Monday, 3 December 2012

My Advent (New Year's Day) Call to StB (you): an Homily for Advent Sunday

You can also listen to it here.

Last summer the candidates for election as Bishop of Calgary travelled around the diocese to speak to regional electoral synod delegate meetings. As you know, I had the honour of being one of those candidates. Each of us was required to answer a set of questions at those meetings so people could get a sense of the cut of our respective jibs. As I prepared my answers I realized that much of what I thought also applied to our life together here at StB and that one day I should share them. I believe this is that day.


Here's the first question:

Based on your reading of the Diocesan Profile and your knowledge of the Diocese, what do you see as the most significant opportunity for the Diocese in the next five years? What do you feel will be the greatest challenge in your role as Bishop? What will be your first priority?

Let's replace "diocese" with "parish." We're looking at our most significant opportunity, greatest challenge and priorities.

MOST SIGNIFICANT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE US IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

Matthew 28:16–20 (ESV): The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, 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 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Our most significant opportunity, as it will always be, is to do what Jesus said.

One of the biggest opportunities that ever presented itself in my life was when I realized that a young woman whom I had admired from afar in an English tutorial at the University of Otago was unattached. I had to screw up the courage to ask this lovely, but reserved and refined, creature if she’d come out with me—a much less reserved and refined creature. I had to risk that she might say no. I had to risk the possibility of rejection, of looking foolish. I decided to grab the opportunity with both hands (???). I asked if I could buy her a cup of coffee. She accepted!! While we were enjoying our coffee, I invited her to come to see The Mikado with me. And she did!!

So much of what we’re supposed to be as followers of Jesus has to do with that kind of going, as Jesus said, and inviting. Pointing the way to Jesus (not leaving him in the manger, as we heard from the prayer ministry people this morning). Inviting people into friendship. Inviting them to church. Introducing them to Jesus and our church community friends.

I think the most significant, and most potentially most fruitful, opportunity for us is to become a parish on mission, filled with ordinary people like you and me who are Go-ers; Great Commission church go-ers; warmly, consistently going and meeting people face-to-face and inviting them to join us at church where we can introduce them to Jesus Christ. We might have to risk them saying no, and feeling a little foolish, but that won’t do us any harm. No embarrassment. Wrong plant. We’re people of faith, after all. How do you spell faith? RISK. Usually some risk involved in taking opportunities provided by the LORD. All we have to do is make the invitation. We don’t have to make them come. That’s up to God.

If they accept the invitation, of course, then a whole other set of opportunities knock. We get to make them into disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded.

Reminds me of the first two Marks of Mission.

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom—that’s the taking the opportunity to Go and invite bit. 


To teach, baptize and nurture new believers—that's making and baptizing disciples, just as Jesus says in the Great Commission.

The Marks come from the Anglican Communion and General Synod's Vision 2019. They’re designed to get God worshipped and make us more inviting. The other three are: 


To respond to human need by loving service

To seek to transform the unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.


To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

If we take the opportunity to make them our own, thanks to the Communion and the ACoC, we will have “a useful and memorable way to shape our decisions,” which will show the world around us what our priorities are.

Based on them, the national church has also established a set of Priorities for the church "Living into God’s Mission." In order to act on the priorities of “Living into God’s Mission,” they have also developed a set of concrete practices by which to get them done. I think we should do the same. That way we’ll be able to decide what really are opportunities and what are not, who we’ll invite—when and under what circumstances. They’ll help us resist distractions (like books and buildings and controversies and differences). They’ll also help us decide how to steward the resources we have. Best of all, they’ll help us do what Jesus called us to do in the Great Commission.

By the way, the young woman’s name was Judith Mary and today we celebrate our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. All because I R-I-S-Ked rejection and looking foolish by making the most of that opportunity all those years ago. To think what I would have missed had I missed that opportunity.

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE WE FACE

John 21:4–6 (ESV)

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.

CHALLENGE

  • Know when it’s Jesus.
  • Fishing since 1884.
  • Where’s the right side of the boat for us?
  • Build us into a ministry team—enough people to haul the catch in.

Mark 7:32–37 (ESV)

32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

CHALLENGE

  • We all need to be opened up—ears and tongues—hearing from Jesus is no longer the exception, we can speak of him plainly and proclaim the Good News about him zealously.
  • Bob Hartley—a culture and an identity.
  • An Ephphratha culture and identity focussed on the right side of the boat—where the fish are.

FIRST PRIORITY a number of things

Jesus. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Prayer. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” Holy Spirit released—more and more. IF MY PEOPLE!

33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue—get within spitting distance, up close and personal with the people Jesus is calling you and me to serve and to introduce to him. ARISE AND SHINE,! Act!

TURN THIS PUMPKIN INTO A CARRIAGE (you had to be there).