Monday, 30 May 2016

Sermon May 29, 2016

The account of the battle between Elijah and the priests of Baal is marvelous example of those times when God’s chosen people strayed from worshiping the one true God.  A common story of the Jewish people in the Hebrew Bible, is one of the Israelites being tempted to worship false Gods and being called back by the prophets to worship the one true God.  This encounter between Elijah and the priests of Baal is one of the most dramatic and engaging accounts of this continuing story.

I don’t know if this story has been made into a movie but it cries out for it to be done.  We have all the essential parts here.  It is so dramatically written that it is almost a scene play as it is presented.  Elijah, the prophet and the hero of the story rally the people and lays it on the line.  Which God do you serve?  You cannot serve two Gods.  Will it be YHHW or will it be Baal—the foreign god of Jezebel the foreign wife of King Ahab.  He puts it wonderfully to the Israelites, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?  All was not well with the Chosen People of God.

Elijah engages in a battle with the priests of Baal. It hardly seems a fair fight—Elijah all by himself against four hundred and fifty priests of Baal.   
It is a version of anything your God can do mime can do better.  It is a wonderful, dramatic display of one-upmanship. 

The offerings to the two Gods are set up.  Which God will send down holy fire to make the offerings a holy sacrifice?  The priests—all four hundred and fifty of them—call on Baal to send down the fire to made the offering a holy sacrifice.  Of course their god is silent and does not respond.  Again the writer describes it wonderful language, “But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made”. 

Elijah responds by upping the ante.  He has his people prepare an altar which represents all the people—twelve stones; one for each of the tribes of Israel.  He reminds them who they are and who their God is and that He brought them out of slavery in Egypt.  He has them pour water on the wood of the sacrifice; not once but three times to show beyond a doubt that YHWH is the one true God.    God responds and send down holy fire.

What happens next is one of those inconvenient parts of the bible that I have mentioned before.  How does Elijah act after this wonderful response by God?  Does he call on the Priests of Baal to see the error of their ways and to worship the one true God?  No, he has the People of God slaughter them—every last man jack of them; so much for having compassion on your enemies. 
However, that seemed to be the only way that people could live in those times—by a battle to the last man—and sometimes woman, child and animal. 
So, if this was the Hollywood movie it could easily be we would have the compulsory happy ending—they would all live happily ever after—at least the hero and everyone who supported him.  However, we know that this is not going happens as things never go that smoothly for the People of God.  Queen Jezebel—well deserving of that name—declares war on Elijah.  What does Elijah do?  He is not so heroic now but, quite sensibly, hightails it out of town, “Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life.”  No High Noon showdown here. 

This is a wonderful dramatic story.  Is there anything in this account in Holy Scripture that we can apply to our time and to us today?  Well, I don’t think God is calling us to treat our enemies the way Elijah treated the Priests of Baal or Queen Jezebel treated Elijah.  However, we can learn a lot about the need to be reminded vigorously when we have forgotten to worship the one true God.  I can imagine that Prophet of God saying to us, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions”?  The only problem with that is that we seem to have many more than two options or opinions today. 

There are so many, many gods that we worship today; materialism, the obsession with social media and popularity, success, and power.  I could go on very easily but you get the point. 

I love the expression “limping after them”.  That is such an apt description.  When we are following the wrong opinion or option in life, when we miss the mark we are not seeking God; When we sin that is what we are doing, limping through life and not living life to the fullest.  So how do we know when we are seeking the wrong option? Well the account of Elijah gives us an answer.  We will know by the results.  Elijah as a representative of YHWH defeated the Priests of Baal in dramatic form.  However, we cannot expect that God will act in such a dramatic way today.  God have given us the new covenant in his only begotten son Jesus Christ.  In this he has dramatically shown the way.  However, he has given us the option —again those inconvenient and difficult options—this one of following Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.  We have that model of who and what Jesus is that we should no longer need dramatic proof in the form of fire from heaven—God sending down lightning bolts like Zeus from the heavens.  We have Jesus Christ to show us what it means to live the life that God intends us to live—a life or sacrifice for others in service to our God. 
We have another thing that we can take from the story of Elijah and the Priests of Baal.  Things did not go well for Elijah after his great victory.  He ran away in fear for his life from the wrath of Queen Jezebel.  There are going to be times when, even in our successes we are going to taste defeat.  The sweetness of life—even if we choose the right option and are faithful to God— will at times turn to ashes in our mouths.  However, in those times we know that just as God was still with Elijah, even as he fled from the wrath of Jezebel, God is still with us.  God will sustain us and Jesus will be our guide through the valley of the shadow of death.  Thanks be to God. 

Sermon Trinity Sunday

Today is one of those days in the church year that is—how shall I put it?—not embraced with open arms by preachers.  We have that rather awkward theology of the Holy trinity—God in Three Persons; Three in One.  We affirm that every Sunday in our Creeds:

I believe in God,

the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit

and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again

to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.

God the Father; Jesus Christ his only Son; the Holy Spirit; and yet we are monotheist.  Non-believers like to ask how can we claim to be monotheist s when we believe in three Gods?  If you really think about it they have a point.  How can there be three persons and yet one God?  Theologians have been dancing on the head of that pin—probably from the beginning of the church.  And we poor preachers have to try and address it on this day every year in 10 or 15 minutes. 

The Creed was supposed to settle it once and for all.  If you believe that I have a great investment opportunity that will give you annual returns of 100%.  Theologians are still writing and debating it and probably always be. 

And what does the churchgoer in the pew think about it?  Well more to the point do they think about it?  Probably not.  Be honest how many of you think about the Trinity—perhaps except this Sunday when we celebrate the Trinity?

Does it really matter; should it matter to us?  In some ways perhaps it doesn’t.  What does it matter if we believe in the Trinity or not give it a second thought —much less an third or fourth or fifth?  Well, It actually does matter.  Not so theologians can dance around the subject and get into debates about it.  With apologies to my systematics professor, Gary Badcock, does that really matter to you and me—at least on a day to day basis in how we live our lives. 

What I believe does matter is the image(s) we have of God.  This is tied inextricably to the Trinity.  If you ever engage in conversation with someone who says he or she is an atheist, ask them who the God is that they don’t believe in.  They will probably  say they don’t believe in a big man in the sky who will give us things if we ask in the right way; as Janice Joplin sang; O Lord won’t you give me a Mercedes Benz.  The question is then, who is the God you believe in?  Or you might consider which God do you believe in? What image of God do you hold in your mind even when you don’t think about it? 

Is it one of God with the long white beard sitting on a throne in heaven with Jesus his son, with blue eyes and blond hair on his right hand and the beautiful white dove that descended on Jesus at his baptism flying above their heads?

The wonderful and absolutely essential thing about the Trinity for me is that it gives me a more complete picture of God—more but not the whole picture.  No picture can capture any more of God than a possible glimpse but it does give me the best picture that I can conceive of—at least in this point of my life.

So what then is the image I have of each of the persons in the Trinity?  That is something that I find changes for me depending on where I am in my life.  One that I found quite interesting was proposed in a novel that was very popular a few years ago; The Shack byWilliam Paul Young .   It is an allegory in the tradition of Pilgrim’s Progress.  It gives us an allegory for the Trinity in the form of three people—not persons.  Each of the persons of the Trinity becomes a character in The Shack. The Father is Papa, a deliberately peculiar name for an African American woman. Jesus, true to reality, is a man from the Middle East. And the Holy Spirit is Sarayu, an Asian woman. 

I like Young’s allegory for the trinity for a number of reasons.  First it gives a picture of the three Persons that is very non-traditional.  God the Father is a woman —an African American at that; the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman and Jesus the Son is a middle eastern man who is “wearing jeans covered in wood dust and a plaid shirt with sleeves rolled up above the elbows revealing well-muscled forearms.  His features were pleasant enough, but he was not particularly handsome—not a man that would stand out in a crowd”. 

No blond haired blue eyed Hollywood Jesus here.  Second, I like that women are in the majority—two women and one man.  Third, God the Father becomes God the Mother and a black Mamma at that named Papa— go figure.  We need to have our stereotypes and expectations turned on their heads.  In that way we will have to consider and not just assume we know who and what God is.  If our image of God has not changed for a while perhaps it should. 

The Trinity can, if we do not try and put God in a preconceived box, give us as full a picture as possible of the Divine which is the thing that creates and continues to sustain all of creation.  We will inevitably try and give an image to all that God is.  The problem is when we freeze that incomplete and of necessity, inadequate image and believe we know what and who God is.  This is one of the reasons I prefer the old words of the Lord’s Prayer, Our Father which art in heaven; which rather than who; being rather than a person.  It goes on, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.  God is working in this world and in us and enabling us to grow as things grow in the earth. 

Think of your image of God.  Who and what is God for you.  How does that image of God affect how you live and breathe and have your being?  How does that inform how you live your life today and every day?  Think about what else God might be that you had not even considered before.  Think of how that God loves you and each and every part of God’s creation.  Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Sermon The Day of Pentecost

Tongues of fire overhead; a sound like the rush of a violent wind; people speaking in languages not their own; no wonder the people were perplexed; 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”  
Well I don’t see anything like that today.  Perhaps we will be filled with new wine at the wine tasting on the 29th.  But there aren’t any tongues of fire that I can see and no sounds like the rush of a violent wind that I can hear.  Did any of you start speaking in languages you don’t know before the church service started?  There is often a lot of conversation before the worship service but it is always in English as far as I know.  So, does that mean the Holy Spirit is not at work in this place?

The Holy Spirit was certainly in evidence on that Day of Pentecost.  This is the birth of the church when the first Christians—before they were even first called by that name—came together from all the corners of the known world.  They were amazed to hear the Galileans speaking in the native languages of all those observers.   By my count there were at least twelve different languages recorded that day.  This was, I believe, the first record of speaking in tongues.  
We have the other evidence of that action of the Holy Spirit—the tongues of fire in addition to the tongues of language; the sounds of the rush of the violent wind.  With the Holy Spirit at work in such a direct and forceful way how could those first Christians not respond and go out and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ risen from the tomb, spreading the Gospel?

They certainly did just that.  The Christian church spread like that rush of wind and spread throughout the known world and beyond in what seemed like the blink of an eye.  However, things did not go without a hitch as we can see in Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth and other places.  We had people not behaving as Paul believes Christians should; acting immorally, not sharing with each other, letting some go hungry, people thinking they were better than others and had gifts that were more important than other gifts.  Paul spends a great deal of energy trying to get the Christians in Corinth and elsewhere to behave like Christians. 

Does that sound familiar?  The church today certainly has more in common with those seven churches that Paul kept criticizing than with those gathered on the Day of Pentecost.  We can say, well, if only the Holy Spirit would show itself in the same way as it did on that day all would be well.  Why don’t we have evidence of the Holy Spirit at work as those Christians had?  
Where are the tongues of fire and the speaking in tongues and the noise of violent wind not to mention the other miracles?  What has happened to the Holy Spirit today?

Where is the promise given to us in Scripture, “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 

People have been looking for the fulfillment of that prophecy ever since.  They have looked for it in all the natural disasters ever since.  One example is the Great Lisbon earthquake which occurred on All Saints day in 1755 which had far reaching consequences beyond the destruction it caused directly.   The people and even some theologians saw it as divine judgment.  More recently I recall getting into an online debate after Hurricane Katrina with someone who knew with absolute certainty that New Orleans was destroyed because it was a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. 

I would not be surprized if fundamentalist of both religion and ecology claim Fort McMurray was destroyed because of the sinful people there and the sins of the oil sands. We have people misidentifying the Holy Spirit in many different places.  We have so called speaking in tongues that occur in religious settings today. The modern term for this is glossolalia.  It has no relationship to the events recorded in Acts and other places in the bible.  What is called speaking in tongues lacks any comprehension by any of those listening.  In the account in Act we are told that those listening heard the Galileans speaking in their language. 

However, the Holy Spirit is at work today although it does not seem to work as it did in those days of the early church.  One of the great challenges for Christians today is to learn how to discern the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the world.  It is very easy to latch onto to some event or circumstance and say that is the Holy Spirit at work.  It can certainly be something that seems to be God at work in the world.  However, we can certainly be wrong.  We can believe that we know absolutely what God is doing in this world.  Often it can be just what we want to happen.  We want God to fit our idea of how God should behave.  We want God to smite our enemies as God appeared to do in the Hebrew Bible. If not actually smite them at least bring them crashing down to earth—as I wish God would do with Donald trump. 

So we ask ourselves how can God let the world go to hell in a hand-basket?  How can God let the Anglican Church wither and die as it seems to be doing in so many places in Canada?  How can God let bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people?  How?  How?  How?  Is God actually dead as was popularly proposed in the 1960s or does God actually not care?
The short answer is that God alive and well and does love and care for us.  God loves us so much that God gave us free will and God continues to give us free will.  That could be considered God’s great curse and God greatest gift.  God allowed Eve to be tempted by the serpent God encouraged humankind to leave our Garden Paradise and be in the world and to be stewards of the world.  Unfortunately we have tried to dominate it ever since rather than be stewards of creation and of each other as God intends.  God loves us so much that God sent God’s only begotten son to show us what it means to live fully the life that we are meant to live as God’s children. 

The Holy Spirit is indeed still active in the world.  Although it doesn’t seem to be acting in the same way as it did in biblical times.  
Or perhaps we have just learned how to ignore it and to misidentify it because it doesn’t act in the way our egos believe it should.  What we need today is to develop our ability to discern how God is acting in the world.  We need to listen and not do all the talking.  We need to be silent and know that God is at work in the world.  That is not easy for us to do.  We need to listen and hear and know that God is God.  We need to hear and respond in our hearts and bodies and minds and souls.  When we act we need to discern if we have heard God correctly.  By the fruit of the acts we will know if God is behind them and in them.  But first we must be still and know that God is God.  Amen.

The Inspired Word of God

I find it interesting and annoying when the lectionary leaves out certain passages from the appointed readings.  Last Sunday the reading from psalms was psalm 104: 25-35, 37b.  I have attached a copy of psalm 104 for you reference.   The part that was left out of the appointed reading is “36 Let sinners be consumed out of the earth, and the wicked be no more.  37 Bless the Lord, O my soul.

I understand the desire for those who put together the lectionary to leave out this part.  It is not nice to think of the writer of Holy Scripture having such ungodly thoughts as wanting God to damn sinner and to wish the wicked to be conveniently gone from the earth.    However, I really object to the whitewashing of scripture to make it fit their desire for everything to be nice and lovey-dovey.  As much as we would like it to be, that is not life and that is not how people are.  We have nasty thoughts and wish for God to condemn to the outer darkness our enemies and others who don’t fit our idea of how people should be.  Dante must have had a great time placing those whom he didn’t approve of in the various circles of Hell.  I must admit that some of those people certainly seemed to be deserving of that fate. 

I must confess that I didn’t read the appointed psalmody when I prepared my sermon.  However, this idea of avoiding inconvenient scripture fit well with stated my wish that a certain Republican politician in the United States would be brought low by God.  That being said there are many parts of the Bible that are inconvenient for those of us who have a liberal view of theology and of God.  A good (or more appropriately a bad) example is 1 Samuel 15: 1-3 (a note to that politician; it is First Samuel not One Samuel): 
Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. 2Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

A rather inconvenient and challenging view of a God who desires a whole nation to be blotted out from the face of the earth.  It is easy to say, “that is not the God that I believe in”.  And it is not.  But if this is our Holy Scripture the inspired word of God we can’t hide it in the closet like some dark family secret that we agree not to talk about.  These inconvenient passages can challenge our understanding of scripture and our understanding of God and or God supposed greatest creation; human beings.  We need to grapple with these passages and explore the historical critical context for scripture and what that understanding means for our attitude and relation to others today that don’t fit our idea of what a “good” Christian and a “good” God is.  

As a closing I want to add that reading from psalms included the excluded passage in both services yesterday.  May God Bless to all us sinners and all those wicked in God’s world today (note that I am not ready yet to include myself among the wicked).   

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Sermon May 8, 2016

We are created in God’s image.  Of course, we are not God or even gods (small g) but we are God’s i.e. we belong to God and are God’ people.  God gives each of us gifts and God’s intention for us is that we use these gifts as God intends.  Fortunately, humanity was encouraged to leave our paradise in the Garden of Eden to go into the world to use these gifts.    Unfortunately we human beings often do not use our gifts the way God intends.  That is one way of describing sin—we miss the mark and believe that we know better than God about how we should behave in the world.  We put ourselves ahead of others; we do not love our neighbours as ourselves.

The scripture passage from Acts gives us a great example of how things can go off the tracks and get completely away from what God intends.  Paul and Silas encounter a slave-girl.  That is the first indication of how badly things can get derailed in life.  People believe that they have the right to own others; enslave them and use them for their own purposes.  We know that slavery was common in biblical times.  Indeed the Greek word for slave, doulos also means servant; slaves served their masters.   In the case of this slave-girl her gift is being used by her owners.  She has the gift of prophecy and that gift is being used by her owners for their profit. 
Paul sees that this gift, this spirit is being misused and casts the spirit out of the slave-girl.  Now this is not a case of the girl being possessed by an evil spirit as is often in the situations that are reported in the Gospels. 

Rather, Paul recognizes that the gift is being misused and the slave-girl needs to be freed from the misuse of it. She needs Paul’s help to free her from this sin.  Now you may think that this is perhaps not fair to the girl to think of this as sin.  However, we have to understand that sin should not be equated with morality or ethics.   It certainly can involve morality and ethical behaviour on our part.  However, more generally we need to think of sin as those things where we are not living as God intends.  The slave-girl was not doing anything of her own volition that caused the sin.  She was being used by others in a sinful way.  Paul frees her from this sin and set her free—if not from her owners, at least from the sin that the owners are using her for.

We are all sinners.  As it says in the baptismal covenant, “Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord”?  It is “whenever” not “if” we fall into sin.  It is part of the human condition that we will fall into sin.  In the understanding of sin as missing the mark and not using our gifts as God intends, it is understandable that this is going to happen to each of us. 

One way of considering how we use our gifts that I have found helpful is the perspective of personality type indicators such as the Enneagram.  There are many that are in use today such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator which you may be more familiar with.  It uses pairs of categories such as introvert and extrovert, feeling and thinking, sensing and intuition, and judging and perceiving.  Myers Briggs is helpful in understanding yourself and how you and others perceive and behave in the world.  I am an introverted, intuitive feeling, and judging type. 
I find that this context has helped me understand myself and why I am the way I am.  This is how God made me and knowing this I can work with it. 

I am an strongly introverted person—as are many clergy—and it helps me to understand how I can best work with that characteristic and the other characteristics as a priest.  We had an introduction to Myers Briggs in seminary.   The Enneagram provides a similar perspective on what makes you, you and why you are the way you are.  It is particularly helpful because for each of the personality types it provides a perspective of how the characteristics or gifts of that type can be used or misused; how they can be sinful or redeemed.   

Because we perceive the world in different ways we will, as a matter of course, be limited in how we relate to others and the world.  Richard Rohr, a Roman Catholic priest, discusses this:
It is hard work to open up our entire being--heart, mind, and body--to Love. From childhood, we're trained to protect ourselves by closing off one or more of these channels. Perhaps this was a necessary coping mechanism. But to develop a mature, holistic faith, we must learn to embrace and listen to each part in the safety of God's presence. We each depend on certain areas more than others. It will take some "exercise" to develop the neglected muscle of body, heart, or mind. Below are some suggested practices to nurture each area of being.

Heart: loving-kindness meditation, deep listening, community, journaling
Mind: lectio divina (sacred reading), writing, dialectic argument, study
Body: ecstatic dance, yoga, meditative walking, chant, tai chi
As we see, each of us will depend on certain aspects of ourselves more than other aspects and we will not usually engage the world as fully as possible without help; we will not love God and God’s creation with our whole being as it says in the Shema, the Hear o Israel:
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
And love your neighbour as yourself.
There are nine types in the Enneagram; each with its own characteristics.  For example, as Richard Rohr describes, the Three type:
began with the primal knowledge that everything is unstable and passing and that only God endures and gives us the endurance to withstand the passing nature of all things. But, at some point, an experience of wounding convinced THREEs that they are separate from God and Wholeness.
The Enneagram is particularly helpful because, as Rohr notes, the characteristics can be used in sinful ways or in redeemed ways. 
The pressure to succeed leads to the root sin of the THREE, which is deceit. While they don't generally go around telling lies, they do embellish the truth and put the best face on everything… THREEs find the way to their gift of integrity only when they take the painful path of self-knowledge and look their life-lies, big and little, in the face, refusing to gloss over them anymore.
I am only touching on a little of what the Enneagram involves.  However, I hope that this helps you to appreciate that we all, as Christians, have the responsibility to use the gifts that God has given us in the ways that God intends.   It is not easy even with our best intentions.  We will inevitably fail and fall into sin.  However, we have the assurance of God’s forgiveness.  As it asks in the Baptismal Covenant:
Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People I will, with God’s help.

We know that we have the assurance of the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ or Lord and saviour.  Thanks be to God.  

Gifts Differeing

Yesterday my sermon was about the gifts that God gives us.  We can use these gifts in sinful and in redeemed way.  One of my gifts is to get things done ahead of schedule.  I am the type of person who wants to get things done well before I need to.  That can be very positive—it is very seldom that I miss a deadline.  I never had to ask for an extension on an assignment when I was in school and I never had to pull an all-nighter to get an essay completed—indeed I don’t think I could do that if I had to.  I write my sermons early in the week and don’t have to worry about them as Sunday approaches. 

However, that can also be a negative.  It does not give me an opportunity to address issues that arise later in the week.  For instance, on Saturday Lorna and I attended a workshop on Celtic Prayer which was put on by the Diocesan Anglican Fellowship of Prayer. The workshop provided a great deal of material about the subject and I could have very easily written a sermon just on Celtic prayer.  Another issue last week was of course the wildfires in Alberta that continue to worsen and are raging out of control.  That was a situation that calls for sermons to be preached and prayers to be prayed and action to be taken in response by faithful Christians.  As I was driving to my first service of the morning I was very aware that I was missing an opportunity and a great need to address these areas of need in church (prayer) and in the country (disaster relief). 

I was able to address both these things in the first part of my sermon and in the prayers of the people.  I also noted that we all have God-given gifts and are called to use them as God intends to do God’s work in the world and respond to the need that is so prevalent today.
In my sermon I talk about using the Enneagram means of knowing the gifts that God has given us and how it helps us see how they can be used in sinful and redeemed ways.  I find this helpful in knowing myself and how I can better use the gifts God has given me.  I am a NINE in the Enneagram.  I did not expound on the characteristics of the NINEs in my sermon and thought to give I would take this opportunity to do so.  I am drawing on the work of Richard Rohr.  Give thanks to God for your gifts and give thanks in all things. 
Type NINE: The Need for Peace: NINEs once knew that reality was all about love, all connected, operative, and effective. They knew a kind of optimism and motivation that all could be worked out and fixed because God is Love. Love changes everything; love resolves everything. Russ Hudson emphasizes that the core of the NINE is about being itself. The primal knowing of the NINE is that "I am. I am a manifestation of God. 
The NINE's passion or root sin--sloth--emerges from the loss of this oneness. The NINE feels, "I don't exist, I don't matter, I'm nothing, I'm not real. I'm peripheral. I'm disconnected from everything. I'm a little insignificant nothing. (All egos feel that on some level.)  Sloth in NINEs is really the lack of focused energy. NINEs don't put out any energy that lets you get a handle on them. It's the attitude of checking out, because at the center of the gut triad, NINEs feel life is just too much. NINEs seldom take initiative in relationships or in projects. They need a fire lit under them. 
NINEs are peacemakers. They avoid conflicts. Their gift of accepting others without prejudice makes people feel understood and accepted. NINEs can be unbiased arbitrators because they can see and appreciate the positive aspects of both sides.  Then the virtue of the NINE emerges which is, surprisingly, decisive action. At first NINEs waiver and hesitate, putting off everything. But when they reach a decision, it happens in a moment of absolute clarity. They know in a flash what's involved, and they will do it, often quite well--and look anything but lazy or slothful.  Daily Meditation Richard Rohr May 6, 2016

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Church Choirs and Church Fathers

Our Diocesan Bishop, Robert Bennett was with us at St. John’s by-the-Lake yesterday.  He did not “visit” us because it is the Bishop’s church as are all churches in the Diocese—actually the church is the body of Jesus Christ until his return.  However, I had what might be described as having the morning off because Bishop Bob presided and preached.  I acted as a combination of parade marshal and master of ceremony.  As it turned out that was more than enough and by the time we returned home I felt I had put in a full day’s work.  We were joined by parishioners from the other two congregations in our Regional Ministry, Trivitt Memorial, Exeter and St. Anne’s, Port Franks. 
The Choir from Trivitt and their director Richard Heinzle joined us.  Richard combined with our music director, John Adams and they did a great job.  The choir was augmented by some singers from St. John’s (including Lorna and me).  In addition there was a musical offering by Darrell Wiebe, a St. John's parishioner.  It was a good celebration which marked the last visit of Bishop Bob as he has announced his retirement in November. 

Speaking of things choral, Lorna and I attended a choir workshop on Saturday.  It was held at Knox Presbyterian Church in Goderich.  The workshop was led by Rachel Rensink-Hoff who did a wonderful job of engaging us in vocal exercises and singing.  Although she is relatively young (which is a moving target as I age) she is very good at working with senior voices.  I came away realizing how much I could work on in my singing and regretting I didn’t take my singing voice more seriously in recent years.  I think I have been resting a bit on my vocal laurels for some time now (and don’t talk to me about my ability or lack thereof, of sight reading music). 

Knox Presbyterian Church is a very interesting place.  It is a great example of modern church architecture from the 1950’s and has some interesting features such as individual seats with arm rests—although they were firmly anchored to the floor.  The worship space was expansive with a high ceiling.  Unfortunately there is no picture of the worship space on their web site that I can share with you.   It was rather impressive—but not in sync with my traditional Anglican sensibilities.  One interesting feature was the gallery of past and present ministers of the church.  These go back to 1835 or there about.   All the ministers up to the 1960’s had facial hair—beards, mutton chops or at least mustaches.   Needless to say they were all white men (fortunately given the facial hair).  Their expressions were  uniformly stern to say the least—okay they were downright grim and their faces would have broken if they smiled.  I’m sure any gallery of Anglican Rectors covering the same period would have fit right in.  It gives an indication of what “church’ was like ion those day—a very serious business with great concern with hell and damnation and hopefully salvation—of course definitely on their terms.  I am rather glad that aspect of church life has changed for the better, as least from my perspective.   Remember to keep on the sunny side of life and that God loves us. Blessings,