Sunday, March 17, 2019
Lent 2

Luke 13:31-35: Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill
you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing
cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.

Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to
be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those
who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood
under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see
me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be always acceptable in your
sight o Lord, our rock and our redeemer…

When I was in grade school I wrote my class speech on my favourite philosopher, who I love to quote to
this day. I even have one of his quotes on a post-it note on my mirror, hanging up where I see it every
morning: Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you
seem, and smarter than you think.

And I like seeing this every morning, because I like to remind myself to be brave, to be strong, to be
smart. As I said last week, I’m very into taking big risks and jumping big cliffs. I love thinking of myself
as courageous.

But I think that part of the journey through Lent is understanding that there are two kinds of courage.
One is the immediate and situational courage of the person who, in a moment of extreme need, summons
the courage to face an imminent danger. This is the courage of the by-stander who pushes someone out
of the way of oncoming traffic or jumps into a raging river to save someone struggling to swim at great
risk to him or herself.

This kind of courage seems very spur-of-the-moment, and makes us question ourselves and whether we
could possible do the same, but ultimately it is a display of character, an accumulation of traits and
beliefs. It is the visceral response of someone who is prepared to act courageously in any given moment,
the training developed and exercised over time, sometimes unknowingly, of a person who can snap into
action. You can see this response from any mom or dad who has snatched their child’s hand away from
something dangerous.

But there is a second kind of courage as well, one not displayed in a single moment or act but in
anticipating a significant, daunting or even frightening challenge and not turning away from it but
meeting it head on.

This is also a show of character, character that has emerged from a lifetime of facing fears and
shouldering burdens, allowing oneself to be forged in accepting challenges and responsibilities that we
could avoid.

It is this second kind of courage that Jesus displays in the gospel passage we heard this morning.
Some Pharisees come and warn Jesus to make a run for it because Herod is out for his blood. And we
don’t know who these particular Pharisees are or what motivates them, but that doesn’t really matter.
We just know they show up to tell Jesus to run and save his life, and that Jesus refuses. Instead, he will
keep to the road ahead of him, traveling the arduous path to Jerusalem to meet his death on the cross.
And this commitment to embrace his dark and difficult destiny for the sake of humanity is the very
embodiment of this second kind of courage.

And to be honest, it’s always kind of bothered me the way we portray sometimes the steadfast courage
that Jesus displays in moving forward to Jerusalem and the cross on behalf of the world God loves so
much. Because we often want to overlook the critical commentary the gospel offers on Jesus.
We like nice Jesus, who makes us feel comfortable and is a pretty cool guy who is okay with whatever
we do. We like king Jesus, all glory and honour. We like the versions of Jesus that speak to the good
parts, not the tough parts.

And we bypass the challenge and suffering, because this Jesus who walks the wilderness on his journey
to the cross says something significant about courage. It says that the ability to make oneself vulnerable
for the sake of others is essential to courage.

And I think this is important to note, because we don’t often equate vulnerability with strength and
bravery. When we think of sacrificing our lives for another, I know I imagine, and you probably do to,
the act of going down fighting, not the slow, certain walk of one who is fully aware of the pain waiting
for them.

Jesus walks on to Jerusalem not to prove himself fearless or a hero, not to make a sacrifice for sin to a
judgemental God; Jesus marches to Jerusalem and embraces the cross that waits for him there out of a
profound love for the people around him.

This is what Christ embodies, this vulnerability, this love. This is the courage of God – that God becomes
incarnate and vulnerable, that his strength is in what others would find weak: love and grace and
forgiveness and sacrifice. That he calls those who others would call powerless or marginalized, irrelevant
or unimportant.

Because in this vulnerability, we find connection, we find authenticity, we find innovation, we find
creativity. Vulnerability is the birthplace of change and the deep vein that sustains relationship.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, when we can open ourselves us to others, we can be honest,
we can choose to let our true selves be seen and we can see others more clearly. When we allow ourselves
to be vulnerable, we can know that we are imperfect and wired for struggle, but that we are also worthy
of love and belonging. And we can give of ourselves, abundantly, ridiculously abundantly.

We are facing a time right now in the church where we are being given that choice: to grow and change
and be courageous, taking big risks and letting down our guard. To say yes instead of no, to say what
can we give instead of what are we owed, to find ourselves in the wilderness instead of locked safe in
familiar territory.

I said last week that Lent is a time to lean into the uncomfortable and uncertain, and it takes no small
amount of vulnerability to do that, it takes no small amount of courage to do that. But where we go, we
go together, and when we lean into this season of uncomfortableness, we are also leaning into hope. We
are embarking on our epic journey through this wilderness, and this Lent invites us into daring greatly.
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us embrace our vulnerabilities, embrace our strength, and
embrace this time to grow together, because I will reiterate the immortal words of my favourite
philosopher, one Winnie the Pooh: Promise me you’ll always remember, you are all braver than you
believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Hana Scorrar

Sunday, March 10, 2019
Lent 1: Wilderness

Luke 4:1-13: After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be always acceptable to you oh Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer…

So, we have been talking a lot about change around here lately, and you may even notice that some things are a little different today. You know, just a little…

And I know that that can sometimes be hard for people, because change is uncomfortable. Even talking about changing things makes some people’s skin crawl. And it’s very hard in someplace like church that is wrapped up in all these traditions and rituals that hold sentimental, nostalgic value for us. So, please don’t read this as callous, but I must say, I am a great lover of change.
Things cannot change quick enough for me, like, I just want to go as fast as possible towards a new horizon. I like to say, Jesus can have the wheel, but I want the gas pedal.

And I have this analogy that my friends and I use when we come to big decisions. We call it cliff jumping. And guess what, yes, I am a cliff jumper. I don’t need equipment, I don’t need encouragement, I don’t even really care if it’s all that safe, I just want to jump. I am a leap before you look kind of person.

Thus, I have to also admit, that when I make these cliff jumping decisions and go flying off without even checking first where I’m going, I tend to be thinking about adventure.
That’s what I want when I start on the path God gives me, I want destiny, not desert.
I want the romantic notion of God’s call leading me to some fantastic journey with a machete and a rope bridge, or maybe some hardened inner-city kids who I befriend. I want even the hardest parts of the journey to be kind of magical, something that someone would want to make a movie out of.

I want change without growth, I want adventure without hardship, I want resurrection without death. I want all the good and exciting parts of life, but I don’t want to do the boring and tough bits. I don’t want to be uncomfortable.

I like change so much because I think if I can just move fast enough, the hard parts of it won’t catch up to me.

So, it’s sort of strange that I love the season of Lent. Because this is not a time to move fast, it’s not a time to dodge uncomfortableness. It is, as was said last week, a slow path through a deep and fruitful swamp.

And this is where we begin, in the desert, in the wilderness. And what a place to start.
Because it doesn’t feel like a great place to start. I mean, Jesus has just begun his ministry, he’s
called his disciples, he’s been baptized and God has sent a dove to proclaim that Jesus is his
beloved son. And then, you’d think he’d hit the road, but he doesn’t. He heads into the desert, for forty days! Forty days!

The beloved son of God, instead of fast tracking his ministry, taking things to the next level and
growing his brand, goes out into the wilderness to pray. And he is assailed there by the Devil.
Now, this is where we could get really weird with this sermon, but let’s just think about this for a
second. Jesus goes off, to start his mission from God, with 40 days in the wilderness. And there he meets temptation. Food when he is hungry, certainty when he is unsafe, power when he is powerless.

Now, this story seems dramatic and supernatural, and quite possibly easy to dismiss. Look what it’s become in the hands of modernity, Lent becoming a time to redo New Year’s resolutions to eat less chocolate and have less computer time. It has lost its teeth, it’s significance. It has lost the ability to remind us what is really going on here.

This story is big and wild and maybe doesn’t seem recognizable in our own lives, but it is. Because what the temptations were exactly don’t matter as much as the reasons behind them, and those are ones we all face. The temptation to take the easy way out when something we want conflicts with where we find ourselves. The temptation to certainty in the face of risk and chaos, the choice to pick safe, well-worn paths because we know where they go and staying stagnant instead of growing. The temptation to wield power to protect ourselves from fear and doubt and loneliness.

This doesn’t feel like a great place to start, but it’s the right place to start, because this journey we’re on towards the building of a kingdom requires something different from us, something new. It requires the ability to choose the long, hard path instead of the easy fix. It requires the willingness to risk, to not play it safe, and take the road less traveled. It requires the compassion and humility to acknowledge other people and their needs, the love needed to be a team, a community, rather than all-powerful and dictatorial.

It requires slowing down, and recognizing that the right place to start is the place of prayer, the place of listening to God, the place of intentional letting the Holy Spirit in.
I know that this is asking a lot. It’s asking all of us to sit with, lean into, being uncomfortable, being uncertain, being in the wilderness. And that’s not an easy task. And it can almost feel like punishment. But it’s not.

This time of wilderness, it’s a gift. It’s a strangely-wrapped, awkward gift that gives us so much.
Because it’s the gift of time, the gift of prayer and relationship with God, it’s the gift of trust, it’s the gift of newness, it’s the gift of community.

So, my brothers and sisters, as we make our journey towards the hope of the cross, we have been blessed with opportunities to discover new things in ourselves; to sit with the new ways we are
worshipping and to meditate on how we feel and why; to gather with the children in wonder and experience the building of ritual in the wilderness; to join in community and solidarity with those who are also on this journey, feeling the weight of this time and fighting the loneliness and fear.

It’s like that old saying, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. We have far to go, but we’re going together. So, take this time, beloved, this Holy Lent as a new start where the possibilities are endless, and let us give thanks for the gift of the desert road. Amen.

Hana Scorrar

Sunday, January 20, 2019
Wedding at Cana

John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight o Lord, our rock and our redeemer.

Well, we’ve been on a crazy race through the Gospels in the last few weeks, we’ve moved very quickly from Jesus’ birth at Christmas through his childhood, baptism, and now we are here at the wedding at Cana, the first of the signs that John lays out in his Gospel, pointing to Jesus’ divine nature. Now, there’s a lot going on in this Gospel passage, with Jesus, his disciples, and his mother at a wedding, which has been going on for three days. Can you even imagine? Three days of celebration. And then, panic! The wine has run out.

Now, this for us wouldn’t be such a big deal, when my best friend The Rev’d Rosalyn Elm was inducted at the Mohawk Chapel and in all the planning the wine was forgotten for Eucharist, I got to run out to the LCBO. But in this time, there was no quick fix for this. There’s no store to run to, no easy way to get all that wine home, nobody has an SUV with the touchless trunk opener. And worse, this was no ordinary party, this was a wedding, an immensely important and sacred rite, a community celebration of the coming together of two families.

And they have run out of wine. Now, somehow Jesus’ mother knows this has happened, and in typical mother style, has offered her son’s help. And Jesus, like the typical son, doesn’t want to do it at first. But probably giving Him a look, she tells the servants to do what He tells them, and – tada – miracle! Jesus has turned the water jugs into wine.

Now, obviously, we can talk about this miracle as the first sign of many, the first miracle that Jesus performs over the course of His ministry. We can talk about Jesus, and his divine powers, and we can merely marvel at the signs that John has recorded. But I think that this sign, this first miracle, has an important job other than just showing us that Jesus is not your average guy. It is tying Jesus’ birth to Jesus’ death, and the significance of both, and I say this for two reasons.

Firstly, there is the presence of Jesus’ mother. Now, she is unnamed in John’s Gospel, just called Jesus’ mother, and she appears only twice, here at His first miracle and at the foot of His cross for the crucifixion. But the importance isn’t just in her placement in the story, it’s that Jesus, the Logos, the Word made flesh, has a mom. He is a real human being from a particular place and family, with a mom who bosses Him around when they’re at parties. Who voluntells Him to help at the wedding. She connects Him to creation in a human way, to His humble birth, and to His place in an ordinary family.

And she and the wedding remind us that God works through human scenarios that are imperfect and lacking, through humans that are flawed and full of doubts and fears and mistakes.

She stands in the place of us all, turning to Jesus to help. We have messed up, not planned right, or made a miscalculation. Something has gone askew, something has gone wrong.

It’s like Murphy’s Law, what can go wrong will go wrong. And this, this is a big one. Because wine isn’t just a nice pairing to the meal, it’s a sign of the harvest, of God’s abundance, of joy and gladness and hospitality. And so when they run short on wine, they run short on blessing. This is a catastrophe.

But this is the second connection we have to the overarching story of the Messiah, because this isn’t just a miracle like oh Jesus got some great Pinot Noir, this is about the gift of abundance tied to the gift of resurrection.

Now, the details of abundance cannot be overlooked in this text – six water jars, each 20-30 galleons, filled to the brim, with the best wine. Which would have been a total change-up of the traditional way of supplying your guests with wine, who would be expecting that the host would be down to the dregs of their supply and pulling out the worst of their store.

This is an outpouring of a gift beyond human deserving or making. Human resources are at an end, there is no wine left, no joy, no blessing, no abundance, but just like the other miracles John describes, when humans have come to the end of their skills, supplies, or courage, Jesus heals, feeds, comforts amid the storm of life.

And on the cross, where this miracle is pointing, the Word made flesh comes to the end of His earthly life, but there is another miracle there. Life where there is only death. Beginning where there is ending.

This is what our Gospel reading is about this morning. The gift of the wedding is, yes, wine, but it is more, it is abundance where there was only scarcity. And it propels us forward to the hour when the gift will be abundant new life.

It is easy with the way we read our Bibles in tiny sections every week to forget that there is a grander story that is at play here, that there is an arc, a movement to the ministry of Jesus, and our liturgical year. It’s easy to forget how they connect with one another, to just get caught up in the magic of Christmas and the deprivation of Lent.

But this is a wonderful opportunity to sit in the tension of the story, moving from one turning point to the next, from the birth to the cross; and to really look at the importance of the whole.

Jesus was born a humble babe in a manger, to ordinary parents, born in a stable in the midst of miracle. Here, he is both the child of that mother, and the Son of God who shows the gift of abundance in the midst of great lack.

This Gospel reading is a reminder that whenever Jesus reveals His divinity, He is simultaneously revealing something about His humanity. And in this sign of water into wine, we might experience something of ourselves.

That miracles are not as far away as we think. That God, working in ordinary people can move mountains, can change sorrow into joy.

That every moment we live in Jesus, we have the chance to live in the dance of the divine in and amongst creation. Bread and wine can bear Christ’s body and blood. An ordinary hug can convey unbounded love and blessing. The smallest donation of food or money can tip the balance between scarcity and abundance. A simple act of kindness can make all the difference in the world. The tiniest bit of light can shine in the darkest of places.

With God, anything is possible. And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather to share in the bread and wine, let us be filled with that gift of abundance, that we may spread it, share it, enjoy it, and use it.

Hana Scorrar

Sunday, January 6, 2019
wise Kings?

Sermon Summary – Epiphany – January 6, 2019

In a few moments we will sing “We Three Kings”, I expect with some gusto as it is a favourite Christmas Carol, but more appropriate to Epiphany. It also shows just how much liberty we have taken with the Gospel story that has just been read, but then again the Gospel story takes liberties as well. Did you note that they were not Kings, but wise (small w) men from the east. The number of these wise people is not mentioned, but given that there were three gifts, we have just assumed three people. And if these people are fit to visit Jesus, then they must at least be Kings with a capital K.

So a few more details that we don’t usually translate too well. The wise people didn’t show up at the manger. Many scholars suggest they were priests from Zoroastrianism – a religion still practiced today in Iran. Zoroastianism, which focused on astrology, thus the connection to following a star, were prominent in ancient Persia. So if the star appeared to them in their home country, by the time they prepared a caravan for travel and got underway and then made the trek – well my geography of the middle east isn’t that stellar, however I think we can reasonably guess months perhaps as long as a year before they arrived. And don’t forget they stopped to see Herod which would have been up in the area that Mary and Joseph originally lived. But we can be sure when they finally showed up in Bethlehem, the little drummer boy was on hand to play!

Once again, we can’t see the forest for the trees. Matthew, the only Gospel writer to include the wise people, is on a misssion to tell a story, a teaching story, not an historical story. It is important to Matthew to tell the story in a way that shows Gentiles accepted Jesus as the Messiah when His own people didn’t. Now Matthew has five or six decades of water under the bridge to wiggle around in while telling this story. Remember, only Matthew and Luke stop to tell the birth story. Written 30 years after Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, we are supposed to accept as actual fact a story that nobody else bothered to tell from 30 years earlier? So let’s agree to get the warm fuzzy from singing the hymn and take on a much deeper investigation of the Gospel.

The fact that Herod plays a big role in this story has much to say to us. The fact that Herod is supposed to have killed every child under two to prevent Jesus from escaping – there is no historic evidence of such a massacre – might just lead us to understand the poetic license that Matthew is taking. That license is to open the door to you and me – gentiles one and all – into the community of Jesus. Not that this would necessarily be any big surprise to anyone who was following the Way. Take the Epistle reading from Epiphesians that we have just heard, written by Paul a full decade before Matthew’s Gospel and Paul already assumes the inclusion of Gentiles in the followers of Jesus.

So we have the Epiphany – the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, a welcome to one and all to come to the table, the family of Jesus. And there have been many other small “e” epiphanies along the way. The earth is round, and it goes around the sun. Slavery is not God’s gift to the privileged. And while we are at it, the epiphany that women are equal to men. I’m currently reading Michael Coren’s book called Epiphany which entails his change of heart and mind on marriage equality. So maybe we shouldn’t be focused solely on The Epiphany but also to see the epiphanies that faith in Jesus brings to all that encounter Him.

Sunday, December 9, 2018
A Time to Prepare

Luke 3:1-6: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be always acceptable O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.

Wow, that gospel was quite a mouthful, and I’m very glad I wasn’t the one reading it; but I would like to just reread a piece that I think is really important:

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’

” Now, I really love John the Baptist, I love that he’s this wild prophet out in the wilderness, with his revolutionary proclamations: Prepare the way of the Lord! I love that, I mean I’m not ready to go out to the street corner with a sandwich board, but I love it.

And what I find so interesting about this passage today is that it is this foretelling of something great and life-changing. Which might seem like it’s just another weird text about the end times, but I think it can say a lot to us about where we are right now.

And where we are right now is Advent. Now, it’s a kinda funny thing that doesn’t get talked about a lot that we have so many apocalyptic and prophetic passages during Advent; and I think this goes to what Keith has been preaching on in his last two sermons about how we explain and understand Advent. There is a lot here that we tend to gloss over, not just when we scramble to get to Christmas, but also when we focus too much on the aesthetics of the liturgical season. Either way, we’re missing the opportunity to discuss something really important, something that has huge bearing on our future as the church and how we engage with contemporary society.

Now, you might be asking yourselves, how am I drawing that conclusion? I mean, come on, this is crazy prophetic talk from an ancient people, written down in the early centuries of history. What the heck does this have to do with us today?

It seems like such a strange way to begin the season of Advent.

Because Advent is, let’s face it, usually lumped into the Christmas season which is all about presents and food and decorations, it’s a light season, a happy season. Even if people are not sucked into the commercial Christmas season, it’s still about a sweet story of a baby in manger with cute little sheep and cows standing around.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I already have my Santa mugs out and my tree up and I have been blasting Christmas music in my car on the way to work every morning since November 12th, so this is not a disparaging remark aimed at anyone, but it is something to think about.

Because we lose something of the power of the story when we forget what this really means.

We are in the season of preparing our hearts, waiting for God-with-us, God made flesh, and in the midst of a season of hope and peace and joy and love being born into the world, we are confronted with these passages about the coming of something that disrupts the great power structures and pulls down the temple and society and everything. Just as in the midst of great tyrannical power God sends His Son, born a baby to humble parents, a humble birth of a king.

And as odd as it might seem, this is exactly why we need Advent. Because these two images don’t make sense together, and as we prepare for God to move among humans, we are preparing for the reverse ordering of the status quo, we are preparing for an overturning of culture and tradition, power and privilege. Jesus’ coming is not just spiritual, it is social. He is not just preparing his followers for a different kingdom after death, but calls upon them to be different in the present.

It is not just about what happens in the fullness of time or in the ancient of days, but what is happening right now.

When we get to this season, there’s always competing visions of the right way to do this or that. Keith talked about it last week with the Advent traditions. Blue or purple, how we use the wreath, can you sing Christmas carols. We become so ensconced in our own ideas about the best way to celebrate, and sometimes in doing so, we forget what we’re celebrating.

There is always a lot of talk at this time about the War on Christmas, and keeping Christ in Christmas, or talking about how the church needs to be countercultural because society is just so far from the Gospel right now; and I think that this time with Advent invites us into this conversation if we let it.

Because here is the Gospel: that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to be born into it, not a great king, not a mighty warrior, but a helpless baby. Gifted to two humble, faithful people, born in the lowliest of places, surrounded by animals and shepherds. That God so loved this world that when He thought of what could best show His love, He didn’t go to the high priests or the politicians, He didn’t go to the wealthy or the powerful. When His Son built His ministry, He chose tax collectors and fishermen; when He gave examples of great faith and love He spoke about Samaritans and lepers and impoverished women; when He brought messages of trust and hope, He walked among the crowds on the side of the sea.

I don’t think this Gospel is lost, I think we have forgotten how to recognize it. But this is our opportunity to wrestle with it.

As we prepare ourselves for His coming in this Advent season, we can be reminded that we are tasked with not only waiting with joyful anticipation, but with passionate and hopeful action. We are not called to be countercultural or to pull away from the world, we are called into loving relationship with the world that God created.

I know that it’s a lot to ask in this already busy season. I get it, I’m swamped. And I want to just enjoy the Christmas lights and cookies and those Hallmark made-for-tv movies too. But Advent is an opportunity as followers of Christ to delve into something more, something deeper.

So my brothers and sisters, as we move forward, as we journey towards the coming of Christ, let us remember that this is not just the birth of a baby we are celebrating, but the birth of a Saviour. Who came to change the world, and who calls us into that mission. This season is a time to prepare, to move closer, a time to think about our relationship to Christ and what our mission is, a time to remember just how much God loves us, and how He shows that love to the world. A time to think about the Gospel story, not just as a cute crèche scene, but as an overturning of the world.

And it is a time to remember the powerful gifts we have been given to prepare the way for the Lord: hope, peace, joy, and love.

Hana Scorrar

Sunday, December 2, 2018
Advent. Reaching Out to Others

Luke 21:25-36:   Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.

Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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So, once again we begin Advent. So what is Advent? Who started it? Has it always been like this?

Surprisingly, there aren’t waves of information, but what there is points in very similar directions. Advent can be first found in the Christian Calendar somewhere around the sixth century. Previous to that there is tradition of what was called St. Martin’s Lent, which was a 40 day fast before Christmas. Advent then, as now, generally speaking, was a duel theme of preparation. Preparing to mark Christ’s entry into this world and preparation for Christ’s return. In its original understanding, Advent was very similar to Lent in that fasting, meditation, introspection and repentance were among the main themes. As time has gone on, Advent has been somewhat distanced from the Lenten disciplines, although it remains a time of deep introspection.

The Advent wreath has become an intricate part of the Advent liturgy, with it’s four or five candles (not all Advent wreaths had a white Christ Candle.) Three purple and one pink candle became staples. In moving from the Diocese of Calgary to the Diocese of Huron 16 years ago, I discovered there was and is some difference in traditions around which order the candles should be lit.

A couple of notes around colours. For many centuries both Lent and Advent hangings and vestments were purple, marking the theme of repentance. It is only in the last few decades that a strong push is making it’s way through the church to make the Advent colour blue, to show that it is very different that the Lenten season and thus having it’s own colour. So of course, being me, I always want to ask if we would make the purple candles blue? There is also the Gaudete Sunday tradition on the third Sunday of Advent. Gaudete means rejoice. Rose or pink coloured vestments can be used instead of blue or purple and the pink candle in lit in the Advent wreath. There is also a tradition to call the pink candle the Mary candle and it is then lit on the 4th Sunday of Advent, and usually includes Mary’s song from Luke.

So, there is a bit of history of Advent. But still the question remains. What is Advent? How will the next 20 odd days be different for you than normal? As I have suggested in a couple of ways, I think Advent is worthwhile, but it is completely lost in the all out mad commercial rush to Christmas. The temptation is for the church to join in that wild fray and make everything from November 1st about the birth of Jesus. Well, that’s not accurate. It’s all about Christmas but we try not to mention Jesus unless we have to.

So, I’m going to suggest that the understanding of Advent as preparing our hearts for Jesus first and second coming is lost. How do we bring it back?

I think there is great value in contemplating a twofold question. Why did Jesus come in the first place? What was it about the development of the world, the evolution of civilization, the actions of human beings that made that the critical and therefore perfect time for Jesus to come dwell among us. That leads to part two of the question. When is He coming back? Same thought process. What will be the historical, sociological, theological and human behavioral understandings that will bring Jesus again?

As I nuanced last week, there is a dramatic shift going on in Christian writing about this dynamic. Instead of seeing God as this distant task master who will return to call us to account; there are questions being asked about how interconnected are earth and heaven?

We can make the case from today’s readings. What both Jeremiah and Luke are doing is pointing to a set of circumstances that will bring God into a closer relationship with humanity. We would automatically suggest first coming in Jeremiah and second coming in Luke.

But what if it is all the same message? What if the prophet Jeremiah and the gospel writer Luke are asking the same thing? When are we going to understand the God of love? When are we going to understand God’s desire to interact intimately with those God created to love? When are we going to start to understand that heaven and earth are, in some sense, supposed to be coming closer together, not being drawn further apart?

When do we begin to understand that the call to love is the central message of God and that heaven becomes much clearer to us when we as human beings begin to come closer to what all the authors in the Bible are describing – a world in which all are included and none are excluded. A world where it’s more important to understand how to love each other, than it is to create rules to keep some people out and give power to those who are in.

Maybe, just maybe, that is where we should start with Advent? Over the next four weeks can we focus on asking what it takes to bring heaven and earth together? What does God truly want? Should these four weeks be about blowing our credit limits, exclusive parties, and all out pursuit of the non-existent perfect Christmas? Or can we spend the next four weeks reaching out to others? Can we spend the time in spiritual contemplation of what it means that Jesus came and will come again? Can we really try and figure out what God thinks the heaven and earth combination is? I think we might find it in compassion, respect, inclusion, sharing, loving, encouraging and many other positive experiences. What say you – should we try to change the world? Or should be let the self-centered, profit seeking, power demanding, ultra-controlling leadership continue to define who we are?

Rev. Keith Nethery

Sunday, November 25, 2018
Advent is NOT Christmas

John 18:33-3: Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

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For those reading this from the Monday newsletter, I am preaching this from the pulpit on Sunday morning. This is only the third time in nearly 25 years that I have preached from a pulpit, and the reason is a confluence of a variety of things. When I arrived at St. James just over a year ago, I spent some time talking about some of the nuances that I follow in ministry. Given that I have had half a dozen or more questions about why I don’t preach from the pulpit in recent days, I thought I would again share my understanding of preaching, so that we are all on the same page. When I then looked at the readings for today and added in a couple of books that I have been reading for an article I plan to write for the Huron Church News, there was an interesting symmetry emerging that intrigued me.

What follows about preaching and pulpit is no comment on anyone else, but exclusively my understanding of the craft. I believe that pulpits originally had more to do with site lines and sound projection than anything else. Given modern technology, those concerns no longer exist. I see preaching as a conversation. In fact, in a very clear way, it is a conversation with myself, because I need to hear and learn. You have the opportunity to eavesdrop on that conversation. I also believe that being ordained priest does not change who I am, it does not elevate my position, but rather is a call to ministry with, rather than to, a community. That means I should never preach as if I am above, or looking down at anyone – I should preach from within the community. Which is why I also like to wander around a bit while I preach, because that is who I am naturally. If left to my own desires, I would probably be half way down the center aisle by the end of this sermon, but that would be taking things a bit too far.

The two books I have been reading are Zealot by Reza Aslan and Simply Jesus by N.T. “Tom” Wright. Aslan is a scholar and his book is about Jesus from a strictly historical, cultural and academic position. While he references the Scriptures when it suits his purpose, most of the time it’s “just the facts.” I was most intrigued by his comments on Pontius Pilate who is referenced in today’s Gospel. From an historical/cultural model, Pilate was a tyrant. Aslan talks of dozens of people at a time paraded before Pilate, who condemned them to death without even looking up from his desk. Aslan says there is no way the Gospel accounts of Pilate interacting with Jesus can be true.

Wright, on the other hand, is investigating Jesus from a deep faith perspective. When he arrives at the point of Jesus and Pilate, he paints a picture of Pilate as a man who was intrigued by Jesus, who wanted to know how this quiet, unassuming man was creating such a fuss and endangering the lock down control that Pilate wished to keep in Jerusalem to preserve Roman control. Pilate, a man of power, recognizes that Jesus is also a person of power, but of a different manner. Aslan paints Pilate from an heirarchical point of view while Wright represents the relationship view.

It is John’s Gospel, that we read today that gives us the most fulsome view of the conversation between Jesus and Pilate and provides that understanding of an intriguing respect between the two, given that they were most different in their nature. I am somewhat disappointed that the Lectionary ends today’s reading at verse 37 rather than adding the most intriguing question from Pilate to Jesus in verse 38 “What is truth.”. Do any of us have the courage to engage in that discussion?

So today we conclude the Christian year – with the Gospel reading from John and the passage from the beginning of Revelation, we have a glimpse into the themes of Advent which begins next Sunday. John points us to the end of Jesus’s earthly life as Pilate sends Jesus to the cross, while the beginning of Revelation points us to an understanding that Jesus will come again.

So, a bit tongue in cheek, here is my question. Will you mark an Aslan style Advent or a Wright infused Advent. Aslan wants the facts, what we know, the same old same old, no interpretation, just the way it is. Wright is about relationship. In fact his book Simply Jesus goes on to express a recurring theme in Wright’s works that heaven and earth are closer and more interconnected than we think.

So, will Advent again be a necessary precursor to Christmas? Will we grumble about all that apocalyptic stuff that makes us uncomfortable and instead hide with Christmas Trees and Santa Claus. Will we make Advent just what it always was, is and will be. No exceptions?

Or can we take the challenge of Tom Wright? Can we, will we, risk to think anew about what it means that Jesus was born, died, resurrected, ascended and will come again? Dare we think about heaven and earth, about life and death, about what our faith calls us to in Advent? How do we understand the connection between heaven and earth. When Jesus returns will the two be more separate, or less as Wright would suggest. He in fact says the second coming is to unite heaven and earth into one. Or do we skip merrily along to the Baby in the manger.

Advent is NOT Christmas. It is a necessary, thought provoking, faith inspiring, journey with Jesus. Before we once again revisit the cycle of Jesus birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension; we have the chance to seriously and fearlessly dive into a new, fresh and exciting look at one of the most overlooked seasons in the Christian year. I look forward to the preaching journey with you through this season.

Rev. Keith Nethery

Sunday, November 18, 2018
Apocalypse

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs1966.”              Mark 13:1-8

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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, o Lord, our rock and our redeemer…

This week while I was thinking about the Gospel passage that I am speaking to you about this morning, I had the opportunity to lead a blanket exercise for a couple of churches in Windsor, as part of the Diocesan committee, Bridge Builders, that I belong to.  And, at the time, I just thought that this was a break from thinking about my message this morning, but as I got back to writing, I realized that it was making me think about this Gospel passage.

Primarily because this is an apocalyptic text, and let’s be honest, apocalyptic passages like this are more than a little weird, a little off-putting, and unfailingly difficult to preach and interpret for those of us living in a context that isn’t fraught with upheaval and panic, terror and suffering.

We as relatively rich Westerners may have a hard time with such proclamations, and often it’s thought that we should perhaps stay silent in the face of such things.  For what could we remotely understand about the trauma of living through exile and oppression, the destruction of Jerusalem or the horrors of a Herod?  How can we interpret these teachings of Jesus when our worldview is one of freedom and choice, comfort and power, one of privilege?  What became blatantly obvious to me at the blanket exercise this week is that I have to stand up here and preach from a place of understanding my own privilege.

We are not the oppressed.  We are the empire, which these apocalyptic texts are opposing.

And the way that we deal with passages like this are often to be dismissive.  And who wouldn’t, when they’re usually thrown at us from street corner preachers shouting about hellfire and the end times.  When presented like this, is it no wonder we want to avoid them.  And while we get distracted with small facts or ridiculous details about the signs, or coming up with concrete timelines for Jesus’ return, we are missing the bigger picture.  That these challenges faced by Mark’s community can speak to something more than just a cosmic clash.

Now, Mark’s community they were facing the disappointment of Jesus’ delayed return, the immense social and religious upheaval caused by the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, persecution by both secular and religious forces, confusion among Jesus’ followers and conflict between rival leaders.  In short, life was something of a mess.  And the most interesting, and important part of this, is that Mark is not writing in the middle of all this.  He is writing in the aftermath, and wondering what will happen to them, how they will survive.

Now, we are not the ancient Jews suffering persecution and exile, our story is different, our context is different, but we are experiencing our own birth pangs.  Our place in society is gone, our churches are in decline, our buildings are in trouble.  We are crumbling as an empire.

And if we are listening to the apocalyptic passage through a lens that cannot see anything beyond itself, we will be scared and frightened to lose control, to lose our power.

But that is only one half of this message from Christ.  Because this message is not one of doom and gloom, it is one of resurrection.  That is always the promise of Jesus, the promise of the Gospel.

When Jesus’ followers are admiring the temple buildings and the great stones that made them up, what He reminds them is that these things do not last.  They fall, they crumble.  They are not made to last, no matter how well built.

Empires always fall, because they are meant to.  As Christ says, this must take place.

And we can mourn this fact, and hold onto the vestiges of what is left, hoping to maintain our personal power.  We can stay stuck in the certainty of what we know, even though it is coming down around us.  And trust me, I understand the phrase the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t intimately well.  I understand the temptation to look back on what we once had and not want to move on.

This is perhaps the human condition, to worship the gifts of God rather than God the giver.  I think that’s what this tricky little passage is about: that in times of confusion, challenge, and distress, we will not only be overly impressed with the symbols of power around us – like those big stones – but we will also seek to find our security through that power rather than the One who gives us the most counterintuitive answer.

Living with uncertainty and obstacles was hard for the first century followers of Jesus and it’s just as hard for us living today.  But the promise hidden in this text is the promise that runs through the whole of God’s relationship with us.  That working hard enough, praying enough, making ourselves acceptable enough, or powerful enough, is not going to stop the inevitable, and it’s not going to be enough to leave our uncertainties and insecurities behind.

Empires fall, they must.  But we do not have to be an empire.  We are not called to be an empire.  We are here to gather as brothers and sisters, fallible and flawed, forgiven and freed, in the knowledge that it is not our great stone buildings or our money or anything else that protects us.  It is our ability to care for each other, to hold onto community, to live with compassion and grace, to move forward even in times of trouble.

Our faith does not offer an end to uncertainty or insecurity at all.  Instead, it promises that we can discover who we are in relation to whose we are, that we are beloved children of the God who created and sustains all things and loves us unconditionally.

Mark writes these apocalyptic texts to his community, and we can hear them here and now, not as portents of disaster, but as the strategy for survival.  The antidote for uncertainty is not certainty, it is courage; and the best response to insecurity is confidence in the promise of love from God, and from all those who gather to live out that love in community.  This is our strength, and it is the way we can survive and the only way we resurrect.  Rooted in each other and Christ, we do not need to fear the falling of the great stones or the rumours of wars.  These birth pangs hurt, they hurt appallingly so, but something is struggling to be born.  We may be called to bear witness to the pain, but this will always end in joy.  Thanks be to God.

Hana Scorrar

Sunday, November 11, 2018
Remembrance

1 Peter 1:3-9: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

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A lot of things fall into a short period of time in early November. We mark All Saints on November 1st and All Souls on November 2nd. Also in the mix is a Remembrance Sunday, which is usually the Sunday before Remembrance Day. Tradition is that All Saints is moved to the Sunday after November 1st and usually then ends up being marked on the same day as Remembrance Sunday.

This year however, because Remembrance Day is on the Sunday, we used the readings for All Saints last week, as we lit candles in memory of those gone before and brought a new member in Christ’s Church through baptism.

So that leaves a bit of a conundrum as to which readings to use for Remembrance Sunday. The readings assigned for November 11th, are not connected to a remembrance theme, but the readings for All Souls Day, certainly are. Thus, my choice for this morning.

The Epistle Reading – 1 Peter 1:3-9 is one of my most cherished passages of Scripture. At so many junctures in my life, I have found myself sitting with Peter’s words about what it means to live faith in a life full of difficulties. When all around us seems unsettled, unpredictable and in fact uncontrollable, these words, to me, are reassuring and point me in faith, to the One that I trust beyond all others.

Over the years that I have been in ministry, I have journeyed with many veterans, oft as they approached the end of their lives, with the memories of war disturbing the peace they long to find. I have suggested this reading to veterans and they have told me that it has been helpful.

 

Today, I hope we can use this short portion of a letter that Peter wrote to encourage Christians in a wide geographical area some 30 years after Jesus death, to gain some insight into the horrors faced by many thousands during the two world wars.

Imagine you are a young man, suddenly in a country distant from home, everything is new, the people around you come from various parts of the world, you have been issued uniforms and a gun, you have taken some training and now, you are told you are to go into battle. What runs through your mind? And what do you make of these words of Peter, nearly 2000 years old, to a completely different civilization. As you face, in a very real way, your own personal mortality, are these words enough to bring trust, belief and faith into your heart and mind.  As you close your eyes for a sleepless night before you are called to risk everything, including your very life, can you find peace in the knowledge that God has your mortal soul and your eternal soul in hand?

None of us can answer that question because we have not been in that position. But framing that question, I believe, can give us some insight into the dichotomy of terror and peace that must have coursed through the minds of those who literally, felt they had the future of the world on their shoulders.

The veterans I have been privileged to journey with had an unbreakable core faith; of belief that they did what they had to do. But they also had such immense sadness and pain for the loss of those around them, for the ripping away of their own innocence, and for the burden they would carry until this life came to an end. Put in these terms the words penned in the well-known poem In Flanders Fields by John McRea echo so much more boldly. “If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.”

We are called to live in the midst of a plethora of emotions today. Sadness at the loss of so many innocent men, women and children; anger that we continue to repeat the hatred that brings us to countenance war; pride in our forebears who gave everything that we might be free; fear that that freedom might be waning and trust; trust that Peter’s message is true; that all those who paid the ultimate price received God’s ultimate grace – the salvation of their souls; trust that we today can hold onto that same faith stemming from taking the same words into our hearts and spirits; and trust that in the future we might still walk with a belief that God is with us, that Jesus’ mission and ministry among us has shown us how to rise out of hatred, anger, struggle and the desire for power and control, to find freedom and peace.

As Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope. . .” That is the torch that needs to be ours to receive and hold high. A flame that illuminates our knowledge that love can conquer all, if we will just listen to the One who gave it to us. Amen.

Rev. Keith Nethery

Sunday, November 4, 2018
Lazarus!

John 11:32-44: When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’

They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me.

I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

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May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer… Well, we have a lot of things going on this Sunday, we have a baptism and we are celebrating All Saints today, and we have this gospel message, which is the story of Lazarus.

And I know, trust me, I’ve been working with these things all week, they seem like they might not fit well together. Certainly they’re hard to work around in a sermon. A celebration of lives well lived and the celebration of new life, but then I realized, they are tied together by the story of the raising of Lazarus. The story of resurrection.

Now, to give some context to this, because the story of Lazarus starts a little before our gospel begins, Jesus is traveling, and he hears that his friend, Lazarus, is sick, and he is told to hurry, to come to heal him.

Now, if this was me, I would drop everything and run. You wouldn’t have to tell me twice, I would just take off. And I’m sure the rest of us would as well. If we heard that our loved one was sick and dying, we would do anything to be at their side, especially if we thought we could do something to help. But Jesus does exactly what you would never do in this situation, he does not hurry up, he does not rush, he does not run to Lazarus’ bedside. Instead, Jesus takes his time, and when Jesus finally comes, Lazarus has died, and his sister Mary kneels at Jesus’ feet and says what we probably all have said at some point in time, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Lord, if you have been here, this would not have happened.

And I don’t know about you, but at this point in the story I always start sympathizing with Mary and Martha. Because I don’t know about you, but those words have passed my lips many times, Lord, if you had been here, this would not have happened.

Lord, if you have been paying attention, or done what I wanted, if you had listened to me, this would not have happened. We have all been in those places, where the pain and suffering, the grief, the lament cry out. Where it feels like we have been left without help, without hope. We all get those moments when we start to feel like God is very far away.

And it’s easy to start thinking that maybe God loves us in a wide and abstract way, but not in a way that has any effect on our lives. It’s easy to start thinking like Martha and Mary, that Jesus did not show up to help us. But this is where the story gets interesting.

Now, we all know how this ends. And we can fast forward to the happy part where Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb and he is resurrected. And it would be really easy to stand up here and talk about that this morning, because, really that’s the tie that binds our All Saints celebration and our baptismal celebration to each other today. They are both a celebration of the promise of life in Christ, of new life from the dead.

But here’s the thing. All those great celebrations are the end of the story, and while it’s really easy to see the miracle in the resurrection, its only part of the larger miracle of this story.

Because this is a story about love. This story is about what it means to be in relationship with Jesus, what it means to love him and to be loved by him.

So I think we need to talk about what happens before, because even though it seems like the loving happy ending of resurrection is the most important part of this story, I think that there is something we’re missing here if we skip to the end. We miss Jesus weep. We miss his deep sadness, how greatly disturbed he was in spirit. We miss the relationship.

Because being in relationship, with Christ and with each other, isn’t just about our happy endings, it’s about the journey we take. Love takes work and commitment, it takes sacrifice. Being in relationship with Jesus isn’t about what he can give us as individuals, being in relationship with Jesus means facing death and grief with him and learning that still, in spite of the death, the dark wilderness, the finality of the door at the entrance to the tomb of our hopes, he is still life.

Nothing is ever so dead that it keeps him from bringing something new.

That is the story we gather to celebrate today, we gather to celebrate the lives of saints both known and unknown, those who walked the Christian path, and who lived out that journey, who when the lights when out and the path turned dark, put out their hands and stepped out with faith based not on sight but the knowledge of Christ’s light in their hearts.

And we gather today to celebrate a baptism, the story of new love being born into the community of St James Westminster, the first steps of a new family member, who we commit to walking with, who we commit to having a relationship with.

We have all been Martha and Mary, weeping through the grief of loss. We have all been Lazarus, lifeless and gone. But if we fast forward to the ending of resurrection, we miss that Jesus is right there weeping with us. That through the darkness of change and the unknown, he is with us, part of our joy and happiness, part of our grief and pain.

We have all been called out and given new life. This is what we celebrate today, what binds us together, that we have all been called out by Christ, from the saints and souls we remember today, to the brand new member of our church family. We are called to journey, in love, in relationship, through the unknown, with love and hope.

This is the promise of the story of Lazarus, the promise that Jesus loves us, He weeps for us, He is deeply moved by us. And He brings life to our death, a light to our darkness, even when we think we have been forgotten, even when we think we have lost it all.

The raising of Lazarus isn’t just a miracle that Jesus performed thousands of years ago in a land far, far away. It’s the work of Jesus today. This life is not only a future hope, abundant life is always ever now. And so, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we remember those deceased faithful and the wonderful relationships we had with them, and celebrate and commit ourselves to a new relationship today, let us remind ourselves of our belovedness, and the true miracle of Christ ever present.

Hana Scorrar