Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Caring Community for All

There is nothing so precious as God’s will. 

My experience of this community is that when it comes to any issue we deal with, nothing is more important than what we think (and hope) God is calling us to.

Sure, many of us have our preferences about how we should be as a community, what we should sing and how we should pray. But when it come right down to it, finding ways to carry God’s mission into the world triumphs over everything else.

As we approach our 250th anniversary we looked for suggestions about a tag-line or motto and the winning suggestion is, “A Caring Community for All.”

There were lots of really good suggestions and this is not the one that I put forward, but I like it. The more I think about it, the more I like it. It reflects what we’ve discerned to be God’s mission and purpose for us. And if we’re honest, we don’t always live up to it, but we try. By bringing it to our attention every time we notice it printed it can make us more conscience of trying to be a caring community for all.

With it we haven’t given up anything and other ways that we might describe ourselves are not lost. This tag-line will serve us for the year to remind ourselves and tell the world what we are trying to be.

But here’s fair warning, “All” mean all. Make no mistake about it—everyone, no matter their circumstances or history will fine a caring community at St. Paul’s. People ridiculed, ignored, beaten, or lost in this world are welcomed here and will be cared for to the best of our abilities. Or we change “all” to “some” and that just doesn’t seem true to the Gospel.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Holly Bears a Berry

One of my favourite Christmas Carols is, “The Holly and The Ivy,” mainly because it is just a lovely tune. Closer inspection reveals amazing lyrics because this isn’t a carol about holly and ivy, it’s about the cost of salvation. At the heart of the matter is this verse:

The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to do us sinners good.

Another versus point out that the holly has a prickle, as sharp as any thorn, just like the thorns that made the crown that was so mockingly placed on the head of Jesus as he was tortured.

Yet another verse says that the bark of the holly is as bitter as gall, like the gall served to Jesus as he hung on the cross, “for to do us sinners good.”

There’s not a word of the nativity story that wasn’t remembered and retold without the full knowledge of the crucifixion. The Christmas story is not about sugarplums and old elves, no matter how jolly.

Everyone telling this nativity knows that not one single point of it is extraordinary and would have been easily forgotten except for the fact that this birth is the incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us. God taking on human form and living amongst us. AND dying for us.

All is not lost, for as the carol says, the holly when it is full grown, it bears the crown. The salvation of Jesus Christ is victorious. Our joy, the thing that brings us peace in Advent and Christmas is that it is the Saviour’s birth we celebrate.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Happy Holidays to All

I can’t quite figure this one out, but it seems that an awful lot of Christians get offended if you dare to wish them, “Happy Holidays.’ It seems as though we’re supposed to say, “Merry Christmas.” Perhaps they imagine that there is some sort of conspiracy that says we’re not allowed to wish people a Merry Christmas.

Well Christian—Get A Grip!

Do you really think that Jesus died so that you’d be free to wish people a Merry Christmas?

We are far too easily offended and it’s time for us to get a grip on the Mission that we’ve been called to as a people who dare to follow Jesus, the Christ.

I imagine that what offends Jesus is poverty, starvation, war, prejudice, hatred, selfishness and things like that.

The war on Christianity is waged from within—we have given voice to those who choose hatred in the guise of Christianity—and it’s time we reclaimed the message of love at the heart of our faith.

Until we are truly offended by poverty, starvation, war, prejudice, hatred and selfishness and begin to work to end these things don’t expect a merry-Christmas-greeting from me. Wishing everyone Happy Holidays will be my quiet little protest against the carelessness that creeps so easily into our Christian faith.

And if this offends you—tough—good—I’m glad. Now’s the time to be the Missional Church we are called to be—living as Christ did, not for ourselves, but for the world.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Glad to be Here

There is an old joke that many comedians use to start their routine. They step in front of the mic and say, “I’m glad to be here, everyone’s got to be some where.”

It’s true, everyone’s got to be somewhere. I find people often longing for the way things used to be—when churches were full and everything was simple. I even bore my kids with stories of what I could buy with a mere quarter—and I could get a bag a candy with the 2 cents I got back from the 12 cent bottle of pop. I just noticed that the symbol for “cent” is missing from my keyboard. When did that happen?

But you know, I don’t for a minute think that God is calling us to live in the past. Even those moments in scripture that list God’s many past accomplishments for the people are intended to reinforce the fact that God continues to love us in the present.

I for one do not want to go back there, to go back anywhere. That’s where God was… I want to be where God is and God is in the present. I am glad to be here.

Here, in the present, there are challenges, hardship and woes; but there are also success, celebrations and joy.

Everybody’s got to be some where and here is the only place we’ve got. Here is where we find God, where we encounter the divine, where we can truly let the Christ rule in our lives, rule with an ever present and transforming love.