Rivers of Prevenient Grace

February 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

This was as sermonette I preached this morning at Chapel at Trinity College at the University of Toronto. The scripture text in reference is Genesis 2:4b-17 which you can find here.

Also, I would like to share with you a link to Fleming Rutledge’s book I referenced within. Well, more like the front page of her website which is filled with its well-deserved accolades!

In Christ,

Andrew


May only Truth be Spoken and only Truth Received. Amen.

I would like to do a very quick recap of this morning’s Old Testament reading.

In the day the Lord created the earth, there was nothing on it, not a tree for shade or a herb for flavour. God had caused no rain, but a mist came up from the earth and watered the ground. Then, God created man and breathed life into him. Then, God planted a garden and caused trees for shade and herbs to flavour all of its food. In the midst of the garden there was the tree of Knowledge.

Then we have a little aside, a geography lesson, a river from out of Eden, flowed into the Garden of Eden, it separated in four and flowed out of it, to what the ancient authors of Genesis would have considered the whole of creation.

Then we go back, the Lord took man and placed him in the Garden, and told him not to eat of the tree of knowledge… and we all know how that ends up.

The lectionary for this morning asked us to skip the little geography lesson, but while reading and meditating on this scripture it was the bit that jumped out at me because it seems to make very little contextual sense. Prior to it, we have a creation narrative speaking of a world without rain, one which we know simply could not exist, then we are presented with four identified rivers two of which we can still go swimming in. And then back to the creation narrative… if my Old Testament has taught me anything, it is that these oddities are not here by accident.

What then might be going on here?

Well, the author has made two things very clear. First, man was created before the garden, and it is actually stated twice that God placed him into the garden after it was planted. Second, the river is coming to the garden from outside of Eden. So both man and the river are founded outside of the garden before their entering.

From here the river, after watering the garden, divides and goes forth to water the rest of the world. The world is nourished with water that has passed through paradise, the place where God walked with Eve and Adam. The world is nourished with water that has passed through the most Hallowed of Holy ground.

But, it is, indeed, the case that the water leaves the garden. And we find it also that Adam and Eve leave the garden… and in much the same fashion… the river entered the garden as one and left as four. Man entered as one and left as two.

And yet, we have not read about to Adam and Eve’s departure from the garden yet.

Am I trying to say that we actually find in the Word of God a prediction that humanity will fall from grace and we really had no shot from the beginning?

No,

What I think what is going on here is a concept that Fleming Rutledge is trying to recover is her latest book The Crucifixion of -Prevenience-. I Quote, “We need to recover the word prevenient because no other word or phrase captures so well the essential fact about Grace: it prevenes (goes before), or precedes, recognition of sin…”(p168) later she goes further and says “at the risk of over simplifying, for Paul the sequence is not sin-repentance-grace-forgiveness, but grace-sin-deliverance-repentance-grace. Grace drives the sequence from first to last.”(p192)

So what does this have to do with our rivers? The rivers, though having left paradise, are still the fundamental nourishment for the whole world. God does not leave God’s creations which He as deemed very good be over taken over by the power of sin and death. These rivers are nourishing the world.  Without them, the world would be parched and be of no use. They are not tainted. They are outside of the garden and yet still redeemed. They are a symbol of God’s prevenient Grace.

If we say that God’s Grace is infinite, then it has no beginning or no end… whereas, creation, has a beginning, and it has a culmination… it would only make sense that we would find evidence in our Holy Scriptures of Grace preceding our sin by the simple fact that it came before. “grace-sin-deliverance-repentance-grace.”

Amen

Eco Friendly Planting

May 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

Basil to go!

basilcup

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening recently. It is the season for plant starts and the mad rush is on to get everything in the ground ready for summer. Gardening on a budget sometimes forces you to be creative, and that’s what spurred on this little idea.

Here is a simple way to recycle your used coffee/tea cups into plant pots in 5 easy steps:

  1. Give the cup a good rinse and remove any residual coffee/tea bits.
  2. Poke several holes in the bottom of the cup to allow for proper drainage.
  3. Fill with whatever loose airy soil you can get your hands on. Ideally you would use a sterile organic potting mix (Black Gold, ProMix, etc..)
  4. Place 2 seeds (incase one doesn’t sprout) on top of the soil and sprinkle a fine dusting of soil over top.
  5. Give it a good ol drink of water and place in a warm area in the dark.

Once the seeds start poking through the soil make sure you place the cup in a sunny window. This has worked exceptionally well for me. There is enough soil in a coffee cup to give the plant a good start before being transplanted into the main garden. Alternatively you can grow the plant to full maturity inside the coffee cup. This is ideal for shallow rooting plants, but not recommended for deep rooting species like tomatoes or carrots etc..

Have fun!

  • King Edward

 

Tread Lightly: Gospel and Climate Change

May 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

Hello Everyone,

I was asked to preach a sermon on climate change a while ago. I was inspired to post it today. This is not something I would opt to do myself for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. Alas, I am happy to have thought through how the gospel speaks into climate change. I hope you find the gospel here. And as always…

May only truth be spoken, and only truth received.

There is a temptation when talking about climate change to use shock, awe, disbelief, guilt, pessimism to try to get us to change our ways. How many times have we heard, we need to get our climate change ducks in a row so our children and grandchildren don’t have to live with the consequences.

The thing is, it was this fear based motivation that got us here in the first place. Even though the past hundred plus years have seen the most incredible growth humankind had ever seen, it was never enough. Instead of a culture of plenty we ended up with a mindset of scarcity. And when we feel like things are scarce we grasp at whatever we can get our hands on. But things were not scarce, there was more money, more food, more everything than ever before. And yet we felt like if our neighbour had more we did, we not have enough. We were afraid of looking like we might not be as well off as the Jones. It was the fear of not keeping up with the Joneses that got us to where we are.

I’m sure we have all heard before that the definition is insane is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, I think this is where we stand with climate change. Instead of using fear of our children’s future as a kind of motivator, why not question whether we need to be motivated at all.

How about our psalm today? Psalm 85 verse 10: “Faithfulness will spring from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.” Faithfulness will spring up from the ground. This is the most heartening statements I have ever read. What does it mean that faithfulness will spring up from the ground? Well, there is the worldly way of looking at it and saying, whatever we are faithful to is what will come from the ground. There is plenty of evidence for that around us.

In preparing for this sermon, I watched a documentary about plastic… and how much of it ends up in our oceans. The documentary was scary… there is an incredible about of plastic in our oceans… I mean a truly staggering amount. I think if we looked at this we could say we are all faithful to our use of plastic. There is probably not one of us that has not used plastic in one way or another today. And so we find our evidence. We are faithful to our plastic and it is indeed springing up from the waters.

Thankfully the Bible is not a book that is about us. It is not as the popular acronyms might have it, as Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. It is first and foremost a book about God. The psalmist knew this. And so, if the Psalms are about God and not us… what does our psalm tell us. “Faithfulness will spring up from the ground and righteousness will look down from the sky.”

If it, the bible, is about God, then it is not our faithfulness that is doing the springing up… But God’s.

It’s on God’s faithfulness that we are here today. God was faithful taking in taking His people out or Egypt. Faithful in raining down manna from heaven, faithful in fulfilling all the scriptures in the Life of Jesus, faithful in raising Him from the dead, faithful in releasing us from the Power of Sin even though it was at the cost of His Son.

We see God’s faithfulness springing up around us, all over. The battlefields of the world wars are now covered with grass, trees, and flowers. They are now a place of learning and healing. Our faithfulness on those battlefields was to death… but God’s is to Life.

That’s the point. Our faithfulness is always changing. When we learn from our mistakes our faithfulness turns from what was destructive to something life-giving, like the battlefields. When we see the atrocities we have committed for what they are, and turn from them, God will always be there to turn us back towards Godself and then remind us that He is God.

God is faithful to life and love. But more than that, God is eternally faithful to life and love. He will never get tired of cleaning up after our mess. Because it is in that cleaning up that we see the majesty and love of God that brings more and more people into relationship with Him. And that’s all God wants. There are graphics out showing there you how long it takes to breakdown different consumer products… it features plastic products that take 500 years to degrade. That is a long time… none of us will ever see the final degradation of the first piece of this featured plastic. But God, eternal, will see the last piece of this plastic degrade and whatever garbage we manage to come up with before we figure it out. Before we figure out how to be good to our planet again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to belittle the fact that we need to take better care of our planet… not at all. I am just trying to put it into a Gospel perspective. God’s plan, is the Kingdom of God here on earth. Where everything will be the way God intended it. And we need to remind ourselves that if this is the plan of the One who created the whole universe, we can have faith that it will come to pass.

So where does that place us in this story if we can be confident that the kingdom will come indeed? Should we be doing better? Of course, but not because we have been scared into it. But because by the Power of God, it is already on its way: Believe it, or not.

We have seen time and time again that when we align our will with the Will of God good things happen. When we align ourselves and actions with the Will of God we catch glimpses of the Kingdom breaking in here and now. When the kingdom breaks in, the life and love of God become tangible even if only for a fleeting moment.

Climate change is real, its problems are real. We are blessed to be able to be the new home for thousands of Syrian refugees who are the very image of this reality and its severity. Is it something we need do something about? Absolutely. Can we afford to ignore it? Not if we claim to care about anything or anyone… not while we claim to be Christians. Christ aligned His will with the Will of God and saved the whole of creation. As Christians, followers of Christ, ones who are to be Christ-like, it is upon us to align our will with the Will of God.

That is a huge claim, and a huge weight to place on our shoulders, it’s one we have placed there ourselves. But thankfully God knows us, and knows that we will buckle under the weight of such burdens, and so He has said to us “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Where there is burden, there is God. Where there is God, there is a promise.

We have a huge burden in changing our ways to propely respect our planet. It is almost certainly bigger than we can fathom. But we may rest easy it also rests upon the shoulders of The Lord Almighty, and if God is for it who can be against it?

Amen

Good Friday Reflection on the Crucifixion

March 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

**Wordpress would just not format this post into paragraphs… “–” Represents a paragraph break. Sorry**

Upon the cross is nailed our whole Christian faith. I decided to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. These are the words of Saint Paul. It seems like, as far as Paul is concerned, we could decide to know nothing else about our faith other than Christ and Him crucified and that would be enough to be one with the Father.– Holy Week is the week were force ourselves to turn our eyes towards the cross. It is right now with this reading here that the cross is right in front of us. — Christ and Him Crucified Christ – the anointed one – the messiah – the king of the Jews – God with us. God, the one through whom all things were made. Jesus one of the persons of the Holy Trinity – that is Lord of all – was crucified.–  That’s the first piece of what we need to know. The second piece is that Christ was crucified. — Crucified – we are too far removed from Jesus day and age to truly understand the magnitude of what the crucifixion actually meant. The closest thing in recent memory that resembles the crucifixion would be the lynchings in the southern states. It was not a simple act of taking someone’s life. It was the stripping away one’s humanity. — Crucifixion, believe it or not, was actually worse than being lynched. When one was lynched they died at the hand of their murder’s. That is not the case with being crucified. People who hung on a Holy Week is the week were force ourselves to turn our eyes towards the cross. It is right now with this reading here that the cross is right in front of us. Christ and Him Crucified Christ – the anointed one – the messiah – the king of the Jews – God with us. God, the one through whom all things were made. Jesus one of the persons of the Holy Trinity – that is Lord of all – was crucified. That’s the first piece of what we need to know. The second piece is that Christ was crucified. Crucified – we are too far removed from Jesus day and age to truly understand the magnitude of what the crucifixion actually meant. The closest thing in recent memory that resembles the crucifixion would be the lynchings in the southern states. It was not a simple act of taking someone’s life. It was the stripping away one’s humanity. Crucifixion, believe it or not, was actually worse than being lynched. When one was lynched they died at the hand of their murder’s. That is not the case with being crucified. People who hung on a Christ and Him Crucified Christ – the anointed one – the messiah – the king of the Jews – God with us. God, the one through whom all things were made. Jesus one of the persons of the Holy Trinity – that is Lord of all – was crucified. That’s the first piece of what we need to know. The second piece is that Christ was crucified. Crucified – we are too far removed from Jesus day and age to truly understand the magnitude of what the crucifixion actually meant. The closest thing in recent memory that resembles the crucifixion would be the lynchings in the southern states. It was not a simple act of taking someone’s life. It was the stripping away one’s humanity. Crucifixion, believe it or not, was actually worse than being lynched. When one was lynched they died at the hand of their murder’s. That is not the case with being crucified. People who hung on a cross, did not die from loss of blood or anything like that, they died of suffocation, due to not being able to relieve the pressure on their lungs by holding their body up using their feet that had nails through them. — They were going to die one way or another – but it was by their own decision to let go – that they did so. — Jesus stripped of his humanity “bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” It was literally a giving up. The way one died on the cross was giving up. — So when we say Jesus gave up his life on the cross to redeem us to the Father, we need to know that it was totally by His own decision from the very beginning right to the very very very end. — Jesus Christ – the anointed one – the messiah – the king of the Jews – God with us. God, the one through whom all things were made. Jesus one of the persons of the Holy Trinity – that is Lord of all. Gave up His life is the most abhorrent way possible in all of history – so that we could be free from sin, and one with Himself. Because that’s all He ever desired. — Christ and Him Crucified.

Go Do It vs Just Do It

March 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

King, of King and Saint, remarked to me the irony of the last sentence of his last post and the title of my which follows right below. “Go Do It!” followed by “The temptations of Just Do It” After going back re-read his article I found there to be less irony than if first apparent, furthermore, I think there the agree with and compliment each other in quite a wonderful way.

The thrust of King’s article is that with inspiration we might find ourselves encouraged to go do what it is that we feel inspired to do. This message is followed by a story of somewhat of a dry spell in creative inspiration. So, King opted not to do overtly creative things. Had he done so he would have just been doing them for the sake of doing them. This is precisely what my sermon warned against. Just doing things for the sake of doing them might lead one to an autopilot kind of life. Lord help us if we switch on to autopilot and miss all the beautiful things of creation that surround us because we were just doing something.

Go do it is a beautiful compliment to don’t just do it because it pushes back again the risk of not doing something because you end up thinking and thinking about it over and over. Life is in movement over the waters.

Surely it is not either or. It is, as is everything, always a balancing act. Nothing will ever be just doing or just go doing. It will always be a mix of just and go… and so it should be.

Do something or don’t,

God Bless,

-Saint

 

 

Creative Accessibility

February 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

Last week I had a dream. This dream did not involve anything far fetched, it was not located anywhere particularly special, and it did not strike me as important… until I woke up. It was actually about 1 minute after I woke up that I realized this may be the most important dream that I’ve ever had. It went a little something like this…

Part 1 – I find myself wandering the streets in some mossy cobblestone European town. I find myself approaching a bus stop and I think about jumping on a bus to head home. As I arrive at the bus stop my feet keep moving and I continue on down this mossy cobblestone street. For some reason I stop in front of a 3 storey building which looks to be hundreds of years old. This building is constructed from large grey stones and has a staircase much like an old castle that leads you to the top. Upon reaching the top there is an old black iron gate which swings open revealing an outdoor gallery or sculpture garden of some kind. This is where it gets interesting.

Part 2 – As I look around I see what I believe to be Tiffany lamps and very intricately sculpted art nouveau metalwork wrapping around blown glass sculptures. No signatures, no signs, no idea who this unknown artist is. I think to myself “wow this stuff must be priceless and it’s all just sitting up here exposed to the elements!” This is when I woke up, and this is when it became even more interesting.

Part 3 – My alarm is ringing. Its 6:50am. Time to get ready for work. I get up and head to the bathroom. I take a sip of water and then EVERYTHING changed. This was the moment that I realized I had never seen any of those sculptures in real life before. I’ve seen Tiffany stained glass windows in person, but never lamps, and certainly not as intricate and large as the ones I had just experienced in my dream. I’ve never seen metalwork like that, and I’ve definitely never seen metalwork like that wrapped around large pieces of blown glass. I’VE NEVER SEEN IT! I’VE NEVER SEEN IT! I MADE IT UP!

Part 4  (The important conclusion and making sense part) – These magnificent and beautiful works of art were all created by my brain in a matter of minutes while I was sleeping. They were all meticulously detailed and finished to a degree of what seemed like museum quality priceless works of art. So why haven’t I made something like this in real life. What is stopping me from accessing this information. I am apparently capable of visualizing this kind of work, the only thing I have to do is take it from up here (points to brain area) and put it out here (points to empty desk). This realization really shook me up. It really really shook me up. To create something like what I visualized in my dream I need a set of skills. I can get those skills locally through a variety of specialized classes. The dream can be a reality.

I think this can apply to anything, and it’s very cliche and lame but here’s a Walt Disney quote for you to puke on:

“If you can dream it, you can do it” -Walt Disney

GO DO IT!

The Temptation of “Just Do It”

February 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

Hello Everyone,

Here is the sermon I preached on the First Sunday of Lent. It is on the Temptations of Jesus in the wilderness… If you’d like to listen to it rather than read it the audio is right here: https://soundcloud.com/saint_william/thetemptationofjesussermon


 

May only Truth Be Spoken and Only Truth Received

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ” If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, ‘man shall not live on bread alone.'”

This is the first temptation of Jesus.

And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said ” To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him “It is written ‘ you shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’ ”

This is the second temptation of Jesus.

I’d like to pause here before we move on to the third temptation and spend some time with these two.

From the first temptation… “when they [the forty days] were ended… the devil said to him… command this stone to become bread” And Jesus said, No!

Hold on a second… the forty days were over! Jesus’ fast was over. He could, if he had chosen, eaten anything he wanted because his fast was over! And yet, Jesus knew this recommendation from the devil was a temptation… but how could it have been a temptation, if it was after his time of fasting and he was free to eat what he chose?

Think of this more as a symbolic temptation. The first thing the devil did here on earth was tempt Adam and Eve into eating. This resistance, even though it was well with His discipline, was a sign of what Jesus was planning to do to the rest of the Devil’s Power.

Again, Jesus is God, Jesus is the One through whom all things were made. Jesus already had authority and glory from all the Kingdom’s that the devil had just taken a moment to show him. How is this a temptation? Well, because Jesus came to earth to Die on the Cross to redeem you and I back to God. If Jesus had taken this temptation, the people of Jerusalem would never have crucified Him because they would be under His authority. Jesus could have simply issued the decree, feed the poor, and take care of the widows… and it might have happened. But that would have left the Power Sin in control because death would remain undefeated. This temptation was the ability to avoid the cross.

The third temptation.

“And he took him to Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, He will give you his angels charge of you, to guard you, and on their hand they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”

This temptation is different. The other two sounded like this, why not satisfy your hunger, your fast is over? And Why not avoid the most deplorable death imaginable while also gaining the power to do all the good you ever want to do?

This temptation is different it sounds like “you think your so high and mighty? Prove it! ” And Jesus said No.

As of last Wednesday, we have found ourselves in the season of Lent. Some of us are in the process of building up a Rule of Life as a Lenten discipline, and others have adopted a shared rule in the Lenten experiment. Some of us have decided to take up a personal discipline. Or like Rachel and I did a few years ago, we took lent off for Lent. Meaning the time leading up to Lent had been desert and wilderness enough, and we were just coming out of it. The last thing we needed was to dive back in… it would have been too soon.

No matter what discipline you have adopted, or even if you haven’t adopted one, temptation will make itself known to you more clearly during these next forty days by the simple fact that we are talking about it now.

And so I’ll ask the question that feels like it is begging to be asked at this moment. Who among us could resist the temptations we just heard offered to Jesus.The Bible tells us no less that thirteen times that all things are possible with God.

Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’

“So would we be able to resist the temptations of eating when it is within our rights, and yet still a sin, to skip over death and wield incredible power, and prove our enemies wrong when provoked? Well, yes.

But I think if that the story we are telling here, well, I’d like to quote my priest from back home… in Winnipeg. “Talk about adventures in missing the point” Jesus has given us the perfect template by which we might model our future encounters with temptation. But the catch is, as much as it is in-fact possible… it is not required.

Did you get that? As much as it is possible… it is not required of us. But more than that, not only is it not required, it is not even what God wants from us. All God wants from us is that we desire to draw nearer to Him. And so if resisting temptation will draw us nearer to God, which don’t get me wrong I certainly think it can, then it is what God wants from us. But, if we are doing it in the name of God, for the wrong reasons, which ultimately, is any reason other than drawing nearer to God, then forget it… we’re being no better than the pharisee’s praying their loud prayers out on the street corners, so that everyone can see how righteous they are.

Sorry, that last bit was me getting sidetracked at breakfast this morning… back to requirements As much as it is in-fact possible… it is not required.

It was once required, however… we were all enslaved to the Power of Sin along with that God gave us a Law that told us what we NEEDED to do to make ourselves right before God. We needed to do it; it was required. The whole book of Leviticus is full of laws for us to follow so that we could be seen as worthy in God’s eyes. But the problem was that even when we brought that perfect lamb to be sacrificed for our sins, most likely later that very day sin would work it’s way back into our lives, and we’d need to go back and do it all over again.

But that’s all over. All of that ended the day Jesus died on the Cross. Jesus lived a perfect life, He satisfied every law, resisted every temptation, everything that God required of humankind was satisfied in the life and death of Jesus.

And when I say everything, I don’t mean everything but… So, when the temptation to sleep comes, when it is time to pray in the morning when we have committed ourselves, and we give in to that temptation… I mean everything has been satisfied by the life and death of Jesus, I don’t mean everything except for morning prayer at 7:30. I mean everything including our inevitable failure to share our faith, tithe, pray at 7:30, attend Sunday worship, the extra meeting to talk about how things are going, fail to follow through on our own designed rule, to have that piece of chocolate or cup of coffee on a Tuesday even though we gave it up for Lent.

Well, I feel like there is another question begging to be asked at this point. Why bother doing any of this at all? If it’s not, because we should? When what is it?

It is because we can, but do not have to! Again, it is because we can, but we do not have to. We have been given the freedom to take Lent off for Lent if need be.

Our prayer at 7:30 is because we can choose to, our tithing is because we can opt in, our Sunday worship is because we want to be there, our sharing of faith is because the opportunity presented itself, our attending the extra gathering is because we want to share God’s movement in our lives.

On the other hand, if we choose not to, don’t opt in, don’t want to be there, the opportunity does not present itself, or don’t feel like sharing… that doesn’t change a thing.

And so, when temptation is staring us in the face this Lent, and we give in, because we will… don’t think about how we failed, because “with God all things are possible.” Think about the resurrected Jesus making His disciples breakfast on the shore right after they had just rejected him at the crucifixion.

And when the devil is tempting you to sleep-in past morning prayer, and by the Grace of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit, you mumble your way through the prayers, and fall right back asleep. Don’t think about how you had to do it, or else. Think about Jesus making his disciples breakfast on the shore right after they rejected him at the crucifixion, and how glad you are to have spent that time with the One, who would have loved you anyways.

Amen.