You Do Not Know When The Master Of The House Will Come

Posted by admin on November 27, 2011 under Bible Readings, Webmaster Blog | Read the First Comment

Mark 13: 24-37 ~ Gospel Reading for the First Sunday in Advent, November 27, 2011.

Jesus said to his disciples, “In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Over and over and over again

Posted by admin on November 20, 2011 under Sermons | Be the First to Comment

Did today’s Gospel sound familiar to you?

I hope so, because this is the third time in the short span of eight days that we encounter these verses from the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. We heard it last Wednesday night, when we celebrated the feast of St. Margaret of Scotland. And it was the Gospel exactly a week ago, when we had transferred the feast of St. Martin of Tours to our Sunday celebration.

So, what’s up with hearing the same Gospel over and over and over again?

There is a story about my colleague Carol Anderson, which might be an urban legend. Carol, so the story goes, preached a sermon at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in West Hollywood, California, where she was serving as rector, as head priest. The next week, Carol got into the pulpit again – and preached the very same sermon. The week after that, right after the Gospel, she preached: and again it was the same sermon. When she preached the very same sermon for the fourth Sunday in a row, one of the wardens pulled her aside and said: “Uhm… you have now preached the same sermon four times in a row… what’s up with that?” Carol did not skip a beat and responded: “Oh I know. And I will continue to preach this sermon, until you get it!”

I am not sure how the warden responded. I have a feeling though that she or he was not delighted about Carol’s prophetic insights… And, lest you think I am trying to offend you in the same way, let me say that you and I both had to hear these same verses from Matthew again and again and again. And, in the end it is you and I both who might be hit over the head by the Holy Spirit.

If we are really true and honest, we must acknowledge that Carol is right. Far too often, we do not get it. We fall short of the glory of God. We fail. We mess up. All of us. Without exception. You heard me acknowledge my own ability to screw up last week in my sermon. And if you think that somebody else’s faults are worse than yours, or that somebody else’s mistakes give you cause to look down on them or judge them, think again. It is only a matter of time, before the tables will be turned and you will be faced with your own inability to be perfect.

I do however think that our inability to get it right should not be a cause of alarm. I think it makes us in fact rather loveable.

The realisation that I cannot not sin, that in this lifetime I will never be able to fully live into the beauty that God intends for me, is actually quite liberating. It takes away the pressure from me. It allows me to be fully human, and it gives me an opportunity to stop beating up on myself when I do mess up.

This is no cart-blanche, though. Acknowledging and accepting that we are all imperfect doesn’t mean we must condone imperfect actions. There are consequences to what we do. When we violate trust, it will not be easy to restore this trust. When behaviour is abusive, when it threatens the life, wellbeing, and the rights of others, when it puts others or ourselves at risk, or when it ignores our mutual interdependence, then we must strive to put an end to this behaviour. And this goes both for the personal as much as for the communal and societal aspects of our lives.

Equally, my inability to live up to God’s standard does not mean I can and should just give up on seeking to discover the beauty that God intends for me. I should never stop trying to conform day by day, second by second to what God has planned for me. Only by giving into the will of God will we discover health and salvation in every part of our lives.

Yet, I must also realise that this can never be accomplished on my own accord. The very fact that I do and will sin over and over again makes me incapable of being perfect. One confessional prayer from the Book of Common Prayer states: “There is no health in us. ” This is no downer or meant as a condemnation. But it is a realisation that we need help. We need help from God, who in Jesus Christ is not bringing about a reign of power and might and blame, but a reign of compassion and health and salvation.

We need help and God is more than willing to give this very help – for the sake of the reign of Christ and for the sake of each and every one of us. Our imperfection makes us even more loveable in the eyes of God, because it makes us rely on God. Our fallibility throws us into the loving embrace of our mothering God, at whose breast we are nursed and cared for. In the midst of our imperfection our perfect God waits patiently to lead us and guide us further on the way, ever more deeper into the mystery of our triune God.

Which brings me right back to my colleague Carol Anderson.

If I had been her warden, I would have been upset, too. But maybe Carol was trying to mimic God, who – not unlike a good mother – every time we fall into the dirt, picks us up, embraces us, dusts us off, and sends us on our way: Over and over and over again. And every time we fail to live into the liberating challenges of God’s love, God reminds us of his Good News revealed in Jesus Christ: Over and over and over again.

This is an ongoing discovery that makes us realise ever more deeply how much we are not the masters and mistresses of our own lives. And it is a journey that will continue for all of our lives and even beyond death. It is a fallacy to think that the Christian life can be narrowed to a one-time decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. And this fallacy unfortunately has wreaked havoc on the church and on the world. Yes, the Christian live is about the conversion of our hearts and minds and bodies to the will of God. But conversion is an ongoing process. And conversion is not just about our relationship with God, but is also about our relationship with one another. Our mutual interdependence and our care for one another is not just an appendix, a sideshow to the main event, which features the rectification of our relationship with God. But making things right in our interactions with others and the world is a central focus of God’s plan of salvation. Justice, peace, and the preservation of creation are central Gospel issues. This is why it is good and important to hear the final 16 verses of Matthew 25 over and over and over again.

And this is why it is also good important to baptise Jonathan today as we both celebrate Christ’s reign and our utter dependence upon him, and as we at the same time hear that those who are ignored and marginalised by society are our sisters and brothers and are the special focus of Christ’s reign. Baptising Jonathan into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means incorporating Jonathan into Jesus’ death so that Jonathan might rise with him to eternal life. But baptising Jonathan equally means baptising Jonathan into the work, ministry, and mission to bring about a resurrection-world, where all are reconciled with God, where all have equal access to their place at the table, and where all in every aspect of their humanity are fed, clothed, housed, and visited. Over. And over. And over again.

[The Reverend Markus Dünzkofer delivered this sermon on November 20, 2011.]

Peace be with you!

Posted by admin on November 13, 2011 under Sermons | Be the First to Comment

I have a confession to make.

It happened last year at the induction service of the new members of the Order of New Westminster: A colleague of mine did something rather outrageous and hurtful to me. And I got mad. And my anger lingered: For months. For a whole year! I developed a grudge.

Of course, a year later, my grudge had become a much bigger problem, was a much more damaging issue than the original infraction by my colleague, which could have just been a misunderstanding.

I could have said something to my colleague. But I didn’t want to make a big fuss about it. Which, of course, meant that in my heart the fuss grew bigger and bigger. So, for the last 12 months, I have avoided this colleague as much as I could. And, yes, this was really mature, grown-up, and Christ-like behaviour – NOT!

Last Sunday, I was once again attending an induction of new members of the Order of New Westminster at our cathedral. During the peace, I turned around … and guess what: This very colleague stood right there with outstretched arms to exchange the peace with me.

Don’t you hate it when this happens…?

What could I have done? Not exchange the peace? That would have barred me from receiving communion. By not accepting the hand of my colleague in fellowship and peace, I would have excommunicated myself from the Lord’s Table.

So, begrudgingly, I did shake my colleague’s hand.

And God laughed at me. Yet, it wasn’t a laughter that made fun of me, or ridiculed me, or made me feel ashamed. But it was a laughter that roared like a lion, that laughed with me, and that liberated, restored, and reconciled me.

When I shook my colleague’s hand and when I heard my colleague say: “Peace be with you!” – something happened, something inside me changed: I saw the world in a new and different way. I was turned around. I did not just look into the eyes of my colleague. I encountered Christ – in a most surprising way.

I wonder if Martin of Tours had a similar experience when he encountered a beggar, someone with whom he was not only supposed to have no contact, but also someone he was supposed to keep in check.

Martin was born around AD 330 and eventually became a soldier in the Roman army. And as a soldier, he journeyed widely through Europe and probably encountered the growing Christian faith in the Roman Empire as he travelled. At around AD 350 he enrolled as a Catechumen, as somebody preparing to become a Christian.

At this point in history, the church’s climactic ascent to power was already inevitable. The Roman Empire was turning into what we now term “Christendom.” In the so-called “Constantinian Shift,“ named after Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the official religion of the Empire in AD 380. Constantine had embraced the faith of Jesus Christ, but he did not shy away from using this very faith to secure his power-base.

This not only impacted the Empire. The church also changed – and not necessarily in a good way. The “Constantinian Shift” created a marriage between church and state, a marriage that far too often silenced the prophetic voice of the church and made the church complicit in acts of violence and injustice. Furthermore, this marriage at times turned the radical truth and the radical claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into mere cultural concepts. The conversions of hearts and minds as much as the conversions of oppressive structures were neglected. One became a Christian, because this is what one had to do as a citizen of a Christian nation, a Christian nation beyond reproof. Not many sought God in order to change their lives or get turned around. Not many expected to encounter God in surprising ways.

And this was true especially for state officials – including the military, who joined the church in large numbers in the 4thcentury. This, however, was a radical shift from the theology and practice of the early church. Traditionally, soldiers were not allowed to become members of the body of Christ. In fact, early Christians were not even allowed to wear girdles and cinctures, because they were worn by soldiers, who fastened their swords onto them!

When Martin signed up to join the church, the world was a different place already and becoming a Christian could have been just a way to give in to societal pressure or to become part of the shifting tides. Maybe his conversion was an act of convenience.

Whatever it may have been, all this changed when Martin encountered a beggar.

Legend has it that Martin was riding on his horse one day and was approached by a beggar, asking for help. Yet, something profound happened, because Martin drew his sword not to strike, but to halve his cloak and share it with the beggar. The following night, Jesus came to Martin in a dream and said: “Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with his garment.”

And lest you think this is a set-up for a cheesy stewardship sermon asking to give more money to St Paul’s, let me remind you that this legend reflects today’s reading from Matthew. This is the kind of radical truth and radical claim of the Gospel I was talking about earlier in this sermon. Christianity is not just a cultural practise, limited to Sunday mornings. The Church is called to hatch, match, and dispatch: to baptise, marry, and bury. But there is so much more!

The Gospel, the Good News of God in Jesus Christ seeks to penetrate every fibre of our being, seeks to bring meaning and orientation to every action of our lives, and seeks to change us, seeks to reorient us, seeks to open our eyes to a new way of being. Martin was on the way, but he was able to see, and see rightly, only because of the encounter with the beggar, only because he let himself be touched by God in a new, radical, profound, and all-encompassing way.

Far too often we look for the divine in the wrong places. We stargaze, try to climb all kinds of spiritual ladders, and we put meaning into earthly powers and fame. But God does not intend for us to be discovered in a high heaven or among riches!

No! In the Incarnation, in Jesus Christ born of our sister Mary, God comes the other way. God meets us here as we are. God joins us in our powerlessness and failures, so that we must never feel too puny, too small, and too unlovable to be loved by God. And God comes to us also in our neighbours, even in the most unlikely of neighbours. Martin had to get off his high horse to find God. And he discovered God in the plea of a beggar.

Which brings me to another aspect of how Martin saw rightly: While we are all called to charitable giving, as Christians our way of interacting with others is more than mere alms-giving. Not only did Martin give half of his cloak, but he also engaged the beggar, and the beggar engaged Martin. Christian charity is never a one-way road, but it works in both directions. In addition to our monetary support of ministries and mission, we must also seek to discover the face of Christ in the poor and marginalized. They are our sisters and brothers. God works in them and through them. And God waits for us to cloak them, to feed them, to house them, and to overcome any unjust system, wherever we might find it.

And there is another aspect of how Martin saw rightly: He gave up his job as a solider.

Granted, Martin’s job was being part of a machinery that forcefully maintained the Pax Romana, the “peace” of Rome, which was no peace, but a system of conquest, imperialism, and oppression. And today, Canadian soldiers serve a very different reality.

However, as Christians we must never forget that taking up arms is taking up arms against our brothers or sisters. And this pains the heart of God. There is nothing beautiful in war. Heroes are indeed born in the trenches, but there is nothing heroic about war itself. War is always a horrendous violation of the way God wills for us to interact with each other.

For some faithful Christians this means that Christians can under no circumstance join the military, but must in good conscience object to bearing weapons.

For other equally faithful Christians, this means that joining the military can and even must be an option as long as this defends life or battles injustice and oppression.

Whatever the standpoint, though, what unites Christians is that war is always evil. Yet, as members of the church we must commend, support, and hold in our prayers both those, who choose not to participate in this evil at all and those who consciously engage in this evil to combat greater evil. This is why it is meek and right on Remembrance Day to stop for a moment to remember, to be thankful, to pray, and to open our eyes to how we can become agents of peace in this fallen world.

In the encounter with the beggar, Martin’s eyes were opened to find Christ in a surprising way, a way that led him into life eternal and life abundant. And God opens our eyes, too, to find the way – through the encounter with a beggar, through the sign of peace at a cathedral or a parish church, or through whatever other surprising means God chooses.

[The Reverend Markus Dünzkofer delivered this sermon on November 13, 2011.]

You Did It To One Of The Least Of These

Posted by admin on under Bible Readings, Webmaster Blog | Be the First to Comment

Matthew 25: 34-40 ~ Gospel reading for November 13, 2011

Jesus said, “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ “

Labyrinth at St. Paul’s Nov 11 Programming Schedule

Posted by ParishAdmin on November 9, 2011 under Labyrinth, Webmaster Blog | Be the First to Comment

Scheduling for our Labyrinth at St. Paul’s Day-long event is as follows:

The doors will open at 10:00 a.m.
Aboriginal elder Aline LaFlamme will give a blessing at 10:30 a.m.
Silence at 11:00 a.m., followed by the Vancouver Peace Choir.
Throughout the afternoon, there will be Tibetan crystal bowls, Buddhist chant, and kirtan (Indian call and response singing).
The doors will close from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Regular second Friday Labyrinth walking to recorded music will take place from 7:00 to 9 p.m.

This event is open to the public (and free to attend – a donation to the St. Paul’s Advocacy Office is requested but not required).

See you Friday! Bring a friend.

“Christianity is a material religion”

Posted by admin on November 6, 2011 under Sermons | Be the First to Comment

Have you ever had a chance to explore our own parish library? The brain-child of late parishioner Margaret Avery, it is located in the King Room right next to the Lower Hall. There are all kinds of great books, and not everything there is church-related. There are even novels!

Our Library really is a treasure.

And our librarian is a treasure, too.

Bill Brebner spends uncounted hours downstairs to keep things in order. And he spends many more hours hunting down books in very creative ways. Furthermore, Bill also feeds me with articles from around the world on theological, ecclesiastical, and archaeological issues. It’s like having your own private research-librarian. And it is quite fantastic!

A few weeks ago, Bill gave me a book review from The New York Review about the latest book by Caroline Walker Byntum, a contemporary medievalist at Columbia University in New York. And the article piqued my interest – initially not because of the subject matter, but because it displayed rather prominently on the first page a monstrance, a liturgical object used for the veneration of the blessed sacrament in more catholic worship. So, yes, I was curious.

And I started reading.

And within the first five words I was hooked.

“Christianity is a material religion”[1]

This is how the article started.

“Christianity is a material religion.” Yes! Indeed!

This was grist to my mills in my ongoing battle with the creeping influence of the heresy of Gnosticism in the Church, an influence ironically pushed both by liberal Protestants and by Evangelicals alike. And, trust me, this widespread backing doesn’t turn Gnosticism into mainstream. In my humble opinion, it only makes it more dangerous and more destructive to Christianity.

Now, stay with me here, please…! Even if you think I was speaking gobbledygook in the last few sentences, this is important – especially today, as we remember those, who we love, but see no more, those who have gone before us.

And yes, they have gone before us into death, but they did not go into destruction.

And this is the whole crux of my problem with aspects of liberal and evangelical thinking, which borrows heavily from Gnosticism.

Let me explain.

For many Christians, death is the end for our bodies. They believe that when we die, our souls are separated from our bodies to go to our Creator. The body stays behind to rot.

I suspect if we were to poll the people of St. Paul’s, this opinion would be held by an overwhelming majority of parishioners. The problem, though, is this: This is an understanding, which developed only as the church came to rely on Greek philosophy, which in return opened the door for Gnosticism to infiltrate.

Gnosticism teaches that there is a sharp divide between things bodily and things spiritual. And Gnostics hold that at death our bodily identity is destroyed, while our spiritual identity goes on to eternity. In fact, some Gnostics even go so far as to maintain that there are two realities with two distinct deities: one deity for the material and one for the spiritual world. And this really doesn’t sound biblical, right?

And it isn’t.

And neither is the idea that my soul will separates from my body at death.

And lest you think this is just an idle exercise of academic theology in an ivory tower, disconnected from your reality, let me make one thing clear: This has fundamental bearings on how we live our lives – and not just when it comes to understanding such phenomena as “ghoullies and ghosties.”

Gnosticism doesn’t have a very high regard for the material world. It is all about the spiritual existence. And a theology that heavily relies on Gnosticism and draws a sharp separation between our bodies and souls, will then ignore developing a theology that honours and celebrates the body in its diverse and profound beauty. For liberal Protestants this has often led to a theology that ignores the idea of bodily sin completely. And for Evangelicals it has meant a total disregard for justice here, for peace now, and for the preservation of creation.

Yet, God created us as we are – here and now. Our bodies are not just empty containers. No, our bodies are part of God’s good creation. All that we are reflects the beauty of God, in whose image we are created. And this includes our bodies – all our bodies.

At death then, all of us, the totality of our identity dies. And all of us will rest in God’s loving embrace, protected from harm. Nothing of us will be lost. God will not forget us or abandon us to any form of destruction. And on the last day, when Jesus will come again, every part of our identity, including all of our bodily, emotional, mental, and spiritual facets will be raised to new life: a life deeply connected to our existence here, but a life void of pain and death. And then we will discover, how beautiful we really are. We will recognise the profound awesomeness of our own selves, even if in this world our bodies would not make an Abercrombie and Fitch-catalogue, even if our bodies in this world seemed to be scared by illness or age. Our eyes just do not see rightly right now. But in the resurrection to new life, we will see fully and we will be awed by who God created us to be.

How this will exactly happen, remains speculation.

And, yes, I know, some of you think: I am fooling myself and I am totally ignorant of the chemical and physical reality around me.

Trust me, I am not ignorant!

Bodies decompose, and not much is left – not to mention cremation or violent destruction.

So, how then will God raise us? How will there be new life from something that is connected to this rotting self?

I do not know.

C.S. Lewis once compared it to a waterfall: the waterfall will always be recognised in its uniqueness, even though millions of water molecules run through it constantly. Equally our bodies will be uniquely ours in the resurrection, even if the molecules will not be the same.

This might be a helpful metaphor. Still, this does not fully explain what will happen, which will remain a mystery, only for God to know right now.

However, a theology build on this biblical concept of who we are as human beings will impact how we go about our lives here and now. And it will reveal the profound and all-encompassing love of our God for you and for me and for all of creation, whoever we are and wherever we find ourselves on the journey – even here and now.

God’s focus and care is as much on this world as it is on life to come on a new earth. God affirmed this very existence in coming our way, in being born of our sister Mary, in becoming one of us, flesh of our flesh in Jesus Christ.

In the Beatitudes, which is today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus does not offer solely relief in an undefined future. But notice that the Beatitudes start with “Blessed are,” not with “Blessed will be.” This use of the present tense is a revelation of a reality here and now, rather than a hope for the future. As much as the Beatitudes are meant to console, they also invite us to discover and become part of God’s beauty and grace in those Jesus calls “blessed” – discover and become part of, here and now, in this present age.

In a similar fashion, our sacraments use material things to celebrate that God made us of flesh and blood. When we will pour water over Arash today, we will incorporate him into the body of Christ, which is more than a spiritual union. It is also a material union here and now, which will impact how Arash orients his life in this life.

It does indeed matter what we do with our bodies and to our bodies. And it also matters in a profoundly theological way, what we do to the bodies of others.

And I am not just talking about sexual and physical conduct here: The decision, for example, of the chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to evict the protestors of “Occupy London,” is not just a missed opportunity to engage these protestors productively. But it is also a huge theological snafu. It shows how some members of the church look at religion only as a spiritual discipline, not as something with implications for all that we are here and now. When corporate greed is violating the bodies of millions of our sisters and brothers, the body of Christ is violated too – and the church cannot just stand by idly.

“Christianity is a material religion.” Indeed!

This does, however, not mean that Christianity worships the material. The created must never rule our hearts and minds. Creation is still subject to the Creator.

But God is present in creation. God has not abandoned this world and all that is in it. And God will not subject this world and any part of creation to ultimate destruction. And therein lies our hope: Today. In our dying. In our death. And on the last day, when we all will be raised to new life.


[1] Duffy, Eamon: Sacred Bones & Blood; in: The New York Review, August 18, 2011, p. 66-68

[The Reverend Markus Dünzkofer delivered this sermon on November 6, 2011.]

Labyrinth at St. Paul’s – Day-long Event for Peace

Posted by ParishAdmin on November 4, 2011 under Webmaster Blog | Be the First to Comment

For Remembrance Day this coming Friday, November 11, the Labyrinth at St. Paul’s will be hosting a day-long event for peace, organized by Sandra Leigh of “Give Peace a Chant.”

The doors will open at 10:00 a.m.
Aboriginal elder Aline LaFlamme will give a blessing at 10:30 a.m.
Silence at 11:00 a.m., followed by the Vancouver Peace Choir.
Throughout the afternoon, there will be Tibetan crystal bowls, Buddhist chant, and kirtan (Indian call and response singing).
Regular second Friday Labyrinth walking to recorded music will take place from 7:00 to 9 p.m.

Half of the donations collected at this event will go the Advocacy Office at St. Paul’s.

See you there.

“Peggy, tell me about Jesus.”

Posted by admin on October 23, 2011 under Sermons | Be the First to Comment

It’s a rainy west coast afternoon.  We are sitting in the living room of Peggy’s high-rise apartment looking out at the spectacular view of the city.  I have come for a pastoral visit and to bring communion because Peggy has not been able to get to church for a while – she has been very sick.  Before we enter into prayer I ask her how things have been for her and she begins to tell me about the devastating form of cancer with which she has been struggling for some time, and the rather brutal treatment she is undergoing in hopes of curing it.  I look at her, expecting to see tears and sadness – instead I see she has a serene and beautiful expression. There is great joy in her eyes, and her face literally glows as she tells me of the grace in her life and the faith that has sustained her throughout her ordeal.  I have come thinking that I have something of great value to offer her, and find myself being ministered to in a profound way.  Through her pain and suffering she has made a deep connection to the incarnate Christ, whose own body was broken and disfigured on the cross, and I want to say to her, “Peggy, tell me about Jesus”…

Clinically speaking, she was a very ill woman and sadly to say, even the wonders of medical science would not cure her – she would succumb to her disease the following year.  But Peggy died a whole woman, healed by faith and the care of the many agents of God’s healing love who ministered to her in her final months:  among them the gifted and compassionate medical team who worked with her; the volunteers who picked her up and took her to treatments; her family members, friends and neighbours; and her faith community, who visited her and prayed with her and for her.

By the grace of God, Peggy became my teacher that day, sharing with me a valuable lesson on the difference between cure and healing.  Hers is a sacred story and one of many I have been privileged to hear over the years as I have pursued a call to a ministry of healing and reconciliation.  One of the ways I live that ministry out in the world today is through my vocation as the chaplain for St. Jude’s Anglican Home, and the Anglican chaplain at Vancouver General Hospital.  I have received specialized education and training to do this work, but my faith in God’s healing power and my understanding of how it is manifested in the world have been informed and deepened by Peggy and the many others, who have shared their wisdom and faith with me even as I ministered to them.

But my ministry, and indeed all healing, begins with that other sacred story:  the Good News of Jesus Christ as it is told in the four Gospel accounts, and as it is continuing to be told in the lives of those who follow him in faith.

Early in the Gospel of Luke “the beloved physician,” we hear that Jesus has returned to Galilee from his time in the desert where he was tempted by the devil.  On the Sabbath, he stands up in the Synagogue at Nazareth, and after reading from the Prophet Isaiah, declares that the sovereign reign of God has begun, “today,” in him.

Good news for a people who have waited with longing for a very long time for the fulfillment of God’s promises to their ancestors!  And initially, those who hear him are impressed, but as Jesus continues to explain the fuller implications of his words they become enraged and drive him out of town intending to throw him from a cliff.  Thus begins the journey that will eventually take him to Jerusalem and his death on a cross.

As he travels throughout the countryside, Jesus continues to teach and proclaim the good news that God’s Kingdom has come near.  And as a sign of that Kingdom, he heals the many people who come to him with diseases and afflictions that have made them outcasts in their society.  This is a world in which there is little compassion for the sick and those others who are marginalized for religious and social reasons.  The belief is that their condition is a sign that they have sinned and are being punished by God.  Because physical contact with such people can render one ritually unclean they are isolated from others and live outside the Covenant with God’s people.

In this context, Jesus does the unthinkable – he is moved with compassion by the suffering inflicted on them; he listens to them and reaches out to touch them in healing and love; he releases them from their debt of sin and welcomes them as God’s beloved children.

Regardless of the cure they seek, the healing the experience is in being restored to a right relationship with God and community.  Their outward situation has changed, but more importantly, they have been changed through an encounter with Jesus the Christ.

In a very real sense, illness or dis-ease, is the result of sin: when we turn away from God to do things in our own way and to suit our own needs; when we rely on our own gifts and abilities without acknowledging their source and their purpose; when we put ourselves at the centre of the universe – we are acting in sin, breaking that primary relationship with our Creator who lovingly formed us in her own image.  If God were truly to punish us for our sinning, few of us would escaped the ravages of terrible of affliction.  But the consequences of our sin can infect us, and everything we touch, with terrible results.

We speak of being ‘sick with worry,’ ‘frightened to death,’ ‘mad with grief.’  We see the broken lives that are the result of physical and mental abuse, of loneliness and neglect, of deprivation and excess.  Every day we are confronted in the news by the global issues of our broken relationships with our brothers and sisters in other places:  famine, poverty, pandemics, injustice, war…  Not even the beauty of creation is spared as we continue to plunder and pollute the earth, putting all life at risk.

Who are the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed in our context?  Who are the people who are the marginalized and social outcasts of our world?  And what is the Good News they are waiting to hear so that they might receive healing and wholeness through Christ?  The answer might seem obvious when we look at the need all around us, but I think that we all are marginalized in some way and are needing to be reminded of God’s love.  Being a sign of God’s healing in the world begins with the recognition of our own need to be healed.

God’s response to our brokenness – to our sin – is to be one with us in the person of Jesus.  To feel our pain and humiliation and to call us back into right relationship with God, community, and ourselves, so we might experience the Shalom of God, which is wholeness and peace in every aspect of our lives.

When Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love our neighbours as ourselves, he is speaking of the pathway to true health and wholeness – the way of salvation – and calling those of us who follow him, to continue his healing ministry in the world.  The word ‘salvation’ comes to us from the Latin word ‘salvatio’ which means to be made whole or sound.  Our salvation then, is not about following the rules of conduct so that we will go to heaven when we die.  It is about bing whole in all the relational aspects of ourselves: body, mind, spirit, community.  To have life, and have it abundantly.  But we cannot be saved if we are not actively engaged in a ministry of healing and reconciliation that invites others into this abundant life.  We are the vehicle through which God’s Good News is shared with those who are waiting for salvation.

Paul speaks of healing as being one of the gifts of the Spirit and it is true that some of us are called to exercise specific ministries of healing in the world.  We honour today the physicians and nurses, the pharmacists, counselors and thereapists amon us, who exercise the gifts God has given them to care for those who suffer from illness and affliction.  But the Church and those of us who are members of it, are meant to be a channel for God’s love and compassion to the whole world.  We are all called to be healers and reconcilers.  It is how we preach the Good News and live out our lives as a sign of God’s reign on earth.  To be an agent of wholeness and health is not dependent on age, or social status, or education – it depends only on God’s power working in us and through us to do “more than we can ask or imagine.”

Jesus’ ability to channel the power of God’s healing love sprang from his intimacy with God.  In all of the gospel accounts we see him as someone with intimate familiarity with scripture; as one who prayed with regularity; and was involved in the worship life of the community.  Our roles as instruments of healing also benefit from cultivating intimacy with God through a disciplined life of prayer, scripture readin, and worship in community, that deepens our faith and helps us to let go of control so that God’s Spirit can animate our gifts and help us discern their best use.

I remember a colleague saying that when she was watching a hockey game on television, she noticed a man in the crowd holding up a sign that read:  John 3:16.  Now we know that this verse is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  Few of us would dispute the fact that this is Good News for Christians, and both comforting and reassuring to those of us who know to what the sign is referring, but totally meaningless and of no value to anyone else.

 Edward Markquart states in Witnesses for Christ:  “The Gospel is always related to human need.  It is never truth in a vacuum, a theologically true statement which may or may not relate to one’s life. The Gospel is God’s truth, God’s message, God’s action, God’s word to a particular person, to a particular need, to a particular historical situation.” (pg 69, student book)

So how do we proclaim the good News today?

We begin by acknowledging our own brokenness.

We claim the profound and unconditional love God offers us in Jesus Christ.

We study, worship pray.  We pay attention to the people God puts in our path.

Francis of Assissi said “Proclaim the Gospel at all times – use words if necessary.”

My brothers and sisters, today the Spirit of the Lord God is upon us all.  Thanks be to God – Shalom.

[The Reverend Trudi Shaw, chaplain at St. Paul's Hospital, delivered this sermon on the Feast of St. Luke, October 23, 2011]

ALL SOULS’ DAY

Posted by ParishAdmin on October 22, 2011 under Labyrinth, Webmaster Blog | Be the First to Comment

ALL SOULS’ DAY

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Since the 10th century the Church has observed 2 November as a day for remembering the departed, especially our family members, our friends, our mentors, our ancestors, our loved ones, all those who have given our lives meaning but whom we see no longer.

At St Paul’s we are planning a number of events that will allow the commemoration of those we love, but see no more and that will honour the Creator as Lord of the living and the dead, who enwraps us in motherly love even in death.

In the Labyrinth there will be an evening walk from 7:00pm to  9:00pm. It is as an opportunity for you to honour and remember those who have been an important part of your life.  For many of us there have been figures whose significance to us we have only in later years begun to understand or those to whom we were never properly able to express our feelings.  This is a time in which to re-encounter them in our hearts.

Perhaps with some it is time at last to make peace.

There will be a space available in which to place a photograph or a small remembrance while you walk.

Come and join us on the evening in which these two worlds draw near to one another, as on no other occasion.

7-9pm in the Labyrinth

World AIDS Day Walk – Nov 30

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World AIDS Day Walk – Nov 30

World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1 each year around the world. It has become one of the most recognized international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.

St. Paul’s will host an evening of remembrance and celebration commemorating World Aids Day with a contemplative walk on the Labyrinth.

Date:        30 November 2011

Time:      7-9pm

1130 Jervis Street, Vancouver, BC | 604.685.6832 | email St. Paul's Anglican Church

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