Thursday, September 21, 2017

Perfectly Free

Recently, my neighbour went away for a week or so, and before he left he told me to take and eat any tomatoes that ripen while he was away. So, I did. They were unusually sweet and juicy. The finest toasted tomato sandwich that I’ve had in years.

We are blessed to live in such a beautiful and bountiful part of God’s creation. It is a short growing season and yet we manage to create great wealth: so much that we can throw away (experts estimate) a quarter of what we buy. The Island cup, as it were, runneth over. Yet, so many people, even here, and around the world go without. And not just a little bit, but a great deal.

I read recently that the chief characteristic of God is freedom. No matter what cruelty we are capable of, such as nailing Jesus to a cross, God, in God’s perfect freedom, is still able to choose to love us. No matter how strange that might seem to us, God is free to be loving, and just of us, but of people that might be our enemies.

Oh how I long for that perfect freedom: that no matter what trials and trouble I face in the run of a day, to act, not out of fear or anger, but with courage and love.

The love of God, born of that perfect freedom falls on us like manna from heaven, like snow, like rain, covering every bit of creation and every one of us.

Great! So, we have store-houses filled to overflowing with God’s love. What now? It may not be there, come the morning. Well, of course it will be there, or at least, there will be more love for us to gather. It overflows. Rather than drowning in the love of God, let’s share it. And one way of sharing God’s love is by sharing the richness we enjoy.

We are perfectly free (the cross has set us free), to choose generosity over greed; love over hate; knowledge over fear. Well, we are perfectly free, but we may not act so. Being a part of a gathered community strengthens us for the service of perfect freedom. Gathered together we are free and capable to do God’s will of love.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

One Body

While visiting another church recently, I heard a good children’s talk, in which the presenter asked, “in the Bible, what does 1+1 equal?” A couple of the adults from the congregation answered; two, like everywhere else. But the answer was three, because, as it says in scripture, when two people gather, in the name of Christ, he is with them also. (1+1=3, with Jesus)

One of the first lessons (rules) they drill into people trying to become Anglican priests is that, no matter what, you can never (never!) celebrate Holy Communion by yourself. There must always be at least one other person present. It must, at lease be a community of two people. And if two are gather, it is three, because there he is – Christ in the midst of them.

As special as it will be for a young man named William, who will be welcomed into the Body of Christ (the Church) through the sacrament of Baptism, to be baptized by his grandmother, it is not really her that’s doing it. Oh, for sure, she’s leading the prayers and performing all the right actions associated with Baptism, but even this is a corporate act, something we do as the Body of Christ.

William’s parents and God-parents will make a commitment to the Church on his behalf and we, as the Church-gathered will make a commitment to William. We will say, “we will,” when asked, “Will you… do all in your power to support William in his life in Christ?” And by doing so, we are committing to be the Church, for as long as William needs the Church.

Throughout scripture God relates to people in community. God continues to this day to relate to us as community, as the church, gathered for worship and for service; for baptism and communion; for joy and sadness; for the mere fun of it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Look Around

Many years ago St. Paul’s Church, during a time of discernment regarding out Vision and Mission, ask itself whether we are really a welcoming congregation. We know that we thought we were, and that we tried to be, but is that how people experienced us. It was pleasing to discover that many people, in fact, found us to be friendly and welcoming. Someone then asked if that’s what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ.

In deed, a warm welcome and a friendly face is an expectation of people when they attend a church’s worship. The truth is we expect the same from any store, restaurant or place of business. The very least a church community can do is be friendly and welcoming.

September is one of those months when people consider going back to or finding a community to worship with. So, look around—is there someone who looks like they need yours to be the friendly and welcoming face that helps them feel at home. They might be a retiree who’s relocating to the Island; they might be a student away from home for the first time. It doesn’t matter, they are here, they’ve ventured into this place of worship and we can welcome them as well (or better than) any store or restaurant.

Our discernment processed, however, helped us realize that it’s not just about welcoming (as important as it is), it is also about transformation.

Transformation in this context means giving everyone the opportunity to be engulfed more fully into the love of God, a love that accepts us for who we are and than enables us to make the changes we need to be for fully alive in life with the Christ. We’re not selling hamburgers or beer here, we are, without prejudice, welcoming and invited people into a life dedicated to loving that which God loves. Look around and welcome others back (or to) St. Paul’s Church. It is an important step towards a truly transformed life.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back at 'er

Someone asked me if my holidays went by fast. In a way, I said, I supposed they did, and in a way they didn’t. The measuring of time is funny that way. Spending hours with your favourite person goes by way faster than a 10 minute sermon. Or, at least, that’s what I find, and I include my own sermons in that.

I think that my response to the question, however, has a great deal to do with my eagerness to return. I am eager. I see lots of activity in our church-community. But activity is not a useful measure of anything, really.
We measure the value of our activity by the outcomes. Right? Well, maybe not. In the economy-minded world we live we are always figuring whether we got value for our money, or whatever we put into an activity. Jesus calls us to something different. Jesus calls us to value love, justice, forgiveness and mercy. And to value these things for other people. Yes, of course we desire these things for ourselves, but Jesus, on the cross lost all of these things, plus his own life, so that we could have them, and in abundance.

Let’s measure our busyness by the value it achieves for others. That is, for example, exactly what the labour movement did, people gave up work and wages, they risked detention and death so that their neighbours and people they would never meet could have a fair wage, fair treatment and safe working conditions. The labour movement didn’t stop there, it went on to achieve all sorts of things that make up the key elements of our social safety net. In short, if it weren’t for the labour movement, children would still be working in sweatshops for 12 hours a day.

Who am I fooling? Children still work in sweatshops. Perhaps not in this countries but in many places. Rather than being pessimistic about the usefulness of the labour movement today, let’s get back at ‘er, join forces and be as Christ would be in the world, making sacrifices for others.