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Emptiness Transformed


“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I refer to this quite often. Today because it affirms that missing my father who died seven years ago today, does not make me weak, and the pain that I feel due to his absence in my live is made sacred with the patience of God. I can in gratitude be very joyful for the many remembrances of my father. The Divine is present in the emptiness and in the pain. God allows that torment to be transformed into a hidden treasure.  I am very certain of the gift that Robert J George was in my life. I am very certain because the emptiness or the gap that exists because of his absence, allows me to plumb the depths of the authentic relationship we had as father and son. In remembering all that was good in Dad’s life, gifted with a reminder that God loved in him. In remembering all that was struggle in Dad’s life, I gifted with the assurance that God sustained and strengthened him and will sustain and strengthen me in my own trials.

I look at this picture of a day with Dad….. there is an emptiness unfilled…. it is gift! That gift is really transformed into a silent and peaceful joy!

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Scaring Away Woes



Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians and Church music because as she was dying she sang to God. Today is her Feast day. She is a Martyr of the church who was said to have died a pretty terrible death. According to scribes at Wikipedia

 “the officials attempted to kill her by boiling her alive. However, the attempt failed, and she was to be beheaded. The executioner attempted to decapitate her three times unsuccessfully, at which time he fled. Cecilia survived another three days before succumbing. In the last three days of her life, she opened her eyes, gazed at her family and friends who crowded around her cell, closed them, and never opened them again. The people by her cell knew immediately that she was to become a saint in heaven.”

Why she would be singing is a mystery – it is a testimony to why she is a saint.

As a part of my daily prayers today I prayed in thanksgiving for Cecilia and all others who gift us with music, both secular and sacred. When we sing something special happens. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra said “He who sings scares away his woes.” This year I have discovered this to be true. In September I joined the Valleyview Male Chorus. Under the direction of Henry Boldt and Kim Nikkel, this group of nearly 50 men has given me a place to scare away my woes. Gathering once a week with these folks, working hard each week to get the pieces right, I have experienced incredible joy and peace. I have never been in a choir and I had no idea what I was missing. I am quite the novice in this group, but they all are so supportive. We performed last week in Nairn. It was a real high to finally step forward as a group and showcase what we have been working on. It is a vulnerable, and yet, a peaceful experience. I am looking forward to our next performance – we will be at Valleyview Mennonite Church on Dec 11 for a Carol Service in the Evening.

Founder of The Talking Heads David Byrne wrote in his book How Music Works

 “In the early days, I might have gotten on stage and begun to sing as a desperate attempt to communicate, but now I found that singing was both a physical and emotional joy. It was sensuous, a pure pleasure, which didn’t take away from the emotions being expressed—even if they were melancholic. Music can do that; you can enjoy singing about something sad.”

I have come to understand this… and it is helpful in scaring away my woes!


Gracious God, whose servant Cecilia served you in song: Grant us to join her hymn of praise to you in the face of all adversity, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 


Strong Roots


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Be dogged!
You must be persistent.
The odds seem long; So what?
Logic suggests collapse;
“It’s foolish to continue,” declares the detractor.
“The weight of injustice will break you!

What does faith say?
Be determined!
Hang on tightly. Don’t let go.
Foolish? Well good!
“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise,
and God has chosen the weak things of the world
to shame the things which are strong.”

It’s a hard!
It’s exhausting.
“Don’t waste your time,” cries the critic.
“Get what’s yours. That’s hard enough work.”
Too much work? Well good!
“He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth.”

Scripture also says;
“Let your roots grow down into God,
and let your lives be built on God.
Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Good advice? Sure.
Perhaps in addition we might consider showing our roots.
Let the the world view how intertwined and strong our roots really are.
Strong roots! We have them.
Some days when the bough bends to near breaking,
Look down and you will see our roots…

Dorothy Day;
“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer;
“Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.”

Hildegard of Bingen 
“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world—everything is hidden in you.”

Janani Luwum
“While the opportunity is there, I preach the Gospel with all my might, and my conscience is clear before God that I have not sided with the present government which is utterly self-seeking. I have been threatened many times. Whenever I have the opportunity I have told the president the things the churches disapprove of. God is my witness.”

Oscar Romero 
“When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.”

Julian of Norwich 
“He said not ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased’; but he said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome” 

Corrie Ten Boom
“The tree on the mountain takes whatever the weather brings. If it has any choice at all, it is in putting down roots as deeply as possible.”—Each New Day”

Henri Nouwen
“When we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.”

Winnie Whyatt 
“Tears are the enemy of the devil. It’s ok to cry.” 

That’s just a few roots I can see holding me up when I get weary from the negativity and cynicism. There is so much for us to do given the isolationism and tribalism that we are all witnessing. Let’s not let the weariness and negativity of others push us further down. Now is the time to rely on the strength of our faith and the roots that are strongly wound together holding us up to do that which seems foolish to the culture in which we have been called to minister. Our Roots will allow us to love, to speak, to act, to explore our weakness and to stand in solidarity with the weakness of others. And if once and a while that brings tears…. it’s ok. My grandmother had it right. Tears are the enemy of the devil.

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Reverse Advent Calendar


Believe it or not, Advent begins later this month! Who saw that coming? While it may have happened quicker than we thought, it is about to be upon us and  we might begin thinking about how we will live a Holy Advent this year. It becomes increasingly difficult in a consumer culture to remain focused on preparation, expectation, and waiting when the parallel consumer feast titled Christmas has begun in earnest by the end of October. Indeed, it would be fair to say that we could all be forgiven for being to exhausted to celebrate the Church Feast of Christmas by the time it arrives. By the time December 25th rolls around we will have consumed innumerable messages aimed at what we can acquire, what we can consume, and what we ought to buy.

In an attempt to focus our Advent on the season of expectation, of waiting, of penitence, of giving and sacrifice, St Aidan’s is encouraging our folks to take on an Advent Calendar. Most Advent calendars are designed to give a different little gift or chocolate for each day of the Advent Season. This Calendar works in reverse!   Instead of opening a new little gift each day in Advent, we have gift wrapped boxes, to which we add one item each day. This will also allow opportunity for a prayer of Thanksgiving and a prayer for those in need. By Christmas Eve we will have at least 50 gift wrapped boxes of food for the Daily bread Food bank to be delivered by Epiphany!

Hopefully by now you are asking, “How can I get a box?” Easy! Come to St Aidan’s on a Sunday Morning beginning this week (thanks to Sandi Burns) and we will have a box for you. If you are not a Sunday attender – come by the office on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday and we will hook you up. OR comment below that you will take a bix! Advent Begins on November 27 so be sure to get in before then. You live somewhere else other than London? Don’t let that stop you. There are Food banks in need all over the place. Get yourself a sturdy box, gift it a little Christmas Wrap… put it somewhere visible in your home… of you are an early Christmas Tree person – perhaps under the tree… when its complete take it to your local food bank or to a nearby faith community and they will see that it gets where it needs to go.

We have let the Folks at The Daily Bread Food bank know about our efforts and they have offered this list as a help in knowing what to add….

[suggested list — you may have other ideas too]

Pasta (But no Kraft Dinner Please)
Soups of all kinds
Canned Meats and Fishes
Canned Beans
some Gluten Free products are helpful
Rice – Brown and White
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste
Bars of Soap
Shampoo
Tampons/Pads

DURING THE LAST DAYS OF ADVENT
Potatoes
Onions
Carrots
Squash
Turnip
Sweet Potatoes

I am grateful to our Bishop, Linda Nicholls for posting this Meme on her Facebook page and inspiring this effort…
I look forward to seeing the church full of boxes of food for Christmas…

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Am I cursed?


Sometimes life can be one big steamy, stinking pile of horse S#!+! I’m just saying. You all know it to be true. We all have those periods in our lives that just seem to rain cat-piss and in those moments it appears to us that our very being is cursed. Do you ever feel like that? Does it ever seem to you that there is a cloud and it is straight over your head and yours only?

God knows I have felt like that. Henri Nouwen reflected that…

It is an ongoing temptation to think of ourselves as living under a curse. The loss of a friend, an illness, an accident, a natural disaster, a war, or any failure can make us quickly think that we are no good and are being punished. This temptation to think of our lives as full of curses is even greater when all the media present us day after day with stories about human misery.

But as a people of faith who follow the Resurrected Christ, we are reminded that we are a people of hope. What is more, Jesus of Nazareth lived in a manner that always emphasized blessing and not cursing. Jesus in his life in fact declared that the weak and the vulnerable are those who are blessed. He emphasized that God favours those who are weak. Blessed are those who grieve, blessed are those who are poor in spirit, blessed are those who hunger and thirst, blessed are the persecuted. He declared all of this not just in his words but in his witness. He show us the Way. We are the people of the Way… we follow in his footsteps. This means that we can choose the blessings that are placed before us… even in the midst of our suffering, and that we can pass them on to others. As Nouwen puts it,

Jesus came to bless us, not to curse us. But we must choose to receive that blessing and hand it on to others. Blessings and curses are always placed in front of us. We are free to choose. God says, Choose the blessings!

So I invite us all to consider how we may receive the blessing and how we may pass that on to others.

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Celebrations


In this part of the world, the church has a terrible habit of encouraging our folks to take the summer off from church. It’s true. We may mot say it overtly, but think of all the messages we send. Often churches change summer worship hours (until last summer ours was one of them), programming is cut back or all together eliminated, choirs take the summer of off, coffee hours are cut back or eliminated, no meetings, no bible studies, no activity.  Then we have have services after Labour Day with catchy names like, “Gathering Sunday,” “Home Coming Sunday,” “Start Up Sunday,” and the non-apologetic “Welcome Back Sunday!”   It’s as if we put a sign on the door in the last Sunday in June that read’s “Be Back in 9 Weeks!”

The Feast of St Aidan is on August 31st. Each year we commemorate the patron of our church on the Sunday nearest to that day. It’s been a little lackluster in the past because… well it falls in the summer. Sadly St Aidan did not have the good sense to die after Labour Day weekend to make it more convenient on us postmodern Christians. But this year was different. This year we made a conscious effort to go ahead and plan a Patronal Festival. We planned a baptism for you Heathcliff Sheen, we planned a pot luck lunch after church, we ordered the biggest bouncy castle I have ever seen, we put on games for the kids, we had t Aidan himself come by for a visit. Morning church was terrific. People came. The church was ‘open for business’ and it was a ‘Blockbuster Sunday.’ We were celebrating the Celtic Bishop whose pilgrim ministry  has oozed down through the centuries to shape the practice of how our community in the Northwest corner of London does church. Surely a Festival Sunday would require more than a couple of hours on a Sunday Morning. There had to be more. So we planned an evening concert in the back yard. We booked a great Bluegrass band called Kevin’s Bacon Train, who covered everything from Pink Floyd, to Guns and Roses, to The Tragically Hip, to the Bangles. Iain Stevenson a Youth from our parish rocked our yard with great music including Ed Sherran. Anima blessed us with Latin music.  We toasted St Aidan, we danced, we sang, we ate, we celebrated as a parish should. And people came!

Seeing our seniors, our children, our millennials, our gen Xers, our baby-boomers and our seniors dancing together in the back yard with so much joy in the hearts as the sun set on a beautiful summer day in late August was a real gift to this priest. I looked out at everyone Sunday night and quietly prayed – “Thank you God!”

Carrol Belanger is a Warden at St Aidan’s. She is in her first year gaining experience as she goes. She took the lead on this event and planned a wonderful day. Thank you Carrol for your work! You made a great day for so many people on Sunday. You had a great support from Morgan Sherlock and together you recruited a great troop of volunteers. Thank you to all who helped and all who attended. It was the first of many at St Aidan’s.

You can see the Preaching, Baptism of Heathcliff, and some of the after fun on this video

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now REMAINS the Time 


Over dinner tonight I learned that the General Synod had done a recount on last night’s vote… The motion to amend the marriage canon has PASSED! I cannot imagine what the folks in the room must have gone through these last couple of days. I am relieved that the church has taken the decision it has. It’s what I had hoped for and if you read my last post, you will have discerned that I bitterly disappointed when we thought the motion had failed. 

We now have a lot of work to do. That the motion has passed is good news and communicates an important message to LGBTQ2S Anglicans and it communicates a clear message to the wider society. But for those who last night were celebrating, today brings pain and sadness. It is critical that we be patient with those who find this decision difficult. That said, we do not need to bend over backwards for those who have been most visceral in expressing hateful ideas. 

Now remains time! Now remains the time to tell those marginalized that we regret the fact that it has taken so long to get to this point. Now remains the time to call out hateful and bullying behavior wherever it is found in the church and declare it to be unacceptable. Now remains the time to offer support to our Council of General Synod, and our Primate Fred Hiltz. Now remains the time to call on our Bishops who bravely declared last night and this morning there willingness to provide guidelines for same sex marriage to carry through with that commitment. It should not take another three years for this to happen. Now remains the time to love. “Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7).” 

Finally a word about our Primate. The Most Rev’d Fred Hiltz has managed these past days with a great deal of poise and grace. He had to carry a heavy burden at this synod, and carries one yet moving forward. I watched a good portion of this synod on live stream. His leadership has been impressive to me. I am grateful that we have a leader who demanded a high standard, and modelled what it looks like to actively listen to ‘the other.’ Thank you Primate. 

Our delegates from Huron have been put through the wringer as have all the delegates. Pray for them. They are coming home emotionally spent and exhausted. Thank you to our Bishops +Linda and +Bob for your leadership. Now remains the time for us to work with these leaders to make full access for all members to all sacraments a reality. Now remains the time to say THANK YOU! 

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