We are fools for the sake of Christ (1 Cor 4:10)
This is one of my favourite bible verses as I have played the fool a number of times for Christ or otherwise. However, I am an particularly taken with this verse being an April Fool's baby being born on April 1st
O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us, we pray Cast out our sin and enter in Be born to us today We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel
Merry eighth day of Christmas―I trust the maids are milking and the cattle are lowing. As you can see my thoughts are still on Christmas being a traditionalist when it comes to that season of the church year. It is a time to enjoy the Christmas decorations and sing the Christmas carols.
Advent was a time of kenosis, of emptying as I wrote two weeks ago, in preparation for the coming of the Christ Child. Now the Holy Child of Bethlehem has been born in us once again. How are we to respond to that gift and live in this world on sin? How are we to cast out our sin and allow Jesus to enter dwell in us today?
What does it mean that the Christ Child was born in a lowly stable amongst the animals and was laid in a manger? What does it mean that there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the Inn? I believe that many of us do not recognize that if the Christ Child is truly born in us today, it will be in the places where we don’t expect it and where we don’t recognize it or even want to acknowledge within us.
Don’t expect much from the Christ Child what you will receive―at least at this point. After all every new baby must be given a great deal. It is truly in our care and need to be nurtured and loved. Even though we do not receive much directly we find that love is reborn in us when a child is born to us. This is as true of the Christ Child as it is with any ordinary baby. Of course there is no such ting as an ordinary baby; in the eyes of its parents and others each one is a reflection of the God being born in us.
To love and nurture this divine child which is born in us we must nurture those places in which it is born. We must nurture those places which are not proper for an infant to reside; the stables amongst the animals with the less than nice smells. These are the places which do not please our egos and those places in us that we find less than acceptable. There is often no room in the places which are near and dear to us such as the comforts and gratification which we seek and desire so desperately.
However, it is into these lowly places, these stable places, that the divine child is born and offers us an opportunity to love and nurture what we would otherwise neglect, or ignore, or even despise. These are the places in which the Christ Child comes to us and abides in us and invites us to nurture and embrace.
God bless us everyone; O yes and a Happy New Year,
We are in Advent and the proper celebration of Advent as
preparation for Christmas is one of my hot buttons. However, I want to talk about Christmas this
week and acknowledging there is a dark side to the wonderful light that came into
the world in that stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Perhaps I can resolve this apparent dissonance
by proposing that we need to recognize the darkness is an appropriate way of
preparing for the light of Christ.
Two events recently prompted me to consider the darkness
that is part of the Christmas message. First,
I was invited to be the guest musician (guitarist) for my former congregation,
St. James Anglican Church in Parkhill for the community Christmas concert which
was held December 1st. One of
the pieces I chose for our congregational choir was The Coventry Carol. I chose it in part because it is a beautiful
carol that I have long loved to sing. Also,
it was one that I could manage to play on the guitar―an important consideration I
have discovered in my not entirely brilliant career playing church music on
One of the things that I did not consider when choosing it is
the nature of the carol. For those of
you who are not familiar with it here are the lyrics:
Lully, lulla, thou
little tiny child. By by, lully, lullay,
O sisters too, how
may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling
For whom we sing
By by, lully lullay?
Herod, the king
In his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might
In his own sight,
All young children to slay
That woe is me
Poor child for thee!
And ever morn and day,
For thy parting
Neither say nor sing
By by, lully lullay!
The carol tells the account of the ‘slaughter of the innocents’
ordered by King Herod after he was informed by the Three Wise Men that they
were seeking the birth place of the new king of the Jews. Herod, of course, saw this as a threat to his
throne and acted in a completely understandable way for a despot and tried his
best to eliminate any possibility of a usurper to his power.
Of course, we know that he didn’t succeed as Joseph, the Christ
child’s step father was warned in a dream of Herod’s intent and the Holy Family
fled to Egypt following the biblical precedent of the first Joseph going to
that land. However, that did not prevent
the carrying out of King Herod’s proclamation; “he sent and killed all the children
in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or younger.”
This is a very dark act and a very dark time of the families
who did not receive the warning from God or, if they did, decided not to pay
attention to the warning.
The other impetus to this exploration of darkness that I
received was watching the wonderful version of the Christmas Carol staring
Alistair Sim as Scrooge. It was
presented on Turner Classic Movies a few nights ago. It is, to my mind the quintessential movie
version of the Dickens classic. No one has
portrayed Scrooge better before and I doubt ever will. In the introduction, the host noted that the
release was held up because of the dark nature of the film. As noted in Wikipedia, “the film was
originally slated to be shown at New York City's Radio City Music Hall as part of their
Christmas attraction it was determined that the film was too grim and somber
and did not possess enough family entertainment value to warrant an engagement
at the Music Hall.”
There is no doubt that the film version and the original
story is rather grim and paints a dark side of human kind, at least in Victorian
England which Dickens was a genius at portraying. The ghost of Christmas future is not warm and
friendly by any means.
It is, I believe, important that we do not sentimentalize Christmas
as it is so easy to do. This is
particularly true of what I call the cultural Christmas which is all around us
with Christmas songs (I won’t call them carols) being played in the malls and the
gifts of the Wise Men being transformed into a frenzy of materialism (I guess I
am channeling a bit of Scrooge’s bah humbug here).
However, let me close with a quote from the wonderful Good
News of the Gospel of John which is the Gospel of the light that came into the
world at Christmas:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All
things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into
being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was
the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness
did not overcome it.
I hope that the light of the Christ will shine for you in the
darkness of this world. Let us remember
this Christmas that it is a time to be Merry but also that the forces of
darkness are still very much in and of this world.
A blessed and merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
The last two weeks I have been writing about same-sex marriage. I want to give my final thoughts, at least for
the foreseeable future, this week.
As I have noted, this issue is not a straightforward one by
any means. People hold positions on both
(all?) sides of the issue for many complicated and complex reasons; both heart
felt and well thought out. The reasons
for and against can be supported in scripture, history, justice, and the
movement of the Holy Spirit. I believe that
most people I have discussed this with, who hold strong views on the issue, do
so not because of animosity or hatred against others. It is because they firmly believe that they
are being faithful to a position which is based in their understanding of what is
right for themselves, others and society.
Many on each side have their belief grounded in their understanding of scripture
as God’s word and God’s created order.
As I noted, I believe in the movement in our culture and in
our church which is moving towards the acceptance of same-sex relationships and
marriage. I believe this is a correct
understanding of the movement of the Holy Spirit in God’s world to enable
people who have been isolated, reviled and cast into outer darkness by society
and the church for many years, to live in loving union and relationships as we
are intended to by God.
I also realize that there is no guarantee that I or others can
have the absolute assurance that we understand without question where the Holy Spirit
is calling us and the church today. We
are called to discern where the Holy Spirit is acting in our lives and in the
world through reflection, prayer and thought.
One of the arguments by those opposing the movement to
same-sex marriage within the Anglican Church and other denominations, is that the
church is being influenced and led astray, giving into pressures by the culture. However, it must be acknowledged that there
has been, throughout the history of the Christian Church, an interplay between
culture and the doctrine of the church.
If this were not so the Christian Church would have remained a religion
that required observance of the purity laws of Judaism and required all members
to convert and to be circumcised.
I believe that Jesus showed in many of his interactions with
people and his offer of salvation was to give preference to being in
relationship with one another in love rather than an adherence to law. He believed that the Sabbath was made for man
and not man for the Sabbath. In a similar
way people should be supported in committed, loving relationships which can
offer people the opportunity to live out more fully who God intends them to be
rather than living as outcasts who are condemned because of, in my belief, a
mistaken understanding of the law as an expression of God will.
I know from friends and acquaintances, the pain and deep hurt
and damage that is caused by people being unaccepted, reviled and disowned by family,
society and church, not because of anything they have done but because of who
they have been from birth, if not before.
I recognize that part of the objection to same-sex marriage
is that this will change the fundamental meaning of marriage which is and should
remain between one man and one woman. I respect
that position but I do not agree with it.
I believe that the church should move to affirm same-sex marriage just as
it has other issues including ordination of women and the abolition of slavery. These have been supported and affirmed in the
past based on scriptural understanding which informed and supported the cultural
norm. Same-sex marriage should be
understood in the same way.
I want to end this reflection with the hope and prayer that regardless
of future decisions by the Anglican Church, its congregations and its members, we
can, in the words of the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, that we approach this issue in loving disagreement.
The Great Commandment by our lord and Saviour is that we
love one another as he loves us. Let us
do that knowing that it will not be easy or perfect.
Last week I ventured into a topic that could be considered
one of the “where angels fear to tread” areas―same-sex marriage. I reflected on the meeting at our church
regarding the on-going process to consider changes in the Marriage Canon on the
Anglican Church of Canada which would allow marriage between two people of the
This week I want to continue to consider the issue which has
so dominated the energy of the Anglican Church in recent years. It seems that we have been considering,
discussing and, yes arguing and disagreeing, about this issue
interminably. However, it has only been
in the recent past in terms of the existence of the Anglican Church. It is only the recent version of many issues
which seem to have consumed the church in the modern and not so modern era. The
most recent before this was the ordination of women which seems to have been
the dominant issue which consumed the church in similar ways prior to same-sex
marriage. OF course, there have been
numerous other issues such as changes to the prayer book as well. Many of you are aware that same-sex marriage has
been front and centre in many mainstream denominations in North America and
beyond in these turbulent times as well.
Wherever it is discussed it is one which people take strong stands on
both or all sides of the issue. It
brings our the best and the worst in people.
I do not enter this arena without some trepidation.
As I noted last week, this issue is not a straightforward
one by any means. People hold positions
on both (all?) sides of the issue for many complicated and complex reasons;
both heart felt and well thought out.
The reasons for and against can be supported in scripture, history, justice,
and the movement of the Holy Spirit. I
want to briefly touch on some of the issues knowing full well that I cannot do
justice to any serious consideration of an issue which is so complex.
The first, and probably most serious, consideration is based
on scripture. What does scripture say
and how do we understand what scripture is saying to us today? For people who use scripture to support their
opposition to same-sex relationships and marriage, scripture passages in both
the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) and New Testament are cited. Beginning appropriately at Genesis, the
off-putting cliché is often used that “God created Adam and Eve and not Adam
and Steve” to justify their position.
Although the first parents were not married in any ceremony in the story
they were created and placed in the earthly paradise by God to be
together. It is unclear whether they had
any kind of sex-life in their relationship until they disobeyed God and ate of
the fruit of the tree of the wisdom of good and evil and their eyes were opened
and realized they were naked and were ashamed.
They did not have any progeny until after they were expelled form the
Cain followed by Able. And we
know how successful the relationship between the first brothers was.
Many forms of marriage and sexual congress are presented in
the bible from the beginning with polygamy being common including to an extreme
extent such as King Solomon having 700 official wives and 300 concubines. There were also cases of the Abraham and the
other patriarchs using servants to bear children to ensue the successive
generations which was an absolute good in those days. This was apparently with the approval of God
as there was no opposition from on high expressed. The modern nuclear family is a latter
development of the form marriage has taken through biblical history and
Another account which is prominently raised in the same-sex
issue is the story of the destruction of the city of Sodom. The story of Sodom is used as an example of
the sin of homosexuality. In the account
two angels visit Lot in Sodom. While
they are there the men of the city come to Lot’s house and demand he bring out
the visitors so that “we may know them” ―clearly, in the somewhat archaic language,
they wanted to commit homosexual rape against the visitors. God destroys the city as an apparent punishment
for this attempted evil act. It is
interesting that it is not the fact that it was a case of attempted rape rather
than the same-sex nature of the attempt.
It is also interesting that that Lot, who is presented as a godly man,
offers his two virgin daughters to the mob so they will not inflict this act on
his visitors, not exactly family values we should hold up as virtuous:
Look, I have two
daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to
them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the
shelter of my roof.’
The alternative understanding of
this passage is that the sin for which Sodom was destroyed was the lack of
hospitality they showed to the two visitors (who happened to be
angels―messengers from God).
There are many more cases in
scripture where a prohibition against homosexual relations are evident. In some cases, they cannot be put down to
misinterpretation as in the case of Sodom.
They can however, be considered in other ways. Before going there, I want to address the
question regarding Jesus’ attitude towards same-sex relationship and
marriage. Much, to the disappointment of
those opposed and to the relief of those supporting the issue, nowhere in the
Gospels does Jesus address this issue. I
can be argued that there are other issues which the church is facing that is
not addressed by Jesus. However, for one
that is so important a one facing the church it can be surprizing that Jesus
did not deem it necessary to address it.
One way of considering scripture
passages on the issue is to consider the world view in Jesus’ time―taking an
historical critical approach to scripture as it is called by biblical
scholars. In Jesus’ time there was no
concept of homosexuality so the it was not considered as a reality for
people. Although homosexuality is no
longer considered an illness or a disordered condition by modern medicine, some
people, especially those of some religious perspectives, do believe that it is
a sinful disordered state which can be healed through prayer and even exorcism;
something which is not part of God’s plan for humankind.
Central to the issue is how we
understand scripture. Is it the inerrant
word of God which gives us a template or direct understanding of God’s will and
a program for how to live today? Or is
it the record of the biblical people’s attempt to document their understanding
of God working in their lives based on their understanding of the world. Or somewhere along that axis of belief?
I have more to say on this issue
but realize I have exceeded my unwritten rule on the length of these
missives. I will continue next week―God
willing. I want to close with the hope
expressed by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, our primate; that we approach this issue in
Last week our congregation hosted a deanery (regional
meeting) to discuss the changes to the Anglican Church of Canada’s Marriage
Canon. The proposed change would allow
marriage between two people of the same gender.
The proposed change is in the midst of the process in the National
Church which requires approval in two successive General Synods (national
meetings) which are held every three years.
The motion passed the General Synod last year and will receive the second
vote in 2019.
The national church has directed/encourage meeting at the
local level to discuss the changes and help us prepare for the next vote. This, as I am sure almost everyone realizes,
is an issue fraught with the reality that there will be a great deal of anger,
hurt, and disillusionment regardless of the outcome of the next vote. There has been much negative fallout around
this issue in recent history within our Diocese, our national church and the
worldwide Anglican Communion. Individuals
have decided to leave the formal church because of past actions and
decisions. In addition, parishes have
chosen to leave the Canadian church and the other Anglican Churches; indeed,
one Diocese in the United States decided to leave the national Episcopal Church
(the Anglican Church in the United States).
I am sure that individual Anglican have left the church because of the
lack of change on this issue.
To be up front on my position, I have been in favour and
have supported the change, first to allow the blessing of same sex-couples
before the civil law allowed same sex marriage, and the marriage of same-sex
couples after the change to the civil marriage law in Canada.
This issue is not a straightforward one by any means. People hold positions on both (all?) sides of
the issue for many complicated and complex reasons; both heart felt and well
thought out. The reasons for and against
can be supported in scripture, history, justice, and the movement of the Holy
Spirit. I have prayer and reflected
extensively on this issue, as I am sure many other people have. There is also
fear, biases, misinformation, and yes even prejudice on both sides which can
lead to people supporting either side not listening to one another and not
wanting to engage with people who do not agree with them. Many people fear the consequences of any
decision that this made and what it will mean for the Anglican church in the
With this background, I want to reflect on the meeting that
Lorna and I attended last week. I
approached the meeting with some trepidation given the potential for conflict
and anger and strong emotions which this issue engenders. The meeting was quite well attended by our
parishioners with about twenty people, including the facilitators in attendance
with most from our congregations.; a good representation for our small church. I was most impressed by the process used and
the participation by the participants.
We were asked to answer four questions and given one minute to respond
to each. Participants could pass on any
or all of the questions; it was not a case of share or die. The questions were:
1.What questions do you still have about the
proposed changes to the Marriage Canon?
2.a. How will the outcome of the vote at General
Synod 2019 affect you?
b. What resources will you need
form the Diocese if the motion passes or if it does not pass?
3.Based on what you have heard form each other,
what do you most want General Synod to hear from the Diocese of Huron about the
proposed changes to the Marriage Canon?
The responses were varied and
from many different positions. They were
heartfelt but they did not attack nor were they condescending. I found it to be appositive experience which
helped me greatly in understanding where my fellow parishioners were coming
from on this most difficult issue. I had
not been aware of where most of those present were on the issue and I was
surprized by some of the responses. The
organizers are to be congratulated on t what was a very helpful and positive
beginning of what I hope will be further discussion.
There is much more that I can address on the
issue but I am going to stop here this week.
I will continue with this topic in at least the next edition
I want to begin with a note of clarification from last
week’s edition. In discussing my
struggles with my shoulder, I mentioned that to add insult to injury I was
unable to drive my new car. To clarify
it was a reflection of not having the pleasure of driving my new car due to the
condition of my shoulder. I should have
added that I was very grateful that I had Lorna to drive me to all my
appointment that have had to attend for treatment. I am able to do some of the driving now but
continue to appreciate sharing it with Lorna, especially the longer trips (she
does have some reservations about my driving ability at the best of times but
more so now with the physical challenges).
This week I want to reflect on Remembrance Day. I have served as the chaplain for our local
chapter 341 of the Legion since I came to Parkhill as Rector of the Anglican
Church. It has been a tradition that the
Anglican priest serve that function. When
I retired from parish ministry I thought I should retire from that position as
well. My resignation was not accepted so
I still fulfil the chaplain’s duties on Remembrance Day. It has always been one of the most meaningful
duties I have had as a parish priest.
Usually the services on Remembrance Day involve an assembly
at the local high school in Parkhill followed by the service at the cenotaph at
the eleventh hour. There is a lunch at
the Legion for members which is followed by another service at the cenotaph at
Lieury, a nearby community which is not marked only by a road sign, a few
houses and a playing field. The services this year did not follow the
usual pattern as Remembrance Day fell on Saturday. Consequently, the assembly at the high school
was held on Friday. I have always been
very impressed with the amount of effort that has gone into these assemblies
each year. They are often different in
focus but always done with sincerity and much planning and well executed by the
students. This year’s edition was
undertaken by the grade nine students with the results being heartfelt and
heartwarming if not as polished as other years when senior students took the
An interesting, if rather sad note, one of the Legion
members noted that when he was in grade nine at the school the grade nine
cohort numbered 240. That would probably
have been in the 1970’s. Now the total
student enrollment in the school is less than 200 and has been dropping for
years. The school has had the specter of
closure hanging over it for a while and will probably close in the next few
years unless something changes. That
would be a significant loss to the community.
The Remembrance Day services were moving as usual. The weather was cold but with no
precipitation and all went well. I do
find the day to be moving important in the life of this community and
Canada. When the day falls on a week day
the children from the elementary schools (there is a Roman Catholic school in
town) attend which swell the numbers.
The were noted in their absence this year but the ceremony was well
attended by the communities in both places.
The final part in the Remembrance Day events was a concert
to commemorate Remembrance Day by the South Huron Community Choir under the
direction of Richard Heinzle. This choir
is based in the neighbouring community of Exeter. The concert was entitled ‘Be At Peace’ an was
comprised of a variety of compositions and included pieces preformed by the
hand-bells. The guest artist was
wonderful oboist Katrina Lisa Liddell.
We attended with two friends from our church in Grand Bend and it was a
moving, inspiring evening.