Today we celebrate [if that is the right word] Good Friday. We mark the most painful day in the three day journey called the Triduum. The liturgy is a beautiful reflection of the sacrifice of Jesus and the love that God has for God’s people. We reflect today on the ways in which we participate in the crucifixion. It is important to take time in the quiet and solitude to ask ourselves how we can step back from the mob mentality that we often participate in. We often participate in the crucifixion when we judge others, when we fail to offer the love and compassion characteristic of Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus reached out to those pushed to the fringe, it was a powerful and healing act born of his humanity. It was also a witness to us that we ought to do the same. When Jesus touched the leper who had not felt human touch for many years, it again was an act born out of his humanity and it was a witness to the rest of us. When Jesus ate with those who were forgotten and forsaken, it was a human witness to his followers that we must do the same. Jesus stepped out of the comfort zone of the people of the institution and establishment to take on that which may not have seemed sensible to the world around him. Each day we have the opportunity to do the same. We, too, have every opportunity to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely, and set the captive free. Do we embrace that very human possibility or do we stand beside the fire pot and warm ourselves and deny Jesus and deny the covenant that we have with him.
Madeline L’Engle writes in her book The Irrational Season, "We pin him [Jesus] down, far more painfully than he was nailed to the cross, so that he is rational and comprehensible and like us, and even more unreal. And that won’t do. That won’t get me through death and danger and pain, nor life and freedom and joy." It seems that this is painfully true. We have painted Jesus into the frescos of our lives as well as our cathedrals. We follow this Jesus when it is convenient and we abandon him when it is hard to follow through, all the while we do so knowing we have painted this very polite, rational and conventional Jesus who more resembles the Rev’d Eric Camden [The minister from the popular TV Series 7th Heaven] than the peasant Jewish cynic who challenged, who taught, who upset the applecart, who embraced the irrational, who sought to bring LOVE to even the most undesirable of us all. And that is of crucial importance if we want to "…get through death and danger and pain." The truth remains that death, and darkness and pain are not rational and in most cases those feelings move beyond comprehension. God does not simply show up when things are tidy and rational – quite the contrary. God is abundantly present in the chaos of our lives. We should show up in the chaos of others’ lives. We should cry out as Jesus Cried out at the death of Lazurus. We should embrace as Jesus embraced. We should reach to those pushed to the fringe and be present with those who need us the most.
[I have found this to be a powerful image]
We often fail to transition to doing what Jesus calls us to because of what I call the Easter Extenuation. What is the Easter Extenuation? I am glad you asked.
In two days (technically tomorrow evening) we will celebrate the Great Triumph. We will celebrate the Resurrection Miracle. We will celebrate the Divinity of Jesus – he becomes THE CHRIST. I think that sometimes becomes our opportunity to say of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, “I can’t be Jesus. Jesus is Lord after all!” Today, Good Friday is for us a tacit reminder of the humanity of Jesus. Today we acknowledge that he died. I think we need to be reminded of that as much as we need to be reminded of his divinity, perhaps even more. We need to re-paint the frescos of our spirituality and perhaps even of our cathedrals. The image needs to be one of the worker, the healer, the supplier, the comforter, the feeder, the LOVER. Today is a great chance to take hold of what we can do as humans when we choose to pay the price. I know that we can do so knowing that the price is so heavily discounted today because of how much Jesus paid 2000 years ago!
From John’s gospel tonight is Chapter 13 verse 34; "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"). It is because, in part, of the Latin word at the beginning of that verse, we have the word Maundy.
Tonight we had a moving liturgy to commemorate the Last Supper and the foot washing. It was an opportunity to set our sight on Good Friday and the solemnity of it.
Tonight the church lies still in Candle light while parishioners keep watch and prays. Perhaps we will see you there. It is beautiful in there.
Tomorrow morning at 10:30 we will mark Good Friday. Please plan on joining us.
Let us come and reflect on these words of Henri Nouwen
“I look at your dead body on the cross. The soldiers, who have broken the legs of the two men crucified with you, do not break your legs, but one of them pierces your side with a lance, and immediately blood and water flow out. Your heart is broken, the heart that did not know hatred, revenge, resentment, jealousy or envy but only love, love so deep and so wide that it embraces your Father in heaven as well as all humanity in time and space. Your broken heart is the source of my salvation, the foundation of my hope, the cause of my love. It is the sacred place where all that was, is and ever shall be is held in unity. There all suffering has been suffered, all anguish lived, all loneliness endured, all abandonment felt and all agony cried out. There, human and divine love have kissed, and there God and all men and women of history are reconciled. All the tears of the human race have been cried there, all pain understood and all despair touched. Together with all people of all times, I look up to you whom they have pierced, and I gradually come to know what it means to be part of your body and your blood, what it means to be human.”
Here is what it looks like tonight
Above all else, know this: Be prepared at all times for the gifts of God and be ready always for new ones. For God is a thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive.
– Meister Eckhart
On Sunday evening Catherinanne and I had dinner with our friends Andrew and Pamela and little Peter. We thought it to be a brilliant time to see friends that we had not seen a few weeks and we were grateful for the invitation to be with them. As Meister Eckhart says, we need to “…be ready at all times for the gifts of God.” We were floored to over dinner to be asked a simple question that has brought joy into out hearts that we have been revelling in since Sunday. “Pamela and I would like for you both to be Peter’s Godparents,” Andrew said quite unhesitatingly. We were at that moment rapturous. Since that time the sense of how honoured we are to be considered for this role has grown that much stronger. True indeed, then, that “…God is a thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive.” This is a great gift of God’s giving and we are thrilled to bits over this.
In our family, Catherinanne and I are godparents Lauren, and Dafydd. As a couple, we are also Godparents to Alanah and we have tried to live up to the role as best we can, trying always to be present to her in matters of faith and always trying to build relationship with her. She has been a joy in our lives and we have been made better because of our relationship with her. She has been a witness to us in many ways. I hope that we can be a positive influence in the life of little Peter Sasso.
I am sure that many of you have been asked to be a Godparent before or perhaps you are preparing for that role right now. So what is a Godparent called to do? I did a little internet search and found some answers to this question. [Not to say that I had no idea, but I was curious as to what ‘people’ are saying.] Here is what the Anglican Church is New Brunswick has to say; [The red parts are my reflection after the next three points]
1. Godparents represent the Church of Jesus Christ, as new members are initiated into the Christian faith and life.
· godparents can and still do represent the community of faith at the act of baptism
· the presence of godparents from other families within Christendom underscores the universality of the Church and the strength of our wider fellowship as Christians.
· godparents maintain a vital interest in the spiritual life of the candidate’s family
· Their ongoing concern is not only the welfare of the individual they sponsor, but also the spiritual atmosphere in which the child is raised
· a godparent brings the life of faith to the Christian family as a friend and representative of the greater Church
Now this is a good thing as I see it. I like the idea of representing the Christian Community. Since I am from another “family within Christendom” than young Peter I am pleased to think that my presence could help underline the universality of the church. It is also good news for us that we get to be interested in the spiritual life of the candidate’s family – because truthfully, Peter’s family has been very important in our spiritual life.
2. The godparent is the guarantor of education.
· Godparents are rarely a child’s primary educator
· the sponsor must maintain a lively interest in the candidate’s Christian education
· The godparent himself or herself should possesses a level of spiritual maturity
· Sharing the substance of the faith with a godchild is a rewarding and exciting charge
Thank goodness they acknowledge that the godparent is NOT the primary educator. In the meantime, I fancy myself a bit of an educator and I have witness how good Catherinanne is at educating so I am hoping that we might be able to help Peter out with this. I do know that having a level of spiritual maturity is a large task and I find myself in the infancy of my spirituality and in my faith. The good news is I am working toward spiritual maturity all the time.
3. A godparent is a mentor, helper, and friend.
· Godparents should seriously consider whether they are capable of making a lifetime commitment to another human being
· they must expect to be available to their godchildren at all times for counsel, encouragement, and companionship
· This experience of faithful companionship should be a comfortable and natural one for Christians, modeling their relationship with their godparents, their first friends in faith.
This sums it up well. This commitment is lifelong and it is a serious commitment to undertake. When we make those promises at the baptism in a few weeks, we will be making a commitment for our, and/or Peter’s, lifetime. That’s a big commitment! Indeed, our hope is that we will be there for him and for his family in any way that we can be in the future.
Now, who really knows if the Anglicans in New Brunswick know anything? They may be out to lunch. So I thought I would read some Roman Catholic stuff. Having read a little about what might exclude me and a little more about how I can witness along with a ‘Catholic’ godparent [conveniently I am married to a ‘good Catholic’], I decided to leave well enough alone a settle for the ‘stuff’ that I read from the New Brunswick Anglos.
There is so much joy in our heart to take on another lifelong commitment to another human being and to seek to try and offer teaching and counsel to that young man regarding a Nazarene named Jesus. I want to teach Peter about a little law f life that Jesus spoke of – LOVE. I want to teach him about loving others and finding Jesus in others. I want to teach Peter that being an important part of the church is all about service and all about loving. I want to be able to do that by being a part of that great family of his. The Sasso and Sweeney families are great people of faith and they have both been so influential in our lives. We only hope to be able to give to Peter and part of the good witness that his ancestors have given to us. I journey on now hoping to learn more of how I can be a godparent. If you have insights – be sure and pass them on.
If you were one of the unfortunate people who did not make it out to St. Anne’s Church last night for Windsor Classic Choral’s performance of Messiah, you missed what will no doubt be one of the premiere events for the arts in Windsor Essex for 2008. It was tremendous.
Under the direction of this parish’s own Timothy Shantz, the WSO and the Classic Chorale were magnificent. I was only once to a performance of Messiah but it was in Advent, when it so often is nowadays, and it did not include the entire composition. Handel wrote Messiah and it was first performed for Lent. Part I of the composition is very full of Advent imagery and it has thus become very popular that that time of preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Part II is such a wonderful retelling of the Passion and of course the Hallelujah Chorus proclaims Resurrection!
There is something really profound about the power of music. Handel once said, “Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know not. God knows.” Those words came to mind last evening as I watched Tim conduct. It was amazing. At several points during parts II and III it seems as if Tim was having one of “those” experiences. He was so consumed by the music that it was hard to tell if he was in his body or out of his body. Two places in particular come to mind. I was fascinated at how utterly connected he was to the choristers and the musicians during the Hallelujah chorus and the final chorus “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” It was clear that every fibre of Tim Shantz’s being was immersed in that music and the result was sheer mastery. In Celtic Spirituality, there is a notion of the “thin place” and the “thin moments.” Those are the places and spaces in time when there is little between this world and the other world for us. Tim looked to be in a “thin moment” last night. I felt the moment a little thin myself, but seeing him conduct with such passion and excitement it is hard to imagine that he was not taken to a very sacred space. Equally as impressive was the joy in Katy’s face. Katy Warke is Tim’s wife and she is a soprano in the Windsor Classic Chorale. She too was so full of joy for the music that she was singing. Watching them both so in love with what they do was a tremendous gift. I offer my thanks to Tim and Katy and to their families for your great giftedness and for including us last night. It was tremendous!
I could not think of a better way to begin Holy Week! We are reminded of the words, “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” Those words from Isaiah, included in Part II of the Messiah, are a summation of Holy Week. We acknowledge this week that God paid it all for us and that in doing so, God has gifted us with a grace to be present to each other and to seek out the divine in all persons. As we move closer to the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter Sunday, may we be reminded of God in the special places like music and the arts and oddly enough – in each other!
Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian
O Lord and Master of my life,
give me not the spirit of laziness,
despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of sobriety,
humility, patience and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King,
grant me to see my own transgressions
and not to judge my brother (or sister),
for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen
We are in what Dick Cheney would call the ‘final throes’ of Lent. This Sunday we will enter into Holy week beginning with the Passion Narrative on Sunday. As we engage in these final days it is not too late for us to search ourselves for ways to better engage our spirituality and our faith. St. Ephraim the Syrian was one of the first Christian hymnist and poets and he write extensive prayers, hymns and poems – over 400 of them. Being that he lived in the 4th Century he was really a Christian when Christianity was in its’ infancy. His writings tend to be uncomplicated by western our European modes of thought and they cut to the spiritual chase.
This simple prayer above is one of his and It is a prayer that I have decided to offer everyday this week and next as we prepare for the great Paschal Feast. Perhaps you might chose to do the same, or perhaps you might choose another prayer that might offer the same spirit of seeking forgiveness, encouraging energy, discouraging sinful behavior towards others, encouraging patience and humility, discouraging judgment and offering praise to the Author of Life Divine.
We have days left on our Lenten Journey that may be productive for us. Do not be discouraged if you have found yourself failing is a Lenten Disciple that you too on at the Ash Wednesday feast. Each day is a new opportunity to seek to find new ways to be a positive influence in our world and a better reflection of Divinity – seize the today’s opportunity.
In the Anglican Church of Canada, today is the commemoration of Robert Machray. And you ask, “Who is Robert Machray?” I’m so glad you asked.
This Scot is important in Canadian Anglican history. On June 24, 1865 he was ordained a Bishop and appointed by Queen Victoria as the Bishop of Rupert’s Land in Canada, making him the youngest Bishop in all of the Church of England at the time. He was 34 years of age. This young man came to Canada and took pastoral charge of what was the largest geographical diocese in the world. Rupert’s land was then larger then all of Europe. Amazing!
This man gave his life to the Anglican Church in Canada – literally! He became the first Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada in 1893, 27 years after he was made a bishop. He died in office in 1904.
Reading yesterday and today about this man’s life and his love for the church has been remarkable. I was also curious to read the original principals on which our General Synod was created
“1. A Solemn Declaration that the Church of England in Canada desired to continue an integral part of the Anglican Communion, adhering to and upholding all the distinctive tenets and features of the Mother Church.
2. The General Synod, when formed, did not intend to, and should not, take away from or interfere with any existing rights, powers, or jurisdiction of any Diocesan Synod within its own territorial limits.
3. The Constitution of a General Synod involved no change in the existing system of Provincial Synods, but the retention or abolition of the Provincial Synods was left to be dealt with according to the requirements of the various Provinces as to the Provinces and the Dioceses within such Provinces seemed proper.
[I am quoting here from a book on the Life of Robert Machray which was written by his nephew of the same name and can be viewed by clicking here.]
In the present context of conversation I think number 2 in the three points above is most interesting. In 1893 our Anglican Ancestors understood the need for respect between dioceses and Provinces of the church and fashioned the constitution of our General Synod in such a way that it would not interfere with the life of any of the provinces or dioceses. I wonder what would have been said of those who assembled on Toronto at that time could reflect on the present state of affairs?
Today we have bishops of the church who have withdrawn from the Anglican Church of Canada because the General Synod of the church would not interfere in the jurisdiction dioceses. We have parishes that have already, or are threatening to, leave the church and joining a band of disgruntled persons known as the Anglican Network in Canada because the National Church will not step in and tell a diocese like New Westminster that they cannot continue with the Blessing of Same Sex Unions. In the meantime these same individuals would be appalled if the National Church informed these parishes that they must institute the blessing of same sex unions. It seems that interference from General Synod is only welcomed if it fits their agenda. It is a sad state really.
We should take heart in the life and witness of people like Robert Machray. The church will move forward and parishes like our own will thrive as long as we keep the same spirit and zeal and the first Primate of our Church. If we keep before us the message which God gives us, and hold firm to the desire to love God, with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all of our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. That means that we have to sometimes agree to see the world differently and respect each other in those differences.
Today is also the Day of the Tibetan Uprising when 30 000 surrounded the Dali Lama and w week later he fled his homeland. A man of great insight and faith, he has offered the world much hope. He once said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Perhaps our Christian Church needs to take a little advice from this learned Buddhist. We have a multitude of opportunities of kindness with each other every day – let’s take them!
This morning I was honoured to be present at the Coboto Club to see John McGivney receive the Community Impact Award from Leadership Windsor/Essex. John is a lifelong volunteer on the board of the Children’s Rehab Centre which was renamed a year or two ago to the John McGivney Children’s Center. John donates considerable time and effort toward the betterment of the community above and beyond the call of duty. John has been on the Board of Governors of the University of Windsor, he is a Rotarian and I need not tell those who belong to St. Mark’s by-the-Lake how much he cares about the advancement of his church community.
Steve Jobs CEO of Apple Computers knows a thing or two about leadership. When interviewed and asked about making a difference and about being ahead of the curve he said this;
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
I think that John has figured this out. He has respectfully over all those years of community involvement heard the opinions of others, while at the same time listening to his inner voice. In following his convictions John brought about the birth of an institution that to today has been a integral in the lives of families and of children in this community.
I am so pleased for John and for this community. It is really great to see a good man honoured for his humble service.
Breakfast was great too!
On a completely separate note, last night I was so pleased to have the opportunity to speak at the Canadian Mental Health Association for their monthly speakers series. The topic last night, was Reverence and Grace. The Reverence part, thankfully, was covered my The Reverend Martha Daniels from the MCC. I spoke on Grace. I was reluctant to speak on “reverence” as it is not really what I would consider my strong point. I have, in fact, been called irreverent more than once and in a couple of those cases I viewed it as a compliment even though it may not have been intended that way. I was heartened to hear The Rev Martha Daniels speak to that whole issue in reminding me and all present that we need to be asking what we revere. It left me thinking about Jesus as a model. We can see in his behaviour that he clearly had reverence for justice, wholeness, love and compassion. He did not necessarily show a load of reverence for institutions and laws that may have taken away the dignity and justice that all deserve. So I guess in that light I a left asking myself how I can show reverence in this world. Where do I show my reverence? [That is a rhetorical question folks – no smart remarks!] All kidding aside, I gained new insights into the whole notion of reverence – I even wore a collar (forgive me Pat).
It was a good night and I am thankful to Beth Lyster for allowing me the opportunity. I was please to challenge others along with myself to find new ways to embrace Grace as it relates to joy in our lives. I’m not sure if I offered much, but I sure enjoyed trying to offer something. I am one on a journey with many and I was glad to speak about my own walk.
The CMHA continues to offer quality service and programs to the Windsor/Essex Community and I encourage you all to take in the educational opportunities that they have available. The next session on April 7th is “The Healing Art of Touch.” You can learn more by visiting their web site at www.cmha-wecb.on.ca/.