Sunday, 25 September 2016

What LIfe That Really is Life Looks Like: a Short Homily with Reference to Jer 32.1-3a, 6-15; 1 Tim 6.6-19 and Lk 16.19-31—for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield

Jesus talked about the dangers of the love of money a lot—eleven of his thirty-nine parables have something to do with it. His consistent message was that you and I cannot serve both God and money—the love of money can become a serious spiritual problem, a form of idolatry, in fact (in other words, breaking the second of the Ten Commandments). The thrust of Jesus’ message is that we are always being tempted to choose things other than God to satisfy us and give our lives meaning—money, possessions, pride, rank, looks, sex, sports, gadgets—the list goes on. It was the trap into which the Rich Man fell and which delivered him into the torment, flames and agony of Hades we heard about in Luke's gospel this morning (Lk 16.23-24).

The children of Israel fell into a similar trap by choosing gods other than the God who delivered them from death and slavery in Egypt. That resulted in the dark days in Jerusalem in our Jeremiah reading. Besieged by Babylon. God had had enough of Israel’s sin and choosing to go their own way. The promised land of milk and honey was going to be taken away from them an they were about to be delivered into an hellish exile.

Fast forward to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, his protégé, and a warning to do with succumbing to similar temptations. Those wanting to be rich, he warns, can fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that can plunge them, like Jeremiah's contemporaries and the Rich Man, into ruin and destruction.

And he has some words of warning for those who are already rich (people like us, who by the world’s standards today, are rich). Don’t he haughty—act superior or be disdainful or, like the Rich Man in the gospel, neglectful of those in need—and don’t set our hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Tim 6.17). Our enjoyment! We are invited, encouraged, to enjoy the good things with which God provides us—Jeremiah’s promised houses, fields and vineyards—Paul’s good and plenteous food and clothing. The trick is to not to fall into the Rich Person trap by letting the enjoyment turn into being entangled in the senseless and harmful desires and the love for money and things which is the root of all kinds of evil and which cause us to wander from the faith and pierce ourselves with many pains and to ignore the plight of poor people like Lazarus.

Don’t fall into the Rich Person's trap by making money the main thing in your life. Enjoy your God given prosperity AND do good, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share what God has given you—it all comes from him, you know.

Above all, don’t fall into the Rich Man's brothers' trap by being one of those who fails to be convinced even when someone rises from the dead. Jesus did. It changed everything. Live as a witness of that fact, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (1 Tim 6.11). The greatest gain for anyone to have, Paul writes to Timothy, is not in lots of money and things, it's in godliness combined with contentment (1 Tim 6.6). That's what taking hold of the life that really is life looks like (1 Tim 6.19). The source of life that really is life, forever and Amen, is Jesus.


Thursday, 1 September 2016

FIVE ALIVE Part I: Not Lacking

This was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal, the Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada magazine—follow the link the ARM Office to subscribe here

This is the first of Five Alive: 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. I’m calling them

1. Not Lacking
2. To Each
3. The Importance of Being Earnest
4. Church Building
5. A More Excellent Way

Not lacking

We begin in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians which looks to me like his commentary and operating manual based on the events at Pentecost in Acts 2 and how the Holy Spirit filled the church afterwards. In particular, in the seventh verse of the first chapter, this:
you are not lacking in any gift.
If any gift is not lacking, that means it must be present, plentiful and perfect. The church must be full of them.

The Name

Not lacking in any gift comes from the grace of God that was given us in Jesus (1 Cor 1.4). Paul uses Jesus' name five times before verse seven and five more times after. Christ, his title, is used seventeen times. Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit and his Gifts do not exist just for wild eyed charismatic fun. They have another vital abundant life giving purpose which is all about Jesus.

The setting of Paul's Holy Spirit inspired declaration, "you are not lacking in any gift," reminds me of that wonderful hymn to Jesus in verse six of St Patrick's Breastplate (812 in the Blue Hymnal):

Christ be with me, 

Christ within me,

Christ behind me,

Christ before me,

Christ beside me,

Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort 
and restore me.

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ in quiet,

Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of
 all that love me,

Christ in mouth of 
friend and stranger.

We do not lack the Holy Spirit and his Gifts because Jesus sent him to us to bear witness about him (John 15.26), to remind us of all that he said (John 14.26) and that he is all around, enveloping us with the Father's love, always.


Just as Paul always gave thanks to God for the Corinthian disciples (1 Cor 1.4), God's promises always find their Yes in Jesus (2 Cor 1.20) and in Him
always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2Cor 2.14) 
The Gifts we are not lacking and which you and I need are available always.

Lacking Not

I believe this is literally true. Although no individual (other than Jesus) has them all, worshipping Christian communities do, if only in a latent waiting-to-be-released state. All the gifts are available. There are three kinds.

The Motivational Gifts (Romans 12:6-8)


The Manifestation Gifts (1 Cor 12:7-10)

Word of wisdom
Word of knowledge

The Equipping Gifts (Eph 4:11-13) 

The Apostle
The Prophet
The Evangelist
The Pastor
  The Teacher

How many of those have you seen operating in your parish? Are you aware of any active in your own life? Notice the gifts that occur in more than one list. The only one which appears in all three is prophecy. Paul calls us to earnestly the desire the gifts, especially that we may prophecy (1 Cor 14.1). I don’t hear much about it these days. Sadly, the word of the Lord seems to be as rare now as it was in Samuel’s boyhood (1 Sam 3.1). But it’s out there. Prophecy is practiced decently and in order to strengthen, encourage and comfort at most ARM events. So are various kinds of tongues if you listen carefully. Words of knowledge and wisdom are common. There is good teaching and encouragement.

There is usually some asking, seeking, knocking, identifying and discerning needed to find out how the Father has chosen to distribute them (1 Cor 12.11) among the people we meet, but lacking they are not. There’s nothing we enjoy more than helping ordinary Anglicans discover and unwrap the Father’s promised Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The Promise

Just before he ascended into heaven Jesus said to his disciples,
And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24.49)
The promise of his Father is the Holy Spirit, the Helper. That promise continues to find it's Yes in Jesus without fail. We wear power suits from on high. There is no lack.

ARM Canada offers a comprehensive survey of the Gifts of the Spirit in it’s Discovering Your Gifts day. If you would like to explore the possibility of having such a day in your parish, deanery or diocese email our office by following the link here.


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Faster, Higher, Stronger

This is my By the Way column for The Medicine Hat News today. 

Tomorrow the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will draw to their close in Rio de Janeiro. There have been some wonderful, heart warming surprises as Canadian athletes of which many of us hadn’t even heard before amazed and delighted us all with their grace, achievements, and medal winnings.  There were disappointments, too, and the usual dark media mutterings about venues not being ready on time, doping scandals, corruption and financial struggles that precede every Olympiad.

Faster, Higher, Stronger is the Olympic motto. It's exciting to watch dedicated, highly motivated, finely tuned athletes pushing the limits of human speed, height and strength.

I wonder if Faster, Higher, Stronger could also be a helpful call to the Christian Church. On one level it is. Being quicker with acts of kindness would be good. The Bible encourages us to set our minds on higher things (Colossians 3:2) and to be strong in the faith (Joshua 1:9). As one of our Anglican General Thanksgiving Prayers goes, “We thank you for setting us tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone” (The Book of Alternative Services, p129). Our spiritual muscles are strengthened when we engage in spiritual exercise to overcome life’s obstacles.

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” the Bible says (Hebrews 12:1). Does running with endurance always mean running faster, higher, stronger? Not unless that is what “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) means. Running with his kind of endurance seems to me to be more about slower, deeper and a different kind of stronger—slow, deep worship, prayer, Bible reading and relationship building. There may be the occasional sprint, leap and feat of strength, but endurance is for the long haul—eternity.

Running with Jesus endurance will be like the Olympics in some ways. There will be wonderful, heart warming surprises along the way and we’ll meet and run with people who amaze and delight us with their grace and achievements. There will also be disappointments, darkness and cheats. The podium prize will be a robe (Rev 7:9) rather than a medal and eternal life with Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who showed us The Way by running before us so well.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Bright Wings—from Anglicans for Renewal

This was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal, the Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada magazine—follow the link the ARM Office to subscribe here

This is my first “post” from the ARM Chair. As I write I am gratefully conscious of the faithful chairmen who have gone before; all of whom have led wisely and served well; most recently The Venerable Perry Cooper from Central Newfoundland. The seat has been well warmed.

ARM Board Prayer Retreat

We’ve just finished our second annual ARM Board prayer retreat in Okotoks, Alberta, at which we welcomed our newest member, The Reverend Robert Porter, from the Diocese of Ontario. His arrival dropped the average age of ARM board members by a gratifying decade, or two. Welcome Robert.

Both prayer retreats have been valuable opportunities for the Board to focus on the LORD’s promptings and direction for ARM without having to do any “business.” We deal with that at our monthly board meetings and at our Annual General Meeting, which this year will take place in Miramichi, NB, on Friday, May 13, 2015. This time Board Prayer Co-ordinator, Jane Jones, reminded us that at our last retreat we were given the necessary “keys” (Isa 22.22; Mt 16.19; Rev 3.7) for our ministry, now we need to learn how to use and develop them well so the necessary doors will be opened.

Those keys for ARM are three:

  1. Schools of Renewal Ministry—with Jane Jones responsible for content and curriculum
  2. Missionary Outreach Family Nights—an exciting new intergenerational initiative headed up by ARM Board member, The Reverend John VanStone
  3. Social Media and OnLine Presence—the development of which I am responsible.

We enjoyed two special visits during this retreat. The Reverend Chris Nojonen, of Oasis, formerly Lutheran Renewal Canada, joined us for a few hours to share what they’re up to, pray and talk about ways in which we might work together. The Most Reverend Greg Kerr-Wilson, Metropolitan of Rupert’s Land and Archbishop of Calgary also joined us over a meal. He and our Episcopal Visitor, The Right Reverend Fraser Lawton, Bishop of Athabasca, gave us some valuable insights on how ARM might serve dioceses and parishes better.

Bright Wings

Personally, apart from the rich time in prayerful and worshipful community, two things have stuck in my mind. One from the day before the retreat, the other, a phrase from a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem that came to mind a few days after. The first, a passage of Scripture from Morning Prayer on the Sunday before the retreat—The Baptism of the Lord—Acts 19.1-7 in which Paul found some disciples in Ephesus, ‘And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”’ (Acts 19:2 (ESV) We Anglicans say the words Holy Spirit repeatedly during Sunday worship. But saying it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re hearing what we’re saying and who he is. Holy Spirit can all too easily become liturgical background noise as we follow our habitual well-worn path through the familiar words. ARM exists to help open the ears of Anglican hearts so the Holy Spirit can reclaim his rightful place in the foreground, with the two other persons of the Holy Trinity, so we can be reminded of who the Holy Spirit really is and what he is saying to the church. We want every Anglican to hear clearly that there is, indeed, a Holy Spirit, and to be refreshed and empowered by his presence,
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerald Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur)
We came away from this retreat Holy Spirit refreshed, encouraged and with new God-given avenues to explore.

As we continue to seek new opportunities for refreshing, Holy Spirit filling ministry, we’d like to hear from you. What can we do to help you to hear anew that there is a Holy Spirit who helps, comforts, empowers, guides us into all truth and always glorifies Jesus? We’d like to help you experience the refreshing, bright-winged Holy Spirit in your parish, district, deanery or diocese in a new way. Please email me ( with any requests or ideas and we’ll do our best to help.


Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Holy Spirit in the Prayer Books: Part 4

This was published in the Summer 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal, the Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada magazine—follow the link the ARM Office to subscribe here

So far we have seen that the Holy Spirit is truly present and recorded in our foundation documents, in daily prayer, Baptism and Confirmation in both The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and The Book of Alternative Services (BAS). The Holy Spirit brings us God’s love and power. He also sanctifies, regenerates, strengthens, fills, sustains, seals and renews us, more and more, and daily.

Anglican Renewal Ministries (ARM) Canada promotes the Anglican Prayer Book tradition of prayer, both private and corporate. Holy Spirit filled prayer books ensure that all the important devotional bases are covered: confession, worship, intercession, petition and Scripture reading. Holy Spirit filled people, even introverted Anglicans, faithfully and systematically praying the words in Holy Spirit filled and inspired prayer books cannot but be a powerful, spiritual force to be reckoned with. They are The Church of Jesus Christ at prayer.


The Holy Spirit’s power and presence are consistently invoked. Even, for example, in the Prayer of Absolution, in the Orders for Morning and Evening Prayer “DAILY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR” the priest prays that Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, would “grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord” (The Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Book Centre, 1962, pp 5 & 20). The benefits of true repentance and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives are amazing: the things we do please God, our lives become pure and holy and our final destination is “his eternal joy.” What could be better?

Glory Be…

Then we pray the Lord's Prayer, ask the Lord to open our lips so we can praise him, and to save and help us before giving God glory in a brief declarative statement of worship—a worship “capsule” that can be used anywhere, no matter whether you’re alone or with someone else, even when you don’t have a band or organ handy. It’s like a mini hymn or worship song, only without music:
GLORY be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. (BCP, p6)
This deceptively short, but profound, hymn is then repeated after the VENITE and BENEDICTUS in MORNING PRAYER and the MAGNIFICAT and NUNC DIMITTIS in EVENING PRAYER. We respond to inspired words of Holy Scripture with properly Trinitarian worship. The Holy Ghost/Spirit is worshipped and glorified along with the Father and the Son.

It is all too easy to say it routinely and without thinking, of course, just as I am likely to do with my prayer ending amens. It’s one of the dangers of liturgical worship. The words become familiar as we wear our habitual path through them day by day or week by week. They become part of what critics call “empty ritual.” The solution is to fill them by applying my heart every time I read, say or sing them. Worship can be hearty even with no music or in silence. The Helper (John 14.16) himself helps with that.

The BAS has these worship capsules, too. I prefer the BCP version with its “world without end.” It just seems to roll off the tongue more smoothly, but either works. God is verbally worshipped and glorified in Three Persons.

Te Deum 

The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee, The Father, of an infinite Majesty; Thine honourable, true, and only Son; Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. (BCP, p8)
Not Scripture, but inspired nonetheless. Sound Trinitarian worship in prose from the fourth century reminding us of how Jesus described the Holy Spirit as Comforter (John 14.16, KJV)—rendered as Advocate, Counsellor or Helper in later translations. This is The One who, indeed,
over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerald Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur
AB Simpson, Canadian preacher, author and founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance ( described the Holy Spirit as the “mother heart of God.” “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus said, “I will come to you” (John 14.18). Every morning TE DEUM LAUDAMAS reminds me that he didn’t and he has.

Believing It

Among others, the Apostle’s Creed (BCP, pp 10 & 22) calls for two key tenets of belief about the Holy Ghost/Spirit: that Jesus was conceived by him and that we believe in him as the Third Person of the Holy and Eternal Trinity—One God. Again, I prefer the BCP version because it comes every day; rain or shine, feeling spiritual or not, without options, for ever and ever. Amen. I believe it does my soul good to repeat the words so I confess my faith over and over again. What I believe gets into my bones and helps my unbelief (Mk 9.24).

Can it be monotonous? Yes, but monotony has benefits. In “Knit Your Way to a More Prayerful Life,” a wonderful Her.menuetics blog post for Christianity Today magazine, Rachel Marie Stone quotes GK Chesterton who explains why:
Children have abounding vitality… they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. 
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. 
It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. 
Just so, the offices and the liturgy, including The Creed, bear repeating. Lots of it.


Sunday, 3 July 2016

Pray for General Synod 2016

The Anglican Church of Canada posted this prayer For General, Provincial, or Diocesan Synods from The Book of Common Prayer on its Twitter feed the other day. "Amen!" pray I. May the all the mind of our Saviour Jesus Christ be fulfilled, indeed, particularly as regards the momentous changes proposed for our Marriage Canon during this Synod. 

I am also praying the first of the two prayers For General, Provincial, or Diocesan Synods which begins on the page before: 
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who by thy Holy Spirit didst preside in the Council of the blessed Apostles, and hast promised, through thy Son Jesus Christ, to be with thy Church to the end of the world: We beseech thee to be present with the General Synod now [or about to be] assembled in thy Name. Save its members from all error, ignorance, pride, and prejudice; and of thy great mercy vouchsafe so to direct, govern, and sanctify them in their deliberations by thy Holy Spirit, that through thy blessing the Gospel of Christ may be faithfully preached and obeyed, the order and discipline of thy Church maintained, and the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour enlarged and extended. Grant this, we beseech thee, through the merits and mediation of the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 42-43)
It seems to me this prayer fleshes out how Jesus' mind for his Church ought to be fulfilled: protected from error, ignorance, pride and prejudice; directed, governed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit of Truth; so the transforming and saving Gospel of Christ can continue to be faithfully preached and obeyed; the Church's order and discipline conserved; and the Kingdom of God properly enlarged and extended. 

Lord, have mercy! Please pray. 


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Just Say the Word: thoughts on the Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9) with reference to JESUS; the First Week of Ordinary Time; 1 Kgs 18.20–39; Gal 1:1–12 and Lk 7:1–10

Jesus is complicated. So is taking him seriously. It involves a lot of coming and going.

Like in the gospel. Ask him to come and heal my servant said the centurion in the gospel (Lk 7.3). So they (the elders) came to Jesus and pleaded with him earnestly to go with them (Lk 7.5-6). And then the centurion said, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you.” (Lk 7.6-7) Come, don’t come. I don’t know.

Sounds like what Elijah was talking about. “How long will you go limping between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him.…And the people did not answer him a word” (1 Kg 18.21)

That kind of thinking seems to have been going on in Paul’s day, too, when you’d think things were fresh and miracles were happening every day. “I am astonished,” he wrote in our Galatians, “that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1.6-7).

Limping along, not sure whether I’m coming or going, needing to be delivered from an evil age (Gal 1.4)—that hasn’t changed. And who’s approval am I seeking? God’s or people’s?

Like I said, Jesus is complicated.

‘If any want to become my followers,” he said in one of my morning prayer readings last week, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?’ Luke 9.22-25


Deny, take up, save, gain, lose. And more! Last Friday, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ Luke 6.27b,28

Denying, taking up, saving, gaining, losing, living, dying AND enemies, hate, cursing and abuse. But, Lord!, I don’t want to. I don’t like them. They’re NDPs—Liberals—Conservatives—something-or-other-ophobes. They’re wrong. They’re agents of this evil age, aren’t they? I don't like that bit!

“If you believe what you like in the gospels and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe but yourself.”
- St. Augustine


And then there was the BCP collect for last week—the one for Trinity Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God,
who hast given unto us thy servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity:
We beseech thee, that this holy faith may evermore be our defence against all adversities; who livest and reignest, one God, world without end.

A true faith, the glory of the eternal Trinity, to worship the Unity—all in the power of the Divine Majesty. Like I said, it’s complicated. Who knows what’s coming and going? Are just two minds enough? You could make a whole bunch of different gospels from that.

Yet it’s FULL of God the Father, and of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit. And it all comes down to this:

But say the word…(Lk 7.7)

Jesus, I choose that opinion. I accept that gospel. Because your word is always truth (Jn 17.17), the truth is in you, Jesus (Eph 4.21) and you ARE the truth (Jn 14.6). Jesus, you ARE the Word (Jn 1.1). Jesus, please just say the word and heal my friend, my neighbour. Jesus, please say the word and keep me pointed in the right direction, no matter how complicated things get, coming or going, always following where you lead.

May the life-giving, on-the-right-track, 24-7, healing, comforting, trustworthy, go-to-in-all-circumstances, day in, day out, Word for us always be Jesus.