Thursday, November 14, 2019

A New Earth

The two questions foremost in a preacher’s head when preparing to preach on a particular piece of scripture are: first, what is the context of the scripture? And second, what is this scripture saying to us today?

Both questions are important and both are so easy to get wrong.

When the Prophet Isaiah relays to the people the Word of God, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth…” (Isaiah 65:17) it has specifically to do with the circumstances of the people at that time and in that place. It has nothing to do with our time and place, and the concerns we face—or does it?

One of the main purposes of scripture and the telling of the people’s struggle to be in right relationship with God is to remind everyone that if God was with our ancestors then God is with us now.

Our concerns today don’t mirror the concerns of previous or ancient generation but God’s guidance and the truths found in these ancient Words bring comfort and hope, and the assurance that our struggles can be overcome.

Too easily a preacher might say that all we have to do is be patient and wait for God to snap God’s fingers and the promised new Earth with appear. The harder thing to say is that we have a role to play in bringing about this new Earth. God has laid responsibilities on us to not hurt or steal, to be joyful and a delight.

People talk of the end of Christendom or of the world, neither will be the work of God. They will be entirely of our own doing.

The message the Prophet Isaiah has for us today is that the new Earth is still a possibility, still a promise of a loving God, who desires the best for us, who desires that we live with joy.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Let’s Be Rad, Not Just Radish

The word “radical” has the same root word as “radish” and that root word is “root.” Weird, eh? When someone speaks of “radical” change they mean change at the “root,” rather than changing into something completely different. When we uses “radical” as a qualifier to a noun we mean to consider the “root” of that thing.

To think about “radical” inclusion is to think about it from the “root” of it. What is the exact meaning of inclusion? The original intent of “inclusion” referred to a list of things that are in a group and therefore, things not listed, are excluded.

Yet for us today, “radical inclusion” has come to mean the inclusion of people who were formally excluded, whether intentionally or not. For example, people confined to a wheelchair are not intentionally excluded from our Parish Hall, but practically (unintentionally) are. There are people who are in no way intentionally excluded from our activities but who feel excluded for a variety of reasons.

Radical Inclusion is about bridging all these gaps so that no one feels excluded from being with us in worship or whatever we’re doing. I cannot stress enough how important this is to the very root of who we are as followers of Jesus Christ. It is of the utmost importance. Thankfully, inclusion is something we are already pretty good at. We can do better, I can do better. Let’s get Rad!

Radical Inclusion is not as simple as saying we are inclusive. Radical Inclusion means change, the hardest kind of change, a change of behavior. To be truly inclusive we stop behaviors that exclude, such as judging, gossip, pride, jealousy, being precious about things, to name but a few. We seek a Radically Inclusive place where our faults and gifts provide opportunities for us to learn, to forgive and to receive forgiveness, a place where we can learn to pray and question together.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

All Saints’ & All Souls’ Day

Hallowe'en is a contraction of Hallows' Even or Hallows' Evening and refers to the fact that the 31st of October is the night before All Saints' Day. All Saints’ Day is part of a three-day period for remembering the dead, particularly the saints (Nov. 1), but also faithful departed on All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) and in some traditions the martyrs also.

In his writings, when Saint Paul referred to “the saints,” he meant everyone in the community of those committed to following Jesus Christ. When the Church started naming people as Saints (people who’s lives were thought to be a particularly good example of the Christian life) the original meaning of “saint” was lost.

These saintly folks were remembered on their very own day in the year. Eventually, so many people were named as Saints that the list grew way beyond 365. Also, there were so many that some were forgotten. All Saints’ Day was a catch-all day for those Saints who were forgotten or who were unknown to a community.

It’s no easy task to become a capital “S” Saint. It is unlikely that I’ll ever make the grade. So, for people like me, who try to be faithful to Christ and who might even be an example to some of those who know me, our souls can be remembered on All Souls’ Day. Either way, when that time comes, I hope I’m in a place where human accolades are of no consequence.

Now is an appropriate time to remember the Saints and saints whose lives we remember. I am particularly thankful for those people known personally to us who have helped each of us on our spiritual journey. But we don’t just remember them, or mournfully wish they were still here, we use the echo of their example and words of encouragement to still inspire us.

Hallowe’en has little to do with ghosts and goblins, it’s just the eve of a very special day of remembrance. o

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

When the Streetlights Come On

Growing up in the North End of Dartmouth, the summertime rule was that we had to return home when the streetlights came on. It wasn’t just a rule in my house, it was the rule for all my friends too.

Rules aren’t bad things. The streetlight rule was intended to make sure everyone was safe. And I suppose, bathed and made ready for bed, so we could get up the next day, rested and ready to play.

We expect rules for all sorts of things. If they make sense, if we understand how and why they are of benefit, we usually find them easier to follow.

As people of faith we have high expectation of ourselves. On Page 555 of the BCP, at the end of the Catechism there is the framework of a Rule of life.

Every Christian man or woman should from time to time frame for himself/herself a RULE OF LIFE in accordance with the precepts of the Gospel and the faith and order of the Church; wherein he/she may consider the following:
1) The regularity of his/her attendance at public worship and especially at the holy Communion.
2) The practice of private prayer, Bible‐reading, and self‐discipline.
3) Bringing the teaching and example of Christ into his/her everyday life.
4) The boldness of his/her spoken witness to his faith in Christ.
5) His/her personal service to the Church and the community.
6) The offering of money according to his/her means for the support of the work of the Church at home and overseas.

These are the streetlights that help us find our way home to God, our creator. o