Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Rev'd Robert Warren                 
Easter 4 - Year B                                                                                                     John 10:11-18

One of the early Christian symbols you'll find painted or scratched onto the walls of early basilicas or Christian burial sites is that of a man with a sheep draped over his shoulders.   In the world of early Christianity the image of the Good Shepherd is most common in the years prior to the Edict of Milan, before the faithful could openly identify as Christians and practice their faith publicly. It was a time of worry when the sword of local or Empire-wide persecution might drop at any time.  Jesus' words to his disciples in John 10, where he describes himself as the Good Shepherd who will never abandon his sheep, had a particular poignancy during these years..

Worry is a relative thing.  A few of us should worry more.  Most of us worry far too much.  We worry about things which are theoretically possible but will never happen.  We worry about things which worry itself will not change.  We worry about things which can be fixed but worrying does not, in and of itself, provide us with the means or motivation to make those changes.  Anxiety becomes a free-floating state of mind - a way of life rather than a tool to keep us safe.  Useless and wasteful, it shortens our lives and robs the world of its colour.

But I know Whom I have believ├Ęd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day

Do you believe that we have a Saviour, an Advocate and a Shepherd?  We say the words and we sing the hymns (the above is from 2 Timothy 1:12).  In the best of all possible worlds those words would sink down into our souls and condition our response to both real and imaginary threats.  What is in the way?  Perhaps we were taught to fear by others and are carrying the baton in our generation which our parents passed to us.  Perhaps we were improperly shepherded  or nurtured by grownups when we were small and learned to fear anything in the world which was beyond our immediate control.  Discovering whose voice it is which we hear on the tape-loop in our heads when we fret is something which might well repay the effort.

Jesus does not tell us that the world will always be a safe place.  He does tell us however that he knows us.  And that we can know him.  This is somehow enough.  The strength of that loving bond will be sufficient to sustain us in good times and in bad.  The gift of God to the world was, is and remains the Person of Christ in whom there is nurture, protection and ultimate safety.  Be persuaded of that love.  Invest - actively and intentionally - in that relationship. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Rev'd Robert Warren.                                                                 
Luke 24:36b-48

"...repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."

My Sunday School teachers made much of the Great Commission (and related pronouncements of Jesus) to "go forth" into the world.  This was the late sixties in Western Canada and elements of the Anglican Church of Canada (and other mainline denominations) had begun to set aside old colonialist ideas that our task was to civilize and westernize foreign societies.  One sensed rejoicing that God was present in the lives of African and Asian Christians as African and Asian people and not merely copies of a dominant culture from the West.  The Spirit of God was abroad in the world.  The parishes which my parents attended made much of this and I can still remember being told (and shown) how my link with the lives of Christians in other places was as important as my link to those of my own clan and nation.

As Jesus opens the minds and hearts of his disciples in the period of time which follows his Resurrection he says two things:  First of all, the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins is to begin from home in Jerusalem and with the skills that they have presently at hand - from that place where the disciples find themselves on that very day.  Their own experience of the risen Christ will be sufficient as subject matter.   Even with the help of the Holy Spirit it will be the words of fishermen and small-scale artisans from the Galilee which will carry the message to the ends of the earth.  Secondly, however, that local attachment will have its day.  It is only provisional.  It will, and must be, superseded.  Christians belong to the world of the Kingdom more than they belong to their own nation, kin, language and social network.  It only begins at home.  It ends up elsewhere.

Our young people experienced some of this last Spring at Youth Across Europe as they mingled with members of Episcopal Churches in Italy, Switzerland and Germany who live and study in more than one language and who are gathered into parishes and youth groups in their place of residence as our young people are in theirs.  These opportunities to mingle with other young Christians on an international level may be the lever which opens the door on a faith which has oftentimes been associated with parents and grandparents and with what is, perhaps, almost too well known.  Jesus would open the world to us - to our churches - to our children.  He who has ears to hear - let him hear. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Rev'd Robert Warren
John 20:1-18  

New beginnings are marked by dramatic turns of event. 

We do our best to avoid drama, don't we, at home or at work?  Our life's plan is to build on well-known foundations.  Floods of emotion or inner personal turmoil we associate with our adolescent selves: we remember those years painfully.  Dramatic changes in our circumstances may have been linked to the loss of our first career or the death of a relationship or some other bereavement. We would walk very far to avoid that particular crossroads again.  New beginnings are associated with the death of old ways. No matter how promising the new life might be there will always be some part of us which hesitates.

In the course of Jesus' last week with his disciples and the dread and beautiful events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday we watch as good people behave badly and reasonable foundations crumble away.  We are observers of the drama of God's redeeming acts. These are acts which Jesus says God will accomplish in spite of human weakness, the rottenness of Empires and the emptiness of official religion.  Disciples are almost nowhere to be seen - one betrays Jesus, another denies him - the crowds are fickle and change sides at the drop of a hat, the Roman Procurator is weak and vacillating, the High Priest is a stooge.  Jesus is taken, he is handed over, he leaves the place where he can have power over his movements and his fate.  He is acted upon.

Typically, in the life of a parish church the events are performed in the rites of a Seder Supper, or a congregation walking around the perimeter of the church carrying palm branches or in a dramatic reading of the Passion gospel.  We become characters in a story which unfolds.  We speak the painful words which are written down in the script for us to speak:  Crucify him!  Release Barabbas! I tell you for the third time, I do not know the man!

In the dawn light of Easter morning, however, the choice of who we will be and what we shall become is restored again to us.  The women in the garden are told to tell the apostles that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee.  New life is afoot.  The coming Sundays contain all those stories wherein the very apostles who had been so conspicuously absent around Jesus in his Passion are told that their empty ground can be sown with new seeds, that their empty wine skins can be filled afresh with new wine - that what was past is truly past and a new beginning can be envisaged.