Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Rev'd Robert Warren.                                                                            
Mark 9:38-50

A salty story might not be appreciated at the dinner table.  An "old salt" might be just the sort to tell such a salty story at table.  Somebody who is the "salt of the earth" might be given to calling a spade a spade in a direct and shocking but ultimately forgiveable fashion.  You might say that his story was "salted" with references to his home town.  

You know the effect that salt has on a meal of meat or fish.  It tends not only to make its own presence known but it tends to heighten all the other flavours of the meal as well.  A good meal with all the right ingredients might seem a disaster without a good pinch of salt.

Jesus talks about some element in his followers which might be present or which might be missing - some aspect or portion of their character.  "Have salt within yourselves" he says and this "salt saying" can be joined up with all the other references to his followers being light or salt to the world.  We might have said "What do you mean?"  Can this be put into psychological terms which we can understand, management terms or propositions.  What's with all the poetry, Jesus, all this salt and light?

It's just enough to set us - his followers centuries on - back on our heels.  Like so many metaphors it digs at us.  It robs us of our casual overconfidence.  It provokes the question: what about me?  Well what about you?  Are you salt in the world?  Does your presence make a difference in the place where you work?  Do you contribute something to the community of your church family which brings out the other flavours in the meal - the gifts and talents of other people, the latent abilities of others?  Nothing wrong with being dug at by Jesus.  Nothing wrong with being forced to the mirror. You have time.  Thats why there's an injunction at the end of the passage:  "Have salt in yourselves."  

It's not yet too late for any of us to discover what this metaphor means.


Thursday, 17 September 2015


The Rev'd Robert Warren Proverbs 31:10-31
Pentecost 17 (Proper 20)
Year B

A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels......

The jury is still out on whether or not I will risk wading into the 31st chapter of the Book of Proverbs in my sermon this Sunday - the reading which takes as its subject: "A Capable Wife" or in slightly grander language "A Wife of Noble Virtue".  Is my skin thick enough and are my shoulders sufficiently broad to take the repercussions of somebody thinking that I got it wrong?

I want to preface these remarks by stating at the outset that I am married to a Wife of Noble Virtue, was raised by one back in British Columbia and that my daughter in Montreal seems well on the road to taking her place in such a designation within her generation.  Women of Noble Virtue loom large in my extended family and many of them were, in fact, married.  That primary relationship and the household which came with it formed part of the springboard from which their nobility and the virtue could flow effectively in their day and age.

One chief objection to the first reading this Sunday from Proverbs is that the "capable" or "virtuous" wife being described here seems to work her fingers to the bone.  She is in the house, around the house, supervising servants, steering the children forward, haggling with merchants, spinning and weaving, caring for the poor and, above all, being the engine of economic and moral activity in her family.  Her husband seems to spend his time at the city gates with his friends.  No other sphere of activity is specifically credited to him.

There's quite a lot in the Book of Proverbs about wives.  Not all of the reflections there are particularly illuminating or helpful and we tend to move from those negative appraisals of women to then tumble upon this reading about a woman who seemingly has the labours of the world piled upon her back.  This reading suffers badly from the comments and opinions of folks who haven't read it through on its own merits.  Read it, will you?  The woman described herein is a beacon to her village or town.  She is a moral and economic giant within her family and her local community.  She is a force to be reckoned with.

We are blessed at Christ Church with a full complement of high school girls.  While they may not choose to live their lives in the shadow and pattern of the woman described in this Sunday's Old Testament Lesson they will, I hope, think kindly of a woman who seizes the challenges of her day with an iron grip and made things happen.

Girls of Christ Church - take note.

If there's anything to be improved upon or departed from in this passage about the Wife of Noble Virtue it might be in the woman's choice of a husband.   We look in vain for any evidence of his substantial contribution to his age and generation.

Boys of Christ Church - take note.

Saturday, 12 September 2015


The Rev'd Robert Warren​                  Proverbs 1:20-33
Pentecost 16 (proper 19)
Year B

How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my reproof.

If you've played Tile Rummy or other numbers games with teenagers or young adults - any game, in fact, which requires quick thinking and mental acuity - you'll be struck by how clever these young people are. They do calculations quickly. They see patterns of numbers with little effort. You'd have gotten there yourself - eventually - but you might feel as if you're toting your brain uphill like a heavy load. No question about it: These kids are smart! Time to start taking your vitamin E!

They may not yet be wise, though. In fact you know that they're not. This very same person whose brain is so adept at figuring out a limited set of tasks still lacks judgement, does not yet understand the paradoxes which abound in real life and cannot yet work in an able fashion within communities. Those of you who have supervised younger employees in companies, young doctors and nurses in
hospitals will recognize that situation where you stand there looking at somebody who has so much raw potential and yet is still not ready for certain responsibilities which require a sort of "smarts" which can only be given by deep reflection, by an experience of both success and failure and by a breadth of knowledge which raw organic intelligence itself does not give.

Our passage from the Book of Proverbs this Sunday speaks of a different impediment to wisdom - not merely "youth" which in most cases will give way to richer ways of being intelligent. In our passage on Sunday, Wisdom - a feminine characterization of God in this case - cries out to those who have chosen ignorance rather than wisdom. They love being simple. They delight in scoffing. They hate knowledge. The target of Wisdom's 'reproof' is a community of possibly quite grown-up people who decided not to embark on learning much about the world. They cooped themselves up in a small world. They may be critics - scoffers - who see the faults in others and who are adept at picking apart structures around them which do not meet their immediate needs but have yet to make their own costly contribution. Knowledge - new reflections on life in the world - is a threat to what they were taught. Coming to risk knowing something new gives us cause to reevaluate ourselves, to rethink the values of our home communities, to transform and to become wise.

On occasion we shame ourselves. Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Why was I speaking rather than listening? Was I the friend I could have been? Did I miss an opportunity? This Sunday's lesson gives us space to identify, and even mock, that part of each of us which refuses to grow up and be wise - to venture outside comfortable simplicity and to be bigger than we have allowed ourselves to be.

Friday, 4 September 2015


The Rev'd Robert Warren                                                                                      Mark 7:24-37
Pentecost 15 (Proper 18)
Year B

Jesus is clear that his mission is first of all to the "...lost sheep of the house of Israel". The lapsed
and neglected Jews of Roman Palestine were the first recipients of his message. It is to their towns and hamlets which Jesus and his disciples first traveled with the message of God's closeness and the presence of his Kingdom. The Gospels don't draw the line there. Jesus' parables hint warmly of an expanded and much more inclusive Mission - one which will ultimately include the Gentile tribes and nations from which most of our families spring. The starting point, however, seemed much narrower. The lost sheep got the first crack at Jesus and his disciples.

"Me too - I want in", says a Syrophoenician woman to Jesus in this Sunday's Gospel reading. "Surely there's enough leftover grace - crumbs even -  for my daughter and myself. We want to have some of it too."

And so this unnamed Canaanite woman joins a collection of characters in the New Testament - gutsy and opportunistic - who, by hook or by crook, present themselves at the head of the queue - who yell out or push or squeeze their way into the light and are rewarded rather than rebuffed. Their expression of need is raw and strong and honest.  They will do what it takes to present themselves before the source of their wholeness - their healing - their restoration.   Some of them are real people who Jesus encountered in the course of his ministry. He praises their aggressive approach as an example of great faith. Others are characters in his parables - admirable characters who we are to emulate.. The woman in this week's reading joins with the persistent widow (Lk 18:1-8), Zaccheus in his tree (Lk 19:1-10), the unrighteous steward (Lk 16:1-13), blind Bartimaeus by the side of the road (Mk 10:46-52) as well as the anonymous woman with her jar of ointment who crashed a dinner party Jesus was attending (Lk 7:36-50). 

They demonstrate, for our benefit, the power of sheer bloody-mindedness.

Do you want in? You might want to reset your compass. Accepting one's lot in life, putting on a pleasant face in the midst of terrible troubles, keeping one's problems to one's self, waiting to be invited rather than just showing up - these are polite manners of life for people in gated communities or people in cold northern climes who distrust their neighbors - Viking etiquette maybe but no Kingdom virtue. Jesus, on the other hand, tells us to ask in order that we may receive. He says that for the door to be opened to us we first need to knock

 He doesn't even seem particularly dismayed by the thought of our doing so with a very large stone.