First Reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
New Revised Standard Version
David Anointed King of All Israel
5 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. 2 For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
9 David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.
2 Samuel 5:1-5
5 1-2 Before long all the tribes of Israel approached David in Hebron and said, “Look at us—your own flesh and blood! In time past when Saul was our king, you were the one who really ran the country. Even then God said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel and you’ll be the prince.’”
3 All the leaders of Israel met with King David at Hebron, and the king made a treaty with them in the presence of God. And so they anointed David king over Israel. 4-5 David was thirty years old when he became king, and ruled for forty years. In Hebron he ruled Judah for seven and a half years. In Jerusalem he ruled all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years. 9-10 David made the fortress city his home and named it “City of David.” He developed the city from the outside terraces inward. David proceeded with a longer stride, a larger embrace since the God-of-the-Angel-Armies was with him.
The Glory and Strength of Zion
A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites.
1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
3 Within its citadels God
has shown himself a sure defense.
4 Then the kings assembled,
they came on together.
5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic, they took to flight;
6 trembling took hold of them there,
pains as of a woman in labor,
7 as when an east wind shatters
the ships of Tarshish.
8 As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
which God establishes forever.Selah
9 We ponder your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
10 Your name, O God, like your praise,
reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with victory.
11 Let Mount Zion be glad,
let the towns[a] of Judah rejoice
because of your judgments.
12 Walk about Zion, go all around it,
count its towers,
13 consider well its ramparts;
go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14 that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will be our guide forever.
1-3 God majestic,
praise abounds in our God-city!
His sacred mountain,
breathtaking in its heights—earth’s joy.
Zion Mountain looms in the North,
city of the world-King.
God in his citadel peaks
The kings got together,
they united and came.
They took one look and shook their heads,
they scattered and ran away.
They doubled up in pain
like a woman having a baby.
You smashed the ships of Tarshish
with a storm out of the East.
We heard about it, then we saw it
with our eyes--
In God’s city of Angel Armies,
in the city our God
Set on firm foundations,
We pondered your love-in-action, God,
waiting in your temple:
Your name, God, evokes a train
of Hallelujahs wherever
It is spoken, near and far;
your arms are heaped with goodness-in-action.
Be glad, Zion Mountain;
Dance, Judah’s daughters!
He does what he said he’d do!
Circle Zion, take her measure,
count her fortress peaks,
Gaze long at her sloping bulwark,
climb her citadel heights--
Then you can tell the next generation
detail by detail the story of God,
Our God forever,
who guides us till the end of time
++++++++++++++++++++++++Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
New Revised Standard Version
2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keepa me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.b 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for powerc is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Strength from Weakness
12 1-5 You’ve forced me to talk this way, and I do it against my better judgment. But now that we’re at it, I may as well bring up the matter of visions and revelations that God gave me. For instance, I know a man who, fourteen years ago, was seized by Christ and swept in ecstasy to the heights of heaven. I really don’t know if this took place in the body or out of it; only God knows. I also know that this man was hijacked into paradise—again, whether in or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. There he heard the unspeakable spoken, but was forbidden to tell what he heard. This is the man I want to talk about. But about myself, I’m not saying another word apart from the humiliations.
6 If I had a mind to brag a little, I could probably do it without looking ridiculous, and I’d still be speaking plain truth all the way. But I’ll spare you. I don’t want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you’d encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk.
7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
Gospel Reading: Mark 6:1-13
New Revised Standard Version
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
6 He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence[b] at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
The Mission of the Twelve
Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Just a Carpenter
6 1-2 He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He stole the show, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”
3 But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.
4-6 Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.
7-8 Jesus called the Twelve to him, and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition. He sent them off with these instructions:
8-9 “Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this. You are the equipment. No special appeals for funds. Keep it simple.
10 “And no luxury inns. Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.
11 “If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”
12-13 Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.
Week ending May 16, 2021 - Ascension Sunday
Greetings to all,
Last week I shared with you some of the details in the scripture passages that help us to understand our faith. In the past when I sent a homily summary I was attempting to share with you how the messages of scripture can be applied to today. The approach that I now use deals more with understanding what is behind the text. I hope you will find this helpful and enjoyable.
The first lesson from the Book of Acts becomes this week’s primary foundational message. This is not always the case; typically we use the gospel message as the primary scripture lesson.
Key to our understanding of this Sunday’s scripture readings is the acknowledgement that the Church is headed toward the celebration of Pentecost Sunday on May 23. Pentecost refers to the number 50. The 50 days between Easter Sunday when Christ was resurrected and Pentecost Sunday when Jesus ascended to the Father is known as the Easter season. On the day that Jesus ascended to heaven he promised that the Advocate (Holy Spirit) was yet to arrive and that the Spirit would act on our behalf. The arrival day of the Holy Spirit has become known as Pentecost Day and as the “birth day” of the Church. For this reason you will likely note more references are made to the Holy Spirit in our selected scripture readings for Sundays.
First Reading Acts 10:44-48 (Msg)
44-46. No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was— they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.
46-48 Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.
What do we need to understand about this scripture?
Back ground information - Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) all recognize the agency of the Holy Spirit. This fact alone draws attention to the importance and reality of the Holy Spirit as being the active agent of God’s presence. The Holy Spirit is the means by which God communicates and interacts with us. In Judaism, the Spirit is recognized as a divine force, the influence of God over the universe and all of God’s creatures. In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and in Islam the Spirit is recognized most often as the archangel Gabriel.
In this passage from Acts we are reading about the early debate amongst the apostles as to who could be included as a follower of Christ. We know that Jesus was a Jew and that he repeatedly made the statement that he had come to his own people to inaugurate the new order of God’s kingdom, to save them by making them right with God once and for all. In the minds of the early followers of Christ this was an easy debate to win, the Jews were to be the exclusive followers. The Holy Spirit however will change their minds. Along with the argument made by Peter that anyone who has faith in Christ would become a follower, the Holy Spirit’s presence was actually present at the time. All those who were present actually became aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence with them at that moment. The Spirit acted upon them and also on those that they called “the outsiders.’ This very visible witness and personal experience convinced those who were opposed to non Jews becoming followers, and they abandoned their former viewpoint. All were in agreement that belief in Christ as being God’s Son was a gift for all people who wish to receive and a sign of this acceptance is the act of baptism.
Although we have no actual accounts of Jesus baptizing, he commissioned us to teach his messages and to perform the rite of baptism. Upon baptism each baptized person receives the gift of the Spirit’s presence. At the time of baptism the Spirit is there. One of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit is that Spirt comes and goes as the Spirit wills, but the Holy Spirit will always be present when called upon. To what degree the Spirit is present is an unknown factor, but we know the Spirit will come because Jesus has told us this, the gift of the Spirit is for all people.
There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are wisdom (which is a combination of knowledge and experience applied with common sense), understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge (which are facts and evidence), piety, and fear of the Lord. While some Christians accept these as a definitive list of specific attributes, others understand them merely as examples of how Holy Spirit influences us and of how the Spirit’s presence is recognized. These gifts of the Spirit are not to be confused with the 12 fruits of the Spirit.
Psalm 98 (Msg)
Sing to God a brand-new song.
He’s made a world of wonders!
He rolled up his sleeves,
He set things right.
God made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.
He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.
The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God’s work of salvation!
Shout your praises to God, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!
Round up an orchestra to play for God,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.
Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to King God.
Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.
Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”
And mountains harmonize the finale—
A tribute to God when he comes, When he comes to set the earth right. He’ll straighten out the whole world,
He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.
This passage requires no further explanation, but if you go to You Tube channel and type in “lyrics for God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale” you will hear a wonderful rendition that adds even more depth to the meaning of this psalm.
Second Reading 1 John 5:1-8
5 1-3 Every person who believes that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, is God-born. If we love the One who conceives the child, we’ll surely love the child who was conceived. The reality test on whether or not we love God’s children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome.
The Power That Brings the World to Its Knees
4-5 Every God-born person conquers the world’s ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.
6-8 Jesus—the Divine Christ! He experienced a life-giving birth and a death-killing death. Not only birth from the womb, but baptismal birth of his ministry and sacrificial death. And all the while the Spirit is confirming the truth, the reality of God’s presence at Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion, bringing those occasions alive for us. A triple testimony: the Spirit, the Baptism, the Crucifixion. And the three in perfect agreement.
What do we need to understand about this scripture?
This passage carries the familiar message of last week, if we love God then we must also love others, if we cannot find a way to love others, we do not in turn love God. This is a commandment of God, to love as I have loved you, it is a way of life that evolves into a lifestyle that once it is absorbed into our daily lives we will discover it becomes the easiest and most natural way to function. It is not a drudgery, but a way of life that is life giving. To voluntarily make this choice does not cause one to lose independence, but rather to gain it. It will become your source of strength, comfort, inspiration, and depth of hopes. This kind of acceptance of this lifestyle brought the world to its knees once, it was called Christendom. We have moved out of the age of Christendom, but if we apply ourselves to the command to love as I have loved, it can return again.
Gospel Reading John 15:9-17
9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.
What do we need to understand about this scripture?
This is a root command and it is repeated more than once in scripture.
“Love one another as I have loved you”.
When we have a message like this repeated and repeated more than once in recorded scripture, we should pay attention to the importance of the message. This message is retold over and over again as a reminder that this action of loving others will produce the result of increasing God’s kingdom. Another message is repeated this week once again. We are reminded that whatever we ask for in relation to increasing God’s kingdom the tour request will be listened to.
I hope you have found what I have shared as beneficial and until next week, God Bless.
Week of May 2- May to May 8
Greetings from Rev. Nita,
Just two weeks ago I confirmed with you that weekly homily summaries were to be discontinued unless the local area went back into lock down. So, here I am sending along to you my best wishes, my assurance of prayer for you, and this week’s homily summary.
I have learned so much during this past year from what the pandemic has taught me. One of the lessons I have learned is that opportunities to try new things present themselves. On Sunday I led a livestream Face Book gathering in place of our regular Sunday worship. I decided to try something new and what I did was not so much a homily as a description of scripture so that our understanding of God’s written word could grow. There are two ways to read scripture, you can read it, or you can read it to understand it. I hope that what I offer today can do just a bit of this for each of you. Let me say that what I share with you is just scratching the surface of what can be learned from all of these readings. What I share is what I believe the Spirit of God has led me to share. All the readings come from the bible translation called The Message.
The first reading:
The Ethiopian Eunuch
26-28 Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.
29-30 The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”
31-33 He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him. The passage he was reading was this:
As a sheep led to slaughter,
and quiet as a lamb being sheared,
He was silent, saying nothing.
He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial.
But who now can count his kin
since he’s been taken from the earth?
34-35 The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.
36-39 As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.
40 Philip showed up in Azotus and continued north, preaching the Message in all the villages along that route until he arrived at Caesarea.
What have we come to understand from this reading?
This passage comes directly after the scripture which describes the stoning of Stephen and his murder. This helps us to understand that the beginning of persecution for the followers of Christ had begun. The passage says, “Later, God’s angel spoke to Philip”. How extraordinary, God’s presence speaks through an angel to him!
Philip is directed by an extraordinary experience to a certain road the following day. Philip does as he has been told. He sees a carriage coming along the road and the SPIRIT urges him to go and speak to the Ethiopian eunuch. Once again, an extraordinary experience that gives Philip guidance.
The Ethiopian is a man who has been searching for knowledge and truth and Philip jumps at the chance to explain the scripture of Isaiah to him. Sometime during their conversation, the Ethiopian Eunuch is convinced that he should receive the gift of baptism. This is a nice story but what is at the heart of this story is the message that our God is a God of diversity. The Ethiopian is obviously from another country, another culture and another race different from the people that Jesus has spent this entire ministry with. The message is clear: despite persecution the messages of Jesus will be spread throughout the whole world to all peoples and races as others are prompted by extraordinary events to share the message through words and deeds. Extraordinary events like those that happened to Philip still happen today (except for the one where he disappears and reappears 60 miles away). Often times we experience God speaking to us through what others share and they give us directions. Often we feel a nudging, an intuition or insight that we should do something. My advice, listen and follow the nudging, listen to the advice of leadership and test it out.
Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.
Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
Don’t ever quit!”
From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.
All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together
Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
What have we come to understand from this reading?
Even though this psalm was written about 1000 years before Jesus birth it provides insight into the truth that scripture speaks. This section of Psalm 22 from verses 24 to 32 is the opposite of the section that comes before it. The first section is often referred to as the Psalm of the Cross, this section when we read it comes across as deep and heavy in the dark language of the cross and of Christ’s death. The selection we have for today describes joy and praise, the very real feelings that we experience because of what Jesus’ resurrection represents. We have been given the counsel and the insight that joy and light and life will always follow despair and darkness for the followers of Christ.
The second reading:
1 John 4:7-21
God Is Love
7-10 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
11-12 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
13-16 This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Saviour of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.
To Love, to Be Loved
17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
19 We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
20-21 If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.
What have we come to understand from this reading?
I really have nothing further to add to this passage. If it is read thoughtfully and carefully it explains itself well without any prompting from me.
The Gospel Reading
The Vine and the Branches
15 1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
What have we come to understand from this reading?
The first think we come to understand is how God’s love is shared with us. Simple enough concept to understand, but the analogy of a tree with its branches helps to “bring home’ the full impact of his message. if you look at a tree in your back yard, or a bush you will notice that branches come out from the trunk of the tree, or from the main stem of the bush. Both the trunk and the branches are joined together. One is attached to the other and each abides with each other and in each other. There is no separation they are both “one", and the branch receives from the trunk of the tree and the tree receives back from the branches. God’s love is like that with us, it abides in us and as it abides in us we are part of love that God shares with us and we in turn share our love back.
The second point that we understand is that If we say that we love God but have tension between us, another person that creates a division in some way, then we do not have God’s love in us, we are not true disciples. We must learn to love everyone and when that happens we become one with God. Avoiding divisions between others can be extremely challenging, but we must forgive to the point that there is no tension and when this happens love binds as surely to God as the branch is bound to the tree because the love that we have found comes from God. Only God can heal a division that exists. I need to point out as I have said many times before, to forgive someone does not mean everything is forgotten, or that we must become pals with the other. I mean that we need them and this brings tremendous peace to us, it is a miracle that happens because of God’s love flowing into us.
The third point that we come to understand is that this message is about discipleship and asking for what we want in respect to increasing God’s kingdom to include more disciples. It’s about a bumper crop of followers, it’s not about asking for such things as good health or getting a job. It is about increasing the kingdom of God, it’s about evangelism, therefore ask for what you want about increasing the fellowship of believers and it will be heard.
I hope these insights have increased your understanding and I shall write again next week.
Blessings - Rev. Nita
Sunday, April 11, 2021
This morning I wish to present a summary of what I believe the current status of the church is.
First I will ask this question, “What do the following have to do with one another?” Wars and military coups , famines, latch key kids, global warming, women’s movement, pandemic, and street fashion trends.
The answer: They all are representative of the strange and usual times that we have lived in.
A student of history or sociology will note that society is always trying to find the right balance of harmony and inner peace in ourselves and between others, but more often than not we usually find that we are living in what appears to be strange and usual times. Periods of clarity and harmony are few and far between it appears.
In today’s first scripture lesson it describes a period of time where the church functioned in absolute harmony and unity. It was a remarkable period of fellowship.
Our psalm of the day also recounts the wonderful blessing of brothers and sisters who are united. Indeed, how wonderful.
The second scripture lesson pushes this message a bit further because it notes that “the way” in which the community that John writes about has effectively embraced the Christian fellowship of faith and this is what what compels him/them to write about it and to preach about it. Sadly, we know that the ideal of this “way of life” is often brief because society goes through periods of strange and unusual times that can be challenging and often upsets the harmony of a community.
This leads us to ask another question, “Are there similarities between today and the time of the early church in regard to harmony and balance?’, and I would have to respond with, “No, there are very few similarities”. Once again we are living in a strange and usual time in regard to the church, and the world that we occupy, presently the pandemic and rise in attacks against Asians, the Chauvin trial over the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the shameful actions of our Canadian government in their lack of compassion to ensure that all native communities have clean water are to name a few of the actions that result in disharmony and a lack of unity. In all of this we struggle to understand the role of the church and the message we communicate. We are living in strange and unusual times and the church is struggling.
Let me help to illustrate this struggle with a comparison of music. Last week I listened to the Kings College Choir of Cambridge as they sang, “The Church is One Foundation”. This is a beautiful melodic hymn that was written in a time period we call Christendom. Christendom refers to a period of about 500 years when everything we did was centred in Christianity. Our families where models of Christianity, our governments followed the morals and values of Christianity, and other organizations and structures of society did as well. In the hymn that the choir sings they speak of such things as tasting Holy Food, the Holy Bride, and the church of salvation. This kind of language was easily understood not so long ago, it related well to a worldwide universal belief of the church entered in everything that many members of local congregations could identify with. Today this kind of language is foreign and strange and a bit frightening to a lot people. It is not so easily understood or accepted. It comes across as strange and unusual.
After listening to “The Church is One Foundation” the next song on my play list was a selection performed by Amy Grant, a contemporary Christian music artist and the whole tempo and language of this song was an exact opposite to what I had listened to previously and its current interpretation of our faith. It was titled, “Better Than an Alleluia”, and the language that Amy Grant used described that of breaking hearts, a lullaby, and of how we pour out our miseries to God and of how God hears these pleas as a melody. Our cries for help are authentic and honest expressions of communication between us and God. This use of language draws people in because they understand the challenges and difficulties of our current day to day life, seeking relief from Covid restrictions, seeking fairness and justice for all, seeking clean water resources. Our church day is seeking harmony and unity in a world that has some very serious issues that appear to be broken. How do we deal with this?
A common buzz word used in many discussions today is the word relevant and churches seek out ways to relate. Everyone agrees that for the church to be seen as relevant is a key principal of community life, and I agree, but I think the need to be relevant has become outpaced by others needs in these strange and usual times that we live in today. To be relevant has come to mean that if we show those around us that we identify with their needs and we find ways to express this, then there is a perception that people will come to us and join us. Unfortunately, once again we function in the expectation of people discovering us and “coming to us” and this method of engagement is a tired method of evangelism. Instead of being relevant , I suggest we become contextual. To be contextual means that we are aware of the realities that surround us. What was of key importance yesterday, what is of importance today, and what is the likely to be the reality of tomorrow is possibly where our focus should be. To be contextual means that we move toward others, we move outside our familiar spaces and we engage with others. In other words, we discover others outside our church community and we go towards them, and we join in solidarity with them in “the way” we practise Christianity. Does this sound a bit familiar? Does this sound like Jesus and how the Jesus movement grew?
Like Thomas there are many of us who have doubts, and I think God loves a doubter and he encourages them to believe in “the way” as a life style and the way to go forward. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Engaging with others during these strange and unusual times, showing by example and in acts of encouragement and love that we are concerned for them, may in its own way bring them turn assurance and comfort in being a follower of Christ.
In closing I shall say that if the times you live in are feeling strange and unusual, if it feels like your white water rafting through life , then I suggest that you hang on tight and allow the river to carry you forward. If your life feels like your walking in the darkness with out a light to guide you, then I suggest that you slow down and feel your way forward, but always be moving forward because it’s worth it to you, to us as the church, and to the world. The strange and usual times that we live in can be a time of great growth. Amen.
Good Friday Homily
April 2, 2021
Seeking Jesus. Is that why we are here this morning, are we here seeking to find Jesus? Trying to understand his crucifixion, trying to understand our place and our role in his crucifixion. Are we seeking to find an answer to why we are drawn here this year, to hear the story once again, to experience the harshness of our church like that of a tomb, to use our voices to mouth words of sorrow and grief, to sing the songs that recall his death, his pain, our guilt. To look at the wooden cross of crucifixion. What are we seeking this morning? Let us take the time explore the reason for us being here this morning.
I will ask us to use our imaginations. I am told that outside the walls of Jerusalem, northeast of the Damascus Gate, is a rather large cliff. This tall cliff is about sixty feet high. It seems to be made of old gray clay that is embedded with rocks. In that cliff, about 250 yards outside the old city wall, are three large indentations, they almost look like eye sockets that give an impression of a skull.
About 1920, there was a man by the name of Dr. Gordon who had been looking for the Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. He was an archeologist. For sixteen centuries, people had believed that the place of Jesus’ crucifixion was inside the centre of the city of Jerusalem.
But Dr. Gordon realized that a crucifixion could not have occurred in the city walls because a Roman crucifixion would not have been permitted in the city walls of Jerusalem. So he began looking for the Place of Execution outside the city walls. After twenty years of searching, he was sitting in his villa about five o’clock in the afternoon, and he saw massive shadows on this cliff across the valley floor.He saw eye sockets and his imagination went to work. Upon further investigation, above this sixty foot cliff, there is a large flat area, its about half the size of a football field and it is now a beautiful garden, and there are currently old olive trees growing there. Also in that garden above the cliff is an ancient tomb carved out of limestone. In front of that tomb, there is a trench, dug out by human hands centuries ago. In that trench, is where a circular burial stone was rolled, to seal a burial cave. To Dr. Gordon’s eye, this was obviously an ancient burial site, an ancient tomb, an ancient gravesite.
Gradually, most scholars have come to the conclusion that this was perhaps the authentic site where Jesus was crucified and buried. It fits the Biblical record very well: outside the city wall, close to the city, near a place called “The Skull,” with a garden tomb nearby.
As you may know because you have heard the story before, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha. The Roman means of execution was crucifixion and the Romans were professionals at crucifixions. The Jews killed by stoning, but the Romans killed by crucifixion. Jesus was sentenced to die by the Roman courts and he was sentenced to die by crucifixion outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
As happened at other Roman crucifixions, the Roman soldiers whipped Jesus. We know from history books that those crucified received thirty-nine lashes across their backs. You can imagine a man’s back that has been whipped or lashed thirty nine times. After Jesus received his thirty-nine lashes he was given a long wooden bar, about six feet long. The cross of execution was shaped like a letter “T.” A vertical post was stuck in the ground and the person to be executed would carry the horizontal top of the “T,” to the crucifixion site. This six-foot board would be attached to the top of the vertical wooden pole stuck in the ground. Jesus and other criminals would carry this heavy piece of wood through the narrow winding streets of Jerusalem. It is about a ten-minute walk from the place where Jesus was sentenced to the Place of the Skull outside the city wall. It was a ten-minute walk if there were not crowds, but on that day, the crowds were crushing against one another as a badly whipped Jesus slowly carried that top piece of the cross to the place of his execution, the Place of the Skull. Jesus so exhausted by the pain, that Simon of Cyrene, was picked from the crowd to carry the cross for him.
The Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothes, placed the cross bar on the top of the upright and the then soldiers lifted the body of Jesus onto the cross. There would have been a small saddle of wood where they would put his buttocks. The soldiers would then take ropes and tie Jesus around beneath the arms and tie his body to the cross so he wouldn’t fall. With long heavy ten-inch spikes, they nailed his hands. They also nailed his feet to the bottom of the cross and Jesus was to hang there in agony. The watchers made fun of him. There was no way he could control his bodily functions. There was no way he could get rid of the flies. There was no way he could get down. Jesus and the other robbers were meant to hang there for days until they died of exhaustion and suffocation.
Why is it that two thousand years later we still want and need to hear the story of the cross? Intuitively, we sense that the cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith. We are drawn to the cross because we sense that the cross is a key that helps to understand the whole of Christian faith. The cross is the key that unlocks the mystery of God. The cross is the key that unlocks the mystery of our lives.
The cross is the strongest and most central symbol of the Christian faith, symbolizing both the death and resurrection of Christ. The cross symbolizes the love of God through pain and suffering; the cross also triumphantly symbolizes the resurrection to new life forever, it represents Good Friday and Easter. The tragedy and the triumph. The humanity and the divinity.
The cross? It is the pulpit from which Christ preached his most powerful sermon of seven sentences. Most people think that finest sermon of Jesus was the Sermon on the Mount, but we discover that the finest sermon of Jesus was the one he gave from the cross when he was in the midst of pain.
He said, 1.) Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. 2.) Today you will be with me in paradise. 3) Woman, behold, you son! Behold, your mother 4.) My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me. 5.) I thirst. 6.) It is finished 7.) Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.
The cross? I can look into the cross and the cross becomes a window through which I see the face of a loving God. When I look at the sun I can witness the energy of God. When I look at the stars I recognize the infinity of God. When I understand how atoms exist I see the complexity of God. But it is in the cross that I will see the face of God's love. It is only in the cross that I see a love so great that God was willing to die for me. It is only in the cross that I hear the statement, “ there is no greater love than this, than a person is willing to lay down their life for another." That is what the cross tells us: God loved us so much that God was willing to die for us.
We wear crosses around our neck; we wear crosses on our ears as earrings; we have crosses on our desks or on the walls of our home. Why the cross? Why not some other Christian symbol. Why is the cross the central symbol of the Christian faith? Why have we come here this morning? Is it to become witnesses once more of God’s great love for us?
It is only in the cross that one sees the face of God. It is only in the cross that we know the heart of God. It is from the cross that we hear the voice of God who constantly and persistently says, "I love you. I forgive you. I am with you." You cannot stop God from saying these words to you. You cannot stop the sun from shining. You cannot stop the ocean waves from rolling onto the shore. You cannot stop the springtime flowers from blooming. And you cannot stop God from the cross saying, "I love you. I love you. I love you.” Amen.
Homily Summary March 14, 2021
Numbers 21: 4-9 Psalm 107: 1-3, 17-22 Ephesians 2: -10 John 3:14-21
I am going to call upon your memory. Do you recall when the traffic lights were placed in the town?
I started to go down memory lane in regard to this question because of a question that was raised over this Sunday’s gospel reading and of the scripture verse that states, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son Jesus Christ so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life”. The question was, “Does it have to be all or nothing?”, or as I took their question to mean, “Does a person “have” to totally believe in Christ to enjoy eternal life?” This got me to thinking about some of the other choices that we make in life that become ‘all or nothing choices”.
When we think of traffic lights, we recognize that they exist because they are good for the orderly flow of traffic, they are useful for direction, and they are also there as a safety feature. When we are approaching a set of traffic lights and the light is about to turn from yellow to red there is a moment in time when we make an all or nothing decision about whether or not to step down on the accelerator and hopefully beat the red light, or to stop and wait for what seems to be an extra long time for the light to turn green. At the time that we make our decision it becomes an all or nothing situation.
It is a belief that I hold, that in general what we believe about God helps us to decide the answer to the question of belief and eternity. When we are asked “to believe” I think for many people this question goes directly to our heads and we think through all the scriptures passages we know, we rationalize the question and a clash between culture and science and faith will ultimately become an exercise of the mind and it can take us in a direction that can cause a lot of anxiety as people wrestle with the question as they ask themselves, “Is this a make or break point, do I have to believe?”
I suggest however that when we ask this question of ourselves that we possibly should turn the question from being an exercise of the mind to an exercise of the heart and about how much we trust. Belief is a matter of trust. Do we trust in the words of Christ, such as in the belief that the same forgiving love Christ shares with us is also to be shared with others who do not necessarily think kindly of us? This can become a matter of vulnerability and so we ask ourselves do we trust Christ enough to be that vulnerable. Do we trust that we could be open to skepticism, or an attack on our personality and character, and believe no matter how challenging the situation is that in the end we will be alright? Do we trust that we can actually experience an intimate personal relationship with God through prayer, worship, and faith? Do we trust enough to commit to these things and much more? If we do these actions then we can say that we believe and the answer does not come from the head, but from the heart.
Imagine that you have an empty glass and beside it was a full pitcher of water and you emptied the water into the glass until it overflowed, and overflowed, and overflowed. If we can compare ourselves to an empty glass that is ready to be filled and to receive what is emptied into us, and if our capacity to receive the water (belief) is based on trust, then at the end of our life we will come to discover that this belief has overflowed into the next dimension of eternity. Beyond our reach at this moment is the full and complete knowledge of what God is, or who God is. What we do know with certainty for right now is that God is more than what we can understand. It is paradox at the same time we do understand that like the birth we have experienced in our coming into this world there is a similar birth at death into the next world. I propose that If we have trusted and acted out the belief that comes from actions we will naturally flow like the water in the glass into the vast and unknown life of the next world. So, yes, “God gave us the possibility of knowing his only Son so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life”. This kind of belief does translate into an all or nothing decision.
So, the traffic light decision of “all or nothing” is somewhat similar in ways to the way that we understand the concept of belief. Do we allow our lives to receive direction, and do we become part of the flow of God’s kingdom on earth as we trust?
March 7, 2021
Exodus 20: 1-17 Psam 19 1 Corinthians John 2: 13-22
This is the time of year that many of us get started with spring cleaning. For myself, everything looks fine to me before I begin, but once I get started it doesn’t take very long for me to notice where all the dust and grime has collected in the corners of the house and the cobwebs which hang in spots that I don’t often look at.
Today’s gospel message is the telling of how Jesus did some serious deep cleaning when he drove out the money changers from the temple. It is interesting to note that the Gospel of John records the story of the temple at the beginning of his gospel where as the other gospels record it is as an event just before Jesus crucifixion. It is likely that John chose to place this account of the ministry of Jesus at the beginning because it is such a good illustration of why Jesus came. It was to make dramatic changes in how people perceived their relationship with God. Jesus life and ministry would change the world and change how the people of that time would connect with God. Jesus was to set a tone of correction and realignment that was necessary.
In regard to correction and realignment, and wanting to do what pleases God the reading from Exodus recounts the 10 Commandments. These commands are straight forward and they pretty much provide a set of good rule rules to follow. If we decide that we do not need God then we have basically decided that we are going to worship something else. Possibly this is what happened at the temple. A decision had been made by King David to build a temple to worship God which God had not asked for. In fact he told David not to build it. Over time it appears that the temple became a secondary element of what was considered to be necessary for worship. It appears that the purchase of animals for sacrifice was a religious practise that had become burdensome causing financial hardship. Looking at the ten commandments I think we can see what it s the God asks us to be mindful of.
A funny comparison, but a true comparison of how people have exchanged these commands for a set of ideals that they consider to be most important is recounted in a contemporary version of “Thou shalt not’s” and “Thou shalt’s” which I discovered on the internet. Here are a few of them, “Thy will honour your cell phone”, “Thou shalt not age”, and “Thou shall pursue pleasure over virtue” are to name a few. They accurately describe pretty much what peopler willing to bow down to and to follow.
For some people our beliefs such as the ten commandments and how we choose to express our faith may appear silly and nonsensical. St. Paul says as much in the reading from 1 Corinthians.
In closing I would like to say that for those people who put their faith into other things than God possibly they should take a look into their own philosophy’s and see where the dirt and grime has collected in their corners of understanding. In the light of day what they choose to follow may seem to be quite barren of hope and possibly they might come to understand that what we believe has the ability to transform the world and possibly that our choice of faith may take on a new meaning to them.
Feb. 28, 2021
Sunday, Feb. 28/21
Genesis 17:1-8 Psalm 22:22-31 Romans 4:13-25 Mark 8:31-38
30-32 Jesus warned them to keep it quiet, not to breathe a word of it to anyone. He then began explaining things to them: “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the elders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and after three days rise up alive.” He said this simply and clearly so they couldn’t miss it. 32-33 But Peter grabbed him in protest. Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.” 34-37 Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? 38 “If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I’m leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you’ll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendour of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels.”
Today I feel very comfortable with the readings for two reasons. Number one, they are familiar stories to me and this makes the message comfortable. Number two, I particularly identify with the translation of the gospel that I have provided. It speaks about many things such as being a follower of Christ, or the prophetic announcement of Jesus death to name a few, but I am particularly drawn to the section that speaks about letting God occupy the driver seat, and to let let God take the lead in our lives.
I recall sometime in the 1980’s I had what is referred to as an epiphany moment. At this time in my life I was a very active member of the former Parish of Rosette. A small parish tucked in between Bridgetown and Annapolis. Like all parishes now a day we were struggling with how to keep ourselves spiritually active and financially afloat. My fellow members were supportive of the many initiatives I would suggest, and often these projects, like test flights for planes, they would successfully get off the ground, but unfortunately very few of them could complete an actual flight.
One day, out of the blue, the solution came to me as to what was wrong with all of my attempts. They were my attempts! I discovered that all of the efforts I had spear headed were all approached in the wrong way. Basically, I would invite God to come along for the test flight. What I was attempting to do, was like saying to God, “God, I’ve got an idea, you go ahead and sit in the one of the passenger seats, and I will fly this plane. Sit back, take it easy, and enjoy the flight.” Oh how wrong I was. God doesn’t enjoy being a passenger any more than the rest of us do when we yearn for something to do. I discovered at that moment that God is meant to be the pilot and I am to be part of the flight crew. I thought up until that point that I had been following God, putting God first in all things, but sadly I discovered I had not. On that day I made a promise to myself that I would not try to attempt anything in the parish until someone asked me to. I would take an extended invitation from someone to me to participate in a parish initiative as a sign that I was correct in my theory. Two months went by, no one asked me to do anything. Eight months went by, 12 months went by, 15 months went by, no invitation to participate in the life of the parish that would allow me to give back to God in a way I hoped for had been extended to me. I so desperately wanted to give back to God in “acts of doing” that as each month passed by I viewed my voluntary exclusion as confirmation that it is not the acts that we perform, but those that come from God that will move us forward in concrete and positive ways. Finally, after all the waiting and being patient, a full two years after I made the promise I was invited to participated in an active way. My life has never been the same since. Letting God sit in the pilots seat has offered more opportunities then I can imagine to give back to God.
Some of what has happened since then has involved self sacrifice and hurtful experiences. If our lives never encountered pain and difficult challenges, if all that we ever experienced was a life with no roadblocks, then our lives could not be completely full and whole. It is in those times of darkness and of overcoming great obstacles that we come to discover who we fully are. Jesus said, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? I understand this to mean that the real you, or the real me, can only be fully achieved when we let God be the pilot of our lives and the pilot of our final destination. It is only in living each day before us, whatever circumstance befalls us, whatever blessings, or deepest pits of despair, can we be become the whole person that we are meant to be. I am not saying that we must endure crisis in our lives to achieve this, what I am trying to say is that a full life will include challenges of great proportion, and if God is leading us in good times, and in the bad times we will find that along the road of life he will lead us toward recovery and fullness.
At our Ash Wednesday service on February 17 we heard the Invitation to Lent which acted as an encouragement for us to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and by reading and meditating on the word of God. This week I will provide an introduction to self-examination.
Psalm 139: 23-24
Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong -
then guide me on the road to eternal life.
Self examination is part of Lent because it can help us to cultivate new habits and implement new practices in which the Spirit is free to work. So, how do we practice self examination?
Many find the 10 Commandments to be helpful, others use the so called Seven Deadly Sins, and others find the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount as helpful. The Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like it, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”, is another.
The process of self examination involves prayerfully walking through one of these tools. As you reflect upon the meditation that you have chosen thoughts occur, write them down, pausing to acknowledge our sins, (the attitudes, dispositions, and actions that are out of line with God’s intentions). Afterwards you may find it helpful to shred or to burn the paper as a tangible sign of the forgiveness you receive. Others may find it helpful to share with a trusted friend, a spiritual director, or your minister.
What is the goal of self examination? If we wish to make a change in our life we will begin to cultivate new habits and practices in which the Spirit is free to work, ultimately leading us to a place of greater capacity to receive and to give the love of God, because that is the kind of person God has created us to be – a receiver and a giver of love.
Self examination may seem daunting, and is, in fact, sometimes painful, but it does become a gift. I hope and pray that each of us will receive this gift during Lent.
Sunday, Feb. 21/21
Mark 1: 9-15
The gospel of Mark often reminds me of a person who jogs. As we read the stories of Mark they represent not the jog of an older slower paced jogger, but rather that of a quick stepped youthful jogger who has bounce in their step and their pace is more like that of a runner. The author of Mark developed a fast paced writing style that carries his readers from one event to another in swift succession. Today’s gospel passage is a good example of this. We go from baptism, to the wilderness experience, and then to the matter of making a choice in very quick succession.
In the opening statement we learn that Jesus has just arrived from Galilee and he is baptized in the Jordon River. Just at the moment of his baptism three major events happen. 1.) The heavens are opened and the opening of the sky becomes a cataclysmic event. The sky above is parted like that of the Red Sea.
I will mention at this time that Mark wrote his account of gospel for the people of Rome, and these people wanted to know more about the “new kind of life” offered to them by Jesus. In his writings Mark shares with them what he knows about Jesus and he is also trying in what he writes to introduce his readers to Jewish culture, the Hebrew laws, and the sacred writings of the Israelites. Every Jewish person present at Jesus baptism would understand the paramount importance of this event in the context of their culture, law, and sacred writings. For example God’s dramatic presence in other similarly recorded events of the past, such as the dramatic account of the parting of the Red Sea can be directly related to the baptism and the account of Jesus death and of how the curtain of the temple was torn in half and the earth quaked at the moment of his death, therefore the opening of the heavens is seen as a Messianic sign of great importance.
2.) As the spirit of God descended upon Jesus this event also carried great importance. For the Jewish people, it was recognized by them that the prophets of the past represented God’s presence in a very powerful way. It had been over 400 years since the last prophet of God had been heard from. They had been left waiting for God to return and with the heavens being torn open and the spirit descending upon Jesus they understood this to mean that the long awaited return of God had finally happened.
3.) When God’s spoken voice is heard and God speaks about his Son it is recognized that God and Jesus have become one and whatever Jesus does from this point on is viewed as an act of God, they are in union together. For example, it is only God who can forgive sins and Jesus does this. Historically God liberates his people and restores them to their communities, Jesus does this as well. Jesus will spend time with the outcasts and sinners, he will perform exorcisms and Jesus will heal people. It is only God who can do these things, and Jesus not only represents God but he’s also in a mysterious way “God”, therefore God’s kingdom is established on earth in the presence and embodiment of Christ.
The next thing we read about in Mark’s message is that Jesus is forced into the wilderness. We find that there is no long explanation like those found in the gospels of Matthew, or Luke, when Jesus and Satan have a conversation, but rather in Mark’s rendition Jesus immediately goes into the wilderness with Satan and the wild beasts, and there is no discussion. It has been suggested that the Gospel of Mark was the first gospel written and likely it happened around 65 AD, this was the exact same time that Nero was persecuting Christians and sending them to the arena to be devoured by the wild beasts. It can be observed that if you were to hear this version of the story of Jesus wilderness experience, as new member of the faith, you could take comfort in this wilderness story. You would make the comparison between the time Jesus spent in the wilderness surrounded by wild beasts and how he endured, and take comfort that if they were driven into the wilderness of Nero’s arena and the certainty of death that they would also endure even though you would die.
When we understand the events of the baptism and the forty day journey into the wilderness through the lens of “culture” we can understand why the people of Rome wanted to take part in the new way of life. A life where everyone was equal, and whereby the God of the Jews that many of them came to worship would love them freely and without exception if they chose to believe and to have faith in Christ.
In the closing lines of today’s reading Mark encourages his readers to make this choice without delay so that to can be fully embraced by God.
There is no time to delay.
Feb. 14, 2021
2 Kings 2: 1-12 Psalm 50: 1-6 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6 Mark 9: 2-9
In the 1970’s there was a popular song played at weddings called The Wedding Song. There are three lines in this song in which I can link with two of today’s scripture readings. The lines are:
Is it love that brings you here or love that brings you life?
For if loving is the answer then who’s the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before?
I can quite often see in contemporary secular songs a message for the Church, in today’s lyric’s please replace the word love with the word Christ.
Is it Christ that brings you here or Christ that brings you life?
For if loving is the answer then who’s the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before?
Let me lay out before you why in my opinion these three verses summarize nicely the message found in the gospel reading from Mark and the second lesson of the day found in 1 Corinthians.
As I have stated in the past two Sunday homilies, “Do not get caught up in the sensationalism of the gospel message. There is no doubt that the recording of the transfiguration of Christ with its drama of Moses and Elijah being present in combination with the brightest light that one can imagine, topped up by the voice of God speaking, that it cannot be denied as sensational. It is! The message woven into these events is however what we really need to pay attention to.
1.) Moses presence represents the law of scripture. The laws are the does and don’ts of a faithful life. We only have to think of Moses and we will recall the Ten Commandments.
2.) Elijah represents the ministry of a prophet, which is a ministry of foretelling future events.
3.) Jesus is the embodiment of the prophets message that the Messiah is to come and God’s spoken command confirms this.
The bright light of the transfiguration shines light upon this event and brings meaning and purpose to it. Let me use this example. If I have a flashlight it lights up a certain area. I will follow the light of the flashlight and it provides guidance, and provides help for me to do what I need to do. This is like the laws of God found in the Old Testament they act as a guide as to how I should live my life. Jesus on the other hand represents the brightness of daylight, nothing is hidden everything is exposed and the light of daylight gives life. Without sunlight there is no photosynthesis, and without photosynthesis plants cannot give off oxygen, without oxygen there is no life. This is a scientific truth. Jesus gives us a full spiritual land eternal life, this is a faith based truth! A full life is to be found in Christ. Jesus is the giver of life. As he said, “I have not come to replace the law, but to fulfill the law.” The laws are to be used as guide in how to live a good life, Jesus is the good life, totally and completely we can have life through him. So to answer the question in the song, it is Christ that brings us life.
In 1 Corinthians Paul speaks about the many people who go about their lives like they are wearing a dark veil that blocks out the light of Christ. They allow other things in their lives to put their faith in, such things as financial investments and retirement pensions.Their entire lives are mostly dedicated to achieving this kind of security. We must have an income for our retirement, but they cannot bring themselves to have trust in Christ for their future, they find it impossible to believe in something that they cannot see. Thus, the second statement in the song, can you believe in something that you cannot see.
I go back to my introduction:
Is it Christ that brings you here or Christ that brings you life?
For if loving is the answer then who’s the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before?
Christ draws us together as a community of faith, and it is through our faith in Christ, even though we cannot see him, that we gain true life. A full life to be gained in the here and now while we live, and a full live given after our deaths with Christ in God’s kingdom.
For those of us today who are living in the here and now the guidance of what is written in scripture becomes our guide to a life of total fulfillment. What I promise does not mean that we will not suffer challenges and tragedies in our lives, but it is our faith that will guide us through these difficult times and help us to recognize the good of all that surrounds us. I invite you to enter into full discovery of these truths this Lent as you read your scripture and let it be guiding light, and let Christ light up your world. Amen.
Isaiah 40:21-31 Psalm 147:1-18 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Sunday, Feb. 7
Today I am drawing upon the gospel message for this Sunday and also the letter from 1 Corinthians as scripture that compliments our parish mission statement. In 2017 the parish adopted the statement, “Together we worship, we care, we serve our communities.” Our mission statement has served us well and presently we are evaluating how the parish can expand upon its intent in the areas of worship, caring, and serving as we strive to become sustainable into the future. This is a big task, and a large portion of this year’s parish council business will be dedicated to fleshing this out.
Keeping in mind todays’ scripture and our directive to be a serving congregation, let’s take a look at what Mark and St. Paul have to say. Mark describes an event of healing, and if we get caught up in the sensationalism of the healing, we are in danger of losing sight of the major point in this story. Simon’s mother-in-law is critically ill and unable to carry out her day-to-day activities. When her health is restored, she immediately goes about her business of caring for her guests. If we examine her activity of preparing a meal as “woman’s work” we have again missed the point of the story. She is the very first example recorded in the Gospel of Mark of the ministry of hospitality and the gift of serving others. She gave what was at her disposal and it was her offering. She provided valuable support to Jesus and his disciples and in doing so helped in the early formation of what would become the church of the first century. Without her support and that of many other women Jesus and his disciples could not have dedicated themselves to the ministry of teaching as widely and as broadly as they did in the three years that Jesus shared the good news.
Jesus shared the good news of restoration in all the ways that restoration can be achieved. Because he healed Simon’s mother-in-law, her health was restored, her status in the community was restored, and her sense of meaning and purpose in life were restored. She was totally and completely restored.
St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians defines the concept of serving as a compelling urge that cannot be restrained to serve. He cannot image the concept of not serving, nor of trying through all possible means available to him to attempt to proclaim the message of God’s new kingdom here among us.
With these two perspectives of serving as examples we can embrace our call to serve our communities with confidence. It is not rocket science, so to speak. We have the ministry of worship “down pat”; it is a key component of every week. How we go about caring and serving others possibly does need more attention if our mission statement is to be a true representation of our parish. Blessings to all as you enact your call to serve and to care. Amen.
Sunday, January 31, 2021
If you enjoy Western movies, or like to read western novels you will know exactly what I mean when I make the comparison between the gospel message of Jesus healing the demonic, and the show down that happens at high noon between the bad guy and the sheriff. We enjoy reading about the drama between Jesus and the man possessed by a demon, and although this story of the encounter between Jesus and the possessed man appears to take centre stage, I prefer to believe that the message is not about exorcism, but rather about the confidence we can place in Jesus authority.
This story is positioned in the very first chapter of Mark which tells us this encounter happened early in Jesus’ ministry. In the first chapter of Mark we read about Jesus’ baptism, the forty days he spent in the desert fasting, how he gathered disciples, and how when after preaching in the synagogue and astonishing the people he left the building and immediately was confronted with the challenge from the man possessed by evil spirits. In this incident when Jesus responds we recognize that Jesus is drawing a line in the sand, and once he steps over nothing will be the same again. He takes control and the man is healed.
Just like the sheriff who arrives in a town which is ruled by an evil land owner and the people of the town find themselves controlled and oppressed; the sheriff flashes his badge and then everyone knows that they will soon be released from the control of what is bad and what is wrong. Jesus confronted the spirit in much the same way and it was cast out, the sheriff confronts the bad guy and he rids the town of the evil landowner. Jesus confronts the spirit with the authority of this spoken word and it was cast out and it left. It was the confident way that Jesus conducted himself that made the most impact with those who were watching, for they said, “A teaching that does what it says.” I find that it is the statement which becomes the heart of the message.
The people of Jesus time were very tired of the religious leaders who squabbled and challenged each other and challenged God’s law with their arguments of what was, or what was not to be done. When Jesus stepped out of the synagogue he spoke just once to the possessed man and immediately there was a result for the better. It appears that the followers of Jesus were hungry and eager for God’s kingdom to be straight forward, with no divisions over what should be done, or what needed to be done, or what shouldn’t be done. We become paralyzed when so much indecision occurs.
So I say, let’s substitute the word church for the word teaching and let us be known for a church that does what it says. Let us continue on with confidence into 2021 and continue to do what our mission statement directs, “We worship, we care, and we serve our communities”. May we be the community that does what it says. Let us worship, let us care for others in the numerous ways we can, such as making phone calls, dropping off newsletters, or baking a meal for someone who needs help. Let us continue to serve at the Welcome Table, to promote awareness of the NS Alzheimer’s Society and raise funds for this organization and let us serve others through the Nicodemus Fund. Let us take on the role of sheriff, and when our presence is known in the community we will be recognized as a church that does what it says it is going to do. Amen.
JANUARY 24, 2021
Dear members of the parish,
The season of Lent will soon be here and though we find ourselves restricted in many ways because of the pandemic we will continue to practice many of the traditions and disciplines that make the Lenten season meaningful to us. This year I am attempting to enact activities and practices that will hold meaning to those who are familiar with Lent, and also act as an introduction for those who will be beginning their first Lent.
We observe Lent because like the season of Christmas it holds tremendous meaning. Christmas can be summarized as a season of giving that high-lights the birth of Jesus. God gave us the gift of his Son. Easter is a season of giving whereby God allowed himself to be condemned to death on a cross and he gave his life in exchange for ours. Therefore, the season of Lent is a time that we spend in recognition of these two facts and we take personal time to think this through as a preparation for the great celebration of Easter.
Each one of the days that I have listed will have special activities to help strengthen our spirit and to build up our faith. In this weeks mail out I will include suggestions for Shrove Tuesday. In about two weeks I will share with you how we can acknowledge Ash Wednesday even though we will not be together physically to celebrate.
Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) Feb. 16
Ash Wednesday Feb. 17
Week One of Lent Feb. 21-27
Week Two of Lent Feb. 28- March 6
Week Three of Lent March 7 - 13
Week Four of Lent March 14 - 20
Week Five of Lent March 21 - 27
Holy Week March 28 - April 3
Easter Sunday April 4
SUNDAY JANUARY 17, 2017
1 Samuel 3:1-10 1 Corinthians 6:11-20 John1 1: 43-51
Today I wish to speak about invitations. Likely, one of the first invitations we ever received was from a school friend to attend their birthday party. There are many other kinds of invitations, as we grow older we may find ourselves invited to become a member of a band, to join a political party, to take part in a protest, or to go to church. With every invitation there is a sender, a receiver, and an event.
When Samuel was a young boy he received an invitation from God. Woken from his sleep, hearing his name called, he responded. This was a direct invitation from God not to be ignored.
The lesson from 1 Corinthians is about how temptation can becomes an invitation to sin. I love what the translation from The Message says, “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate.” We do not have to think very hard to come up with examples of this.
The Gospel message is obviously about the invitation to be a follower of Jesus. However we may receive the invitation to be a follower, it is my personal belief that each and every one of us at some point in our life, because of something that was said to us, or something that we may have read, we receive an invitation to become a follower of Christ. It could come as a direct invitation, or it may be our conscience being tweaked. I often refer to this event as the age of accountability, at some time, whether we are three years old, or ninety-nine, or on our death bed we make the decision to be a follower, or we decide to walk away saying to ourselves, “I’ll think about that later”, and not become a follower. Our decision will determine our outlook and our way of life for the rest of our lives, and Jesus has promised we will not be disappointed if we become a follower. Each of our lives will have its ups and downs, its struggles and its rewards, but the difference between making the decision to be a follower and not making the decision, is the outcome of how full and complete our lives will become.
Timing plays a huge role in how an invitation is received, so don’t force the invitation that you extend. Allow God to provide the opportunity and then follow through with the invitation. For those of you who are not attending church at this time, ask the person if they would like to receive our weekly mail out, or would they like to have the Face Book page name so they can connect with us through Face Book and watch a livestream service. Better yet, invite them to watch with you and in that way you can help to explain the many ways we as Anglicans worship that your guest may not likely know anything about it.
In closing I remind us, “There is a sender, that is you, there is the receiver, the person that you are speaking with, and there is the event.” God bless you this week, and as you go about extending an invitation sometime in the near future. My prayers go with you. Amen
Sunday, January 10, 2021
Genesis 1: 1-5 Psalm 29 Acts 19: 1-7 Mark 1: 4-11
Today is a red letter day for me. A red letter day is a special day that stands out from others, and today is a red letter day because what I share with you has been inspired by today’s psalm. I must honestly say that the psalms do not particularly inspire me, but this one did. Psalm 29 became an inspiration to me because of the scripture translation from a bible called The Message. The typical version often read at services is from the Revised Common Lectionary. This version states, “The Lord shall give strength to his people; the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace”. The version from The Message says, “God makes his people strong. God gives his people peace”. The version from The Message caught my attention, the translation from the Revised Common Lectionary did not.
The obvious question is to ask,”Why?” The answer is this,”In this time of COVID 19 we have become strong because of God”. As a community we have continued to gather under the guidelines of the province, and we continue to do the work of the parish, which in part, is to help and to support others as we best can, and this mandate as helped to made us strong. God has made us strong because he calls us to gather together, and for us to work together for the betterment of all. In its few short words the translation from The Message spoke all of this to me, the other translation simply did not even come close to inspiring me.
On Sunday, at the front of the church I made a display of a pair winter boots with their laces tied up. I also had on display a collection of mitts, gloves, hats, and scarfs that members collected in the month of December to distribute to our schools for the youth who find themselves without these items. The mitts are a visible reminder of how we care for our neighbours, and how we serve our communities. The boots are a reminder that despite COVID and whatever else lies ahead of us in our future, it is time to tighten up the laces and to pull ourselves up by our boot straps to meet the challenges that lie ahead of us. One of those challenges that I identified, is the elephant in the room, it is the diminishing funds that are available from our financial investments, and we are using up the principal from these investments quickly as each year passes by.
The challenges that we face ahead will likely demand that we shift and adapt in our familiar ways of operating. I know that peace and tranquilly are not the typical responses in times of distress, but I take encouragement from Psalm 29 and this Sunday’s old testament reading from Genesis that God, the creator of this world, is also in charge our world and it is this kind of knowledge which brings me peace. Therefore, “God makes his people strong. God gives his people peace”.
January 3, 2021
Isaiah 60: 1-6 Psalm 72: 1-7, 10-14 Ephesians 3: 1-12 Matthew 2: 1-12
Today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday, the coming of the Wise Men and of the onerous insight that the Messiah has arrived in the form of a baby. The wise men had an epiphany, a moment of pure clarity, what was revealed to them shone as brightly as the star they had followed.
Much of what I share today is inspired by the insights of Paul recorded in his message to the Ephesians. His message is another moment of epiphany. In his letter Paul is sharing personal details about himself. He declares that what he preaches and what he writes about is way over his head, and without God’s help he could not being to comprehend what it is that preaches and writes about. Paul is sharing with us what he knows; that he Paul is to a bridge of insight and knowledge between the believers and non believers. Those who are considered to be the insiders (known as Paul’s fellow Jews, the people of the nation of Israel and who know about the coming of the Messiah), and those who are the outsiders (the rest of the world, known as the Gentiles, those who have heard nothing about the gospel of Jesus). Paul is to share with both sides the revealed messages of Christ. What Paul shares has been recorded in New Testament scriptures such as Ephesians. He also reveals the insight he has gained from personal experiences with us.
Scripture reveals to us the most wondrous, amazing and awesome truths. Scripture can also at times be confusing as it totally challenges us to look deeper into its meaning. We are encouraged to seek like the wise men searched. They eventually found their way to the Christ child, who is the one true God. Let us eventually discover the truths of scriptures as we search for the truths of God.
I will not criticize the paths that others take to understand the one true God. Many denominations and religious faiths exist that proclaim they have discovered and have found their way to understanding the one true God. What I share with you is what I have discovered in my moments of clarity (epiphany) about God, and of how I have came to understand God through my faith in Christ as God’s only Son, the one true God. I can testify that I believe myself to be a better person because of my faith in Jesus as God’s Son. Personally, I think there are many, many good people who are a force for good and they do not share the same faith that I have in Jesus. These good people make the world a better place, just as I am called by Jesus to make the world a better place. Good people exist all around us and they are what Paul would call outsiders. Here is the flip side of what I have just said, even though non Christians make the world a better place I do strongly believe that it is only faith in Christ, those who are Christians, believers in one God, who can work toward righting the world and work toward keeping it from increasing the terrible tilt it has achieved. When others reject the God, or are not even aware of God, they have essentially ignored and walked away from the centre of the world as we as Christians have come to know it. There is too much that is wrong, and much of what is wrong I think, is because God’s people have left God out of their lives and out of their decision making, that regardless of how much good is achieved, there will not be perfection until God is included. They have not allowed Jesus to act as the bridge that connects them with God. We can do all the good we want in our communities to make them a better place, but our communities can only be totally right with the world in all ways, when God is included. Amen.
December 13, 2020
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 John 1:6-8,19-28
This weeks gospel passage is very similar to last weeks. Therefore I struggled to find yet another way to present the message of John the Baptist proclaiming the arrival of Jesus. My scripture translation, from the version of The Message Bible, read like this,
There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.
I became intrigued with the words, “He came to show everyone where to look”, and this made me think of John’s task to prepare us for the coming of Christ. At this time of the year many of us are “preparing” for the “coming” of Christmas. We look forward to Christmas every year and we wait for its coming. So, I ask these three questions.
- What are we looking at as we wait?
We are likely looking at our calendars and waiting for such events as Christmas concerts, tree lighting ceremonies, and for the baby Jesus of Bethlehem to arrive. We must stop waiting for baby Jesus to arrive because he has already been born and he has already arrived!
- What are looking for as we wait?
The arrival of the joy and excitement that we feel. Are we looking for these emotions to arrive, or are we waiting for that incredible sense of peace and assurance. The feelings of gift giving create a feeling that is on the surface. Gifts do not create the deep sense of Christmas which we feel and yearn for. The true feeling of Christmas that we feel from time to time, that which we catch a glimpse of every now and then which instills a feeling of Christmas is a response of peace and assurance. You will know what I am speaking of if you can recall those moments that come after the conclusion of our Christmas Eve services. Everyone leaves the church feeling full of peace, and we return to our homes assured that all is well. The true feeling of Christmas becomes a brief moment of experiencing what heaven will be like, I believe.
- What do we see?
It is possible we see Nativity panels and we will witness live nativity plays, but the real essence of Jesus amongst us at Christmas is the help we offer as a community to those who are struggling in times of economic distress. The support that we can offer to those living isolated lives because of COVID 19 which can be eased through a phone call, a card, or by remembering those who are alone. The actions we take to combat negativity as we speak out against those who bully. In these times we are acting on Jesus behalf and we recognize his presence among us.
The message for the congregation of Thessalonia is also helpful in showing us what to look for. The people of Thessalonica were living in the first century and they were waiting for Jesus to arrive. They were waiting for his coming, and you can compare their waiting, to the waiting we experience at Christmas. We await the messiah’s arrival just as they waited for his return. Paul shared two basic things with them that they needed to do while they waited, which we also can likewise do. 1.) Firstly, they were to be prepared. Paul instructed them how to be prepared by:
a.) Always be rejoicing, to be filled with joy. Joy is infectious and it is like a muscle in our body it must be exercised for it to be useful.
b.) Always be praying. To be continually in prayer is impossible, but Paul was likely advising them to stay connected with God, just like an electrical current that has been looped and comes back to its beginning, throughout our day let us stay connected, looping back to God frequently throughout our day.
c.) Always be thankful. We possess many things, but let us not be fooled by arrogance. We do not own one thing on this earth, or have the right to possess much of anything. The oceans, the mountains, the galaxies, the material things of life which have been extracted from what has been created, are not ours. Paul’s advice is that we are to be thankful for what has been given to us.
To be joy filled, to be in a state of prayer, and to be thankful are actions that describe an act of “being”. Being thankful, being joy filled, being in prayer, are moments in time.
2.) The second basic thing that Paul shared with the people of Thessalonia is that they were to receive the Spirit and that they were never to dampen the influence of the Holy Spirit. To receive the Spirit is to literally receive the breath of life, to receive the Spirit releases vitality and the Holy Spirit will provide the energy that we need for us to keep trying. To receive the Spirit means that will have the courage to adapt to, or to make changes to what must be done. To interject newness is an effective method of transformation endowed by the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist described a social movement, a movement in time that has initiated transformation because the baptism of Jesus released the Holy Spirit. So, when we look for Christmas, what we are looking at, and what are we are looking for? What we see is transformation. Transformation is deeply imbedded into all of our Christmas thoughts and in what we celebrate. Take Scrooge as one example, he was transformed from being a miserly and mean man into someone who was known for his joy and his thankfulness, he became a transformed man.
Christmas Day will come and we will celebrate on that day like no other day in the year, but dare I say that the coming of Christ is yet to be, and a great celebration of Christmas yet to come. As a disciple of Jesus we know there is another Christmas Day yet to come when he arrives upon his return. When this happens may we be found looking, and found waiting in anticipation. Amen.
Homily Dec 2, 2020
This passage from Mark is a very popular piece of scripture. It is used several times throughout the year and it has a a special place as one of the four Advent readings we hear each year. Why? The answer is, “Because of the message it offer us”.
The story for today begins with John the Baptist in the wilderness, but the beginning of this story goes way back, back to the prophets during the time of Malachi. It shines a light on God’s purpose and of God’s intentions. It explains that in almost everything that is set into action by God there is a beginning, and there is to be an ending. This may be hard for us to discern, if we cannot fully see God’s design in action it is hard for us to accept.
If we cannot see the design, or understand the plan it does not mean that we do not have our own part to play in what God intends. Because the plans of God unfold over centuries we often miss what our role is because we can’t see the bigger design, or we become impatient and we want God’s plan to happen now, but apparently this is not how God work’s.
“In youth, because I could not be a singer,
I did not even try to write a song;
I set no little trees along the roadside,
Because I knew their growth would take so long.
But now from wisdom the years have brought me,
I know that it may be a blessed thing
To plant a tree for someone else to water,
Or make a song for someone else to sing.”
We are part of the plan that God has designed, as was John the Baptist. John did his part by proclaiming the coming of Jesus, and we are to do our part. We are like the threads of a tapestry, the back of the tapestry does not typically clearly show all of the design. Like a piece of tapestry Malachi had a role in the design of what God was unfolding, but he only knew in part the backside of the tapestry, the part that he could was the role that he fulfilled, the full picture was yet to be completed by others, who also were like the threads of the tapestry.
The story of John the Baptist begins with Malachi. In Malachi’s day the priests were failing, the offerings were blemished, and they offered shoddy and their efforts toward worship were second best, they had grown weary of their duty. God speaks through Malachi and tells Malachi that he is going to send a messenger to clear the way for the arrival of God’s Son. The messenger turned out to be John the Baptist and he prepared God’s nation for the coming of Jesus and he told them that when the promised one arrived a cleansing and a purifying of God’s people would happen.
When the holy people of the past arrived in a community often there appeared to be a change for the good. The message of how Jesus can be an active agent of change acts like a filter, the spoken word is a cleanser. Like water, the act of Jesus in our presence can be an agent of purifying and cleansing.
Jesus’ fellow Jews were very familiar with the ritual of washing as a symbolic washing, and purifying of a person. It was a common practise. If you were not a Jew, it was automatically understood you were unclean because you had never followed any of the Judaic laws. If a Gentile desired to convert to Judaism they needed to complete three requirements. They needed to be made identifiable, sacrifice must be made, and undergo cleansing by baptism.
1.) As a male, be circumcised. This is a mark of a covenanted people.
2.) A sacrifice was to made as an act of atonement, only blood could atone for sin
3.) Be baptized, a symbol of cleansing from the pollution of a past life
Jews were aware of baptism, it was not something new to them, what was new to them was John the Baptist’s expectation they submit to that which only a Gentile was expected to submit to. John was telling that they could no longer rely upon their racial inheritance to be right with God, they needed to submit to the cleansing of a full baptism.
Baptism was also to be accompanied with confession. John the Baptist identified confession as a way of repenting. There are three steps to confession.
1.) First to admit our sins to ourselves, one of the hardest things to do, to humble ones self and to admit to the need to turn ones life around is extremely difficult. The story of the prodigal son is a fine example of how this happens.
2.) Next, confess to those to whom you have wronged. This is likely the hardest of the three steps of confession.
3.) Confess to God, the expression, “God be merciful to me a sinner”, and our General Confession in our prayer books are two ways to express this.
With these elements of cleansing and purifying and the act of confession John became immensely popular. He was charismatic and people travelled out into the wilderness to listen to him and to submit to his baptism. Let’s ask this question, “What was it about John that made people sit up and take notice and to listen to him”?
Where he lived, what he wore, and what he ate all had something to do with it.
These three things were symbolic of the man, the people recognized that he was a man who lived his message.. . .
HIS MESSAGE WAS EFFECTIVE BECAUSE HE TOLD THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY KNEW IN THEIR HEARTS TO BE TRUE.
He confronted the people and they knew in their heart of the hearts that his message was true and they had a decision to make. The people were fully aware that the time of prophecy was now three hundred years past and in now in their midst was prophet. A humble man who pointed to something beyond himself, and to someone other than himself. He pointed to Jesus. John’s baptism would drench them in water, but Jesus baptism would drench them in the Holy Spirit. Water can clean the body, the Holy Spirit can clean the self, clean your heart and your life and become purified and cleaned from the inside.
John’s aim was not to occupy the centre stage but to try to connect us to the one who is greater and stronger than he. Jesus fulfilled God’s plan of reconnecting us to God. God’s plan began when Adam and Eve when they were removed from God’s presence, the beginning of John the Baptist’s involvement began with Malachi, a baptism of the Holy Spirit began with Jesus. There is still an ending to come to God’s plan and our part in God’s plan until he returns is to become messengers like John the Baptist, we are to prepare the way fo the Lord in whatever ways we can, even though we don’t know the full plan, or know when it will exactly end, but we do have a part to fulfill. Amen.
November 29, 2020
Homily Summary Matthew 13: 24-37
Today I share with you what I believe to be one of the most important homilies that I have ever delivered. There is so much to say on the topic, and not enough time to share all that I wish to explain.
Today’s gospel message is filled with symbols that represent many things, the day of last things, the return of Jesus, the restoration of Israel, and so much more. It is very difficult for us to understand the prophetic language that Jesus used and it is just as hard with our scientific minds and our ability to use reason to imagine that Jesus return will be a cosmic event that involve the stars and the trembling earth, etc., etc. I don’t have a hard time in the belief that such an event is going to happen, what I do struggle with is the interpretation that this is “exactly” how Jesus return will unfold, and I am not the only one who thinks this way. Many, many people who are not disciples of Jesus think that we are just plum crazy and delusional if we the literal translation as accurate.
Here is the problem as I see it. Many of us grew up in time that we call the modern age. The modern age is heavily based upon the evidence of truth. The values too the modern age are pretty much black or white, which means that you and I likely have very defined ideas about how others should behave. We grew up in an economy stimulated by industry and commerce. We believe that if you want to get ahead in the world you can do it by pulling up your boot straps, and as we experienced it, to be a volunteer was the community thing to do. Let me make this clear:
WE DO NOT LIVE IN THE MODERN ERA ANYMORE!
Somewhere between the 1960’s and 2021 the post modern era took over. Post modern people have a belief that what is right for me may not be right for you, but that doesn’t make me wrong in what I believe, and it means that I do have to adhere to the same values that you do. In fact post modern people can see where the grey areas are in the black and white and they can easily live in the grey areas. They are not going to tell us how to behave and vice versa they are not going to behave the way we want them to. The chief generator of the post modern economy is the microchip, not industry. Post modern people live lives that are more and more isolated from others, but full of sharing Facebook posts and google searching, and it is hard to find the among the postmodern’s the volunteer spirit that calls out to do for the good of community amongst them. Everything is pretty much open for interpretations that suit the individual, not society. The one thing that has been carried forward into the post modern age is the logic and reason of science, and this is why some people look at us like we have gone past our expiration date when they know we faithfully attend church services.
We have done a poor job in letting people know that such stories as the creation of the world in seven days is a story that helped ancient civilizations to understand God, and how to understand the world around them. I don’t have to believe in a world that was created in seven days to believe in God, or to place my trust in Christ, in and my belief that Jesus is God’s own son. Can I explain with clarity how Jesus and God are one, that one is known as God the Father and the other is God the Son? No I can’t. Do I believe this is true, yes I do, because the evidence that God is real and that God’s presence works in my life through Jesus and through others is evident to me in what I witness.
Therefore don’t be intimidated by thongs that cannot be easily explained, or the option of others. In this post modern era my beef is as valid as there’s.
have so much more to say on this gospel passage and this message, but time does not allow me the opportunity in this letter. Looking forward to when you can return to church and enjoy the fellowship of the congregation and we can enjoy yours. Amen
November 22, 2020
This Sunday marks the end of the church calendar year and next week the beginning of the new church year. This Sunday is called Reign of Christ Sunday to celebrate the culmination of a year of worship and to acknowledge that Christ is at the centre of the created world and he is King.
Today can be a day to look back and to “Receive our Report Card”; to have an accounting of what we have done.
The Prophet Ezekiel, who was exiled in Babylon wrote an account of how God was displeased with the shepherds of his people. They had been poor shepherds of God’s people and God spoke saying, “I will care for my sheep, for I am the true shepherd of my people”. Ezekiel records that God will lead his people back to Jerusalem and when this is done God’s people will live in peace, they will enjoy abundance, those who are lost will be found, and the people will be restored in their relationship with God. I have always found chapter 34 inspiring. When I was discerning my call to ministry, I would read this passage and say to myself, “I do not want to be a useless shepherd. I want to do what I can do; I do not want to be a disappointment to my God”.
Our psalm expresses thanksgiving and praise and also contains a reference to sheep. We are compared to sheep many times in scripture likely because we are followers and we appear to need careful attention paid to us, so as to keep us out of harms way, or from doing harm to ourselves.
St. Paul is the author of the Book of Ephesians. His opening comment is that he is ever so pleased with the people of Ephesus because of their outpouring of love for others. This passage pairs nicely with what Jesus spoke about in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus clearly states that he wants us to care for those who are thirsty, to feed the hungry, provide shelter for those who are in need of rest, to clothe those who need clothes, care for the sick, and visit the outcasts. He points out that when we fail to see, or to help those in need, we have actually refused to see him. In times of distress and pain we should be able to see where we can help and in seeing where we can help we, we are seeing and doing what Jesus would do if he were here among us. He asks us not to fail and to step in on his behalf.
So, have we passed or failed in the past year to see Jesus and to help. I give us a strong B on our report card. I know that prior to my coming the parish has done wonderful things to care for those in need, but since my arrival in 2017 I will base our report card on the help we have provided since them. Presently our Welcome Table program helps to supplement the needs of those who use the Food Bank. We are also supporters of the Food Bank with weekly contributions of food stuffs. Our help to assist the Alzheimer Society with our Coffee Hour Fundraiser has been an added addition to our efforts. The Nicodemus fund continues to provide emergency assistance for shelter, prescriptions, food and other needed services and items. Our efforts to make St’ Luke’s as accessible as possible to those with ability issues has seen improvements in our sound system with its hearing loop and improved lighting. Just this past month we received government support to install automatic door openers for those with ability impediments. The special Xmas gifts to children and the school mitten program are valued community initiatives and of course, let us not forget our financial support of the Primates Relief and Development Fund. Yes, we deserve a day of congratulations, but let us not feel so good about what we have done that we loose sight of the fact that there is so much more that we can do to help.
Therefore, I follow what St. Paul wrote in Ephesians footstep that we will discern wisely what we are called to do and that we will make intelligent decisions, and of most importance that we will embrace the immensity of God and be followers of His way of life.