Peter Scott's Sermons

The Second Sunday After The Epiphany

January 19, 2020

 

John 1:29-42

29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

 

 

‘Come and See’

In today’s reading from John we hear Jesus say, “Come and see”. Come and see what, we might ask? This passage from the first chapter of John’s Gospel is about the call of the first disciples.  As different as John’s Gospel is, and the fact we don’t read through his Gospel in our yearly order of readings, and that for many people, John’s Gospel is their favourite, all the Gospels have a section on the ‘call of the first disciples’.  This past week I was speaking with some other preachers and we were discussing our favourite gospel.  One of them said that they liked Matthew’s Gospel because it had all of Jesus’ life from birth, to death, to his resurrection while I said that I liked Mark’s Gospel which I said was short and to the point.  The third preacher said he liked John which he felt was the best one ‘to come and see’ who Jesus is for new Christians. When Jesus says come and see, he means come and see me and who I am when he was speaking to his first disciples. Jesus then sends his disciples out to proclaim the good news. He does the same for us; calls us and sends us.      

We may remember the verses in scripture in John’s Gospel, “I don’t call you servants, but I call you friends” and “You did not chose me, but I chose you.” The gospel is about what God has done, is doing, or will do. God is the subject of our sentences and sentences like “I have chosen God;” “I have decided to follow Jesus” (which I heard was on church bulletin) are not gospel.  Sentences like “God has chosen you;” “Jesus has appointed us to bear fruit;” “God loves you;” “God gives you new birth;” are gospel statements. God is the subject of the sentences and our lives. 

We are then sent by God to share our faith and this happens through word and deed in our homes, and in our lives.  Society will say to us, that we shouldn’t share our faith, that it is a private matter and we may well were brought up like that with religion being one of the things that you didn’t talk about at the dinner table, like sex and money.  The other night I was watching T.V. when ad came on from the “Freedom from Religion Foundation”.  They are a U.S. group advocating for non-theists, which promotes the separation of church and state and educates the public on matters to relating to atheism, agnosticism and non-theism.The spokesman who none other than Ron Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan.  His father and President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, described himself a born again Christian. A lot can happen in one generation and we shouldn’t let our culture dictate what we can and cannot say; we should not be silenced to speak about the one “in whom we live, and move and have our being”.

I, amongst others, don’t think religion is a private matter, but rather a personal matter.  “Come and see” is an invitation to get involved in God’s plan. In John’s Gospel, faith begins by responding to the invitation to “come and see.”   There are moments where we don’t always have to be doing.  We talked about this in an early Thursday morning study that I attend. We were reminded of the contemplative time in our lives of prayer, meditation, fasting, rest, silence, gratitude; allow some time for that in the week as well. 

What would someone see and when they come to St. Mark’s? Is there love, fellowship, a place to get better, to learn to grow, to rejuvenate, fill the tank? Next week, on Sunday, January 26 all of us will have the opportunity to ‘Share your story’ in a video format. There will be a camera set up in the Elizabeth Room. Here are the questions:

1. Past: What are your memories of times past at St Mark’s?
2. Present: What does St Mark’s mean to you now? or What ministry at St Mark’s is making a difference in your life now?

3. Future: Where do you see St Mark’s in five/ten years?  or What new paths/goals would you like to see St Mark’s pursue in the future?  We will use the videos inhouse and, if you give us permission, on our website. 

Think about these questions over the next week; memories of the past, St. Mark’s and what our faith means now and what is our future.  There is an expression I like to use: All may, some should none must.  Think about what people would come and see at St. Mark’s and why you have come and what you have seen. Amen. 

    

Epiphany Sunday

January 5, 2020

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

 

Going home another Way

      In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men came from the East to Jerusalem. As you know, I like to begin my sermons with a verse from scripture, sometimes it’s the first verse which is the case today. Before Christmas, I saw on Facebook a cartoon of the three wise men at a stand that was selling gold.  Beside the stand there was a couple of baskets, with a sign above them which stated, “Customers who bought this item also bought” with frankincense and myrrh below it.  As well in my sermons I often will point out some inconsistencies that have arisen over the ages in regards to what is in scripture and want isn’t.   Here are three quick points about the Magi:

  1. There were three wise men. Three would be the answer that most would give, but they might be right and they might be wrong. Scripture doesn’t tell us how many there were, but there are three gifts so we might assume, correctly or incorrectly, that there were three wise men.

  2. Their names were Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar. As we read, their names are not given.

  3. We know the carol, “We three kings of Orient are…”, but scripture doesn’t state that they are kings. In Jesus’ time the magi were thought to be astrologers, fortune-tellers, or star-gazers from Persia. We might compare them to people today in fortune-teller booths, or people on the “psychic hotline”.

      What else can we say about the Magi? We read that three times in this text (vv. 2, 8, 11) the phrase that the Magi “pay him homage”.  This is a phrase that refers to a posture of worship, that is, bowing down; and it also has to do with an attitude of worship. It seems clear that Herod expresses the desire to “worship” Jesus, but we know that it would be a false worship. His attitude is one of fear, that is fear for his own position and status. Worship and attitude; it would seem that attitude plays an equally important, if not more important role. We can go through worship without having the proper attitude; going through the motions of worship without meaning. We read later in Matthew (15:3-9) that people worship God with their lips even when their deeds demonstrate that their hearts are far from God.  Repentance means change and Herod and the religious establishment are too established to change; they like things the way they are. A question for us might be: What needs to be changed in our lives?

      12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. I want to conclude with the last verse of today’s reading.  It says that the Magi went home by another road. Odos is the Greek word for road or way. Some translations have way instead of road. Odos is an easy word to remember because we get the word, odometer from it.  The word way itself can have a double meaning.  It can mean, as we would think, that the Magi went home by another road, that is, not through Jerusalem to avoid seeing Herod again. It can also mean that they went home another “way”. In Acts, the followers of Jesus were called followers of the Way six times (Acts 9:2; 18:25, 26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14).  They no longer acted or believed the same way they had before. They believed and obeyed God by going home by another way.  After being with the infant Jesus, the Magi were changed.  Here is a another question that we could ask ourselves as we begin 2020: Are we going home changed after a service?

     God chooses the Magi, who are foreigners and pagans who come and pay Jesus homage as King of Jews. We can do the same and when we do we are changed and become followers and obey his word.   Happy New Year. Amen.

 

                                                Christmas Day

December 25, 2019

Luke 2:8-20

 8In 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. 

 

                                     FOR ALL THE PEOPLE

“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”. Some of you may recognize our shepherd (placed in the church for the Christmas services) who has been part of our KayCee Gardens display for a number of years. I don’t think he’s very happy about being here, but it’s probably better than being in the storage room. I knew he was there whenever I was about to enter the room, but he would always startle me.  I would often ask him how is he is, or what’s happening. This evening, while the shepherd is here, I would like to talk about shepherds. 

I want to begin with the fact that there are positive images of shepherds in the scripture, the 23rd Psalm, but by the time of Jesus’ birth shepherding was a despised occupation.  A New Testament scholar writes:  “… in the first century, shepherds were scorned as shiftless, dishonest people who grazed their flocks on others’ lands” Our shepherd might want to get his name afterwards. In spite of this, God choose the shepherds to be the first witnesses of Jesus’ birth. The shepherds could easily have said, “First, let me find someone to take care of the sheep”; or,” I like it out here, I’m not going into town”, but they went as you were told.  The shepherds get one line in this account from Luke when they 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.” The writer, Luke, more than the other gospels, presents Jesus as the savior for all people.  Men and women, poor and rich, Pharisees and sinners and it is only Luke who records Jesus eating with Pharisees and with sinners and tax collectors. 

The shepherds went to the manger because God made them an invitation they couldn’t refuse.  The shepherds went, not because they were worthy, but because God invited them; that is the way the Gospel works. If we are included in “all” we might have trouble using the right words when talking about our faith and its value in our lives.  St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” The actual quotation is, in fact, a little more subtle: “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” There is no sense saying one thing about helping people and then not doing anything and being of little or no value to society.  And what is our value, well, let’s start with money.  There is something called the Halo Project and I quote from the Executive Summary: In Canada, the social, spiritual and communal value of local congregations has long been accepted. The economic value of these congregations to society, however, is a different matter altogether.  The Anglican Diocese of Niagara makes a (socio-economic) contribution of approximately $100.1 million while the Congregational average is $1,462,159  and on an individual each parishioners in Niagara contributes an average of $19,221 to the common good. I put that report up on our website and you can read it there in full.

 I think that the rubber really hits the road more often than not right here at St. Mark’s door.  I am inspired by phrases like, no one has ever become poor from giving. When the church door buzzer rings, the people of St. Mark’s are prepared to help in many ways with our time, talent and our treasure.  Many are struggling with rising costs of living and often there just isn’t enough money for the basics, let alone celebrating Christ’s birth.   Here is a story of someone we met from one of our parishioners who answers our door:  We first met Mr. J. at our pop-up Christmas store a few years ago. He came in with an infant and a toddler, both girls in diapers. Mr. J. himself has some health challenges and is unable to work. He is quite destitute. He is a dedicated dad who revolves his life around raising his little girls. Mr. J. does not abuse our cupboard, but comes once a month. He is very thankful for everything that we do for him.

What have we learned this evening? Jesus is for all, do what you say you’re going to do and, we contribute more than we can ask or imagine.  Merry Christmas from our shepherd and from my family to yours. Amen.

Advent 1

December 1, 2019

Matthew 24:36-44
 36“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
 

                                                                                        Resolutions for 2020 

     The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a church new year and we should treat it like the beginning of the calendar new year, January 1; we should think about what our church new year’s resolutions will be.  Here two resolutions that we could make; one in the near future and one that goes far into the future.
  1. Resolution to wait until Christmas to celebrate Christmas
  2. Resolution to be mindful of being a Christian in every situation we find ourselves in.
     Resolution # 1: to wait until Christmas to celebrate Christmas As I wrote in my Christmas letter, I first noticed Christmas decorations for sale in mid-September, the first Christmas music on the radio on November 1 and I do find it hard to say ‘Merry Christmas’ at the Santa Claus parade with Christmas Day still almost 40 days away.   Try a gradual build up instead of getting to Christmas and being Christmased out, sick and tired of the music, parties, shopping and decorations.  During the Season of Advent we prepare to celebrate Christmas as we hear the stories of the proclamation of John the Baptist and the angel of the Lord telling Joseph that Mary will bear a son and will call him Jesus.  A friend of mine had a clever way in which to celebrate Christmas, and Epiphany, in particular. On the first Sunday of Advent he would put out his creche and the three wise men on the other side of the house, whom he would each Sunday, move a little closer until their arrival to worship Jesus on January 6, Epiphany.  It was, in a way, celebrating but not fully until the proper time.
     Resolution #2: Resolution to be mindful of being a Christian in every situation we find ourselves in.  The choice of Gospel reading today may seem odd.   It’s the first Sunday in Advent and Christmas is coming, not the end of the world.  We do, although, observe in Advent the celebration of Jesus’ first coming, Christmas, and his coming again, his second coming.   The reading we read in Matthew has been a subject of discussion over the ages.   It says that no one knows when the end will come, but people will still try and guess.   Jesus cautions us against trying to guess when the end will come.  You can burn out trying to predict the end too, as one denomination after so many times of getting it wrong, got out of the predicting business.
     People in Matthew’s time were very aware of Christians who engaged in that kind of behaviour.   How do we know that – because Jesus spoke to it.  The main thing to know about the future is that God is in control, for we believe in the same God of the past and present as the God of the future. In the reading, Jesus commands us to watch now and in the future.  On a former Bishop’s desk there was a sign that read, “Look busy. Jesus is coming”.   The word ‘watch’ is an Old Testament concept, which came out of the necessity of maintaining a constant vigil on the walls of the city against thieves and bandits.  It also refers to the spiritual vigilance that is needed to keep us from wandering away from God.  In this section, (grammar alert!) the word watch is in the active voice; we are to maintain our vigilance not by passively waiting, but by engaging in good deeds and active discipleship.  St. Mark’s needs to ask itself, not where is this happening already, but more importantly, where are good deeds and active discipleship are not happening. Let us seek out the answer to this in our own lives and in the life of St. Mark’s.
     We are called to be prepared now and each and every year to celebrate the first coming of Jesus and to be prepared for his second coming.  The beginning of the Christian year as the beginning of the calendar year brings with it new beginnings and resolutions.  We are reminded by Jesus to remember that God will provide as we prepare to celebrate his birth and as we prepare to open the doors of his house to his people in new and different ways in the future. Amen.


THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

November 17, 2019

 

1 PETER 2:4-9 

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 

 

We are the Church

Today we celebrate Stewardship Sunday when we give thanks for the time, talent and treasure given over the past year to St. Mark’s. Stewardship is a combination of time, treasure and talent, but as so often happens it can come down to just treasure being talked about. We also are reminded in scripture of the ministry that we all share as God’s children.  

Recently, it was suggested by the diocese that we have a donate button on our website.  It’s early days and I am still trying to figure out how to navigate, edit and add to our new website.  I tired and I tried to put a DONATE button on the website, but could not figure it out.  After many, many attempts over the course of half an hour, I gave up.  I logged out of the editing software and decided to go to our website to see what else might need some work.  To my surprise, low and behold, the DONATE button was there ….. 42 times…. 7 rows of DONATE, DONATE, DONATE…  My point here is that, charities and the church in general, might feel that way to us; always talking about, or needing or asking for money.  At the end of it all, I was able to remove those 42 buttons quite easily and decided not to add one. 

It is rarely just treasure that keeps our ministry going, but a combination of a number time, treasure and talent.  At St. Mark’s this past year, there have been a number of ministries that have been a combination of time, talent and treasure: another Christmas Day lunch, those who now assist on weekdays those who come to our Food Cupboard, The Rev’d Mary Ranger Library, a new rehearsal piano in thanksgiving for Pam Claridge, our parking lot.  This idea of a combination of time, treasure and talent also applies for our overall ministry together.  

There is a phrase, I am the priest, you are the ministers. In the second lesson from the 2nd letter of Peter we hear, But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. As the priest, my calling includes preparing God’s people for proclamation.  The ministries of counseling, discipleship and teaching, of which I do a lot of, in scripture they are assigned to all God’s people.  We often refer to the church building as the house of God, but in fact we hear in Hebrews 3: 6, Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope. When we hear and understand that, we will stop talking about the church as something separate from ourselves, that place on First Avenue, and we become the place where ministry takes place. It is in us that the ministry of St Mark’s takes place and we take that ministry whenever and wherever we go in our lives.  It is who we are, St. Mark’s.  We are his house if we hold firm the confidence and pride that belong to hope of Christ.  

And for that, we, St. Mark’s, is grateful.  Gratitude is defined as:  an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Today, the Gratitude slips from the Stewardship Dinner will be placed on the Altar and included in the Prayers.   I would like to conclude with the grace that I use at the Stewardship Dinner which speaks of gratitude:

 

For food in a world where many walk in hunger

For faith in a world where many walk in fear

For friends in a world where many walk alone

We give you thanks, O Lord. Amen. 

 

 

 

Remembrance Sunday – November 10, 2019

John 16:23-33 

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, Canadians are asked to 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 across 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 ongoing peacekeeping missions. 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.

In today’s passage from John’s Gospel there are words that stand out for me: peace, love and understanding. There was a song from the 70’s written by Elvis Costello called, “What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding”. The song is pointing to the concept that the ideal of peace, love and understanding was a moto of the 60’s, perhaps seem “funny” or, beyond our grasp. One of the things I live to do when travelling is to look at the license plates of those from different provinces and states and their motoes.  Ontario’s motto on our license plates is “Keep it Beautiful” (for now), Quebec – Je me Souvien, Friendly Manitoba – and New York –  The Empire State The one that always catches my eye is New Hampshire’s motto: “Live Free or Die”. I’m not quite sure that that would be Christ’s motto, but Jesus does state at the end of today’s passage, But take courage. What did Jesus mean by that? So let’s look at that verse, phrase by phrase. 

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!’ In me you may have peace; we share in Jesus’ victory over the world. It is a spiritual victory over evil; 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.  That was the year of the Rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada, which were all about political reform and freedom. 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. I met a granddaughter of Rev’d Harrison, who served St. Mark’s during WW1. And then we move into the memories of some who knew, who remember parishioners and those from the town of Orangeville gave their lives in WW1, WW2 and Korea and Afghanistan, where Corporal Matthew McCully died.

The next phrase is, In the world you face persecution: 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 should not look to the world for peace. A former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India have come up with some startling information: Since 3600 B.C. the world has known only 292 years of peace!  During this period there have been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed.  The value of the property destroyed would pay for a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick.  Since 650 B.C. there have also been 1656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war.  The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved.

But take courage; I have conquered the world!’: The Greek word translated “have conquered” (nikaō) means “overcome, defeat, conquer.” As an aside, you may have a pair of shoes that got its name from the word, nikao. The verb 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 forgiveness now, 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 completed. It happened a long time ago, but it’s effects are still felt, experienced today, Lest we forget.

Lest we forget is a phrase often used by many when talking about Remembrance Day. The phrase “Let we forget” is from a poem by Rudyard Kipling, “Recessional” which he wrote on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The poem expresses pride in the British Empire, but also an underlying sadness that the Empire might go the way of all previous empires.  Kipling recognizes that boasting –  a fault of which he was often accused – was inappropriate and vain in light of God‘s dominion over the world.The first stanza states just that:  God of our fathers, known of old–
Lord of our far-flung battle line–
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine–
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget–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. We remember those on this plaque which was found a few weeks ago which states the names of those who were in the Sunday School and later served and gave their lives for our freedom– Let we forget.  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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALL SAINTS SUNDAY

October 27, 2019

 

 

Luke 6:20-31

20Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. 27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

 

AIM HIGHER & DO IT FOR THEM

I think that I have told this story to some of you before, but I think it is worth telling again.  Many years ago our family was driving through Hamilton and we passed a street named Rebecca Street and this prompted our daughter to ask where her name came from.She knew that the name Rebecca was from the bible, but wanted to know more.  We told that her that Rebekah was the wife of Isaac who was Abraham’s son and the mother of Jacob and Esau; all in all, a very important person.  Our son Ethan, of course, then asked, “Who was Ethan?”  I told him that the great King Solomon was described as being wiser than Ethan which, I said, was a distinction in its own right. (1Ki 4:31).  The car was uncharacteristically quiet for a few moments and then Ethan asked, “Why didn’t you call me Solomon?”  

Ethan had the right response; he was aiming higher.November 1, this coming Friday, is All Saints’ Day, a day on the same level of Christmas and Easter when we remember the Saints throughout the ages who have inspired us to aim higher.  All Saints Day was named Hallowmas; “hallows” meaning “saints” and “mas” meaning “Mass”.    Halloween, the day preceding All Saint’s Day, is so named because it is “The Eve of All Hallows”, which contracts to Hallowe’en. We may think on this day that what the saints did is beyond us or that we really aren’t called to be more than we already are.But we are all called to aim higher and be Saints.

The word “saint” is derived from a Greek whose basic meaning is “to set apart, ” “sanctify, ” or “make holy.” The apostle, Paul, often in his addressed his letters “to the saints…”, meaning all Christians. And, what is a Saint?The last verse sums up what a Saint is: Do to others as you would have them do to you. The Message, a modern translation by Eugene Pederson translate that his way, “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!”   That sums up the life of a saint, “do it for them”. 

We often think of the disciples as Saints, who aimed higher and were a ‘do it for them’ group. The following fictional letter is written as if Jesus would have hired a Consulting firm to help him choose his disciples.  The letter which you may also have heard before would read as follows:

Dear Jesus: 

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests and we also arranged personal interviews for each of them. As part of our service, we make some general comments for your guidance.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew had been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings. 

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places.. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. We wish you every success in your new venture. Sincerely, Jordan Management Consultants. 

It would have been a disaster if Jesus would have asked for our counsel in order to choose his disciples, the earliest Saints of the church. A Saint is someone who “aims higher” and a “do it for them” person.  The Rev’d Mary Ranger was one of the saints who aimed higher and was a do it them person.  She broke the mold of what it means to be a Christian, as she didn’t necessarily follow the rules and lived a principled live of a saint, not seeking spotlight or expecting recognition.  There is a common misconception by those who are not religious who make the assumption that religion means going to church on Sunday morning and praying. They think that we hold that back on our faith in the rest of your life.  I think that sometimes we believe that because we don’t live out our faith, we want to mix in, we hold back, we don’t act or speak differently than those with no faith. The Saints, I believe, see religious practice in all parts of our lives including social services, interaction with the community and their involvement in their everyday life with family and friends. The Saints also knew it is Jesus who gives us the message, the Holy Spirit the strength to do it and God gets the gloryAmen to that!

 

THANKSGIVING SUNDAY

October 13, 2019

 

Luke 17:11-19

11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

 

Thanksgiving Contrasts

Today we hear in this well-known passage from Luke’s Gospel of the healing of ten lepers about healing and giving thanks. Jesus is the on the way to Jerusalem, he enters a village, 10 lepers approach him, keeping their distance, and ask Jesus to have mercy on them.  He tells them to go and show themselves to the priests and as they went they were made clean.  One of them, a Samaritan, when he saw that he was healed, turned back praised God, prostrated himself at Jesus feet and thanked him. Jesus asks where are the other nine, why didn’t they give praise to God and he says to the man get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.  We heard this passage before and we now have heard twice today. The message from this passage is simple on this Thanksgiving Sunday; it’s about giving thanks to God and we should do the same. End of sermon. Amen…Not so fast! Jesus, God’s word, does not let us off so easily.  The passage is one of contrasts; some stand out and others are more subtle.  The contrasts are: the Samaritans and Jews; well and clean and, thanks and praise.

The contrast between Samaritans and Jews.  The Samaritans were a racially mixed society with Jewish and pagan ancestry. Although they worshiped Yahweh as did the Jews, their religion was not mainstream Judaism.  They accepted only the first five books of the Bible as canonical and so because of their imperfect adherence to Judaism and their partly pagan ancestry, the Samaritans were despised by ordinary Jews.Jews travelling near Samaria would bypass the region in order not to contaminated and Samaritans and Samaritans did not like the Jews.The Samaritan therefor could not and would not have anything to do with the priest and the priest would have nothing to do with him if he had gone to the priest.  The Samaritan would have then just returned to his community, but he didn’t. He did something exceptional in returning to Jesus, a Jew, who he should not come into contact with.  We can get wrapped up in why he returned, why Jesus would have sent him to see the priest, which he shouldn’t have, knowing that he was a Samaritan, but the point is that he returned, despite all the rules, the history, the laws, he returned and was made well.  The contrast between clean and well. There is a difference between clean and well.  We read in vs. 14, “they were made clean,” while in vs. 19, “your faith has made you well.” Invs. 14the ten are passive recipients, something is done to them by someone else, they are made clean by Jesus. In vs. 19, the Samaritan is an active participant, it is his faith that has made him well. The other nine as we remember went to the priests, who would through a series of rituals make sure that they were cured of their leprosy, only after which having passed that they were clean could they return to society. The phrase “made you well” or “made you whole” as is found in some translations is from the Greek sozo, the word commonly translated “to save”.His faith made him return to the feet of Jesus in thanks, and that personal contact and submission signified a healing that is more than skin deep.That is why he praises God for he knows how God really is, in Jesus. 

The contrast between thanks and praise.  The Samaritan returns praises God and thanks Jesus. Praise and thanks are similar but not the same.Praise is to compliment and admire God for all his virtues and for what he is. Thanksgiving is to express thanks and gratitude for God for the things that he has done for you and provided you.Praise is more than words; it could be done in the form of singing that is the most popular way of praising the God.Thanksgiving is rooted in the things we have been given by God.Praise comes from insight of who the God really is.The question we might ask ourselves is do we only thank God, or do we praise God for knowing who God is and what he can do. 

The temptation here is to say that there are ungrateful people today who need to hear this story and be thankful – true enough. The other challenge is that we put ourselves in the shoes of the one who returned and feel that we amongst the righteous because well, we’re here.  This may lead to yet another contrast: us and them. Jesus saves sinners and it would seem from this passage that Jesus doesn’t single out people on the basis of their religion or lack of it.The Samaritan is made whole, we are made whole by Jesus and this Sunday we come together to give thanks and to praise God for being God.   Happy Thanksgiving. Amen.

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost  –  September 22, 2019
Luke 16:1-20

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

The Toughest Parable Ever…

Today’s reading follows the parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Prodigal Son.  Although the meanings of these parables are somewhat hard to interpret and challenging, the Parable of the Dishonest Manager is to put it in a word, baffling. I did some research and found that one preacher has preached on this passage seven different ways and came up with the statement, that we are saved by God’s grace, not by fully understanding Jesus’ meaning in this particular parable.True enough, but, there must be a point, there must be a reason Jesus told this parable, there must be… meaning.

One of two baffling points I want to look at in the parable is why the rich man praises the manager.  The rich man praises the steward because the manager was shrewd enough to do what he could to plan for his future well-being.  He was creative to look out for himself and his future needs. We never find out if in fact the manager did lose his job, but at least on the face of it, he is praised for looking out for himself in a very clever way just as, we would suppose, the rich man had.   Jesus wants us to be smart, or shrewd in the same way for what is right. It would seem that there are some very smart, clever, shrewd people out there who look out for themselves in very creative ways.  As, children of the light, God’s people, we could learn a few things from them for the good.

The other baffling statement as is, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. God’s people are to use what God has given us, “dishonest wealth”, or  “worldly wealth” as some translations put it, to help those in need who will in the future will show their gratitude when they welcome us into ‘eternal dwellings’, heaven.Or, as the biblical scholar Dr. William Barclay says in his commentary, The Rabbis had a saying, “The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come.”Jesus goes on to say in so many words, if you’re honest in small things, you be honest in big things.The life of a Christian disciple is one of faithful attention to the frequent and familiar tasks of each day, however small and insignificant they may seem.  We might think ourselves worthy of greater things, but life, for most of us, consists of what we might think of as small deeds.   Most of us will not this week christen a ship, write a book, end a war, dine with the queen, convert a nation, or be burned at the stake.  More likely the week will present no more than chance of giving to the food cupboard, write a note to a friend who lost a loved one, visit a nursing home, teach a Sunday school class, take part in Adopt-A-Hwy, tell a child a story, go to choir practice, or look after a neighbour’s dog.

Here is a story that I think illustrates that point.  In one of his talks in the Alpha series, Nicky Gumbel tells this story about John Wimber, the founding pastor of the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship and the Worldwide Vineyard Movement.  John Wimber was once approached by a member of his congregation who had met somebody in great need.  After the Sunday service this man told John Wimber of his frustration in trying to get help.“‘This man needed a place to stay, food, and support while he gets on his feet and looks for a job,’ he said. ‘I am really frustrated. I tried telephoning the church office, but I didn’t get an answer. I finally ended up having to let him stay with me for the week!  It was much as I live alone and have lots of room and it didn’t really add up to much, so, don’t you think the church should take care of people like this?’ “John Wimber thought for a moment and said, ‘It looks like the church did.’”

A baffling parable which on the face of it, without any explanation, would leave us with the thinking that a dishonest manager is praised and we are to make friends with our worldly wealth. It is my hope that we can take away the understanding that we asGod’s people, could learn a few things from the world and to help those in need, so that we will be welcomed into heaven.  And, if it is still baffling know that we are saved by grace and not by understanding the parable. Amen.

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost  –   July 21, 2019
Luke 10:38-42

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

 

 Learning and Serving 

 

When I was young and fair, my father took me out to a country road to learn how to drive.  I had just passed my “365” which was the name for the beginner’s license back in the day; it now called a G1. He did the driving while we made our way into the back roads north of Port Hope where he shared with the basics of driving.  He parked the car at the side of the road and we switched places with me now being in the driver’s seat.  He told me to put my foot on the break, move in the gear from park into drive and release the break.  I did that and asked before we got going too quickly, “Now what do I do?” And he simply replied, “Get on with it!” That was one of my father’s phrases that he used, often in my hearing, as if to say, you’ve learned what I have taught you, now do it.  My father was a ‘get on with it sort of man’, and yet accessed situations before jumping in. His approach was a nice blend of thinking before you act and getting on with it.  This story might be construed as an introduction to today’s gospel reading from Luke.  We might think of my father’s approach to life as a nice blend of Martha the active one and Mary, the thoughtful one. The only problem with that Jesus said Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her. And, Jesus really isn’t mad a Martha for working.

To get to the meaning of this story we have to start at the beginning.  The first verse in today’s passion reads: 38Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.Martha does the welcoming because hospitality has always been important and the early church was no exception.  This story tells us that a preoccupation with arrangements can lead to losing what the real purpose is, God’s people, not the stuff.  I have to keep telling myself to concentrate on the people in my life and not the stuff.  In this case it’s Jesus.  This is especially apparent when Martha cannot allow Mary to spend time listening to Jesus.

The next couple of verses read, 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”The real issue here is not between Marth’s doing and Mary’s listening, but between hearing the word and anxious behavior.  The front cover of our bulletin really doesn’t capture her anxiety; Martha is too focused on Jesus.  Martha was distracted which in Greek means, “to be pulled from all directions”.  And, if we read the passage we see the me/I language creeping in: “Lord, do you not care that mysister has left meto do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”It’s not about me or Martha, or you, it about God, about Jesus.

And finally, the last two verses:  41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Jesus chastises her for being worried and distracted.Now, none of us would ever have that problem.This passage is interesting because it speaks of a woman at the feet of Jesus learning, while the previous passages speaks of an outcast, a Samaritan doing the right thing.The message of the Good Samaritan is “Go and do likewise” while Mary has choose the better part of listening and remaining still.  If we were to ask Jesus which example applies to us, the Samaritan or Mary, his answer would probably be, “yes”.Service to God and God’s people is who we are, and yet focusing on Jesus is central to our faith.  We end our liturgy today with the words, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.Learning how to love the lord is a life journey, a journey of ups and downs, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings.Serving is certainly not a bad thing, but anxiety is not healthy.  Perhaps that’s why there is a statement about peace in this dismissal.  We should experience peace and joy in our learning and our serving. Amen.

ngst our brothers and sisters is the question we should be asking ourselves. If there is one thought, one take-away in this sermon it would be that we are all one in Christ. May we life that out to its fullest through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.