A number of months ago, I was approached by folks at the Faculty of Theology at Huron about being interviewed for a promotional video for the Master of Divinity program. Logistics of me being in Victoria and the videographer being in London made it a challenge at first, but we managed to find a time when I was in Toronto for PWRDF meetings to sit down and talk about my experiences of that program. I said lots of things, most of which was, I’m sure, incoherent. But James, the amazing videographer, somehow took them and made me sound intelligent! Many thanks to Todd, the Dean of the Faculty, for trusting me with saying things about that great place. Honoured to be with David Giffen in his beautiful parish for this video.
Apparently it is May.
In the last month, Matthew and I have: completed our Master of Divinity degrees, finished up my work with CMHA, said goodbye to family and friends in London and surrounding cities, packed up our house and overseen it being loaded onto a moving truck, and packed up the corolla and driven through six states and five provinces with ourselves and a cat.
After 4500km, we are in Victoria!
It is a bit surreal. A month ago, we were both finishing up our last week of classes and looking at spending the next couple of weeks writing papers. It is hard to believe that three years (2.5 for Matthew) are over and done already. In so many ways, it feels like just yesterday that I was packing up everything in Victoria to move to London. And now it is all in boxes again…
The boxes remain on the moving truck and we are eagerly awaiting their arrival sometime in the next week or so. Meanwhile, we drove ourselves across the country, stopping in Minneapolis, Brandon, Lethbridge, and Sorrento before heading over to the Island.
For Matthew, most of the drive was new. For me, the entire route south of the Great Lakes was a new adventure and the cross prairie trek was a lovely reminder of the beauty of our country, as it has been 20 years since my family made our first major move from Belleville to Lethbridge. We crossed Manitoba and Saskatchewan in nearly one day, flying along the prairie Trans-Canada highway. Matthew marvelled at the flat flat flat of the land, attempting to see the horizon at every turn (who am I kidding: there were no turns in the road) but continuing to remark instead: “Nope, it’s still very flat!”
I drove from Swift Current to Lethbridge. Once we turned onto Highway 3 from the Trans-Canada, it was remarkable how familiar things began to look. I learned to drive in Lethbridge and it showed. I was still able to navigate the city quite well, taking Matthew by my old home, down to the Oldman River Valley to see the famous high level bridge, and around by my old high school.
Then it was off north through more prairie to foothills, through Calgary to the mountains. We could see the mountains from Lethbridge, but it never ceases to amaze me how one can drive all day and not seem to get any closer. Three hours from Lethbridge, however we finally entered the Rockies.
Their majestic peaks were still topped by snow and there were some valleys thick with snow alongside rushing streams as we wound through the mountain passes. Then we were out, into the Interior.
We stopped the night in Sorrento, BC, about an hour outside of Kamloops. The Anglican Church has a retreat centre there and a good friend works there full time. The last time I was at Sorrento was exactly three years ago, when I attended “ACPO” – the Advisory Committee on Postulants for Ordination and was recommended for theological training in advance of pursuing ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada. Talk about full-circle. It is a beautiful haven on the Shushwap Lakes with amazing programming all summer long.
From Sorrento we drove down the Coquihalla, through Vancouver (waving at Dad and Colleen as we travelled the new South Fraser Perimeter Road to the ferry terminal. After a one-sailing wait, it was onto the Spirit of Vancouver Island and over to Victoria.
We are blessed to have wonderful friends and colleagues in Victoria with whom we are staying while we wait to be able to get into our new suite. It has been an adventure and we are looking forward to what comes next!
A sermon preached at Grace United Church, Sarnia, Ontario
Text: John 21:1-19
Two weeks later, here we are, back at the seashore… Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others have returned to the Sea. Here they are, all together sitting around a fire on the seaside. They’re just hanging out. Ever the impetuous one of the group, Peter suddenly looks up: “Guys, I’m going fishing.” One by one they join him and soon all of the boats are back out on the water.
Follow me, said Jesus, and I will make you fish for people. But now our fishermen have returned to their fish.
Easter. Two weeks ago we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection from the dead with what was likely a lot more faith and hope than did Mary, Simon Peter, and the other disciple when they encountered the empty tomb early that morning. It was empty of Jesus’ body and, in the words of Mary when she unknowingly encountered Jesus in the garden, “they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”
The inclination that something had happened doesn’t seem to have fully sunk in, however. The evening of the day Jesus rose, the disciples were hiding away behind a locked door. A locked door?! So much for believing in the power of the resurrection!
To their surprise, and very likely ours had we been in their shoes, Jesus appeared among them, speaking to them before breathing his spirit upon them as he sent them out.
But… one week later, there we are, still in the same room with the same locked door, clearly not entirely sure of what has happened. Jesus appears again in our midst and we are able to see and touch him.
Another week passes and the disciples are no longer locked up in the room. Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanial, James, John, and two others have walked some 170 kilometres north of Jerusalem to the Sea of Tiberias – the Sea of Galilee. That’s not too far off the distance between here and, say, Kitchener. First century roads, however, are far cry from our highways and it took them a little longer to plod the dusty tracks of Israel than the couple of hours it might take us to drive that distance today.
It is a familiar road.
I wonder if they were recalling the last time they had all walked it: on the way to Jerusalem and the way to Jesus’ death on the cross, though they did not know it at the time.
This time, though, we’re headed north instead of south. Perhaps they feel as we sometimes do when travelling: the return road seems to pass by faster than the leaving did. Despite the hills and the dust as we walk along, maybe our pace begins to pick up as we get closer to the Sea.
They’re going home.
Did the painful and confusing memories of the previous few weeks in Jerusalem begin to fade as they put some distance between themselves and the city? Were they talking about what had happened? Were they trying to forget? Or were they still struggling to make sense of what had happened?
Despite having seen Jesus, seen him twice for some of those in our travelling group, there seems to be some confusion about what to do now. Jesus sent them out, but maybe they don’t know what that means.
So we are gathered together beside the Sea, their familiar place, the place where they had fished every day up until Jesus called each one, one-by-one.
Two weeks after the resurrection and that first Easter morning, two weeks after Jesus’ appearance to the disciples and his sending them out… Three years of hearing Jesus’ teachings day-in-day-out and seeing his miraculous actions, and we are back where we started: at the sea, fishing.
I don’t know about you, but Easter Sunday wasn’t even over before I was back to my regular routine: papers to write, textbooks to read…
We have work to do. Activities to plan. People to see. Daily life catches up with us and it is easy to forget.
The writer of the gospel of John doesn’t tell us the motives behind Peter’s return to fishing fish, so we are left to fill in some of those blanks. Thinking about human nature, though, I think that I get it: Life has been pretty uncertain for awhile. They haven’t had a stable place to stay for anything more than a few nights at a time. Their leader has just died and then strangely reappeared.
The economy is uncertain. Unemployment has been dragging on and on. Too many good people have died for what seems like no reason. Food prices keep fluctuating.
It is pretty natural to want to stay in the security and certainty of things that are known, even if it does mean going back.
But can we go back? Can we remain unchanged?
Easter has happened and is happening whether we feel certain about it or not.
Today we call the third Sunday of Easter – so our feet are still firmly planted in the season of Easter.
With the cross and resurrection, time shifted and what was then is now. Rather than Easter being that day we look forward to once a year, it is every single day.
The sun rises every morning and we are reminded that early in the morning today, yesterday, and tomorrow, Jesus rose.
So it is for the disciples, whether they knew it or not: the things they witnessed and participated in over the previous three years have changed them irrevocably. There really is no going back for any of us.
As if as a reminder of that, Jesus suddenly appears to us for the third time since he rose.
But, we don’t know it is him at first. We’re still out fishing – well, trying to fish. It has been a bad night and we have caught nothing.
Maybe they had been about to give up anyway. Thomas, leaning over to Peter, reminding him that he had thought this was a bad idea in the first place: they hadn’t fished in three years! What made us think we could just pick it back up?
And a figure appears on the beach, shouting out: Have you caught anything?
I’m not much of a fisherman. Two summers on the lake with my husband and his family haven’t increased my skill at all, so I have some understanding of what it feels like to have to respond to that question with a sigh and a Nope. Still haven’t even caught one fish…
But I have enough of an understanding of how fishing works to realize that when you’re out in the middle of the sea, throwing your net or your rod over the other side of a small boat isn’t going to make a huge difference.
Believe me, I’ve tried everything.
But that is what Jesus tells them to do: Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.
So they do it and have an epic haul of fish. The gospel writer tells us that there were so many fish that they were not able to haul in the net, fearful that it might break.
Such abundant grace from Jesus: these people he had invested so much time and energy into over the last three years seem to have abandoned everything to go back to how life was before they met him. Rather than pout or get angry, Jesus extends so much grace that it strains our capacity.
Because that is what grace does.
When you least expect it. When all hope is gone. When you wonder what you are doing. When there are no fish. When you think there is no future.
There is overflowing abundant grace.
Not blame for having failed. Not guilt for feeling like there is no hope. Not shame for feeling lost.
Only overflowing abundant grace.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness, in your doubt, in your confusion…
And then, as if to settle it, Jesus invites them to share a meal.
They came, Jesus took bread, broke it, and passed it to his disciples.
Then he did the same thing with the fish.
Eat with me, he said.
Remember what happens when we eat?
Where two or three are gathered,
Whenever you break bread and eat, you do this in memory of me.
It is so simple, isn’t it?
In the midst of our doubts, in the midst of our uncertainties, Jesus shows up on the shore and invites them to share a meal once again. We sit down together and eat: whether it be around the Table of the Lord on a Sunday morning as the church community breaks bread together, around the kitchen table at home with the familiar laughter of family or friends, or around tables in a church hall smelling and tasting rich and fragrant soup prepared by your church family, Jesus is with us on the shore this morning, inviting us to share life and eat with him.
The Last Supper and resurrection meals fold into one with the changing of time and we find community and fellowship with each other.
Not only that, but we remember that today is Easter. And tomorrow when we wake up and eat breakfast, it is still Easter. And the next day, and the day after that.
Shortly after Jesus rose, two disciples, in their fear and uncertainty, went for a walk and found themselves at the table, eating with Jesus.
As the bread was broken and shared, their eyes were opened and they realized that Jesus had been amongst them the entire time, overflowing with such grace that their hearts had been burning with the joy of his presence.
May it be for us as it was for them: as we eat, as we drink, may we find and know the abundance of God’s grace in our lives and in our lives together.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday. We read through and studied the gospel reading for this Sunday in class this week. From the gospel of Luke (19:28-40), we read the story of the procession into Jerusalem:
After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” he answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
One of my classmates asked us to draw an image that came to us from this passage, one that speaks to where this passage is going. I have always been captivated by the closing line spoken by Jesus, “I tell you, if these [people] were silent, the stones would shout out.” It is such a powerful image of creation crying out praises to God even if we human fail to keep it up all the time. So I drew a pile of rocks with a speech bubble and the word LIFE! proclaimed loudly in the speech bubble. Because ultimately that is where the procession of palms ends a week later: rock tombs opening up and shouting life as Jesus is risen.
I don’t know about where you are, but in this little corner of the world we are starting to see spring. It has been raining and the smells of spring are in the air. Green is beginning to sprout and I will not be surprised if trees start to bud soon. Seeing green pop everywhere always brings to mind the song “The Color Green” by Rich Mullins.
And the moon is a sliver of silver
Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter’s shop
And every house must have it’s builder
And I awoke in the house of God
Where the windows are mornings and evenings
Stretched from the sun
Across the sky north to south
And on my way to early meeting
I heard the rocks crying out
I heard the rocks crying out
Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise
The rocks cry out, the colour green cries out, sun rise and rain fall bless the name of God.
We’re headed to the celebration of Palm Sunday and then on to Holy Week and the great Tridiuum services. But at the end of the day, the rocks cry out along with us: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Life!
It has been a long school year and a lot has happened. I got engaged. We had some health stuff. We both had a full course load, and then some, each term. I have been working part time. And then there was the church field placement.
Twelve to fifteen hours per week. In a church. Doing stuff.
What that “stuff” was varied each week: preaching, proclaiming the word, leading parts of the liturgy, searching around for my supervisor’s reading glasses (where the heck did he leave them this week?!?), home and hospital visiting, assisting at a funeral, drinking beer at the pub while leading a bible study… the list goes on.
What did not vary each week was the love and support of that church community. St Andrew Memorial Anglican Church: Thank you.
Thank you for being a welcoming community.
Thank you for opening yourselves to me and letting me be myself amongst you.
Thank you for welcoming my partner as warmly as you welcomed me, even though he worships at another church as a part of his field placement.
Thank you for letting me learn without judgement.
Thank you for being a community where it has been okay for me to try and not be perfect.
Thank you for your encouragement, your laughter, your enthusiasm, your chocolate, and your joy.
Thank you for being a community that loves fellowship and food.
Thank you for your heart for worshipping God.
Thank you for loving me.
I have learned a lot from you, with you, and because of you. As Pastor Marty said at my last service with you, a piece of your community will come back to BC with me and will always be a part of my ministry.
The fifth Sunday of Lent, Preached at St. Andrew Memorial Anglican, London, Ontario.
Text: John 12:20-36
I have never been much of a gardener. I have joked that the only plants I ever want are succulents – cacti and the like – because they seem to be the only thing that can take the neglect I would put them through. I have certainly never lived on a farm. I have always been a city kid – a city kid who loves the outdoors, but at home in the big city none the less.
My grandparent’s retirement project was a farm in the county. To seven-year-old eyes, it seemed like a big farm, but was really not more than an acreage with a turn-of-the-century limestone farmhouse, wooden board barn, and an apple orchard.
But it was the farm fields back behind their property – fields that stretched way back to the tree line, which is a long way when you’re a kid – that captivated us as grandkids. Many summer afternoons were spent hiding in the fields, creating forts, and hoping that the tall grasses and grains would hide us from the watchful eyes of parents and grandparents – wandering as far away down the back field as we dared.
As we plucked the grain from the stalks, I never, in any of those long summer days, stopped to think about what happened to the grain when we were done playing.
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, Jesus says in today’s gospel reading, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Until the seed becomes buried in the ground, it has no hope of bringing forth new life.
We have spent these last weeks of Lent participating in just that: contemplating the wheat that falls to the ground and dies and then is buried in the tomb.
It seems like just yesterday that we had ashes placed on our foreheads in the shape of a cross: “remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
Death. It has been ever present with us this Lent, in more ways than one.
And while it is difficult to imagine getting closer to the cross than the intimate placement of it on our foreheads, our readings, our meditations, and our worship together over these last weeks have been doing just that. They have been gradually bringing us closer and closer to that cross. Closer to the reality of death: Jesus keeps predicting his own death and now, in today’s reading, he is meditating on it with his disciples:
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Strong words: Those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
I don’t know about you, but I was always taught that hate is a stronger word than I should ever use.
And the words “hate their life”?
As a society we spent so much time and money on bettering ourselves, on loving ourselves, on teaching our children to have positive self-esteem and to love themselves too. That clearly jars with what Jesus is saying here. Or does it?
We heard Pastor Marty preach on Mark’s version of those words a few weeks ago when they came up in our Sunday readings: For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. And he challenged us to take up our cross with us every day.
I like Luke’s version of the same phrase: Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.
Trying to make their life secure. That sounds a lot like playing it safe, being fearful of sticking our necks out, excessive caution, a reluctance to identify with Jesus and the way of the cross.
Today we are also commemorating the life of a martyr:
Oscar Romero, the Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador who was assassinated, while celebrating the Eucharist, 35 years ago this Tuesday.
He dared to speak up against injustice. He dared to speak up when people were being mistreated. He dared to speak up and ask for basic human rights for his people.
He challenged people to feed the poor, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to love their enemies and seek to make them enemies no longer.
He dared to live the gospel – and lost his life.
Today we also commission a new leader to a new ministry and position of leadership in the church – in this Church of St Andrew Memorial and in the whole church. Leadership in a ministry that we – all of us here at St Andrew, whether we have fancy robes and special chairs or not – share together as a family.
And as we continue this path towards the cross together, we will come to Mandy Thursday where, following in the footsteps of Jesus when he wrapped a towel around his waist and knelt in front of his disciples to lead by serving, we wash each other’s feet in loving service…
From today’s gospel: Whoever serves me must follow me … Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
Maybe that is what Jesus is asking. It isn’t an ask for us hate who we are in order to gain eternal life in heaven. It is about now, because daily decisions that we make about following Jesus in the way of the cross are simple and are before us every day.
It is the questions of:
Can you keep loving me and serving me, even in the midst of the pain of the valley of the shadow of death?
Even on the day when the gloom clouds will not clear?
Even when your co-workers are talking about you behind your back?
Even when nothing is going right and everything is getting up in your face and discouraging you?
What about when things are going so well that the temptation is to think that you don’t need Jesus? Can you keep loving and serving me then, says Jesus?
And, Jesus adds, God honours and glorifies those who follow.
Not those who are successful followers.
Not those who always make the right decisions.
Not those who never have anything go wrong or never been discouraged.
But those who follow.
Luckily for me and my brown thumbs, I don’t actually have to do the work of making the seed bring forth new life. The seed already has that new life inside of it – I just have to make sure it gets into the ground and water it now and then, when I can.
We are the Church that is the wheat which bears its fruit in dying.
And so, we now prepare to go to the table, where we recognize that because we have died with Christ, we live with him, and, as we holding firm and following him, we shall reign with him.
I was honoured to be invited to contribute to a Lenten reflection booklet curated by a friend and fellow postulant in the Diocese of British Columbia. My reflection was for today and is based on the Hebrew Bible lectionary reading for the day, Genesis 17:3-9.
Your name shall be Abraham for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God.
I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all the tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Before he even reproduced, God had made Abraham the father of a multitude of nations. It still seemed impossible – there was not even one child, let alone a multitude of nations.
And before Abraham was even conceived of, Jesus is.
In the beginning was the Word…
Time and space. What is time to God? A thousand years is like a day to God, we are told. Yesterday is last year, tomorrow is 2019. Or 2130. Or 1875.
God was, God is, God will be.
That multitude of nations? God knew them then. God knows them now. God sees and knows those that will be. Each and every one.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again:
And yesterday, today, and tomorrow we all join together; with Abraham, with the angels who heralded Christ’s birth, and with the multitude from every nation envisioned by John, praising God.