Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Feast of the Ascension

The Feast of the Ascension is forty days after Easter and ten days before the Day of Pentecost. It was once one of the major celebrations on the liturgical calendar. It is hardly even noticed in many protestant Churches, but remains a significant day in Anglican and Roman Catholic circles. Although, I’m not sure  when the last time it was commemorated on the day itself at St. Paul’s. We have, occasionally, transferred it to the following Sunday.

Ascension Day is, as the name suggests, the day that the Church remembers the ascension of the Christ. It is when the disciples witness the resurrected body of Jesus Christ rising up and going into heaven.

Now a-days, the version of the story that appears in scripture create a slight problem for us. We’ve been there… we’ve traveled in airplanes and rocket ships and have ascended beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Our telescopes can see way beyond this solar system and way beyond this galaxy. We have been to and looked past where the Bible suggests heaven is. That’s a problem, albeit a slight one.

If we follow the logic of the story telling: Jesus was born; he taught and healed; he was arrested and crucified; he died and was buried; he was resurrected and continued to teach his followers; but he’s not with us in that way now. So, he must have gone and ascended into heaven (wherever that may be); and taken his place at God’s right hand.

The Gospel writers had no other way to express the change or disappearance expect to say that Jesus ascended. There was Biblical precedence, after all both Elijah and Job were said to have ascended.

The Gospel writers can be forgiven this one, if our experience doesn’t match (on the surface) our experience of space. The point isn’t how Jesus went but that he went. Our lot, in terms of our journey in faith, is not to have the personal experience of the Apostles but to take their testimony and the tradition we’ve received and to partner with them and with God to call this world to the love and justice we and all of creation is meant to enjoy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

One Cool Cap – Too Much

While on holidays, many years ago, we were in a gift shop poking around at things. One of my friends found a really cool baseball cap that I insisted he buy. It cost only two dollars. A deal I thought, but no, my friend figured that at that price it must have been made by children in a third world country. He placed the cap back in the bin and walked away. The price of a guilty conscience was too much.

I suppose that we are put into this situation everyday, having to make decisions about what we buy, what we believe, what we support, what we boycott. It’s not easy keeping up with it all. But, the price of a guilty conscience is too much.

That’s why it is important for the Church (our Church) to remain cautious about how we behave in the world, by what we buy, believe, support and protest. That’s why it is important for us to continue to do things like participating in the Pride Parade, either as participants or spectators, to show our support of several groups of people who are persecuted, in one way or another for no good reason.

It’s a little disconcerting, I must say, to see the crowds lining the streets of Charlottetown do a double-take when they see St. Paul’s Church in the Pride Parade. It is sad that only two churches participate in the Parade, because as along as people are persecuted, imprisoned and even sentenced to death due to their sexuality we have a responsibility to stand with, march with and celebrate with them until they enjoy freedom. The price of a guilty conscience is too much.

Pride PEI marks 25 years on PEI and this years Festival begins on July 20, and the Pride Parade is scheduled for July 27. The price of not being supportive is too much.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Lord is my Wrangler

I have the habit of sitting in the movie theatre reading the credits. They go by too fast for me to take in every bit of information but, sometimes I’m surprised that a movie about New York City was filmed in Toronto, or an old song was recorded by a new artist.

If there’s an animal in the movie there’s a funny credit that tells us that Andre the Seal was played by Tory. If there is more than one animal, credit is given to someone called a “Wrangler.” And depending on the animals in question, it might be a horse wrangler, or a chicken wrangler, or a snake wrangler, and so on.

The job of being a Wrangler, I suppose, includes being sure the animals are on set when needed and are ready to do what they’re supposed to do when the director calls, “action!” I imagine that a wrangler is also responsible for feeding and tending the animals and taking care of their general wellbeing. That way the disclaimer that no animals were harmed during the making of the movie will be true.

Perhaps that’s what the church needs, a Wrangler. Someone whose job it is to make sure we are doing what needs doing, that we are acting when we need to be acting. And, I suppose, to push this metaphor as far as I can, someone who will feed and tend us. Perhaps not feed us in the literal sense, but by helping us acquire the things we need to act as Christ would have us act in every situation we encounter.

Perhaps someone will say that we already have Wranglers, and we call them clergy. Well, I’ve worn this plastic collar and been around long enough to know that very few people seek wrangling from their parish priest. And that’s how it should be.

I suggest that our Wrangler is Jesus. The Lord is my Wrangler. It is Jesus who calls us to the set and expects us to act and helps us find the things we need to do his work in the world.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Confession: Where’d It Go?

You only have to go a few blocks in Charlottetown to see that there are different ways within the Anglican tradition to do things. One thing that was drilled into me was that for the 50 days of Easter we drop the Confession and Absolution (a.k.a. the General Confession). The reason is that what God did for us through Jesus Christ (the resurrection) was effectual. In other words, our sins are indeed forgiven and in Easter Season (at least) we should acknowledge and celebrate that forgiveness and love by dropping the General Confession.

In fact, there are those who would suggest that the General Confession is never necessary. In the early Church, there was no verbal confession and absolution in the Eucharistic liturgy. According to the explanatory notes in the BAS, “The ancient Church understood the eucharist as a whole to be the means by which the People of God are renewed in their baptismal covenant and reconciled to God.”

So, just by being present at the Eucharist we receive (yet again) the assurance of God’s forgiveness and love. There are always other penitential elements to our worship:
  • The Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our sins [trespasses] as we forgive those who sin against us.”
  • When we intentionally drop the confession and absolution we always (intentionally) include a petition in the Prayers of the People that is penitential.
  • Often the Collect or other prayers.
  • Often hymns.

So, if you miss the General Confession in the Easter season, remember that there are many other opportunities in the worship to seek, receive and believe in the salvation God wins for us in the person of Jesus the Christ.

Clergy are human too, and sometimes we forget to forget the General Confession during Easter Season and that’s okay. It’s not a major issue, just something that many of us like to do for the reasons expressed herein.