Monday, 21 April 2014

Collared: the Full Easter

My Easter and Christmas rig. Jude chose the shirt at The Vill-a-a-age, took the collar off and made provision for the collar studs (thank you, my dear). Bit over the top for normal wear for me. But then being raised from the dead is pretty well over the top, too. Worthy of a shirt with a little extra pizzazz. 

The cross was a gift from The Reverend John Falea of the Solomon Islands. We were class mates at seminary. Those are real dolphin teeth, the "beads" are shell money, the cross is turtle shell with mother of pearl inlay. John's father made it. Thoroughly appropriate for a gospel with sharp teeth that is an absolute treasure. Resurrection and Incarnation worthy wear, indeed. 

I have at least one dear Anglican priest friend whose "inner Pharisee" might stir at the sight of such clerical irregularity. But, since He really is Risen Indeed and a whole world of natural and rational rules and laws were broken in the rising, a little celebratory sartorial boundary pushing can't hurt. Besides, what can they do? Fire me?

One of these days I hope to write some more in my "Retirement and Things I Would, or Would Not, Do Differently" series about wearing clerical collars or not, among other things. I think I'll call it Collared: Confessions of an Introverted? Ordinary? Anglican Clergyman—or something like that. 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Jesus, Two Marys and All Us "Other Fellers": a short homily for Easter Sunday with reference to Matthew 28.1-10

Jesus is, as always, the main character in our worship and our Scripture readings; especially in this morning’s Resurrection gospel, along with two Marys. His is the story that defines us and it’s full of dramatic action. Suddenly a great earthquake (Mt 28.2), although with none of the destruction and loss of life that happens when we hear about earthquakes on the news these days—quite the opposite, in fact!—an angel of The LORD who looks like lightning comes down (Mt 28.2-3). Guards shake and become corpse-like (Mt 28.4). The two Marys, senses reeling, are told to go quickly and tell the disciples what the angel said: Jesus is raised from the dead (Mt 28.7) and has gone on ahead! They obey and go quickly, terrified and joyful, all at once. They run (Mt 28.8). Jesus meets them suddenly. “Greetings!” he says. “Don’t be afraid. Keep going and tell,” he says. And the Marys set off again.

What’s in it for people like you and me? Apart from delivery from sin and death and the promise of abundant and eternal life and everlasting felicity, I mean? Four things:

First, look at verse 7, Jesus IS raised from the dead. Fact. There is too much evidence to doubt that. Most of the disciples died violent, nasty deaths because they believed it. And I’ll remind you of erstwhile Baptist, now Roman Catholic, Professor of Philosophy, Peter Kreeft, who wrote: Christianity is the only major religion that requires belief in miracles. That Jesus supernaturally and miraculously rose from the dead is the main one.

Second, also in verse seven, Jesus went on ahead of the disciples. Jesus is always ahead of us, too. It’s like Jesus is the fastest checkers player in the world, someone said, it’s always our move. The smartest man that ever lived, wrote Dallas Willard. There were two thousand people at the field house on Good Friday and one hundred thousand for mass in St Peter's square today because of him. All we can ever do is follow someone like him in awe, adoration and obedience—hence our mission statement: to follow and enjoy Jesus Christ in worship and service so that everyone will come to know him.

Third, although dramatic earth-shaking encounters with angels who look like lightning are rare these days, I think Easter reminds us that they can and do happen. Look at verse nine. “Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greeting!’” (Mt 28.9) Jesus can still show up suddenly to say, “Hi!” in a healing or a word of prophecy. The two Marys show us how to behave when that happens. They go to him, approach him, get as close as they can to him, take hold of his feet and worship him. Then they go and tell everybody that he is alive.

Fourth, I like that there is the “other Mary” (Mt 28.1) in the story. It makes me feel as if I could be an “other” guy in the story, too. I could be an “other” Gene. It gives me a place in the story and its telling. You could be the “other” N and N and N and…in it, too. The story isn’t over. “Go and tell,” the angel of The LORD and Jesus said. The “other Mary” did. I suspect all us others are called to, too. Chosen as witnesses. It reminds me of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. We’re the other fellers—only we know who Buddy really is. You and I are here this morning because a whole host of “other fellers” were obedient to the call to go and tell, too.

Here’s another thing I like about this gospel reading this morning. It’s the beginning of the chapter which ends with the Great Commission. After Mary Magdalene and the other Mary did what they were told and told the disciples ‘…the eleven disciples also did what they were told and went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him just like the two Marys; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”’ (Mt 28:16–20)

You and I are called to be goers and tellers along with all the other fellers.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

On Doing Holy Week Anglicanly: More on Retirement and Things I Would or Would Not Do Differently

The best Easters I’ve experienced have always followed a fully observed Holy Week. Palm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and The Great Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday. I’m usually thoroughly weary by Easter Sunday morning, but does it ever light up. Taking the time to follow Jesus on his journey through that last week makes it real and rich. We don’t even do anything particularly creative. Just the liturgies as they appear in The Book of Alternative Services straight up and unadorned. It just works.

Lately, we’ve not observed the Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. When we did—and they helped deliver the best Easters—we would do an early morning Eucharist on Monday with Evening Prayer and even Compline some years, followed by Morning Prayer on Tuesday morning, a Eucharist at noon and Evening Prayer, and then Morning Prayer and a Eucharist around supper time on Wednesday. We did it that way so as many people as possible could experience as many liturgies as possible. It was rich.

Maundy Thursday has always included foot washing exactly as laid out in the book. I’ve never organized anyone to come to have their feet washed before hand. Some always come. We’ve also provided a couple of stations for people to wash one another’s feet. It is so moving to see grandchildren washing their grandmother’s feet and vice versa—wives and husbands, friends. We acknowledge this day is so named because of Jesus’ new commandment (latin: maundate) to love one another. We give thanks for the institution of the Eucharist. Afterwards, the altar is stripped and all the decorations and colour are removed as the lights are extinguished. We depart in silence. It never fails to move me.

Medicine Hat Good Friday’s have always begun for me with the Evangelical Association service in the morning—an extroverted, high energy affair with close to two thousand souls present every year. To miss that out of Anglican liturgical sensitivity would be wrong, especially when I know I can also indulge my Anglican quietism in an hour of silent meditation on The Stations of the Cross in the church in the afternoon before The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion—again, straight out of the book. It’s quiet, holy and lovely.

And then The Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday. We do it at sundown. This year that means 822pm. We light the new fire, process into the darkened church behind the Pascal Candle. Candles are lit and the Exultet is sung as the church is redecorated with hangings and Easter lilies. We listen to lots of Scripture (thirteen readings!) telling the story of our Salvation, we baptize people or re-affirm our baptismal vows and we celebrate the Eucharist. Sometimes we roast marshmallows over a re-kindled new fire out behind the hall afterwards. It’s wonderful.

Finally, it’s Easter morning. Jesus Christ is risen today! Lively. Joyful. All the more luminous because of the quiet, darker days before.

I’m a soon to be retired Anglican priest and I’m okay.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Incumbent, Full Time, St Barnabas, Medicine Hat

The Rt. Rev. Greg Kerr-Wilson seeks a full time Incumbent priest for St. Barnabas, Medicine Hat, Alberta.

St Barnabas is an active, mature, Church with many ministries serving a city of 63,000 people in South Eastern Alberta’s sunniest city, about 3 hours East of Calgary.

The welcoming, multi-generational parish enjoys a wide diversity in its members and has active ministries from nursery to seniors. Clearly Christ centered, St. Barnabas seeks to reach out to its congregations and the community through its 261 members.

St Barnabas is financially stable and enjoys a good functional multi-use debt free building in downtown Medicine Hat. Our present focus includes growing our Sunday School and Youth, serving our young families, reaching out to our community, and to continue building on the foundation already laid.

The Incumbent will be a strong leader, a good manager, capable teacher, able to connect with people, and will gently guide the congregation through this time of change and into the future by encouraging the spiritual gifts and abilities of members.

The Incumbent will be a genuine servant of Jesus Christ, called to be a good shepherd, and relying on the Holy Spirit. The Incumbent will have a deep Christian knowledge, and give Bible based teaching for everyday living, and challenge us to respond faithfully to the Word mediated through scripture, reason and tradition.

An informative Profile is available by request from

Applications should be sent to the Ven. J. Barry Foster and will include a current resume and a one page response to the Profile. Applications will be received until May 5, 2014.

Link to apply here.

Monday, 7 April 2014

On Things Not Being Over: Thoughts on John 11.1-45

John 11.40 Jesus said . . . "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
Dry, dead, bones which have been stripped of all semblance of life as far as our human eyes can see rattle together as God’s Word is spoken over them in prophecy (Ez 37). Mortal human bodies like ours, which are dead because of sin, are given life through the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead and which dwells in you and me (Ro 8.10-11)—the same Spirit that rattled those bones together.

When the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ is involved, no matter how dry the bones or how sin-dead we think we are, things are never over.

Think about Mary and Martha in the gospel. They probably helped to wash their brother’s body, dressed him in his grave clothes and laid him out. As far as they, and their family, were concerned it was all over for Lazarus. He was dead. Then Jesus came on the scene.
v33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Jesus began to weep. 
Notice how Jesus behaved when he came upon these friends who thought it was all over. He shared their grief. Know that He shares ours and is in it with us.
v37 . . . some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." 
Jesus is, in effect, saying to Martha, “Ignore everything you’ve ever been taught and all experience you’ve had of death and endings and things being over—everything you’ve learned about the way the world works. It looks like it’s over. Roll away the stone.”
v40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 
Do I want to see the glory of God in St Barnabas? In Medicine Hat? If so, roll the stone away from where my fears and uncertainties and other dead stuff is stored.
v43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." 
Who is Jesus calling out today? Who’s Lazarus for us? Is he calling my church community out into a new lease on life? Is Jesus saying “Unbind her, and let her go. I’ve got things planned for this church." Are some of us crouched back there in the tomb, afraid to come out, bound by our fears and wraths and anxieties and sorrows? We’ll need our brothers and sisters to encourage us—maybe even come in and get us—and help us to get the things that bind us off. And look at the results:
v45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 
The LORD is saying, even when we think it’s over—when it feels, looks, smells as if it’s over—even when we think it’s stone-cold dead and in the grave. It’s not. With God, it’s never over. It’s always new—always becoming.
v40 Jesus said . . . "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"


Monday, 31 March 2014

More on Visiting the Sick, Who Does What, Retirement and Things I Would Not Do Differently with some Jerry Cook Thrown In

Who Does What

My friend, Michael Peterson, alias The Mad Padre, commented on yesterday’s homily,  More Than Meets the Eye and Visiting the Sick, to wit: 
I know you're retiring soon but it is still sobering when put like this.  However, in an era when some Anglican seminaries are rediscovering words like "priestcraft" (ick!) it is refreshing to hear a cleric say that the church can go on without us.
I agree, the church can go on without us, but bishops, priests and deacons were created for a purpose. When we’re doing what we’re called to do properly and without taking over what other people are called to do, we help and make it better. 

First, a confession: I’ve used “priestcraft” myself. It’s one of the labels associated with this blog and I’ve used it twenty-four times; but that is neither here nor there, a rose by any other name and all that…

Yesterday’s homily arose from my belief that we priests—or pastors,  or whatever you want to call us—ordained persons—are not absolutely necessary, the church started without us, but we can be helpful and useful if we’re living our vocation out properly. We’re set aside to do some specific things. The purpose of the doing is to 
  1. get God worshipped and glorified
  2. the Good News of Jesus proclaimed
  3. the power of the Holy Spirit applied, and 
  4. the Saints equipped for the work of ministry (Eph 4.12). 
Two ideas have stuck in my mind on this matter during my ordained years over who should be doing what: 
  1. Bill Easum wrote or said something to the effect that the “pastor” is not to do all the work of ministry, but to equip the people to do it and get out of the way. 
  2. Jerry Cook, in his book Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness; wrote that what God wants is more people in ministry who don’t know what they’re doing. 

Retirement and Things…

I have tried to apply those ideas over the years. Looking back, I wouldn't change that. I just wish I’d been more consistent and done it better. 

Visiting the Sick

Speaking of equipping the Saints—as I was looking for the title of Jerry Cook’s book in which I remembered the “don’t know what they’re doing” quote, I came across one of his talks entitled “Where You Are, He Is!” which describes what happens when Christians visit the sick, or do anything else for that matter:
You are the healing presence of Jesus. Where you are, people are healthier just because you are there. 
There is a body of people whose presence is, in fact, the saving presence of Jesus Christ in the world—the Jesus that brings wholeness to every situation.  
You’re the point where miraculous wholeness can happen! You may not even be aware of it! 
Because you’re there the situation is more whole than it was before you got there. 
Amen! Something to just believe. When the people of God simply show up, much more happens than the eye can see or anyone can ask or imagine. 

Cook’s talk is worth a listen: 

Jerry Cook: Where You Are, He Is! from The Foursquare Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

More Than Meets the Eye and Visiting the Sick

…with reference to 1 Sam 16:1–13; Eph 5:8–14; Jn 9:1–41 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A. 

Jesus is always helping is to look for more than meets our merely physical eyes. Look at 1 Samuel 16:7—"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'”

There’s often more than meets our eyes where God is involved. The Lord does not see as we see. We see externals, like Samuel. “This one looks the part!” he thought when he saw the tall, dark and handsome Eliab. He must be the one. But Eliab wasn’t. David was.

Not being able to see beyond outward appearance—the more than meets our eyes when God is involved—has been a theme over the past few weeks. In John, chapter 3, two weeks ago, like Samuel, Nicodemus had difficulty seeing beyond outward appearances when he couldn’t get his mind around what Jesus meant by born again or born from above. And the woman at the well from John, chapter 4, last Sunday when she told Jesus, “Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep.” In all three situations God’s message went beyond outward, seemingly obvious, common-sense, appearance to the heart. There was much more than met Samuel’s, Nicodemus’ and the woman’s eyes.

In a few weeks, you folks are about to embark on a season in which you will be without a priest of your own for a while. It will be tempting to think you, too, will be bucket-less without a priest. In one sense, according to outward appearance and in a limited fashion, that will be true. In another, it will not. I am retiring, but Jesus, our great High Priest, is not and never will, so here are some things you can do.

Be like the ex-blind man in this morning’s gospel when (John 9:38) "He said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped Jesus.” You can all do that. You don’t need a priest to do that. Sometimes it might help to have one, but it is not necessary. After all, as the ex-blind guy also says in (John 9:31) "We know that God…listens to those who worship him and obey his will."

So believe, worship, obey his will and "Live as children of light." (Eph 5:8)

Having a priest, or a bucket, is good and helpful, but not having one can be a great opportunity to see beyond obvious, outward appearances and to live as the children of light The Lord has made you through the waters of baptism, as we prayed in today's collect, by exercising the gifts God has given each of you which may have been lying dormant or underused because you’ve been relying on me.

Consider visiting the sick, for example. You have an excellent nursing homes and shut-ins visiting team—Marjory Saunderson, Liz Crabb, Moreen Hides, Jill Gloin, Shirley Westergreen, Gillian Sandham and Jude (to the end of April)—all the nursing homes except one are covered. But there will be those who fall ill and are at home or in hospital.

Every one of you is qualified to visit them. We’re Anglican. We even have a book which shows us what to say.

Go through the rites: 830—BCP p576, 1030—BAS p554

Some rules for visiting the sick:
  1. Ask if they feel up to a visit
  2. Just listen
  3. Never give advice
  4. Don’t tell them how they ought to feel
  5. Resist the temptation to trump their story with yours: “If you think that’s bad!…”
Remember, all you have to do is believe and show up. You will be the outward and visible sign—the one holding the hand and saying the words—but know that the one who will be listening, sympathizing, dispensing the mercy and the inward and spiritual grace and the healing will be Jesus.