The Second Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2018
Ina the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Forgiveness for all
Today we hear, on this second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. We might wonder, why talk about repentance and forgiveness in Advent - Christmas is coming! Advent has been traditionally known as a mini-Lent; the liturgical colour is purple as with Lent and there is a penitential side to this season as we prepare for Christmas. Preparation involves penitence whether we are talking about Lent as we prepare for Easter, Advent as we prepare for Christmas or any Sunday as we prepare to receive communion, repentance is involved. The television has been full of Christmas movies for last number of weeks and there are many more to come!If we think about it, all of the “Christmas” movies are actually Advent movies. Most of them are about repenting, leaving an old way and the redemption of one of the main characters. From the oldest, Scrooge, the best one staring Alistair Sim based on Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, who is shown the evil of his ways, and where this leads, becomes a changed man. Another one is Elf, where we see the redemption of the father, James Caan.And another lesser known movie, Family Man, starring Nicholas Cage, who is shown what his materialistic lifestyle has done to him, those he loved and how in the end he chooses love and family. We are ahead of secular society when it comes to redemption. We hear John the Baptistproclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”The Greek word translated “repent”, metanoeite, means change one’s mind in a radical way.
For a number of years I have collected, been given and received things that speak to change in a radical way. I was given “The St. Francis Prayer” when I was ordained which is a radical statement. It reverses everything that we are inclined to do: Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.Quickbrick – some of you might remember the original stucco finish to the church which we covered up in 2008. It changed the church in a radical way to the point that just this past week, someone who had been to the church 15 years ago remembered what the church looked like, but could not find it when they searched for it on Frist Avenue. And the John the Baptist snow globe! At this time of the year snow globes make their annual appearance with the usual Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman and winter scenes, and yes, you can get Nativity Scene Snow Globes. I said back in 2015, you would be hard pressed to find a snow globe with John the Baptist proclaiming repentance and a week later I received two homemade John the Baptist globes. It just not one of those warm and fuzzy scenes, but itcertainly has a place in our Christian journey. Our faith in Jesus begins with repentance and so does Christmas.
Forgiveness in Jesus is central to our Christmas faith and yet continues to baffle society. I read an article about forgiveness in the Globe and Mail, the title of which caught my attention: “Forgiveness is for suckers”. The author writes about the Parable of the Prodigal Son and I quote: I’m with the big brother, who must have realized from where his little brother got the stupid gene. Forgiveness is for suckers. It is telling that the parable has no Chapter 2. It ends with big brother being told off for not being sufficiently joyous at little brother’s return, for not understanding that forgivers always pay the tab. If only the Bible told us what that family looked like five years later, after the prodigal son bet the whole harvest on a donkey race.Incorrect. Read the next line after the older brother complains: 31Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’We might think it unfair to forgive the younger brother with a party, cloak and calf and forget what the father says to the older son too. The point is twofold: God as represented by the father lavishes everything, all his grace on the lost son who have been found. And secondly, the older brother is told by the father that all that is mine is yours.
We receive everything through God’s grace resulting from our faith. We have received everything in Christ: forgiveness, the holy Spirit and eternal life. May we go into this season of Advent with thankful hearts having received redemption and forgiveness and everything we could ask for or imagine. Amen.
The Reign of Christ
November 25, 2018
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters* again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
This is the last Sunday in the Season of Pentecost, the season of reaching out in the name of Christ and living out our faith with the leading of the Holy Spirit. The season, this year, began back on May 24. Today we end this season with Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus, a reading we might think is better suited for Good Friday. And so, why do we read this reading on this day, The Reign of Christ? The most important aspect of declaring Christ as King is our understanding of Jesus' reign and our life with each other under his reign.In our reading, Pilate asks, "So you are a king?"Jesus turns it around: "You are saying that I am a king." With that statement is Jesus again putting Pilate on trial: "You have said it, but is it what you believe?"Jesus could tell Pilate that he is King, but equally important is what Pilate believes.
There is the story that illustrates this point about a young preacher was invited to come and preach at a church who were looking for a new priest. After the service he was asked whether he had been saved, and whether he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior? The young preacher replied, "Why do you ask me such a thing? I could tell you anything. Here are the names of my banker, my neighbours and friends. Ask them if I've been saved."
On the front cover of our bulletin we read the statement: WE STRIVE TO BE A WELCOMING CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY IN THE ANGLICAN TRADITION WHO PUT OUR FAITH INTO ACTION THROUGHOUT THE ORANGEVILLE AREA.This Mission Statement is a constant reminder for us all what we are called to be, and the key words for me are “we strive”. This means that we are not there yet, but that we are working towards being what Christ has called us to be as a community of believers, or citizens in God’s Kingdom.
I read an article in the Globe and Mail about citizenship. The author spoke of rights, benefits and obligations of citizenship. Rights include the right to enter and live in the country, to vote, to run for political office and not to be incarcerated without due process of law. Benefits include access to government services. Obligations would include loyalty, obeying the law, paying taxes and, if called upon, service in defence of the state.It is here that citizens must seriously entertain the idea that they must make efforts and occasionally make sacrifices for the countries to which they belong.
We have rights, benefits and obligations that include making sacrifices as Christians which you can find in the Book of Common Prayer on page 555:Every Christian man or woman should from time to time frame for themselves a RULE OF LIFE in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel and the faith and order of the Church; wherein they may consider the following:The regularity of their attendance at public worship and especially at the holy Communion.The practice of private prayer, Bible-reading, and self-discipline.Bringing the teaching and example of Christ into their everyday life. The boldness of their spoken witness to their faith in Christ. Their personal service to the Church and the community. The offering of money according to their means for the support of the work of the Church at home and overseas.
We do confess with words and life, "Jesus is my Lord and King." We also have to confess with words and life, "Jesus is our Lord and King. "Along with declaring Christ as King, our life with each other under that reign is also important. I finish with the well known words of Jesus at the end of John’s Gospel: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). Amen to that.
Remembrance Sunday 2018
November 4, 2018
On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. ‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’ His disciples said, ‘Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’
LEST WE FORGET
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we will pause in memory of the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives in military service. Lest we forget.At public gatherings in Ottawa and around the country, Canadians pay tribute with a minute of silence to the country's fallen soldiers from the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Afghanistan conflict and peacekeeping missions around the world. Lest we forget. We remember those who made the supreme sacrifice. Lest we forget. We remember and pray that it will not happen again – Lest we forget.
One of the things I love to do when travelling is to look at the motoes on license plates. Ontario’s motto on our license plate is “Keep it Beautiful”; Quebec, “Je me Souvien:”; Manitoba, “Friendly Manitoba” and New York, “The Empire State”. The one that always catches my eye is New Hampshire’s motto: “Live Free or Die”. If there was such a thing as a Christian license plate motto, one of many sayings of Jesus would be, “In Jesus you may have peace”. That comes from the end of John’s gospel that we just heard in verse 33:, 33I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’What did Jesus mean by that? Let’s look at that scripture verse; Lest we forget.
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace.This means that we share in Christ’s victory over the world. It is a spiritual victory over evil for as Christians, evil does not have power over us, and yet there is still war. The history of our parish church is tied in to war. The Parish was founded in1837 by Seneca and Jesse Ketchum which was the year of the Rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada. The Boar War coincided with the last year of our church’s longest serving Priest, The Rev’d Canon Henderson who served from 1861-1901. Some years ago, I met a granddaughter of Rev’d Harrison, who served at St. Mark’s during WW1. We move to the memories of some of those we knew and loved, parishioners and those from the town of Orangeville who gave their lives in WW1, WW2 and Korea and Afghanistan, where Corporal Matthew McCully died. We called by Jesus to strive for justice and peace. Lest we forget.
The second half of Jesus’ statement is,‘In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ Jesus said that we receive peace in him, but tribulation in the world. The Greek word translated "world" (kosmos) refers to the worldly rebellion against God - we can’t look to the world for peace.The Greek word translated "have conquered" (nikaō) called also mean overcome or defeat. You may have a pair of shoes that got its name from the word, nikao. Now a little grammar lesson.The verb, conquer, is in the perfect tense, i.e., a past, completed action with continuing results.And what are those results: on a personal level for all of us is forgiveness, as Christ overcame sin and death. And, on a worldly level the kingdom of God is now, but also yet to come – it is not fully completed.Christ’s death for our sins happened a long time ago, but it’s effects are still felt, experienced today. Lest we forget.
Recently, I was sent an article that appeared just after the end of WW1 about the unveiling of the Honour Roll which still hangs at the entrance to the church. During the service the preacher spoke about the meaning of the colors of the Union Jack. Here is some of that sermon. Red, which reminds us of the sacrifices which have been and are being made for all that this old flag stands for; sacrifices which in themselves point to that greatest sacrifice of all, when the Son of God "gave Himself a ransom for many." White, which is the color of purity, bidding us put away all sins and impurities whether individual or national. Blue, the color of heaven, which tells us that heaven is very close at hand, and bids us so live that we may inherit heaven hereafter.
We remember those who made the supreme sacrifice. Lest we forget.We remember and pray that it will not happen again – Lest we forget.Jesus said, I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ Lest we forget. Amen.
October 21, 2018
35James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.42So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
THE HOODED MEN
In today’s Gospel from Mark we hear that the disciples argue about which of them is the greatest. We read that two members of the inner circle, James and John, ask a favour of Jesus: they seek positions of special dignity. Jesus responds by saying,“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Jesus answers, you do not know what you’re asking for.In the Old Testament, one’s “cup”is one’s lot assigned by God, be it blessing or condemnation. To be “first”, one must serve even more humbly, as a “slave”. Jesus continues to repeat himself on this subject to the disciples as they walk with him to Jerusalem.
What about special status in the Christian faith today? You will probably expect most priests to have one or two stories about their lives or the lives of others that would make you think twice; this is one of them about myself which I told for the first time this past week to group of parishioners. When I was very young, two years at the most and possibly younger, I remember being visited by what I called “the hooded men”. They looked almost what like monks would look like. I was too young to know or to have seen monks before. They would usually appear in the morning in those moments when you are between sleeping and waking. They were looking down over me and although I wouldn’t say that their presence frightened me, it was just to me as a child what happened and they became a part of my life at that time. I subsequently read about similar in Betty J. Eadie’s book about her near-death experience, “Embraced by the Light” where she described them as her guardian angels (pg. 30). I have not, as you know, lived a special or blessed life because of the visitation of these beings. Eventually, and I don’t know exactly when, they disappeared. I only started to think about them in the last year or so. I don’t know why, as they have not reappeared.
This story could lead me, or others, to think that I have special status, but I don’t believe that my life journey is any more significant that yours. The disciples would have been in the presence of Jesus and therefore thought that they deserved special status when they reached heaven. The disciples eventually understand that to do God’s will, would mean giving up on trying to impress God, impress Jesus, impress the Holy Spirit with what they have done, or seen and experienced and simply believe in his grace, follow him and serve others which I all and all of us strive to do. Amen.