Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Becoming Like Children

The concept of becoming like a child has been constellating in my mind in the last couple of weeks.  I can’t say I thought of the bible passage until a few days ago when I realized there had been a number of examples of this that were coming together in my life.  The bible passage that finally broke through into my consciousness was Matthew 18: 3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. 
This started with reading Maggie’s Memories, a book of letters by Margaret Duncan Borden to her grandchildren.  The letters were compiled by Eldon Hay who is a cousin (although I haven’t quite figured out the actual relationship — it’s something like a second cousin once removed.  Eldon and his wife Ann attended our open house (open cottage) a few weeks ago and gave us a copy of the book as a cottage warming present.  The book is subtitled “A Covententer Childhood in 19th Century Botsford Parish, New Brunswick.   The letters are delightful recollections of a child’s life in a very different age.  As Eldon notes in the introduction, “Written as a series of vignettes ranging in time from earliest memories to the first stirrings of womanhood, the letters conjure up a remarkably vivid picture of an extraordinarily happy childhood in rural New Brunswick during the 1860’s, 7o’s and early 80’s”. 

The letters capture vividly and marvellously the ethos of a completely different time and place that existed in Canada at the beginning of Confederation.  Beyond the enjoyment of reading the letters I was surprized by the association which came to my mind which was of Alice in Wonderland/through the Looking Glass.  This puzzled me at first but on reflection I believe because it was written from the perspective of a young girl but also and possible more significantly because both works capture something of the efforts of a child to navigate through a somewhat strange and new landscape.  Undoubtedly there were no Mad Hatters or Cheshire Cats or in Maggie’s Memories but there seemed to be a few characters that could appear that way to a child’s eyes. 
The next adventure in the worldview of a child was watching a video of To Kill a Mockingbird a few nights ago.  We only have a small portable TV and a VCR player (no DVDs in our cottage life) so we are restricted to movies we can get on VHS.  This work also caught the world view of a young girl, Scout.  There were monster who turned out to be friendly giants i.e. Boo Radley and evil demons who were defeated in the end i.e. Bob Ewell, the evil man who was defeated by the friendly giant who rescued the young prince, Jem. 

All these brought back memories of my childhood and how the world could be a very scary place at times.  It was a world that, if not full of monsters, contained monsters under the bed and in other dark places and giants who I was not sure were friendly or unfriendly.   I spent a long time trying to figure out how the world actually worked and what my place was in it.  The reality is that I am still trying to figure those things out.  So what is it that Jesus means when he tells us to become like children — or like a little child?  The next verse does give us a clue, 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  I find it is a real challenge to be truly humble which requires me to put my ego in the service of the Self as Carl Jung would say or in theological terms — to put the ego in the service of God.  The best perspective of humility that I know is by Sister Jane, an Anglican Nun.  She says that to be humble is to see clearly.  Perhaps that is seeing the world through a child’s eyes with no assumptions about being in control.  Blessings. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Church and The Buildings

St. Alban’s, the little Anglican Church in Souris was celebrating its anniversary last Sunday.  There was a combined service with the other small congregations in the Parish — Montague and Georgetown.   Canon Peter Harris of St. Peter’s in Charlottetown was the celebrant.  The service was followed by a pot-luck at one of the parishioner’s homes in Souris. 

In his homily, Peter gave a bit of the history of St. Alban’s and reflected on what church buildings.  As I recall from what Peter said, St. Alban’s was first formed as a congregation in 1895 and a church building was erected shortly after.  The first parishioners were primarily immigrants from Newfoundland (which of course was not a part of Canada at the time).   The building served the Anglicans in the area for some years but sometimes later the Newfies (Peter didn’t use that term) returned to Newfoundland (reason undetermined) and the building ran into problems with the furnace (an old, old problem with churches in my experience) and eventually was deconsecrated and razed.  The congregation was resurrected when the current little building was erected in 1980 and has carried on since.  The Parish which includes the three aforementioned congregations, is a mission and does not have a resident clergy being served by Canon Peter and a priest from Milton and South Rustico which is near Charlottetown.   This is a challenge to St. Alban’s as it doesn’t have services on a set schedule.  Indeed I was talking to a life time resident of the area and she was not area that there was an Anglican church in Souris.  Indeed St. Alban’s has a sign and on the street but it doesn’t give any information about services or contact information.  Without regular services there is a challenge for a congregation to attract people.   That is something which the congregation could consider. 
Christians in Canada and generally in the Western world have a love hate relationship with their buildings.  They are blessed with some beautiful structures which are erected to the glory of God and as places where the Christian community can gather to worship but they are also saddled with what can take a large portion of their resources to maintain.  Of course building and other special places have been set aside for the worship of God  but the building is not the church as Peter noted.  He quoted the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own”?  In the twenty-first century we Christians are struggling to find new ways to be the body of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.  With the shrinking of mainline churches and the secularization of society and culture there will have to be new ways to be those things without such attachment to buildings and formal structure.  The challenge is to determine how to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Blessings. 


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Get My Mind in Gear for God

We recently had a friend from North Carolina — Clare Sahling — visiting here in Prince Edward Island.  As we were going to church in Montague a week ago she said she ‘needed to get her head in gear for God’.  I found this to be a good metaphor for how we live the Christian life.  I actually changed it to ‘get my mind in gear for God’ as I like that better but the main point is the same — how do we live so that we are open to God’s presence in our lives and in the world.
I presided at the little church in Souris yesterday.  I was asked to take the service at the last minute — Saturday night — so I did something I rarely do — I adapted a previous sermon.  We follow the Book of Common Praise lectionary and it was the seventh Sunday after Trinity.  The Gospel reading was the account of the loaves and fishes in Mark where Jesus feeds a crowd of four thousand with seven loaves and a few small fish.  I preached on ‘miracles and wonder’ using the Paul Simon song from his Graceland album.  If I had had more time to prepare I would have used that catch phrase ‘getting my mind in gear for God.”

The Paul Simon song ‘Boy in the Bubble’ speaks of miracles and wonder:

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don't cry baby, don't cry
Don't cry
Our world is filled with things brought to us by science and technology which would have been miracles to us when that song was written in 1986.  However, we are in a world that no longer believes in the miracles that are brought to us in the bible or any other miracle that is brought to us by God.  Science must explain it all or dismiss it as nonsense or lies or myth (in the wrong sense). 

Science can explain the ‘hows’ of things are but it cannot explain ‘whys’ of things.  Why is there life?  Why are we here?  Sometimes it cannot explain the ‘whats’ of some things either — what is the meaning of life?  If we are to consider these things — the things in life that science cannot explain — we have to get our mind in gear for God and realize that sometimes there are no answers.  That is because despite what science may tell us not everything is explainable.  As wonderful as the human brain and mind is there are things that we cannot explain fully or definitively.  That is because we are finite creature and God is infinite.  Some things will always be beyond us — at least until we are finally united with God. Until that happens we can get our minds in gear for God and appreciate what God has done and in doing in this world and in our lives.  We can see and respond to the miracles and wonder that happen right before our eyes — miracles such as the hummingbirds who fight possessively when there is more than enough in the feeder; the miracle of growth in the garden that is taking so long to flower this year; the incredibly beauty of the sunrise over Howe Point; the wonder that I am alive in this place and at this time which is so wonderful.  We can put our mind in gear for God and give thanks to God for all God had blessed us with.