind immediately leapt to the topic of how these men of authority, the chief priests and council, had an innocent man killed to achieve their personal goals. They wanted the crowds who were following Jesus to turn away from Christ and back to them once again. They were alarmed to discover that they were losing their authority over the people. Their power to control the will of the people so as to bend them toward what they wanted was eroding away.
The events of Jesus trial were manipulated by those who were in authority at that time and it makes me think of the situation that we have before us today. I think of the circumstances that are unfolding now in some places whereby people are protesting against their government and the regulations that have been put in place for social distancing. There have been protests to put an end to the social isolation measures they live under. The protesters want their local businesses and industries to open up again and for the people to go back to work even though the pandemic is far from being over. The protesters appear to represent the will of the people and are acting like they are taking the law into their own hands. In their public demonstrations they are challenging the laws and taking the health authorities to task. In the news reports we hear of powerful people with authority lending their support to the protesters. This is turning the current situation into an “us against them” showdown. People who hold authority have the ability to move the will of the people and to encourage them to do either what is right, or what is wrong. Those who hold authority must exercise it wisely. Therefore the words, “taking the law into their own hands” caught my attention.
As I continued to read other short phrases, verses from1 Peter 1: 3-9 also caught my attention:
“ . . . the future starts now . . .”, “ . . . God is keeping careful watch over us . . . “ , “. . . Pure gold put into the fire comes out of it proved genuine . . . “, “You never saw him, yet you love him.”, . . . and, “You still don’t see him, yet you trust him- with laughter and singing.”
I utter the words, “WOW”. The author of 1 Peter compares the suffering of Christ to the purification of gold by fire. What comes out of the fire is pure and genuine, 100% pure gold. Similarly because we are believers of Christ, through his death and his resurrection, we become purified as well. That is a “wow” moment, and what adds to the "wow “moment is the idea that as people of the 21st century, who have not had the benefit of being a first hand witness to Jesus life and ministry, love him just the same as they did, and even though we cannot see him we trust him. That is quite amazing!
The final phrase that stood out to me as important comes from the Gospel of John 20: 19. John writes, “ Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you! “ I have always looked at this as a verbal expression of what we wish for another person , for them to be well. Today however, I see it as the remarkable benefit of receiving peace of mind.
The three segments of scripture that I have I mentioned highlight three themes and that I wish to briefly explore them. 1.) The will of the people and the power of authority 2.) How something new and pure has begun 3.) The peace of mind that comes with Christ.
Last Sunday I wrote that I was ready to move forward into what lies ahead. The first month of social distancing, and “staying the blazes home” has now become an experience that will help to set the tone for the future and force us to adapt in certain ways. It’s time to move on and I am going to hold fast to the advise written in this mornings scriptures to help me move forward. 1.) I will trust, as I have for most of my life, in the authority of God. I will try my best to not “take the law into my own hands” or to will us to go the way that I want us to go, but rather I will trust that after discussion and prayer our future will unfold as it should and we will go the way that God wants us to go.
2.) The second point that caught my attention was the purity of God’s love. Each Easter season we become aware that something new and pure has begun again. We take the time during Lent to reflect upon our life and how we should live our lives, how we should trust in God’s enormous love for us. The love that God has for us is pure and rich. It is of great value and this brings me peace of mind. The assurance that God loves us, and will guide and direct us, and be the source of our strength is what I will hold on to.
3.) Lastly, when Jesus met with his disciples in the locked room and they came to trust that the person before them was Christ and he shared with them his gift of peace. This act of love brought them comfort and peace of mind.
If something gives you peace of mind, it stops you from worrying about a particular problem or difficulty. I don’t think peace of mind is something that you create, but rather something that is given to us. Nor is peace of mind something that we choose, or something that needs to chased and found. At the time of Jesus death his disciples had a lot to be worried about, and it seems to me right now we likewise have a lot to be worried about. I will not however let the present troubles we are facing become problems that cannot be solved. To get ahead of these troubles I will continue to trust in the authority of God, I will embrace the love he has for me, and I will have peace of mind. I hope you also will likewise be sustained. Blessings to you all.
19-20 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.
20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”
22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”
But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”
27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”
28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”
29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
Easter Sunday, April 15, 2020
Jeremiah 31: 1-6 Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24 Colossians 3: 1-4 John 20: 1-18
Alleulia, Alleulia, Alleulia . . . . . and I say one more time, “Alleulia”! It’s here, Easter day has come! This is such a day for rejoicing!
Since March 12 when we last gathered as a community it appears to me that we have been straining under the weight of carrying a heavy load, all of us together trudging toward Easter day. Every step along the road leaving a heavy imprint, but today has arrived and it is a day of release!
In today’s readings Jeremiah wrote about the day that was yet to come, a day of release for God’s people. He was referring to a time of great trouble that was yet to come and of how it would afflict many of his people, and he also spoke of how not all of them would survive. Yet the great majority of those who would survive would receive God’s grace and rest. In their survival they would find the Messiah Jesus Christ. Jeremiah writes about God’s love for his people that is an everlasting love, and of how God is faithful to his people.
I like this promise and I am going to take God’s promise of everlasting love and God’s faithfulness and carry it with me into tomorrow. I am going to take this same promise of love and faithfulness and carry it into the coming weeks, and into the future that lies ahead. Today, I feel I am released.
There are yet months ahead of us whereby COVID-19 will continue to dictate a lot of what we hope to do as a community of faith, and of what we hope to be as a community of God, but last evening after the sun had set, and Easter had officially arrived, I left behind the past four weeks of isolation and the sense of heaviness that went with it. I will now go forward into the future taking with me the promise of God’s everlasting love and of God’s faithfulness toward us. I am going to leave the heaviness of the past where it belongs, behind me. I am going to move forward into the new normal of our future and also return to my former place of confidence and trust.
Like the words written in this mornings psalm, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”, I am going to follow that advise and I am going to rejoice. It is a good day. There is no doubt that the world as we know know is in a mode of self correction. Much of what we knew before the time of COVID - 19 will change, such as the suggestion that the handshake will be a gesture of the past. I think this idea is likely a good idea, but what does that mean to us as a community when we exchange The Peace with each other? It just means that we will find a different gesture to share with each other as we say, “May the Peace of the Lord be with you.”
This experience has certainly taught me once again that I do not need to go to the grocery store every day. It was an unnecessary habit and my habit of daily grocery shopping helped to put additional carbon into the atmosphere. Experts are telling us, that when the threat of COVID-19 is behind us, more people will likely be working from home and this will be good thing for our environment. The world around us is enjoying a time of much needed relief. The world of God’s created order is enjoying a time of falling back into order. Let us not loose the initiative of these positive changes when we once again become free to do as we please. Let us as a Christian community become stronger in our resolve to be stewards of care for this planet.
This is definitely a memorable Easter. We can find similar comparisons between the Easter of the first century and the Easter of 2020. The disciples of Jesus time found themselves living in locked rooms, hidden away because of fear. They came to discover that a locked door could not keep the risen Christ away from them. The glorious good news of the risen Christ could not be stopped. Today we find ourselves in isolation, basically locked behind doors a necessary lifestyle that is driven by fear. Like the first century Christians, our self isolation cannot keep the risen Christ away from us either. I cannot describe for you the joy and the relief that I felt the moment I knew I had overcome some of the technological challenges that had kept us separated. When I succeeded at recording a video, and I knew that I could connect with you on Easter morning my sense of relief and joy were enhanced by a sense of liberation that I find difficult to describe. Oh, what joy. What a sense of release!
Of course, when I describe such a moment to you, my thoughts encounter my conscience. The small inner voice in my head shouts, “Just image what Jesus would have felt when he was released from the tomb”. Oh what joy, what release!
For Jeremiah the joyful return of the exiles to their homeland was to be a day of immense joy. On the day of their return God’s everlasting love and enduring faithfulness would be on full display for others to witness. When they returned home and they rebuilt their lives there was to be a new normal. This is how I feel and it is how I hope you feel. On the day that we can say that we have been released from our isolation we will be a witness to our community and families that God’s love is everlasting, it cannot be defeated by a virus. A virus cannot pull our community apart. God’s faithfulness to us will be on display because we will be a witness of how we stayed together and how we picked up right where we had left off. We talk about how we will be stronger after COVID-19 and I expect we will be better at caring for our world and better at caring for one another.
The writer of Colossians encouraged us to seek God and to build upon our relationship with God. To be part of creating a better world and to become “the community” of a better world. To seek does not mean that we are to go on a scavenger hunt to find this ideal life, but rather we are called to look beyond the present complications and the messiness of this present time and to find a direction to follow. This direction comes from above.
Disbelief and wonder were present in the tomb as the disciples saw before them the evidence of the risen Lord. Before them the truth was revealed. Jesus has risen and he is the lord of heaven and earth and his love endures forever and his faithfulness to us is everlasting. Alleulia!
Passion of the Lord - Good Friday
Ritual at Home
Lord of Glory, we proclaim your death and look ever forward to your Resurrection. As we contemplate your death on the cross so that we may have life, may we be ever aware of the life that springs from death, the light that rises from darkness, and the hope that banishes fear. Draw us close to you, so that we may know the glory your Cross points to.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Place a cross on a table or some other place of respect, adding candles if you wish. Be sure to allow some time in silent reflection as you gaze upon the
Make this a time of personal prayer and reflection. At some point during the period of reflection, you may wish to pray the following Litany for Forgiveness.
Litany for Forgiveness
For the times we have not loved as we are called to love . . .
Father, forgive. Father, forgive. Father, forgive. Father, forgive. Father, forgive.
Father, forgive. Father, forgive. Father, forgive. Father, forgive.
For the times we have cultivated doubt instead of hope . . .
For the times that selfishness, greed, and lust influence our decisions.
For the times we nurture isolation instead of community . .
For the times we hear the needs of others but refuse to act .
For the times we pass judgment on ourselves and those whom we encounter . . .
For the times we create divisions . .
For the times we neglect care for our common home . . .
For the times we are not good stewards of the gifts you give us .
Confident that Jesus Christ hears our prayer, let us offer our petitions with open hearts .
“Let us pray for those who suffer the consequences of the current pandemic, that God may grant health to the sick, strength to those who care for them, comfort to families and God’s saving grace to all the victims who have died.”
“Almighty ever-living God, look with compassion upon the sorrowful condition of your children who suffer because of this pandemic; relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into your peace those who have died, and throughout this time of tribulation, grant that we may all find comfort in your merciful love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The Lord’s Prayer
Gathering these prayers together, as well as those we hold in the silence of our hearts, we pray in the words that Jesus taught us. Our Father . . .
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Isaiah 50: 4-9 Psalm 31: 10-17 Philippians 2: 5-11 Matthew 26:14-27: 66
A variety of thoughts filled my mind as I studied the scripture for this coming Sunday’s homily. So much of what came to mind has been said before, but even though the story is familiar there is always a gem of truth that comes to the surface. Something that can be shared which propels the old story of the past forward into a fresh message for today.
After what has seemed to be an extra long season of Lent we have arrived at the starting point of Holy Week. I have researched and assembled a collection of worship liturgies and meditations that will help us follow the familiar flow of Holy Week. There is no denying however that this year it feels like something is missing. The closeness of being together and sharing worship has been blocked by a virus.
Some people call the virus “the enemy” and look upon what is happening as an “us” against “it” war. I find this to be an interesting state of mind. What each of us feels and believes about this pandemic will have a great influence upon our mood and our behavior. This pandemic, like the Spanish Flu and SARS will have its own fixed mark on the timeline of history. We will become a changed society when this is over, and I think this is why we feel like something is missing, we are changing. Our outlook for the future will change, our mood will fluctuate with each adjustment that we undergo, and our behavior toward agencies and people will strengthen, or they will weaken. So you are likely saying to yourself, “What’s the good news, and how does it fit in with Passion Sunday story. Is there good news to be found in this mornings message?
The gospel readings of Passion Sunday are long, and they are made up of two seemingly different stories. In the beginning the gospel of Matthew retells the account of Jesus’s triumphant arrival into Jerusalem. Everything seems to be well. Jesus is hailed as a king and the people are excited and happy and waving palm branches. In a matter of hours, the mood has changed, and Jesus is given over to the authorities to be tried as an imposter, he is accused of heresy and this leads to his arrest. Just as swiftly in a matter of hours he is tried before Pilate and sentenced to crucifixion with his eventual death on the cross that follows. It may seem strange that these two extremes are celebrated on Palm Sunday, but this is the reality of what we call the Easter mystery. In the midst of disbelief and the challenging times that the disciples were to face it was how Jesus lived his life and his death and his ultimate resurrection that changed the world. The mood and behavior of the first century Christians changed. Despite the ups and downs of life they found that their lives were better because of their beliefs. The challenges and disasters that they faced worked to strengthen their faith.
It is impossible to separate these two stories. The story of celebration and triumph and the story of despair and challenge. This same statement can be said about our lives. Even when our lives don’t feel the same, like they do now. We are facing challenges that have just begun, we will gain strength from these challenges and the source of our strength is in our connection with God and our connection with each which we celebrate each time we gather. Our connection is strong and will get stronger because we are united with Christ through his death and his resurrection.
There have been one or two times in my life when I have felt like something was missing and each time it involved a change that was yet to come that helped me recognize my way forward. Many times, over the past 20-30 years I have heard people pronounce that the church is on its last legs and headed towards death. I heard it so often, but yet still saw around me the witness of the church through its people. I began to say to others, “I don’t know what the church will look like in the future, but I am convinced that the church will still be here after I am gone. I likely won’t recognize it because it will look different, but it still will be here”. I sincerely do believe this, and I do believe that after the pandemic ceases to crowd our news headlines and the world returns to normalcy, we will discover that we have changed. We will be transformed in another way, our beliefs will become stronger, and not weaker. Our optimism for the future will increase. There are goods days ahead for us because the same Lord who changed the world once before will be the same Lord of our future who will change this world once again. This is the good news today’s message. Amen
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Have any of you ever ground the gears in your vehicle? If you have ever driven a standard and you need to shift manually by hand you likely have. It’s part of the learning curve when you drive a standard and it most often happens when you are trying to match the speed of your car with what you are demanding of it, you either want it to go slower, or you want more speed. It is a matter of experience. We try to avoid grinding the gears because if it continues it is going to end up costing us and we will pay the price in replacement parts and garage fees. Sometimes I think that our journey of faith is kind of liking driving and knowing when, or when not to shift gears.
This week the gospel of John is a stirring and sensational story about the death of Lazarus, and of the separation that his family and his community feel because of his death, and of course the personal grief that comes with the death of a person we love. It appears that we have switched gears for the coming week when death becomes a primary focus instead of the focus of new life. Added to this impression of grief is our awareness that today marks the beginning of what we call Passiontide, a solemn period of two weeks of reflection that focuses on the persecution of Jesus, his eventual crucifixion and his death. Has there been a shift from the theme of the past few weeks?
Over the past three Sunday’s we have explored the scripture passages for an understanding of the new life that Jesus spoke of. Our first glance at today’s gospel message might lead us to think that we have switched gears going from light and life to darkness and death, but this passage has more to do with new life than what it has to do with death. It’s not the time to shift gears, we will keep the message of new life.
Let us take look at the first reading from Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones as described by the prophet Ezekiel. He is describing a vision, he sees a valley filled with the dry bones of the dead. New life is breathed into these bones and the vision is so real to Ezekiel that he describes how first the sinew and muscles are formed, followed next by the skin, but it was the breath which came from God that created new life in those dead bones. Ezekiel’s vision is intended not only to reach the people of his time, but also far beyond his time to other people down through the ages. The vision of the dry bones is an encouragement to us that our earthly life has an extended life beyond the life we now know. I find there is no need for me to shift gears, for this is my belief as well.
Once again this past week I looked out my office window and gazed at the North Mountain. A thought crossed my mind, and I said to myself, “What fun God must have had when he created this world”. To watch the world that he created unfold as it once did must have brought the Creator great delight. Rivers forming here, mountains erupting in another place, and over there prairie plains with vast lands as far as the eye can see, and foaming waters which rise and fall with the tides. I thought, “What fun God must have had, and the delight God must know when I, one of his created creatures takes comfort and solace from what he created by looking at the North Mountain”. Therefore, it is not unimaginable to me that God has created another life, a new life for us.
In the gospel of John we have another example of death and new life. Although Martha and Lazarus’ friends make the claim that if Jesus had been present with them Lazarus would not have died, it appears at first to be a rather positive statement of faith, but it is this kind of a response that angers Jesus. Their exclamation that Jesus would not have let Lazarus die is but a shadowy proclamation of Jesus authority and power for it does not affirm faith, but rather it questions where was Jesus when he was needed. Jesus has been trying to instil in his followers a faith that comes by believing and not by seeing and he becomes frustrated with their response. They need to change gears and to shift up. They are struggling and working hard to understand, but they have missed the main point of Jesus ministry, that they and Lazarus have a new life now and even at the time of our death we continue to have this new life. Lazarus family should have been celebrating Lazarus new life and not wishing and hoping for another miracle for them to place their faith in. The people of Jesus time wanted miracles, they seem to need miracles in order to believe. Miracles were necessary at that time, but after his death and resurrection, right up to today there is a time when our faith must move beyond miracles and truly be based in faith. In the letter to the Romans Paul tells us that those who trust that God is in them, will find God’s Spirit is in them - living and breathing. Our attention to God will lead us out into the open and spacious life, a new life. So, as we enter into Passiontide and we prepare to be immersed in the Passion of Jesus, to experience the sorrow of Good Friday and then on Easter day when the story explodes with new life we need to gear down and slow down and prepare for all of this activity.
For myself, over these past two weeks since we last met as a worshipping community, I have been struggling with trying to experience the weeks of Lent leading up to Holy Week and Easter as I have before. So many of the things that we do to experience these events will not happen as a community this year. The Palm Sunday Procession, the reading of the Passion narrative, mid day mediations from Monday to Wednesday of Holy Week, the Maundy Thursday service, the Ecumenical Good Friday Service and Cross Walk, and of course Easter Day! This year we are going to miss the joy of celebrating together. Our gathering for worship, the singing of Easter hymns with the chorus of Alleluias’ that fill the church, the Sunday school youth and Easter egg hunt, the discovery of the hidden Alleulia, and the decorative white lilies that decorate the sanctuary are not going to be part of this years celebration for us. Our familiar and comforting traditions have been put on pause until next year.
COVID-19 is reshaping us, making us shift our gears. I stand firm and say, “I will not let this virus interfere with the meaningful and spiritual filled practices of Holy Week, or let our Easter Day joy be dampened”. In the coming week I hope to be able to share with you a few ideas of how this can be. I will share one of them with you now. At sunset on Holy Saturday, it is a common practise for many parishes to celebrate the Easter Vigil. At the beginning of this service a small fire is lit outside the church and from it the Paschal candle is lit and brought into the darkened church. As the candle is held high the words, “The light of Christ” are said, and there is a response, “Thanks be to God”. Most of us have in our homes a set of white Christmas lights, or a lamp that burns a white light. I encourage us all to place in one of our windows the white lights, or to light a lamp on the eve of Easter at the time of sunset. Turn them on so they are visible to those outside our homes and a witness to us inside our homes that the light of Christ is here, that Easter has arrived and new life has begun. It’s time to begin a new tradition, to shift gears, to light a white light that symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his innocence and purity, and the joy and the triumph and the glory of new life. The white lights will represent as Saint Paul said in today’s reading, it’s time to get on with our new life. There are things to do and places to go.
We are bound to grind our gears as we adjust to the new reality of COVID -19, but let us not pay the price by demanding signs and wonders, but instead live in a faith that hopes for, and believes in new life.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
When I look out of my office window and gaze upon the north mountain what swiftly comes to mind is Psalm 121 . . . “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?” A comforting statement that declares that God is the source of David’s strength. This psalm is a companion to the Psalm chosen for today . . . Psalm 23. A familiar and comforting piece of scripture that declares that God is our comfort and strength all the days of our lives.
In the timeline of our life this past week has been a week of adjustment. We are adjusting to a new mind set of settling down into a life style of social distancing, we are adjusting to self isolation, adjusting to how day to day tasks have now taken on a measure of caution that is balanced against what potential outcomes may come from careless exposure, and the list of adjustments goes on and on. The reassuring words of both the 23 Psalm, and Psalm 121 act upon me like a soothing lotion. I hope they bring this same response to you. We are at the beginning of a time of testing and challenges and we are seeking answers to our many questions.
It has been said that there are two types of questions and two types of question askers. There are those who want to ask a question, and there are those who want to discover an answer. In the gospel passage we have a fine example of this as the Pharisees investigate the healing of the blind man. There appears to be a great deal of confusion. Some are asking questions only wanting to hear the answer that they favour and then there are others who want to get to the bottom of their questions. Who healed this man, and how did he heal him?
As our global world seeks to contain and to eradicate the COVID-19 virus many questions are being asked, such as how are we going to get ahead of this virus and what can be done? In finding the the answers to these questions fear and confusion have caused many people to search out someone, or something to blame that will help them understand why we are in the current situation that we are in.
In the gospel message Jesus is challenged by others who were not his followers as to who is to blame for the man to be born blind. They want to know who sinned to have caused his serious disability. There is a lot of confusion in the story mostly about who did what and how can this be. At about mid point in the the story the man who was most affected had this to say to the Pharisees, “You know not where he comes from and yet he opened my eyes!” He was of course speaking of Jesus and of how very blind the religious leaders of the day were. They could not accept what they saw; that Jesus was present with them, that he was not only healing the physically blind, but also healing the spiritually blind. This is why this passage has been chosen for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.
There has been much said over the past three weeks about darkness and light, how Nicodemus came by night and received the truth from Jesus about a new life. How the woman at the well came in broad day light and received new life. Now we have the story of the man, blind from his birth who only could ever know darkness, but can now see in a way that he never saw before, or understood in a way that he could never understand before. He has gained a new life. He now sees both physically and spiritually. Our lenten journey is a journey that leads us toward an understanding that a new life different form our former life is now ours because Jesus gave his life for us. He died, but through his death true life is given to us. In asking the questions of who and how this happens we discover the answer. In asking the questions of how and why we face the current challenge of COVID-19 we discover the answer. When it is over we will have adjusted in ways that will make our world a better place, dare I say a healed place. In understanding that Jesus is the Son of Man we will have have adjusted our attitude and our outlook and we will understand and know that God is the source of our strength and this will carry us through.