Transformed by God’s Blessing, and Love

All Saints and All Souls, Nov 1, 2020, Matthew 5.1-12

I speak to you in the name of God, Creator, Word and Spirit. AMEN.

We know that Jesus often interprets the world differently that the people around him might expect.  Sometimes, it is as if Jesus is considering how the people ought to act and care for each other, as if he was looking through a camera and zooming in on the important parts. Focusing in on certain parts, and interpreting their meaning in a way the people don’t expect. Subsequently, Jesus refocuses our attention and calls us to look at things differently.

Continue reading “Transformed by God’s Blessing, and Love”

Love God, Love Your Neighbour, Love Yourself

Oct 25, 2020, Matthew 22.34-46, Deuteronomy 34.1-12

I speak to you in the name of God, who shows us how to live a generous and compassionate life. AMEN.

The first reading, from Deuteronomy, raves about Moses as a leader. As a man. Moses persisted and did something they all thought impossible at the beginning. They were in that wilderness a long time! Yet with persistence, trust and faith in God, working together and caring for each other – they reached the promised land.

The authors of Deuteronomy stress that, “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses…he was unequalled for all the signs and wonders and mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power.”

The Gospel of Matthew was the second gospel written, approximately between the years 80-90 in the Common Era. Mark was written first. As far as the author of the Gospel of Matthew was concerned – Jesus was the new Moses.

The author of Matthew is speaking to his Jewish community – who are open to the teachings of Christ. They are not Gentiles. As a Jewish teacher, Jesus is teaching the people to follow the law as God has given it to them.

“Hear O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these tow commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” So says the Book of Common Prayer.

In the Jewish Tradition, this is called the Shema. It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism. It has been recited morning and evening since ancient times.

The Pharisees ask Jesus which commandment in the Law is the greatest? Jesus responds by reciting the Shema. The Pharisees and every Jewish person within ear shot would have recognized and known what Jesus was saying. [slight pause]  Loving God with everything you have! Loving your neighbour as yourself!

Jesus calls on us to love our neighbour. If we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, we actually ought to love our self!  [Don’t you think?]

Otherwise, loving our neighbour as our selves won’t make much of a positive difference in the world.  “19thC philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, describes our obligation this way: ‘The second commandment teaches us that all the respect, dignity, concern, forgiveness, grace, and charity we are required to grant others is actually what we must offer to ourselves.’”[i][ii]  Or as I saw on Facebook yesterday: “Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.”[iii] [pause – maybe repeat]

Loving our self means we recognize – we are of value; we are whole; we are enough! – our confidence increases in our self, and has a positive effect on our relationships. This is significant because it helps us connect with God, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit. In other words, it helps us love God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This strengthened connection within ourself, both psychologically and spiritually, helps us enhance our relationships with the people in our life and with the world around us.  

The Commandments, Love God, and Love Your Neighbour, don’t say anything about who our neighbour is. Our default is to imagine our neighbour as someone similar to us.  You know, white, similar heritage, similar tax bracket, similar education, similar neighbourhood, similar vacations, etc.

Now, there is a saying that’s been circulating for a few years, I first heard it from Bishop Michael Curry, at a conference a few years ago. It goes like this:  Love your Neighbour as yourself:   Love your Homeless Neighbour   Love your Muslim Neighbour   Love your Gay Neighbour   Love your Immigrant Neighbour   Love your Jewish Neighbour   Love your Christian Neighbour   Love your Atheist Neighbour

Love your Addicted Neighbour   Love your Indigenous Neighbour    [slight pause]

Melanie Delva, Reconciliation Animator for the Anglican Church of Canada, gives us a different view of our neighbours. Delva challenges us to decide whether we respond to carry on the status quo, or step up to the plate and make a difference. Delva brings to our attention that Indigenous rights in Canada are “not only consistently ignored in Canada, but also when Indigenous peoples begin to stand up and claim their rights, there are dire and violent consequences.”

For instance, there is the militarized presence against Six Nations Land Defenders at 1492 Land Back Lane. In Nova Scotia “mobs of angry fishers” have raided Mi’kmaq a fishing storage building, torching vehicles and trapping fishers in facilities, while, and you might have seen a news photo of this, the RCMP did nothing. In the west, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and supporters are being characterized by CSIS as being involved in terrorism!

As a country we are continuing to interact with the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of this country as if they are somehow not like us. Not the same as us. Many of us have been taught this since we were children. And then there are the difficult living conditions experienced by many Indigenous communities, some isolated: issues of the lack of clean water, lack of mold-free housing, lack of indoor plumbing; lack of enough housing to decrease crowding and the easy transmission of illness. Canada has still not introduced legislation implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!

CL Lewis had another take on loving our neighbour. He said, “Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love [them].” – C. S. Lewis[iv]

Act as if you love your neighbour. LOVE them. [pause] What would that look like? Caring for each other. Seeking understanding. Offer your neighbour what you might want from someone who related to you as an equal member of the human race.

Melanie Delva suggests 3 ways we can join in the ecumenical coalition call Faith in the Declaration, adding our voices, loving our neighbours, showing our support. I will include the article by Melanie Delva with the video link of the service this week. [slight pause]

Love God. Love your neighbour. Love yourself. That’s it. That’s all. Each of us has the ability to do these things. Each of us.

May God the Creator show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your Spirit, for you are God, now and forever. Amen.

[i] Jarrod Longbons: Don’t Overlook the First Command https:/

[ii] Ibid.


Bearing Fruit in the Soil of Our Hearts

Bearing Fruit – whether berries or lettuce, the promise of beans, peppers and tomatoes. Carrots. Peas. Herbs. If you planted even a small garden this year, by now you may be seeing the fruits of your labours, even if they are not ready to harvest.

New growth. Whether you planted flowers, vegetables, or had time to cut, trim or organize our yards and gardens, you may feel a sense of wholeness, or accomplishment, and a sense of wellbeing in these usual times. Our gardens whether in containers or in the ground, and our house plants, offer a sign of some normalcy in our current life structured around the pandemic changes trying to keep as many of us as possible healthy.

New growth. Hmm. How do plants grow when they aren’t in their usual environment? They usually need love, care and attention to help them grow as if they were in their natural habitat. I think this applies to us. For many of us, our sense of our spiritual selves is tied to going to church. To be in the building. Christ Church Flamborough is 154 years or so old. Many generations have been baptized, confirmed, married and buried in this space. There are warm memories of faith experiences, friendships and comraderie in the life and work of the parish. We miss people who find it difficult to get to church or are unable to come to church. We have sad and wistful memories as we remember those we love and those who were important to us, those whom we see no longer. We may find being in the building, volunteering and worshiping together, as the way we connect to God, to Jesus the Christ, and to the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew, chapter 13, verses 1 to 9 and 18 to 23, the people are looking to Jesus to help them feel closer to God; to make it happen for them. Jesus cautions them with the Parable of the Sower this Sunday. We need to sow seeds in a place with enough soil, so plants can root, unencumbered by distractions like thorns or weeds, with enough water to sustain them, accompanied by love and understanding. Jesus isn’t just talking about sowing grains or vegetables or fruit. Jesus is talking about sowing seeds of faith.

How do we nurture the seeds of faith within us? How can we feel more connected with God?  Each of us may have our own routine; our special location or place where we reflect.  We may ground ourselves in prayer, using one or several books of prayer or poetry to get started; or read our favourite passages from the Bible. We may pray, silently or aloud. We may journal, talking with God, or perhaps identifying our gratitude each day. We may read morning or evening prayer or compline in the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Alternative Services, or from some other source.

Bearing Fruit – We need to tend the gardens of our souls. The fertilizer or routine for one person is not the same as the nurturing needed by another person. In the process of going to church regularly, we get into the habit of thinking that our experience there needs to excite us or warm us or engulf us enough to tide us over until the next time we gather together. That somehow, we aren’t responsible to connect with God in the meantime, on our own. Some of us may not know where to begin. If we have not tended the garden of our soul before, how do we know where or how to start? First off we pray – sitting quietly, or walking or being in a favourite spot. We can say formal prayers. We can pray the Psalms. Randomly picking a psalm is often quite helpful. We can write our own prayers. Or, we can pray without words, trying not to be distracted by our thoughts.

I know it seems hard when we don’t know where to begin. Remember this venture is between you and God. As Christians we worship together because that is what it means to be in a Christian community. Gathering together. Working to make sure people in our community are fed and safe and welcomed. But we are responsible for our times with God between the times that we worship together. Quoting a favourite hymn, we can pray to God to help our hearts be good soil, to plant the seed of God’s Word and God’s love in our hearts. God’s Word is Christ, the teachings of Jesus.

As you nurture your house plants and your gardens, I invite you to be aware that God is nurturing you. We just need to open our hearts and heighten our awareness that God is present, always. Even when we aren’t gathered together in Christ Church.

Let us pray. 

Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your Word. Lord, let my heart be good soil, where love can grow and peace is understood. When my heart is hard, break the stone away. When my heart is cold, warm it with the day. When my heart is lost, lead me on your way. Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart be good soil. Amen.   Britt Hallquist, translation by Gracia Grindal, Selah Publishing Co, 1994.

Collect for 5th Sunday after Trinity, Book of Common Prayer, p 224  

Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Chris tour Lord. Amen.    

Collect for 6th Sunday after Pentecost, Book of Alternative Services, p 367

Almighty God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you. May we find peace in your service, and in the world to come, see you face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Gospel of Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23, July 12, 2020

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!’

18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’

“Seeing” God – Reflection, May 4, 2020

May 4, 2020

Reflection:  If we can’t “see” the Divine, how to we know the Divine is there?

I had a realization a number of years ago, while writing a homily for an elderly man who died of cancer. He loved soccer. At the time, he had all the right equipment, we take for granted now, to stream live soccer events from around the world.

He was a kind, unassuming man. When he was well, he quietly went about helping people, or assisting with activities at the church. No fanfare. His faith was similar. As an Anglican Christian, his faith was between himself and God. No fanfare. No exclamations. Just him and God, going about their day.

A thought occurred to me.  A soccer ball. Twelve black pentagons and twenty white hexagons, inflated between 8.5 psi and 15.6 psi, travels down the field, courtesy of the kicks and bumps of players.  You can’t see the air inside it. You can only see the effect as players pass and redirect the ball, hoping to score a goal at the other end of the field.

We can’t see God, but we can see the effect of God working in the world.

My apartment faces north and east. Although I see beautiful sunrises, I can’t see the setting sun. I can, however, see the effect of the setting sun on the buildings outside our living room windows.

So it is with faith. So also, with what we understand to be God. We can’t see God.

We can only see the effect of God’s love and grace at work among us.                  

I looked up from my computer last evening, May 3 and saw this:

Text Box: Even though, I couldn’t the setting sun, I could see the effect. Just the same, even though we can’t see God, we can see the effect of God at work in the world.