A Sower Went Out To Sow


Today we were reminded as  a community of our call. In hearing of the call of the disciples we recalled that we too are called to invite others to “Come and See.”IMG_6353

We also had opportunity to celebrate one of our Silver Saints. Elsie Macnamee will be 95 on January 24th. Cakes and letters from Bishop’s were in order. It was a good day.

Today’s Gospel Reading and Homily can be heard here….
(Please use the comment button above to offer your thoughts)


My sermon concluded with a prayer from the Iona Community entitled a Sower Went Out to Sow — the Text is below!

A Sower Went Out To Sow

A sower went out to sow,
and on some ground he sowed the gift of welcoming,
and the seed grew,
and strangers lost their strangeness,
and foreigners found a friend,
and closed doors became open,
and hospitality overtook suspicion.,
and Jesus was embraced incognito.

A sower went out to sow,
and on some ground she sowed the seed of listening,
and the seed grew,
and hard problems began to be solved, because there was time to unravel them,
and fears were released, because the fearful one was not judged,
and forgotten people were heard, because someone paid attention,
and the truth was separated from gossip, because there was time.

A sower went out to sow,
and on some ground he sowed the seed of caring,
and the seed grew,
so that hungry people were fed with more than food,
and ignored people were attended to,
and guilty people were forgiven,
and those who seemed untouchable found themselves embraced,
and the compassion of Christ was known again on earth..

A sower went out to sow,
and on some ground she sowed the seed of encouraging,
and the seed grew,
and shy people lost their reticence,
and quiet people found their voice,
and those who thought they were worthless discovered their value,
and hidden talent was revealed.

A sower went out to sow,
and on the ground he sowed the seed of telling,
and the seed grew,
and stories were told to children,
and history was told to the young,
and jokes were told in cheerless places,
and the good news was told to those who were despondent,
and the Gospel of the Lord of Life
was told through the lives of God’s people.

A sower went out to sow,
and on some ground she sowed the seed of imagining,
and the seed grew,
and young people saw visions,
and old people dreamed dreams,
and some drew or wrote or danced or sang, who never thought they had it in them
and some stopped revisiting their past, in order to visualise God’s future.

A sower went out to sow,
and on some ground he sowed the seed of changing,
and the seed grew ,
and people moved from prejudice to truth,
and from despair to hope,
and from apathy to faith,
and old churches became radical communities,
and old people became midwives of God’s coming kingdom.

(from the Iona Community)

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Looking for a Good Book…?


Last Tuesday our monthly Clerics met at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Many thanks to Rita Harrison for making preparations for us, for your thoughtful commemoration of Hilary, and for the hospitality throughout the day.

Checking in after the New Year we shared what we have been readings, or what we have read lately…. it produced a great reading list so I thought – let’s share it…at least as I was best able to note it down

Keeping the Sabbath Wholly – Marva J Dawn

Back to School George

Back to School George

The Holy Trinity in the Life of the Church – Khaled Anatolios

Sabbath as Resistance - Walter Brueggemann

Exclusion and Embrace – Moroslav Volf

Making Room – Christine Pohl

Map of Heaven - Eben Alexander

Our Church – Roger Scruton

The Cloud of Unknowing – Evelyn Underhill

Mercy – Cardinal Walter Kasper

Take This bread – Sara Miles

The Naked Jesus – John Kasimir O’Keefe

Did God Kill Jesus – Tony Jones (Coming in April)

Learning to Walk in the Dark - Barbara Brown Taylor

Heaven and Hell - Reatha and Also MacPherson

Cooperating Parishes

The Once and Future King – TH White

Holy Listening - Guenther

Spirituality of Fundraising - Henri Nouwen  

The Women of the Bible – Ann Spangler

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

How the Scots created Canada - Paul Cowan

Eternal Life a New Vision - Spong

All my Puny Sorrows - Toews

I am Malala  – Malala Yousafzai

Giving Blood - Len Sweet

Radical Gratitude - Mary Jo Leddy

The Inner Experience - Thomas Merton

Speaking My Truth  – Shelagh Rogers

One Life -  Scot McKnight

As well as some Blogs to look to…

Rachel Held Evans Blog

Tony Jones Blog

Patheos

Facebook Liturgy Page

While I have hyperlinked the above to Amazon so you might find out more about these books, I would like to encourage you to phone Mark or Hilary at Oxford Book Shop to order these great reads while supporting a local business

Christmas Work Has Just Begun


Today’s Sermon – Preceded by the Gospel Reading
CHRISTMAS 1

work of christmasI’m not sure about anyone else here, but I feel like Christmas can be quite tiring. I can easily succumb to the temptation to say come Boxing Day – well that was a good Christmas…Let’s pack it all in till next year. That said, I choose not to do that. Catherinanne and I have always waited Advent 3 at least to put up a tree and we keep it up till Old Christmas Day – Epiphany – January 6. Truth be told, sometimes it is up even later… just depends how life happens. So I stand here today to remind us that Christmas is NOT over. Not yet for another 9 days. What is more critical to say, is that I believe the work of Christmas will not be over even on January 6th. The work of the incarnation is far from complete.

The Work of Christmas
by Howard Thurman (1926)

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
The work of Christmas has just begun —

In today’s scripture we hear the powerful story of Simeon and Anna and we hear about their willingness to listen well to the music of the heart. Simeon was overwhelmed by the encounter he had with the child Jesus. His powerful song is a reflection of the devotion, obedience and hard work that these servants had lived

Simeon and Anna were near the end of their earthy journeys. With that in mind they sang – Simeon sang of being able to depart in peace. Anna gave praise and become the first to tell others about Jesus… and according to this account – she told everyone she could find. 
 Are you looking for redemption? 
 Have I got a story to tell you! 
 It’s good news about a child.

While Simeon seems to declare that meeting the child Jesus marks the end of the journey for him, Anna at the tender age of 84 sets out to evangelize. And yet, Simeon gets all the press. Perhaps it is connected to his beautiful song of praise, perhaps it was a function of the woman’s role being diminished – either way – we can look at the text today and see clearly that Anna was a great voice for redemption and freedom and was among the first to set out to tell others about Jesus. In saying that I am not trying to diminish Simeon’s role. Not at all! His song – known as the Nunc Dimittis – has been sung throughout the centuries – often the other bookend of evening prayer – the other of course being the Magnificat. These two longtime faithful servants are given hope in the child. Anna seems to be given renewal and Simeon also is renewed in a sense as well – the music of his heart declared as much. Their encounter with the Christ Child is the scriptural declaring that work of Christmas has begun. For Simeon that work spilled out as a song of peace and justice. For Anna the work began with her willingness to take her wearied, prayer soaked self into the world to tell others about a peace bringer, nation rebuilder, a feeder of the hungry, a release to the captives, a seeker of the lost.

Life could not have been long however for these two – and we know that many more took up the strain of doing the work of Christmas. One of the tremendous strengths of the People of God rests in the generational nature of the Body of Christ. Simeon and Anna may have been near the end of their sojourn, but there were others to take up the singing. To sing the songs of peace, justice, of healing, of feeding, of seeking!

Each week, before we leave here we remind ourselves that we are a part of a long lineage that moves from one generation to the next.

Glory to God,
Whose power working in us 
can do
infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
Glory to God from generation to generation
in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever – Amen

There is much work to be done. The Christmas work has just begun. Make no mistake – I know it seems daunting.
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
We look at the state of the world around us and are tempted to drop our shoulder…and exhale in defeat…a sentiment captured by Longfellow

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
 And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

tumblr_nh41dgqonL1sg4uxio1_500Last month people around the world celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And while the eruption of that monument took most of the world by surprise, it is important to remember that it had been preceded for several months by the peaceful protests of the citizens of Leipzig. Gathering on Monday evenings by candlelight around St. Nikolai church – the church where Bach composed so many of his cantatas – they would sing. And in over two months their numbers grew from fewer than a thousand voices to more than three hundred thousand, over half the citizens of the city, singing songs of hope and protest and justice, until their song shook the powers of their nation and changed the world.
Like Simeon – Like Anna we need to make music in the heart and of the heart. Sometimes it’s only the song that will change the world. The gift God has given us this Christmas is an abiding presence with us. God now wills for the work to begin in earnest.

The Last verse of Longfellow’s great song Christmas Bells is a reminder of what Christmas really truly declares…

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
 The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

The work of Christmas begins…
Let’s get to work!

Christmas is Upon Us


We have just a few days now till the celebration of the Incarnation! We will have much to celebrate. As a people of God we will hold up to the world the very notion that peace and love are real and viable.

This year perhaps more than most we will come to Christmas services facing many questions about the darkness we see about us in our global village. It will be easy for us to look at problem near and far from home and pray that someone somewhere finds a solution. Bur Christmas is for us that time when we declare that we will claim our mortal duty, we will make the light and peace of Christ real,

Etty Hillesus – facing grave danger and darkness offered these words –

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.

So as we face tragedy and terror in Australia, Pakistan, The Middle East or hear at home – we might the advice of Etty and reclaim the peace that we have within us that we may share it with others. The more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in the world …..

Please join us at St Aidan’s for worship at

4 PM — Large Family Service 

8 PM — Community Mass with Carolling at 7:30,

10:30 Christmas Day Mass – be the First 50 to arrive for a special gift from me! 

Hope to see you at our services,

Let us be like Mary ……Ordinary!


What a day at St. Aidan’s today. We celebrated the Fourth Sunday of Advent with a Christmas Pageant after the 10:30 Mass. It was Awesome. The children, their parents, and the teachers all did a wonderful job of preparing. It was a real delight. (You can see photos below the sermon below)

AlexWe also said our farewell to Alex Strong. Alex has been our interim Director of Children’s Christian Education — For Two years now. Alex’s love for the children is evident and their love for her is on full display each week. She has been a gift for us and we will miss her. Author Lisa Wingate wrote: –

…Children are the greatest gift God will give…, and their souls the heaviest responsibility God will place in your hands. Take time with them, teach them to have faith in God. Be a person in whom they can have faith. When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much!

Alex has served our children well. She has taken time with them, taught them faith, and has been a person in whom the children could have faith. For that we shall forever be grateful. We all love you!

Alex will continue her teaching career is the school system and we wish her every success. I can’t say enough how much we appreciated Alex’s ministry with us. Please join me in sending her best wishes. (Comment section upper right)

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Today’s sermon was focused on Mary’s YES and her willingness to be a God-bearer in the ordinariness of her life. You can listen to it here: (Text is below) I look forward to your feedback and thoughts.

Joe Queenan, writer for the New York Times and GQ, criticizes what he calls our culture’s “inability to accept the ordinary.” Queenan says that we insist that “every experience be a watershed, every meal extraordinary, every friendship epochal, every concert superb, every sunset meta-celestial … nothing can ever again be exactly what it was in the first place … ordinary.”

He’s right! He’s so very right. This need for exceptionality impacts so much in our lives. It influences how we view dinner and how we view a night out at the movies. Sit with a bride and Groom sometimes planning a wedding – each of the weddings will be the best ever. It impacts how we view church even. We will evaluate everything from the hymns, the anthems and heaven help us even the preaching… and heaven help us if that is ordinary!

It also impacts how we see the lives of the faithful. We fall victim to the notion that God somehow is at work in the lives of spiritual giants lake Vanier or Nouwen, Theresa of Avila or Julian of Norwich. Each Wednesday here we celebrate another Saint or perhaps commemorate the life of a woman or man of faith who has had great influence on the church. Last Wednesday for instance we celebrated the witness of Simon Gibbons – who is Simon Gibbons you ask?

Well….

Simon Gibbons, who was the first of the Inuit nation to be ordained as an Anglican priest and whose ministry in the diocese of Nova Scotia gave the rest of our Church a wonderful example of vitality.

He was born in Labrador, the son of a white settler and an Innu mother. Both of his parents died before he was six years old, and he was placed in an Anglican orphanage in Newfoundland. The Church nurtured his intelligence, and he was encouraged to train for ordination. He eventually went to King’s College in Nova Scotia, where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1878. Gibbons began his ministry as a travelling missionary in Cape Breton and laboured in conditions which taxed his physical endurance to the limit. He regularly walked a hundred-mile circuit to conduct services in isolated communities. He made his rounds even in the depths of winter, just to bring the comfort of Christ to the sick and dying; and in so doing he risked his life in blizzards or while crossing inlets whose frozen surfaces often gave way beneath his feet. Yet in all his exertions, despite fatigue, pain, and danger, Gibbons never failed in joy or in his ability to communicate the gladness of his service to the people he visited.[1]

Now let me stop there – you see what happens. We all think – wow that Simon Gibbons was something! Walking 100 miles between parishes, being joyful even through excretion and pain and fatigue…We can’t all be like him. The danger with noting the lives of people like Simon Gibbons is falling victim to understanding how God is so very present in the very ordinary.

We do the same with the Gospel story that we hear today. It is the Annunciation to Mary. Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel and told that she will bear the Light of Life into the world. She is a Virgin and she will give birth. That’s pretty extraordinary for sure. The whole scenario is extraordinary. What gets lost in there is the very ordinary nature of Mary and her life.
Consider this. Before she becomes the Theotokos the “God-bearer” the “Birth-Giver of God”

  • Mary was a young, Jewish girl – most scholars agree that she would have been 12 or 13.
  • She was a peasant girl
  • She is not married – but has been contracted to marry Joseph.
  • She is from Nazareth – the slums, the wrong side of the tracks if you will. Remember what the Gospel of John says; “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.”

When God blessed Mary through the words of Gabriel, ‘Greetings Favored one – Blessed one,’ this ordinary young woman whose life is far from extraordinary or exciting is to become the God-bearer. In the ordinariness of her life Mary is tasked with God bearing.

It is in the ordinariness of lives that we too are called to be ‘God-Bearers’’ – in the ordinariness of our lives we are called to be a vessel for God. As surely as the Angel Gabriel spoke Mary the word of God comes to you and me today —

“GREETINGS FAVOURED ONES – Our God is with you!

Let that sink in for a moment.

Greetings Favoured ones – beloved ones! God is with you!

Let us go back to Simon Gibbons for a moment – an orphaned child, humble, vulnerable beginnings. I said earlier that we look upon his life as something exemplary – because it was. But the truth of God’s love offered to him in the ordinariness of his life is what truly mattered.

God is with you!  You are favoured! God has noticed you. God has noticed me. God wants you and me to give birth to light, to hope to peace, to love in the ordinariness of our lives. You know, it makes perfect sense that Mary was quite startled – “much perplexed” as scripture tells us. Those words were no doubt strange to Mary too. So we may find these words strange. We may be perplexed that God would notice us.

Mary says YES to God’s request to bear light – but before she does she accepts the blessing, the favour and the notice of God. After doing so she says yes to bearing God in the very ordinariness of her life.

Now turning back to us – Not every moment this week will be extraordinary. We will no doubt some of us who will over these next couple of days place extra pressure upon ourselves to have the best Christmas ever. But for most of us – that heightened expectation is dangerous. I would like for us to put aside our worries and stresses for a moment and think about where we might be this week. Who will we see? What will we do?

Now I would like us to consider if we can be God-bearers in those ordinary moments. In his novel For One More Day  Mitch Albom writes – “You can find something truly important in an ordinary minute.”  So in the ordinary minutes this week – will we find that truly important presence –

Because God has noticed you …remember – God has declared

“Greetings, favored ones. The Lord is with you and plans to do great things through you.”
You might ask, “How can this be?”

Well whether at work or school, whether at home or in the world, the Holy Spirit is with you and will guide you in all you do and say so that you may be a blessing to the world. It need not be extraordinary – You can bear God in the ordinariness of your walk, your journey.

Will you accept this call to bear God and see God in the ordinary?

“Let it be according to God’s word.”

[1] For All The Saints (Anglican Church of Canada)

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Saying Good-Bye


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Left to Right…. The Rev’d Anne Jaikaran, Rose Perry, Wendy Kilgour, Doug Wilson Hodge and Jim Smythe

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Today is Rose Perry’s last day at the office as Parish Administrator for St. Aidan’s. For just a little more than two years now, Rose Perry has been our Parish Administrator. Rose joined us in 2012 in a time of great change and transition for St Aidan’s parish. In the short time that she has been with us Rose has helped us make great strides in how we manage data, present materials, advertise events, modernize our office, schedule volunteers, handle rentals .. And the list goes on. Rose is leaving us to upgrade her education and further her career goals. We wish Rose every success in her future endeavours. She has been a valuable member of our St. Aidan’s team. She and her gifts will be missed.

It was a joy for me to officiate at Rose and Ryan’s wedding this past May. I have been pleased to get to know Rose over these past two years and indeed will miss her in the office. She has been a hard working member of our team who always managed to get more done than we could have asked for.

I invite you all to pray for the wardens at St Aidan’s as they are in the midst of a search for a new Parish Administrator. CS Lewis wrote – “When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” Our prayer now is for that unexpected blessing that God will make known to us.

In the meantime, I offer thanks for our time with Rose. “Some people come in our life as blessings. Some come in your life as lessons.” Mother Teresa was a wise teacher. Rose you have been a blessing and a lesson – I hope we have been the same for you.

Please join me in wishing Rose every blessing. (Comments section is in the upper right of this post)

God Bless you Rose in your new adventures!

Dear Santa …


Atheists

Reading Time Magazine’s page a couple of days ago, I landed a piece in the Religion section about Atheists Billboards in major cities in America. Very Splashy, very creative…. but I wonder how effective these billboards are? Who is the target audience? I am interested to hear your thoughts and your opinions on this advert?
Does it offend you? Does it make you laugh?
Can this sort of advertising make a difference?
Are you sympathetic to to the message?
How might you respond to this message if you could speak with its creator?

Ministry of Imagination


Today is the Third Sunday of Advent. Today’s Sermon is focused on the Magnificat.

The Text of today’s Sermon  is below the photos from today – More or Less!

20141214_121500 20141214_121841 20141214_121659The other day a friend and I were reminiscing about this time of year in Newfoundland. We were recalling that trees were real, were cut hear the few days before Christmas. They came form in over the hill, or across the pond where we cut our firewood, our on the Old Track road. Sometimes we would cut several – choice is always good. We recalled what it was like rigging up the old decorations we had. Putting bubs on the tree… (that’s Bulbs to a Mainlander). Had me reminiscing about the old fashioned Christmas lights that we put on the tree – you might remember too. I was recalling how some of our strings were quite old – taped up in sections – holes in the casing on the wires from the multiple nicks from staples from stapling them to the inside of the window.  How we did not set the house ablaze is a mystery. So many great memories of childhood come rushing to all of us this time of year. There is something about the lovely music and the colourful lights at this time of great darkness that seems to cast our minds to warm recollections of family, of friends, of those who meant the lost to us and the moments that instructed our character. When I let my mind go there, I see reflected in my memory, Christmas Dinners, full houses, visits from neighbours as well as visits to neighbours, a small church full of people, simple gifts but great excitement. It all floods back to me.

As church goes, my memories are kind of vague. I don’t have strong recollections of what happened in Church throughout Advent in Christmas. But there is one thing that I do remember and it washes over me always at this time of the year – ours was a church that had Evening prayer regularly. That meant that we often said the Magnificat –Mary’s song. I recall – strange has this sounds hearing the Song of Mary read as the Gospel in Advent and thinking — That’s where that Magnificat comes from!!! I think I remember it to this day because the words of it were so very powerful for me – from my very youth. In the words of the BCP we would recite:

My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever. 

The words that always leapt out were the assertion that God would put the mighty down from their seat and would exalt the humble and meek; that the hungry would be filled with good things and that the rich would be sent away empty. As I reflect on this many years later it makes perfect sense to me. My sister Helen, 20 years older than i recalled that she got excited about a 5 point apple in a wool sock – simple pleasures – the hope of a God who would fill the hungry with good things was made real for us in small gestures at Christmas that were large to us in the grand scheme of things.

In many ways, I think that at the time I needed to hear about a God who would humble the mighty and exalt the week. I was a victim of some pretty serious bullying in my youth. To say I felt weak, oppressed, and afraid would be an understatement. The very notion of the ‘proud being scattered’ was reassuring to me. Hearing Mary’s Song so regularly was a real reminder to me in God’s social order, the vulnerable, the scared, the weak, and the oppressed were the favored ones. Those brash, and arrogant powerful ones whose very strength depended putting others down, would be scattered, sent away empty. The very fact that a young and vulnerable woman could be chosen to bear the responsibility of delivering Light into the world, gives us all hope. As surely as Mary was given opportunity to bear light in the midst of difficult and trying circumstances – so to we are offered that opportunity. What does that look like? Not as complex as we might think.

It requires that we have imagination and that we be prepared to rejoice in that imagination. Mary’s Song is really a testimony she was prepared to imagine what we might be… imgine how we might live. In our second reading today we hear Paul instruct the community at Thessalonica to –

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good 22abstain from every form of evil.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of the prophets. Paul was reminding the community to embrace the work of the Spirit to call us to imagine change, imagine, God breaking into the current condition and making a real difference. Walter Brueggemann in his book  “The Prophetic Imagination” [a book I cannot recommend highly enough] writes about the biblical narrative from Moses to Jesus, recasting the role of the prophet as one who engages the imagination in ways that moves beyond the dominant mentality [the ‘managed data’ of the prevailing culture] and gives freedom for the life of God to be revealed.

The prophet engages in future fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented… The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal consciousness that make it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.[1]

The Magificat calls us to Rejoice in Imagination and what it can provide to us. Mary’s brings light into the world but before she does she dares to imagine what the delivery of God-Among us might look like. Her imagination pours out in song and it declares that the entry of Light into the world is intended to excite our imaginations that we might vision the peaceable Kingdom and make choices to make it real. For the peaceable Kingdom to come to fruition we need to act. We need to say YES to the invitation to bear Light, bear, hope, bear kindness and peace. In bread for the journey, Henri Nouwen declares;

The marvelous vision of the peaceable Kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all men, women, and children live in loving unity with nature, calls for its realisation in our day-to-day lives.   Instead of being an escapist dream, it challenges us to anticipate what it promises.  Every time we forgive our neighbour, every time we make a child smile, every time we show compassion to a suffering person, every time we arrange a bouquet of flowers, offer care to tame or wild animals, prevent pollution, create beauty in our homes and gardens, and work for peace and justice among peoples and nations we are making the vision come true.

We must remind one another constantly of the vision.  Whenever it comes alive in us we will find new energy to live it out, right where we are.  Instead of making us escape real life, this beautiful vision gets us involved.[2]

I have been reflecting on those Christmases past. I can imagine my sister Helen getting an apple, an orange, and some grapes in a wool sock on Christmas Morning and smelling it an imagining the distant land from which it came and being warmed by the kindness of love of parents who will fill her stocking with fruit that she did not get to see all year. I also imagine myself now. Hearing those words of Mary and imagining that God would deliver me from my torment and embrace me with love and lift me from my lowliness. And you know what? I have seen glimpses of that peaceable kingdom because of people have got involved and cared enough to show me kindness. Simple acts of kindness have made the promise and imagination of the Magnificat come to life for me. The courage of Mary to imagine a future fantasy gives us courage to also keep alive the ministry of imagination.

As we tread closer and closer to Christmas – as we remember and reflect – let us not lose sight of the fact Mary’s call to us was to look ahead, Paul’s call to us also was to let the Spirit guide us and run amok on the status quo, God’s call to us is to make live the Incarnation by engaging in prophetic ministry.

The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.


There is no better place to take on that work than right here, there is no better time than right now, there are no better group of people than this group here… Imagine… Imagine…. The lowly lifted, the hungry fed, the vulnerable being the vessel of God…. Imagine…. just imagine … because of our acts of kindness… imagine!

[1] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

[2] Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey – Mediation for December 13

We are Social Creatures — Not Selfish – Not Self Serving


Jean+Vanier+Quote+on+Community

We are made for community. We are made for love. Have no doubt it is hard for us to hear that message; hard mostly because we are constantly inundated with messages of individualism.  We are sold a bill of goods that we are self made, self reliant, and self important. We have, from a young age, learned to compete with others. While that sense of competition can serve us well, it can also cause us to leave others behind, or to be left behind ourselves, in a game whose stakes are very high; the game of life.

Vanier has written a lot about community. The above quote is one of my favorites of his because it is a reminder of why community is so very important. We all yearn for love. We yearn to love and to be loved. God reminds us through community that we are beloved, that we are not designed for loneliness. We are hard wired to be social, to assemble, and to work collectively to care for one another.

This week I cannot seem to get away from the message of community and how important it is that we come together. My reading keeps bringing it back. A friend forwarded an article in the New York Times entitled Evolution and the American Myth of the Individual. It is a great piece that emphasises the fact that we are social creatures.  In the article John Edward Terrell writes;

Philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel have emphasized that human beings are essentially social creatures, that the idea of an isolated individual is a misleading abstraction. So it is not just ironic but instructive that modern evolutionary research, anthropology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience have come down on the side of the philosophers who have argued that the basic unit of human social life is not and never has been the selfish, self-serving individual. Contrary to libertarian and Tea Party rhetoric, evolution has made us a powerfully social species, so much so that the essential precondition of human survival is and always has been the individual plus his or her relationships with others.*

We are not our best selves when we are just self! We are not designed to, nor have we evolved to, be focused on self. The self-serving and selfish individual is not the basic unit of human social life! This important message from the University of Chicago anthropologist can serve as a powerful reminder for us as Christians of who we are called to be. Terrell in fact writes about what he was taught by church as a child noting that he was taught about relationship to God and responsibilities to one another. He points out that while some Christians and evolutionists often are at odds, on the matter of social responsibility there is little light between the social teaching of Christianity and the work evolutionary scholarship. He concludes his piece with these powerful words: “We have always been social and caring creatures. The thought that it is both rational and natural for each of us to care only for ourselves, our own preservation, and our own achievements is a treacherous fabrication. This is not how we got to be the kind of species we are today. Nor is this what the world’s religions would ask us to believe. Or at any rate, so I was told as a child, and so I still believe.”

This week I have also been reading Take this Bread by Sarah Miles. Raised an atheist, this journalist finds her way to Christianity and writes about how that tectonic shift in her life instructed how she would respond to people around her – especially those who hunger and thirst. She had, as a journalist seen much suffering and hunger before her so-called ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment. After coming to experience the power of community as expressed particularly in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Miles’ life became enriched not because of what she achieved, or accomplished in her own life, but instead by how she discovered ways and means to feed the hungry. She writes in her introduction:

At a moment when right-wing American Christianity is ascendant, when religion worldwide is rife with fundamentalist crusades and exclusionary ideology, I stumbled into a radically inclusive faith centered on sacraments and action. What I found wasn’t about angels or going to church or trying to be ‘good’ in a pious, idealised way. It wasn’t about arguing a doctrine… the Virgin birth, predestination, the sinfulness of homosexuality and divorce… or pledging blind allegiance to a denomination. I was, as the Prophet said, hungry and thirsting for righteousness. I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine, poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: at a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the despised and the outcasts are honored.           …And so I became a Christian.**

Church Tree

When we get ourselves all spun out on arguments that serve no positive end, and when default to what divides us – we have succumbed to the materialistic and competitive messages that are not rooted in our story as a people of God.  Its at those times that I worry that we are cutting our own tree branches from below our own feet. The church is famously fractured into denominations, and even divided further within those denominations into parishes. With the pressures of being church today, parish leaders and members are becoming increasingly protective as all of our silos are threatened with tumbling in these days of decline. As Church we are not immune to the consumer messages of individualism and self preservation. I am convinced that they more stress we face and the more fear we have the more inclined we are to default to the position of preservation and protection. The danger becomes forgetting that we are a people whose message is rooted in the simple yet profound. Our material core bread, wine, body, blood, broken and shared. We are called to come together around the table – all of us. The outcasts and the despised are not just welcomed – but honoured.  We are in danger of forgetting that we have a responsibility to one another. Coming together is a sign to others that love is possible. We must never forget that God loves us and calls us repeatedly in scripture to come to one another.

We are approaching Christmas and the ads are rife with messages that say ‘I want that!’ Truthfully all of that consumer pressure revolving around the coming Holy season of Christmas is built on the notion of the self. It is a built on a lie. For the Christian – this is an outrage, the Incarnation is about anything but consumption and want. I urge us to heed the words of Terrell  “The thought that it is both rational and natural for each of us to care only for ourselves, our own preservation, and our own achievements is a treacherous fabrication. I would add that it is fabricated to the benefit of a group that long ago figured out that they needed to look after one another – Corporations. We have a choice. The Christian lives in the hope and expectation of new life. We are a people who have a God of healing and of incarnation. We have been assured that God cares enough for us that God would come to us in our vulnerability and our fear. God dispels our darkness with Light and Life – Christmas. We might take time during Advent and Christmas to find ways to focus on other and not on self. This might be a time that we could enter into another’s vulnerability as Christ enters into ours. Let us renounce the fabrication of #IWantThat to embrace #WhatDoYouNeed #HowCanIHelp #ILoveYou #IForgiveYou

Please feel free to leave your thoughts by clicking the Comments button at the top right of this post.

JV-inspiration

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*John Edward Terrell,  New York Times; Evolution and the American Myth of the Individual – http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/30/evolution-and-the-american-myth-of-the-individual/?emc=eta1&_r=0

**Sarah Miles Take the Bread, (New York, Ballentine Books, 2008)