Will You Come (back) to Church the Vineyard with me on September 25th???

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Normally I don’t use this blog to post any of my sermon thoughts/material….but I guess my vanity wins out today :P. There have been a few things that occurred to me this week that I figured might be of some use to those who are reading this blog. πŸ™‚

This morning I was blessed with a chance to preach on the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. This is a story where we are given a glimpse into the type of person God is and what God is doing in the world.

Like all parables, the story is not to be taken literally, but as a metaphor for the kingdom of God; a narrative reflection of our longing for God’s peace and love and justice…and what that reality will look like when it finally reaches fruition at the end of the age.

In Jesus’ story of the Vineyard workers….each of the workers is valued and loved. It doesn’t matter who they are, or how long they have worked, they are all given an equal share of God’s abundant love and grace.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means in light of Back to Church Sunday which is being adapted from the UK for Huron, as well as several other Dioceses in Canada.

Are we preaching and teaching a message that invites all people to join us??? Are we creating an environment where they feel welcomed, loved, and that any work they do or walk of life they are from has value??? What kind of community are we welcoming them back to???

I am totally aware that of course, we can never measure up to the level of God’s generosity….and that we will indeed fall short.

There might even be some level of hostility and resentment that we–who have been faithful attendees at Sunday worship for decades–should be considered equal to those who are just entering the sanctuary for the first time….or finding their way back after a long journey away from home.

And yet….I think there is a tendency to forget that we too at one time were new members of the Church. Whether baptized as infant or as an adult…there were people who helped to build us up in spiritual strength and confidence. We all at one time or another are unsure of our call to discipleship….and hesitant to offer our gifts and talents to the wider community, for fear that we might be rejected.

But here’s the Good News: God says that he will not reject you…..he won’t bother taking into account the crappy things you have done in your life….he won’t reject our attempts to live morally in this world…..he won’t reject you even if there is anger, fear, or doubts that lingers in the back of your mind. All of that has been left at the foot of the Cross.

Regardless of what you have done….. you are worth it! You are made in the image and likeness of God…and God loves you so much that there is nothing he won’t do to reclaim you as his very own child…even if it costs him pain suffering and death.

You are beautiful, irreplaceable, and vital to the world around you….and no one can take that knowledge away from you. ❀

If you have been thinking about surrounding yourself in a community of the faithful…don't hesitate! :D….Come….not because I told you to….but because it is Christ who invites you here….All are welcome, all are accepted, and all are loved. πŸ˜€

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their reward.

If any have come after the third hour,
let them with gratitude join in the feast!

Those who arrived after the sixth hour,
let them not doubt; for they shall not be short-changed.

Those who have tarried until the ninth hour,
let them not hesitate; but let them come too.

And those who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,
even as to those who toiled from the beginning.

To one and all the Lord gives generously.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.
The Lord honours every deed and commends their intention.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

**Excerpt from the Paschal (Easter) Homily of St. John Chrysostom**

Evening Prayer: August 18th (Combo Post)

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Psalms:131, 132, 134, 135
Old Testament: 2 Sam 19:1-23
New Testament: Acts 24:1-23
Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Hail Mary by Bishop Baldwin of Canterbury

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, β€œYou shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31)

Say it with me…..all together now πŸ˜‰

Lord have mercy upon us, and write both these thy laws in our hearts we beseech thee.

Unlike some of my contemporaries, I was first introduced to the Anglican Church using ye olde Book of Common Prayer

For those who don’t know…the Shema (“Hear O Israel”) and the response I quoted above serves as one of the opening prayers of the Eucharistic liturgy.

What I find interesting is that this prayer frames the whole point of the worship that follows.

Everything from the readings, the General Confession, General Intercession, the Offertory Prayer, the Prayer of Humble Access, and sharing in the Sacred Meal itself….. all of these acts are meant not only to serve as a reminder of God’s promises….but to literally change us and to inscribe God’s law and love into our own hearts.

Another important thing to remember is that God would never ask us to do something that he Himself would avoid.

As we bear witness to the priests words and manual acts over the gifts.. we are reminded about how God Himself, the Word made Flesh lived out the two greatest commandments… withholding nothing so that the whole world might be saved….. and that all would come to know the infinite love the Trinity has for all creation.

It is no coincidence that after sharing in the Body and Blood, the BCP then offers a second responsory prayer:

And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee. And although we are unworthy, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offences; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Just as we respond to the prayer of the Shema asking God to move us and shape us, we respond to the Eucharist–the Sacred time in which we are not far from God–with an earnest plea that our new hearts and cleansed bodies can be used for God’s glory….that we too, like our Father will withhold nothing in proclaiming the gospel to all nations and to reconcile everyone we meet to the LORD.

May we always be strengthened by word and Sacrament to bear the image of Christ everywhere we go….and to live out the commandments. +

Morning Prayer: Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15th)

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Psalm: 113, 115
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 2:1-11
Gospel: John 2:1-12

I admit it…..I was in a funk last week….partly because I was surrounded by death :(. Responding to pastoral situations over the physical death of a loved one……. and the “little deaths” of addiction and depression took an unexpected toll on my own sense of well-being.

Seems kind of appropriate that as I stumble back to this blog, I am confronted with a Feast that deals with death.

Being of the ol’ school…I celebrate this Feast as the “Dormition” or the Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary….This is in contrast to both my current practice as an Anglican and my roots as a good Catholic boy.

Having a Protestant heritage, the Anglican Church tends to shy away from elevating the Mother of God in any way, shape or form. So August 15th is simply referred to as the “Feast of St. Mary the Virgin” in the BAS calendar.

On the flip side, Catholics believe in the doctrine of the Assumption in which Mary is assumed bodily into heaven without tasting death.

As with so many things, I straddle the line between both traditions and embrace Eastern Orthodox teaching. In the tradition of Byzantium, the teaching was that Mary died a physical death but that her body was resurrected and assumed into Heaven some three days later.

Now you may be asking the question of why I split these theological hairs…and my answer is really quite simple. The Feast of the Dormition serves a dual purpose. On the one hand….it reminds us that we will all experience physical death, regardless of how holy we are. It is a day on which we–as Christians–acknowledge and accept that there will be a time when we are called to depart this life and await the next.

But the commemoration of the Church does not stop there….it goes a step further. In recognizing Mary’s assumption, she becomes the first of all Christian followers to experience bodily resurrection.

Death is revealed not to be the final victor…..but rather eternal life triumphing over the limits of sin and human nature.

Mary holds for us the hope that we too will be gathered into the great cloud of witnesses; to anticipate the day when the dead shall be raised, and no tear will be shed. To long for the day when the world will finally know what it means to live in the Kingdom of God..a place where justice, peace, and love overflow in abundance forever.

Through the Mother of God, we live in continual hope for the dawning of a new day. Alleluia! Alleluia! +

Evening Prayer: July 14th (Combo Post)

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Psalm: 37
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 20:24-42
New Testament: Acts 13:1-12
Gospel: Mark 2:23-3:6
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a treatise on the Mysteries by St. Ambrose (Scroll down to Reading II)

earing the garments given her in the rebirth by water, the Church says, in the words of the Song of Songs: I am black but beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem. Black because of the frailty of humanity, beautiful through grace; black because she is made up of sinners, beautiful through the sacrament of faith. When they see these garments the daughters of Jerusalem cry out in wonder: Who is this who comes up, all in white? She was black, how is she suddenly made white?
When Christ sees his Church clothed in white – for her sake he himself had put on filthy clothing, as you may read in the prophecy of Zechariah – when he sees the soul washed clean by the waters of rebirth, he cries out: How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are; your eyes are like the eyes of a dove, for it was in the likeness of a dove that the Holy Spirit came down from heaven.

A lot of Patristic and medieval sources look at the Song of Songs as an allegory for Christ and the Church; and I gotta be honest….sometimes I don’t always get it :P.

The book itself is actually a Hebrew poem which frames the dialouge between two young lovers. It traces the relationship from courtship all the way to marriage…..and some of the sexual references are VERY obvious! πŸ˜›

I suppose it’s that erotic imagery is the reason why I could never jump into metaphorical mode with this poem. Aside from the mystical tradition, Christianity has never been all too comfortable with sex-talk….let alone when it is applied to their own institution.

Unlike the Hindu religion which is very comfortable talking about semi-erotic expressions of the Divine, the Church–more especially in the West–came to view any form of “lover” language as sinful.

And yet….in Ambrose’s treatise we get a different glimpse of how God loves us. It’s not simply the agape love of a benevolent Creator….but the eros of a King who loved us so much that he clothed himself in the flesh. A Christ who takes on both joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain so that we can be brought closer to the Father.

God is not only concerned for our well being, but he is passionate in his desire to make us his children. It is not a detached love…..but a love filled with give and take….a love that is real and vulnerable. It is a love that can be rejected, and a love that can hurt us….but it is also a love that has the potential to embrace us and change us as well.

We are made beautiful in Christ…that is how God sees us…..and it’s also how He wants us to see ourselves. +

Evening Prayer: July 12th (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 26, 28, 36, 39
Old Testament: 1 Sam 19:1-18
New Testament: Acts 12:1-17
Gospel: Mark 2:1-12
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a Treatise on the Mysteries by St. Ambrose

While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. (Acts 12:5)

Over and over, the Acts of the Apostles stresses that the Church always did things together ; most especially at times of crisis.

In the Anglican church, as tensions and frustrations mount…..and some parishes find themselves in a congregationalist mindset, I think it’s sometimes forgotten that we are one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Anything we do….any prayer we utter…..any worship we offer to God we do together.

Tonight I pray that the Church remembers its true nature as a family….complete with close loved ones and black sheep alike….we are called to act as one..and to always be in the business of building up rather than tearing down. ❀ +

Evening Prayer: May 13th (Combo Post)

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Psalm: 105
Old Testament: Daniel 6:1-15
New Testament 2 John
Gospel: Luke 5:12-26
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon of St. Ephrem the Deacon

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginningβ€”you must walk in it. Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! (2 John 1:6-7)

Uh oh! There it is……the dreaded word: anti-Christ…..any images coming to your mind???

This:

Or this:

Or maybe if the traditional Reformers had their way….. it’s this guy:

The fact of the matter is that the concept of the anti-christ has been so far removed from its original meaning in fiction and popular conception that we have forgotten its true meaning.

Anti-christ is simply anything or anyone who runs contrary to upholding two basic principles:

a) That Jesus Christ came truly in the flesh and
b) that we are called to love one another, as he has loved us.

It is for these reasons and these reasons alone that someone is considered anti-christ….or in opposition to Christ’s commands. Far from a malevolent demon-child who will initiate Armageddon….the author of 2 John is teaching us to avoid false teachers who would draw us away from the fundamental truths that Jesus came to save us as fully human and that we are to emulate his love.

If we start straying from those basics….. that’s when we get into trouble. In forgetting who Jesus is and what He did for us…we forget that we are a redeemed people in need of Grace. If we forget his command to love others….than our experience of Grace becomes self-centred, self-contained, and self-driven….which is the very opposite of the Gospel message.

In reality, we do nothing by ourselves…..we only prosper through the power of God. The power of a God who loved us so much that he took our flesh to show his solidarity with us……and died so that we might have life again.

May we never become anti-christs and always seek to live out our lives declaring the power of our Lord Jesus and sharing his love for us with the world. Amen. +

Evening Prayer: May 10th

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Psalms: 36, 39
Gospel: Luke 4:31-37
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a sermon of St. Augustine

Oh happy circumstance! πŸ˜€ I skipped over the “God is love” quote this morning, only to have St. Augustine bring it back to me this evening. Funny how life works out sometimes. πŸ˜‰

Check it out:

Which of us would dare to pronounce the words of Scripture: God is love? He alone could say it who knew what it was to have God dwelling within him. God offers us a short route to the possession of himself. He cries out: Love me and you will have me for you would be unable to love me if you did not possess me already.

In many other world religions, God is often depicted in the form of a lover. For some reason, Christianity–especially in its Western form–has tended to shy away from such language.

Part of that reason is due–I think–to the influence of Greek philosophy….where the material world, and eros are conceived of as dangerous to the soul. Granted, they are not detrimental to the soul…..but rather they get in the way of the soul realizing its true potential.

What John’s letter teaches us in saying that God is love….is that the duality so popular for the Greeks is boulderdash for Christians. We are only given the ability to love because we have felt love ourselves….We only feel the yearning to be in community because God himself initiated it in the mutual love of the Holy Trinity.

Our whole being…..our whole raison d’etre is not to seperate ourselves from love and desire……but to love and desire the right thing namely God and our neighbour.

The idea that God is love is not so much a mushy admission that YHWH is a hippy in disguise, as it is a candid reminder of where we come from.

God spoke the Word in the beginning and the world was created out of nothing….purely for His pleasure and so that he could share his love and Spirit with other beings. To do anything other than love is to deny who we truly are. To borrow one of Mark Twain’s famous phrases:

“Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.”

+

Reflections on a Rather Nostolgiac Day

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First off….let me say that regular posts about the Daily Office will resume starting Monday. :).

I honestly think I needed a week or so to clear my head. To get away from the pressure that I was feeling to provide spiritually nourishing insights on this blog every day.

Obviously, I know that is ridiculous, and certainly not the reason I started this project. But more and more the expectation to post every single day made praying the Office a chore….something I wasn’t looking forward to doing. 😦

Now I think I am ready mentally and spiritually to jump back in the swing of things. πŸ™‚

Part of what had me in a funk this week is that it has now been one year since I graduated from seminary….with still no clear indication of becoming ordained in sight…..nor any sign that I am going to be paid for my work any time soon.

Of course, as someone who is called to be a priest….service comes first….stipend comes last :)….but I honestly thought I would be in a more stable place one year after graduation.

Perhaps that is foolish thinking….and I’m not saying that the last year has shown no signs of progress….but somehow I was expecting more.

Two things happened today that served to jolt me out of the little pity-party I have been having for myself.

First and foremost was seeing the joy of some of my fellow classmates graduate! :D. To see the happiness, the light-heartedness….and almost hearing sighs of relief as they finally obtained their degrees….some taking much longer than the standard 3 full-time years to finish. πŸ™‚

These women and men have shown incredible strength in the way that they have pushed through essays, parish placements, strain in their personal and family relationships. All because they felt God was calling them to love and know him more fully. It was both humbling and joyful to witness. :D. Congratulations my friends! πŸ™‚ ❀

Also…..in mingling with some of the folks who showed up for the convocation, I met with a doctor who wanted to speak with me about my CP.

He told me about a trial drug that he was researching that–in essence–would revamp the cells in my body and cut down significantly on my spasticity and balance.

Naturally, the drug is not cheap….although he said that if I wanted in the trial, he could arrange it.

I have never had this kind of offer made to me before….and–putting aside my own skepticism about his motives– I honestly don't think I am interested.

In the past, I have had friends who decide–for various reasons–to test different drugs and treatments in the hopes that their disability would be minimalized or cured. In most cases, these folks are people with genetic conditions like MS or MD…or who are disabled as the result of sever trauma (car accident, workplace injury &c.)

My disability has shaped the person I am…be that for good or ill. :P. CP is not like other disabilities…..it finds its root not in genetics…..but in shitty luck and medical mistakes. Sometimes that makes it harder to take…but at other times I am astounding that on the sliding scale of CP I am smack-dab in the middle.

I am able to speak, walk, read, and was fortunate enough to earn both a B.A. and M. Div.

More than that, my CP is part of who I am as a person…..has shaped my spirituality, and has allowed me to empathize and sympathize with people on a very unique level.

Despite my (sometimes prolonged) episodes of doubt, anger, fear, and bitterness….Today I remember I am lucky. Today I remember I am loved. Today I remember I am blessed. Thanks be to God! Alleluia! +

Morning Prayer: Good Friday

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Psalm: 22
Old Testament: Wisdom 1:16 – 2:1, 12-22
New Testament: 1 Peter 1:10-20

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that helf Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom. +

Evening Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalms: 142, 143
Gospel: John 13:1-27
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from an Easter sermon of St. Melito of Sardis

When I first came to the Anglican Church I was a little baffled as to why it today was called “Maundy” Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum” meaning “commandment”. And what is this new commandment????

[Jesus said to his disciples] “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Coming from a Roman Catholic background, this shift in emphasis was a new thing for me. In the RC tradition, Holy Thursday is used as a day to give thanks for the Last Supper and an opportunity to venerate the Holy Sacrament. There was no talk of commands.

Yet in the Anglican faith, much more emphasis is placed on the directive of our Lord to love, and of His great humiilty washing the disciples feet. Not only that..but the readings always include Jesus’ prayer that his disciples may always be one:

β€˜I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…. (John 17:20-24a)

No matter what lines divide us in denomination, doctrinal dispute, or personal greivances, we are called to love beyond all else. Not only that….we are strengthened through Jesus’ prayer to know that whatever divides us can never be as important proclaiming the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he has come to save us:

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)

As we enter into the Triddium this year may we always be mindful of the great price paid for our salvation, the Sacrament which feeds us in body, mind and soul, and of the fundamental message to all Christians that the aim of this life is not to be served, but to wash the feet of others. +

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