Friday, May 08, 2015

Peace I leave you

At the 12-Step/Recovery Eucharist (which takes place every week on Tuesdays at 5.15pm at our Cathedral (Christ Church Cathedral) on Quadra Street in Victoria) a few days ago I had the opportunity to preside and share a few thoughts on a passage I rarely get to preach on, except at funerals!  These words of Jesus from John 14 "Peace I leave you..."

It had a particular context, that of the healing and recovery that comes through the 12-Step program.  The service is not just for those recovering from addictions but is a peaceful and health-ful shared space for prayer and the recognition of the need we all share for that deepest healing from those things which we do that take us away from well-being and wholeness.  It's a shorter meditation/talk than I would normally do for a 'sermon' so rather than putting it on New Kid Deep Stuff, I thought I would post it here.

Tuesday of Easter 5 – 12 Step thoughts


Peace, I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft.

Those words of Jesus, from the Message translation of the Bible that we just heard are better known to me in the New Revised Standard Version where they are translated “Peace I leave you, my own peace do I give to you, not as the world gives you do I give you”

I’m not saying that one translation is better than another, but that seeing something in an unfamiliar way can bring new life to it.  We often hear in scripture mention of peace, “the peace that passes all understanding” for instance; or “the Prince of Peace.” – one of the titles of the Messiah given by the prophet Isaiah in the Hebrew Scriptures; or Jesus appearing to his friends after the resurrection and saying “Peace be with you.”

But what is that peace? And how is it different from the peace that we so often talk about?  I mean, now I have children – one ten years old and one very much a teenager at thirteen – I get what my mother used to say when she would roll her eyes and tell us to go away because ‘I just want five minutes peace.’  I get that feeling, just a need to be away from the noise for a moment.  Just a bit of space without all the distractions and demands of everyday life.

Then there’s the peace that we pray for in the world, the absence of violence and hatred.  That war may cease and nations will live at peace with one another.

But Jesus doesn’t seem to be talking about either of those kinds of peace.  He’s not talking about having a quiet life, or escaping the noise, or the absence of war.  This peace is a different quality, something that isn’t just outside of us but within.  A peace shared between those who seek to follow and live with Christ, a peace given to each one of us – not something we can strive for, but something we can open ourselves to.

This peace is more than just feeling calm. It’s a deep and abiding sense of the presence of God, of (as it said in our reading) wholeness and wellness.  It’s not a peace that we have to jump through hoops to get to, not a peace that there is an action plan to achieve, not a peace that we have to earn.

It’s a peace we do have to learn to accept, though. It’s the peace that comes from letting go – recognising our own inability to control everything in our lives, and the desire of God to bring us wholeness and healing.

In the Hebrew Scriptures this peace is called  ‘shalom’.  It’s more like wholeness and healing than just ‘peace’ – it’s where everthing is as it should be, harmony between human beings, harmony between us and God, where creation is all brought into God’s wholeness.

It does take work – we all have a calling to bring in this state of shalom in our own way, being people of peace and love – but in the end the work is not ours. It is the work of God within us, the peace of Christ that is rooted deep within our hearts.

And we don’t necessarily get it all at once – it’s not a case of flicking a switch and it all happens.  It’s more a case of opening ourselves to allow God’s peace to flow, to ease into our hearts and minds.

That’s what we do here – we open ourselves to that peace.  We pray, we come to this table, this place of peace and spiritual nourishment, acutely aware of our need of God’s life and grace.  We come to seek and share Christ, as we recognise our part within this process – the process of recovery, healing and the journey of wholeness. We come to receive food for the journey of faith, the journey of peace, the journey of hope, the journey of love.

We open ourselves to the deep deep love of God; here together we share our need – of healing, of forgiveness, of peace, of Shalom.  May God feed us and bring us nearer to one another and to Godself as we open ourselves to that peace which Christ promises.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Just in case you're wondering where I am

Happy Easter! Alleluia - Christ is risen!

In case I've not mentioned it before - sometimes when this blog is quiet (tumbleweed style) I am also blogging on our Church website.  There is a staff blog there which I try to contribute to as I am able. Two particular postings I'd like to point you towards rather than rehashing them here are the Good Friday meditations which I led - which used poetry and prayers based around the Seven Last Words of Christ from the cross - and some Easter Sunday thinkings which went hand in hand with my Easter Day sermon.

I am at present trying to enjoy some downtime. This may mean I get to blog, or it might not.

Thanks for the follows and the comments and the responses, always appreciated.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Defined by the Eucharist?

Some reflections inspired by something our Bishop, Logan, shared this Morning at our Chrism Eucharist.  He shared a lot more than this, including a moving account of his experience at the demolition ceremonies around St Michael's Residential School (read the record of +Logan's apology at the ceremony here) and the place of ritual in healing and calling to a new way of being.

Anyway, here's my Maundy Thursday thinkings - or at least a taster, full sermon on New Kid Deep Stuff 

Defined by the Eucharist - a Maundy Thursday Sermon

Last year I began the sermon for Maundy Thursday (yes, I check these things, just to make sure don’t repeat myself too much) with the words “At the blessing of the oils service this morning in the Cathedral, Bishop Logan reminded us….”

And though I don’t like to repeat myself, I want to start my thoughts this evening with these words “At the blessing of the oils service this morning in our Cathedral, Bishop Logan reminded us… “ that this most Holy meal that we share this evening defines who we are.  I seem to get a lot of food for thought from our Bishop's Maundy sermons!  [more]

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A Thought for the Middle of Holy Week

Today, the Wednesday of Holy Week is, in my schedule, a bit of an odd day.  It is the 'calm before the storm' of the Triduum and the explosion of joy that is Easter.  We have a simple Eucharist at 7.45am every Wednesday with a thought suitable to the day, and although we have a Holy Wednesday service in the evening, we have kept to our usual Wednesday pattern. So here is my thinking for this Morning's service.

For those of us of a professional religious bent, we like to have answers.  They might not be the best answer, they might not be the right answer (if I’m honest) but we like to have an answer.  Sometimes they seem a little bit too much like stock answers, the autopilot of ministry – and if we don’t really have any answer to give we end up with the wonderful ‘well, it’s a mystery’.  Not really an answer at all. 

Which is why I take Holy Week so very seriously.  It’s a week that doesn’t allow us to give answers – not really, not if we really enter into it, not if we allow the depths of Holy Week to sink into us.

Jane gave us a glimpse of this when she preached on Sunday, she talked of the frustration of being left  with the Passion narrative and the death of Christ at the start of Holy Week and learning to live with, even to enter into, that tension.
It’s a week that demand we stop giving simple answers.  Pretending to know it all.  

I know there are Christians who tell us exactly what the passion and the death of Christ means, who have theories of atonement and sacrifice which somehow equal out the balance of the evil in the world and are quite keen on letting God know exactly how God should do business.  “Well,” we say “because Jesus died all our sins must be taken away because sin demands sacrifice, someone has to pay, and Jesus decided to pay for us all.”
And I’m sure God says “there is so much more to it than that”.
This week it’s legitimate to say it is a mystery.  The pain and the suffering inflicted on one who offered a new glimpse of the love of God, of a way of being that thwarts ambition and replaces it with service. That challenges the structures of domination and replaces them with justice and mercy and peace and love and Grace.
As for why Jesus died, we can grasp at all the philosophy we like. We can struggle with the meaning of the cross. We can give practical explanations as to the threat he posed to religious and civil structures.  We can even – as many do – skip straight over Good Friday and leap into Easter joy.  It’s easier that way.

My own understanding is wrapped in mystery.  The big questions of why and how and what and wherefore are still there. But in refusing to demand simple answers I hope that I am seeking a truth of love and self giving that is beyond words.  I hope that I am open to the idea that sometimes there are no answers, sometimes we have to hold on to the struggle, the pain, the suffering, the loss – and bear with it, carry it, and seek the God who carries it alongside us.

And so I will not speak any more.  I will leave you with a couple of poems from the Welsh priest and poet RS Thomas – who has been described as ‘the poet of the Cross’.  Not for Thomas the easy answers, but a profound sense instead of seeking, of listening, of being open to the life of God even in darkness.

The first poem is from 1955 and is called In a Country Church. It is sparse and troubling and comforting and deep.  The second one returns to a similar theme of a profound sense of living without answers and feeling that in the silence of a church. I leave these with you to ponder:

In a Country Church

To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
Bats not angels, in the high roof.

Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man’s body.
R. S. Thomas (1955)

In Church 

Often I try
To analyze the quality
Of its silences. Is this where God hides
From my searching? I have stopped to listen,
After the few people have gone,
To the air recomposing itself
For vigil. It has waited like this
Since the stones grouped themselves about it.
These are the hard ribs
Of a body that our prayers have failed
To animate. Shadows advance
From their corners to take possession
Of places the light held
For an hour. The bats resume
Their business. The uneasiness of the pews
Ceases. There is no other sound
In the darkness but the sound of a man
Breathing, testing his faith
On emptiness, nailing his questions
One by one to an untenanted cross.

R.S. Thomas’s from his 1966 book Pieta,

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Presentation of Christ - so get out of the Temple, or more accurately "Depart in peace!"

Again with the sermon!

Yep, for a little while I will be posting the sermons I preach here at the blog... the podcast is not being updated quite yet!  Besides, posting here gives more space for comment and conversation, should you so wish.

Today's sermon was inspired by some conversations had recently at the Clergy Day for the Diocese of British Columbia, by an excellent presentation by the Rev'd Canon Dr Richard LeSueur, by looking again at the Vision for our Diocese, and by looking back at an earlier (excellent) sermon by colleague Rev'd Canon Kevin Arndt and my own sermon from a year ago!

So here's the taster, as usual click [more] to get the full text!

Malachi 3:1–4

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (2015) Year B RCL Principal

This last Thursday we had a Clergy Day, one of our twice a year opportunities to meet up with colleagues from all the Islands of this Diocese, and to have some input and chat to and hear from our Bishop, Logan.  As part of the Bishop`s desire to make these days as much about being together and learning more of each other than about having lots of people speaking to, or sometimes at, us we were all asked to create a line around the room where we were meeting and sort ourselves into order of Ordination – stretching back to the 1960s, up to our most recent Diaconal Ordinations in 2014.  We then went around the room and were asked to call out when and where we were ordained, and the Bishop who ordained us.

It wasn`t until I found myself calling out `Petertide 1996, St Paul`s Cathedral, London, England by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres` that I realised how much I loved that memory [more]

Monday, January 26, 2015


Today's sermon had a lot of reaction, and because our usual podcaster is out of commission for a while I thought it might be helpful to post it on the New Kid Deep Stuff blog - so here's a taster, and you might want to go off and visit following the link at the end of this bit :-)

Comments, as always, welcome - join the conversation here or at the original post...

The Conversion of St Paul (2015) Year B RCL Principal

To Be Converted, or continued, or both…

Today is, as you may have guessed, the festival of the Conversion of St Paul.  So I am going to begin by asking - as one should to an Anglican audience - "how many of you have been converted…?!??!"

No, not really.

I could tell you my conversion story, though… imagine a tubby little boy who looks just like me but without a beard, oh and mousey browny-blond hair.  This little lad is in a small chapel tent in a field of tents in a place called Polzeath (or Polzeth as many call it) and he’s chatting to a genial older chap who asks.  Do you want to give your heart to Jesus?  To which I replied yes.
So in that simple setting, having heard over the course of that week the message of faith in a new way, I committed myself to being a Christian.  It wasn’t spectacular, there were no lights or voices from the sky.  I just said a prayer.  And it was a beginning.  I called it my conversion. So did the Christian Community to which I belonged – it was a crucial part in my journey of faith. [more]

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A Sermon For All Saints

As my dulcet tones (ahem) have been absent from this blog for a while, here's the podcast of this last Sunday's sermon....

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Life is full but I keep on preaching

There has been a LOT going on lately, trip to Vancouver with family, Synod, meetings  - plus everything has had a feeling of being 'up in the air' as we consider and reconsider vision - for the Parish, for our Diocese, and in our everyday life.

But the everyday rituals and events of Church life continue, including our Midweek Eucharists.  So here is a sermon what I wrote for today.  Taster here, full text at New Kid Deep Stuff (click [more] for link)

James Hannington Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, and His Companions
Martyrs, 1885 — Commemoration

Matthew 10.16–22

16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

I’m not sure we should have favourite Bible verses, but today’s Gospel reading contains one of mine!  [more]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When things seem to fit together....

It has been quite a couple of days - just one of those 'meeting to service to meeting to visit to meeting to service to service' kind of thing.  But three things have all coalesced and my thinkings have all come together in a way that seemed to me complementary.

Firstly I had the privilege of presiding and speaking again at the 12-step Eucharist which is offered by Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria.  The Gospel reading for the day and the structure of the service seemed to me (strangely in the case of the lectionary, as you will see if you follow the link) to speak to Grace, even in Jesus' Critique of the religious leaders of the day.  Then we had a wonderful celebration of New Ministry at the Induction of Bruce Bryant-Scott here in Victoria which had a sense of joy and liberation about it which made the whole evening (despite being at the end of a long day) feel very positive.  Then I was preaching and presiding again at our early Eucharist, which remembered Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross - and the readings and prayers and my own thinking seemed to come together in quite a special way.  So here are the links to the sermons - found in full on New Kid Deep Stuff, and a picture of the Clergy at the service.  I have a hippo on my head, 'nuff said.

Sermon 1- for 12 Step Eucharist

Amazing Grace

We live in a society that often seems obsessed with how we look… the clothes we wear, the way our hair looks, or the state of our skin, whether we eat right, exercise, look buff, whatever…  We are obsessed with how things seem, how they look, what impression we give. [more]

Sermon 2 - Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross

Teresa of Avila & John of the Cross

Today is the remembrance of Teresa of Avila, and of St John of the Cross – two 16th Century contemplatives.  We are using the readings and prayer for Teresa, but we keep in mind also her friend and follower John of the Cross.  From the companion to our readings we are told that Teresa of Avila was a Spanish nun of the sixteenth century whose visions of Christ and gifts as a spiritual director have placed her among the greatest of all Christian mystics. She was the only daughter of a minor nobleman and entered the Carmelite convent in her native town of A’vil-a when she was twenty-one. Over the next two decades she endured many illnesses, one of which left her paralyzed, and also a nagging sense that in her prayers and devotions she was doing nothing more than “treading water.”  [more]