God Rejoices Whenever We Learn

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“Give me, if you will, prayers;st__teresa_of_avila_icon_by_theophilia-d6qmnnn
Or let me know dryness,
An abundance of devotion,
Or if not, then barrenness.
In you alone, Sovereign Majesty,
I find my peace,
What do you want of me?
Yours I am, for you I was born:
What do you want of me?”
― Teresa of Ávila

Today was the Feast day of Teresa of Ávila. At church we noted her contribution as a Doctor of the Faith by reading some of her quotes. We each took from a basket a slip of paper with one of her writings. Each in turn offered her words and we reflected on how these words impact us. It was a moving experience for me. The collective proclamation that came from the small group gathered around the table, talking about their faith and how God is at work in their own lives and in the lives of the world was a great gift.  It was proof positive of one of the quotes shared today: “But to get to know God’s friends is a very good way of ‘having’ Him.” The sheet that I pulled had these words on it –

“This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, he so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer. This voice of his is so sweet that the poor soul falls apart in the face of her own inability to instantly do whatever he asks of her. And so you can see, hearing him hurts much more than not being able to hear him… For now, his voice reaches us through words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks, and reading sacred literature. God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how half-hearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.” 

I could not agree more that ‘God calls us in countless little ways all the time.’ God is speaking to us in the midst of all things. We often neglect to see the varied and often simple ways in which God calls us. God voice reaches us through the sharing of our friends when we gather. Today I could see these words made manifest – Jesus was made present in word, in sacrament, in sharing, in fellowship. I am fortunate to have opportunity to break bread with people and hear how Jesus is at work in our community. I am certain that Teresa is quite right about God rejoicing at our learning – God had much to rejoice about.

Here are the rest of Teresa of Ávila’s quotes that were read earlier today –

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

 

May today there be peace within you.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith in you.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and everyone of you.

 

Thank God for the things that I do not own.

 

Love turns work into rest.

 

Untilled ground, however rich, will bring forth thistles and thorns; so also the mind of man.

 

Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

 

The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes.

 

It is of great importance, when we begin to practise prayer, not to let ourselves be frightened by our own thoughts.

 

Never suppose that either the evil or the good that you do will remain secret, however strict may be your enclosure.

 

As to what good qualities there may be in our souls, or Who dwells within them, or how precious they are — those are things which we seldom consider and so we trouble little about carefully preserving the soul’s beauty. All our interest is centred in the rough setting of the diamond, and in the outer wall of the castle — that is to say, in these bodies of ours.

 O God, who by your Holy Spirit moved Teresa of Avila to manifest to your Church the way of perfection: Grant us, we pray, to be nourished by her excellent teaching, and enkindle within us a keen and unquenchable longing for true holiness; through Jesus Christ, the joy of loving hearts, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. 

 

Eucharist is more than ‘A Piece of Cardboard and a Shot of Grape Juice’

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Quoting one of their speakers, YC Newfoundland – a Youth Conference held this past weekend in my natal province, offered this gem on twitter. Coming from a Eucharistic and Sacramental Church, I found this to be just a little bit trite and slightly insulting. While I admit that I am quoting a tweet from a speech I did not hear, and do not know the full context, I am troubled by what it implies and was troubled by some of what followed in a FB chat  with a FB friend about that quote. While I agree that communion involves more than the elements involved (For my tradition it is real bread and and wine in a common cup), I also hold that Jesus is fully present in to us in the sacrament.

Most troubling is the attempt at edginess – I know of no church that observes communion that uses cardboard – nor does Bradley Noel. What may be a cool tweetable sound bite, for Noel or some of those at YC Newfoundland is greatly disrespectful of Eucharistic communities. It speaks to the attitude that some from non-sacramental traditions hold about what we do and who we are.

When I take communion, I am making what Bradley Noel might call and Altar call. When I am gathered around The Table with my community and we are sharing the Biblical story of Jesus, we are engaged in communion. When we offer that gift of the presence of Jesus in the sacrament of the church to the weak, the vulnerable, and the broken, we are in communion with those that God has called us to be in communion with. ‘Eating together and talking about Jesus’ is precisely what happens on a Sunday Morning at my church with 120 friends, it happens on a Wednesday with a dozen friends, and it happens in the starkness of a locked hospital ward with a patient whom most have forgotten, it happens in the quietness of a home within minutes of a followers death. Healing occurs, Love is made real. Jesus is truly present. When we take communion at church it is more than a sign or a symbol – it is an act of faith.Eucharist2 We declare that Jesus is present and commit to do what he has asked of us in baptism. It happens that when we take communion we share bread that some may call cardboard and wine that they can call a ‘shot.’ Those references however show a lack of respect and high degree of ignorance of the sacredness of the Sacrament of Jesus, instituted at the Last Supper.

The Holy Spirit is present when we break bread together. I believe that is very true, in many different circumsatnces. Indeed, when we eat together and discuss our faith and our God, we are in communion with one another. On that point, I could not agree more. It’s just a shame that Mr. Noel needed to take a swipe at Eucharistic traditions with is ‘smart’ but disrespectful comment. The YC events are an extention of a ministry in Alberta called Extreme Dream Ministries.  Their webpage says that they are ‘promoting being a follower of Jesus Christ through powerful events, missions, and whatever creative means imaginable. Extreme Dream is committed to making much of Jesus and influencing the Church and society towards living life in the purposes of God.’ I guess that all good unless, one of creative means is through bread and wine. I cannot imagine being more creative than Jesus. Remember what he did? He took bread and wine and broke it with his friends and declared that it was his body, his blood of a new and eternal covenant. Hear how St Paul explains it the church in Corinth -

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I will leave the last words to Henri Nouwen – (perhaps not a big influence in arena ministry, but certainly one of the greatest Christian Thinkers of the 20th Century)

Really Present
Where is Jesus today?  Jesus is where those who believe in him and express that belief in baptism and the Eucharist become one body.  As long as we think about the body of believers as a group of people who share a common faith in Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus remains an inspirational historical figure.  But when we realise that the body Jesus fashions in the Eucharist is his body, we can start to see what real presence is.  Jesus, who is present in the gifts of his Body and Blood, becomes present in the body of believers that is formed by these gifts.  We who receive the Body of Christ become the living Christ.

Discuss……

Thanksgiving – For Whom do you Give Thanks?

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O Lord God of Hosts, you dwell in the high and holy place, and yet you watch over the lowly; you make the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and unjust; by your mighty power you order all things in heaven and earth. We give you heartfelt thanks that you have safely brought us to the season of harvest, visiting the earth and blessing it, and crowning the year with your goodness. We praise you for the fruits of the ground which you have bestowed upon us, filling our hearts with gladness. For these and all your mercies we praise and magnify your glorious name; beseeching you to sow the seed of your Word in our hearts, and pour upon us the continual dew of your blessing: so that we may abundantly bear the fruits of the Spirit, and at the last great day be gathered into your heavenly storehouse; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, is all honour and glory, now and for evermore. AMEN.

gourds

Here in Canada, today is Thanksgiving. While this is a Hallmark sort of holiday, the Church at this time of year has always kept Harvest Thanksgiving. It is a great time of giving thanks for all that gives life and love, and that feeds us. That changes from place to place for sure.

Growing up in rural Newfoundland my memories are of seeing the church decorated with big green cabbages, carrot, turnips, potatoes and beets. There were Mason jars of jam, preserves, and of course, large jars of moose meat and rabbit. It was not uncommon to see salt cod fish, a model boat, or perhaps even a small cast net.

In Labrador City the scene changed again. The root vegetables remained the same, as did the preserves. But I remember how powerful it was to see, as a part of the Harvest display, Tonka versions of the big trucks that extracted the rich iron minerals from the earth up there. Even a stone rich in minerals placed in the church, was a powerful reminder that we give thanks for different reasons and for different reason in different places.

Moving to Southwestern Ontario, meant seeing interesting gourds that I had no knowledge of. Peanut squash, butternut squash and HUGH pumpkins. Cornstalks, and straw are often part of Harvest displays in this part of the world as we love in such a rich and fruitful part of the world. Farming here plays a large role in our common life and it is appropriately celebrated. Industry sometimes finds its way into the décor here at time of harvest as well. A fellow minister told me once of their Harvest display in Windsor where all the parishioners brought their cars all [polished and cleaned and decorated for harvest and parked all over the front lawn of the church as a display to the neighbourhood, that the congregation was grateful for the livelihood that part of the world enjoyed due to the auto industry. A great idea for sure.

So if we were to put in front of us the things for which we are most thankful, what would we put out? While I would most certainly decorate my place of thankfulness with food from harvest and all that goes with it – my sanctuary would be filled with people. For it is people most of all for which I give thanks. I am grateful for time together with those I love.

There would be my family – For my father who taught me so much and who left us familyafter a long and productive life. I give thanks for all that he was to us. For all that he worked to do for his seven children and for the 93 years that he lived. For my mother, whose constant, steady, strong and caring hand nurtured and cared for all seven of her children and many others as well. I give thanks for the care that she now receives and for opportunities to spend time with her even if, only once or twice a year. Every chance to say I love to her is a gift. For my six siblings. There are twenty-one years between me and my eldest brother. That for me meant that I had a wide range of experienced siblings to care for me. I would make sure when decorating thanksgiving space to put Kames, Helen, Elaine, Lloyd, Robert and Darryl front and center. I would ask that all of their children and grandchildren stand so I could give thanks. I love being an uncle. I love all of my family. I miss them all terribly on days like today. I am grateful for what God gave me in family.

There would be my teachers who taught me and mentored me. I would invite them to stand with me so that I might thanks them all. From Acreman Elementary, to Ridgewood Junior High, to St George’s High School, to Memorial University, to Huron University College, To McCormick Theological Seminary. I am grateful for what gave me in teachers. There would be priests and ministers of the church that I would need to include –There would be parishioners from five parishes of which I have been a member since my baptism. whose names are too many to list. There would be friends from long ago and friends recently made who would also need to stand and ustake their place. There would be caregivers, doctors, and healers for whom I need to give thanks. I am grateful for what God has given me in teachers, friends, and mentors.

I would keep a place at the very front for my wife Catherinanne. I am so thankful for her, for her patience with me, and her kind and loving support. I am grateful for what God gave me in Catherinanne.

Miester Ekhart said – ‘If the only prayer you ever say is Thank You – That would be enough!” We all have things for which we might be thankful — today I encourage you to think and pray about the people for whom you are thankful. For whom do you give thanks…?
Let’s hear it…..

Love, Craftsmanship, Generosity

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We are called to love one another.
What does that look like?

Here are two images -

First is posted on Facebook by my colleague in Ministry Lyndon Hutchinson-Housell:

10614224_10152431008152621_554288705980257964_n  The second image is from a book a book I am reading and are the words of Pope Fransis

IMG_20141008_225418

So I want to hear from you. Leave a Comment is at the top of the post. Reading these two post – please discuss in the comments section — How does ‘How Much we love look to you?” How much labour is involved in that loving. ….

discussion-1

I want to hear from you

The Continual Love Song – A Face in a Crowd

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I have been reading Francis Spufford’s Book Unapologetic: Why, Despite spufford-unaplogeticEverything, Christianity can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. While not for the delicate, this book is a convincing defence of Christianity and a rebuttal of not just Atheists like Richard Dawkins, but also speaks in a powerfully clear manner about how Christianity makes sense in our increasingly secular culture. Some would say this book is irreverent in its tone, I disagree. I think the language he uses is direct and honest. It’s a language that an increasingly secular world understands. I really enjoyed reading the book. A former atheist, Spufford makes clear why Christianity has made great sense in his own life,  and why he believes that it can make a difference for others. He skewers the simplicity of some of the anti-Christian jargon and slogans that have become popular among those who see no sense in religion, and Christianity in particular. The passion with which he writes bears witness to how faith has shaped his life. I write to to review the whole book so much as to relate my experience with one chapter of the book in particular.

A couple of evenings ago I read his chapter entitled – Hello Cruel World. In this chapter is writes about the problem of pain. If God is all powerful and all knowing and able to change or do anything – why is there suffering? He posits that for Christians the cruelties of this world are given and instead of anguishing about why the world is as it is, we look for comfort in coping with it as it is. “We don’t ask for a creator who can explain himself. We ask for a friend in time of grief, a true judge in time of perplexity, a wider hope than we can imagine in time of despair…Given the cruel world, it’s the love song we need, to help us bear what we must; and, if we can, to go on loving.” He argues that Christians have a particular way of understanding that love song. He wonderfully draws a picture of Jesus as the Love Song and his passion as a reminder that we never walk alone and that our suffering is something that God cared enough about to become one with us. In describing his own view of prayer he writes:

When I pray, I am not praying to a philosophically complicated absentee creator. When I manage to pay attention to the continual love song, I am not trying to envisage the impossible-to-imagine domain beyond the universe. I do not picture kings, thrones, crystal pavements, or any of the possible cosmological updatings of these things. I look across, not up; I look into the world, not out or away. When I pray I see a face, a human face among other human faces. It is a face in an angry crowd, a crowd engorged by the confidence that it is doing the right thing, that it is being virtuous. He looks tired and frightened and battered by the passions around him. But he is the crowd’s focus and centre. The centre of everything, in fact, because if you are a Christian you do not believe that the characteristic action of the God of everything is to mould the course of the universe powerfully from afar. For a Christian, the most essential thing God does in time, in all of human history, is to be that man in the crowd; a man under arrest, and on his way to our common catastrophe.

These are very assuring words for me. They speak to me. These words remind me that in my darkest hour, against all odds, there is a friendly Face in the crowd. While Divine, that face is a fully Human Face. That Face has faced its own anger, its own judgement, and scared by its own pain. These words are a powerful reminder to me the indeed, the most essential thing God does is become that Face in a crowd. To see friendly eyes in a time of trial is a great gift – It is the gift God has given us. “Our common catastrophe…’ is a powerful way to describe what we all face. We all suffer at one point or another. For the Christian, in the night-time of our fear, we search for that Face in the crowd who stands with us and illumines our darkness.

St Paul in Philippians reminds us of that Face who has joined the crowd and its common catastrophe;

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as
something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

In Jesus, we have the witness of one who emptied himself and took on human likeness – a human face and suffered, even to the point of death. So, we need not look up – or out. We need only to look across and look in – into the world which God has created. Spufford has it right. God is wonderfully Incarnational. God is among us! It can be terribly hard at times in the mass of people and the crush of pain around us to spot a single friendly Face – but that Face is there – and that face is indeed a Song of Continual Love….. It may seem hard to spot at times…. but look hard – look across, look in….there is a God of Love among the crowd… keep looking….

With Open Hands – London Deanery Embraces Opportunity

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Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

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The above prayer is a call to let go. We are all busy accumulating. And when not accumulating we are protecting our own. Indeed we are fearful of what we would be without what we are grasping on to. This consumer ideology has an impact not just on our individual lives but it also affects ministry in the church. We forget, very quickly, that it is God’s church; forget that we come to God’s community as an offering. We take the ownership issues into our communities with us. This leads to conversations that all too often focus around ‘my ministry’ or even ‘our ministry.’ With ‘the our’ really meaning a small and focused group.

In the Anglican Church, which is an Episcopal tradition, with diocesan structures, we should understand ourselves as family. We should see ourselves as a church that does better when we work in support of one another. But the me first, ours first world that we exist in has lead at times to parochialism and silo-ing. This is not a help to 20141004_202007us in our present state as we are all facing a rapidly changing landscape. Our isolationist attitudes cause us to miss opportunities to celebrate together, as well as lose opportunities to support one another in the challenges of living as faithful communities in these difficult times.  In many ways the church is in need of letting go – of opening our clenched fists. The church desperately needs to embrace standing before and God and before one another with open hands.

A little of a year ago, with the direction of the Bishop of Huron Robert Bennett and our Suffergan Bishop Terrance Dance, four Deaneries came together in the London area to create a new Deanery of London. There were, and there remain, many skeptics. There was plenty of conversation about what we lose in coming together. Despite all of that, twenty seven parishes became one Deanery of London. Forty clergy in one clericus, and nearly two hundred members of Deanery Council. One of the first orders of business was to covenant with one another about who we wanted to be. To my delight, much of the conversation we had with both clericus and with Deanery Council revolved around finding ways to share our stories, to learn more about and from one another, and how we might share ministries. This was very much a conversation about opening our clinched fists and standing together with open hands. There was/is a real desire to leave behind past habits putting our need needs ahead of those of others.

It has only been a year. It’s early to draw any conclusions. That said, I want to share how exciting it was to be present at our first London Deanery Fair. The Deanery Council Executive, having heard the people of God ask for opportunities to get to know one another and learn from one another, planned an evening for our parishes to display to one another the work that is being done to advance the Kingdom of God in the London Deanery. Parishes came to our first Ministry Fair with information about a strong ministry from their parish and with questions about ministries that t20140930_191725hey might be struggling with that other parishes could help with. It was a great night. Seventeen of our twenty parishes fully participated, and filled the room with picture boards, PowerPoint Presentations, food displays, clothing displays — and on the list goes. The Kingsmill Room at Huron University College was full of about a hundred souls who were all standing with open hands – offering, and seeking, giving and receiving. It was really a great moment for us in our young life together as a new deanery. 20140930_191537

I want to offer thanks to Dr Stephen McClatchie for his expertise in helping our new Deanery articulate what they want and who they wish to be. I would be remiss if I did not also offer thanks from our Deanery Executive to Murray Hunter, who keep our feet to the fire and made sure we had a strong response. And thank you most of all to all who lead in this deanery – Lay and Ordained who took the time to make informative displays, to attend the tables, and for all of your openness and questions. It was a great evening that allowed us an opportunity to better appreciate what God has given us in one another. We are a rich and diverse deanery with much to celebrate. When we stand together with open hands, we are fully open to what the Holy Spirit is doing. May we continue to live, learn, and grow together.

Here’s to an end to clenched fist and to the warm embrace of open hands.

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Archdeacon Sam Thomas and Regional Dean Kevin George

Archdeacon Sam Thomas and Regional Dean Kevin George

St Aidan's Table.  Front - Suzanne Gautreau and Pat Ferguson, Back - Kevin George and Anne Jaikaran

St Aidan’s Table.
Front – Suzanne Gautreau and Pat Ferguson, Back – Kevin George and Anne Jaikaran

What I do is Me: For That I came.

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Small pleasures are a gift of God’s giving. Learning to enjoy them is also a gift. Last Friday I was privileged to have part of an afternoon enjoying an appropriate adult beverage with a couple of our pastoral visitors from St. Aidan’s. This afforded the three of us opportunity to chat about the nature of God, God’s community, and authentic witness in compassion and care for one another. Must have really freaked the bartender out! Not your run of the mill pub conversation – but there you have it. Three pilgrims on a journey, a beverage or two, some stilton cheese and olives, and voila – Theological reflection. Don’t get me wrong; these same three people are quite capable of discussing the potential ALCS Pennant race, the pending NHL Season or who we picked to win this Sunday’s games, but on this day there just seemed to be more pressing matters. We had opportunity to share some thoughts about how we see God at work in our community, in our lives, and in the world. For me, it was a special gift.

In the midst of our dialogue one my partners in theological reflection quoted Gerard Manley Hopkins poem – As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying, What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Christ — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Pertinent to our conversation was the line “What I do is me: for that I came.”  What brought us to that line was a recounting of a Nadia Bolz-Weber’s radio interview on the CBC on Friday. You can hear the podcast here. Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran Pastor of a Church called All Sinners and All Saints.

NADIA BOLZ-WEBER

NADIA BOLZ-WEBER

She stands out as a pastor because of her many tattoos and piercings. I brought up the interview in our bar side chat because I was impressed with one exchange in particular. She was asked by Tapestry host Mary Hynes, “Did you have to check a lot of yourself at the door when you became a pastor?” Her answer was a swift – “No – if that has been necessary I would not have been ordained…I do not have a pastoral persona!” I found these words a comfort. She went on to talk about how she is a human being like everyone else and about how those who were placed upon pedestals have fallen pretty hard. In fact, in her experience, she said, people want authenticity and integrity in religious leaders.

So, with when we delved into what it means to be authentic in ministry, one of my fellow tavern theologians without hesitation recited this great line from that great poem. “What I do is me: for that I came.” We have been all sent. God did not get bored with Incarnation after the Christmas event. God continues to be made manifest as we, the Body of Christ, make real the presence of God. ‘Christ plays in ten-thousand places.’  Gerard Manley Hopkins captures well how God is at work in the created order. What I do is me: for that I came – when we abandon who we are and expend energy trying to mold ourselves to fit another’s expectations, another’s demands and another’s vision of who they think we should be, I believe it not just an offence to our personhood, it is an offence God. We are God’s beloved. We are all sent with something quite unique and quite sacred. What we are sent with is our flawed, imperfect, and vulnerable self. We are sent with our giftedness, and our unique selves. We are sent with the best of who we are and the worst of who we are – and God works with it all. What I do is me: for that I came. Julian of Norwich wrote – “God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall.”  We spend too much time being tormented by the notion that our failings or our shortcoming have made us less loveable. God’s love for us has never diminished. It has been with us before we were made – in fact I believe that love that God has for us is not only not diminished – it increases. What I do is me: for that I came. 

I am grateful for small pleasures in life. I am blessed to have people who engage in Theology in front of Taps. I offer thanks to my friends for the gift of time last Friday. What I do is me: for that I came. 

Have We Begun to be Christians?

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The great social activist and founder of The Catholic Worker Movement Dorothy Day once posited, “Have we even begun to be Christians?”

It’s a great question. When we consider questions about what we see in our world, our country , our neighbourhoods etc, we should be asking, have we begun to be Christian? When we consider the fact that we can get so wrapped up in political turmoil over issues that are remote to the teachings of Jesus while poverty, war and lack of community run rampant, we should be asking, ‘have we begun to be Christians?’ When we consider how we respond to our fear of those who are different, those who are considered the enemy even, we really ought to be asking ‘have we begun to be Christians?’ It’s a great question.

The question is really born out of the difference between what we profess and what we practice. We are a people who follow ‘the way’ of Jesus. We are a people who have a manuscript which tells a story whose truth is far greater than the words on its pages. We are a people called to love, to forgive, to heal, to embrace, to feed, to clothe, to console, to repent, to challenge unjust structures, to bear witness to Jesus and the way of nonviolence. Dorothy Day’s question is powerful because in its direct simplicity it convicts the church it’s hypo cry with respect to what we profess and what we practice.

I have been reading Scott Evans Book Closer Still . Noting the disparity between what is taught by church and what is implied, he writes;

“I was told that God celebrated my creativity and exuberance… But I was supposed to be quiet during the service. I was told that God accepted me just the way I am… But I needed to dress smart to come to church. I was taught that God forgave all my sins… but God’s followers seemed to have the memory of a herd of elephants.”

Those words really lept off the page/screen at me. Mostly because I could not help but think about my own church community. I know that we work hard to let the world know that Children are valued members of our congregation. That said, I am also keenly aware of the complaints of a small number of people in recent weeks because of the joyful sounds of children during worship. I know that we would tell anyone and everyone – come as you are! Yet, I have been questioned about my own choice of attire for worship. We want people to be welcomed at our church, yet I have witnessed people being asked to move from a pew because it is ‘my seat.’ I know that we espouse that we are a forgiving people. That said, I am keenly aware that there are times we struggle with moving past some transgressions that may go back a long way.

All of this leaves me asking ~ ‘Have we begun to be Christians?’

I hasten to add here that this reflection is no more an indictment of my church community than it is of the Church in general. I am pretty sure that if we are honest, we can all tell similar tales about our church communities. We have work to do. The Church has work to do! Scott Evans, rightly identifies that there is a need for us to examine the messages that we send by what we imply as well as what we communicate by how we actually practice.

This puts us in an exciting place. We have opportunity before us as a people of God. We have before us a call to examination. We have opportunity to discern what we imply about who we are and how it jives with what we are actually practicing? I am excited by the fact that so many of our members respect the contributions of children, could care less about attire, actively offer their seat to the newcomer, have the maturity of faith to forgive and are actively living out their baptismal ministry. The church has wasted far too much time with a small few whose membership at church is less about faith in practice as much as it is about status and control.

As the Church struggles with declining membership and declining relevance in the world around us, we have this golden opportunity to let the Spirit speak. The People of God are ready to bring together the inclusive and loving message of Jesus and the faith practice of our communities. We have the opportunity of a lifetime. People will want to belong to community that love authentically. I pray that the Church will engage in a process of radical discernment. My prayer is that as we discern who were are that we may ask that all important question ~ ‘have we begun to be Christians.’

We will make a big difference by beginning with intentional and small efforts. Dorothy Day also wrote;

“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

Let’s get to work…

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Thankful for Hard Working Parents

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I was making a pot of soup this morning and it got me thinking about Labour Day…. Strange I know …..but I’ll explain…..

Labour Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday in September to honour the achievement of workers. Labour Day has it has its origins in the labour movement. We in no small measure have to thank the labour movement for the current working conditions and benefits that we enjoy in this country. For me Labour Day, is also an opportunity to give thanks for all hard work and those who are not afraid of it. I was fortunate to grow up in a home where the utmost value was placed on hard work. My father worked hard his entire life and instilled in all of us a strong work ethic. All that being said, when I think of hard work, one of the first people comes to my mind is our mother.

Vivian George, my mother, married my father at age 17. She moved to a new community took on responsibility for her in-laws, and began raising a family. Over the first 21 years of her nearly 60 year marriage she gave birth to seven children. She spent the next nearly 40 raising us and helping us raise our own families. Mom is an inspiration.

Mom worked hard every day – she laboured in her full time role of mother. Sometimes the work was difficult, the hours long, and often thankless. But my mother reported daily without complaint. What she do for us was in no way a secondary role. When I visit mom now in Long Term Care, and hold her hand, I am reminded of all the work those hands did for me and for my siblings. Those beautiful hands suffered cold for us. They were burned in ovens for us. They were cut when preparing meals for us. They were dirty from cleaning up after us. They often got wet from wiping tears from us. They are hands that have been loving in acts that are great and small. Holding mom’s hand is to hold a reminder of the loving, caring, encouraging, supportive and strong hands of a hard working person who never complained about her work – a woman who loves her family. Mom worked long hours and she was always there when needed. When I was an adolescent mom took a job outside the home – but she did not give up the work she had at home as well. Sometimes that meant working long hours in a nursing home and coming home and diving into her role as mother. That responsibility never suffered.

At this point in time with mom in Long Term Care and me a good journey away from her, it’s often small things that bring mom to mind daily. Today it was the pot of soup. One of the little things mom and I had was around soup. Mom always put a can of Campbell’s Soup into her homemade soups. It was the final ingredient. Once she put it in she would ladle up some of the soup into the can and give it to me. My treat was piping hot soup out of the soup can before the others got some – perk of being the youngest! This was followed by by the questions; Are the vegetables boiled? Is it salted enough? It’s not too salty is it? Answers were generally yes, yes, and no. When I make soup I still take a can of soup first. Mentally ask myself the same questions. And on a day like today – offer thanks for the tender and caring ways my mother worked hard raising me, and my six siblings.

So on this Labour Day I thank you Mom for showing us how to work hard and excel in a vocation. I thank you mom for modelling hard work for us all.

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And I offer this prayer from Forward Day by Day ….

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but
for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labour, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out
of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Life ~ A Gift to Cherish not a Problem to be Solved


I found this gem of advice on the World Wide Web earlier. It is from an unknown source. I thought – this would be good to share with others.

You can’t be all things to all people.
You can’t do all things at once.
You can’t do all things equally well.
You can’t do all things better than everyone else.
Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.

So:
You have to find out who you are, and be that.
You have to decide what comes first, and do that.
You have to discover your strengths, and use them.
You have to learn not to compete with others,
Because no one else is in the contest of *being you*.

Then:
You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness.
You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions.
You will have learned to live with your limitations.
You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due.
And you’ll be a most vital mortal.

Dare To Believe:
That you are a wonderful, unique person.
That you are a once-in-all-history event.
That it’s more than a right, it’s your duty, to be who you are.
That life is not a problem to solve, but a gift to cherish.
And you’ll be able to stay one up on what used to get you down.
— author unknown

It’s not earth shattering – but it is good advice. I am finding that it is difficult to ever be enough, do enough, be fair enough, exceed enough. I have discovered that ‘my humanity is showing.’ I love that expression in this piece – we all have our ‘humanity showing.’

I pray tonight that God give me the patience to accept my own uniqueness and my own limitations. May we understand that God has indeed given us life as a gift to cherish and not a problem to be solved.

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