Hope from a Garden

November 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Hello Everyone,

Here is the sermon I preached last Sunday in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Gospel reading was disturbingly fitting, I knew I was going to be preaching about hope in a broken world for a couple of weeks… but none of us knew how close to home that would really feel.

Here is the Gospel reading, Mark 13:1-8, that the sermon is based on.
The audio of the sermon can be found here on my SoundCloud.

May your find hope in God’s word today.

Amen

 


Hope from a Garden

May only truth be spoken and only truth received. Amen

I’d like to repeat a little bit of today’s Gospel reading”

“But the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.” The word of the Lord

And then we answered, “thanks be to God” Thanks be to God. Who here flinched a little at our answer of “Thanks be to God” responding to a reading telling us that war is only the beginning of the pangs that we can expect.

I have been thinking about this sermon for a few weeks now, and the two words that continue to draw me to them are not actually in the bulletin, what is written is from the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) and says “but the end is still to come” in the bible that I use, the RSV, (Revised Standard Version) it has been translated as “but the end is not yet.” I really like both of these because even though they are saying the same thing, there is a power in the ‘not yet’ that really moves us to understand that not yet actually means, but soon. And the still to come eases us in the moment, it not so immediate and so encourages us to realize that, even through the deep brokenness that we are living through, there is still hope to be found.

And yet, This is only the beginning of Jesus’ warning to his disciples, he warns them that the road they are about to travel will persecute them for the good news that they bring. To take up where our reading left off… “But take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Mk 2:9-13 [RSV])

What could possibly be worth it to these disciples, after hearing of all of these extraordinary, and the are extraordinary, after hearing of all of these extraordinary hostilities and struggles that have been all but guaranteed to them.

It is precisely because the end is not yet, and yet, and yet they know that the end is coming. They know that the end to all war, all sickness, all death, is coming because Jesus, the one who raised from the dead said the end of all of those this is indeed coming.

But wait, if they know everything will be alright in the end, what’s the point of all this spreading the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God where everything will be sunshine and roses and carrots? Because it is not yet.

The disciples knew, by the very words of the man who rose from the dead, that there is hope. And it is that hope that made them do it.

Where do we find hope? I know of a place nearby. We here at Epiphany and Saint Mark find hope in our community garden. This year our gardening volunteers went out to the plot across the street, loosened the soil, planted seeds, and seedlings knowing that by the end of the year many of the hungry here in Parkdale

will have been fed by their efforts.

Imagine for one moment if they didn’t have hope that the tomatoes would grow, the beans would climb, and the squash would sprawl. Would they have gone to loosen the soil and plant the seeds?

Of course not, if they had no hope, what would be the point?

So back to our disciples, who have just been told they would surely be beaten for the Good News they wanted to share. What hope did they have that animated them, in the same way that feeding the hungry animates our community gardeners? They knew peace. They knew peace in a world where there is no peace. They knew that the end, the end of war and hunger and death, is coming. This is their hope.

Now the same way that we could not imagine our gardeners planting if they had no hope. Could we imagine them NOT planting, and working tirelessly, if they had the smallest bit of hope that their work could bring food to the hungry? Of course not! Even the smallest shred of hope animates them to move.

You see, it’s not the will of our gardeners or the disciples that drive them to go out. Because it if were our wills we would most certainly fail. No, it’s not our will, it’s Father’s will aligned with the life of Jesus that gives the gift of hope that has He won for us on the cross; The defeating of last enemy, death.

Here, a quote from the Reverend Mrs. Fleming Rutledge to help us illuminate what happened on the cross.

“It is important to understand that we do not see in the cross a wrathful Father doing something terrible to an innocent son. Nothing could be further from the truth of what is going on in the garden of Gethsemane and on Calvary. What we see is that Jesus, the representative of man, our substitute, not only shows us how human will aligns its will with God’s will, but also makes it happen, in his own person; and then, in the greatest act of love that has ever taken place, he gives his own person to us.The death of Jesus on the Cross is the Father and the Son acting together, with one will, for one purpose — to deliver you and me from the condemnation that the Son of God bore away from us ”

{Here is my favourite part} Jesus, God, the one who won our freedom from sin on the Cross, has said to us, the end of the reign of sin and death is coming. All things will be made new, hope will be fulfilled, there will be, there is peace. It is our gardeners, as disciples, that show us that the Kingdom of God is here now. The enveloping peace that we knew in the Garden of Eden, and will know in the culmination of time, we can, we do know right now. With each fulfilling bowl of soup brought to the hungry, through the hope that tended the garden, we experience a flash of the peace of the Kingdom not yet fully arrived.

It is by the real moments of peace brought to others, through the hope that could have only been won on the cross, that we can go out into a world where nation rising against nation is only beginning of the birth pangs of the all-consuming peace that is to come, and see the point in planting a garden.

And so, our “Thanks be to God” is not for the beginnings of birth pangs, it is for the not yet and the still to come, and for that we just can’t help but give thanks

Amen

A Sermon Illuminating a Stained Glass Window

November 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Hello Everyone,

As some of you know I have begun my foray into preaching. This is my first sermon from this summer that is illuminating the meaning of one of the stained glass windows at the Church that I go to in Toronto: Epiphany and Saint Mark. I have provided a link to a Soundcloud site where you can listen to it. Or if you’d rather I have provided the full text below for your reading pleasure.

I have struggled to get the SoundCloud working, but this morning fought it out and made it work. I’ll be posting in the next couple of days the sermon that I preached yesterday which, even though it does not refer directly to the tragedy the struck Paris on Friday evening, it does speak directly to it; but there is a little more to say about that when we get there.

Alas, since this is my first sermon, and it’s a rather pleasant one, I figured I would start at the beginning and make my usual turn signal-less veering off from there.

The text which the window is based, the story of the Woman at the Well, on is in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John and can be found here.

And Right Here is where you’ll find the link to hear the sermon on SoundCloud.

And Below is the full text for the sermon if you’d rather read it.

I hope you enjoy!


May only Truth be Spoken and only Truth Received,

Amen

Good Morning Everyone,

First of al,l I’d like to express my thanks for being invited up here to share the pulpit with such extraordinary preachers and people such as Father Stephen, and the rest of the clergy team, along with all of the priests and preachers of this place that I have heard quite a lot about.

I quick word about myself just so you know a little bit about me and have some of my context. First of all you’ve seen me around, mostly attached to your beautiful music director, sometimes playing trumpet although not for a while, and recently doing some of the liturgical dance up at the altar. Rachel and I have joined you here at Epiphany and St Mark’s because I am in school doing a masters of divinity degree at Trinity college. I was raised up a good catholic, left church for 8-9 years, came back to a Jamaican Apostolic church for about two years, and finally settled in a thriving Anglican congregation in Winnipeg around 9 years ago… and now, I am blessed to be here. All of that being said Stephen has asked me to preach on a couple of the windows in our summer window series.

This morning, we are turning our attention to one of my favorite stories in all of the gospel: the Woman at the Well. The scripture reading this morning tells us the whole of this story. From Jesus making by His way to the well, straight through to when the woman runs off to tell the world Christ has come. However, the window that lights our sanctuary highlights one particular moment of this story. It’s one we all have a connection to week in a week out: Standing for the Gospel

Why We Stand for the Gospel

Does anyone know why we stand as the gospel is being read each week? We stand and turn as it is coming down the aisle, and turn ourselves towards it to witness the Word of God being uttered by a reader. Is it something a kin to standing up when someone of higher rank than us walks into a room as to show respect? I mean, what more than the very Word of God deserves it?

This, however, as you may have already guessed, is not exactly the opinion I find most convincing. At my church in Winnipeg our priest would, about once a year or so, depending on when he thought the congregation needed a little reminder, preach a sermon called ‘why we do what we do.’ It went through each action and song of the liturgy and illuminated its history, meaning, and significance. My priest in Winnipeg’s interpretation of our standing is a little bit more dynamic than standing at attention for rank or royalty. He hold’s that we stand so that if the Word of God, the Gospel, grips one of us, we will be ready to move, literally move, to run out of the church and do the bidding of the Holy Spirit.

A recap of the story of the Woman at the well: a woman meets Jesus, listens to His words, after a moment of dialog and misunderstanding, everything clicks, and she runs off to spread the Good news. It is the moment of *this woman’s misunderstanding and then her revelation* that lights our sanctuary.

Again, with a little more detail: In the midst of her daily grind a Samaritan woman walks up to a well… day in and day out she comes here to draw water that she might drink and give drink. To cook and to clean. Feed her family and her animals… All of a sudden a man who she’s never met before offers her a gift: a quite unbelievable gift. Might I just set the stage of how this offer could have sounded to this particular woman … a woman who had already had five husbands. “Hey pretty lady, I’ve got something you don’t have and I know you’ll love it. I’ll make you my queen, I’ll shower you with riches, I’ll make your life perfect, I’ll make it so you never want for anything ever again.” Chances are good that she might’ve heard something like this before.

Jesus offered her the gift of the spring of water welling up to eternal life. He tells her that if she drinks of the water that He is offering- she shall never thirst again. (This is the scripture that we find below the image) This is over and above anything she would have heard before. It had to have been, it sound like one of those things you just can’t make up. It’s no wonder that she misses the point.

John 4:15 “The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

(let me repeat that past part) Nor come here to draw? Apparently, she thinks that if she drinks the water that Jesus has to offer it will quench her physical thirst. On top of that, she will not have to make her sojourn to Jacob’s well everyday that she might be able to wash her dishes… to water her animals… to bathe… talk about adventures in missing the point. “You shall never thirst again, ” said Jesus… and all of a sudden the dishes are doing themselves.

She… we… must misinterpret this. We just don’t have the ability to comprehend.

And so, what else could she have done but engage? after all she hadn’t got her water yet so she couldn’t just leave… In what manner she did so was irrelevant, sarcastically, piously, scornfully… there was no best way then, and no best way now. That we do, engage, is all that matters. When we engage with The Word, it will always respond in one way or another, and it will always ask the very same question… do you love me?

In this case, that question sounded like: “Go call your husband and come here.”

Not sounding like a question at first, this statement pierced right to very core of her. The whole of her. It was a was not a question from Jesus to the woman, but rather an exposure so keen to her essence that she saw herself in a way she had never seen before. And now that it was laid so bare in front of her, she was forced to ask herself if that is who she wanted to be… It would seem that what she saw revealed at the moment shook her enough that it caused a change inside of her.

Here we find the fork in the road, [per say] How many people did Jesus talk to that did not turn to follow Him in the same way? I’ll be honest, I didn’t count, nor did I do a google search, but I know it’s at least a few… Why is it that those people did not end up turning in the same way as the woman at the well? Were Jesus’ questions any less piercing or revealing? I should think not, He could then be accused of favoritism if He had… and we’re all, every last one of us, His very favourite so that simply can’t be the case.

So why didn’t they turn? We simply cannot know. There could be any number of reasons, all of which are well beyond our speculative abilities, so best not to speculate. All I do know is that when this woman was pieced by The Gospel: it changed her.

This is the moment we see in our window. We see the moment of her change.(let take a closer look at it) Jesus is the one talking, she is intently listening without any hint of skepticism, and most importantly her left hand is holding up her dress so to uncover her feet. Why in the world is she doing that? Did the artist just want to give a little more detail to the image? No, I don’t think so… Ladies… look at how long her skirt is. Can you imagine running in that dress for one moment? Ok, were you running like you would go for a jog, with a water bottle in one hand and a clenched fist going back and forth? Of course not… you would have fallen flat on your face after 3 steps. You were holding the dress up with both hands to give your feet some room to move. That’s what happening here, she has been animated and is ready to run and tell the Good News to all the people in the nearby town!

This is the moment of her understanding, she gets it, and as soon as she gets it she is animated, she’s ready to move, she’s preparing to run, she’s prepared to work. And so we have moved from the scripture below the image into the image itself. The window tells the whole of her transformation!

Now what? Am I suppose to tell you “be like her and run and tell the world about Christ. Get out there and do His work with all the fervor of this woman who had this incredible conversion experience with the very Christ?” Yes of course. But we are going to wait one moment and bask the beauty of the moment represented in this window. Understanding, clarity, unconscious animation of the Gospel. Not searched and found by ourselves, but revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. And then, like the woman at the well, we just won’t be able to help ourselves, but that’s for another time.

We stand at a bit of an advantage, kind of, to the woman at the well. Everything has been revealed to us. We know who God is, we know what He has done, we know what He can do, we even know what He plans on doing. It is, for this reason, we stand while we listen to the Gospel. We’re in anticipation for the moment when The Word will jump off the page and pierce us. We need to be ready to move when the Holy Spirit animates us.

This window lights one of our many jobs as Christians. This one, simply put, is to listen to the Gospel and let it change us. To listen actively and openly, just like the woman at the well. And from that… everything else will come.

Amen

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