Sunday, 29 May 2016

Just Say the Word: thoughts on the Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9) with reference to JESUS; the First Week of Ordinary Time; 1 Kgs 18.20–39; Gal 1:1–12 and Lk 7:1–10

Jesus is complicated. So is taking him seriously. It involves a lot of coming and going.

Like in the gospel. Ask him to come and heal my servant said the centurion in the gospel (Lk 7.3). So they (the elders) came to Jesus and pleaded with him earnestly to go with them (Lk 7.5-6). And then the centurion said, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you.” (Lk 7.6-7) Come, don’t come. I don’t know.

Sounds like what Elijah was talking about. “How long will you go limping between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him.…And the people did not answer him a word” (1 Kg 18.21)

That kind of thinking seems to have been going on in Paul’s day, too, when you’d think things were fresh and miracles were happening every day. “I am astonished,” he wrote in our Galatians, “that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1.6-7).

Limping along, not sure whether I’m coming or going, needing to be delivered from an evil age (Gal 1.4)—that hasn’t changed. And who’s approval am I seeking? God’s or people’s?

Like I said, Jesus is complicated.

‘If any want to become my followers,” he said in one of my morning prayer readings last week, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?’ Luke 9.22-25

Complicated.

Deny, take up, save, gain, lose. And more! Last Friday, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ Luke 6.27b,28

Denying, taking up, saving, gaining, losing, living, dying AND enemies, hate, cursing and abuse. But, Lord!, I don’t want to. I don’t like them. They’re NDPs—Liberals—Conservatives—something-or-other-ophobes. They’re wrong. They’re agents of this evil age, aren’t they? I don't like that bit!

“If you believe what you like in the gospels and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe but yourself.”
- St. Augustine

Sigh.

And then there was the BCP collect for last week—the one for Trinity Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God,
who hast given unto us thy servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity:
We beseech thee, that this holy faith may evermore be our defence against all adversities; who livest and reignest, one God, world without end.

A true faith, the glory of the eternal Trinity, to worship the Unity—all in the power of the Divine Majesty. Like I said, it’s complicated. Who knows what’s coming and going? Are just two minds enough? You could make a whole bunch of different gospels from that.

Yet it’s FULL of God the Father, and of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit. And it all comes down to this:

But say the word…(Lk 7.7)

Jesus, I choose that opinion. I accept that gospel. Because your word is always truth (Jn 17.17), the truth is in you, Jesus (Eph 4.21) and you ARE the truth (Jn 14.6). Jesus, you ARE the Word (Jn 1.1). Jesus, please just say the word and heal my friend, my neighbour. Jesus, please say the word and keep me pointed in the right direction, no matter how complicated things get, coming or going, always following where you lead.

May the life-giving, on-the-right-track, 24-7, healing, comforting, trustworthy, go-to-in-all-circumstances, day in, day out, Word for us always be Jesus.

Gene+


Saturday, 28 May 2016

It's Good to be Green: By the Way column for The Medicine Hat News

In The Medicine Hat News here

Being green is seen as a great social and environmental virtue these days. Being green, as is often claimed, lessens the effects of global warming—it is a cooling agent. Not only that, being green is now associated with being smart if some websites are any indication—gogreensmart, greenandsmart, smartandgreen—for example. Green is good and to be encouraged.

Being green is good in church land, too. Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday. From now on the year goes green for those of us who worship in liturgical colour according to the Church calendar. I know many folk are uncomfortable with the practice—spirit of religion and all that—but, as a visual person, I really appreciate it. Worship and surroundings are in technicolour. It’s like a map. I can see where I am and it keeps me on track.

Green is for the season we Anglicans call the time after Pentecost (according to the contemporary Canadian calendar), or Ordinary Time (according our mother Church of England and our grandmother Roman Catholic Church). This year it runs for twenty-six Sundays until Advent Sunday November 27th.

The focus through the different colours and seasons of Advent (purple or blue), Christmas (white), Epiphany (green), Lent (purple) and Easter (white) each year is all about Jesus—his advent, birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension.

How I can best respond to the wonder of all that as a worshipper and disciple is the focus of the long green season just begun. Ordinary people like me learn how to become spiritually green and a better follower of Jesus. Green is good, but not necessarily easy.

“It’s not easy being green.” sang Kermit the Frog. “Having to spend each day the colour of leaves. It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things. And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water—or stars in the sky.”

Being spiritually green is not flashy or sparkly. Some might say it’s monotonous—pretty ordinary and repetitive, actually. But so are my excuses and I need to be reminded of the things I’d rather avoid—repeatedly. Besides, repetition can be good. I keep kissing my wife, for example. Once wasn’t enough. It is worth repeating. Besides, I enjoy it. And I keep practising my guitar playing. The more I practice the better I get at it. Just so with being green in Scripture and worship for half the year.

The fact is our world needs some spiritual climate change. Going greener in our Jesus following and worship is a good way to bring about global warming in a good way.

Gene+


Sunday, 8 May 2016

On Some Mothers I've Known

My Mum was a wonder. So is my wife, our daughter, our daughter-in-law, my sister and so many others…

A couple of previous posts on the subject here and here.

Gene+

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Making All Things New (Rev 21.5): an Homily for the Sunday Before the Arrival of our New Priest, the Reverend Oz Lorentzen

The Fifth Sunday after Easter, Year C—with reference to Acts 11:1–18; Rev 21:1–6 and Jn 13:31–35

Jesus first. As usual. And thoroughly glorified, as we just heard in John 13. “You will look for me,” he said (John 13.33). And we do when we remember. But but we don’t always see him even when we’re looking. If we do see him we don’t always recognize him. Mary Magdalene didn’t at first when the risen Jesus showed up in the garden of the empty tomb—neither did Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus. Yet even though not always seen or recognized, Jesus is present. He promised to be. With us always and to the end of the age he said in Matthew 28 (Mt 28.20). Jesus is Lord of all time and ages including ours. We need to know that in this time of transition.

Let’s pray a prayer from the Church of England’s Easter Prayer During the Day acknowledging that:
Christ yesterday and today,
the beginning and the end,
Alpha and Omega,
all time belongs to you,
and all ages;
to you be glory and power
through every age and for ever.
Amen. (from Prayer During the Day: Easter Season)
This risen and glorified Jesus is not only present, but as we heard in Revelation, he is making all things new (Rev 21.5)—all the time. Jesus was making things new here at St Barnabas all the way back in 1884 when the Reverend Hugh A Tudor came to found this parish. He was still making them new when Ivor and Hilary arrived in 1977, when Jude and I arrived in 1999, when Dustin and Jolene arrived last year and he will continue making all things new when Oz arrives next Sunday.

Change can be difficult. But if it’s true that Jesus is making all things new, that means there will be lots of change. We’ll be changed from glory to glory (2 Cor 3.18) as we’re renewed. So will St Barnabas.

I was a different priest from Ivor. Dustin was different from me. Oz will be different again. He’s supposed to be because Jesus is making things new around here. I was supposed to be different, so was Dustin and so is Oz because the newness Jesus brings means we all need to develop new spiritual muscles. You all got to develop a new set of muscles when Ivor was here, once they were fit and working well, Jesus made things new by bringing me here so we could all develop another new set of muscles. He did the same with Dustin and will do it again with Oz. Things will be made new.

Using muscles we’ve never used, or haven’t used for a while, can hurt. I’m tearing out the old tile and drywall from our ensuite shower so I can put in a new one. I haven’t used my tile and dry wall tearing out muscles for a while. I’m a bit stiff and sore this morning, but if we want a new shower it has to be done.

Some of the new things Jesus will bring with Oz might cause me and you to use some spiritual muscles we’ve never used, or haven’t used for a while. Some of the new things Jesus brings may be just as disturbing as the “four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air” (Ac 11:6) the Lord showed Peter on that large sheet in Acts 11. And, like Peter, we might think them gross or inedible and will be tempted to resist. Some of you might even be tempted to say, “That’s not the way Dustin did it,” or “You’re just not Gene!” But, you see, that’s exactly the point. Oz isn’t supposed to do things the way Dustin did them, or to be me, because Jesus will be making things new in ways that Oz is particularly tuned and gifted. Oz is coming here because there are certain things for which Oz, in particular, is needed at St Barnabas at this time. It was the same for Dustin and me and Ivor and John Way and John Carter and Hugh Tudor and on back through the ages. After all, as all things are being made new, all the time, for ever and ever, amen—as we prayed earlier, all time and all ages belong to Jesus!

In the meantime, Jesus has told us the best way to get through all new things and the changes they bring in a new commandment. “Love one another”, he said. How? “Just as I have loved you,” he said. How does Jesus love us? 1 Corinthians 13 has a good list. Jesus loves us patiently, kindly, bearing all things, believing in us, hoping for the best for us, enduring all things for us (1 Cor 13.4-7). He also loves us fiercely, self-emptyingly, to death and for always (1 Cor 13.8).

And he shows us his love by including us and our parish in all the things he’s making new. So, following his example and just as Jesus commanded, let’s continue to love one another so Jesus will continue to be glorified and so that Oz and his family will feel warmly welcomed and will know we are, indeed, his disciples (John 13.35) who are being made newer and newer by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

Gene+


Saturday, 16 April 2016

Taking It Between the Shoulders: The Holy Spirit in the Prayer Books: Part Three

This was published in the Spring 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal, the Anglican Renewal Ministries magazine—follow the link the ARM Office to subscribe here

In his farewell blessing to the tribe of Benjamin, Moses said,
The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders. (Dt 33.12)
That the High God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ dwells between their shoulders struck me between the eyes when I read it in Morning Prayer the other day. I’d not noticed it before. I hope he dwells between mine, too.

A good way to remind myself of holy possibilities like that is to pray the Anglican daily offices of morning, evening and night prayer (midday, too, if I’m especially keen). It’s also a good way to keep my heart, soul, mind and body (head, heart and shoulders) centred in the crosshairs of God’s amazing grace and empowering Holy Spirit.

Consider THE ORDER FOR MORNING PRAYER DAILY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR in The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) (Anglican Book Centre, 1962) for example. The opening sentences for Whitsunday and Embertide are:
The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us. (Romans 5.5) 
and
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1.8) (p2)
Wonderful reminders with which to begin a day. The love of God has been “poured into our hearts” (ESV), in other words, right between our shoulders through the working of the given Holy Spirit. What a gift! Love and The Comforter shed abroad, poured and given. And not only that, power was received when the Holy Spirit came upon us.

When did the Holy Spirit come upon us? For most of you who are vintage BCP Anglicans, it was before you knew it. Just before you were baptized the Priest prayed that you would be baptized and sanctified with the Holy Spirit (BCP, p523), that the Holy Spirit would be given to you (BCP, p525) and that you would be regenerate with the Holy Spirit (BCP, p529). And power was received, whether you knew or not. Then, with Confirmation, came the Bishop’s prayers that you would be strengthened by and daily increase in the Holy Spirit more and more (BCP, p560).

Or, for those baptized and confirmed according to the BAS rites, “Fill them with your holy and life-giving Spirit,” the celebrant prayed, and “Teach them to love others in the power of the Spirit” (BAS, p155), “Anoint them” (BAS, p157) and “Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit” (BAS, p160). The bishop then confirmed it all when s/he prayed,
by the sealing of your Holy Spirit you have bound us to your service. Renew in these your servants the covenant you made with them at their baptism. Send them forth in the power of that Spirit to perform the service you set before them. 
The bishop also prayed that we would be strengthened, empowered, sustained and would
daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more (BAS, p628). 
Empty prayers? I suppose they could be if we let them be. I say, fill them! Why not follow Epaphras’ example and so some struggling in our prayers (Col 4.12) for the Holy Spirit to come upon us all, right between the shoulders, and fill us so that all those prayers prayed over us when we were Baptized and Confirmed would come true to the honour of God’s holy Name, and the good of his Church and people. After all, if we who are so scattered, careless, sinful and easily offended,
know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Lk 11.13)
Gene+



Monday, 11 April 2016

Good Fruit: Healthy Living in the Spirit (Part 5)


The following appears in the Spring 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal magazine. 

ARM’s purpose is to help us all experience and enjoy more of the refreshing presence of God, the Holy Spirit, in our lives, our relationships and our church. With God’s presence come the gifts of the Spirit. When we walk by the Spirit and his gifts, we become the branches (John 15.1-8) upon which the fruit of the Spirit grows. As always, Jesus is our vine and model. Jesus perfectly reveals kindness, and all the other Fruits of the Spirit, in action. He is always perfectly loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled (Gal 5.22).

Fruit is important to ARM and to the Church because it is sweet and tasty, spiritually nutritious, refreshing, and it makes Jesus present to the people among whom we live and move and have our being. 

And so we come to our fifth and final consideration of the Galatians 5 Fruit of the Spirit and the final two fruits: gentleness and self control.

Gentleness

Jesus, as usual, is the model. Jesus did all that he did and said all that he said in the power of the Holy Spirit. That meant he always confronted people’s sin and told them the truth with Fruit of the Spirit gentleness (Mt 11.29; 2 Cor 10.2). He still does. 

If I, with God’s help, follow Jesus’ example and use Paul’s curriculum for life in the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 as my guide, Fruit of the Spirit gentleness is inevitable. 

Paul’s curriculum in a nutshell? Drink of the Spirit constantly (1 Cor 12.13)—open wide (Ps 81.10), pray it in, worship it in, read it in and serve it in, all the while earnestly desiring the greater gifts (1 Cor 12.31), following the excellent way (1 Cor 13), building up, encouraging and comforting (1 Cor 14.3) as we go. 

That is how gentleness is to be pursued (1 Tim 6.11). When you get right down to it, Fruit of the Spirit gentleness means no hitting; not with the fist, or the tongue, or the Bible. It doesn’t mean we can’t speak the truth. Jesus did it all the time. It’s just that, like Jesus, we have speak it with Fruit of the Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. Even opponents can be corrected with gentleness (2 Tim 2.25) and the hope that is in us is best shared with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3.15).

Self Control

Fruit of the Spirit self control is, simply, to control oneself in the power of the Holy Spirit. “It involves moderation, constraint, and the ability to say “no” to our baser desires and fleshly lusts” (http://www.gotquestions.org/fruit-Holy-Spirit-self-control.html). “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh,” writes Paul in Galatians just before his list of Spirit Fruit, “for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal 5.17). Self control is to resist doing some things I might really want to do but which I know are not helpful or are downright sinful.

John 3.16 is a key verse for most Christians. Luke’s gospel has a key 3.16, too, especially for those interested in charismatic renewal. In it, John the Baptist says Jesus would be the one who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. I wonder if Paul had that idea in mind when he wrote to Timothy, “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:6–7). 

Following Jesus’ example and Paul’s curriculum for life in the Spirit fans the gift(s) of Holy Spirit into flame. Notice how self-control goes with power and love in 2 Timothy. One of the things we have to control in ourselves when being open to and operating in the power and love of the Holy Spirit, is fear. Fear can turn healthy Fruit of the Spirit self-control into fleshly self-ish control so the Spirit is quenched. The gift(s) of the Holy Spirit may be fiery and powerful, but never destructive, other than of sin. Exercising Fruit of the Spirit self-control sometimes means acting with courage when God is moving in power. It is worth noting that, often, when God and his messengers show up in the Bible, the first human reaction is fear and the first words from the messenger are, “Do not be afraid.” 

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, still comes to his people today in the power of the Holy Spirit. Do not be afraid. His gifts are good, powerful and loving. The Fruit of his Spirit are good and sweet. Enjoy them. 

Thursday, 31 March 2016

From the ARM Chair

My first Anglicans for Renewal magazine (Spring 2016) message as interim Chairman of the Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada Board.

This is my first “post” from the ARM Chair. As I write I am gratefully conscious of the faithful chairmen who have gone before; all of whom have led wisely and served well; most recently The Venerable Perry Cooper from Central Newfoundland. The seat has been well warmed.

ARM Board Prayer Retreat

We’ve just finished our second annual ARM Board prayer retreat in Okotoks, Alberta, at which we welcomed our newest member, The Reverend Robert Porter, from the Diocese of Ontario. His arrival dropped the average age of ARM board members by a gratifying decade, or two. Welcome Robert.

Both prayer retreats have been valuable opportunities for the Board to focus on the LORD’s promptings and direction for ARM without having to do any “business.” We deal with that at our monthly board meetings and at our Annual General Meeting, which this year will take place in Miramichi, NB, on Friday, May 13, 2015. This time Board Prayer Co-ordinator, Jane Jones, reminded us that at our last retreat we were given the necessary “keys” (Isa 22.22; Mt 16.19; Rev 3.7) for our ministry, now we need to learn how to use and develop them well so the necessary doors will be opened.

Those keys for ARM are three:

  1. Schools of Renewal Ministry—with Jane Jones responsible for content and curriculum
  2. Missionary Outreach Family Nights—an exciting new intergenerational initiative headed up by ARM Board member, The Reverend John VanStone
  3. Social Media and OnLine Presence—the development of which I am responsible.

We enjoyed two special visits during this retreat. The Reverend Chris Nojonen, of Oasis, formerly Lutheran Renewal Canada, joined us for a few hours to share what they’re up to, pray and talk about ways in which we might work together. The Most Reverend Greg Kerr-Wilson, Metropolitan of Rupert’s Land and Archbishop of Calgary also joined us over a meal. He and our Episcopal Visitor, The Right Reverend Fraser Lawton, Bishop of Athabasca, gave us some valuable insights on how ARM might serve dioceses and parishes better.

Bright Wings

Personally, apart from the rich time in prayerful and worshipful community, two things have stuck in my mind. One from the day before the retreat, the other, a phrase from a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem that came to mind a few days after. The first, a passage of Scripture from Morning Prayer on the Sunday before the retreat—The Baptism of the Lord—Acts 19.1-7 in which Paul found some disciples in Ephesus, ‘And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”’ (Acts 19:2 (ESV) We Anglicans say the words Holy Spirit repeatedly during Sunday worship. But saying it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re hearing what we’re saying and who he is. Holy Spirit can all too easily become liturgical background noise as we follow our habitual well-worn path through the familiar words. ARM exists to help open the ears of Anglican hearts so the Holy Spirit can reclaim his rightful place in the foreground, with the two other persons of the Holy Trinity, so we can be reminded of who the Holy Spirit really is and what he is saying to the church. We want every Anglican to hear clearly that there is, indeed, a Holy Spirit, and to be refreshed and empowered by his presence,
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerald Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur)
We came away from this retreat Holy Spirit refreshed, encouraged and with new God-given avenues to explore.

As we continue to seek new opportunities for refreshing, Holy Spirit filling ministry, we’d like to hear from you. What can we do to help you to hear anew that there is a Holy Spirit who helps, comforts, empowers, guides us into all truth and always glorifies Jesus? We’d like to help you experience the refreshing, bright-winged Holy Spirit in your parish, district, deanery or diocese in a new way. Please email me through the ARM website with any requests or ideas and we’ll do our best to help.