Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It was my privilege today to preach at the weekly '12 Step Eucharist' which takes place at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria on Tuesday evenings.  I chose the theme, taken from the Lections from the Tuesday for Holy Week, of Death and Resurrection (surprise, a very unexpected theme for Holy Week...)

As it won't be shared anywhere else, for the time being, here's a taster, the full text is on my 'New Kid Deep Stuff' blog (where old sermons go to receive their rest)

Tuesday in Holy Week 2014 – 12 Step Eucharist

Death and resurrection

We don’t like talking about death.  At least as a society we steer clear of talking about death.  It’s a strange reversal on the Victorian era where they took almost a delight in all the things that surrounded death, they observed mourning very visibly and even took pictures of deceased loved ones – known as momento mori – to keep.  But they were very uptight indeed about sex and (the urban legend goes) even covered up the legs of tables in order that the menfolk not get aroused.

We, on the other hand, talk about sex a lot.  We have highly sexualised advertising, magazines proclaim the latest way to excite your lover and we get hung up about issues of sexuality particularly in the church – as if God really cares what happens in our bedrooms.  But we don’t talk about death.... [Continued here]

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tell Me

Referring back to my desire to foster a community where we tell stories, which was a blog post some while ago... here... Here's some more thinking about how we can follow Jesus' example in inviting participation in the sharing of the stories of faith.

This is a repost of a blog I posted in a previous incarnation at 'Grace Ground' - where I posted as a part of my last church group 'The Five Alive Mission Community' - I didn't manage to keep up that blogging regime (surprise!) but I do want to preserve this post.  I might not write in such a way now, this is two years old, but the heart is still what I would want to say.  I have recently rewritten this post for our local Paper too... I might post that here after publishing in order to compare and contrast!

Tell Me

I was on a ‘Life Coaching’ day yesterday provided by my Diocese to explore the possibility of either training some Clergy in Life Coaching or offering this facility with regards to working through projects or objectives raised by our Continuing Ministerial Development reviews.
That’s just background, a discussion about the ‘professionalisation of ministry’ or the value of Life Coaching can probably wait until another time.
The day began, though with a look at this poem by Mary Oliver entitled ‘The Summer Day’ AKA the grasshopper.  I’ve not reproduced it here as it might be under copyright, so I thought I’d link to it and quote!
It is a great poem and the small group on this training day agreed that it some how gave permission to the reader to consider being themselves – even in idleness.   There’s a wonderfully resonant image of being  ”idle and blessed” which helped our small group of Ministers remember that salvation doesn’t come through what we do but through resting in what Christ has done.  We so often bind ourselves up in concern with what we are and aren’t doing rather than what we are and aren’t being.  God calls us to be loved, before we are called to do loving things…
But there’s a potentially a harder edge to this poem as well.
“What else should I have done?”
“what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
It is as though the reader is being challenged to respond, as though we might consider the writer’s use of a day in relaxation and idleness somehow wasteful but are being asked why we might consider such to be the case and – by implication – whether our own choice of path is any better.
Yet, and this is where my title comes from.  These two interrogatives are softened, made expansive even by these two words…

Tell me….

The poem ends with these striking lines:
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Tell me – two words that invite.  They may preface a challenge, but in themselves they are warm, grace-full words.

When my children come home from school I say ‘Tell me what you did today’.  An invitation, I want to know.  In it I want to communicate my longing to hear them, and my intention to listen.

God is a ‘tell me’ God.

The invitation to share in prayer is not a demand but a longing on God’s part to be woven into the fabric of our daily life.  Yes, there’s challenge – and truly opening to God in prayer is a risky business that will result in transformation and growth, possibly via pain and loss.  But God has shared his story with all humanity in the person of Christ and longs for us to share our story with him in return.
And if we as the people of God in the Church are truly to mirror God’s Mission, his reaching out to humanity with open arms on the cross, we must be a tell me church too.  As we ask people to tell us their story, and we hear it without judging or criticising but loving and understanding.  As we allow people to tell us their fears and darknesses and we hear and respond to them with love.  As we allow people to tell us what they need without feeling the need to tell them first!

Expansive, grace-full, loving, inviting to life.

Tell me.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Wedding video and the joy of marriage.

I love weddings, it's part of the huge privilege of Pastoral Ministry to mark special events in people's lives and to share in both the bad and the good.  I also love a good video - and this video made of a wedding I did I find very moving, not just because they were gracious enough to include me in the video, and some of what I said in my sermon, but because the whole thing has a positive and thoughtful feel about it.  This video gives a pretty good vibe of how a wedding can feel.  Not that the wedding is the be all and end all, marriage is the real purpose of all of this and that takes work - but this video gives a glimpse of a couple who are deeply committed to one another, surrounded by friends and family, and who wanted to have their wedding affirmed and blessed - something the Church is very happy indeed to do. 

I love the song too.  Enjoy!

jonathan+melanie from Paper Heart Films on Vimeo.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Church Governance and other exciting and fascinating matters.

A few weeks ago I asked the congregation if they would like me to spend some of the sermon time this week on talking about 'Church governance'.  This is because this Sunday was 'Vestry Sunday' - our annual meeting for receiving reports of all that has happened in the previous year, saying thank you to the Wardens and Parish Council who work so hard for the benefit of the church community, and considering the financial situation of the Parish.  There was an overwhelming 'yes' to that offer.

Each Church has it's own form of Governance, there is a need for some kind of order and accountability in any group.  I think in the Anglican tradition we often make assumptions that people know what is going on without ever explaining these things - as if our structures and regulations might be passed on by some form of osmosis.  This Sermon is a very broad attempt to give a picture of how we run our Churches and why we have the structures we do.

Epiphany 7 (2014) Year A RCL Principal

Foundations, Rules & Temples

God is here!

Remember that? Those three words, our words for the presentation, a reminder that God is a part of our community and found in one another. They aren’t bad words to call to mind as we go into our Annual Vestry meeting and indeed as I share something of my understanding of what our Church order and governance consist of .

I should say that when I put the question out a couple of weeks back ‘would you like me to say something about what our Church structures are’ the response was quite overwhelmingly ‘yes please’  in fact I only had one person say no and that was because, as they said. “People really should come to the vestry meeting to find out”.  I can see the logic in that, but I think that it might be worth saying something of why vestry is important to encourage you all to come and take part in this part of the life of our Church fellowship... [More]

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Struggles with Suffering

Now I am not saying anything I have not said before, in fact I have even used some of the illustrations before - eg the Ray Harryhausen reference - but why this sermon for The Presentation of Christ has felt so difficult to write is a surprise to me.  Perhaps it is the way I've felt the need to put lots of things I have discussed over years into one place.  Also, I seem to be 'outing' myself as an uber liberal - but I am not too concerned about that...

The Presentation of Christ

Presentation (2014) Year A RCL Principal
A Sword Will Pierce your Own Heart also
God is here!
You’ve already heard that phrase a few times this morning.  That bold proclamation which is the foundation of today’s Gospel reading – when Anna and Simeon encounter the baby Jesus and proclaim ‘God is here’ – both in word and in action.  Simeon through the words we have come to know as the Nunc Dimitus, Anna with words of praise and speaking of all that the child would accomplish.
These proclamations, which are – Luke is keen to point out – fully the work of the Holy Spirit (a theme that will crop up again and again in Luke’s Gospel)  burst in on the activity of Joseph and Mary as they seek to fulfil the holy law and offer the sacrifice due.  God is here.  God is here in this child, in this place, in this activity, in the promise of who Jesus is, in the embracing of those outside of the expectations of the day (notably the gentiles), in this act of taking, blessing and sharing.   [more]

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A bit of Poetry

I have been enjoying a Facebook game lately, where one is challenged to post a poem by a writer of someone else's choice - and whoever 'likes' that post is also challenged to provide a poem by an author of the poster's choice.

Does that make sense? Probably not, anyway, the possibilities are endless and I have discovered some stuff by Mary Oliver and Brian Andreas (including a great Pinterest board)  that I might not have discovered otherwise.  Also on doing a search on Canadian Poets I found this below by Robert Priest - I publish with it's copyright attribution, but I don't have any ownership of it's copyright - I hope that in sharing I am not doing anything the poet would not want me to.  It's a challenging poem, and I found it here on the University of Toronto website along with lots of other great stuff.

Christ Is the Kind of Guy

Robert Priest From:   The Man Who Broke Out of the Letter X. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1984.

Christ is the kind of guy
you just can't help hurting
No matter how much you love him
when you walk you stumble into him
you push him accidentally from a window
If you back the car out
you will find him squashed behind the wheels
broken on the door--all over the grate
Christ has the kind of skin
that bruises when you hold him
the kind of face that
kisses cut
He is always breaking open
when we go to embrace him
Christ the haemophiliac
even the gentlest people can't help
wounding Jesus Christ
They are always running for a band-aid
and then pulling open his old wounds
on a nail
If there is a cross in your house
you will find yourself bumping up against him
moving him closer and closer to it
his arms continually more and more
widespread as he talks
Christ is the kind of guy
who can't help falling asleep like that
his arms spread wide as though over the whole world
You have a dream with a hammer
You are making a house
In the morning you awake
and find him up there on the crossbeams
one hand nailed to the door frame
"Look Jesus" you say
"I don't want to be saved like this!"
But then you hurt him
taking him down
you pry at the nails savagely
but it's no use
Christ is the kind of saviour
you can only get off a cross
with a blow torch
"Father forgive them" he says
as you begin to burn his hands

Robert Priest's works copyright © to the author.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

As promised

Here's the player for today's sermon in case you prefer to listen rather than read!

Today's sermon

Today I preached a sermon that I found moving both to prepare and to share.  I am struck at this point in my journey of faith by the great privilege of the ministry to which I am called, but the graciousness of my Christian community and by the sense of moving together in our sharing of story.  We are growing as a Christian fellowship.

So this sermon is very personal, and relatively dense - I will post it as a podcast but for now here is the text version. This follows on directly from last week's sermon and a few people wanted the text, probably to dissect! As always, taster on this page, link takes you to New Kid Deep Stuff blog (much underused these days)...

Epiphany 2 (2014) Year A RCL Principal

Come and See

First up, a little thought which I did say to the sermon Circle I wasn’t going to share, but it leads me into what I want to say this Morning too well to keep to myself.  It’s not the pig with three legs joke, but it is about animals…

A man takes his dog to the vet and after an examination the Vet takes him aside and says, I am very sorry but your dog doesn’t have long to go, now, and all we can do is make him comfortable.

The man refuses to believe it and demands a second opinion. So the vet agrees and whistles – from the back room comes a tabby cat which sniffs around the dog lying prone, pokes it and then looks up at the vet, shakes its head and dolefully says ‘meeow’. [more]

Step into the river....

St John's Church is in the process of considering the story of faith, how we engage with a faith that is historic and moving forward.  Our last Iona service was a powerful celebration of our part in the story and our moving together in the flow of faith - like Jesus and John the Baptist who we remembered today we are invited to 'step into the river'

Monday, January 13, 2014

So much happening

I feel the need to write, but can honestly say I don't quite know what to say.  This last six months has been a whirl of activity and colour, life, questions, worship, prayer, discover, reinforcement and faith, hope and love.  I feel very warmly welcomed and quickly at home here as part of the congregation of St John the Divine, as part of this Diocese of British Columbia and in this city of Victoria.

Sketch by Martin Machacek.
The Church is active, vibrant, welcoming and alive.  The people who I am fortunate enough to count as colleagues are dedicated and fun to work with, those who give so much time in voluntary service to the Church are committed and faithful.  There are many activities which take place in the course of each week and the church offers a variety of worship, groups, events, ministries and social action. 

Of course it's not perfect, nor is the Rector who serves it.  But we, together, are seeking to celebrate those aspects of the life of the Church which are life-giving, and to consider what we can do to make our ministry and our community a place which will continue to serve and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ for many years to come.

St John's is a growing Church - not just in the new faces that seem to appear every week, but in a desire to learn together, to worship together and to keep serving one another and the world around.  We are building community, we are seeking to be a place of love, inclusion, welcome and faith.

It feels as though, a few months in, we are at a point where I feel I have a grasp of much of what is going on, and a fair amount of what has gone on in this church.  People have worked hard to make sure I am aware of the identity of St John's and to express to me what they appreciate about what has been and what is.  We are considering who we are, and where we are going and that is not always comfortable, though it can be very rewarding!

I have made some changes, which I talked about on the church blog.  They are to my mind small changes (the reintroduction of a confession and creed to our main services) but they say something about being a part of a bigger scene; the Anglican tradition, and a part of the historical church. At some point I need to write something here or on the staff blog about why exactly I think that confession isn't about an obsession with being bad people, but about acknowledging the brokenness of the world, and our complicity in systems which are often destructive, that will be another conversation, though.  One that goes along with my ongoing thoughts about 'sin' which I blogged about a few weeks back

Having made those changes, and done some adjusting of our monthly Iona service, though I feel I need to keep restating something I have been saying for much of my ministry: I am not trying to create change for the sake of change.  If there are things about the life of the Church which are good and positive, whether they be traditional or innovative, established or recent, I wouldn't want to sweep them away just because I think things should be different.  Often I don't.  But where there are things which distract us from who we are, where we do things 'just because that's what we've done before' I want to ask 'why?' and whether those things need changing, leaving behind, working on, affirming or adjusting.

Change is disturbing, and distressing for many people. For others it is enlivening and exciting.  I hope that as we address any need to change, and any need to stay the same, we will continue to listen to one another, to who we are, to who we could be,  And that the God who remains steadfast through all of this will help us to find our faith in one another and in Godself,