Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Reformation

Reformation Day is commemorated on October 31, by churches of the reform tradition. It is often transferred to the Sunday before. Here at St. Paul’s, we will commemorate the Reformation on Sunday, October 29. It serves as an opportunity for us to honour Martin Luther and other reformers of the sixteenth century, and I suppose reformers of any time.

The 95 Theses
It was 500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This wasn’t the first attempt at correcting perceived errors of the Church, but Martin Luther’s actions began what became known as the Protestant Reformation.

Luther chose the night before All Saints Day because he knew that many people would be attending church the next day and would read his statements of concern about the church as they entered for worship.

The issues for Luther revolved around three main concerns: first, the power exercised by the church in Rome over the affairs of the church in Germany and other places; secondly, his opposition to the selling of “indulgences” for the forgiveness of sin; thirdly, the concern that too much money was being taken from the church outside of Roman for the building of a lavish cathedral in Rome.

Luther taught that, according to the promises of scripture, the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to speak God’s Word to us and that we receive God’s grace through our faith in Christ. This is the truth that makes us free. Our life in the Body of Christ is shaped by this gift of freedom.

In Canada, the Anglican Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church have been in full communion since 2001. This means that while each church maintains its own autonomy, it also fully recognizes the catholicity and apostolicity of the other. In practical terms, this means that Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada can share the Eucharist together, use each other’s liturgies, and participate in each other’s ordinations. Anglican and Lutheran clergy may also serve interchangeably in either church. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thanksgiving Defines Us

"Go and show yourselves to the priests."  That’s the instruction to the ten Lepers healed by Jesus in our Gospel lesson today (Luke 17:11-19).

Essentially, the instruction is for each of the people who’ve been healed to be restored to society, to their former place in society. It was the priest who was responsible for determining that someone was in fact healed and could be returned to their former place in the community and family. Mothers could go back to being mothers; fathers as fathers and so on. In a very real way, it is society that is healed, not just the ten people suffering from leprosy.

Gratitude is, without a doubt, a healthy way of being, a good response to something good. I might have, if I’d just been healed of leprosy, been more keen on seeing my family again than thanking the person who healed me. Nevertheless, gratitude is good.

Given the sometimes overwhelming news of hurricanes, earthquakes, mass shootings, bombings and other pains, it is increasingly difficult to hold onto a spirit of thankfulness. Yet, there is still goodness in the world. There are still people who choose love and courage despite their various circumstances. There is reason to be hopeful and thankful.

Most especially as followers of Jesus Christ, we must find the strength to remain people of deep gratitude. The name of the main sacrament that we celebrate each week, the Eucharist, means, thanksgiving. It is who we are. Thanksgiving defines us. Not just for the harvest and certainly not for the stuff we’ve accumulated, but for the victory of Jesus Christ which calls us into a deep relationship with a loving, forgiving and merciful God.

The nine lepers who walked away without giving thanks were still healed. The one who stayed showed his/her faith with gratitude. A truly grateful heart is to be nourished with the confidence that God’s love wins. Every time, God’s love wins.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Here Come the V's!

I guess that you would have to have grown-up in Metro Halifax to know the phrase, “Here come the V’s!” It’s what the announcer shouted when the AHL Nova Scotia Voyagers took to the ice at the old Halifax Forum. It was an exciting hockey team really. The Montreal Canadians farm team. Many of the plays became stars in the NHL and some had been stars in the NHL. Those years were winning years. The Forum was often sold out and once and a while my Dad got tickets and we went and cheered for the V’s.

Back in the ‘70’s you could still expect the infamous bench-clearing-brawl. And one game in particular between the beloved hometown V’s and Rochester (I think), such a brawl ensued. And not a soul in the Forum that day could deny that the brawl was started by the V’s, who happened to be losing. Typically, in those days, before the instigator rule, two or three players on each team would be penalized and one or two given a game misconduct. This day however, when the snow settled and the penalties showing on the clock, and it was the visiting team that had two extra minutes.

Rochester left the ice in protest—to the gears and shouts of the fans. Except for two. Me and my Dad sat on our hands. An injustice, even one that favours our team is still an injustice. It is better to lose fairly than to win unfairly.

In Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 21) Jesus questions the Pharisees as to why they question him and his authority and not John the Baptizer’s who was saying many of the same things as Jesus.

John was calling people, all people, away from the temple and it’s corruption. Jesus was call people to the Divine and a direct relationship with God, no priest, no animal sacrifice, no payment was necessary. No question about anyone worthiness. No worries about what others might think. In God’s realm, everyone is welcome.

In God’s Church today—everyone is welcome!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Perfectly Free

Recently, my neighbour went away for a week or so, and before he left he told me to take and eat any tomatoes that ripen while he was away. So, I did. They were unusually sweet and juicy. The finest toasted tomato sandwich that I’ve had in years.

We are blessed to live in such a beautiful and bountiful part of God’s creation. It is a short growing season and yet we manage to create great wealth: so much that we can throw away (experts estimate) a quarter of what we buy. The Island cup, as it were, runneth over. Yet, so many people, even here, and around the world go without. And not just a little bit, but a great deal.

I read recently that the chief characteristic of God is freedom. No matter what cruelty we are capable of, such as nailing Jesus to a cross, God, in God’s perfect freedom, is still able to choose to love us. No matter how strange that might seem to us, God is free to be loving, and just of us, but of people that might be our enemies.

Oh how I long for that perfect freedom: that no matter what trials and trouble I face in the run of a day, to act, not out of fear or anger, but with courage and love.

The love of God, born of that perfect freedom falls on us like manna from heaven, like snow, like rain, covering every bit of creation and every one of us.

Great! So, we have store-houses filled to overflowing with God’s love. What now? It may not be there, come the morning. Well, of course it will be there, or at least, there will be more love for us to gather. It overflows. Rather than drowning in the love of God, let’s share it. And one way of sharing God’s love is by sharing the richness we enjoy.

We are perfectly free (the cross has set us free), to choose generosity over greed; love over hate; knowledge over fear. Well, we are perfectly free, but we may not act so. Being a part of a gathered community strengthens us for the service of perfect freedom. Gathered together we are free and capable to do God’s will of love.