Monday, 22 February 2016

Sermon February 14, 2016 Lent 1

We are now in the season of Lent.  Last Wednesday should have marked with the imposition of ashes on our foreheads with the words, “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.  Unfortunately Mother Nature did not cooperate and we did not observe Ash Wednesday or Ash Thursday.  Therefore today, in addition to being the First Sunday in Lent will be Ash Sunday and we will mark it with the imposition of ashes. 

Lent is a time to put into focus not only our mortality and all that that means, but also our humanity.  We are created in the image of God and are called to live in a way that will explore and fulfill that image.  Lent is especially a time in which we can focus on the renewal of our calling to answer that call from God to become more fully a reflection of God incarnate—the image of God made flesh.  It is a time of spiritual renewal. 

One of the great prophets of Spiritual Renewal is Henri Nouwen.  He had a great connection with the L’Arch Daybreak Community in Newmarket living there in the final years of his life.  In his book entitled Out of Solitude Nouwen writes:
In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness. We can learn much in this respect from the old tree in the Tao story about a carpenter and his apprentice:
A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice:
"Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?"  The apprentice looked at his master and said: "No . . . why?"
"Well," the carpenter said, "because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax."
Nouwen goes on:
In solitude we can grow old freely without being preoccupied with our usefulness and we can offer a service which we had not planned on. To the degree that we have lost our dependencies on this world, whatever world means--father, mother, children, career, success or rewards--we can form a community of faith in which there is little to defend but much to share. Because as a community of faith, we take the world seriously but never too seriously. In such a community we can adopt a little of the mentality of Pope John, who could laugh at himself. When a highly decorated official asked him, "Holy father, how many people work in the Vatican?" he paused a moment then replied, "Oh, about half of them I suppose."
Spiritual renewal is not just a personal calling; it is a special calling of the church in the world today.  It is a renewal that is not is not based on action and activity in the outer world. 
Our culture is very good at that and the church also sees the need in our society and responds by doing things to meet the needs which are there.  However, there is another kind of renewal which is unique to the church and is something that our society is very much in need of—it is Spiritual Renewal. 

One of my callings is as a Spiritual Director.  In 2014 I completed a Spiritual Direction program offered by the Haden Institute and the Mount Carmel Centre in Niagara Falls.  In the program I learned how to help people discern where God is in their lives and how to be more aware and open to where the Holy Spirit is calling them.  For the past three years I have been working particularly with theology students at Huron University College to accompany them on their journey with God. 
The ministry of Spiritual Direction is actual not the best name for what we do.  The Spiritual Director does not actually direct the directee.  Rather a Spiritual Director is a companion on the person’s spiritual journey.  There are actually three persons in Spiritual Direction—the Director, the Directee and the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit who does the direction and shows both the Director and Directee the way in which God is working in their life.

During the Sunday’s in Lent, I propose being the Spiritual Companion for St. Anne’s and St. John’s.  Each week we will explore a different way in which we can learn to pay closer attention to how God is working in our lives and where The Holy Spirit is calling us to travel in this Lenten journey which lies ahead of us.  It is also my hope that you will find some of these ways to be meaningful for you and that you will chose to incorporate one or two of them into your lives on an ongoing basis.
I will close with the prayer I use to begin a Spiritual Direction meeting. 

Celtic Prayer for Spiritual Direction (Adapted)
Bless this time, in the name of the Three who are over us.
Bless this time, in the name of the One who guides us.
Open our eyes to see how our lives
Can reflect something of You.
Aid us in understanding Your will
With our hearts as well as our minds
Give us the wisdom to discern Your intention for us;
The strength to follow the path You prepare for us;
And Your comfort on the journey You offer to us.

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