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Sunday, February 24, 2013

What would Spiderman do?

As a kid, I was an avid comic book reader, and Spiderman was one of my favourites.  One of the great tensions in comic books, as in all great mythology, is the conflict between good and evil.  In comic books, the principle tensions were between super heros and super villains, and the question that always vexed me was that following: what makes someone endowed with exceptional skills and power tilt their hand in favour of good or evil?

On that subject, Spidermans' uncle Ben made the following statement: "With great power comes great responsibility".

Not a novel concept, but seemingly a difficult one for many people to grasp.  In today's Gospel passage, Jesus criticizes the abuse of power on a number of levels.  How sad that Herod, a political figure who should have been just was instead so corrupt.  How sad that the Pharisees, religious leaders who should have been moral were instead so conniving.  How sad that Jerusalem should have been so obstinate and hard-hearted.

This is important for us to consider during our Lenten journey.  Whether we like it or not, I can almost guarantee that someone looks up to each and every one of us.  Each and every one of us has power, whether we acknowledge it or not.  That means that each and every one of us has a responsibility.

Jesus, among the truly great men and women in history, decided to use his power for good.  Will we decide to do the same?

My sermon for this Sunday was based on Luke 13:31-35.

Click here to download the podcast.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Where the wild things are

Every year on the first Sunday in Lent we hear about Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness.  This time came immediately after his baptism and preceded the beginning of his official ministry.  We know very little about his time in the wilderness.  We don't know much of what happened, what he did there, what he was thinking, what he was doing.  All we are told in the Gospel accounts is that he was tempted there.

What we can say for sure is that he retired into the wilderness for a reason, the same reason we are invited into the wilderness every Lent (which is, in fact, the same reason many of us retreat into a literal wilderness every once in a while): to reconnect, to think, to feel, to ponder, to consider where we may be spinning our wheels, to discover where we may be able to apply our energies more effectively.

I expect that that is indeed what Jesus was doing in the wilderness.  Having just committed himself to his mission, he would then have to figure out how he was going to proceed.  What were the ideals of his mission and ministry to be based upon?  How was he going to demonstrate the Kingdom of God to others?  To whom would he direct his message to?  How would he gather people around his message?

He was probably tempted to follow different avenues, avenues which had been tried before with, it must be admitted, some success.  He could try to provide for the material needs of his followers (signified by turning stones into bread).  He could try to become a person of political power (signified by bowing to Satan who represented the forces of the world).  He could try to dazzle with charismatic words and deeds (signified by throwing himself from the highest tower counting on angels to save him).

This is just one of many possible interpretations, but I wish you blessings on your own Lenten journey as you reconnect.

My sermon this week was based largely on the Gospel passage for the week, Luke 4: 1-13.

Click here to download the podcast.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Who said Lent was about punishment?

Far be it from me to tell anybody how or why they ought to celebrate the season of Lent, but it has always baffled me how some people seem to see it as a season of self-denial and deprivation.  True, many people choose to observe Lent by "giving something up", usually a luxury or indulgence that they can easily do without.  But for me, Lent is a perfect excuse to redirect the time, energy and possibly money I expend on something I have already experienced towards a new experience or discipline.  Lent culminates and finds its conclusion not in the Crucifixion, but in the Resurrection; not in sacrifice, but in rebirth.  For me, this is the purpose of Lent: to give me an excuse to give up old ways of being to discover new and stimulating ways of being.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, and we mark that occasion with the Imposition of Ashes.  The meaning and symbolism of this ceremony hearkens back to Old Testament times when people would demonstrate humility, regret, sorrow or penitence by placing ashes on their hear, face or clothing.  Moses covered himself with ashes after the incident of the Golden Calf.  Job covered himself with ashes when his estate was decimated.

The symbolism of ashes is a question for debate.  Perhaps they could be a symbol for you of something in your life that needs to "die", metaphorically: perhaps a behaviour or way of thought that needs to change, perhaps a relationship that needs to be mended.  Perhaps ashes could signify, like the Phoenix, something that needs to "come to life" for you: perhaps the next step in your journey, a new behaviour that needs to be developed.

Why or however you choose to observe Lent, my sincere hope is that it is a life-giving season for you.

Click here to download the podcast of my sermon from this Ash Wednesday.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Divine in me greets the Divine in you

Hi all!  Back from a week's holiday in Costa Rica, followed by a week off with the flu...an inauspicious return to Canada to say the least!  But it did result in a hiatus in blogging/podcasting, but I was back in the pulpit this past Sunday, and what a great Sunday to come back: Transfiguration Sunday.

The Transfiguration seems to go unnoticed and unmarked by many when you compare it some of the other events in the life of Christ.  Even His baptism seems to get more press, and it is not to underscore the importance of THAT event, but in many ways, the Transfiguration is for me the most important event in the life of Christ, at least insofar as the way I live my daily life is concerned.

The reason I say this is summed up in the word that everyone who has ever attended a yoga class will have heard: namaste.  That word means, quite literally, "The Divine in me greets the Divine in you".  In a word, it recognizes that divinity exists within each and every one of us.  We are part of creation and so we share in creation.

Similarly, Christ is often called Emmanuel, meaning "God with us".  The Transfiguration demonstrated that God is not a being who lives off in the clouds somewhere or even on another inaccessible plane of existence, but that God is present, with us, among us, within us.

I begin my sermon with a question: would our behaviour change in any way if we thought God was with us?

The reality is that God IS with us, not watching over us like a judge, but in the sense of a verb, like love and relationship.  Christ's Transfiguration is meant to convey this idea.

Knowing that each person you address, interact with, come in contact with shares that divinity, ought we not treat each other with a little more care?

My sermon was based primarily on the Gospel passage for the week, Luke 9:28-43.

Click here to listen to download the podcast.