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Monday, April 29, 2013

So you have faith...now what?

I sometimes meet people who seem to be under the impression that faith is a destination, rather than a journey.  Like faith is a finish line rather than an obstacle course.  Like faith is an end rather than a beginning.

And I also meet people who seem to think that faith is an easy way out.  I am not sure what they seem to feel faith is an easy way out of, but nothing could be further from the truth.

To be a person of faith means you are called to a different moral and philosophical path; a path the world does not validate; a path that leads outside ourselves, outside our four walls, into the community of need in the world; a path that is certainly more difficult by times than simply "knowing things".

In today's Gospel passage (John 13:1-35), Christ calls the disciples (and by extension, He also calls us) to "Love one another as I have loved you".  There is, in other words, a consequence to faith.  It is not a free ride.  There is an expectation.

Love, properly understood in the context in which Christ is obviously using it in this passage, is the verb "to love" rather than the noun.  Christ is calling his disciples to action, not to a warm, fuzzy feeling that they are to sit around with and live in.

Christ is calling his disciples to leave the upper room, to go out into the world and to put into action the principle of love which he showed them.  Faith, far from being a comforting illusion, is not the end of that action.  It is, instead, merely the beginning of that action in the world.  It is the principle which first draws our attention to a suffering world, and then sustains us beyond our own selfishness to go out and help.

To download the podcast of my sermon, click here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

And Morpheus said unto Neo, "There is a difference between knowing the path...and walking the path".

In today's Gospel passage (John 10:22-30), Jesus says to his listeners, "My sheep hear my voice.  I know them and they follow me".

Although you and I may not appreciate being compared to sheep, it is nonetheless a comparison which gets made a number of times throughout the Bible, and it was never meant to be pejorative.  Sheep were noble creatures in Christ's time, and it is merely our own North American bias that equates sheep with mindlessness.

But the reality remains: sheep may recognize the voice of their shepherd, but they do not understand his words.

This is where the sheep metaphor falls down: you and I are not sheep.  We are human beings endowed with intellect, thought, critical reflection and so on.  Therefore, we do not (nor ought we) merely follow our calls mindlessly.

Most of us in one way or another respond to a spiritual or religious call at some point in our lives.  Responding to that call is only the first step, the simple recognition of God's voice, if you will.

Then the real work begins: understanding what that voice is saying to us, understanding why we were called, and what we are going to do to respond to it.

In Matrix terms, first we have to know there is a path, then we have to walk it.  Blessings walking yours!

To download the podcast of my sermon on this subject, click here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? It's fish. 153 of them.

Ok, so if you got drawn into reading this by my reference to "The Rock", I am not talking about the wrestler.  I'm talking about the apostle Peter, whose name means "rock".  Peter (whose original name was Simon) was given this name by Jesus when he said he would make Peter the rock upon which he would build his church.

Peter was an interesting character.  Credited with being the first bishop ever, establishing the church at Antioch, authoring 2 epistles and a number of other notable achievements, Peter is best-known in history for being the guy that denied Jesus 3 times.

Much like Thomas, it is the failings and weaknesses of Peter that makes him much easier for me to relate to than Jesus.

The Gospel passage for today, John 21:1-19, tells the story of Jesus cleaning the slate with Peter, leaving the church in his hands.  This in and of itself is monumental: Christ did not entrust his mission to someone who was perfect, someone who had never failed.  He left his church in the hands of someone who was flawed, just as we all are.

If ever we feel that we are unworthy, not good enough, not strong or smart enough, that we just don't measure up, we can perhaps be inspired by the story of Peter.  It reminds us that no one is beyond reprieve in the eyes of God.

Click here to download a podcast of my sermon for this week.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

One born every minute

I am probably not the only person who finds Jesus difficult to relate to.  The principle reason is that he was impossibly good.  I am touched by the Biblical stories of him expressing fear, anguish, sadness, even anger.  But he always knew the right answer, the right thing to say, and he always reacted with grace, confidence and patience to difficult situations.  Even bearing in mind that the Gospel authors may have been writing through rosy-coloured glasses, Jesus still comes out as a pretty class act.

The Apostles and early disciples are, in the other hand, people I can relate to: Peter's impulsiveness, Paul's ego, and particularly Thomas' doubt.

Some people cannot allow doubt.  This leads inevitably to fundamentalism, whether it be fundamentalist religion, politics or atheism.  A total lack of doubt means that we are unteachable and often leads to an inflexibility of thought that leads to dogma and an inability to accept that other people have different opinions than our own.

Doubt keeps us from being suckers, from falling prey to every scam out there.  Doubt is what fuels scientific progress as much as spiritual progress.  Doubt is a dissatisfaction with the way things are, and it encourages us to change and growth.

That being said, too much doubt is not a good thing.  Doubt in the face of overwhelming evidence (including the evidence of our own senses and experiences which science cannot account for) can blinker us as much as our rigid "certainty".

Far from being criticized for his doubt, Thomas is blessed for it because even though he doubted, he was willing to understand.

My sermon for this week was based on John 20:19-31.

To download the podcast, click here.