“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” – Socrates
I am no philosopher – but I am happy. That should tell you all you need to know!
Last night we attended the Battle of the Atlantic Commemoration dinner at HMCS Prevost. Each year we celebrate BOA it is special. It is special to mark the end of that six year conflict and pray for and end to conflict and war everywhere. But for us each year it is special because it always falls on our wedding anniversary. It is also neat because Catherinanne wore her Naval Mess kit when we wed. Now every year on the weekend of our wedding anniversary Catherinanne outs on her wedding outfit – and out we go. I think it is pretty special that she still looks great in her wedding attire from 17 years ago. I told the church this morning that I would not attempt to fit in the outfit I wore to our wedding 17 years ago – it would be like trying to put 20 lbs of sausage in a 10 lbs skin!
But I digress. This year seemed a little extra special. I am not sure why. I think it may have to do with living in the Forest City. We were married at St. Peter’s Basilica in downtown London. Heading out the door at 545 pm last night I could not help but think about how we were getting up from our dinner together at Ahso Gardens (now burned down) on the night of our wedding. It was neat to be within a kilometer or two of the church at 7:30 pm knowing that 17 years ago we were walking down the aisle together.
As we shared the details of our wedding with our table guests, the officer at my right says, “well that means I was in a sword party waiting for your wedding to be over.” I had almost forgotten the time honoured naval tradition of having the bride and groom walk beneath an arch of swords. Now I was breaking bread all those years later with a member of that sword party. It was a good night last night – it was an even better night on May 04, 1996! We had so much fun that day – a lot of laughs. A beautiful liturgy at St Peters with an Anglican and Roman Priest, an Anglican and a Roman Choir, trumpets, violins, pipe organ … It was a music event! Riding around town with my buddy Craig, Dad and Mom, two sisters, and my brother and his wife was just hilarious. A wonderful reception at Wolesley Barracks. It was a wonderful night.
Catherinanne is a great partner and loving wife. I am pleased to see her in her ‘wedding gown’ annually – it reminds me of how very beautiful she is and how exciting that day was. More than that it reminds me how fortunate I am to have someone with me on this journey who shares my faith and understands me – complicated ….and simple… as I can be. Thank you Catherinanne – I love you!
I am no philosopher – But I am happy! I Got a good one!
For Christians, this weekend is the ‘Superbowl’ of the year! This is where it all happens for us. As I write this, I am preparing to offer several different Homilies/Sermons throughout Holy Week as we have a different church service every single day. Easter celebrates our very reason for being. As I get ready for this wonderful feast, I find myself thinking about the full church that we will have come Sunday.
I can be assured that there will be people at church at Easter that we have not seen for weeks, or even years, or even ever. This is a time of year when people think of going to church when on other Sundays they would never consider going. This article is directed to those you who do not come regularly and who like to get out to church at Christmas or at Easter. I have a word of advice for all of you who seeking to come when you have not been in so long. – PLEASE COME! COME AND JOIN US FOR EASTER CELEBRATIONS. – You will be welcomed and you will not be disappointed. By us, I mean not just St. Aidan’s (although I guess it would be true to say that I see our church as good a choice as any other) but any worshipping community near you.
I also have a message for all of those who attend a church regularly each week. I have heard horror stories from seekers who muster up the courage to head out to a church when they have not been in so long, only to be greeted by a do-good Christian who offers a remark like, “What are you doing here. I hope the rafters don’t cave in.” So to you who are regular attendees I say: LISTEN UP! Look around you! On most Sundays there are seats for new people. Scaring off newcomers by being inhospitable is not only foolhardy given that all churches wish to grow; it is contrary to the way of Jesus. When we turn away the stranger, we turn away Jesus. So when you see the seeker come through the door this Easter, give up your ‘regular’ seat so that she can be comfortable. Invite the newcomer to your coffee hour or time of fellowship after church. Celebrate the joy of knowing that Light that defeats darkness. Celebrate that empty tomb by offering friendship and hospitality and community to those who come looking for it. It is what the Resurrected Christ calls us to.
So I invite everyone to join us for an uplifting celebration. Our worship at this time of year holds up the notion that death has no dominion over us. We are a people who revel in the resurrection. Come and be with us, whether it has been a week, a decade, or a lifetime, or never since you last attended church. We will be better for having you join us!
Our Schedule this week includes:
Tuesday – 7 PM
Wednesday 7 PM
Holy Thursday 7 PM
Good Friday 10:30 AM
Saturday 8 PM (THE GREAT EASTER VIGIL)
Easter Sunday 8 AM and 10:30 AM
Tariq Ramadan, visited London last night. Often described as the Muslim Martin Luther, this scholar did not disappoint those who came to hear someone who could live up to that billing. The hour long address was filled with insight, challenge, and a call to action for people of all faiths – even more — people who hold to belief, even agnostics and atheists It was a lot to process while in Centennial Hall. But his words have been marinating my mind since coming away from there and I am grateful to have heard this man of God speak.
Ramadan reminded the 500 or so gathered that holding on to your truth and knowing that truth requires no apologies to others. He insisted that knowing of our truth, and being faithful to that truth gives us the freedom to hear another’s truth. Truth, he reminded us, is not ours to own – it’s is God’s truth. His address was a call to listening. It was a call to humility. ‘One’s truth,’ he said, ‘is not the problem. Arrogance is the problem. We must approach one another with humility.’ We cannot approach the other with the desire to tell him or her why she or she is wrong; we must have a curiosity that would give us the freedom to listen and to hear one another. ‘Humility first,’ insisted Ramadan, ‘there is no pluralism with arrogance!’ In the The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism, Ramadan writes;
“Humility is my table, respect is my garment, empathy is my food and curiosity is my drink. As for love, it has a thousand names and is by my side at every window.”
This rule of life was evident in his time with us last evening. He was generous and gentle, he was challenging and provocative, but in all of it he was respectful, empathetic and loving. Even when challenged by a difficult questioner, he maintained a posture of humility, listening and respect.
I was most impressed that he called on all citizens to be proactive. “A Passive citizen is a contradiction. A passive citizen is a consumer.” We all have a truth, and we all feel strongly about goodwill. What are we doing about the injustice that we see around us? Ramadan, in one of the few moments of raising his voice above a comfortable conversational tone, declared “charity without justice lacks dignity!” Ramadan posited that while religion does not live without culture, and culture does not live without religion – religion and culture are not the same. Ramadan’s address was a call to discern those things in culture and in the society around us that offend our shared truth and act. “With your principals, become the voice of dignity. Show me your truth with your actions!”
It was in every way an inspiring evening. Congratulations to Kings College campus Ministry on a great event that was timely, important and well received. I pray that we respond to what we heard by working in humility to work with others to address the injustices that we see around us. I pray we always remember our call to be a voice for the voiceless — Yes Tariq — “A passive citizen is a contradiction!
“No one must ever let power or social, economic, or political interest turn him or her away from other human beings, from the attention they deserve and the respect they are entitled to. nothing must ever lead to a person to compromise this principle or faith in favour of a political strategy aimed at saving or protecting a community from some peril. The freely offered, sincere heart of a poor, powerless individual is worth a thousand times more in the sight of God than the assiduously courted, self-interested heart of a rich one.” – Tariq Ramadan
Much of the world today was captivated by what was happening in Rome. Millions around the world watched looking for smoke to fly from a chimney. Smoke rising to indicate that a church which has faced many challenges in recent years has made a decision about who its new leader would be. I came out of a meeting this afternoon to discover on Twitter that indeed white smoke had risen from the Sistine Chapel. I decided I would head home and turn on the TV to watch the ensuing moments and the revelation of who this new Pope would be.
I must admit, the images as televised were spectacular. The more than 100,000 people who had filled the square waited with an unbelievable expectation to meet their new leader. Every moment seemed to be over analyzed. Whether it was a turning on of the light, a person peering through the window, or the subtle movement of the curtain, commentators were absolutely fixated on every move and anxious to see the new leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics worldwide.
As the new Pope was about to be announced and the excitement in Rome elevated, it was a curious sight for me. I became aware that I was watching history unfold before my eyes. I was also was keenly aware of how pivotal this moment is for the Roman Catholic Church. Many would agree that the challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church dictate that change is needed. Who would be the new pope be? Would the new pope be capable of embracing change? Would the Cardinals elect someone akin to John XXIII who ushered in great change in the church in the early 1960s?
Then the announcement came – Jose Mario Bergoglio from Argentina would be the new pontiff. His chosen name would be Pope Francis I. Almost immediately all agreed the this choice was a surprise. His choice of name is in itself am indication that change may be in the air.
When he took to the microphone to speak he appeared humble and he appeared sincere. He opened his remarks candidly and with humour – Wishing everyone a good evening, and suggesting that the Cardinals had gone to the ends of the earth to find the new Bishop of Rome. Most impressive to me, however, was what came next. After offering a prayer for the Pope Emeritus, he suggested that before he would give a blessing to the people assembled he wanted a blessing from them. He said;
And now I would like to give the blessing, but first — first I ask a favour of you: before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.
(In silence people prayed)
Now I will give the Blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.
(Then he offered his blessing)
I was quite impressed, that Pope Francis I would seek the blessing of the people before turning to bless men AND women of goodwill everywhere. The church is after all, the people. What Francis I has now been entrusted with is the care of God’s people. Seeking the blessing of God’s people as he begins this important ministry, is a good sign of things to come.
This man’s willingness to witness to his faith to this point in his life has been remarkable. His love for simplicity, and his willingness to be with those who are disenfranchised and the poor is impressive. Now he assumes a role of highest authority in the greatest halls of power in the Christian church. The challenges are immense. My prayer is that he be guided by the Holy Spirit do that which will bring healing, love, hope, forgiveness, and renewal to the Roman Church. It is a monumental task – some might say impossible. I pray in the words of St Francis of Assisi that he “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly he will be doing the impossible.”
Is it a time of Renewal? I am hopeful that it is!
I have been spending some time these past few days reading Reggie McNeil’s Missional Renaissance. It is a great book and should be reading for all who are in leadership positions in the church. The book is focused on calling the church to come to grips with the fact that our long-term viability will be determined by our ability, or our lack of ability, to address the needs of the culture in which we have been planted. He draws a very clear distinction between member cultured church and a mission cultured church. The member cultured church is something that most of us who attend mainline Christian denominations in North America have all become very accustomed to. It has been bred into us in fact. Our churches are often focused on membership issues, attendance, property issues, budgets and how we can maintain the status quo. A member culture views the many aspects of our culture as silos. That is to say politics, business, school, social life, technology, etc. all exist as separate silos. In that reality church also becomes its own silo. This means, of course that we become an institution which is in competition with other silos in our culture. We try to recruit and find resources and people from other silos. McNeal asserts that we become an institution which works very hard at hiding a lamp under a bushel basket. The missional church on the other hand sees no need for separate silos, or segregation away from the many and varied areas of influence in our culture. Rather than being focused inwards and solely on its own need, the missional church is clearly directed outward to the community in which it has been placed.
In his book I read these words;
The missional church understands that God has his people – His missionaries – deployed across all domains of culture…This deployment is what God has in mind when he designated his people to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19; 1 Peter 2; Revelation 4). This commission didn’t anticipate a bunch of people tied up doing church work, insulated from the culture that needs priesting. God had a mission in mind that everyone could participate in, a far cry from a member culture that gathers on Sunday to watch a few people exercise their gifts.
Reading those words caused me to stop, …reread, …pause, …reread again,…and think about who we are and how we behave as church in this 21st-century. McNeal is pointing out, in rather stark terms, the dichotomy that exist between who God has called us to be, and who we have become. Sadly, we often spend time organizing ourselves as church at the expense of actually being a mission minded people. Our church work restricts our ability to be the focused church of disciples that God has commissioned us to be. Anyone who is ever served in any leadership capacity – either lay or ordained – can testify to the fact that often times the church can be guilty of paralysis of analysis!
In the midst of this Lenten season, I find myself praying about how we as an institution can refocus our attention in such a way as to embrace the mission that we have been given by Jesus. McNeal calls the church to refocus its attention away from mere survival, to embrace the passion of the early church. The early church had a sense of energy, and excitement, and verve for the Gospel of hope, and love. The early church sought to make disciples of all nations. It sought to do so by showing love towards others. Perhaps this Lenten season is a time for us to remember what those before us have done to build the kingdom. It did not involve a program. It did not come from large church meetings. It was not invented through a committee. It was advanced with the power of Christ-like love.
Missional Jesus followers believe that the way they demonstrate love and service will intrigue people to pursue getting to know the God who inspires such service. Using the life of Jesus and the early years of the church as their reference point, they maintain that an authentic expression of faith requires Jesus followers to adopt an intentional life of blessing people. This, they believe, demonstrates the heart of God for people. Any and every follower of Jesus, not just a select few, can demonstrate God’s love.
How can each of us better express the love of God to others who we encounter every day? McNeil has readily identified that the work of growing a community of faith is not the purvey of just a few, but is the loving and exciting work of the body of Christ. It is the work of all of God’s people. It is the work of the priesthood of all believers. Each child of God is called to be more than just a member of a single silo or congregation. Each of us is called to be intentional about blessing, loving, embracing, forgiving, and welcoming others – that intentionality becomes a great demonstration of God’s love.
When I ponder how God has been most active and most powerful in my life, I realize that it has always been in the authentic expressions of love that the people of God have shown me. Wouldn’t you say that it was the same for you? Don’t get me wrong. I am sure that many of us have seen those expressions of love played out at a meeting or a committee. But I rather suspect that we have more often found it in intimate moments between ourselves and people of faith who have shown us the face of Jesus. As we think about that, I pray that our Lenten journey may cause us to ask how we may find more authentic expressions of evangelism. I pray that we might come to understand that each of us have opportunities on a daily basis, with authentic expressions of love, to bring people closer to God.
We are well into our Lenten season, but maybe we still have time for a discipline. perhaps we can give up being a member cultured church. And perhaps we might take up being a missional cultured church.
This past Sunday I was greeted by one very exited 4 year old named Kyleigh who burst through the doors of St. Aidan’s. She was excited to share some news with me. She was full of the excitement that children teach us we should all be full of…it was awesome …. but more about her excitement later….
I wish we all burst through the doors of church with that excitement. How can we not be excited on Sunday mornings? People of faith who belong to communities must be jacked up about coming together on Sunday. It is that time of the week when we come together, when we see one another, we embrace, when we voice our prayers, offer our praise, seek our refuge, make our offering, and break bread together. It is the time that we come around the table together. I get excited about Sundays. I really do! In fact I also get excited about Wednesdays! We now have a regular worshipping community on Wednesday Mornings. It’s a smaller group and allows for a more intimate expression of worship. After Wednesday church we usually go out for lunch together. Lunch usually allows for extended conversation, debate, dialogue, reflection. It is time well spent together. It is a delightful time together and is open to all who would like to come.
Yesterday after church some of us were discussing the importance of relationship. We were lamenting the loss of time for families around the dinner table in our frenetic society. I shared that I learned what it means to be a George at the dinner table. Daily, we would share time around the table and we would hear each other’s story. There was a main story teller – my Dad. Sometimes we would hear the same stories many times. The beauty was they never really got old. Even though we might have heard the story before, we knew that it was important to hear them again. We all shared the stories of who we were around that table. Our common story was shared.
If you asked most people about the most intimate pieces of furniture in their house, most would answer bed. But I ask, How about the table — .
Henri Nouwen writes:
The table is one of the most intimate places in our lives. It is there that we give ourselves to one another. When we say, “Take some more, let me serve you another plate, let me pour you another glass, don’t be shy, enjoy it,” we say a lot more than our words express. We invite our friends to become part of our lives. We want them to be nurtured by the same food and drink that nurture us. We desire communion. That is why a refusal to eat and drink what a host offers is so offensive. It feels like a rejection of an invitation to intimacy. Strange as it may sound, the table is the place where we want to become food for one another. Every breakfast, lunch, or dinner can become a time of growing communion with one another.
How very true. It is dining together that we come to know one another. How often when we meet people do we say, “Let’s get together for a meal?” and it is in that getting together that we really get to know one another. Church is just as much an important expression of intimacy around the table. As much as I learned about being a member of the George family around our dinner table, when the people of God come around the table on a Sunday, or any other day, we are learning our shared story. Sometimes we hear those bible stories over and over, but really we should never tire of hearing them told again. Being at worship and being at the dinner table at home have suffered the same challenges. Our frenetic lifestyles have spilled over into our faith practices as well. We allow our busyness to excuse us from the Table with our church family and we miss sharing the meal together… ‘I’ll just say a quick prayer at home,’ is akin to, ‘I’ll grab something in the drive-thru – don’t worry about me.’
Henri Nouwen is right on the mark with how important time together breaking bread is. It is being in communion and we really need to break bread together more often. In the same token, we need to come to the Table on Sundays with excitement.
Let me get back to how Kyleigh fits into all of this. I first met little Kyleigh in July when I joined the people of St. Aidan’s in ministry. She was, to say the least, a little shy and uncertain about this brash clergyperson who was anxious to say hello to her. Week by week we have built a rapport. As might be expected, it has taken some time. This past Sunday was special because Kyleigh burst through the door of the church searching me out to tell me “I MADE THE BREAD, I MADE THE BREAD!” [At St. Aidan’s we use real bread and its usually baked the evening before or even morning of church.] She was soooo excited. She told the Church School teachers, her friends and all who would hear her that she made the bread. Kyleigh had a sleep over with Nan and Pop and had helped make the bread for church. As we gathered as church around the Table and the loaf was brought forward my heart swelled as I could hear her voice from just half an hour earlier – ‘I made the bread.’ When the time came for us all to share the bread, I was filled with joy for our church community. We were all dining on bread offered from little hands with and unbelievably giving and exuberant heart. We are ministering together from our youngest to our eldest. From her little hands, we placed that bread into hands that have toiled for Jesus for many years in our community. She is a reflection of the community that we are and she represents the hope of what the Holy Spirit is unfolding at St. Aidan’s. Before she left church Kyleigh gave me the greatest hug! We are no longer strangers but friends — She made the Bread! I saw Jesus in the breaking of the Bread – Thank you Kyleigh.
“There are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colours and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I.” ― John Steinbeck
Change can be difficult, especially in the Church. But change is an important element of being the Body of Christ. Living as that body demands that we change our colours, and our fires to adapt to the world that God is changing around us. It is not new to suggest that change is a part of God’s design but one might think so the way the body faithful often responds. People react in fear and retreat to what is secure and what is known. But God has often called us to reassess what we have done and where we might need to change.
Hear the words as expressed in Ecclesiastes:
There’s a season for everything
and a time for every matter under the heavens:
a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
a time for killing and a time for healing,
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
a time for searching and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
a time for loving and a time for hating,
a time for war and a time for peace.
These words remind us that we are in flux – always. God does not intend for us to be static – contended with being sedentary. We also read this to know that being a people of God is not binary. We do not have to buy into the notion of one way or another. The ‘line drawing’ mentality that is so often pervasive in the church must be flummoxing to our Creator who knows that our very life itself was gifted to us in change and lived out in change and adaptation. The people of God are being called to turn from catatonia to embrace permutation. While this might be unsettling and often scary, it is also very invigorating and very exciting.
You probably heard that Pope Benedict has decided to resign as Pope. A conclave has been called and there will be a change atop the Roman Catholic church soon. You perhaps heard that a short time ago Justin Welby was named Archbishop of Canterbury succeeding Rowan Williams. There is change that large in the spiritual home of that Anglican office. [This just in - You may have heard that Newfoundlander Michael Ryder is a Montreal Canadien again - changed back to the colours of blue, blanc, et rouge! Change in the Hockey world!] But I must tell you about change that is even more significant than those changes!
This past weekend I was privileged to chair my first annual vestry meeting at St. Aidan’s Church. It was a meeting of the newly formed St. Aidan’s, having brought together the Church of the Hosannas and the former Church of St. Aidan’s. Both congregations voted at special meetings in January to reorganize as a new church community effective February 15, 2013. Our newly formed community has much discernment ahead of it.
“There is a time for planting and a time for uprooting what is planted.” As we now seek God’s direction going forward we have the courage to pluck up that which has been planted. We have the strong leadership of the people of Hosannas to inspire us. Their courage to continue serving God apart from their former place of worship is at the leading edge of all that we seek to do together. We now seek to honour the courage of the folks from Hosannas by asking how we might seek to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. How can we now bring more life and more hope to the community around? Having uprooted what was planted 125 years ago, the people of Hosannas have taken the lead in saying that there is a time to move to a new model seeking God’s direction for where we ought to lay down roots next. Each step forward now is made following these most critical and important first steps.
We also have the hope of the hospitality and willingness of the former St. Aidan’s to open themselves to change and being reshaped by the forging of new relationships that comes with grafting the gifts of two communities to the glory of God and in celebration of God’s gifts to us.
We have much to be thankful for. We intend to continue to seek to broaden the conversation about how we might have a greater influence in the Northwest corner of our city. We are inviting a broader conversation with our brothers and sisters at the Church of the Transfiguration in the near future. We are asking ourselves what stones we may need to throw away and what stones we might need to gather together. There are many worlds and many kinds of days – we pray for direction to be able to change our colour and our fire to match the nature of being church in this day.
I am so fortunate to have been called into the midst of this exciting ministry. I look forward to seeing the many textures and hues that present themselves as we assess how God is at work in our community. So now the work really begins. It is a time to search …..what colour shall we be?
Hopelessly – I am a Detroit Lions fan! When I moved to Tecumseh in 1998 I discovered that many of our Windsor-Essex friends cheered for the Lions. Having been a CFL fan, I had not watched a lot of NFL football – so cheering for the ‘local’ team made sense. So I bought the hat, went to a few games and … Presto – I now cheer for a perennial loser!
So when Super Bowl rolls around each year, like a Leaf fan during the Stanley Cup final, I have to choose a team to cheer for. I become an uninvested spectator (Did I mention – just like a Leaf fan during the Stanley Cup Final?) This year was no different. I thought I might get to be invested in the Super Bowl when the Pats seemed to be marching down the field toward another championship, (on the few occasions before I moved to Windsor-Essex that I watched NFL football, I liked the Patriots – their uniforms are much like my beloved Allouettes) but my hopes were dashed by Ray Lewis and the Ravens. Uninvested as I was I cheered for the 49ers.
So how did I pick who to cheer for last week? Here is the short list;
If you ask me, I say A Raven is a lot like a crow — I loath crows!
The Ravens took out the one team I might actually feel some excitement about.
Jim Harbaugh is the younger brother – youngest brothers are best
John Harbaugh is the older brother – see previous point
I own an autographed Joe Montana print! Joe was great!
Canada joined Newfoundland in 1949. (This may not seem obvious at first – think about it for a while)
The number one reason why I picked the 49ers is Ray Lewis’ special pack with Jesus.
That’s right – Mr. Lewis had his team-mates believing that Jesus had ordained that the Ravens (large crows) were to win the Super Bowl. Why? Because he ‘loved God too much for God t allow a loss.’ Who knew? Here are a couple of Ray Lewisisms:
After defeating the 49ers – “it’s simple: when God is for you who can be against you?”
In response to what he would say to the families of the murder victims whose lost lives resulted in Murder charges against Lewis, (charges were dropped when he plead guilty to obstruction of justice) he said - ‘To the family, if you knew – if you knew the way God works – he don’t use people who commits anything like that for his glory. No way. It’s the total opposite.’
I am thrilled that Ray Lewis openly displays his Christianity to the world. I am gobsmacked at how he does that. One sports expert said that the whole dressing room had bought into the notion that God had given Lewis a message and were all believing that God was on their side. What a pile of bile!
If I am to understand this correctly God, who could be busy with any host of real issues in the world is busy leading the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl Championship? God likes Baltimore better than San Francisco apparently. If I understand correctly, God is fully immersed in the outcome of a football game and has apparently ‘picked’ the Ravens – because if “God is for us…” must mean God is not for the 49ers. Further, God has Lewis for great good because he has had football success. And because God has used God to a greater purpose, Lewis could not possibly be guilty of murder because God would never use a murderer. Wait a minute here — anyone ever hear of David? You know King David from the bible — reference 2 Samuel 11:5-27
What saddens me more is the number of people in America who actually believe that God is invested in the outcome of a commercial exhibition of excess that is worth billions. The Public Religion Research Institute took a poll in January and released the results you see at the right. More than half of Americans would agree with Lewis that God is influencing the outcome of the big game. In some Christian demographics that that number rises to 70%. With all of that in mind I was left with little to know choice -
I cheered for the 49ers and —- They Lost!
I cheered for a team that also had bible believing Christians on it. I cheered for the guys who did not have an arrogant spokesperson saying that God was looking out for them. (They had Randy Moss declaring he is the best receiver of all time – different kind of arrogance). I wanted them to win because I really wanted to know what Ray Lewis would have to say to his teammates after a loss. If they had lost the game would he still have said that this is proof that “if God is for us, who can be against us?”
With my money I will bet that God is not in the business of making football picks! If God is, I await the day when God picks the Lions.
As a footnote — in hockey God is a Montreal Canadiens fan though — right? – kidding!
So how do you pick a winner? — Flip a coin, draw a straw, make a guess — but please leave God out of it!
I have been reading Mike Robbins books “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken.” I would highly recommend it as it is a great reminder of how important it is to be who you are and not who others want or expect you to be. This is not always easy as we all want in some way or another to please someone, or we all want to avoid disappointing another. This can prove difficult because people’s expectations are not something we can have any control over – at all. When we are busy trying to live by another’s measuring rod we are often frustrated at the times we fail to live up to those unrealistic expectations.
You know what I am talking about I am sure. Have you never tried to be what a co-worker expected you to be? A parent expected you to be? A sibling expected you to be? An employee expected you to be? A friend expected you to be? In my context I guess I could add a Bishop expected you to be? A parishioner expected you to be? You get the picture – the list can get pretty mighty. The trouble is, as we work hard at trying to measure up, or not disappoint we lose ourselves in the process. We lose the beloved child that we are. We lose the very essence of what God as created and has deemed good.
In his blog Robins asks;
What if we embraced disappointment instead of avoiding it? It’s inevitable that we will disappoint people, especially when we live our lives in a bold, authentic and passionate way. Speaking up, going for the things that are important to us and taking care of ourselves are all things that at times won’t align with others, and in some cases may even upset them. It is possible for us, however, to be mindful, empathetic and aware of others, and still be true to ourselves — these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
As Dr. Seuss so brilliantly said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
Disappointment, as uncomfortable and even painful as it can be for me and many of us, is essential and important on our journey of growth, self-discovery, authenticity and fulfillment. Making peace with disappointing others allows us to release our erroneous demands for perfection. Letting go of our fear of being disappointed by other people gives us the ability to take more risks and ask for what we truly want.
I think Robins is on to something. In a spiritual context I would suggest that what he is onto is the promise that God loves us and is in love with us. We are beloved. We are not perfect and we cannot be anything or anyone than who we are. With God we are loved unconditionally. No ifs! That is a wonderful gift. Henri Nouwen puts it this way:
What can we say about God’s love? We can say that God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, “I love you, if …” There are no ifs in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances. Does that mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God’s love wouldn’t be real if God didn’t care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God desires to enter into relationship with us and wants us to love God in return.
Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.
How wonderful is that? If we could come to grips with the overwhelming and awesome truth that God’s love for us is unconditional perhaps we could feel more comfortable when we disappoint others or when others disappoint us. If we could drink in the promise that God loves us from before the beginning and will love us to after the end, it might reduce the stress we feel to live by another’s expectation of who we are. If we could hear and heed the words of Henri Nouwen we might be able to just be ourselves — after all everyone else is taken!
Sunday was a big day in the life of a couple of the Anglican Communities in Northwest London. The Church of the Hosannas and as well as St. Aidan’s Church both passed motions to ask our Diocesan Council to allow us to reorganize and become one parish; One community that will strive together to seek the leading of the Holy Spirit in this part of the Forest City.
On Sunday we heard a reading from Paul’s first letter to the people in Corinth. It would appear that folks there needed some instruction on how to be church. Paul shared his wisdom. That wisdom was to remind the people of that first century community that they are not alone. He used the body as a metaphor for the church. “Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many.” As I said on Sunday, I believe that the Church has behaved in a way that might lead one to believe that we have never heard this particular message before. Never mind the thousands of different denominations of Christianity; we have lived in our denomination as if we have never heard these words of Paul. Parochialism is so rampant that we are often unaware of what is happening in the Anglican Church just down the street. In its worse manifestation, we often do not care. Hard as it is to believe, some in our churches are jealous of success in other parishes. Some almost relish it when another community fails or when people leave on church in a desperation or a huff and show up at another. It is easy to forget that when we move people from one Anglican church to the next we are simply rearranging furniture of the deck of … well you know what I mean.
It is in the face of that reality that the Church must now make decisions about how we seek the leading of the Spirit in these very challenging times. Paul’s prescript is unclouded and clear. We are not meant to be in this alone. God chose that we should be community and that we should honour all parts of the community. Each part has a place and brings a gift to the whole. If one hurts we all hurt and if one rejoices we all rejoice. Paul reminds us,
But as it is, there are many parts but one body. So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary… If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it
It would be easy enough for us as Church to look to the weaker Anglican communities in our diocese and simply wait for them to run out of steam, out of energy, out of cash, out of people, out of desire. It would be easy to just ask the last person out to turn off the lights. But it would be to suggest that we cannot see the call of Jesus to be a people who care about a sister, a brother or a community that struggles. Indeed the weakest parts of the body are most necessary! Jesus was always present to the vulnerable first. Those vulnerable often bring the richest expressions of faith.
So having opportunity to be in relationship with Hosannas these past months has been life giving for our community. We hope to broaden our relationships to come to know our friends at other churches in the Northwest to ask how we might be a better witness to Jesus in this Northwest community. In many ways our churches have accepted mediocrity as a sufficient benchmark for bearing witness to Jesus. Yet Paul finishes his instruction in chapter 12 with this: “Use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts. And I’m going to show you an even better way.” For Paul it is about seeking the greatest for God.
It is my prayer that our communities will be better equipped to seek a better, stronger, more fulsome witness of Jesus to the community by coming together. We are better together than we are apart. The many members of this body cannot do God’s work if we are oblivious and inattentive to the pain, suffering, or struggle of another part of the body. We also cannot do it well if we ignore the growth, joy, and strength of other parts of this body called the Church. We are in this together – Many members – One Body!
At St. Aidan’s the motion to reorganize was unanimous. At Hosannas the motion to reorganize passed with great ease. The people at Hosannas are celebrating their 125th Anniversary this year. The decision to reorganize was not easy. The Rev’d Anne Jaikaran has been a good pastor to the people at Hosannas and has offered care, support and love to people who in many ways are grieving.
Because of the good care they have received the people there now know that while they grieve moving from the location in which they have been church, they in no way cease to be church. In a very profound way they will celebrate their 125th Anniversary by acknowledging that they will continue to be church despite the challenges of our old models of ministry. In fact the courage that the people at the Hosannas have displayed is really about new life – it is about resurrection. As we continue to ask questions and seek the leading of the Spirit – it is the faithful folks at Hosannas that are showing leadership. They are using their ambition and love for God to seek the greater gifts and seek a better way. When we lay claim to God’s direction for the church in the Northwest of London, it will be said, that the small and dedicated group of followers at Hosannas made the most important and first steps to lead the church towards a richer and more fruitful expression of the Body of Christ. Thank to The Rev’d Anne Jaikaran, the Wardens, and all followers of Jesus at Hosannas we are given a strong example of being good leaders by making difficult choices. Thanks to the people, the wardens and the followers of Jesus and St. Aidan’s we are given a strong example of being good leaders by making choices that call us into new and dynamic relationships. Thanks to two of these communities we have a seed planted that hopefully will grow. There are more conversations to begin and further prayers to be offered. While Sunday came after six months of relationship building, this was not the end of a process. We must strive for the greater gift — Sunday was the beginning of a journey that I pray will welcome many more travellers on the road.