Prophetic voice of youth

This Sunday is my first sermon in my new appointment and I am psyched. It’s the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin, and as fascinating as the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception can be (yeeeeeeah. right…) I am focussing on the prophetic voice of youth through the words of the Magnificat.

So, I was asked this question today, more or less: What are the messages that youth and children are proclaiming that we aren’t hearing?

I am not speaking on behalf of young people! Well, yes, I guess I am, but I don’t make a habit of it. I am offering a teeny introduction.

So, what do you say? What do you hear? What are our children and youth telling the church?

Advertisements

Sermon for July 30, 2006 Focus text: John 6:1-15

Instead of publishing my sermons on this really skinny blog, I am using Google’s webpages. I don’t have a “homepage” per se, but I can at least publish larger sections of text. As of August 6, you can find links to my sermons on my church’s blog.

Sermon for Proper 17

Blessings,

Sermon for Year B Proper 16: 2 Samuel 1-14a; Mark 6:30-44, 53-56

There is an old saying, “Man plans, God laughs”. Sometimes it is said with the bitterness of regret. I planned a great future, and now I am destitute. God is laughing at me. The intent, though, is more like what we see in the exchange between Nathan, David, and YHWH today. We continue to follow the beginning days of David as king of Israel, settled in Jerusalem. The lesson David learns has something to teach us, as a parish, about visioning as we are in the process of making many plans for the efficient running of our ministries.

Last week we heard of the lengths to which David would go to express his devotion to God. His devotion has not yet diminished. He has perceived an irony– he as King is living in a house of cedar, a rare and expensive material, while God is living in a tent. David seeks out his prophet and advisor, Nathan, and suggests the time has come to build a temple for the Ark of the Covenant. Nathan’s first response, “Sure. Makes a lot of sense to me. Go for it.”

Then the idea sits for a while, and Nathan seeks out the will of YHWH, only to discover it is very different from what he and David thought made so much good sense. YHWH has absolutely no interest in being confined by walls thank you very much. The prophesy makes it very clear that this tent has served YHWH well. “YHWH responds with a kind of a celestial shrug,” Ralph Milton writes. “’Who needs it?’ God asks. ‘I’ve been living out of a suitcase since day one. So thanks, but no thanks.’” Without a house, YHWH has managed to lead Israel out of Egypt, led them to Canaan, anointed David as King and has now placed David on a throne in his beautiful palace.

The difference between the thinking of Nathan and David, and the reasoning of YHWH is, I think, vision. I can just see them, rarin’ to go, its time to build us a temple. But YHWH’s way has a longer vision. In fact, it is predicted here that it is not David’s task at all to build this temple, but the task of his son. Nathan and David take a moment to consider all that is before them. YHWH’s vision is greater than theirs. Only God is capable of seeing our best laid plans in the context of a greater history and future.

These past few weeks have been a great source of learning for me. Yes, I have learned about life in the area, living in a house, how to put 9,000 km on a 3 month old car. But my most important learning has come through conversations with several parishioners, including meetings with wardens and church councils. I’ve heard stories of resilience and resourcefulness, people caring for one another, and going the extra mile so we can continue to minister in this community. And I have greatly appreciated the honesty with which people have shared their experiences, because if we can’t be honest with one another, then we are in big trouble.

I received a book from Neal Mitchell as a gift called, “How to Hit the Ground Running.” In it he writes about the importance of discovering a church’s genesis story. He writes, “God implants a divine purpose in the corporate soul of each congregation…God has given each congregation a distinct purpose, a unique DNA of which Anglican identity and ethos are only one part.” We are part of a much greater story, and if we are to truly flourish, that means finding our place in that story. One thing I have discovered here is a true openness and creativity. I have been told of some of the unique solutions to problems that have occurred in the past. And there has been a theme in what I have heard. These solutions worked because the end was not simply to raise money, but to provide a ministry. For example, the new to you store in Country Harbour, I am told, was the brain child of Edie Porter. Her wish was to offer a service to her rural community that is far from many retail stores, and particularly to members of her community struggling to make ends meet. This store has become a central part of the community, meeting many needs. It has also become a vital form of financial support for Holy Trinity.

We are all keenly aware of this church’s place in the wider community. I have heard of and witnessed personally the support we receive from people who do not worship with us on Sundays. This can be a source of frustration, but it is also a sign that each of our churches is a vital part of the communities in which we worship. We may not have much, like a house of cedar, but we are capable of many things, as our history tells us. What has served us well is seeking out opportunities, even unusual ones, and being open to continuing work of the Holy Spirit.

There is another lesson for us today in our gospel reading. The lesson today is not in the feeding or the healing, but where the feeding and healing begin. “The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place, all by yourselves, and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.” The miracles of Jesus’ ministry are interspersed with these moments when Jesus would walk away and take some rest. This is important to their physical and spiritual well-being. There is a great deal of work to be done to keep our churches open, and we could work at oil barrels and liturgies and schedules and meetings until we collapse. But we can not collapse, and that is why we must, as a spiritual community, intersperse our worship and ministering life with rest and opportunity to simply sit in God’s presence.

So, here is a piece of summer homework, from Ralph Milton. “Find a nice spot. A back porch will do. Some place quiet and in the shade. Find a comfortable chair. Get a good supply of cold stuff to drink – something sweet and bubbly that isn’t really good for you. Take a book – any book – to put on your lap as a prop.

Then spend a whole day there sitting and thinking about nothing. Especially don’t think about anything connected with the church or religion. The God who didn’t need David’s temple doesn’t need us to be fussing about the church all the time.

If we sit quietly without thinking, God will find ways to slither into our psyches and fill our hearts (not our brains!) with ‘a peace that passes understanding.'”

This is where our ministry begins, not in the meeting house, but sitting at God’s feet, seeking God’s will, placing ourselves in the story of God’s people, and meeting the needs of those who God places before us.

Sermon for Year B Proper 15: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Mark 6:14-29

Year B
Proper 15; Pentecost 6
MP: St. Mary the Virgin, St. Paul the Apostle EP: Holy Trinity
July 16, 2006
Focus text: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Mark 6:14-29

I believe it was our former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who said, “Why is it that when people jump up and down and dance at a football match, it is called joy and excitement, and when we dance and clap in church, we are accused of emotionalism?” We Anglicans are usually the first to make fun of ourselves, “the frozen chosen”—or is that Presbyterian? There is an old story of a woman who attended a Church of England service and was most pleased with the sermon. She would declare, Amen! in response to the preacher. She would raise her hands in song. The usher approached her and quietly asked her to refrain from such antics. “But don’t you have the Holy Spirit?” she asked. “Not in the Church of England we don’t,” the usher replied.
The truth is our tradition is made up of some interesting characters. Although the English Church is only four hundred years younger than Christianity itself, our identity was formed initially by a king who decapitated two of his wives, his son who died at a very young age, one daughter who had us all burned at the stake, including Thomas Cranmer, and another who amazed everyone by bringing high church and low church together.
In our readings today, we encounter two more of these wild and wooly characters. The first is King David, the lineage of our Saviour, who was capable of enormous miraculous victories and such shameful mistakes. So often, history leaves out the embarrassing and human bits. Not the Hebrew testaments. Here we have David, dancing in his underwear, essentially, slaughtering an ox and a “fatted” ox at every sixth step. He is dancing in ecstasy, before the Ark of the Covenant (the very presence of God) much to the chagrin of his wife, Michal. Later on, a few verses down, David replies to Michal: I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes…” For David, his dancing is an act of “pious self-humiliation” before the Lord. It reminds me of a scene from the film “A Knight’s Tale”. Will, posing as a knight, declares to the woman he loves, “I will win this tournament for you”. Her maid goes to Will in private. “My lady has many men who will win for her. If you truly love her, you will lose this tournament.” What follows in the film is a few excruciating minutes of Will being thrown from his horse and beaten by lances. Eventually, it becomes too much to bear, and the maid returns to Will, “If you love her, you will stop this! Please. Fight.” Will’s love requested an extra ordinary act to declare his love. Every analogy can only go so far. Our God is not nearly as fickle as this young woman. But David was compelled to go beyond himself to declare his devotion to God.
We also hear the tragic end of the life of John the Baptist, that man clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, eating locusts and wild honey, baptizing people in the River Jordan, declaring, “Repent, prepare the way of the Lord”. Another one of those characters who seems to resist being slotted in the pew. John died for speaking a truth in a court where it was outlawed. Herod had taken for a wife the wife of his brother, Philip-a sin in the holy laws-most holy laws in our world, no matter what religion. Herod placed himself above not only the Jewish law, but any known law or custom of the time. And Herodias disgraced her husband, by leaving him to be with Herod in his court. All of the courtiers kept their opinions to whispers at the palace walls, but not John the Baptist. John was born to declare the truth, even if it was to lose his life. And in such a dishonourable way, to have his life bargained for the cost of a dance.
This is what faith in God meant to such as these. That our appearance is nothing to sharing the truth, glory, compassion and love of God. It goes against today’s motto: If it feels right, do it. David and John the Baptist challenge us that, if it makes us squirm, don’t be too quick to dismiss it.
It is not easy to be a Christian in North America today. And we are becoming painfully aware that is not easy being a North American in the Anglican Communion today. It is enough, sometimes, to make one just let whatever happen happen, just let it be over. But the faith of our fathers and mothers is not one that sits back.
There have been several reflections written over the past two weeks on the state of our Communion. I hope to share more of these texts in a sermon in the coming weeks. But for now, I want to conclude with some words by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane.

What does it mean to be Anglican? (he writes) What is it about Anglicanism that has led so many to conclude that it provides the most productive spiritual soil for living out the Christian faith? What is it that we have, which we dare not lose?
(To understand this), we must better engage with Anglican Tradition. We need a fresh understanding of tradition not as dry forensic

history, but as holy remembering of God’s abiding with his people, through the centuries. We must own our history – the living and life-giving history of God at work among us – in order to find our place of participation within the unfolding narrative of God’s redeeming acts in and through his church.

To know the joy of David, the conviction of John, and the love of God, we must begin to answer these questions. Why are we here? Why is it so critical that we stay together? Why does the world need Anglicanism? We are followers of a God who gave up everything, walked on human feet, spoke more truthfully, loved more fully…and knew more shame, than many of us ever will…and delights in us at every moment.
Let us move forward into our world with delight,
knowing that we are part of the great divine dance of life.
May the blessing of God, the dancer and the dance,
Move with us and within us this day and always. Amen

Sermon for Year B Proper 14 Mark 6:1-13

Year B
Proper 14; Pentecost 5
MP: St. Mary the Virgin, St. Paul the Apostle EP: Holy Trinity
July 9, 2006
Focus text: Mark 6:1-13

If I were to ask you, “What is your identity?”, how would you answer? Some of us would begin with where we come from-I’m from Cape Breton, my family are Scots, or French, or “I’m a townie from the Nish”–I’d be grateful for someone to explain that one to me! For a time after I moved to Charlottetown, I was Fred Dickieson’s little sister, or Carol’s daughter. Or I am a mother or a father. Many of us would begin with what we do-I’m a doctor, I’m a farmer. I was looking through the parishioner information sheets many of you filled out at one time, and one woman declared her occupation as house queen!

Yes, today we do live in a world where people are over-occupied with their work. In spite of ever increasing technology which is supposed to make our lives easier, we as Canadians actually, on average, devote more time to our occupations than ever. Even moreso, then, what we choose as our occupations says a great deal about who we are. Many fishers, for example, will have inherited the occupation from their parents. This says something about values, about how one regards oneself in relationship with family. Those who work from the land and sea will very often have a particular perspective on creation—and not just the weather, either. My own personal heroes are entrepreneurs (because I could never keep track of everything). Being an entrepreneur speaks to a particular set of gifts and values that person holds closely.

In today’s gospel reading, there is one little verse that tells us a great deal about Jesus’ identity. “Is not this the carpenter?” Don’t you just love going home?! You go away, you get in with a new set of friends, absolutely clean slate. You can recreate yourself, leave all your dorky childhood behind. Then you come home, and no matter how old you are, you are still little Johnny Fraser and “Remember that time you lost your pants in the hay thrasher?” Last week we saw Jesus at his most powerful, his most appreciated, and his most merciful. He has been called on by the leader of the synagogue to heal his daughter. Jesus heals a woman simply by having her touch the hem of his cloak. He is surrounded by people who witness firsthand this amazing Jesus. He is so powerful, he can declare without even seeing the girl–”Don’t worry, she’s not dead, just asleep”.

Then he goes home. And he proclaims the same good news he has proclaimed everywhere. And what does he get? “Isn’t that the carpenter?” They are astounded, Mark tells us, at the wisdom he has attained in his travels. Imagine a carpenter from Nazareth getting all that learning. But instead of rejoicing in his accomplishments and tending closely to his words, they are preoccupied with his humble beginnings. He’s a carpenter. Then they are scandalized. Is it jealousy? Is it bitterness? Who knows but we do know two things-Jesus’ brother and mother remain faithful to him, and Jesus is, himself, stunned… and hurt at their lack of faith in him. These people who should know him best. But they know him for what he was, and refuse to see that as the foundation for what he was to become.

Jesus never denied where he came from, but it is interesting that in our tradition, these humble beginnings have been known to be swept under the rug. As we understand the gospel tradition, Mark’s gospel was the first written, then Matthew and Luke, then John. The later the gospel was written, the more clearly defined is Jesus’ identity as God, to the most glorious and mysterious descriptions of Jesus as “the Word” in John’s gospel. Here in Mark’s gospel, the question is, “Isn’t that the carpenter?” By the time this episode appears in Matthew’s gospel, the question becomes, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Matt 13:55) erasing the years Jesus himself would have spent at the workbench. By the time the episode appears in John, Jesus is simply, “the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (John 6:42). Why is it so difficult to comprehend that the Creator of the universe could also be a carpenter?

In spite of the reaction of his hometown, Jesus never denies from where he came. In fact, it becomes the source for many of his most famous sayings. The following is from Max Lucado’s Next Door Savior…
pp. 95-96

God created us as we are, to be where we are, at this time and at this place. Perhaps there were moments, at his father’s workbench, when Jesus daydreamed and anticipated the day he would heal the daughters of rulers. He also knew that every strike of his hammer brought him closer to the cross.

As we spend our day, doing our work, visiting our parents, taking care
of our children, tending our flowers, let us appreciate the extraordinary presence of God in the ordinary, always aware that God is here, open to the possibility that these simple moments are preparing us for a moment in God’s glory. AMEN.

Sermon for Year B Proper 13: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Here is my first sermon preached in Antigonish, Bayfield and Country Harbour. Enjoy!

Year B
Proper 13
MP: St. Mary the Virgin, St. Paul the Apostle EP: Holy Trinity
Focus text: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

For those of you who are married, how many of you remember the sermon the priest gave at your wedding? Do you remember the address given at your graduation? Or perhaps a graduation you attended? Here’s the real test. How many of you will remember my sermon when you leave this morning/evening? =)

One of the most profound encounters I have had was at a graduation ceremony, and it wasn’t even my own. About 8 years ago, I attended the convocation of UPEI. The speaker was a Canadian diplomat, just returned from a turn in Africa. His emotions were clearly still raw-angry and confused. He avoided any language to those dear graduates of roads less travelled, and spoke very frankly of the world they were committing themselves to, a war-torn world full of inequality, disease and poverty. My friends were completely disgusted. “What a downer”. I was spell-bound. That freshly homebound diplomat was Stephen Lewis, now one of the most powerful prophets of our time, opening the eyes of the world to the devastation HIV/AIDS is causing in Africa.

Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians are a very meaningful parallel to our own Anglican church in these times. The Corinthian church struggles with her priorities, is confused about who to follow, comes close to schism more than once, and lives in tension with a market driven world. Sound familiar?

Today, Paul is telling the Corinthians how the Christians in Macedonia, who have little, have been very generous to help the poverty ridden Christians in Jerusalem. He asks the Corinthians to consider their own resources and to show the same commitment to the furthering of God’s kingdom as the Macedonians have. Although the Corinthians are capable of giving a great deal, Paul wants to witness their desire to give and minister, not just what they can give monetarily. He asks them to finish that which they start, to keep to the commitments they have made.

Stephen Lewis shows such characteristics, giving of himself not out of convenience or well wishing. He has, as Frederick Buechner says, found where his deep gladness and the world’s great hunger meet.

This morning is not the beginning for this parish. The coming of a new incumbent or rector does not mean the wiping of a slate—all things made new. I have come to Antigonish, Bayfield and Country Harbour as only one in a long line of priests, deacons, lay readers and many many ministers. Much has happened before my time here, and much will happen long after I am gone. As a Christian community, we have commitments. We have financial commitments to ourselves, the function of our diocese and our wider church. As a worshipping community we gather to praise God and reflect on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Anglicans, we are committed to our communion in a very tumultuous time. Our Archbishop of Canterbury, our Primate and our own bishops have commended us to prayer, reflection and conversation. As a parish in the Diocese of NS and PEI, we are committed to a diocesan vision encompassing healthy congregations, organizational effectiveness, youth, Xn formation and stewardship. As part of a national church, we are committed to the work of the Primate’s Fund. And, as a parish family, we are committed to one another, encouraging and upholding one another, caring for the sick in our midst, and working for restorative justice in our community.

The Corinthian church was often guilty of becoming consumed by its internal struggles ending up in a downward spiral of confusion. WE DO NOT EXIST UNTO OURSELVES. The teaching of all the prophets, the great commandment of Jesus has us looking outward, loving God and loving our neighbour. My task is to offer direction and leadership so this parish maintains these commitments. And I am grateful to walk in knowing that so much of this work has been continued even without full-time leadership for almost a year. That is a great testament to the strength, authenticity and reliance on Christ in this parish family. WE DO NOT EXIST UNTO OURSELVES. The Church that Jesus, Paul and all of our founders began was one that looked outward, a city on a hill, shining a light into all dark places.

As I have been preaching, I know you are beginning to paint a picture of me in your mind. Next week there will be a more complete narrative about me in the bulletin, but allow me to fill in a few gaps. I am an Islander, raised on PEI—I won’t say the island, I know how dangerous that is around here! I grew up in a fishing village called Souris on the eastern end of the island. My mother, Carol, who is with us this morning, still lives in Souris and I have one older brother who is a chef in London, England. Before my degree at AST, I worked as an economic development officer with the PEI and federal governments, a youth minister, and spent four years working with an online resource for professional fundraisers. I am a rock climber—when I can find a climbing partner–and I hope you will see me riding around town more on a bicycle than in my car.

I am also a deacon, and I am going to indulge for a minute to speak about this. There is an unfortunate blip in our process that makes being a deacon look like an awkward transitional time when you are “not quite ordained” and “what’s the good of you if we can’t have the Eucharist?!” The ordaining of vocational deacons in our diocese has helped to educate all of us about the traditional role of deacon to the church. The ordained deacon’s task is, as I see it, to be the bridge between what happens in here and what is going on out there, and it is a role I take very seriously. Some say deacons are the social justice people, and, as a rule, deacons are committed to social justice, but their task is to bring those needs to the church so the church can respond in its ministry. When I am ordained a priest, I will continue to be a deacon, building those bridges. The Eucharist will continue to be a central and regular part of our life together, even though we will not celebrate it every Sunday. These months of morning prayer are a good time for us each to reflect on the role the Eucharist plays in our relationship with Christ and how it brings us together as community. It can also be time for us to focus on another area that is critical to our worship together, and that is prayer, that morning prayer is a time for us to gather and spend time in reflection and laying our concerns, our blessings, our lives before God, knowing that God is waiting for us to spend a few quiet moments with him.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Rev. Glen Kent and Rev. Susan Best who have served as priests in charge over these past months. In particular, it is important that we acknowledge all those parishioners who have continued to serve as wardens, treasurers, parish and church councils, lay readers and musicians. I invite all those who served in some capacity over the past year to stand. Now, take a deep breath. Now let us all stand and show our appreciation (applaud). AMEN

INTRODUCTION TO THE READINGS

Parables are a powerful teaching tool because they begin with those things with which we are familiar. Parables are not meant to be meticulously interpreted like a code, but to point us to where we should, in our every day lives, see God. This morning’s parable from Mark uses something as small as a seed and uses it to connect us with the enormity of God’s kingdom. As we look at all of our beautiful gardens in the coming weeks, let us be mindful that the kingdom of God is right before us. Rev. Dawn