Lent 1

Lent 1
Driven by the Spirit
Jesus went out
to inhabit a liminal place.

For forty days and nights,
homeless and weary, famished and footsore,
he wandered and watched and wrestled …

For forty days and nights,
companioned and comforted by animals and angels,
he traversed and tested and tempered …

And then,
knowing who he was,
seeing where he must go,
understanding what he should do,

Jesus, filled with the Spirit,
returned from the uncharted place
to do the work of the Kingdom.

Text: http://www.ionabooks.com/walking-the-wilderness-pdf-ppt-dow

From Richard Wagamese – Ojibway Author

Richard Wagamese – Ojibway Author

I’ve been considering the phrase ‘all my relations’ for some time now. It’s hugely important. It’s our saving grace in the end. It points to the truth that we are related, we are all connected, we all belong to each other. The most important word is all. Not just those who look like me, sing like me, dance like me, speak like me, pray like me or behave like me. ALL my relations. It means every person just as it means every blade of grass, rock, mineral and creature. We live because everything else does. If we were to collectively choose to live that teaching the energy of that change of consciousness would heal all of us – and heal the planet. We do it one person, one heart at a time…we are connected, we are the answer.

I OFFERED A PRAYER TO GOD

 

I asked for strength. God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom. God gave me problems to solve.

I asked for prosperity. God gave me brawn and brain to work.

I asked for courage. God gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for patience. God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.

I asked for love. God gave me troubled people to help.

I asked for favors. God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted. I received everything I needed.

Today is the last day of your life……..so far.

* * * * * from the April 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

Vestry Homily/Report for 2014

A year ago as you all entered 2014… I am sure you did so with a variety of emotions:  sorrow, as you faced the loss of your beloved long time rector; fear, as you moved forward into the unknown; worry, would it work… this new part of the journey; anticipation, as you  wondered just what God had in store for you as you got to know your interim.

Dealing with sorrow, fear, worry and anticipation …. Can be very difficult and draining especially when what we need most is TRUST.

The 17th Century Sufi Mystic Rumi, wrote of sorrow that, “Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” (Rumi)

You entered 2014 knowing that some changes would be made simply because you had a new leader at the helm…  That thought, I’m sure, weighed heavier on the minds of some than others…. but for all, there was a sense of sorrow over the loss of what had been.  But, it seems to me, there has been some experience of the truth in these words of Rumi. That sorrow has prepared us all for some joy to enter in.  And how did we get here?  Well…you took one day at a time…Your parochial team worked hard, you all came together, along with Wayne, to keep the ship afloat and we all prayed and we all praised.  There was a collective “we can do this”!

In his book “Brain Drain: The Breakthrough That Will Change Your Life”, Author Charles F. Glassman, writes:  “Fear and anxiety many times indicates that we are moving in a positive direction, out of the safe confines of our comfort zone, and in the direction of our true purpose.”

Proverbs 16:3 says it best,Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”   So, today as we gather after the 10:30 service to look at the past year and   make plans for our future together, we will be committing our work to God.   As I walk around this place I am continually reminded of just how blessed I am to have been called here.  Thanks to Gary Jenkinson, and our maintenance team (Sterling Tooke, Leighton Spicer, Paul and Benjamin Strang, Roger St Amour, Brian Schulz) who help him along the way, we have a building that is in good shape

Several times, in the short time I have been here, we have received the compliment, “What a lovely church you have.”  What a warm and welcoming place this is.  These compliments have been heartfelt and genuine.  But I have to say that what makes this place so special is clearly illustrated in the children’s hand game, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple… open those doors… It’s all about the people.”  A people who truly understand the meaning of “generous Christian caring and hospitality”.  A people transformed by the working of God in our common life and community.

So while we may be feeling some pangs of fear and anxiety I believe we are moving in a positive direction and we are going to continue to commit our work to God and we will experience firsthand the difference a group of committed Christians can make.  Not only here at St John’s but in the wider community and yes even in the world.  And we will all be gratified in the work accomplished by the contributions of many.

I love this quote of C. S. Lewis, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because God made us. God invented us. God invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

Will we allow God to take us over?  Will we whole-heartedly surrender this Parish of St. John’s to the authority of Jesus Christ?  Think carefully before you answer…. Because if we do, we can be assured that Christ will want each of us to become a vital part of this ministry.  He will want us to embrace the truth that there is nothing greater than the Kingdom of God…. there is no more significant cause than the work God does through us and through this church.  If we allow God to take us over…. we give God authority over every part of us…. EVERY part of us… Our time…. Our talents…. And our money…..

It seems to me most parishes, not only this one, are good with time and talents…when it comes to our financial giving however, we sometimes fall short.  So along with our other ministries here at St John’s our focus for 2015 will be to increase our financial giving.  Most people tune out when the Rector brings up the subject of money…. Some people leave churches when the Council introduces a financial campaign. With that in mind we will still move in that direction over the next few months. It’s Biblical…. there are more promises in the Bible related to “giving” than any other subject.

No matter how generous our giving, we cannot out-give God.  And it feels good to give generously.  The happiest people in the world are the most giving people.  I want that happiness for each of us….. I want us to grow in faith, to grow in love, to grow in sacrifice, to grow in commitment and character as we learn to give generously to God for the ministry of His Parish of St. John’s…. This is God’s parish

Author and Pastor Rick Warren says this on giving: “People can either give by reason or revelation.  Giving by reason means this:  I look at what I have, I figure out what’s reasonable and I commit that amount.  It doesn’t take any faith to give by reason.  I just figure out what I can afford to give.  Giving by revelation means I determine my gift by praying, “Lord, what do you want to give… through me?”  This requires faith.  When you give by revelation, you’re committing an act of worship and saying, “How much am I willing to trust God?”

Sadly, the truth is this parish is in financial difficulty, however, I in no way see this as insurmountable.  Although in an interim time where you should have been able “catch up” somewhat because you weren’t paying a full time stipend for your leader, things just seemed to flounder for a while.  Thankfully through the hard work and ingenuity of Pat Olsen, along with all of your participation and support our finances have started to look somewhat better.  However…and you know when I say this there is more to come!!  We still have work to do.

I would like to thank the Wardens, Matt Granville, Lil Booth, Robin King and Catherine

Bennett…Gill Tucker for filling in as treasurer as well as the whole parochial team.  They

have all undertaken much work on behalf of the congregation and merit everyone’s

appreciation.  To all members of the Parish Council, who have been faithful in their

duties and deserve recognition for their devoted service, thank you.  A special thank you

is extended to the Members of the our Altar Guild who care for the Lord’s Table in

preparation for every worship service and who undertake the cleaning and decorating of

our Nave and Chancel areas.  We thank the Bazaar convenor Jill Shupe, Wendy Lyon for

her catered events, Catherine Bennett and her team for the Pancake Supper and garage

sale, Helen Christie for the fashion show and organizing the trip to Stratford…the craft

group (Muriel Hall, Joan Grimes, Noreen Spicer, and Helen Christie) for their contributions

to the bazaar, Kim Martignago and Catherine Bennett for our family ministry events,

Kim Martignago, Katie Rose, Matt Granville and Walt Cromwell for their work with our

youth, Stephanie Miller, Jodi Turcotte and others who work with our parish children who

are certainly blessings to our congregation, the hospitality coordinator Jackie

Notarfranco, and members of the Hospitality Teams for their time, talents and generous

financial donations which feed us each week, Sterling Tooke for our Holding Crosses,

Gloria Clayton for funeral receptions, Lynne Coull our volunteer screening coordinator,

Val Cockings who helps Kim in the office and calls everyone on the schedule every

week! all those who contribute their time and talents to the success of our bazaar and

other events, such as our special dinners; we continue to be known for our delicious, top

quality” meals and entertaining evenings, our Out of the Cold team headed up by Karen

James and Linda Knight, our breakfast team leader Eleanor Frost, Howard Anningson,

Duncan Lyon, Catherine Bennett and all who have looked after the pastoral needs for the

parish, our gardeners, Bernice Good, Gus and Diane Bradley, Leighton and Noreen

Spicer and Gary Jenkinson.

Thank you to Val Clark our very gifted musical leader and the choir who weekly share their melodious gifts and for that we are very grateful.    Our Lay Readers Karen James, Catherine Bennett, and Walt Cromwell (who we are sorry to lose) … and we also need to thank those who serve as greeters, sides-persons, servers, chalice bearers, crucifers, counters and readers each Sunday.  Thanks to our people who look after outreach…and remind us of our call to meet the needs of others in the wider community.

We also recognize the group who come to clean for us weekly.  This groups Tuesday arrival brings scrubbing and vacuuming, and lots of smiles…keeping our church home in the condition to which we are accustomed.  They along with Paul Strang do a fine job of keeping God’s house clean and welcoming.

This may sound like a long list of people to recognize, and it is, however there are still many ways you can volunteer here at St John’s.  I often think of the saying “many hands make light work”.  So if you feel called to any of the ministries mentioned or would like to talk to me about sharing your gifts please do not hesitate to come and see me.

The danger with naming names in thank yous is that someone will be left out.  Many in the congregation work to the Glory of God as we tend to the ministry of God’s Church,  in our care.  There are those who pray regularly for this parish, your prayers are such an important part of all God calls us to, people who do hospital and home visits.  I have tried desperately to thank everyone and if I have forgotten someone, please let me know so I can extend my personal thank you for their participation in the work of this Parish.

I’d like to close with a divine promise and a human challenge and I pray they will give us insight and fresh strength for the journey forward.  First the promise, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)  May we go far in 2015.

And the challenge,  “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)  May we meet that challenge head on as we move forward as the Anglican Parish of St. John’s.  As we close the book on 2014 we can joyfully cry out, “We did it!”

I thank you for the honour of being your priest and pastor for a small part of 2014 and for your continued support of my ministry as we continue this exciting journey together.

Respectfully Submitted by:

The Reverend Canon Val Kerr+

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

How did pancakes and the church collide into the tradition of Pancake Tuesday?

  • I have, in a previous “Question of the Week,” described a number of possibilities for individuals to consider in preparing for the season of Lent – everything from giving something up, to taking something on, to simply making more conscientious consumer choices.  However, flexibility has not always been a Lenten hallmark; in particular times and places within the Christian culture, certain Lenten disciplines were not considered optional.

For example, it has often been the case that Christians would reduce or eliminate meat from their diets for the forty days.  This practice had a very practical element to it:  because Lent coincides with spring, and because spring is, in the natural world, a time for mating, procreating, regeneration of the species, it made sense that human beings would ‘give the animals a break,’ recognizing that it was in everybody’s best interest to allow that regeneration to take place.

It was also the case that Christians, across the board, would adopt a spare and simple Lenten diet.  More traditional Christians would, and in some cases still do, eliminate sugars and oils as a means of drawing the spirit into a fuller sense of gratitude for these things we come to take for granted, as well as to move the heart with compassion for those whose regular existence is geared more toward survival than pleasure.  On top of this, Ash Wednesday, the day following Lent, was a fast day.  Fasting – abstaining from eating for a day, or a portion of a day – is one of those spiritual practices that transcends religious and cultural boundaries.  All major world religions recognize the validity of the choice for temporary hunger as a way of drawing closer to God.

 Shrove Tuesday – or “Fat” Tuesday  or “Mardi Gras” – became a response to the religious realities of Lent.  It was a practical necessity that the pantry be properly cleansed, that all temptations be removed from the household, before the 40 day change of routine.  The Tuesday before Lent began, then, was a time for feasting and indulgence, for using up the oils and the meats and sugars, and thereby being ready for starting fresh the following day.  It isn’t surprising that the indulging has proven to be much more wildly popular than the fasting on which its existence is based.  People throughout the world, Christian or not, have a wonderful time celebrating the Tuesday preceding Lent, and in many cultures the indulgence takes on a carnival character, with behaviours far beyond pantry-clearing permitted and encouraged.  In Canada, our celebrations are relatively tame.  Many churches mark the day with a pancake supper – a Canadian way of enjoying one last meal of refined carbs, high-fat proteins, and most importantly, maple syrup.

St. John’s holds our pancake supper on Shrove Tuesday too, February 17th, and like all of our dinners here, this one is delicious, fun, and relaxed.  Although it doesn’t help us clear out our individual pantries for Lent, it does give us opportunity to reflect on the Lenten season before us as we are partaking of the feast.

Musings on a sunny Family Day

Philippians 4: 4-9…Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, what ever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

A supreme test of our character is how we respond to the trials in our lives. The ways that we react are as varied as our personalities. Sometimes we are quickly overwhelmed, and surrender to the darkness that has entered our lives. Sometimes we discover resources that we never dared to dream of. Rarely though do we get though life without some significant suffering. In Jesus we witnessed the absolute resolution to engage great suffering yet he doesn’t become a prisoner of his own pain. May such grace be ours in the time of suffering or trial. May we receive grace that enables us to be a grace to those around us.
There have been many faithful people pass through my life and as I think of them I always give thanks for ways they blessed me and what they were able to teach me. I am especially thankful for those who have helped me grow. From these people, as well as Jesus, I have learned that what we say with our lives is much more important than anything we can say with our words. How we live our lives gives weight to our words.
Many of the people I have had the privilege to know have had hardships of one kind or another in their lives. The interesting thing is that no matter what the hardship their faith in God carried them through. This is proof that no matter what life throws at you, you always have choices about how you handle things, which gives you strength to manage the outcome.
Let me give you an example. It wasn’t especially easy growing up in the family I was born into. Our home was wrought with abuses including alcohol, physical, sexual, emotional and verbal. For many years I was very angry and bitter. Though I was always thankful to God for seeing me through the abuse at the same time I harbored these other feelings of bitterness. Finally I came to a time in my life when I realized that the only one I was hurting by feeding these feelings, letting them eat me up inside, was myself. So… I decided to do something about it. It was at that time in my life I was able to share my story with my parish priest – that was the first step. Then I found a therapist who helped me work though my anger, bitterness and hurt. Finally I was able, at long last, to stop feeding these feelings. Actually this in turn took a huge weight off me and I began to live life with a different attitude. In turn I have been able to live a fuller and much healthier life indeed. A life filled with love, peace and joy.
Now does this mean that life all of a sudden never had any more hardships or challenges? Of course not it simply means I look at those hardships and challenges in a totally different way than previously. Sometimes the hardest lessons we learn in our lives are the most profound ones.
This reflection was started with a piece of Scripture that speaks to me about my journey and how I have learned to keep things in perspective. I feel moved to conclude this reflection with a teaching from my cultural tradition that has also helped me to keep balance in my life.

An Old Aboriginal Teaching
An elder was teaching his grandson about life. He said to him “grandson a fight is going on inside of me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves.”
“How come there are two wolves grandfather?” the boy asked. His grandfather answered “One wolf is evil-he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, conceit, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego; the other wolf is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person too.” His grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, grandfather?” The elder simply replied
“The one you feed.”

I leave you with these thoughts…

Get to know yourself, be aware of your valleys and peaks and what brings you peace.
Get in touch with your own two wolves.
Find words for your feelings and write them down.
Share survival techniques.
Gather together – tell and listen to each other’s stories. Remember everyone has a story to tell.
We are all connected in the web of life.
Always remember if you can’t hear your own heartbeat you can’t hear anyone else’s.
Learn to listen with your heart as well as your intellect.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in the love Christ Jesus.

What is a “Day of Obligation”?

What is a ‘Day of Obligation’?

This is a term used primarily in the Roman Catholic Church.  It refers to Christian observances throughout the year on which the faithful are to “abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.”    In the Anglican church, we refer instead to “Principal Holy Days” or “Principal Feasts,” and these include:  The Epiphany, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas), The Annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Easter Day, Ascension Day, Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Ash Wednesday.  Historically, these celebrations and observances have been considered mandatory for Christians.

Now, you might be surprised by this list.  You might also be surprised by the suggestion that we are required to participate in these things.  Let me say a little more on both fronts.  I can tell you, for example, that I have only ever celebrated the Annunciation a handful of times, and all of those times have happened since being ordained.  I can also tell you that many of these celebrations have so far fallen away from being considered main events in the life of a Christian that many of them were never part of my Christian upbringing at all.

But I also want to say that I like the term ‘Obligation.’  I like it because Christianity is a choice.  Whereas a few generations ago, most Canadians went to church, whether they wanted to or not, now becoming a practising Christian is increasingly a counter-cultural choice, and a serious one at that, because it involves devoting time and energy and service to a thing that is very much different from the ‘business as usual’ that is now most common in our secular world.  I like the word ‘obligation’ because it speaks of how, when we give ourselves to walking in faith with a church community, we are claimed for something other than just our own purposes and our own convenience.  It makes it clear that our faith life occasionally interrupts the normal flow of life and asks that we set aside other commitments, other busy-ness, in order to come together for the other-centered purpose of worship, to be blessed in finding peace, renewal, strength, possibility, hope, and meaning in doing so.

Ultimately, when Choice and Obligation meet one another, there is an Invitation.  I am more than aware of all of the competing demands on the lives of families and individuals.  I am deeply opposed to any sort of guilt tactics to get people to church.  To participate in a relationship with God through the relationship of the Church is always an act of freedom.  But there is this invitation at the heart of our spiritual practice occasionally, on special occasions throughout the year, to suspend the normal hubbub of our lives and to enter into a different kind of space, a life-giving kind of space.

Ash Wednesday has always been regarded as a “Principle Holy Day,” or “Day of Obligation.”  It takes place on February 18th, and we offer worship at 10:00 am and 7pm, hoping that these two times will allow most people to be able to attend if they wish.  You are also welcome come into the church for some quiet time and holy space as your own schedule allows through that day.  Ash Wednesday marks the start of the forty days of Lent.  The worship is particularly poignant, focusing on the question of our own mortality and the call to make choices for compassion, generosity, for knowing and making known God’s love, each and every day with which we are blessed.