Peter Scott's Sermons
Sermons by the Rector
Transcripts of Archdeacon Peter Scott’s Sermons from Sunday services.
The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
July 19, 2020
24He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” 36Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
When I was young and fair, I had a job that included mowing lawns, painting and weeding. Weeding was the part of the job I disliked the most. I wasn’t good at it; I was impatient and the garden in question was an asparagus garden which was very big. I would leave the job of weeding to the last thing I did, only to move the earth around to cover the weeds and hope that my boss wouldn’t notice. He did and I would have to do the whole job all over again – a lesson in itself! Weeding has been necessary hard work for farmers and gardeners throughout history, but there is a twist in the parable we heard today. We heard that the wheat and weeds are allowed to grow together, and Jesus will send angels to do the weeding at the time of the harvest. We can take away two learnings from this parable. We are not to judge, while not permitting sinning. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven.
We are not to judge, while not permitting sinning. Today we hear yet another in a series of parables, a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.This parable was traditionally known as the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Jesus actually explains the parable after telling it which he always doesn’t do. First a quick explanation of wheat and tares which may be lost on the 20th century North American mostly urban listener. This is the twist which I spoke about earlier. Dr. William Barclay in his commentary explains it this way: The mental pictures in this parable would be clear and familiar to a Palestinian audience. Tares were one of the curses against which a farmer had to labour. They were a weed called bearded darnel (Lolium Temulentum). In their early stages the tares so closely resembled the wheat that it was impossible to distinguish the one from the other. When both had grown up it was easy to distinguish them; but by that time their roots were so intertwined that the tares could not be weeded out without tearing the wheat out with them. This is why the wheat and tares should grow up together, which would be obvious to Jesus’ listener, but not necessarily to us.
Secondly, we need to understand that this parable is not universal in its scope. It is not a parable that says we are to let sin abound. Last week’s parable reminds us of how thorns can choke the seed from producing fruit and this can happen in families, neighbourhoods and the church. And, God is the only and final judge as we read, amongst many other places in scripture, in James 4:12: There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbour? God’s judgement is not immediate like in the movies, but judgment comes.
It might seem like to us that people in this life escape the consequences of their actions. We are reminded constantly that there is a life to come and a final judgement. And so, we find in God, judgment and we also find forgiveness which leads to my second point.
We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. There are a number of sayings or expressions you might call them that I was taught while growing up. The first of which was when you have to do something, do it right away or write it down. This would explain, for those who know me, my constant use of post-it notes. Another one would be, put things back where you found them. This would explain, for those who know me, why I get so upset when I go to use something and it isn’t there. And the third one, which is in a way tied to the second one: Don’t live by, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I hear that last expression a lot, even in church circles, and it’s one that I try to avoid. We are not to find ways of getting away with sin hoping that we will be forgiven if we are caught. This would apply to those who knowing sidestep safety protocols during the pandemic and ask for forgiveness afterwards. Paul deals with this issue very well in Romans 6:l when he says: Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
Forgiveness in Jesus is central to the Christian life. Without it, no one lives the Christian life and no one gets into heaven. The church has not had the best record with forgiveness for it has not always followed what it teaches.
Secular society has recently come up with something called cancel culture, which is actually has been around since the beginning of time, we just have a new name for it. Cancel culture is a form of boycott in which an individual who has acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner is boycotted. It would seem that forgiveness, if a person repents, is now not in any way shape or form, not an option – this also may not be new.
Here is an example of I what I mean that just happened in the last week. Neil Golightly, the Communications officer stepped down after an employee complained about an article he wrote in 1987 that said women should not serve in combat. Mr. Golightly said of the piece: “Painful because it is wrong. Painful because it is offensive to women. Painful because it reminds me of the sharp and embarrassing education the uninformed and unformed ‘me’ of that time received as soon as the piece appeared.” I would say that that is statement of regret and an apology. The company’s chief executive, David Calhoun, wrote that Boeing “will have zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind” and that the company would “redouble our determination to drive out behaviors that violate our values and injure our colleagues.”
Jesus forgive sins and asks us to do the same. I wonder how many of the churches leadership would still be in place if we were to quote them about their views 30-40 years ago of women in active combat or for the matter, the ordination of women. If we go back to the wheat and tares growing up together, we can judge people prematurely, but Jesus doesn’t. Peter, Paul and Mary, not the folk group, all know Jesus forgiveness. In the case of Peter for denying Jesus three times. In the case of Paul who approved of the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and persecuted early Christians relentlessly. And in Mary’s case, we read in chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel gets it wrong who the family of Jesus is who states “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’
We are not to judge, while not permitting sinning We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. Let’s live like we believe that. Amen.
July 5, 2020
“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Burdens we Carry
I am feeling a bit overwhelmed these days. Not a surprising statement to hear, but perhaps one that you wouldn’t expect from the Rector. It would seem that I am looking for the smallest things that will give us hope that we are moving forward through the pandemic. The other day I was walking along First Street and I noticed that the Tim Hortons was open for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic because they don’t have a drive through. It was now open to walk-in orders and although you couldn’t stay and have your coffee, it was a change, a step in the right direction. We look for this sort of thing in a time which I describe as ‘boredom mixed with anxiety’. We are anxious about our health and those we love, while at the same time, we are bored with the routine of not being able to come together except under restrictions and in limited circumstances. It is for the good of others that we continue as we have been socially distancing, washing our hands, and staying safe.
Jesus words in today’s reading are words that I think we all need to hear at this time: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. These are words that those who come to the 8:30 service know well because they are repeated every week and make up part of which are known as the comfortable words, or ‘comfy words’ as they are sometimes known. Those that labour and are heavy laden will be refreshed by Jesus is the take-away from these verses. Let’s unpack what they mean for us. I have divided what I read by verse: 11:28 “Come to me…;11:29 Take my yoke upon you…and finally,11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Jesus is inviting all people, not a specific group, but all those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens. That can include just about anyone at one point in their lives. During the pandemic, possibly, most or all of us have felt weary and like we are carrying heavy burdens. I have talked with a number of you who have either had the Covid test or know someone who has had one. I had the test a couple of weeks ago and tested negative. Getting the test was a well-run operation and I commend those frontline workers for their patient, caring presence in what are a series of protocols that are repeated day in day out. I am sure that they would know what boredom mixed with anxiety means. Thankfully, having testing negative, I would say that it made me think about how if I had tested positive, I would have had to have to call all those I had come in contact with and burden them with my news. I usually call people to help them with their burdens, listen and pray for them; this is something all of have done and I suspect this is especially true during the pandemic. We all are to bring the light of Christ in our lives to lighten the burdens of others which leads me to my second point, verse 29.
11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. We can learn from Jesus to be gentle and humble in heart. This point is short and simple. I remember when my father died very early on in my ministry at St. Mark’s, 19 years ago today in fact. I remember a lot a words of comfort, but it was a hug from Archdeacon Marion Vincett, that I remember the most. She knew that there was a burden and that’s all I needed at the moment. The fancy language for that is a theology of presence, showing up, being with people. Jesus was there for people then and is present with us now as he promised. And we are called to do the same; to be there when needed.
11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” You will notice that there is still a yoke and that there is still a burden, but they are easy and light. We have been shown also that this new way of doing things over the internet has its challenges as we try to log on each week hoping that the technology will work. We all know that it is nothing like in person worship and ministry; that is our burden and our yoke at this time. We all have been living in a very difficult time as we come to the end of our fourth month since the Bishops closed the Anglican churches in Ontario. What it has revealed to us is that we miss each other, we miss the church and we miss fellowship. God is with us and, it has been my experience, more so in our times of need that at any other time. That is what this passage is about; it is for the weary, carrying heavy burdens, Jesus is gentle and humble of heart, present to us and we will find rest in our souls. We are still worshipping God, we are still singing God’s praises, we are still doing ministry and I very much appreciate your ongoing support through your donations to the church.
At this time, we are now reaching out to vulnerable groups by permission of the Bishop and so our Food Cupboard is opening this week, and 12 step groups with a limit of 10 are allowed back into the church building. We have the Primate coming to us next week and we are going to celebrate the Eucharist today online for the first time in our history. We are pleased to announce that Liam Croft has been appointed Technical Coordinator at St. Mark’s retroactive to June 1 and until September 1. We all give thanks for Liam’s expertise and diligence in bringing what are some of the best production values to our videos in the Diocese of Niagara. Liam, as well, has given counsel and advice on all our digital platforms (St. Mark’s Website, Mailchimp, Facebook, YouTube and Zoom). Welcome (officially) to our team Liam and thank you your all you have done for St. Mark’s ministry! And finally, we have received a grant from the Emergency Community Support Fund for $5,000!! The monies from this grant will go toward technical support to develop St. Mark’s digital presence and the work of Liam as our Technical Coordinator.
Signs of hope, yet signs that we are still having to carry the burden and the yoke of not being together. I pray as we go forward that we take with us Jesus words of hope and comfort into our lives and those we meet this week in person and digitally in this week ahead. Amen.
National Indigenous Day of Prayer
June 21, 2020
John 1: 1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
One in Christ
Today is the Third Sunday After Pentecost when we celebrate The National Indigenous Day of Prayer. It is also the first day of summer and Father’s Day – Happy Father’s Day. I stand before you as someone who, as you may know, has canoed throughout Canada and visited many reserves and indigenous communities. I was also, back in the mid-80’s, a teacher on a Reserve at Kashechewan on James Bay for one and two/thirds years – and I remember just about every minute of it. By that time most of the residential schools had closed and so I went to the reserve by invitation as an employee of the local Education Authority. The last residential school closed in 1996. The views, stories, and memories you will hear are all of a white southerner who, as a teacher and now an Anglican priest, has travelled and lived for a short time amongst our indigenous peoples in Canada whose prayer is that we are all drawn closer in our faith in Christ.
Let’s begin with the priest who, having trained at an Evangelical seminary, looks at scripture to begin with. The reading from John is the reading chosen today because it lays out our faith in what Jesus did, is doing and will do in his world through his people. And who are his people? We read: But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. It for ‘all’ of us who received and believed, not just one or another group or nation. I remember talking about the conditions on the Reserve where I taught, which particularly rough, with Principal of the school. She herself was indigenous, but not from that Reserve, as she had grown up on Six Nations here in southern Ontario. She said that for many people on the reserve, their faith was all that they had to get them through the challenges of everyday living.
The Christian faith in many indigenous communities across Canada is strong and alive amongst those who have gone through some very difficult times. I remember talking with a man whose son I taught on the reserve who told me that we he was at the residential school in Moosonee that when he father died in the middle of the school year, he was not allowed to go to the funeral, and had to wait until the summer to be with his family. Seeing and being with people in the flesh is what we want and need, he was denied that and during this time of the pandemic, we know what that means. We hear in the reading from John 1 that the Word was God and the Word became flesh. All of John 1 has to do leads up to “ and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth”. We have received in our lives God’s grace and we know the truth lived in our lives. We believe it to be true what God has done, is doing and what God promises to do.
When we say God loves us, or God loves the world, as we read later in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world” we have to think about what that means for us, for all people, for our indigenous brothers and sisters. We are to live in a way that shows that we are divinely loved in our love for others. There is no worry in God’s love, because we are loved by God and we live in that mindset and give thanks. In the Jewish morning prayer, which Paul must have prayed all his pre-Christian life it states, “I thank thee that Thou hast not made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” Paul takes that prayer and reverses it as the old distinctions were gone and all were one in Christ. If there was one thing that could bring us together, it would be that we are all debtors to God’s grace and one in Christ.
The love of God unites a disunited world. But there continues to be disunity; it can be seen in our country in our relationship with indigenous people. The Venerable Valerie Kerr, Archdeacon for Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenous Ministry for the Diocese of Niagara has held that position for a number of years. She, herself, is indigenous and speaks often to churches and groups throughout Canada about the issues faced today by indigenous peoples. We have tried to get her to St. Mark’s, but circumstances have not allowed this to happen. We will get her. She was asked recently, why can’t you just get over what happened, that was then and this is now, move on. She answered, how was she to get over missing and murdered indigenous women; access to clean water; teenagers still have to travel to go to high school; access to proper healthcare; lack of housing and food security. This is now, not then, this is in Canada, and this is found amongst our fellow indigenous Christians.
How do we respond to this crisis amongst our brothers and sisters is the question we should be asking ourselves. My prayer on this National Day of Indigenous Prayer is that we are one in Christ and that we may be drawn closer together. Learn, think, read about it and ask yourself where you stand on the issue from a Christian perspective. The way to start would be, to one in Christ. Amen.
June 7, 2020
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A SERMON ON THE TRINITY BY A PREACHER WHO DOESN’T LIKE PREACHING A SERMON ON THE TRINITY
They are many preachers who will tell you that they look forward to preaching on Trinity Sunday and many who will say they don’t – I am in the latter group. The preachers who preach on this day at St. Mark’s are called Associate Clergy, Honorary Assistants, Deacons, Assistant Curates, or visiting clergy – anybody, but me! But not this year! You might well ask, why don’t you, Peter, look forward to preaching on this day? In a phrase, it’s complicated.
I have prayed for revelation and, if anything, I have come up with a three point sermon about the Trinity: First Point: Defining the Trinity; Second Point: The mission of the Trinity; and Third Point: Our place in the mission of the Trinity.
First point: A Definition I going to begin by saying that one is usually on thin ice when trying to define the Trinity. Definitions are sometimes helpful, if only to get the conversation going, a sort of starting point. At the same time, the problem with them is that we can get lost in arguing over the points of the definition and don’t go beyond its definition And so, this first point is brief and to the point. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines the Trinity in this way: It can neither be known by unaided human reason apart from revelation, nor convincingly demonstrated after it has been revealed. How’s that working for you? The definition I like is found in a symbol which explains the Trinity this way: The Father is God, the Son is God, The Holy Spirit is God, while the Father is not the Spirit, who is not the Son, who is not the Father” Simply put, when we talk about Jesus, we don’t take God away or the Holy Spirit, and vice versa, vice versa.
End of first point.
Second point: The Mission of the Trinity. While my first point was brief, my second point may be controversial. Let’s start at the beginning, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s Gospel (4:18-21) when Jesus stands up to read in the synagogue:
‘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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
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.’
What we have here at the beginning of Jesus ministry is a Trinitarian statement from Isaiah, in the Old Testament, “The SPIRIT of the LORD is upon ME”. These inaugural words of Jesus’ mission are often used by those who are interested in Jesus inclination towards social justice to the point that that is all his mission is about. But let’s look briefly at these words that Jesus reads from Isaiah and how they are fulfilled in him. We read that Jesus is anointed, not just appointed by God. Anointed is the word from which we get in Hebrew, Messiah, Jesus is the Messiah, the saviour of the world. Jesus did not come to free them from the oppression of the Romans, and their Jewish collaborators (he even has one amongst his disciples – Matthew) but from themselves, their enslavement to sin. For if he had just come to overthrow the Romans, his mission would have been over then and there. If that were the case, Jesus would have for those people in that time and no other people or other time.
That is the good news; it is good news to the poor, the oppressed and the blind for all time – it is not time sensitive. Jesus did not come to overthrow a government, he came to free us from sin and give us everlasting life. Thinking about what Jesus did which leads me to my third point.
Point 3: Our place in the mission of the Trinity In our reading today, which I finally now get to, we hear: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The key action words, are go, make disciples, baptize them, teach them, obey and remember. The liturgy is often defined as ‘the work of the people’, but that’s not exactly correct. I couldn’t preach a sermon on the Trinity without some Greek thrown in. The word liturgy comes from the term in Greek (λειτουργία) leitourgia, which literally means “work for the people”. Liturgy is a literal translation of the two words “litos ergos” or “public service”. In origin, it signified the offerings Greek Christians made in service to the people. Some churches have “sending” after the blessing as a heading in the service and so, when we are sent out, what do we do? We are to go, make disciples, baptize, teach, obey and remember.
Our actions, our ministries, speak for themselves as Jesus said earlier in Matthew “…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me”. Jesus then says later, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
The Prayer Shawl ministry, Community lunches, The Beacon, PWRDF, Food Cupboard, hospital chaplains, and service organizations and all that we do in our community are where we become part of the Trinity’s mission. We are a church who through the Holy Trinity speak and live the good news of redemption and are sent into mission. May we continue to do that in these different and extraordinary times in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
May 24, 2020
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
God of Promise
Our reading for this feast day, The Ascension of the Lord, is taken from Book of Acts. The first words of the Book of Acts of the Apostles, or Acts for short, tells us that this is not the first book the author has written for Theophilus, whose name means “lover of God”. It is generally thought that the author of the Luke’s gospel is the author of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This first part of the reading gives us a thumbnail version of Jesus’ life, his suffering and the post-resurrection events that we traditionally read in the Season of Easter. He then goes to tell the disciples that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit which we will hear about next week on the Day of Pentecost. It may seem like we live in a time like between Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit when it was all about waiting and prayer for the “yet to be seen”.
We wait for a time when we can get together again in person rather than through the internet, phone, Zoom or at best through a glass window. We are promised that we will see each other again, but it seems that we seesaw between it happening and then the backlash against what will happen if we proceed too fast. The way ahead will be more digitalized through the computer, less face to face, more Zoom meetings, and fashionable face masks have already made their appearance. And they are saying, middle management, the way I describe the role of Archdeacon, could be cut forever- the church has not said this, but it may have to revisit its structures.
And so, it might be somewhat of a stretch to say that we are presently in a time like that of the disciples at the ascension, but here goes. The disciples were waiting for the Holy Spirit, knowing that Jesus promised to be with them to the end. It will be new and different without Jesus physical presence, and yet he is with them, with us even though we can’t get together and we can’t receive communion, the body and blood of Jesus . The time ahead will be different, and our waiting, like the disciples waiting involves faith and prayer. God’s promises have been fulfilled in Jesus; but today’s reading suggests that this time is an occasion for prayerful preparation of what is yet not seen.
Fulfilling promises is certainly central to our faith; and it is in the fulfillment of God’s promises that we play a role. If we look at the last couple of verses of the reading, we get a hint of what we are to do and not do. We are not to stand around gazing into the heavens; we are to pray and move on. Jesus says that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon them. The Greek word for power is dunamin which is the word from we get dynamite and that is powerful stuff! We are not to wait and around staring up into the heavens for God to do something; God will and it is through us – an interesting dynamite thought for each of us to think about. We read, “You will be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” So we too are to be witnesses to Jesus, in Orangeville, Mono and Dufferin County; not gazing up into the heavens and waiting for God to do something, but getting on with it.
But we are to do something else before getting on with it: prayer. What happens then is that the disciples go into Jerusalem to the room upstairs where they were staying and they were constantly devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1: 14). We are to begin with prayer and all too often we rush into things and forget that and I have to remember that in all that I do. When I served in Port Colborne at St. James there was an Honorary Assistant named Graham Thorpe who served with me. It was one of those occasions where we were talking about the work of the church and he said, all too often we rush into something before asking for God’s help, wisdom and power. If there were ever any place where we would expect prayer to begin and end what happens, it is in the church. Martin Luther, the reformation theologian, once said. I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first 3 hours in prayer.
I hear a lot of people limiting what God can do and not do these days. We believe in a God of promise, not limitations. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer. I pray that as we await in prayer whatever is to come, that we know the power of the Holy Spirit and get on with the mission of the church in this new and different time. Amen.
The Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020
John 14 :1-14
Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. If there was any verse from scripture that we need to hear during this pandemic, that verse from John 14:1 is in the top ten. Jesus is saying these words to the disciples who are about to watch Jesus betrayed, arrested, tried, and die on the cross. Jesus knows that their hearts will be troubled during that time, but he also knows that he will live and that after everything they will go through, they will also have everlasting live. Most funerals I officiate begin with “The Sentences”, three passages from scripture that are read in procession at the beginning of the funeral service. These three verses of John 14 make up the second of these sentences, the other two begin with in the case of the first sentence, “I am the resurrection and life says the lord” and the third sentence, “I am sure, that neither life, nor death…” Before saying these words, Jesus has just washed the disciples feet as a sign of servanthood, told them of his betrayal, given them a new commandment to love one and other, and told Peter that he will betray Jesus. He then gives them words of comfort for that time and for the time ahead.
These verses form the beginning of the farewell discourses in John which cover 4 chapters of Jesus final words to his disciples in the upper room before they go to the garden of Gethsemane and he is arrested. He begins with the words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. As many of you know, myself, Lynne and Richard, amongst many others have been calling around the parish to touch base with parishioners and hear how they are doing. The good news is that most of us are doing well, at the same time as being frightened, frustrated, bored, and ready for the next step of some things opening up. This has just started to happen in the past week, but it’s only a start and a small one at that, which really doesn’t change much in our lives, but it does give us hope. Any change from what we have been experiencing for almost two months is a welcome relieve, even if the change is small. It will mean, we pray, that there are more changes to come in the coming weeks and months, but it will be slow, it will gradual and there will be new normal, whatever that will look like, for a long time to come.
A change for many is the phone call which breaks up what can be a very monotonous day where for some little can happen. For others, the phone call can help them through the busyness of looking after family, working from home, and trying to find some normalcy in what is a very abnormal time that has not be experienced in living memory. I think everyone to a person whom I have called have thanked me for the call, for the words of comfort. Early on in the pandemic, I received a call from a parishioner who said I needed a call as well; she was checking in with me to find out how my family and I were doing. I told her, and a number of others since, that we are all well and that our new dog, Tasker, was getting a lot of attention. I need to be comforted too and I appreciate your words.
We all appreciate Jesus’ words of comfort, do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me which are followed by, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places”. I remember when the new translation of the Bible came out, the New Revised Standard Version which is the version we use in church, that the word mansion was changed to rooms. My maternal grandfather who grew up with and still read the King James version said he wanted a mansion, not just a room. Jesus is saying that there is lots of room for those who believe in him, in the place, he states later, that he is preparing for us.
Jesus then goes on to say, If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? Jesus makes a promise here, a promise to his disciples and to all Christian believers. In these difficult times, we are trying to find meaning in all of this. Earlier, in John 12:47 Jesus says, “For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world”. Something that may have heard, read about or thought yourself is the pandemic God’s judgment on the world. If we say the pandemic is judgment by God of the world, then that contradicts what Jesus says about not judging, but saving. If we say the pandemic is judgment by God then we also say we know the mind of God. If we say the pandemic is judgment by God then we believe in a vindictive God who passes the time by getting back at us. These are not be words of comfort, but words of threat, vengeance and attack. Jesus words deal with not letting our hearts be troubles, believing in Jesus and God, and preparing a place for us. And, that is we what we need to hear at the time in the pandemic; words of comfort, faith, and what is come. Amen.
St. Mark’s Day
April 26, 2020
Mark 1: 1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” 4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The End and Beginning of Mark
In this St. Mark’s Day sermon I want to talk about St. Mark, the end of the gospeland the beginning. St. Mark is probably best known as the author of the gospel bearing his name, who it is believed recorded the memories of Peter concerning Jesus’ life. In scripture, in the Book of Acts in particular, he is known John whose other name was Mark. Paul and Barnabas split up because Mark had deserted them on a previous journey; Barnabas takes Mark with him and Paul links up with Silas. Eventually, we learn that Mark is reconciled with Paul because he follows through on his mission work with Barnabas. There were and are disputes, disagreements and controversies among the saints of the church and there are controversies today.
End of Mark’s Gospel There is some controversy around the end of Mark’s Gospel, as it is stated in most bibles, if you look it up, this section is considered to be the “longer ending of Mark’s Gospel”. Although, it is included in the bible, it’s in italics and there is a note that states scholars are not sure if it was original. It is thought that some keen scribe long ago decided to add ‘the longer ending’ to the original manuscript to tighten up some loose ends. And what are the loose ends? The gospel ends in Mark 16:8 with, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. They, are the women, who flee in terror and amazement and saying nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. In the longer ending, you get two appearance of Jesus after his resurrection, the commissioning of the disciples and Jesus’ ascension all in eleven short verses. It straightforward and to the point, but that is where the similarity to Mark’s Gospel ends; it’s been added, pure and simple and not part of the original. You can talk amongst yourselves about what you think of the ‘longer ending’… and now to the beginning.
The Beginning of Mark’s Gospel Mark 1: 1-3 states: The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”cThe coming of John the Baptist as announced at the beginning of Mark’s gospel tells us of Christ’s coming, coming to purify, cleanse and wash the world clean of sin and death through the waters of Baptism. I remember hearing some time ago of what Archdeacon Michael Thompson, the Secretary of General Synod has hanging on his wall. When you go to your Doctor, Dentist, Chiropractor, Mechanic they usually have a certificate of some sort or other on their wall. You would expect Archdeacon Thompson to have his Letter of Orders, his ordination certificate, on his wall, but he doesn’t. He has, wherever he has served, put his baptism certificate on his wall. Archdeacon Thompson has put it there to remind himself his first profession was his baptismal ministry. You might try doing that yourself, to remind you of the first profession for all of us, in our lives of faith, is our Baptism.
I have looked briefly at the end and the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. History is not random, but is directed by the God who looks at the big picture from the beginning to the end. God is working the purposes of his kingdom out at all times and places including in these different and difficult times and we are called to herald in the Kingdom. Paul encouraged believers to walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (I Thessalonians 2:12) The ‘you’ in the above quotation is plural and so Paul is reminding us collectively, rather than individuals. Today, we are “working together apart” as we move through the Covid-19 pandemic. Wherever we are and whatever we do alone or together, we are called to walk in a manner worthy of God.
Some time ago, at a meeting, I blurted out that the thing I enjoy the most when ‘walking’ in my ministry is the “Adopt-a-Hwy” program; a bit of an exaggeration you might say, but think about it. It is a time where I can be with parishioners, cleaning up God’s creation, I get to talk to people about where they are at in their lives, the church and it joys and challenges and always find that I come away from it, well, full of joy. As tough as it is, picking up garbage in the ditch, early on a Saturday morning, it’s something like scripture; there are inspirational and hope-filled passages and challenging passages, but in the end, there is joy. The bible is not a smorgasbord that we pick and choose what to believe should or should not be included. Some passages may be comforting and some may be challenging, but all are there for our Christian journeys. And so today, we give thanks for the good news that Marks gives us through his gospel from beginning to end, for our journeys in faith. Happy St. Mark’s Day. Amen.
Easter Day 2020
April 12, 2020
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Don’t’ be afraid, come see, then go.
I had two working titles for this Easter Day sermon; “Do what we are told to do” and “Do not be afraid, come, see, then, go”. Both are admittedly awkward, yet capture what I am trying to say: to do what we are told to do. And what’s that? Don’t’ be afraid, come see, then go. When we look at today’s Gospel from Matthew, it contains these teachings, about fear, seeing and going as we read: Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” The women who have come to the tomb are told three things: Don’t be afraid. Come, see. Then go. We, today, are being told the exact same thing, on this Easter Day and on every Sunday. And these phrases lend themselves very nicely to a three-point sermon: 1. Do not be afraid. 2. Come, see. 3.Then go.
Do not be afraid. That is a phrase that certainly resonates with us on this of all Easter Days. Do not be afraid, may be the toughest of these three statements for me, for you, for everyone in these times. We may well ask, does this statement apply to Covid-19? The Queen used to say that the world smelled of fresh paint because everywhere she visited they had just put on a coat of fresh paint. Now, the world smells of hand sanitizer. Being vigilant and following protocols are very different that being afraid. The bible tells us about 365 times, an easy number to remember, once for every day in the year, not to be afraid. Fear is often faced when we do something that is new or learn something new. I remember when I was young and fair and learning how to drive with one of my friends. He made comments about my driving at every turn and I went from being nervous to being afraid to making mistakes. When he was in the car, I froze, I made more mistakes because I was afraid of making… mistakes. I am mindful of that memory when I am trying to backseat drive with others, especially young drivers. We can become as petrified as the soldiers during times like this because of fear. But, we can’t freeze, we can carry on because we have God on our side.
The angel did tell the women who were looking for Jesus not to be afraid, and they didn’t freeze like the soldiers. God is not out to get us as seen in all that Jesus said and did. As Rick Warren, the mega-Church pastor and author of “The Purpose Driven Life” wrote: God isn’t trying to get even with you. Jesus has taken the penalty for everything you’ve ever done wrong or will do wrong. He paid for it on the cross,”As we go through these times, know that God is not out to get us, punish us, or kill us. As we heard, I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Jesus died on the cross, and was raised from the dead and that is what we are told, remember and we live in that moment always. It is that, that we come and see.
Come, see. A couple of weeks ago I was on my daily check-in with Carol our Office Administrator. I told her about a recent conversation with my wife, Elizabeth, who had told me that I had done what I have been told to do all my life. And, that’s not quite true, especially if you had been able to talk with my Grade 2 teacher who gave me the opportunity to have a front row seat in the classroom, right up against her desk.
So what did I, what do we, come and see? We read, Come, see the place where he lay. The women who came together to the tomb all came expecting death, found life, expecting nothing, finding everything, expecting hopelessness, and found everlasting hope. I use everlasting hope, because that is what is getting me through these times. This is where our faith leads us when come and see. Hope is something that we all have to hold on to in our faith. We have got to come and see and when that happens we may have experiences alone or in community and we share them. And we come and see each week as a community, together which leads to the last point, then go.
Then go Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” You will notice that the women and later the disciples don’t do the following: they don’t question what they are told, they don’t ask for credentials and they don’t offer their own ideas about where they are to go. And yet, there are questions, that people have about the church, it’s purpose, its meaning, it reason for being. Many today have an individualized faith which goes against what scripture describes – that we come together. We Anglicans do like our buildings and walking through the building as I do from time to time these days when we are taping the service, it is, well, without life. I am on the phone a lot these days trying to keep in touch with parishioners. Last week I was speaking with someone and the question came up about the church and how it answers to society, to itself, for that matter, about its existence. My answer was this: church is about community, it’s about getting together in this church building, it’s about knowing that others are there for you even, or especially in these difficult times. It’s not about individualism, and it begins with women, plural who are told to the tell the disciples, plural. There is no question in my mind, that this is right, that WE are to go together.
I see it written, I hear it said, that ‘we are all in this together’. At the same time, we are told to socially and physically distance ourselves and it can be that, for many, which takes hold of our hearts and minds. Today’s reading reminds us of being a community, being together. When we do come together again in this church building the importance of community will be reinforced, and through Christ we will continue not to be afraid, will come, see and then go. Happy Easter everyone. Amen.
April 5, 2020
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
This is certainly a very different Palm Sunday. I say this, as you know, for a number of reasons. The first of which is that we are recording this on Friday, April 3. It’s not live, it quite honestly doesn’t feel right, but it is what we have to do as I think last week’s service with the Bishop at St. Mark’s, which was live and crashed, made the point. We don’t have the traditional Palm Sunday procession around the church, we can’t give out palm crosses, we miss the beautiful music of this day, and, we don’t have you, the congregation, who are watching this two days later from your homes. We enter Holy Week 2020 in a new and very different way.
Most of us now are beginning to suffer from lack of contact with others. If we have a dog they seemed to get walked more, we use the phone more, Zoom and Facetime are how we gather to catch up with friends and family. And we as a church now gather in this way, for the time being. What this shows that as much as Facebook, Youtube, email, Facetime, St. Mark’s website and the telephone for that matter, all of which have made it possible to stay in touch, none of them are as good as the real thing – being together. And so I continue by asking two questions: 1.Does Christianity speak to this crisis? And secondly: Do we lose contact with God during this pandemic?
The first question: Does Christianity speak to this crisis? We begin today’s reading with Jesus giving very specific in his instructions about what he needs in order to enter Jerusalem to go to the cross. We might be looking for very specific instructions from Jesus during this time. I suspect that the two disciples were nervous about getting it right and Jesus makes sure that every detail is covered from what they are getting, to where they are getting it, to what to say to those to those who question them. It is a donkey tied, and a colt with her that they are sent to get or, as Isaiah states, a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I remember when I was an Assistant Curate at St. Luke’s, Burlington being very nervous on my first Palm Sunday there. I was asked to read the Gospel reading from Matthew and when I got to the part, a donkey, and on a colt, I continued withthe “fowl” of a donkey.
So, what about specific directions from Jesus about what we are going through? N.T. Wright, the biblical scholar and Bishop, recently wrote a piece for Time magazine titled: Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To. It’s quite a provocative title and his argument is this and I quote: Perhaps what we need more of is to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world. It’s bad enough facing a pandemic in New York City or London. What about a crowded refugee camp on a Greek island? What about Gaza? Or South Sudan? That’s a Lenten statement, if we have ever heard one. Focus on our own sins and failings rather than pointing the world’s or those around us about what has happened and why it has happened.
I will say this: we may not get everything right, understand everything, but what we will remember, after this is over, is how we treated each other. Jesus reached out, we respond in reaching out and that is how Christianity, through Jesus, speaks to this crisis.
My second question: Do we lose contact with God during this pandemic? We might feel that we are in turmoil during this time, but this has we have gone through turmoil before and turmoil will happen again. We miss our routines, and as with you, most of my routines are with and about people. I said that we are in turmoil, and we read in the passage about Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem: 10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” The people shout, “hosanna”, an Aramaic phrase meaning, “Save us, I pray”. That is what we are saying today. And so, we don’t lose contact with God during this pandemic, we don’t lose our relationship with God during this pandemic, we don’t lose our ability to trust, to give thanks, to pray during this pandemic. When we say, “Save us, I pray”, that keeps us in touch, in contact with God.
I tried to answer two questions in this sermon and I have had questions from many parishioners about what they can do. I would say this: reach out and call someone, someone who you haven’t spoken to for a while, someone who doesn’t have family nearby, or isn’t on the internet, doesn’t get email, doesn’t Zoom. The restrictions have been increasing for good reason and I believe will continue to increase before being reduced. So remember: We may not get everything right, we may not understand everything, but what we will remember, after this is over, is how we treated each other. Jesus reached out, we respond in reaching out. May God Bless you all as we begin our walk with Jesus to the cross and the hope and glory of his resurrection. Amen.