Sermon for March 27, 2017

Preached at St Mary the Virgin, Oak Bay
Gospel: John 9. All of it.

 

I’d like to invite you to go for a walk with me …

I’m not going to ask you to get up and follow me down to Oak Bay Avenue or anything, but lets go for a walk together in our imaginations…

It is a wonderful day to be outside. Spring is in the air!

Today is a day of rest so no one is working – in fact working today is actively discouraged – and this means that the streets are full, but not overcrowded, with people outside and there is that quiet hubbub of voices filling, but not overpowering, the air around us.

You’re walking with a group of friends and one of them is the group leader. He is wise and you’ve enjoyed getting to know him these last three years. He has done some pretty incredible things over the time you’ve been walking the around countryside with him, and it always seems like there is more to learn.

As you walk along, you see a familiar-looking man up ahead. You’ve seen him around town a lot. He is memorable because he is blind, and you’ve heard that he was born that way.

Because he is blind, the man is not invited to participate in anything in society – and we see this in how the people walking down the street part so as to avoid him, being careful not to touch him lest they become contaminated by him. As if blindness is catching.

 

Thinking this might be another opportunity to learn something from the wise group leader, you and your friends pause, point to the blind man, and ask,

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

It is obvious – someone must have sinned, or else why would the man be blind? Blindness or any other kind of illness or unpleasantness is the result of sin, right?

As far as society is concerned, it is. This man needed to be kept on the margins because he must have sinned. His blindness would be secondary – the fact that he was blind was evidence of sin and therefore of a ruptured relationship between him and God which CANNOT BE HEALED

Our group leader looks at the man who is blind, and then looks back at his group of followers, saying,

Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

Or, in other words:

         Don’t look for a cause and effect between sin and sickness. There isn’t one. Look instead for what God can do here…

 

Look instead for what God can do.

And as if in demonstration of that statement, our group leader and teacher, our Rabbi, Jesus, turns and stops the man. Then he bends down and spits into the dust on the ground, stirs it around, and makes a muddy paste. He takes the paste and puts it on the man’s unseeing eyes and says,

Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.

The pool of Siloam is over in the area of the temple and so the man leaves to makes his way over there.

I wonder if he had ever been near the pool before?

Some scholars think that the pool of Siloam might have been a mikveh, a pool used for ritual cleaning before going into the temple for prayer so that one might be washed clean before entering the presence of God. It would qualify for being such a pool because it was constantly refilled with naturally flowing spring water that was always moving, always circulating. It was living water.

Living water that cleanses us before God.

But as a blind man, a man considered to be unclean and perpetually in a state of fractured relationship because of his blindness, would he have been allowed to come near the pool?

It must have taken a lot of courage to believe in a man he could not see who told him to go and wash in a place he might get in trouble for being at.

Perhaps he had a well-developed sense of hearing to compensate for his blindness, perhaps he heard something in Jesus’ voice that others did not always hear.

All we know is that he went

And washed

And could see

And in doing so he demonstrates that the relationship between him and God, between him and his neighbours, is not broken but is dramatically and visually reconciled and that he should be included in society.

Can you imagine?! Imagine the ruckus that this must have caused! Everyone all around stopping to say – Hey! I know that man! But… isn’t he blind?!?

 

Naturally, all of the commotion draws the attention of some of the religious authorities.

I mean, a blind man who can now see is noteworthy – is extraordinary. They need to find out who did it. And they need to find out NOW, because whoever it was did an unlawful action on the Sabbath and THAT is the ultimate no-no. No joy for the man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see, no remarks at his wholeness. Just anger about it happening on the Sabbath.

So they call the man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see and question him.

And they immediately start from the premise that whoever healed him is a sinner. Because obviously only sinners do things like this on the Sabbath. In a train of thought directly opposite to what Jesus has earlier said to his disciples, these religious leaders have found a cause and presumed the effect and never stopped to think about what God could do.

Not only that but they don’t believe that the man had been blind in the first place. SO they send for his parents.

His parents, understandably, are reluctant to get involved. But they do confirm that yes, he is their son and yes, he was born blind.

 

So the authorities haul back the man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see and what he sees is a group of authorities trying to back him into a corner, trying to keep him out of society…

He has found himself in a place that is uncomfortable: he is right with God but is at odds with the powerful, with the status quo, and he has the courage to say again and again that which he knows to be true.

         I was blind and now I can see. He opened my eyes. He reconciled me to my community. You say he is a sinner, but how could he do this if he was! No, this man is from God and he has brought the grace of God into my life. I believed his words and washed in living water and I am whole.

The authorities, not liking his statement, throw him out.

 

But our excitement-filled walk is not yet over.

Filled with compassion for the man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see, Jesus seeks him out to talk with him.

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

          Who is that? I want to know who he is so that I can believe!

You have heard him and you have now seen him. He is the one speaking to you.

          Lord. I believe!

 

Lord, I believe.

Believe is perhaps not quite the right word to be translated here. It needs to encompass a little more strength and a little more relationship.

The man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see doesn’t just believe in Jesus. He trusts him. He commits to Jesus. He joins his life to Jesus.

 

If that phrase “I believe” sounds a little familiar, consider the Creeds we say:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty … and in one Lord Jesus Christ … and in the Holy Ghost …

We believe in God: we trust in God. We commit to God. In saying these words we join our lives to the one whom the words are about.

And, in the manner of our gospel reading, we are making a statement about having sight and our commitment to seeing.

 

Our gospel this morning closes with a conversation between Jesus and the religious authorities that encapsulates the irony that is underlying this entire story:

The man-who-was-blind-but-now-can-see started off with unseeing eyes but with a sight that sees who Jesus really is and understands faith.

The religious leaders are proud of their seeing eyes but fail to see and understand who Jesus is and what he is doing.

The one who is blind has sight. Those who can see are blind.

 

Surely we are not blind, are we?

Look for what God can do…

Amen.

 

A Sermon for Ash Wednesday

Preached at the Church of St John the Divine, Victoria

Texts: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:10; Matthew 6:1-2,16-21

 

Sometimes I wonder if Lent is the Christian equivalent of New Year’s resolutions…

I mean, think about it for a minute – we talk about giving up things like chocolate or coffee or bread as a way of having a Lenten fast but is it sometimes really just an excuse to stick to that weight loss plan … ?

Or the Lenten Spring Cleaning that is more about making the house look good for visitors than about decluttering our spiritual lives to clear a path to better relationship with God.

Motives matter.

 

Our readings today clearly outline this with some pretty graphic imagery. Joel reminds the people of Israel to rend their hearts and not their clothing, suggesting that it is the internal state that matters more than the outfit we do it in or the way we show it off to the world.

Matthew’s gospel echoes this, encouraging the left hand to keep its actions secret from the right hand – not because there is something to hide or be ashamed of, but because if we are concentrated on everyone around us seeing how great we are for the things we are doing, we miss the true point of doing them for our own spiritual practice and for God.

 

Paul, in 2 Corinthians, reminds us of the importance of the state of our spiritual selves and our relationship to God:

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation … so we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God

You might be thinking, I don’t know that I was ever not reconciled to God? And in part, says Paul, that is true: God through Jesus did all of the hard work of reconciling God to humanity in all of our mess. But Paul still urges us to be reconciled to God so that we might become God’s righteousness.

 

Which, you might also be thinking, is a monumentous task! Where do we even begin??

 

Well, that is the good news. Today, Ash Wednesday, the first day of these great 40 days of Lent, is where we can decide the starting point this journey.

Will it be a starting point of coasting through Lent and doing the same old same old?

Will it be a starting point of putting on piety so that others can obviously see how well we are participating? – A starting point of doing the cleaning for appearances sake only?

Or will it be a starting point of gathering to acknowledge our humanity and committing to reconciliation: with God, with those around us who we love and those we have hurt, and with ourselves?

 

The reading from Joel reminds us of the importance of journeying together. God called for the trumpet to be sounded and everyone – the aged, the children and infants, the newly married – everyone to gather together to be set apart for the work of God.

We are in this Lenten journey together. We may have slightly different paths at times, with different kinds of reconciliations needed, but we are in it together.

The cross of ash on our foreheads reminds us of who we are, of where we have come from, and of where we are going:

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return

But also remember the cross on your forehead at baptism where you were signed with the cross and marked as Christ’s own forever.

And remember the cross that these 40 days of Lent is leading us towards …

 

Yes, we know where we have come from and in one sense we know where we are going this Lenten journey: we know about Good Friday – and we know what happened and what will happen on Easter morning!

In another sense, though, we don’t know where we are going because we don’t know exactly what path this Lenten journey will take. We don’t know where God will ask us to shine a light in our lives. We don’t know what will change, what may shift, and what might emerge – or not – on the other side of Lent.

All we really know is where we are standing and whom we are journeying with. Where we are right now, today, on Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded of our humanity and the solemnity of the Lenten journey we are about to embark on.

And in receiving the cross of ash we commit to travelling the Lenten journey of reconciliation in whatever shape God makes it for us, knowing that we are all walking together with God these 40 days.

Cricket

In November 2015, we welcomed a small furball into our lives.

She came to us via some friends from seminary when she was about eight months old. She had been picked up as a part of a program that sterilized feral cats in London – apparently our little furball was a gangster for the first few months of her life. You wouldn’t know it, however, which is likely why the vet who picked her up decided to adopt her out rather than re-releasing her with the feral cats. We don’t know her exact birth date, but the vet estimated that it was sometime in February.

Matthew and I started dating in February. So this week, as we celebrated three years of being together, we decided to declare it Cricket’s birthday as well.

So, happy birthday little love! You still don’t do much more than squeak and whirrr at us, and you have a tipped ear that hints at your first few months, but you are cute and loving and we couldn’t ask for a more affectionate cat.

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Timothy and Titus, Companions of Paul

Sermon given at Clergy Day for the Diocese of BC, January 26, 2017 at St John the Baptist, Cobble Hill. 

Texts: 2 Corinthians 8:16-19, 23-24 and John 10:14-18

In attendance: all of the clergy of the Diocese of British Columbia, the BC House Sisters of St John the Divine, BC Synod Office staff, and former TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. No pressure…
The Eucharistic liturgy this day was entirely prepared and led by those of us who had been ordained last year: everything from presiding at the table to leading prayers to playing music to preaching.

Imagine being Timothy or Titus.

Young converts to Christianity and in ministry, mentored by the Apostle Paul, able to follow their passion into an exciting and adventurous life of ministry – the sailing voyages, over-land treks, different people to meet and places to explore… shipwrecks, poisonous snakes, being chased out of town…the excitement of it all! And they also must have felt all to keenly the insecurities, the fears, and uncertainties that also come with this life – at any age.

But – even with all of those different adventures and the emotions that most certainly would have gone along with them, what the church remembers Timothy and Titus for is what we commemorate today: being companions of Paul.

Paul clearly states the importance of their ministry to him in the letter to the church at Corinth that we heard read this morning: “Titus is my partner and co-worker in your service…” and we know much the same about Timothy from the book of Acts – Paul wanted to have Timothy accompany him on his mission trips. Both Timothy and Titus were considered friends, partners, and companions of Paul and were an integral part of the work that God was doing in their world.

Partner. Companion. Associate. One who shares in in anything and everything. Paul could count on these two – one a Greek and the other of both Greek and Jewish descent – to not only provide companionship while travelling together but also he could count on them to continue the work when Paul was not there, sending them into places on his behalf. Such trust. Such love. Such partnership.

It is appropriate, then, that these two who were so important to Paul in his life and ministry are commemorated on the day following our commemoration of Paul. Yesterday was the Feast of the Conversion of Paul and, in many of our communities here on the Islands and around the world, it is the feast that draws to a close the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Christian Unity –  The week when churches and denominations that might never gather together at any other time, set aside some of those differences to find common ground in prayer.

Granted, some of you live that reality every week as you minister in Anglican-Lutheran or Anglican-United shared ministries. Or as you minister in contexts that work very closely with neighbouring congregations, leaders of different traditions, or the Elders in your communities.  Yet, each year we intentionally set aside a week to pray, as Jesus did, that we might be one as God is one.

These words that Jesus prayed as he approached the cross hold up for us the ultimate model of partnership… And that call to unity is echoed throughout the scriptures, including in our gospel this morning.

We are used to hearing this gospel in the season of Easter. On Good Shepherd Sunday. It is a gospel reading that many of you who have been in ministry a lot longer than me have probably preached on dozens of times. So with that in mind, I found myself asking, why is this the gospel appointed for our memorial of Timothy and Titus, the Companions of Paul, and what does that say to us, as gathered clergy and ministry leaders of the Diocese of BC?

Setting aside the familiar imagery of the “Good Shepherd” who lays down their life for their sheep, I became caught by the line:  I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them in also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Yes, there are definite challenges to us in reading this passage immediately on the heels of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity –  But no matter how much we might want to get into a “who is in and who is out” debate, we are reminded that there is one flock and one shepherd.

That matters ecumenically. It also matters here, in this place, right now.

Stop and look around you. Here in this room is a small part of that one flock.  In all of our diversity, our peculiarities, our histories, our dreams and passions. We are all a part of the one flock that belongs to the one Shepherd. And each one of us in this room is a representative of others – equally diverse and equally varied – who are also a part of that flock.

We all have our local places where we minister in different and varied ways, but ultimately: we are all a part of one flock that belongs to one Shepherd. And we partner with God in the mission of God, in acts of reconciliation, in ministering to the gospel. We are partners in God’s mission.

The Eucharist that we are celebrating together this morning is an intentional representation of that. All of those who are sharing in the leadership of the liturgy this morning were ordained – either to the priesthood or to the diaconate – last year. Twelve people! Craig, Selinde, Tanya, Meagan, Rob, Christopher, Alastair, Matthew, Gillian, Patrick, Marg, and Bill.

–And this morning’s liturgy comes from our commitment to each other and to each other’s ministries: that we will partner with each other, that we will be companions and support, uphold, and encourage each other. That we are all a part of one flock. That we all belong to one Shepherd.

So not only does this gospel remind us that all Christians are called to unity, but that all of us together in this room are called to unity. That “One Flock” does not mean parish or diocese, but it means church. When I build up one part of the flock, I build up the whole flock – whether that part that I build is my immediate ministry context or another context. When I build up the local church, I build up the diocese and I build up the church national and international. That these parish, diocesan, and national, and provincial divisions are administrative in nature and are not divisions in the flock.

That ultimately it doesn’t matter which parish, deanery, diocese, or province we are ministering in: we are one Church.

Isn’t that what Paul was working for? No longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, no longer male and female… And also Paul’s companions, Timothy and Titus – both Jew and Greek, working together as partners in the gospel.

What a privilege it is for us to partner with God, the one Shepherd, as we all journey as companions in building up the one flock.

Amen.

Sermon for January 15, 2017

Preached at The Abbey, Victoria
Texts: John 1:29-42, Isaiah 49:1-7

 

This week we re-entered the ordinary.

I love this season – the season after Epiphany – not because it is a season of Ordinary Time in our church’s calendar – but because it is an ordinary that isn’t ordinary. It is the ordinal-ed time, the numbered season where we count the weeks from Epiphany – that wonderful feast where we see Jesus made manifest as the Saviour for all – to Lent – where we travel with Jesus towards his death and then his glorious resurrection.

We visibly show it through changing our church colours to a life-giving green … but the green might be best thought of as a translucent green mixed with white: ordinary time mixed with holy days. And that is a good summary of what this season is all about: looking for the holy, for Jesus made manifest in the midst of the mundane, in the midst of our daily life. All the while looking for little epiphanies where we might see Jesus and find ourselves found over and over again.

***

Perhaps the most frequently used word in our gospel today is some variation on the word for seeing: see, look, watch, seek …

The first major event commemorated by the church in this season after Epiphany is the Baptism of the Lord: Jesus goes down from Galilee to be baptized by John in the Jordan River. All four of the gospels recount the event  —  Sort of.

While Matthew, Mark, and Luke give a play-by-play, all that is said about Jesus’ baptism in the gospel of John is what we heard read today: John the Baptist’s account of SEEING the Spirit descend on Jesus at his baptism:

I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him … I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.

John the Baptist is so convinced of this that he becomes like that guy on the corner with the sign who needs to tell everyone: Look, here is the Lamb of God! As if to say – I saw the Messiah – he is over there! Do you see him walking by? That is him! Go!
And two of John’s followers turn and follow Jesus.

It obviously wasn’t a very covert follow – there is no way that these two would have passed spy school because Jesus saw them right away: Jesus turns, lifts his eyes into their eyes, and SEES them.

What are you looking for?

Jesus’ first words in the gospel of John aren’t a command to silence a demon, a sermon about the Kingdom of God while sitting on a mountainside, or a proclamation of the year of God’s favour, but a simple question: What are you looking for? 
What are you seeking? What do you need?

It is a question that is simple in its complexity. Because as soon as you have an answer, another, deeper level of question will become apparent.

What are you seeking?
What is motivating you?
What is it that you really need?  — Not just on the surface, but deep down into the very core of your being.
Why are you here? – not here on earth, though that is a valid question, but why did you interrupt your Sunday afternoon to be right here now?
What are you looking for?

Those poor disciples of John. Things get awkward. Quickly. Likely what they wanted to say was something like,  “Um. Hi – we were following you because that other guy said you were the Lamb of God so we thought we’d come take a look…”
What they come out with is Where are you staying?

We can poke fun … But maybe there is more to it than that . Maybe what they really wanted to know was, Where are you dwelling?

Where do you abide?
What lets you put down deep roots into this world and be stable? What is it that allows you to endure life?
What makes you different?
How can we get what you have?

Because there is something different about him. John the Baptist has named it: He is the one on whom I saw the Spirit descend and REMAIN. And in a little while, Jesus will mention this word again: Remain in me and I will remain in you

Jesus, where are you staying?

Jesus’ only response is Come and See.
Come and see.
There is no judgement here. No negative evaluation of a hurried response when being caught following. No criticism.
Only:  Come and see.

We, and likely those two disciples, tend to expect that what results from responding to the invitation to “Come and See” is that we find Jesus – that we learn more about Jesus as we witness him in all of the different moments of daily life – the ordinary and the holy. And it is. But John’s gospel invites us to see more. It invites us to see and to be changed by seeing.

Jesus said to [the two disciples of John] “Come and see” … so they came and saw where he was staying … and REMAINED with him that day.

Jesus, where are you staying? 

Come and see…Remain with me and I will remain with you…

In remaining, these two disciples are found and they are changed.  How do we know this? How do we know that a change took place in their lives?

For those of you who have children, when were they born? I don’t mean the day – but what time was it?
For those of you who have lost a loved one, what time did they die or what time did you receive the phone call telling you of their death?
For those of you who are married, what time was it when you made that decision to spend the rest of your lives together?

Pivotal, life-changing moments have a time attached to them.

They came and saw where Jesus was staying and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon…

About four o’clock. Someone, one of them at least, took note of the time that their lives were changed.

And then they went and told their friends who came and saw and had their lives changed too … and then they went and told their friends who came and saw … and on and on and on for two thousand years.

That, my friends, is evangelism: Come and see.

John the Baptist does it: he sees the Spirit descend as a dove and he tells his followers. They go and see Jesus, have their lives changed and then go and tell their friends… There are no complex steps to take. There is no complicated theological argument to construct in order to carefully counter any potential resistance.

Just:

What are you looking for?

Where are you staying?

Come and see…

Two thousand years of people asking, people pointing, and people coming to see.

I remember one of my instructors in Bible College saying that the one thing he wanted people to say about him after he died, what he wanted to have written on his tombstone, was, “They saw John and followed Jesus…”

Come and see.

Not “you should go check out that church” or “Here go read this book and then we’ll talk about it…”  But Come and see
Come and see Jesus made manifest in my life – the holy mixed in with the ordinary…

If that sounds too much, remember what God says to the nation of Israel through the prophet Isaiah :

“You are my servant in whom I will be glorified.”

But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, … for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord and my God has become my strength – He says,
“…I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth…
Kings shall see and stand up,
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you…”

You are seen. You are chosen.

And we say to all the world –

Come and see

 

 

Sermon for January 8, 2017: The Baptism of the Lord

Preached at the Church of St John the Divine, Victoria.
Texts: Isaiah 42:1-9, Matthew 3:13-17

Listen to it here.

 

In his speech at our wedding, my Dad asked a question.

Looking around the church hall at the 150-or-so friends and family members who had just witnessed our wedding vows, Dad asked who amongst those gathered had also been present at and witnessed my or Matthew’s baptisms. About 20 people raised their hands – parents, aunts, uncles, older cousins, and godparents.

Like many Anglicans who have been baptized, I don’t remember my baptism. I was three months old when it happened. But I have heard stories of it – there was even a write up in the diocesan newspaper about the six of us who were baptized that August morning.

But my Dad’s recollection of it at my wedding, and all of those raised hands, was a reminder of the community that was around me then and remains around me now, and it was a window into a bigger story.

 

Which brings us to our readings this morning. In this first story that the writer of gospel of Matthew tells of adult Jesus, Jesus has traveled a bit of a ways south from his home in Galilee. South to the Jordan River.

The Jordan River is one of those places that immediately evokes memories for the people to whom Matthew would have been writing. Perhaps you have a place or places like that – someone mentions “The Lake” and you immediately think of learning how to swim one summer when you were at the cabin on the lake. And then your mind goes back to stories you’d heard of your grandfather fishing on the same lake … Memories and stories and decades – even centuries – of connection and relationship.

Not only is the Jordan River THE River that flows through the land where Jesus lives, but it is a river that has been a part of the stories of his people for centuries. The river that is the site of miracles like a man cured of leprosy or an ax head that floats … and the River that was crossed by his ancestors as they came to The Promised Land out of the wilderness …

And here is Jesus, going down to this River to be baptized by his cousin, John. He has left his immediate family and the place he is familiar with. He has traveled south from Galilee to the Jordan River.  And when he arrives, there is a crowd; John has drawn quite a lot of curious people out to the Jordan River to see what is going on there.

And in this first adult story of Jesus, he asks John to baptize him. That is why John was at the river, after all: he was baptizing there. But John adds a twist to the story – he says no to Jesus.

No – I am not the one to baptize you. In fact, you should be baptizing me!

I am not going to get into a technical discussion about the why and how of baptism and possible theologies for why Jesus should or should not be baptized. Jesus himself doesn’t really get into it other than to say to John – “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” For Matthew, this language is code for “this is what God wants”

John consents and baptizes Jesus. Jesus goes down under the water. While more familiar baptism scenes for us likely involve fonts in church with a safe splattering of water, I suspect many of us can picture the scene.

Jesus and John, standing up to their waists in the flowing water of the Jordan River. John is already wet from head to toe because he has been baptizing people all morning. Jesus has just waded in to join him. We don’t hear the discussion that went on between them, we just see the scene when John helps Jesus through the simple, familiar actions of baptism.

And for all of us watching the scene, it is done.

But for Jesus, it is just the beginning…

The dove descends and the voice speaks… “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased…”

And with those words, Jesus’ identity is confirmed and his ministry is launched. This is my Son, the Beloved…

God is announcing, once again, that God is become flesh and is dwelling among us. And God is doing it with words meant to evoke a particular ministry. For just as the scene of baptism, the Jordan River, would evoke a set of memories, so would the words…

They bring us back to the prophet Isaiah in our first reading this morning:

Here is my servant, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him … I have given you as … a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon … to faithfully bring forth justice …

This song of Isaiah is generally considered to be one of the so-called “servant songs.” Scholars are not in consensus as to whom the servant songs refer. Many of the New Testament writers use them in reference to the Messiah, to Jesus. Others suggest that they may be referring to the nation of Israel.

Likely, there is truth in both: ministry is both individual and communal.

Jesus’ ministry is launched at his baptism – he is publicly acknowledged as God’s son and then he goes – first to the wilderness and then to pull together a group of people to journey in ministry with him.

 

In a few moments we will together walk through the liturgy for the renewal of baptismal vows. For some of us, they will be familiar words that we have spoken many times. For some of us, they are less familiar words that others may have spoken on our behalf and we are only just learning how we might live into them. For some of us, we are struggling to connect them to our lives.

And all of that is okay.

In saying these words, whether baptized or not, whether we remember our baptisms or not, we commit to this ministry that Jesus launched and that we heard outlined in Isaiah:

A ministry that commits to continuing in community – in fellowship, prayer, and breaking bread together,

A ministry that proclaims the good news of God in Christ,

That seeks and serves Christ in all persons,

That strives to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, respects, sustains, and renews the life of the earth,

And that strives for justice and peace among all people and respects the dignity of every human being.

 

And it recognizes that we cannot do it on our own – not only do we need God’s help, but we need each other. We need each other to walk with, to hold us accountable, to encourage us along the way … And it places us all – as individuals and as a community – as an integral part of a bigger story, a story that holds us and sustains us and a story that connects us across time and place, not only to believers everywhere, but to Jesus, the one who felt and lived our full humanity and who calls us, like he called the disciples, to “come and follow”

As we journey that calling together, remember the words spoken by God at that baptism: You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.

 

 

St Andrew’s Day

Today is the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Anglican Church of Canada and the 30th anniversary of the same in the Diocese of British Columbia, where I serve. As someone pointed out yesterday, women have been ordained in this church for longer than I have been alive … though again, not in this diocese.

I am grateful for those first six women who pushed through that particular stained glass ceiling and began to forge a way for many of the rest of us to follow. I am grateful for many women in leadership in the church, both lay and ordained, who have shown me what it means to be a strong woman of faith.

And while I have been fortunate to know many of these women and follow in the footsteps of these women, I cannot help but think of other women in other parts of the church who do not worship in a place where they get to see a woman holding the bread and say, “this is my body, broken for you…”

I think of my teenaged self in the year 2000, sitting in the general assembly of an evangelical Christian denomination where it was decided not to decide whether or not women would be allowed in positions of leadership in the church. And then five or six years later in a congregation of that same denomination (yes, I stayed for six more years) where I was asked to be on the elder search committee. Because while they recognized I had what they were looking for to be an elder, I was a woman so all I could do was choose the men who might serve in that role.

I think of my godmother who is more qualified than I am to be a deacon but cannot be (yet?), who faces opposition when she even sets foot behind the altar to serve priests, deacons, and bishops. But yet who persists so that her granddaughter will know that women can also serve Jesus in church.

I think of some of my classmates from seminary who so obviously have a call on their lives but who, as of yet, have to content themselves with lay leadership while they push for a change in the church that they love.

So today I am thankful for the women who have gone before me. And I know that I cannot take where I am for granted and must keep striving for equality for all of us while celebrating those who have gone before.