Thursday, December 14, 2017

Seasons Greetings

There is no war on Christmas. Period! There never was: the whole thing was just a distraction from way more important stuff. While self-righteous Christians complain that the salutation, “Seasons Greetings” is an attack on Christmas, we neglect the mission we’ve been called to by the one whose birth we celebrate.

The equally odd complaint to, “Put Christ back in Christmas,” also distracts us from our mission.

Recently, I saw a sign that read, “Put Christ back in Christian.” I think this better illustrates the real issue that is before us as Christian people.
Whenever I’m faced with a problems or issues, I try and imagine what Jesus would have me do. I can’t imagine him worried at all about whether people feel free to wish one another a Merry Christmas. You see, Christmas isn’t really about Jesus. I know that can be a hard idea for people to get their heads around. It is commonly thought that Jesus wasn’t even trying to start a new religion. He was trying to get people to follow the basic principles of already existing religious communities—things like love and mercy.

Jesus wasn’t trying to get people to worship himself, and it’s because he was trying to get all people to focus on a loving and merciful creator that we can truly proclaim him as the Saviour of the world. His goal wasn’t to just save the Jewish people, but to bring salvation to all people, and to all creation.

As followers of Jesus Christ—as people committed to his teaching of love and mercy, we are intent on freely worshipping God and making space for all people to worship as their tradition dictates. Imagine a world where all Christians, and Jews and Muslims; all Buddhists, all Hindus, all people of all faith were true to the basic common tenets of the Golden Rule.

My friends of other faiths happily wish me a Merry Christmas, and they mean it too. They happily receive the same salutation from me. And together, by being true to our faith, we make this world a happier and more joy-filled place. The challenge of my faith journey is to remain focused on the love God has for all people, for all creation. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Rest and Growth

My life revolves around Sundays. Often, because I think about it quite a bit, I know the date of any given Sunday in the year, without looking. Also, much of my time is spent preparing for (or recovering from) a Sunday.

I’m making it sound much worse than it is, I don’t mind it at all. In fact, I think there’s something of value and life-giving about living your life revolving around regular worship and celebration.

Being more attentive to the liturgical calendar, or the seasons of the Church, can be good for us. I know it sounds kind-a boring and regimented, but it doesn’t have to be. It can do for us what the word “ritual” originally meant, which is to enhance life.
I like to spend an appropriate amount of time in the season of Advent before jumping into the joy of the Christmas celebration. Now I’m not a stickler about restricting carols and decorations to their appropriate season. I rarely object if someone suggests that we have the desert before the main course. But, as a regular habit, that’s probably not the best course.

Let’s keep in mind that there’s nothing in the seasons of the Church year that’s accidental, it is all meant to enhance our life and enable us to worship well and to celebrate the Good News (every Sunday). Patiently waiting for the next season is good for us. Waiting and anticipation can be periods of great learning.

I like surprises, at least the good ones. I don’t like, however, planned surprises, especially the dreaded surprise parties. I never plan them and I don’t want one thrown for me. Surprise parties rob the honoured guest of the best part of the party—the anticipation. Advent is a season of anticipation. We know what where waiting for, we know the Christmas story, which makes the waiting all the more precious.

We should try harder, as a community, to relish the seasons of waiting, like Advent and Lent. They are times of rest and preparation. Everything needs rest in order to grow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Pickle & Jam

There is a famous saying, “you don’t use cucumbers to make strawberry jam.” Well, it’s not yet a famous saying, because I just made it up. However, it’s good advice and it can be applied to lots of situations.

Whatever your planning, be it a trip, a party, a meeting, or even a worship service—you start with the right ingredients. For example, strawberry jam required strawberries, not cucumbers. Cucumbers make great pickles, and I would imagine, lousy jam.

Come to think of it: a pickle and a jam are the same thing, they are sometimes used to describe a difficult or tricky situation. You could say, I’m in a pickle, as easily as you could say, I’m in a jam.

Some might say that the Church is in a pickle (or a jam) and I guess we are, but all is not lost, neither pickles nor jams are permanent. The way out requires the right ingredients because you don’t use cucumbers to make strawberry jam.

One ingredient we need is hope. I really don’t know what to do for people that have lost all hope. And when it comes to the life and future of the Church I’m reminded that the valley of dried bones is not about bones, but community, and the resurrection is the very foundation of hope for the Church.

Recently, I was asked how St. Paul’s is doing, are we a winning or a loosing cause. I said that we are alive and well, we are going to be a vital part of the wider community for generations to come. Sure a pickle (or a jam) can be a difficult situation or a delicious opportunities to learn and grow and become more of what God intends us to be. Our struggles help build our faith.

Just like you don’t use cucumbers to make strawberry jam, you need hope to build a hopeful community. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Let Love Reign

Each Sunday in the liturgical calendar has a name, it might be an inspiring name like “Resurrection of our Lord: Easter Day.” It might just be a number like, “the 5th Sunday after Pentecost.” The BCP named one Sunday, “The Sunday Called Septuagesima.” Some Sundays have the matter-of-fact title of, “The Sunday Next Before Advent,” which is, in the BCP name, the name this Sunday used to go by. Now-a-days, today goes by the grander title of “Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ Sunday.”

My preference is to call this Sunday, “The Sunday Next Before Advent,” because I think it’s funny. But giving me chuckle is hardly a good reason for continuing that name. I tend not to call today, “Christ the King,” because I think it’s healthy to avoid patriarchal language when it really doesn’t suit the situation. So, I tend to refer to today as, “Reign of Christ Sunday.” One could argue that the word “reign” has patriarchal connotations to it, but kings and monarchs are not the only things that can reign. And if the principle characteristics of Jesus are love and mercy, then I say, let Christ reign. Reign on Earth, reign in our hearts, reign in our lives! Let love reign!

You know, we haven’t actually tried it. There is not time in history when we’ve actually tried to let Christ’s love and mercy rule every part of our lives.

As one liturgical year draws to and end and next week we begin a new year, a new season, a new Advent, let us pray and hope for a time when we actually let love reign. It is time that we no longer greet Jesus and his love and mercy like a stranger.