THE RECTOR’S REPORT TO VESTRY – 2019
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Old Testament and gives the account beginning at Mount Sinai where the Israelites have received the Ten Commandments and the laws from God. Numbers ends with them ready to cross the Jordan River. In the book we hear about the Israelites journey and their constant complaining. When they get about halfway to Canaan, Moses sends twelve spies into the promised land. Two of them, Joshua and Caleb, tell the people that the land is beautiful and is theirs for the taking. The other 10 spies believe the forces protecting Canaan outmatch Israel.They refuse to take the land, and so God tells them that they will wander through the wilderness and God will give the land to their children. God says to Moses at one point, How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?The people refuse to trust in God and take risks in spite of everything God has done for them.
We use numbers all of time. Numbers are something that most of us can get a handle on and understand. The temperature, the steps we walked in a day, how much money we saved or spent on something, the score of the latest Leafs game. This year in my Report to Vestry I want to talk about numbers. To get more specific I want to look at our FINANCES, ATTENDANCE AND OUTREACH atSt. Mark’sand how we have taken risks, trusted in God and how we continue to do so in our ministry together as followers of Jesus.
FINANCES One of my favourite quotations about Stewardship is found in the Book of Common Prayer when the Celebrant blesses the Offertory with the words: Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel, for ever and ever. All that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.(1 Chronicles 29: 10, 11, 14) That pretty well sums up to me what Stewardship is all about. At Vestry last year we took the risk of passing a deficit budget and yet 2018was a very good year financially speaking. We received 5.8% above 2017’s envelope budget,$9759 in the Adopt-A-Bill program, and almost 12% over our Christmas Envelope budget. I am also glad to share that over the past three years our total givers, donations and average gift are all up. Our 2019 Budget is very tight and although we have another deficit budget I hope that in taking this risk again, we can do the same again in 2019 that we did in 2018.
ATTENDANCE Believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14: 1b)I was at a meeting recently where someone told the story about a man who was attending a service at a new church in his town. When he was leaving the church the Priest asked him if there were any improvements he could suggest concerning the ministry of the church. The man paused for a moment and said, “Your church follows the pattern of first you live a spirit led life, then you believe in Jesus and then you can belong to the church. What really should happen is that you belong to the church, come to believe in Jesus and then live a spirit led life.” This is a more biblically authentic and yet risky stance to take and I believe that it is the one taken by St. Mark’s. I read a statistic about how people start attending church: Advertising: 2%; Invited by the Priest: 6%; Organized Visitation: 6% and a friend invited me: 86%. We have been an inviting and welcoming community and yet there are still challenges. When it comes to attendance in 2018 it is a bad news, good news story. This past year our average Sunday attendance, a number that I watch carefully, dropped from 131 to 125. The good news is our Sunday attendance rose from 135 in the last quarter of 2017 to 146 during the last quarter of 2018. In so far as the beginning of 2019 is concerned our average Sunday attendance is also up over last year (2018 average Sunday attendance: 118; 2019 average Sunday attendance:125). My prayer is that this pattern continues in 2019.
OUTREACH Tucked away in the Letter to the Hebrews in chapter 13 verse 15 it reads, Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Many here are St. Mark’s give of their time, talent and treasure towards our outreach. The Beacon, our Monday and Wednesday afternoon drop-in, is now in its seventh year and continues to provide a safe place out of the cold for many. Our Food Cupboard had over 225 visits since last April when we started recording statistics. The numbers were split almost exactly evenly between male and female and the majority of people were middle-aged, many with young children at home. The Rector’s Discretionary Fund also helped many through the generosity of parishioners with almost $3,000 worth of food cards given out. I have heard those who come to the Beacon say that they really appreciate a place where they can come and feel accepted. I have been hugged more times than I can count from those who come to our Food Cupboard and I will always remember the comment of one man who came to our Christmas Day Lunch that he had nowhere to go and we had given him Christmas. I quote a verse from the well-known hymn, “Will you Come and Follow Me”” Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name? Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same? Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare? Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me? Looking forward into 2019 we will continue to risk and reach out into the community.
People are not numbers and yet this past year we have seen some extraordinary numbers from our people. After 12 years as our Music Ministry Coordinator and many decades before that serving in the music ministry of St. Mark’s, Pam Claridge retired. Pam brought an unparalleled commitment and passion to our music ministry and continues to serve in the community through our music ministry. Donald Grant, our People’s Warden, is stepping down having served for seven years in that capacity and four years before that as Deputy People’s Warden. Yvonne Guse Rahn, the Rector’s Warden, is also stepping down after four years of service and four years as Deputy Rector’s Warden. Both immediately said they would continue to help out in our ministry in the future. I personally have appreciated their wisdom and counsel over the years. Looking ahead into 2019 I am happy to report that Neil White has allowed his name to stand for Deputy People’s Warden and Carol Hulcoop has been appointed the Deputy Rector’s Warden. Both bring experience and wisdom to their positions.
Easter is a moveable feast and the date of Easter is determined with a series of numbers: It is the first Sunday, after the first full moon after March 21. Ash Wednesday is therefore late this year beginning on March 6 when we as a church will journey to the cross with Jesus and his disciples to the good news of Easter. I pray that St. Mark’s continue to be the church that takes risks, trusts in God and offers the hope of Easter in our ministry together. Amen
The Venerable Peter Scott 19th Rector of St. Mark’s
The Third Sunday After Epiphany
14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
ENGAGING WITH THE WORLD
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” And whatscripture was Jesus referring to? It’s from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.Often, when we pray, we try to get God to give us a pain-free world. God, it would seem from our life experience, wants us to accept him in our pain-ridden world. In this way we will find happiness now rather than waiting for the future; the presence of God is here and now for us, today. I remember some time ago hearing about a woman who had been diagnosed with an illness that might end her life. She went through a number of therapies and then it was time to wait, wait and see if they worked. She said that whatever happened, life or death, she would be at peace. That’s the place we want to be.As I read somewhere, being "spiritual" does not mean escaping the world, but engaging the world today.
Today’s reading is an important one for it begins Jesus’ ministry. Luke begins his Gospel by saying that he wants to write an ‘orderly account’ about Jesus. Today we get what, by all accounts, is Jesus inaugural address where he lays out the plan for his ministry. Jesus states the message, embodies the message and is the message. We hear that the people glorify, or ‘praised’ Jesus, which is a weaker translation. As I like to say those smarter than me have discovered that “glorified” is only used three times in Luke’s Gospel: (1) today’s text -- response to Jesus' teaching (4:15); (2) the shepherds after seeing the infant Jesus (2:20); and (3) the centurion at Jesus' death (23:47) – all three are very important markers in Jesus’ life.But, after they hear what Jesus says, that he is the fulfillment of prophesy, they become enraged and want to kill him. We are hearing this with 21st century ears and know who he is and what he brings, one of which is hope.
In our Anglican funeral service, when I stand at a graveside, I say these words: ‘In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ… which are the words used as sand is placed on the casket or urn in the form of a cross.‘In sure and certain hope’– I like that phrase and it’s on my mind quite often, especially when times get tough. The word ‘hope’ has a different meaning in the Bible than it does today. When we say, “I hope it doesn’t get too cold tonight”, you know exactly what I mean: “It would be nice if this happened, but it might not”. There’s no certainty about this kind of hope; we’re wishing about the future, but we know our wishes don’t always come true. But when the Bible uses the word ‘hope’, it’s talking about something different. ‘Christian hope’, in the Bible, means the future that God has promised. We look around us now and see a world in which bad things happen to good people, in which people are oppressed and in which they die of deadly diseases. But the Bible promises us that things are not always going to be this way. There is the hope of heaven, the life after this. That hope is in us now.
Jesus had the custom of going to the synagogue and reading and it might have been just another Sabbath for the people, but it didn’t turn out that way. Today might seem like just another Sunday, but the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus, so that same Spirit is upon us to do something, to decide something today. Amen.
The Baptism of the Lord
January 13, 2019
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Today, we read about the Baptism of the Lord which followed the Visitation of the Magi last week, Jesus in the temple at the age of 12 the week before that and before that Jesus lying a manger- a busy time. We have begun 2019, a new year, with new hopes and expectations. We hear the opening words of today’s reading from Luke chapter 3 verse 15, As the people were filled with expectation… The people came out because they were expecting a great and fierce leader and John the Baptist fit that part; they were wondering if he was the Messiah. John the Baptist says he is not the Messiah, but tells them, the one who is coming after me whose thong on his sandals I am not worthy to untie who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. We read later in the passage: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”This is what God is saying to his son, Jesus. What a saying! What do we say to our children? Teaching our children faith in Jesus is one thing that we all hope to do.
We often use the quotation, there is nothing new under sun. The full quotation is from Ecclesiastes 1:9: What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.We follow in the footsteps of Christ and we hope that our children will also. I read recently some statements that are attributed to Bill Gates, but I think that we have heard them before – there is nothing new under the sun. I will read some of them to you and then give a corresponding piece of scripture – some of them agree with the statement and some of them don’t.
Life is not fair -- get used to it! Psalm 9:8 states: He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.There is much injustice in the world, but it is a comfort to know that God is a just God and will be the final judge. The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. Too many are looking to someone else to bring their happiness to them. “But let everyone prove their own work, and then shall they have rejoicing in themselves alone, and not in another" (Galatians 6:4). You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a cellphone until you earn both. Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper and be satisfied. (Proverbs 13:4). Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping -- they called it opportunity. In Colossians (3:23-24) we read, “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ”.Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest, try delousing the closet in your own room.First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye(Matt 7:5).
So how do we make sure that our children are taught well? There is a well-known illustration called footprints that speaks of footprints in the sand and how over the course of a person’s life they look back and notice there are two sets in the sand, theirs and God’s, but they notice especially during the difficult times that there is only one to which God responds, that is when I carried you. I heard recently of a Canadian take on that, Snowshoes in the Snow. If you have ever snow shoed you know that you leave tracks, but if you snow in out on a lake or open space on a windy showy day if you look back far enough you will see that your tracks disappear. But the point is that they were there. May our tracks seen and unseen help all children grow into the full stature of Christ. Amen
Christmas Sermon ‘18
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Problems & Grace
This evening I was to speak about the structure of the sermon. You may have heard of the three-point sermon and so here is the four-point sermon: a problem in the bible, a corresponding problem in the world and; grace in the bible and corresponding grace in the world.
The problem in the bible was that there was fear. The shepherds "are afraid with a great fear" – a little awkward - but this is how one of the translations puts it, so we don’t miss the point. One of the groups of people that many feared were shepherds.The shepherds did not make it a practice to go to the Temple because they were out with the sheep. They were seen by their contemporaries, and I quote a biblical scholar,”…as ignorant, irreligious, immoral, crude and vulgar Jews – and they smelled bad, too. They did not need education, they didn’t socialize with the community and what would you expect from men who slept in the fields with sheep and without showers?So, we have the very people who many feared, showing fear.
The corresponding problem of fear in the world today is the smartphone.If you read the newspapers, watch TV or listen to radio you can understand why.Here are some thoughts from Ian Brown who wrote in the Globe on Saturday:My smartphone tells me I spend two and a half hours on it every day. I have never felt more connected to the rest of the world. And I have never been more frightened by it. The crazy internet brings me awful news and warns of a near-hopeless future, all backed by people on fire with fierce opinions. And yet the more these faceless friends tell me what I should believe and take action on and be certain of, the less sure I am of anything.The other day while I was writing this sermon I right swiped my iphone and the following news came up: Boxing Day 2018: The best deals across Canada; Tsunami kills 222 in Indonesia, hundreds injured; Turkey masses troops near Kurdish-held Syrian town. No wonder we live in fear with that sort of news at our finger tips 24/7. And, then there was something titled, “Smartphone refuseniks are a rare, but happy breed.” – I guess so! At the time my battery was at 96% and I was 9 minutes above average on my screen time.
What is the grace in the bible? God’s angels declare good news and the shepherds begin a journey to see what this is all about. They move from terror to glory to proclaiming. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke's nativity story begins with Caesar Augustus, the most powerful man in the universe and it ends with lowly shepherds. Shepherds were seen to be dishonest people who were excluded from court. Men who were not considered fit to be witnesses in court, are the first to witness the Christ child!
And what is the corresponding grace in the world? It is someone who is a reminder of the shepherds and their stature in society. I know a man who travels the country, moving from town to town, city to city and even province to province. I met him in my former parish, St. James, Port Colborne, although I possibly met him at St. Luke’s, Burlington where I was an Assistant Curate; neither of us can remember that far back. On your behalf over the last 17 years I have given him money, food cards, rides and counsel and he showed up about a week ago, and I was able to give him some help. He thanks me and is appreciative of my help and you make it possible for me to do that. This is not a perfect story; he has his issues as he is demanding on us, on God. I believe that he is a reminder to me, to the church. I have to get over my wanting to dismiss this somewhat strange sociopath who avoids most people and remember that the Christ child was first shown to shepherds who weren’t even considered to be witnesses in court.
I want to conclude by reminding us all how we can witness to our faith this Christmastide. Yesterday, on Advent 4, I spoke about times when we say something about our faith and times we don’t. The examples I gave were where I said something to defend the faith and were I didn’t and the circumstances were the same: it was the end of the day, I was tired and all I wanted to do was to get home to bed. I said that I suspected that there are moments when the Holy Spirit works. We don’t know which way the wind blows, or where it comes from for where it goes. There will be times, perhaps even this Christmas, where someone will say something off colour, or against our beliefs, or worse, against someone we love. Stay on the ball, keep with the faith and defend what you believe. And maybe stay off on the smartphone, at least at the dinner table to talk to those around you who you love and want to be with you. Merry Christmas. Amen.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
Keep your eye on the ball
One of golf's immortal moments came when a Scotchman demonstrated the new game to President Ulysses Grant. Carefully placing the ball on the tee, he took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf and scattered dirt all over the President's beard and surrounding vicinity, while the ball placidly waited on the tee. Again the Scotchman swung, and again he missed. The President waited patiently through six tries and then quietly stated, "There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball. We hear today of Mary who having just heard from the Angel Gabriel that she will bear a son who will be named Jesus. She sets out “with haste” to go to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. She has something to tell them, which is know as “The Magnificat”, Mary’s song of praise for having been chosen to be the mother of God. She knows what she wants to do, she doesn’t take her eye off the ball, she goes with haste to share her news.
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 word for me is “strive”. This means that we are not there yet, but that we are working towards being what Christ has called us to be and he is our focus.
A couple of weeks ago I preached about the Christmas movies were really Advent movies, that the movies we watch are really Advent movies rather than Christmas movies. Most of them, I said, are about repenting, leaving an old way and the redemption of one of the main characters. The message of most of those movies is that they become better people who being shown the error of their ways. The world thinks if we become better people that is all we have to do. John proclaims that Jesus takes us to another level; one of faith in Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, John states, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”God is interested in action and God is the one who helps us do this. When it comes to faith, we are to like Mary who shares her good news. There are times when we say something about our faith and times when we don’t, when we hesitate and miss the opportunity. Sometimes when we have our eye on the ball and sometimes we don’t.
I was at a play recently, which was in fact, an improv where they did just about everything off the cuff, asking the audience for ideas and words on which to base their skits about Christmas. I guess it bugged me more than usual the jabs they took at Christmas, the virgin birth, prayer, faith – nothing is sacred. I should have guessed going to an avant-guardetheatre that it would go this direction, even though most of the ridicule is old and tired, it still bugged me. What I didn’t do afterwards was bring up this issue with the people I was with; I was tired, it was the end of a long day and I wanted to get home, back to Orangeville,, my eye wasn’t on the ball.
And then, there are times when our eye is on the ball. I was with some friends recently and we had dinner. One of the people I had not met who was one of those people who spoke confidently and had an answer for every question. He said that the world was a much better place that 100 years ago and quoted a whole bunch of statistics to prove his point. I challenged him to think about people in Africa and Asia who were suffering because of their faith, what about them– that seemed to quiet him. This is a little out of character for me, not wanting to rock the boat., but I couldn’t let it go, it was the end of the day, I was tired and all I wanted to do was to get home to Orangeville, and my eye was on the ball.
I suspect that that is one of the those moments of the Holy Spirit and with it we know which way the wind blows, or where it comes from. There will be times, perhaps even this Christmas, where someone will say something off colour, or against our believes, or worse against someone we love. We have a choice and I hope we can keep our eye on the ball, Jesus Christ as we celebrate his birth with faith, joy, hope and love. Amen.
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.