Tuning out the world…….

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I have been meaning to do a post like this for a while, but I kept putting it off……but two things happened this week that finally gave me the impetus to reflect on the effect that technology has on our interaction with the wider community.

1) While hanging out with milady on Sunday, I accidentally left my Ipod and headphones in the back of her car.

Since she works most of the week, and we only get to see each other on days-off, that meant I had three to spend three days without portable music, and no wi-fi connection at my fingertips. 😦

2) I finished reading Digital Disciple by Adam Thomas. In this short book, the author explores both the pros and cons of living in a world permeated by social networking, online gaming and Google searches that take mere fractions of a second.

He writes with a central question in mind: What does all this Tech (and its consequences) have for followers of Jesus Christ?

With these two events coinciding, I was forced to reflect on my own use of technology…..and more especially the power my Ipod gives me to ignore the world around me.

For those of you who don’t know…..I work part-time as a street pastor for one of the churches here in London. Basically, this job involves entering into pastoral relationships with people who find themselves homeless or (as is more often the case) those who are making a very limited income.

The government pensions that they are given are high enough that they can afford to live somewhere, but there is no guarantee that a) the living conditions they can afford are healthy for their well-being or that b) there is enough disposable income left to afford basic needs like food and clothing.

Normally, I go out for about 2-3 hours on any given day and scoot around the downtown area and the East End….listening to the lives and witness of these folks. If the situation calls for it, it is also my job to direct them towards services that they inquire about, or might be able to make use of.

What struck me over this past week….is that the Ipod allows me to dictate when I will listen and when I won’t. Having my ginormous headphones on signifies to most folks that my ability to listen is gone….or at the very least, occupied in another activity. It allows me to close my ears to the cry of the poor….and I openly wonder if that’s a good thing.

In the days of the Walkman and CD player, my ability to block out the world only lasted for as long as the AAA batteries kept running. After those two or three hours, I was forced to either go to the dollar store and get some more, or put the Walkman away and resume my “normal” life of interacting with people 1:1

Now….. with batteries and smart-phones that last the whole day, the option to engage with the world, or to drown it out becomes a conscious choice.

In the three days that I had without music, I found myself surrounded by snippets of conversation. Instead of my favourite tracks by DMB, my ears were filled with the loud drilling and hammering of the construction crews. Instead of contemplating the Gospel through a podcast, I found myself open to more encounters with those on the sidewalk.

I have no real end-point or conclusion to this post/reflection……but I thought it was important to throw it out there as both an observation for myself and–potentially–a chance for us collectively to think about: what distracts us from being disciples??? …..Leave a comment on this post with some of your thoughts. As always, I look forward to some discussion. +

Evening Prayer: Saturday in Easter (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 145, 104
Old Testament: Isaiah 25:1-9
New Testament: Acts 4:13-21
Gospel: John 16:16-33
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the Jerusalem Catecheses

He will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:8-9)

During the season of Easter, we are reminded that death itself….the last enemy…..the cause of all our tears….the thing that invades like darkness has been utterly destroyed.

I sit here prepped to give a sermon about doubting Thomas at the 9:00am service tomorrow at Cronyn, and I can’t help but think that Thomas was right to be skeptical.

The whole idea that death no longer has the final word seems like a fools’ hope; an imaginary tale to assuage our guilt for sins past. Thomas had seen the torture on Good Friday and knew its horror. A whole week had passed and still he had no proof of what was real. All he had was the testimony of friends.

How many times have we heard church gossip and known to take it with a grain of salt?

One of the things which I think is missed most often is how disappointed and disillusioned the disciples would have felt after the death of their Master.

This was a man they have pinned their hopes on…..believed in his promises; only to see the government crush him without mercy. 😦

It would take a lot for me to move past that grief…..and I have a feeling it was the same for Thomas.

And yet, the focus shifts once his hands slide through the wounds in Christ’s hands, feet and side….In joy and praise, he declares “ My Lord and My God “. The doubter recognizes before all others that this indeed is the Word made Flesh who was with God when the world was created.

Thomas’ doubt is what ultimately led him to faith. πŸ™‚

His example leaves room for us not to have (or expect to have) all the answers. At the same time, we can unite our voices with his in the faith and hope that the resurrection is indeed real, and that all the chains which constrained us have now been broken! πŸ™‚

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life +

Evening Prayer: March 21st (Combo Post)

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Psalms: 56, 57, 64, 65
Old Testament: Jeremiah 1:11-19
New Testament: Romans 1:1-15
Gospel: John 4:27-42
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from The Catecheses of St. John Chrysostom

Whether you see him as the Great Compromiser (left) or the Great Reformer (right) Thomas Cranmer developed the theological framework for the Anglican movement under Henry VIII

So today we have the tail end of John 4, or the story with the woman at the well. (For those of you who attend St. Jude’s, you’ll likely hear me repeat some of these reflections on Sunday during the sermon…so I apologize in advance πŸ™‚ )

Like all the Gospel writers, the author of John has a very specific agenda.

For Matthew, the goal was to get his audience to see Jesus through the lens of Jewish covenant. For Mark, the emphasis is placed on Jesus who is the atonement sacrifice for sin. Luke is preoccupied with situating Jesus in a Gentile context. For the fourth evangelist, the fundamental thing at stake is: belief.

Now let me be clear. By the term belief I don’t mean adhering to an idea simply because it’s the right thing. Instead, belief consists in recognizing exactly who Jesus really is, and uncovering His true identity.

You see….everything for John comes back to that all important first sentence of his written account:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

The whole narrative of the 4th Gospel comprises a series of events where two things happen:

a) God’s glory is revealed through this Incarnate Word and
b) the people who are in the story (with a few key exceptions) just. don’t. get. it. lol….I can picture Jesus’ reaction to some of the conversations he had with the disciples already. I think it might have involved one or two of these:

The amazing thing about the Samaritan woman at the well is that she is one of the people who actually gets it and is open to the idea that this Jesus person might actually be the long awaited Messiah. The funny thing is…..she is not supposed to be the one who figures it out.

From a Jewish perspective, the Samaritans are the bad guys…..who are worshipping on the wrong mountain, and have things all backwards.

If anyone should be able to recognize God’s appearance on Earth it should be the Jewish people…and yet they are the ones who are confused most by Jesus’ teachings, and most eager to label him a heretic.

In a strange twist of fate, it is the hated outcast who understands what is going on, the foreigner who is allowed to drink from the waters of salvation. She is so sure, and her testimony is so convincing that by the end of the passage the people of her village declare:

It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world. (John 4:42)

It is truly an amazing story, and I think it is one that has important implications for us; especially during Lent. During this time of prayer and repentance, we are asked not to rely on the testimony of others, but rather to evaluate what we hear and see in our personal experience of life. True faith…one that touches the heart, and affects the way we live must come from a conviction that says “I believe, not only because it is right, but I believe because it is what I have seen, and heard, and known in my heart to be true.” πŸ™‚

May all of you who seek after the LORD find Him, and together with the Samaritan woman, ask ourselves: “Could this Jesus really be who I think he is???” +

Evening Prayer: March 12th

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Psalms: 42, 43
Gospel: John 1:43-51
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from Against the Heresies by St. Irenaeus

β€˜Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)

It is hard to say for certain what kind of man Nathaniel was. We only catch a short glimpse of him here in the Gospel of John. If I were to speculate though, I would say he was a pretty skeptical guy. At Phillip’s invite to “come and see”, he readily questions whether anything good can come from a backwater town.

Furthermore when Jesus identifies him as an Israelite in whom there is no deceit, Nathaniel asks how Jesus knows him. There seems to be a great deal of mistrust…

And then it what appears to be a rather odd turn of events, Nathaniel boldly declares that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel…..even though Christ simply stated that he saw him hanging out by the fig tree.

This might seem strange at first….but I think it makes a little more sense if we skip to the end of John’s gospel *spoiler alert* lol πŸ˜‰

Nathaniel’s confession sounds suspiciously like that of another apostle we know. Unlike the doubting believer who requires concrete evidence, Nathaniel’s faith is unprompted and spontaneous.

One of the central questions in the Fourth Gospel, and for us during Lent, is what kind of believer we are to be. Are we the type to recognize Jesus right away……or do we need more convincing???

If it is the latter, what proof would we need? If the former, how do we make sure we are recognizing Christ, and not some figment of our imagination and self-construction???

I am not saying that one type of discipleship is better or worse…..and if pressed, I would definitely consider myself more Thomas-esque….but the question still remains……how and where do we see Jesus today??? +

Evening Prayer: January 28th (combo post)

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Psalms: 40, 54, 51
Old Testament: Isaiah 50:1-11
New Testament: Galatians 3:15-22
Gospel: Mark 6:47-56
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a commentary by St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas


I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation. (Psalm 40:10)

As I was reading all of the scripture verses for today/tonight this is the one that stuck out to me the most. I sit here wondering how many of us actually share our stories of when God acts in our lives.

In the North American context (and certainly within the Anglican church) there is a tendency to keep matters of faith private.

This is no big surprise given our history. Good Queen Bess was happy so long as her subjects swore to the monarch’s supremacy over the English church and attended Mass twice a year. In the English Reformation, personal piety was between the individual and God.

In a way, that’s cool….but in another sense, it can act as a hinderance. How can we expect to attract people to the church if we don’t speak openly and freely about God, or the peace we have found in our relationship with Christ????

Somehow and someway……we have to find a way to break the taboo and the silence….otherwise we become our own worst enemies, and there is no way that our churches will be able to revive. +

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