My sermons for the past couple of Sunday’s
Sorry for the delay!
In his book Exodus, Peter Enns writes:
[The Lord’s Supper teaches that] Rituals are good, and they are instituted and used by God to ‘connect’ his people with him. We learn through ritual that the church is not just made up of individuals, but is a corporate body. It is not just about personal salvation, but a group of people, the people of God, who are bound to one another and to the faithful through the generations. [Exdous, p. 283]
The church is a corporate body. The church is more than a collection of individuals. We are connected not just to each other but to generations who have gathers around tables and broken bread from one generation to the next from the time of Jesus. We are cosmically linked to the people,to God who have gathered before and who will gather in generations to come.
The Eucharist is not just a ritualistic act that is repeated each time we gather, but a live giving, nourishing, healing feast that offers strength for the pilgrimage. Moreover, it is a feast at which each person present is an offering. It is a gathering of God’s own – bringing all that they are and offering it to God our Creator. Each time we gather we are called to bring our broken, tired, and sometimes weary selvesaroudn the table to declare – Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again! Together as a community we declare that we are one body for we all share in the one bread.
As a priest I experience each celebration of the Eucharist a new call to conversion. It’s powerful! All the more powerful when we can find ways, spaces, places, and times to celebrate Eucharist that affirm that we can do that which is comfortable and known to us in new, diverse and different ways. How wonderful when we experience God in the sacrament in a new way.
Earlier this month our St Aidan’s community celebrated communion on the Sifton Bog. This early morning celebration of the ritual that brings us together as community with one anther and with generations of Christians before us and with generations yet to come, in th context of a quiet morning in the wilderness, allowed us to also be reminded that we are also in communion with all of God’s creation.
I confess that I am not an early morning dude. I, in fact, detest early mornings. But — standing with more than twenty others in the midst of the big, the Lilly pads, the frogs, the ducks before the day got started was really wonderful. It was, for me, what the Celts called a thin place where there was very little separating us from the divine. In his recent encyclical Laudato Si Pope Francis wrote:
Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. [Laudato Si, 84]
Worship outside in the Sifton Bog allows one a glimpse into the caress of God. It was meaningful for all of us. All gathered were in agreement that we should take opportunity in the summer to do this again. And do it again we will, tomorrow morning in fact!
If you would like to come join us please do. We worship at 730 for 30 minutes – NO SERMON!! It’s a 5-6 minute walk (on Boardwalk) from a parking area just west of Remarks a Farm Fresh Markets. Come start your day being reminded that none of us journeys alone. Come and commune with one another and God’s creation. Join us in the journey.
“People need an intellectual understanding of the significance of their community.
They need a clear reminder of the meaning and place of the community in today’s world. It is important to be reminded of the precise goals of the community, its call and its origins. In too many communities the essentials are obscured in a thousand and one activities. Their members no longer know why they are together or to what they should be witnessing. They discuss the details but forget what brought them together.”
These words of Jean Vanier serve as a powerful reminder to the people of God to not lose sight of why we gather and Whose we are in the midst of our busyness as a community. Each week we all find ourselves filling our calendars, fussing over details, planning the next event, and generally making certain we have not a moment to just sit and BE. In all of that we lose sight of the fact that what has brought us together is God and the call to love! We see, experience and know God through love. We are incapable to experiencing that love when we are busying ourselves so much. My prayer for us all is that we understand an know the importance of God and God’s love.
Last week I had opportunity to meet Connie Schritt! Connie lives in Selkirk, Manitoba and regularly comments on this blog. Catherinanne and I had dinner with Connie and her husband Henry at her sister Katherine Keeling’s home where she was visiting. It was a joy to meet Connie and to finally meet her mom Mary. At 96 Katherine and Connie’s mom is a real treasure.
Along with great hospitality and a wonderful meal, we were treated to Harold and Katherine’s collection of cross-stitch samplers that they have collected over the years. I confess that I knew nothing about these beautiful works till seeing them for the first time last week. These fine works were the labour of young girls who would stitch the alphabet, perhaps a depiction of their house, and almost always a bible verse, or a reference to God. As I examined the detail in each one I was moved by notion that what I was looking at was fabric that over a hundred years earlier were held in tiny and busy hands. The reference to scripture or God in each one moved me. In 1798 little Sarah Iceley stitched –
Jesus permit they gracious name to stand,
As the first effort of my youthful hand,
Engage my tender heart to seek they love,
With thy dear children let me share a part,
And write thy name, Thyself upon my heart.
Then this very sweet stitching has this inscription at its center…
‘Christ is our bop.’
Christ is our bop? I didn’t get it at first. Katherine helped me. Invert the first and last letters – Christ is our GOD! It’s imperfect and it’s beautiful! It is an effort of the heart and at the heart of the effort is God. No doubt it was different day. That said – it left me wondering how much we place ‘our bop’ at the center of what we are doing? How often is ‘our bop’ forgotten in our frenetic and busy day-to-day planning, doing, improving, accumulating, impressing etc.?
Let us take time to place ‘our bop’ at the center of our loves, our activities, and our communities. Perhaps instead of fussing over details we might remember the origins of our community are all follow from the fact that ‘Christ is our bop!’
Thank you Harold and Katherine for introducing me to this great expression – and for a great dinner and tremendous company!
 Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 176
Comments are most welcome.
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“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Back in February I took to walking thanks to my friend Canon Sue Paulton, who had a troop of us walking to Jerusalem. It was challenging walking in winter – especially since this was a particularly cold February – March was not a lot better really. But, it was life giving for me. I needed to get moving – exercise is important for good health and I have been trying hard these past eight months to get healthy again. Sue’s encouragement to walk a couple and a half kilometers a day from February 5 till Easter Sunday in an effort to figuratively walk from Capernaum to Jerusalem was just what I needed when I needed it. I did not get the nearly 200 km done before Easter. I managed to get over half way, but for a variety of reasons I slowed in Holy Week and it took a few weeks afterwards Easter to get back up to speed.
After reaching my goal, I began hiking in some of the wonderful trails in the Forest City. I must say it has been an enriching experience. I have been walking in Komoka, The Sifton Bog, and Warbler Woods and look forward to trying our other trails over these next few weeks. I have found my time in the trails to be good not just for my physical health, but good for my mind and soul as well.
Time on the trail provides great opportunity to think. Time is something that I often waste – as most of us do with frivolous things. The walking has reminded me that I need to take time, not just to look after my physical health but to tend to my spiritual needs as well. Walking is a good contemplative space. It provides much needed solitude. Thomas Merton asserted that “the greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds,” and that was over 50 years ago! I think the need for that has only intensified. Today I spent almost five hours in the Komoka woods. It was a wonderful way to clean out the mid of what I am know is a gi-normous amount of mental and emotional trash! Among other things I brought in my bag today, was a book with stories and sayings from the Desert Fathers. Among the words I read were these:
“What is more precious than anything in the world? Time! And what do we waste uselessly and without being sorry? Time! What do we not value and what do we disregard more than anything? Time! When we waste time, we lose ourselves… Time is given by God to use correctly for the salvation of the soul and the acquisition of the life to come… The Lord will call us to account for having stolen time for our own whims, and for not using it for God and our souls.”
St. Sebastian of Optina
I shall rest tonight feeling that I took the time given me for Sabbath this Monday and have honoured it as a gift. The gift of time offered me allowed me to commune with God in solitude.
I would be interested in reading your stories of walking. Where are your favourite places to walk? Do you like to walk alone? Do you walk in a group? Tell me about your walking and how you commune with God…..
Today’s sermon focused on Jesus and his witness to radical hospitality.
The last three weeks sermons
I have been lax in getting them posted
May 17 – Ascension
May 24 – Pentecost
May 31 – Trinity
Last Fall The Deanery of London decided that coming together to support a Sacramental presence on the streets of our city is a priority. Currently, The Rev’d Matt Arguin is working on the streets of London. While he has other priestly responsibilities in his Parish Community of Bishop Cronyn, Matt is also engaged with the most vulnerable in our community as he makes his rounds in the East End and Downtown.
That ministry was in danger of having to be let go as funding became increasingly a challenge. The Deanery decided that we would budget $5000 toward that ministry this year. A part of the plan was to bring our deanery together for a fundraiser to raise $2100 toward that total.
Last night the Rev’s Matt Martin contributed his award winning talent as an Elvis impersonator to help us well exceed that goal. Along with the incomparable Stephen Holowitz, Matt had the sold out crowd of over 300 in the palm of his hands. It was incredible show. It was so wonderful to see the joy in the faces of all who came. All parts of this show were awesome – but the real highlights came when Stephen played the Hammond B3 and the Grand Piano. WOW! At one point the audience was convinced that Jerry Lee Lewis was in the house! Matt Martin has been doing concerts like these for many church causes. He is making a tremendous contribution. Thank you hardly seems adequate.
The Deanery extends its thanks to Dr Gary Nicolosi and the people of St James Westminster for being such wonderful hosts. Our Lay Co-Chair John Sizeland assembled a great team of volunteers – Including our own Archdeacon Sam Thomas who as taking tickets at the door. Thank you one and all.
Here are a few shots of the evening!
PS – Being a Roadie is really hard work!
I have tired of anemic and hackneyed sayings. At least four or five times in the last week I have seen various iterations of this image circulating on social media.
I am trying to discern what the name of Joe Batts Arm it means! Every few weeks it resurrects itself, and it has become and increasing annoyance to me. At the very best, it is a banal platitude attempting to say something ‘special’ about ones acquaintances or friends. At its worst it’s a repudiation of one’s kindred and an attempt to make some poisonous proclamation about one’s family. Either way – it seems either very trite and weak, or very insensitive and harsh.
Family are indeed the people in your life who ‘have you in theirs’ – like it or not. Family are those who may very well accept you for who you are but who care enough to not simply be concerned with seeing you smile. Family should love one another through thick and thin – no doubt. There are no replacements for my family. They are mine. No friend and no acquaintance can take on the role of family. Why you ask? Because we choose our friends – we do not choose our family. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said – “You don’t choose your family – They are God’s gift to you as you are to them.”
Family is not about what we want, or what we might like. It’s about what God gave us. It behoves us then to honour that gift by working through our crap. We are called to celebrate that which is good in family and reconciling that which is not. Rather than wishing for family that would simply ‘make us smile’ I pray that we all might learn to love the families we are given – a true gift, knowing full well that loving may be very difficult work. Loves risking vulnerability. It calls us to step in, to move toward another and that may mean taking on another’s hurt, pain, another’s suffering. Love also is difficult because we are all broken, or as author Anne Lamott reminds us –
“Family business can be so stressful – difficult damaged people, showing up to spend time with other difficult damaged people.”
Stressful yes – and also a part of loving. Lamott’s also offers this –
“One secret of life is that the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. Another secret is that laughter is carbonated holiness.”
I know that in my own tribe – the laughter part has served us well. Families find themselves in deepest trouble when they forget to laugh and forget how we can all be a little nutty. Laughter is indeed good medicine when it comes to loving family.
So having said of that – I offer my amended version of this social media meme…
Family is always blood. Family are the people we have in our tribe because God gave us to them and them to us. They are the ones who accept you for who you are, or perhaps not – but stick with you anyway. They are the ones who are happy to see you smile but also care enough to tell you the truth in love, even when it hurts. They are the ones who also don’t run when you are no longer smiling. They are those who step toward your collapsing life while others are running in the other direction because it is to hard for them. They love you no matter how difficult and nutty you may be.
It’s a little longer I admit, but these words, are authentic and honest reflect well how I see family. Here is my own meme of that catchy quote of mine…….. ;-)
It is hard for me to put into words how very grateful I am for my mother. Also hard to say how difficult it is that I cannot just pick up the phone and give her a call to try and express my feelings, because as hard as it would be for me to articulate my thoughts, it would be harder still for her to understand them. The fog of dementia has robbed my mother of most all ability to interact and converse.
That said, I am keenly aware that she is there and I daily offer prayers for her and wish to be able to see her – regardless of whether she is aware of my presence or not. As a storyteller, I am aware that my story is so intricately connected to my mother’s story. I am also aware of how much our collective story is woven tightly with God’s story. God gifted me and my six siblings with a hardworking and loving mother. She is a great sign to me of God’s generosity toward me and her many acts of generous love are a great example of how much God loves us.
In his novel For One More Day Mitch Albom writes:
“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
I was deeply moved when I read those words the first time. The stories my mother shared over the years about her childhood, her youth, her meeting dad, her hard working years of childrearing and homemaking, of grand-parenting, of care-giving, of ministering in her church, all of these stories are really the beginning of my story.
Over the years, there have been times I broke my mother’s heart, and there have been times I made her proud. There have been times I made mom weep and times I made her laugh. There have been times I made mom worry and times when I reassured her. My mother has lived many highs and lows in loving her children. She has celebrated all of our highs and has been a comfort to us in our lows. She has celebrated and she has grieved. Mom does not say much nowadays, but trapped in her mind are thousands of stories – most of which are about her children and their children and their children’s children. In that same novel, Albom writes “I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.” While I know this is not true for everyone – I can say that I rings very true for me.
So If I could sit with her today, even if she were unable to say much to me, or even take in what I might say, I would offer a prayer of thanksgiving for that in her precious story is the beginning of my story – and six others stories. I love you Mom – Thank you!
Walter Brueggemann in his book Inscribing the Text writes about Generosity
On our own, we conclude:
there is not enough to go around
we are going to run short
we should seize the day
seize our goods
seize our neighbours goods
because there is not enough to go around
and in the midst of our perceived deficit
you come giving bread in the wilderness
you come giving children at the 11th hour
you come giving homes to exiles
you come giving futures to the shut down
you come giving easter joy to the dead
you come – fleshed in Jesus.
and we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing
and we take food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbours who sustain us
when we did not deserve it.
It dawns on us – late rather than soon-
that you “give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
By your giving, break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance………mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing.
Sink your generosity deep into our lives
that your muchness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving we may endlessly give
so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder,
without coercive need but only love,
without destructive greed but only praise
without aggression and invasiveness….
all things Easter new…..
all around us, toward us and
all things Easter new.
Finish your creation, in wonder, love and praise. Amen.” *
Time is so often wasted in worrying about ‘running short.’ In a general sense we hoard almost everything from teabags to tenderness. We are often so afraid that we will not again see, feel or experience something that we weigh ourselves down with seizing what we can – we seize, we claim, we own, we protect! And yet, as people of The Way we follow the One who taught those closest to him to release, to disavow, to become poor, to be free! This profound and precocious Prince of Peace invited followers to unbind, to set free, to lose, to lighten up! And yet, we still see deficit, and a dearth of ….. (fill in the blank)! This is exacerbated by the consumer culture in which we live, where the daily mantra seems to be more, more, more!
We are called to generosity which means that our focus is not on sacristy (or the perception of sacristy). This was a radical message when Jesus walked the earth and it is a radical message today. The freedom to be generous sets us free to be an Easter people. Our prayer indeed needs to be that God’s generosity might indeed ‘break our cycles of imagined scarcity override our presumed deficits, quiet our anxieties of lack.’ That God’s loving generosity with us would call us to response. ‘Sink your generosity deep into our lives that your muchness may expose our false lack, that endlessly receiving we may endlessly give…’
For it is when we embrace the generosity of God and respond to it with a giving spirit that we are made ‘Easter new!’ Regardless of what we own or do not own, regardless of what we have secured or what we have failed to secure, regardless of what we have gained or lost to this point on our journey, we are a people who know that God
comes giving bread in the wilderness…giving children at the 11th hour…giving homes to exiles…giving futures to the shut down…giving Easter joy to the dead…
We know that God comes fleshed in Jesus…and knowing as much, we pray for the willingness to respond to our endless receiving by endlessly giving ….. because indeed as God’s beloved – we have so very much to give.
*Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggemann p.3-4