Next week will mark the anniversary of the death of Pope John XXIII (June 03). His influence in Christianity is huge. In calling the Second Vatican Council, he not only reshaped the face of Roman Catholicism, but the face of the Church. While many believed that Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli would be a short term Pope of little influence, nothing could have been further from the truth. When the Cardinals gathered and elected him to be the Holy Father, few could have envisioned the reshaping of the church that would be the result of Roncalli’s vision and courage to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Pope John XXIII once remarked that “We are not on earth to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.” I absolutely love this quote. I think that we should have it on all of our church doors and signs. It is not enough to place those words at the front door however, if there is not a fire burning within the church that will allow this cultivation to become reality. Too many of our church communities have become museums that we work hard to guard, protect, maintain, and honour. We actually use those words in practice. It is not uncommon to hear an Anglican say, “we must protect the church from culture and the ways of the world.” How about a comment like, “We cannot do that here it does not fit with our tradition.” All the while, our churches are in decline. At times I hear the words of John XXIII ringing in my ears and wonder how long before all that we have left are museums to guard?
This gift that we are given is too precious to be diminished to a hall of history. The Church is a living organism that has for centuries lead social change and advanced the cause of justice. We have forgotten how relevant we used to be. What is worse we seem to have accepted the notion that we do not need to be relevant – often arguing that ‘we are so different than the world.’ John XXIII saw a need to remind the people of God that ‘cultivating a garden of life’ is a wonderful calling and it demands the courage to see change happening before our eyes. It also demands the willingness to lead the church away from the dark halls toward the Sunlight. As church, we do not plant flowers and forget about them. We plant them, we water them, we nourish them, and we delight in watching them change and grow. If we have the courage to take the leading of Spirit it is tremendous what might happen.
We just celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. The Gospel reading last Sunday contained these words of Jesus:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."
This is a reminder to us that we are guided by a Spirit that seeks to bring about a great peace and a great hope for all. That Spirit is speaking to the Church. The Spirit sings to the laity as well as the ordained. The Spirit is singing to us to cultivate a garden where justice grows abundant, forgiveness is the bedding, and the love baptisms the constant water poured out to nourish the landscape of hope that God gives us.
While we are all called to do this gardening, we know that for the church to walk away from the museum mentality leadership is important. Tonight in the Diocese of Huron our Bishop will ordain leaders for the church. We need these leaders to feed on the fire of the Holy Spirit to build the City of God. That promise of a Kingdom is built on foundations of forgiveness, love, healing, joy, compassion, hopefulness, and vision. Our leaders need to be people who understand that priesthood is not a call to be a curator in a dusty museum. This is a call to action. It is a call to embrace the tools that God has given to each and every community and start planting and growing. Our leaders are not called to perfection, but we are called to action. God takes the cracks, the brokeness of our leaders and makes good of it. We are called to let the Sunlight in! These leaders are to be placed among the baptized – the people of God – the Priesthood of all believers not as those who guard the church, but who lead, with courage, the people of God from their dusty and hallowed halls to the streets, the village, and into the world. Our prayer is that these leaders will heed the words of John XXIII – “We are not on earth to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”
We keep in prayer:
To Be Ordained Deacon:
Grayhame Bowcott, Marty Levesque, Wayne Malott , Andreas Thiel, Chris Travers, JoAnn Todd,
To Be Ordained Priests:
The Rev’d Eileen Scully, The Rev’d Derek Perry, The Rev’d Anne Jaikaran, The Rev’d Katie Silcox