Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Coat Rack

Our Parish Vision, “To show the transforming love and justice of God in action” is kind of like a coat rack. It is the thing we hang an awful lot of stuff on. Our Parish Vision has influenced how we view our beautiful church-building. Although we don’t specifically say so in the Vision itself, hung on it is the hope that the church-building will be utilized more often and for a greater variety of things.

As a result of this hope we have used the church-building for things like coffee-hour, concerts, rallies, meetings, educational forums, CD launches, music videos, and for tourists. All of this while maintaining the building’s principle use as a house of worship.

It is a short-sighted vision if this is as far as it goes. It is now time to apply some of the things we’ve hung on our Parish Vision to our use of the Parish hall. How can it be used to help further the hopes and dreams of our Parish Vision?

A few years ago, with the 250 for 250 Capital Campaign we raised money to help maintain the structural integrity of our three buildings. Our hope is that it will be another quarter century before we need to raise this kind of money for our buildings. It seems to me that the raising of this money means that it will serve us well to think about how we use the Parish hall in light of our Parish Vision?


To help decide this, the Parish Council has asked for the development of a strategic plan for the hall. On Saturday, December 2 at a breakfast in the Parish hall we will gather to begin this work. And you are invited. Breakfast starts at 9:00 a.m., and the strategic planning exercise begins at 9:45 a.m. You can come for breakfast and the exercise; or for one or the other. It’s up to you. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Reformers Won!

One of the many articles I read this year about the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation simply proclaimed that the Reformers won.

Certainly, the effects of the Reformers has been profound and has influenced pretty much everything about the Church ever since. Even within the Roman Catholic Church the Reformation has been influential. The Reformation has had an effect way beyond the Church and has influenced pretty much everything in western culture (and beyond).

It is one thing to reform something we perceive to be in error or that is broken, it is quite another thing to help bring about God’s realm on Earth. Yes, if it is all just a game, then the Reformers won. But if, as Paul puts it, we are to cross that finish-line together, the Reformation (win, lose or draw) isn’t enough.

The work of the Reformers was important and the language of the worship we used was largely about a need for ongoing reformation. But, I have to wonder if that is what Jesus Christ wants.

I firmly believe in the importance of continual reformation and constant change. When people tell me that we shouldn’t change for change sake, I say, and neither should we stay the same for the sake of staying the same. Reformation (and change) is one step towards the transformation expected of us. Reformation can be about exchanging one set of rules for another, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The transformation that Jesus Christ calls us to is about valuing everything in terms of its ability to deepen our relationship with God.


I am sorry to say that this is not something any one of us can accomplish by ourselves. The language of accomplishment, win or lose, has no place or particular meaning in God’s realm. Salvation is, after all, something God does and if we want to be a part of it then there is only one way… community. Letting go of me and my self-importance in favour of others is the transformation our church, our society needs.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Remembrance

One of my grandfathers was a veteran of the First World War. He lost his right arm in France. He often spoke of his experiences, sometimes funny stories, sometimes scary. Almost always poignant. When asked what Christmas was like in the trenches, he simply said, “hard tack and tea.”

A few years ago, for my father’s birthday, we applied for and received a copy of my grandfather’s service record, all the documents associated with his service during the war. It wasn’t very interesting really. His handwriting changed because by the end he had to start signing with his left hand. However, according to the documents, while convalescing in a Toronto hospital he was AWL for five days. He never told me about those five days and I never knew to ask.

We are indebted to all the veterans, those who died, and those who survived (some missing limbs, or other parts of themselves). We are also indebted to the many others who said good-bye to sons and daughters, not knowing if they were to return.

War, no matter how “justified” is always a failure and the only way to appropriately honour the fallen is to continually work for peace. Peace won’t just happen, it is something we need to work for, to pray for and to sacrifice for.

Jesus expects us to pray for and to love our enemies. This is not a lofty, pie-in-the-sky kind of dream, it is a divine commandment to love that which God loves. This compassion, that Jesus taught, is about treating others as I want to be treated. I don’t want my enemies to shoot me or to point nuclear warheads at me. So, maybe we shouldn’t shoot at or threaten them either. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t protect ourselves. We should. But it is to say that, while protection is a natural reaction to a threat we mustn’t loose sight of our primary goal of a more compassionate world. Listen closely to the rhetoric of Remembrance Day and you will hear a deep desire for peace. “Lest we forget” literally means, for fear that we forget.


Nothing honours my grandfather more, or any veteran, than achieving the everlasting peace they desired.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pro-Testament

When I was a teen, one of the greatest insults you could call someone was a, “nerd.” Now-a-days, some people take on the “insult” as a badge of honour. I’m thinking of tech-nerds. I even saw a t-shirt that proclaimed, “I’m a Jesus Nerd!”

A similar sort of thing happened to the word “protestant.” It was a kind-of dismissive term, used by people who were opposed to the Reformation. They were saying that the Reformers were just a bunch of protesters. But before that, the Reformers relished in the title because it meant that they were pro-Testament. In other words, they were in favour of holding the Bible above many of the practices and abuses that had evolved in the church.

That’s not to say that the only authority for the Protestants was the Bible. The Anglican Church, for example, holds scripture as primary, but also uses tradition and reason to inform our teaching and practice.

When we speak of tradition, we don’t mean antiquated or old fashioned ways of doing thinks. We mean that the Holy Spirit continues to direct and move the people of God. And when we speak of reason we mean that it would seem odd to not use the God-given abilities we have to further discern God’s will. For example, one of the parable refers to mustard seeds as the smallest of all seeds. Reason tells us that this is simply not true. Does this mean that the parable is useless? Of course not, it means that we use our reason to look beyond the surface of the parable to it’s intended meaning.

One of the negative and unintentional results of the Reformation is the modern and extreme understanding that the Bible is held above everything else, leaving no room for tradition and reason. The false battle between religion and science is a prime example of this misunderstanding of the Reformation.


All this to say that, God is not through with us yet. God continues to inspire God’s people today. The Holy Spirit leads, sometimes pushes us, to unexpected and seemingly dangerous places, all for God’s glory.