Monday, 28 March 2016

Sermon Easter Sunday 2016

Hallelujah, the Lord is risen. 

I have preached on Easter Sunday every year since I was ordained in 2004.  When I started to consider my sermon for this morning I wondered what I could say about the Resurrection that I hadn’t said before and what you have probably heard many times before.  Well, I asked Lorna what she would like to hear in an Easter Sunday sermon.  Her response was, “why not do a Lectio Divina on the Gospel and then preach about that process”.  Those aren’t her exact words but that is the gist of it.

I thought that this was an excellent idea as are many of Lorna’s ideas.  So I decided that I would do just that as the approach to my sermon.   To remind you, there are four steps to Lectio Divina; read, contemplate, respond and rest. 
I read the Gospel that we have just heard proclaimed—the first step.  I read it out loud to myself twice.  The phrase that resonated with me was,9for as yet they did not understand the scripture”.  

I then contemplated the phrase considering why it resonated with me—the second step.  I wondered what it was that they did not understand. 
Reading on I discovered that they did not understand that “he must rise from the dead”; that Jesus must rise from the dead.  How was it that these disciples did not know what had been foretold by Jesus himself. 

We are told in Matthew 16:21, “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”.   They had not yet understood.

How could they not have understood when Jesus had told them what was to happen?  Everything that had happened up to this point had happened the way Jesus had told them it would.  And yet they still did not understand.  How did they respond?  “Then the disciples returned to their homes”.  It might have ended there.  But it did not.  Mary did not return with them.  She stayed at the empty tomb.  She wanted to discover where the body had been taken.  In effect, she did not understand either—not until she saw the person she took to be the gardener.  Jesus spoke to her and her eyes were open and she recognized him, “She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”.  She responded to this by rushing off to tell the others, “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her”. 

Part of my contemplation of the phrase was to realize that we can understand what Mary has done as Lectio Divina.  Now she didn’t read scripture per say but you could say she lived it.  Mary arrived at the tomb and read what had happened—the Tomb was empty.  Then she did not act like the other disciples. 
She stayed and contemplated what she had “read” in the scene.  She certainly realized what resonated with her—Jesus appeared to her and opened her eyes to the meaning of the scripture. 

She then responded by going and telling the other disciples the Good News the Gospel; their teacher, their rabbi, their friend and their Lord had indeed risen as he had foretold. 

Now the Gospel does not tell us that she rested.  However, I can well imagine that after all that had happened she would have rested peacefully and joyfully in the knowledge that he had risen.

Let us turn to the third step in my Lectio—my response.  Well, my response was to compose this sermon and to preach it this morning.  However, I think that is a bit of a cop out.  It is doing what I would expect to do.  But surely as a Christian I need to respond in more ways than that.  I need to consider why that phrase resonated with me, “for as yet they did not understand the scripture”.   What is it about scripture that I need to respond to in my life?  If I am to understand that Jesus Christ is actually risen from the tomb how am I to respond to that fact in my life?  How am I to live my life in a way that is true to that fact?

That is truly the difficult part for me and I think it is for many Christians.  What does it mean to have Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the only begotten son of God the Father?  For me it means that I must truly believe and know in my heart and mind and body and soul that Jesus has lived the life that was so in- tune with his relationship with God that he was able to do what God intended him to do and be the person that God intended him to be.  He was fully human and he was fully divine—of one substance with the Father as it says in the creed.  I must make an effort every day to live the life that God intends me to live and become more fully the person that God intended me to be when God created me.  Will I succeed?  No, without a doubt I will fail—I will fall into sin.  However, through Jesus Christ I have the assurance that my sins will be forgiven and I will live to make the effort tomorrow and tomorrow after that and every tomorrow that I am privileged to be on this earth.

Well, what about the last step—to rest.  I can say without a doubt that this afternoon I will rest and recharge my batteries after all these services of Holy Week.   But beyond that I know I need to rest to be able to reflect on what God’s will is for me.  And so it goes; read, contemplate, respond and rest. 

Hallelujah, the Lord is risen. 

Sermon Great Vigil 2016

When is an ending not an end? When a dead man rises from the tomb, and when a Gospel ends in the middle of a sentence." Lamar Williamson writes about the end of Mark’s Gospel. "The women went out from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; they said nothing to anyone, they were afraid for..." That’s how it reads in Greek.  The most important story of the Christian faith just stops and the end just hangs out there. And we are left waiting, unresolved.

The English translation solves that problem by moving the preposition: "They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." That solves the problem with the sentence, but not with the Gospel. Several ancient versions of the Gospel attempted to solve this problem by adding another ending. You will see those printed in your Bibles. But the style of writing is so different that you can tell, even in English, that these were added by another hand, by someone who wanted to make Mark’s Gospel sound like the others, by someone who wanted an end. Even back then, there was some editor who was saying: "We can’t have this. We need a conclusion! We need to wrap this up so that, to mix the media metaphor, we can bring up the background music, roll the credits and let people leave with a good feeling about this. We can’t have: "they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid!"
Any yet, at least in the short run, Mark is probably quite right. Of course, these friends of Jesus were afraid. Death is awful; especially this terrible execution, but at least we know what death is. Death leaves us in deep pain, but at least we know what to do next. Death is tragic, but at least we can understand that someone we loved has gone.

But this...this is something else entirely. Three grieving women come to the grave to complete the cleaning of the body for its burial; they come to do what you do next when someone has died. At the tomb, they meet a young man in a robe of white who tells them that their friend has risen from the dead and is going ahead of them to Galilee, back where they all came from. Now, either they are hallucinating or this young man is part of a conspiracy and has stolen the body or this really is a divine messenger and something as amazing as creation itself has just happened. Any way you look at it, they were bound to be terrified.

"They said nothing to anyone, they were afraid for..." But obviously, they did. They told someone, who told someone, who told someone else, who told a lot of people, because 40 years later Mark is writing this Gospel. And nearly 2,000 years later here we are believing and sharing it. 
Mark’s Gospel opens with these words: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Mark goes on to tell a great story about a preacher who talks about God in a way that made people want to believe; about a man with a loving touch who healed sick people and freed possessed people; about a man so filled with God’s vision that he included women in his inner circle and ate with traitors and tax collectors, and touched people who were unclean.

The death of this good man—the best man—and more, man and God—was a terrible thing, and Mark spends most of his story telling about that. He tells about how Jesus tried to prepare his friends, to explain that the only way to the life that death could not take away was for God’s Messiah to die. Mark tells about conflicts that Jesus had with religious leaders who thought they already knew everything there was to know about God and life and death.
He tells about a meal where bread and wine take on a whole new meaning—they become his body and blood; about fear and betrayal. Finally, he tells about pain and a cry of utter abandonment.

Then the women come, and just when we think the story is going to pick up and turn around and continue they run away in fear! No wonder some editor tacked on "the rest of the story!" This Gospel has a beginning; the author has told us so. What it needs is an end; A definite conclusion; A so-what; A where to next.  But maybe that’s the whole point. Maybe this story has no end, at least not yet. Perhaps this awkward sentence with its preposition at the end is Mark’s way of saying: "This story isn’t over because now it’s your story and mine." This is something like one of those plays where the audience gets to vote on how the play ends after a break in the action. Only in this case, it’s the audience that gets to live the end.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ will all be made alive." Mark’s audience believed that. They believed that, because of Jesus, their lives had been completely transformed.   

Mark’s story of Jesus has a beginning, but it doesn’t have an end. It just keeps going on and on, from one life to another, touching and transforming us one by one. The risen Christ was not at the tomb; he is not there; he has gone ahead of his friends—ahead of us. Where charity and love prevail over injustice and violence; where compassion and hope replace cynicism and despair; where peace and love take root in lives that are empty and lost; where human beings know joy and justice, dignity and delight: there is the risen Christ, beckoning to us.  When is an ending not an end? When the end is the beginning—the story about eternal and abundant life…  Amen.

Sermon Good Friday 2016

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

That is the question for us, Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  The easy answer is, of course not; that happened two thousand years ago.  The difficult answer is, well, not so easy is it.  Perhaps I should restate it, “Where would you have been if you had been there when they crucified my Lord”?  Where would I have been on that darkest of dark Good days? 
Would I have been one of the crowd who had a few short days before shouting Hosanna in the highest to the king and are now calling out to Pilot, Crucify, Crucify Him? 
Would I have been a Roman soldier who just followed orders and flogged Jesus relentlessly; after all he was an insurrectionist rabble rouser and we have to make sure that revolutions are nipped in the bud?   

Would I have volunteered to carry his cross and stepped in to that role in place of Simon of Cyrene?  Someone had to do it—after all he had been so violently flogged that he could not carry it himself. 
Would I have been the soldier who nailed his hands and his feet to that terrible means of execution that became for us a symbol of willing sacrifice? 

Would I have been with the disciples who denied Jesus and run away in fear?

Would I have been the one who pierced his side?

Would I have been the centurion who proclaimed, "Truly this man was God’s son”.
Would I have even been one of the one’s at the foot of the cross who stayed with him? 

To be honest I don’t know —none of us can know that for sure.  However, I have my suspicions.  Do I stand against the crowd when there is discrimination against a minority?  Do I always give to the beggar on the street when asked for some spare change?  Do I laugh when someone makes an off colour joke about a Gay or Lesbian person?  Do I give consistently to the local food bank?  Have I been persecuted for righteousness sake?  Have people reviled me and uttered all kinds of evil against me falsely on Jesus’ account?  Have I fed the hungry?  Am I now rich and have received my consolation on this earth?  Have I visited prisoners?  Have I loved my neighbour as myself?  Have I loved my enemies?   When someone strikes me on the cheek do I turn the other one? If someone takes my possessions do I ask for them back?   Do I go the second mile? 

Where would I have been when they crucified my Lord?  Where would you have been?  Amen 

Reflection Maundy Thursday 2016

On a busy street lined with stores, clubs and restaurants there stands an unassuming looking grey building. Out front residents relax on benches.  In the courtyard a figure kneels, his face upturned, ready to meet the glance of passers-by. He wears jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, sleeves rolled up. His feet are bare.  Those who see him uncomfortably look the other way not wanting to look him in the eyes.  Some look angry that this poor excuse for a person has invaded their conscious space.  Perhaps they should ask the city government to ban such people from their lovely city.

One hand reaches out while the other dips into a shallow basin in a most tender invitation. Lips slightly parted, he seems to say, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.”  This may shock you to picture Jesus as a homeless man.  But who did Jesus consort with while he was with us?  Was it the rich and famous–the rulers–the religious leaders?  Or was it the poor, the outcast, the tax collectors, women and children, the sinners and others on the edges of society?   He is the one who put himself in the servant’s role and washed the feet of his guests.  He is the one whose message is for those who are most in need of him, the sinners, the poor, the lepers; the ones who are abused, abandoned, who have no power. This is the one who gives us a glimpse of where we could look for Jesus when he returns. 

The bronze statue called Christ the Servant by Jimlu Mason kneels in front of the entrance to Christ House, an inner city medical clinic for homeless men and women in Washington DC.   
In this place of shelter and healing it is a timeless icon of humble service—Jesus bends to wash the feet of those who are all but forgotten.

Tonight we gather to hear the sacred stories, pour water and the wiping of feet, say prayers, share the holy meal, and strip away our most beloved vessels and linens. Let us hold in our hearts this image of Christ the Servant, kneeling, inviting, bending before each of us, face upturned to meet our gaze, lips slightly parted, saying as he said then, says now and into eternity, “Love one another.”  And in loving one another may we bend—may we be moved to humbly serve all who pass by on the busy streets of our lives. 

Let us pray*:  Loving Lord, please grant us the hearts of servanthood that we may see the need in others and be willing to stop, listen and respond to them as a fellow child of God.   We ask this through the greatest of servants, Jesus Christ our Lord.    Amen.
*Gerry Adam, Deacon and Director Huron Church Camp,
      and Family Ministry at St James Westminster London ON.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The Anointing of Jesus in Four Versions

Last Sunday I continued our exploration of spiritual practices as part of the Lenten series on Spiritual Renewal.  I explored Centering Prayer in my sermon.  Centering Prayer is the practice of silent prayer which has the goal of making space to allow us to be more fully aware of God’s presence in our lives.  It also challenges us to put our egos aside and give control over to God.  This is not something which comes easily or naturally to many, if not most people.  

The Gospel for Sunday, the fifth and last Sunday in Lent, was John 12: 1-8.  This is John’s account of the anointing of Jesus’ feet by a woman who extravagantly uses expensive nard for the anointing.  This account is interesting for a number of reasons.  It is particularly interesting in my view because it is one of the few events is Jesus’ life that occurs in all four Gospels.  In addition there are some differences in all four Gospel accounts.  These accounts emphasize the differences that can and do occur in all the Gospels. It is a good example of how each of the Gospel writers uses events in Jesus’ life for their own purposes.  I do not mean to imply that they are changing the account for bad or nefarious purposes.  Indeed it is just the opposite.  In my mind it shows us how each of us can make the Gospels and indeed all scripture come alive and be meaningful in our lives today. 

I will give a short summary of the differences in each account:
Mark, which is generally considered the earliest of the Gospels, places the event in the house of Simon the leper.  The woman, who is not identified, enters and anoints Jesus’ feet with the nard.  She is criticized by some of those present, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii,* and the money given to the poor.”  Jesus rebukes them and quotes the famous line which is often used as an excuse for not addressing poverty, “The poor will always be with you.”    However, the focus is on the woman preparing Jesus’ body for burial as a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.

Matthew’s account is very similar to Mark’s.  It also occurs in the house of Simon the leper. Matthew follows Mark in wanting to emphasize not only Jesus’ association with those in opposition to the law but also includes other people in this association.  Matthew specifically identifies the others as disciples which, I believe, is important that they are close followers of Jesus and all followers of Jesus should do likewise.  John has the disciples  saying that the money could be used to support the poor but Matthew does not record Jesus saying that the poor will always be with us.  Again the emphasis is on the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial. 

Luke’s account of the event is much more dramatic that Matthew’s and Mark’s.  Luke identifies the host as a Pharisee and later names him as Simon but does not identify him as a leper.  Luke does not name the woman but declares that she is sinful.  Simon criticizes Jesus silently for allowing a sinful woman—a prostitute by implication—to do such an intimate act for Jesus.  Jesus is aware of Simon’s thoughts and in response tells him a parable of debtors and debts being forgiven.  Jesus uses this to have Simon hoist on his own petard to condemn himself.  Jesus proclaims that the woman’s sins are forgiven and declares she has shown greater love that Simon who was the host of the occasion.  Luke identifies Simon as a Pharisee to emphasize, as he often does, the importance of love over the Law.  Luke is also concerned for those on the outside; sinners, women, the poor and children and wants to show that Jesus came especially for them and not the self-righteous and self-satisfied.

John’s Gospel is considered the latest of the four and differs the most from the other three which are classified as synoptic because of their similarity.  John’s account is the shortest on detail and perhaps the most difference as is often the case in John’s Gospel.  He place is event in the house of his good friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  John identifies the woman as Mary and is assumed therefor to be the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with the expensive nard.   But John adds to this extravagance by have Mary do an even more extravagant act of wiping his feet with her hair.  John does not identify this Mary as a sinner but it is implied by this act of a woman letting down her hair for a man who is not her husband.  John has Judas as the one who criticizes Jesus for this act but John declares he does this because he is the keeper of the money bag or the disciples i.e. the treasurer, and wants to steal the money.  There is no other biblical evidence that Lazarus fulfilled this role as the purse keeper or embezzled money from the group.  John does emphasize the act as a foreshadowing of the crucifixion. 

There is also an interesting tradition that developed in the middle ages that the sinful woman who John identifies as Mary was Mary Magdalene.  This led to the belief that and common misconception that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  However, there is no biblical evidence of this.  

Sermon March 13, 2016 Lent 5

19I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.
During Lent we have been exploring our journey with Jesus as we travel to the Easter celebration by exploring ways of Spiritual Renewal.  Spiritual Renewal is a way which can help us navigate through those times in life in which we feel as if we are tottering on the edge of the pit.  It can also help us to more closely follow our Saviour each day – in the good times as well as the bad times.  
Today Isaiah declares that God will give water to God’s chosen people in the wilderness.  Spiritual Renewal calls us to different ways of drawing  on the water of salvation.  This is an echo of what Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well:  “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Jesus tells us to draw of the water which he provides— that water of eternal life.  This is the goal of Spiritual Renewal.  The first way we explored was a method of reading scripture - Lectio Divina, Holy Reading .  This is not bible study in the traditional sense.  Rather it is a form of prayer using scripture.

We next explored walking the Labyrinth - the moving prayer in which we follow the twists and turns of our spiritual life to the centre and back.  Sometimes it seems we are getting close to the centre and then there is a sharp turn in our lives and we seem to be moving away from our goal.  However, if we follow the path that our savour prepares for us we will reach it.  Last Sunday we explored a way that God speaks to us which has been lost for many centuries—dreams which can be called God’s Forgotten Language.  Today I invite you to experience a form of prayer which also helps us draw the water of eternal life from the well; Centering Prayer.   Centering Prayer is a form of silent prayer in which you make space for you to be more aware of God’s presence in your life.  God is always there but we often have difficulty perceiving that presence.  The process is quite simple with just a few steps. 
Choose a word or phrase that resonates with you as an expression of your intent and desire - It use the word ‘return’.  Sit comfortably and upright, eyes closed, breathing naturally, and begin to repeat this sacred word silently. As your attention is focused on the desire behind the word, gradually let the word slip away; Rest in silence.  You will find that thoughts and images and feeling may come into your mind.  We are not used to quiet in our culture – our brains want to fill silence.  This has been called our monkey brains - which is very descriptive.  When these thoughts, images or sensations arise, gently return to the sacred word as a symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within you. 

The recommended period for prayer is twenty minutes each day.  However, we will begin today with five minutes to give you a taste of the experience.  When the time is up I will close with a prayer.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Prodigal People of God

During our Lenten journey I have been introducing to our congregations various ways in which we can be more open to God’s presence in our lives. We have now explored three different methods.  The first two were the Lectio Divina and the Labyrinth.  Yesterday we explored dreams as a way in which God speaks to us.  I have attached my sermon for your consideration.
 There are positive and negative images or archetypes in dreams in Carl Jung’s theory of dream work.  This is true of most, if not all things, in life.  This is also true for doing a sermon series such as we are doing during Lent.  The positive is that we can explore one subject in more depth than is often possible following the lectionary of appointed scripture in preaching.  This is true of our theme of Spiritual renewal which we are exploring during Lent.  The negative aspect of this is that we can miss opportunities to explore the scripture passages which are provided in the lectionary.  This is particularly true of the Gospel yesterday which is the parable of the prodigal son.  This parable is one that provides many possibilities of exploration in sermons and in bible study.
I want to take this opportunity to explore briefly this parable in my reflection today.  One of the best explorations of the prodigal son teaching of Jesus is by Henri Nouwen.  His book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, is a wonderful resource for this.  He uses the painting of this event by exploring the classic painting by Rembrandt.  Here are two quotes from the book which I hope will give you a sense of where Nouwen is going with his exploration.
“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
Nouwen’s genius, in my view, is to get to move beyond the obvious understanding of the parable which is coming home to God the Father who is waiting to welcome us to the banquet.  He asks how are we to let God into our lives?  God is there waiting for us to return.  Can I put aside my egocentric position and allow myself to be loved by God.  This is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  We will fail many times as Nouwen confesses he has but we can forgive ourselves as God forgives us and try and try again seventy times seven times.  God will still be waiting no matter how long it takes.   

May your Lenten journey be blessed. 

Sermon March 6, 2016 Lent 4

During Lent we have been exploring Spiritual Renewal in our Lenten Journey and exploring different ways we can be open to how God is speaking to us and guiding us on our journey.  As we are each unique children of God we are each going to experience different ways in which we can connect with the divine so it is important that we experience different ways in which people have found helpful.
Two Sundays ago we explored Lectio Divina— Holy Reading and for those who would like to experience that more fully we have a Lectio Divina Group that meets at 9:30 before the service on Sundays.  Last Sunday I introduced you to the Labyrinth which is a moving prayer.  When you experience the Labyrinth it is important to take your time and not rush through the journey.  As in life it is also the journey and not just the destination which is important.  Today I want to explore another way which has a long tradition of being a way in which God speaks to us but one like the labyrinth was lost to our culture for many centuries.  This is listening to God through our dreams.
The Old Testament lesson from Genesis recounts Jacob’s dream of a ladder between heaven and earth.  In biblical times people generally understood dreams to be a way in which God communicated with people.   Many of the prophets of old received dreams and visions from God and shared those experiences with their people. 

Dreams as a way of God speaking to the people of God occur many times in the bible.  Can anyone give me an example of God speaking to people in dreams……..
I especially like the story of Jacob’s dream of a ladder between heaven and earth. 
I particularly like this passage because it is about a dream and it describes the way dreams work.  We have angels – messengers from God going between heaven and earth.  It is interesting that the angels are ascending first and then descending.  My understanding of this is that Jacob was initially ready to receive a message.  He was therefore prepared for receive the messages that came to his from heaven.
Although dreams were recognized in biblical times and in the early church as a way God communicated with people it became discounted and lost to us in modern times.  This happened for many reasons.  The church hierarchy did not like the idea of people having direct communication with God.   This bypassed the authority of the church and the clergy wanted to maintain control over people’s understanding of God’s message.  In addition, the enlightenment began to discount anything that could not be measured and weighed and had a material foundation.  Dreams became what can be called God’s forgotten language. 

In the modern era there began to be a recovered understanding of dreams as a way of receiving messages about ourselves.  Beginning with the founders of depth psychology—Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung—a new understanding of dreams and a rediscovery of the meaning of dreams has occurred which I want to explore with you briefly. 

How many of you dream?.....  I should probably have asked how many remember their dreams.    Everyone dreams but not everyone remembers them.  However, everyone can with the right conditions.   It is also important to understand how God speaks to us through dreams.  God can speak to us as God did in the bible—with direct messages—these might be called big dreams.  God also speaks to us through dreams giving us information about what we need to know about ourselves.  Dreams can help us become more fully the people that God intends us to be.  Dreams provide information when our lives are out of balance.  They can point to how we can develop more fully the part of ourselves—aspect of ourselves that we have not acknowledged even though they are part of who God creates us to be as unique individuals.

In understanding dreams a good way to begin is to be aware that all the aspects of the dream— from individuals you know and individuals you don’t know to inanimate objects such as cars or houses are usually aspects of the dreamer.  It is important to know where the energy is in the dream and where the movement is.    In remembering your dreams the most important aspect is having the intention of remembering and paying attention.  Have a pen and paper available to record your dream.   That is the next step – write it down and consider the images in the dream.  What is your associating with them?  Write down any associating with the people or the other images. 

One figure that is the easiest to recognize in dreams—and one of the most important—is the shadow.  This figure, which is usually the same sex as the dreamer will be dark and probably not someone you know in waking life, will have characteristics that represent aspects of yourself that you do not want to recognize.  They will be rejected parts of yourself that are presented to you in dreams.  The purpose is to acknowledge those aspects of yourself and relate to them consciously. These are often characteristics that you consider to be negative but also can be positive.  These are aspects of who God made you to be—a unique child of God. 

Of course there is much more to say on the approach but I will stop there.  If you would like to find out more I would be most interested to talking to you at another time.  Finally it is important to understand that all dreams come in the assistance of health and wholeness of the dreamer – even ones that don’t seem that way.  I have graduated from a program as a facilitator of dream groups and would be most willing to talk to people who might be interested in having a group at St. Anne’s and St. John’s.  I will close with the prayer we use in dream groups.
Holy Dream Maker, Creator of All,
Be with us as we open our hearts and minds
to the divine wisdom in our dreams.
We thank you and honour You.
As you guide us in the way to health and wholeness,
 may we be open to the blessings of your message    

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Sermon February 28, 2016 – Lent 3

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. Isaiah 55: 1-3
It can feel at times in our journey in this world that we are in danger eating food that does not feel our souls as the prophet Isaiah says.  Last Sunday I introduced you to an exploration into the journey which has is its goal Spiritual Renewal—bread and wine for the soul.  That is the type of renewal in our culture which is a special calling of the church.  Spiritual Renewal is a way which can help us navigate through those times in life in which we feel as if we are tottering on the edge of the pit.  It can also help us to more closely follow our Saviour each day – in the good times as well as the bad times.

Last Sunday we looked at one form of prayer – Lectio Divina or Holy Reading as a way of listening to how God is speaking to us and where God is leading us through scripture.  If you would like to explore that there will be a Lectio Divinoa Group that will meet at 9:30 before worship service starting next Sunday.  This will be led by Joe Wooden.  For more information please talk to Joe or me.  Today I want to offer you another way which can help you navigate on that journey in life.  Today we are going to explore the Sacred Path of the Labyrinth.  The first thing that is important to know about the labyrinth is that it is not the same as a maze. 

You may be more familiar with the maze which is a network of paths that are a puzzle which has to be solved to find your way out of.  In a maze you can take wrong turns and run into dead ends.  It is something that you might not actually solve. 

However, the labyrinth is different.  As I noted last week there are many different ways of spiritual practice.  As we are all unique children of God it is important to find the way that is best for you.  Lorna finds the labyrinth to be a particularly meaningful Spiritual practice.  Lorna has even constructed a seven course labyrinth at our cottage in P.E.I.  I, on the other hand, don’t find it as meaningful.  However, I do use a labyrinth when I have the opportunity. 

The labyrinth It is a path that if followed will lead to you on the inward journey to the centre and out again on the return journey.  There are many twists and turns but the path will never lead you astray.  The labyrinth is an ancient form which has—as far as we know—always been used as a spiritual practice.  The oldest surviving labyrinth is found in a rock carving at Luzzanas in Sardinia which dates from about 2500 B.C.E. The remains of a labyrinth can be found in Mount Knossos on the Island of Crete.  Labyrinths have been known to people for over four thousand years and have been found in almost every religious tradition around the world. 

Although it is an ancient spiritual and religious tradition it fell out of use in modern culture and was only rediscovered and moved into popular culture in the 1990’s with the work of different people including clergy and laypeople at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. 
Since then it seems to have taken the western world by storm and labyrinths have become almost common place in different cities. 

There is a beautiful outdoor labyrinth at the Kanuga Conference Centre of the Episcopal Church in North Carolina where my wife Lorna and I attend dream Conferences’ and an indoor one at the Mount Carmel Retreat Centre in Niagara Fall which hosts the spiritual direction program we completed.

Walking the labyrinth can represent different things to different people.  It can represent the journey into wholeness which is undertaken as we seek to become the people God intends us to be.  It can be a form of walking meditation or prayer.  It can represent the twists and turns our spiritual life takes which never seems to be a straight line.  But if we follow the path which God intends for us and listen to where God is leading us it can represent the journey that God will guide us on throughout our lives until we reach our final goal—union with God when our life on this earth have run its course. 
We can’t experience a full-fledged walking of the labyrinth this morning of course but we can walk it with our fingers.  You should have received with the bulletin a diagram of the 11 course labyrinth.  Using a finger I invite you to follow the path of the labyrinth to the center and back again – as time allows.  As you follow the path notice and experience how at times you will seem to be approaching the destination on the inward journey—the centre and then there will be a sharp turn which will take you away from the centre. 

There are many ways to approach the labyrinth walk.  I am drawing the work of Rev. Lauren Artress who is a canon of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.    One beneficial way is to simply quiet you mind letting go of all thoughts and cares.  As thoughts enter your mind just note them and release them.  The goal is to let a gracious sense of attention flow through you. 

Another way is to ask a question before beginning you walk and focus on it was you walk.  Keep the question in your conscious mind and you proceed and see what response you receive. 
Take your time – it is important to proceed at a slow steady pace.  We will have five minutes or so and I encourage you to continue your journey later at your leisure and experience it.  If you have a chance to walk a full sized labyrinth I encourage you to experience it—a number of times. 

Of Mazes and Labyrinths

During Lent I am introducing the congregations to various spiritual practices in my sermons.  Two weeks ago I introduced Lectio Divina—Holy Reading and last Sunday I introduced a form of walking prayer—the Labyrinth.  My sermon, which is attached, noted the difference between a labyrinth and a maze.  The labyrinth has a path that, if followed, will lead to the centre albeit by a rather circuitous route.  However the maze has options, some of which are dead ends.  You have to turn around and go back. 

The labyrinth is now a well-established method of spiritual practice in our modern western culture.  It is a good representation of the non-linear nature of the spiritual journey.  Sometimes it seems that you are getting near the centre and making progress on your spiritual journey but you will be guided away from you destination.  However, if you continue to follow the path that God has prepared for you, you will reach the ultimate goal. 

Unlike the labyrinth the maze is not a spiritual practice. However, I believe that the maze is also a good representation of the spiritual journey.  In some ways it is more realistic of the journey that many, if not most people follow in the spiritual, religious and psychological lives.  We often take the wrong path when given a choice and find ourselves in what seems to be a dead end.  We make choices that separate us from God and have to turn around and go another way which will hopefully be on the path that God intends for us.  This is the best definition I know of sin and repentance—to turn around and go another way when we miss the mark.

As I note in my sermon I hope that if you have a chance to walk a labyrinth or a maze you will take the opportunity.  I have attached a diagram of a classic 11 course labyrinth for those who are not familiar with the labyrinths.  Blessings