Monday, 13 February 2017

More Home Truths: a Short Funeral Homily with Reference to Psalm 73.23-26 and John 14.1-4 & 12—for Theresa Exner

Jesus promises us all a home in what we just heard Evan, Theresa's (Oma's) grandson-in-law, read to us from John's gospel (John 14.1-4,12)—trust in my Father and me, he said, there is more than enough room—many rooms—in my Father's home.

Having a home was especially important to Theresa having once been a wartime refugee herself and, as a consequence, having to live somewhere other than what she considered her real home for the rest of her life.

Having a home is probably one of the deepest human desires. Homelessness is one of societies most disturbing and troublesome issues both locally and globally. Having no place to call home is something most of us fear. Theresa wasn't homeless. She was more a little bit homesick, I suspect.
None of us are homeless, either (I hope). Most of us not homesick, either—and yet. At times like this, when we're forced to acknowledge the reality of death, despite our best efforts to avoid and delay it. We have to deal with funeral "homes" and resting places and we go "home" to be with family. And, underneath, there's this spiritual undercurrent, too, a sense of being set adrift, a yearning, wondering, restlessness which a death in the family stirs up. This life is temporary. Is this all there is? Or is there more? Is the home-coming Jesus describes and for which he says he went on ahead to prepare places for Theresa and for all us, real? Will he really come and get us so we will always be with him where he is? Home in his Father's house.

"And you know the way to where I am going," Jesus said. The way? Yes, there is a way. Jesus said he is The Way a few verses after the passage Evan read. We heard something of what The Way is at the beginning of that reading from John. "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust (or believe) in, God and trust (or believe) also in me." Believe what? That Jesus Christ is Lord and that he rose from the dead. If that's true, then that home exists, the risen Jesus is there preparing places (or maybe he's already prepared them) for Theresa and all of us who choose to trust, to believe, that Jesus is who the Bible says he is and what he says is true.

To trust and believe doesn't mean we necessarily understand it. It doesn't mean we don't have doubts. We're mere human beings whose "health may fail" as Kathy read in Psalm 73, and whose spirits grow weak depending on how much sleep we've had or how we're feeling on any particular day. Like in any relationship, doubts, or irritations and dissatisfactions, even hurts happen. But then can be overcome by choosing to remember the good things, the promises, the commitments, the value, the spirit of it all and remembering that it is worthwhile—that if there is to be any place of rest, any home, any peace in life's marvelous mixture of well-being and woe. What Jesus is talking about must be it.

Theresa's long being a part of the Resurrection celebrating community of St Peter Lutheran Church shows that, even when her heart was troubled, as it must have been even if only because of her homesickness sometimes, she trusted in Jesus and his Father which means she knew the way to where Jesus was going and has gone to be with him where he is. Theresa is finally home for good. We don't have to worry about her any more.

We, however, are still living in temporary housing. May I encourage you all to consider how to secure that place Jesus went on ahead prepare by, in words of the Psalm Kathy read, acknowledging that we do still belong to The One who created and loves us, who holds us by the hand, guides me with his counsel (if we'll only listen), is leading us to a glorious destiny in a heavenly home (if we do but follow), and though our health may fail and our spirits grow weak, the God and Father of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, will remain the strength of our hearts and promises to remain the ours—our very own, forever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Push-Bike Pastoring: Today's By The Way Column for The Medicine Hat News

We recently watched the first series of the BBC's new and excellent production based on GK Chesterton's Father Brown ecclesiastical mystery novels. We borrowed the DVD set from the Medicine Hat Public Library; one of hundreds of television series and movies available for borrowing for no more than the $5 annual library membership fee. What a deal! We figure we'll subscribe to Netflix when we run out of the library DVDs which, so far, doesn't look to happen any time soon. But I digress…

Watching Father Brown pedalling around his impossibly picturesque English village, black cassock flapping in the breeze of his passing, looked pretty good to me. No church growth strategies in those days (early '50s), just looking after his flock and celebrating Mass. Nothing but plain, old fashioned cure of souls.

I felt a bit of a pang about my days as an Anglican parish priest because of Father Brown. I find myself wishing I'd done more of that plain old fashioned push-bike pastoring; more "non-productive" time spent with ordinary folk just hanging out, listening, praying, drinking coffee (or even the occasional scotch), with no real measurable growth in mind, no getting things done; just being present through the mostly unmeasurable, slow, relational, often maddeningly imperceptible, process of folks working out their relationships with Jesus. I wish I had spent more time just pedalling beside them without worrying so much about how fast, or slow, we were going.

Envy is a sin, I know, but it's pretty close to what I felt as I watched Father Brown pedal hither and yon. I envied the fictitious Father and the days when Christianity was part of the warp and woof of everyday life, when priests and pastors were respected (or is that a fiction, too?), when pastoring was not about goals and objectives, in a place where you could pedal between visits, cassock flowing.

Except for the murders, of course. I don't envy Father Brown that. I've only ever had to preside at the funeral of one murder victim. A hard thing. And I had nothing whatsoever to do with the solving of that murder. O, and full disclosure, I should also mention (admit?) that the murder in the first episode takes place in the local Anglican church!



Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Importance of Being Earnest: from the Winter 2016 Issue of Anglicans for Renewal Magazine

This is Five Alive Three: the third of a series of short articles on five of Paul’s key points on the who, how and why of the Gifts of the Spirit in his first letter to the Corinthians. 

We at ARM Canada are in earnest about helping Anglicans and other Christians know more about the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit and to experience them as the Spirit apportions them to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor 12.11). 

Pentecost transformed the first Christians from a small, frightened, hidden group of people into a powerful Spirit-filled community of witnesses to the Resurrection that became the Christian Church and changed the world. These days It feels to me as those roles have been reversed. The world is changing the Church more than the other way around. The Christian Church and its teaching and values, it seems, are being found wanting and abandoned. We seem to be allowing ourselves to be led astray, or influenced at least, by what Paul called pagan mute idols (1 Cor 12.2) in his day. And so Paul's exhortation that we "earnestly desire" the higher spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12.31; 14.1) of the Spirit so "that the Church my be built up" (1 Cor 14.5) is especially appropriate and an important "word" for twenty-first century Anglican Christians.  

The world still needs changing. Saving health and faith in Jesus are still needed for many, many souls. So it is important that we are earnest, not only in our desire for the higher spiritual gifts (and especially that we may prophesy—1 Cor 14.1 & 39) but in worship (Acts 26.7), prayer following Jesus' example (Lk 22.44), prayer for those in need (Mk 5.23, Acts 12.5), prayer that the Lord would send out labourers into his harvest (Mt 9.38, Lk 10.2) and in loving one another (1 Peter 1.22, 4.8). 

Be earnest in prayer this Advent. If you're already involved in a prayer group, consider praying for the release of the 1 Cor 12.1-11 gifts in each other, in your parish, your deanery and your diocese for the good of the Church until Pentecost 2017. If you're not already praying with a partner or a group of friends, considering getting together with one or two or several friends to do the same. 


Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Short Funeral Homily—for William Van Buskirk

Jesus is at the centre of all this. We're here to celebrate the life of William Van Buskirk who died old and full of years and to mourn his death, but we do it, at Bill's request, enveloped in the truth of the birth, life, teaching, miracles, death on a cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Lord and Saviour. Look at the first words I read at the beginning of our service on page 591. "I am." Who is? Jesus. In John's gospel—"the resurrection and the life." This morning Jesus comes to us in beautiful language. Elizabethan. Shakespearian. From The Book of Common Prayer (1962 Canada). Translated from a language and a culture even older.  It can be hard to get our 21st century ears around it, especially if we haven't grown up with it as Bill did. But it's worth the effort. Especially when we're doing what we're doing this morning because not only does it tell us something about Jesus, but it tells us something about Bill.

For example, Bill had those verses from Isaiah and Hebrews Jessica read earlier noted in his Bible. That he had a Bible with his own notes in it is revealing. Bill must have taken special comfort from those passages in particular.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee:
Be not dismayed; for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee;
Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (;kjv1900)
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. "
These verses show from who Bill drew his strength and who he believed was his helper—the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They also give some insight into his character—hear are some of the words his family used to describe him to me as we were preparing for this service the other day: honest, integrity, consistent, an example, kind, gentle, quiet, modest. Canon James Robinson, his priest, at St Augustine's Anglican Church in Lethbridge, called Bill "a deeply faithful Christian," and told me about the generous transportation Bill provided in his little red truck. The church secretary there told me about how Bill would come in regularly to check the food donations box and top it up with what was needed. It's easy to give thanks for such a life.

Which brings me back to Jesus—another life for which we can be thankful—and The One from whom or about whom all the words of this service were written. What can we learn about him? More than I have time to cover this morning although you could learn more of him tomorrow morning here at St Barnabas at 830 and 1030 and at other times in church services all over the city and every Sunday. The learning never ends because, just as John wrote in the very last verse of his gospel,
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (;kjv1900)
Here are two things to go on with just from the beginning of this morning's service. Look again at the first words of the service on page 591:

  1. I am (Jesus is) the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in him, even when he (or she) dies, yet shall he (or she) live. Whoever lives and believes in Jesus shall never die. 
  2. Look at the verses on the bottom of the page. There is a place for those who believe in God and Jesus, his Son. A place Jesus has gone on ahead to prepare in his Father's house. A place with more than enough mansions, or rooms, for Bill and for you and me. If we want one and decide to accept Jesus' invitation to believe in him. 

If that is true, and I believe that it is—so did Bill—then although the earthly first part of his life is over, he lives on, as does Jesus.

To seriously consider the reality of Jesus, and him risen from the dead, in the stately, beautiful, grace-filled words we've heard and will hear in the rest of this service this morning and to decide to take the plunge of faith in him would be a good way to honour the memory of William Van Buskirk by following his example. It would also deliver you safe into the arms of Jesus.

Let’s pray:
Lord Jesus, you claim to be the resurrection and the life. If what you claim is true, please guide me, teach me, and open to me the reality of who you are. Give me an understanding that is coherent, convincing, and leads to the life and the home that you promise.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Home Truths—A Short Funeral Homily with Reference to Ecc 3 and John 14: for Margaret Mattson

Jesus said, "My Father's house has many rooms," (John 14.2) in our reading from John's gospel. That sounds to me like a home, a home with many rooms. A heavenly home for God's children. A home where Jesus, himself, is. A home to which Jesus said he has gone on ahead to prepare places to come home to for those who have chosen to believe in him. Jesus is talking home truths.

I think of Margaret Mattson knew something about home truths, too. She grew up in one home, married the hired man, raised her own family in another home across the yard. All from 1919 to 1985. She lived and loved and baked jumbo raisin cookies and filled her home with the hum of sewing and home-made clothes, pies and scalloped potatoes. She made a home for her family. From what I heard from her daughters the other day, she was pretty good at making places for each one of them and their brothers there. She was a home maker. You can see it in her children.

That wonderful passage from Ecclesiastes we heard earlier has some home truths, too. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born" (Ecc 3.1-2) True. Margaret's was ninety-seven years ago. Her parents brought her home. When she was six months old they brought her to Canada. And then came all the activities of being and raising families in a farm home: times to plant and uproot, to kill and to heal, to tear down and build, to weep and laugh, mourn and dance, embracing, searching, giving up, keeping and throwing away, tearing, mending, silence, talking around the kitchen table (but not when Dad was trying to listen to the news), and always time to love and those precious moments of peace that pop up every now and and again in a busy family's life. Yes and there were times to hate and even to war against the things that might threaten the security of that home. Then, finally, after all that comes a time to die. True. It comes for all of us. Some of us, like Margaret, get to be old and full of years. For some, too young and too soon.

Which brings me back to Jesus and home truths. He wasn't very old yet he'd been through the seasons and activities of Ecclesiates 3. He knew about death and he knew that his time to die was close and he knew how the ones who loved him would feel. That's why he said what he said in John 14. He says it to us on days like this, too.

Don't be troubled. Believe. Believe in God, my Father, who has the big home with lots of rooms. Believe in me he says, because if it were not so, I wouldn't tell that it is. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14.1-4).

And you know they way to the place where I'm going, h said. Well, not so much. Some of them did. Except Thomas. He didn't, or thought he didn't. Same with us. Some of you do. Some of you did and forgot or life happened and crowded it out or it became too much trouble. Some of you may have never known.

So here's a home truth about Jesus. What's The Way to that place with all the rooms? "I am" says Jesus and that way runs through my church. Jesus also says he is The Truth and The Life (John 14.6). His heart still beats only now it beats in his body on earth, the Church. No one comes to the Father or one of those rooms in that great heavenly home except through him and his Church—Churches like this one where Margaret Mattson worshipped and found her way.

To explore the home truth that The Way, The Truth and The Life Jesus represents would be a good way to honour Margaret's memory.

Let’s pray:
Lord Jesus, you claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. If what you claim is true, please guide me, teach me,  and open to me the reality of who you are. Give me an understanding that is coherent, convincing, and leads to the life and the home that you promise.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

From the ARM Chair (Winter 2016 Anglicans for Renewal Magazine)

By My Spirit

I write this just having finished leading a parish retreat for St James' Anglican Church, Calgary. It was entitled By My Spirit: Live Giving Anglican Worship and arose out of the present Anglicans for Renewal series of articles on the references to the Holy Spirit in the prayer books. There was worship, I gave some talks, there was lively talk small group discussion and good fellowship. It was a time full of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We enjoyed ourselves. We explored the rich (and Spirit filled) tradition of the Anglican daily "offices"—morning, evening and night prayer—as the comprehensive, Biblical, accessible and effective tools for prayer they are.

If you would like a similar event in your parish, deanery or diocese exploring and teaching on using the prayer books to pray in the Spirit for renewal, revival and awakening, both individually and corporately, contact our office. We'd be happy to discuss possibilities with you. We offer other workshops, too. Look at our website for the list.

Vatican Charismatic Renewal Jubilee

I received the following email from Pastor Jim Bredeson, Chairman of Oasis, the Lutheran Renewal group in Canada:
Good Morning!
         This summer I attended the Oasis Sweden meeting in Jonkoping, Sweden. While there I met with Peter Artman, a priest in the Church of Sweden and active in the Oasis movement there. He told me of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic renewal to take place in the Vatican next year. He also told me of his hopes to gather a delegation from the historic churches (such as Lutheran and Anglican) who themselves were greatly impacted not only by the charismatic renewal but also the Catholic movement in particular. He (and I) think that it is significant that this 50th anniversary takes place during the same year as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation—not to mention the 150th of Confederation in Canada.
         The celebration as I said earlier will take place in Rome, ‪May 31 –June 4‬ (Pentecost Sunday). The cost for the meetings only  is 30€ ($44 CAD; $33 USD). Accommodation is not included.
         I have copied Peter on this email. Let me know if you are able to go. Please forward this invitation to anyone you know who might be interested. I only ask that they respond to me and Peter so that we know if we have something of a delegation going.
         You will find the invitation from the Vatican below. The website for more information and to register for the event is:‬
         2017 is a year of celebrating the legacy of past revival. It is my prayer that it will be a year of present revival as well.
         Be strong in the Lord!
         Jim Bredeson
         Oasis Canada
UPDATE: Doesn't look like any ARM Board members are able to make this trip. Let us know if you plan to attend and we can put you in touch with Pastor Jim. 

Fasting and Prayer

I also received the following message from ARM Board Member, Bishop Fraser Lawton:
While attending the recent gathering of the Global South,  it occurred to me that this might be a good time to call people across the country to prayer.  We do spend time talking together about the situation in Canada, about possible responses, in encouraging one another, etc.  I was reminded there to not neglect the truth that this is all also a spiritual battle, and we also need to engage at that level.  I do know that people are praying.  However, I thought it would be good to have a specific day when as many as possible could join together.  Without directing how/what, I am hoping you will spread the word…that November 26 be a day of fasting and prayer for the Anglican Church.  That is the last day of the Christian year, and we can enter the new one in this place of prayer. 
UPDATE: Since November 26th has passed, please consider continuing fasting and praying regularly for the Church until General Synod 2019 when the second reading of the change to the Marriage Canon will take place. 

Watch our Facebook page for more information, resources and ideas on how to observe such a day.


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Being Ready Now: a Funeral Homily with Reference to 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 21—for Marjorie Langdon

 NOW is Christ risen from the dead (1 Cor 15:20—BCP p595)
It's Advent. Christmas, we're waiting for—again (five sleeps if anybody's counting). Advent is also about our waiting, preparing and being ready for Jesus to come again, but Jesus is risen from the dead NOW.

Now, look at the top of page 596, because Jesus is risen from the dead NOW:
…even so in Christ shall all be made to live. (1 Cor 15:22—BCP)
Even so. Made to live. But everyone in their own order:
Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's (people like Marjorie Langdon) at his coming" (1 Cor 15.22-23—BCP p596)
Christ has died, Christ has risen NOW, Christ will come again!

I believe Marjorie is one of those "that are Christ's," who believed in her bones that Jesus is risen NOW, and so she was ready for his return, or to go a meet him.

Marjorie and I didn't agree on everything. She had definite opinions on the way God should be worshipped and with which books, for example. She didn't particularly care for my guitar playing and some of my changes to our style of worship. If she wanted to hear that kind of music, she once told me at the door on her way out, she could listen to the radio. But we agreed about Jesus and his Resurrection. I had absolutely no doubt that she was a woman of great faith—a faith that endured through some hard things for her. We have evidence of that today in her choice of readings and hymns. For example, notice the Psalm we prayed earlier. Psalm 46, about God being her hope, her strength and her very present help in trouble (v1—BCP p388)—she suffered plenty of trouble through her years of severe arthritic pain and immobility.

The hymns she chose and which were written in her Bible also give a good sense of that firm, determined faith and how important Jesus was to her.
JESUS, SAVIOUR, pilot me! we sang earlier. 
O Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end," we'll sing shortly,
"O guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me,
My Saviour and my Friend.
These last few years Marjorie's was, indeed, as we also sang earlier,"A dark and toilsome road." "O guide me through the desert here," Marjorie prayed no doubt, and had us sing, "And bring me home at last." Home at last. How did Marjorie know she had a Pilot, a Saviour and Friend?

She and Dorothy told me that they gave their lives to Jesus while listening to the Sunrise Gospel Hour—now the Oldest Gospel Radio Broadcast still produced in Alberta, seventy-seven years straight, by the way—they were too far out in the country for regular Sunday Church going. Kathleen told me, their mother would regularly call the three girls in from whatever they were doing in the yard to listen to hymnsings on the radio. Kathleen also told me she didn't start going to church until she was twenty. And yet the seeds had been well sown, and with the help of their parents, roots were solidly established in Jesus. And those beginnings led to them, all three, becoming stalwart members of St Barnabas. Marjory was a follower of our Risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—so was Dorothy and so is Kathleen.

So Marjorie was READY. Ready for the new Heaven and earth we heard about in the reading from Revelation where the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will be with her and "shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain and all things will be made new and good for ever and ever. Amen. It must feel good to be able to stand up straight, to move without pain again and to hear the heavenly choirs clearly. Who wouldn't want to be ready for that?!

Christ has died. Christ is risen NOW. Christ will come again. We don't know when. Jesus just says be ready.

So this Advent what might you and I take from Marjorie's example, the Scripture and hymns she chose for us to hear and sing and our good memories of her? A good way to honour Marjorie's memory this Advent and as Christmas is only a few sleeps away would be for you and me to consider our state of readiness to celebrate our Lord's birth on Sunday and for his approaching return.

Here are three Marjorie Langdon Memorial steps to readiness for the Lord's return:

  1. Invite Jesus to be risen from the dead in you NOW not keeping him locked up in some tomb of my own ailments, carelessness or sinfulness. 
  2. Invite Jesus to be born in you this Christmas.
  3. The best starting place is to simply say "Yes" to Jesus. In a moment you and I, too, will have the opportunity to do just that as we pray the Apostle's Creed together. For many of us it will be Yes again, for some of you it may be Yes for the first time in a long time, or the first time ever. Saying such a Yes would be a good way to honour Marjorie's memory by expressing your trust in the LORD—Pilot, Saviour and Friend—who was present all through her illness and loves her still. Saying such a Yes, and meaning it, would also place you, along with Marjorie, safe and sound in all the Yes's God promised in Jesus (2 Cor 1.19-20).

There is no better time than right NOW.