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.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Much More

…a short homily for the Third Sunday of Lent with reference to Romans 5.1-11 and John 4.5-42, Year A

Jesus still reveals himself to us in ways that are just as surprising, mysterious and misunderstood as the way he revealed himself to Nicodemus last week (John 3.1-17) and to the woman at the well this week in John 4.

For example, Jesus still asks us for help, just as he did the woman at the well in John 4.7: "A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The trouble is he often comes to me disguised as someone I don’t want to help. Someone who is not very attractive and well behaved. Ungrateful. Difficult. Demanding. And I am all too likely to miss an opportunity to serve Jesus, himself. And I am uncomfortably reminded of Jesus saying, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ (Mt 25.45)

Something that makes me go, “Hmmn,” in what is supposed to be a Holy Lent of almsgiving, self examination, penitence and all the rest.

Even when I do get it right, and do provide the person in need with a refreshing act of kindness, I can easily be misunderstood because I am unclear about why I’m doing it and for whose sake.

The woman didn’t get Jesus at first. “Sir,” she says, “you have no bucket.” (John 4.11) That’s how you and I appear sometimes, too. Bucket-less. But I’m not. Neither are you. The act of kindness and service is important but it is so much, much more than it appears on the surface.

Look at Romans 5.9-10. When we do it in The Name of Jesus and for his sake, it really is the “much more” of the possibility of being saved through him and by his life from the wrath of God. It really is the offer of a drink from a spring of living water gushing up to eternal life (John 4.10, 14).

We are not as bucket-less as people think. When some of you prepare the food and serve it at Hope Street this afternoon and clean up afterwards, no matter what the people think or how aware they are, you are offering the “much more” that Jesus promises, the “living water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4.10, 14) that only Jesus provides.

Look at John 4.27. The disciples were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman. People may be surprised when we try to help and serve awkward folk on the edges of our society. People might say, why do you bother with them? You’re just allowing dysfunctional people to take advantage of you.

Look at Romans 5.3. What if me being prepared to suffer a little inconvenience by giving up some of my Sunday afternoon nap time, grows some endurance in me, which grows some character, which produces hope in some people who have lost it through a free lunch because God’s love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit that has been given to me (Romans 5.5). How much more would that be?

Look at John 4.29. And what if, like the woman at the well, some of those people, or even one of them, went back home and said to her friends, “Come and see a bunch of people who were really good to me because they follow Jesus. ‘He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’” Look at verse 39. And what if lots of people in this city come to believe in Jesus because of it and to know that Jesus is truly the Saviour of the world.

How much more than we could ask or imagine is that?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Seeing in Jesus 3D

With reference to Genesis 12.1-4a; Romans 4.1-4, 13-17 and John 3.1-17—the Second Sunday in Lent, Year A

Jesus shows us how the world really is. To believe what he says about life and the world is true is like putting on a pair of 3D glasses. Without believing in the truth of Jesus we can still see what’s going on around us but the colours don’t quite register, what we see is misaligned and out of focus. When we look at our lives and the world around us through the 3D lenses of faith in Jesus, everything falls into place layer by layer and in proper perspective. Things start to pop so we can see what is near and what is far, what is up front and important and what is just background.

Consider Nicodemus in John 3 this morning. Look at verse 4: “How can a grown man be born again? He certainly cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time!" How can any of this be, thinks Nicodemus without his faith-in-Jesus-3D glasses on? It doesn’t register. It doesn’t line up with what I see. Nicodemus can’t yet see what Jesus is describing, which is the way things really are, and the only way anyone can see and enter the kingdom of God (John 3.3, 5) So Jesus says, in effect, “Put your 3D specs on, Nicodemus! Believe! I’m telling the truth. I’m telling you about things of the Spirit and of heaven, eternal life and God’s love (John 3.12) which, without the way of seeing I provide, don’t always line up with the way things appear in the world.” We get to see the heavenly in the earthly.

Jesus says believe (Ro 4.3, 17; John 3.12, 15, 16), put the glasses of faith (Ro 4.5, 13, 14, 16) on, and you’ll see things the way they really are.

So what would be some faith-in-Jesus-3D insights this morning? It's worth a look, because I think you'll agree there are words here for us in this transition time—you must do your discerning and search for a new incumbent with your faith-in-Jesus-3D specs firmly in place so you can see the way clearly.

Let’s start with our Genesis reading: sometimes God calls us to leave our familiar surroundings, even leave home, and go somewhere new, just like he did Abram. Notice why. To be blessed (Gen 12.2) and to be a blessing (Gen 12.2-3).

Here are some faith-in-Jesus-3D insights from Romans: the things that we do; our “works,” obedience and rule following and how well we do all of that is not as important as the faith and the belief in Jesus that prompts them. It is the believing and the faith that is reckoned as righteousness, not the working or the adhering to the law. To believe is the work (John 6.29)

Look at verse 17: God brings things we think are dead to life. God brings into being what did not exist.

And now some faith-in-Jesus-3D insights from John. Look at verse 3: No-one can see the kingdom of God without being born again (or from above). Being so born requires those glasses.

Verse 5: no-one can get in without being born of water and the Spirit. Think baptism in water and the Holy Spirit.

Verse 8: it’s all rather mysterious, the glasses help.

Verses 15 & 16: believing in Jesus is the only way not to die and to have eternal life because the “so much” with which God loves the world is Jesus.

Praised be Christ Jesus!