thinking theology

Archive for April, 2015

A Sermon for St. Mark’s Day

St. Mark's

St. Mark’s

St. Mark's

St. Mark’s

Je tiens à vous remercier pour cet honneur d’être votre prêcheur aujourd’hui. Beaucoup d’entre vous sentez probablement que les années et les décennies s’envolent rapidement. Beaucoup d’enfants se sont endormis et ont tombeés de ces bancs. Beaucoup de jeunes ont également pensé à leur avenir ici. Beaucoup d’autres ont pensé à des aventures romantiques. Le monde se préoccupe de budgets, bavarde et s’éclate de rire ensemble. Joie et tristesse ont été partagés. Ceci a été un lieu de faire les devotions et un endroit pour vivre et mourir.

Partout où les gens se rassemblent, il existe un puissant mélange de talent, d’énergie, et rêves. Les gens eux-mêmes ne sont généralement pas conscients qu’ils sèment les graines de l’avenir. À partir de cette petite communauté, les artistes et les conservateurs ont fleuris: prêtres et conseillers, les activistes sociaux et les faiseurs de paix ont déménagé afin de semer dans d’autres endroits. Tous les types de travail, rémunéré et non rémunéré ont germés ici. Aujourd’hui nous célébrons un lieu où il y a plus de choses qui se produisent que le monde peut voir ; beaucoup a été livré à travers le monde que l’on ne pouvait imaginer et ceux par des générations de personnes qui s’estime d’êtres non important.

Thank you for the honour of being the preacher today. Many of you are probably feeling the years and decades slip away. Many children have fallen asleep and then off these pews. Many young people have thought about the future here. Many more have thought about romantic pursuits. People have worried about budgets, gossiped and laughed together. Both joy and sorrow have been shared. This has been a house of worship and a place for living and dying.

Wherever people gather, there is a potent mix of talent, energy, and dreams. The people themselves are usually unaware that they are sowing the seeds of the future. From this little community, artists and curators have grown: priests and counsellors, social activists and peace makers have moved away to sow seeds in other places. All kinds of work, paid and unpaid, germinated here. Today we celebrate a place where more happened than the participants could see; more was delivered to the world than could be imagined by generations of people who would not have thought themselves very important at all.

Now is a different time, a time where the future is unclear and the purpose still unfolding. Many people would say this is a time of endings, of death. And many people think dying is the opposite of living but that is inaccurate. Death is an event in life, just like birth or any other major change. It is often surprising, like aging. One morning, I awakened to discover I had grey hair and wrinkles. I knew it happened to others, but I thought they just weren’t prepared or paying attention. But no, indeed, age had also claimed me. Imagine my surprise! Life is about change, in every sense, from the crumbling and rebuilding of the physical world to our understanding of the world that is larger than our sense. That is our job. We are tiny motes of cosmic dust and yet we are called to record, to make meaning, to fashion new stories and artefacts ourselves. In every generation, we speculate and develop newer and more interesting theories about a universe far beyond our grasp or comprehension. That is almost as surprising as aging!

In the universe, there is only life that is constantly changing and reshaping itself. Death is a point that we humans mark in the transformation of the matter that is our bodies, our history, the planet in which our DNA is grounded. Today, we give thanks for these walls and the stories they enfold, but we release them to new purposes, new life, new people. Many of us are a part of this story, but we have formed other narratives too. And we will go on to weave together dreams and experiences until our last breath. Some of us are saddened by this particular time. It is the complex mix of sorrow at releasing the known and excitement at what the future holds. Today we hold the eternity of moments of time in our hands, like delicate hand blown glass, and we are afraid to drop any of it. But death is only an exclamation point in the ongoing conversion of matter. This fragile glass was once sand and fire and potash and lime. What will be next we will not necessarily know.

One of the gifts of Jesus is this teaching: that we look to the world around us to see death constantly yielding to new and vigorous life. Celebrations like today remind us that our lives are enmeshed in the great tapestry of life. Each and all of us precious, unique, and essential to what is now and what will become. We cannot cling to each other or try to make our memories define our present, but we can and must cherish it all, even the sad and bad times, as well as the beautiful and gracious.

There are two good stories about this phenomenon. After the resurrection, Mary initially doesn’t recognize Jesus. She thinks he is the gardener. But when she does at last, he tells her not to try to grasp him because what has been is the past. She must open her eyes to the moment and let it carry her into a new imagination, a new way to live the life she shared with him. Again, as some of the disciples are travelling to Emmaus, they encounter a stranger suddenly on the road with them, but they don’t know him. Later, after they have shared a meal and some stories, they realize they have been in the presence of Jesus. And then he disappears just as abruptly. “Don’t cling” ought to be one of the great Christian teachings. Perhaps the church could do fund raisers with laundry sheets that say “Christians don’t cling to the past.” How well do you think we could sell that idea?

The story of faith in each place is the story of people, but the buildings hold the misty shapes of those people. Here we see an unruly child, there an elderly man checking his watch, there an earnest teen contemplating a religious vocation, there the Sunday dinner cook, hoping the roast isn’t burning. All of it says who we are and where we have been.

We come together after a long season of planting and harvesting. We come together with our wrinkles and our grey hair. Some of us may come lately with youthful energy and vision. But come we do to celebrate, to give thanks, to let go, and to move on to other places, carrying the treasures we have shared. And this building, these walls, perhaps they will lie fallow for awhile, resting until they house a group of people not yet seen, for purposes not yet known, in trust that there is only life, rich, abundant, outrageous, full of energy and power.

But now is the time of quiet. Let us place our memories, along with all the lives who have crossed these paths, into the ground where the Holy One will bless and create. May the blessed spirits of the past be the ground from which the new will arise in beauty and strength of purpose. Everything dies, and everything is born anew.

Que l’Esprit de vie, qui parcourt les voies des étoiles et aussi le cœur humain, nous bénir avec de l’imagination et de courage , de joie et d’espoir aujourd’hui et tous nos lendemains.IMG_0772

Afraid of a little mystery

Darkness, shrouds of shadow over flowers of brightness, each blossom a remembrance of relationship, the intertwining of lives and history. In the narthex, the sound of a fountain burbling up through stones, the silence, the whispers, greetings.

A fire pot is lit, crackle of flame, anticipation of the voice singing praise in the night, ethereal, connecting ages beyond meaning or philosophy, the human voice singing out into the cosmos, a love song of yearning and hope. And a priest, afraid perhaps of what must be said, the spirit inside, burbling and crackling, demanding truth, demading voice. Just one person after all, one person on a cross, and yet so many, one priest, one disciple, one heart to represent us all, and so for each of us, carrying the whole world in our hands. In the dark and in the light, together we make each other whole. We put our hands into the world where we find our brokenness and our own glory. Each of us representing each of us. An ephemeral piece of cosmic dust so imbued with the divine that we claim our father and demand our mother. So small, and yet when we break the carapace over our hearts, we find the God who creates, who compels compassion. This mystery annihilates us while it breathes into us the life of stars, the wonder of the cosmos, a small child’s smile, the grace of wrinkles and the deep laughter that heals and makes and sweeps us all into the cosmic storm of love.


The Unfinished Church

IMG_0508I have been thinking about how Holy Week is about community, the community both gathered and dispersed, faithful and fearful, harmful and healing. Although we want to build healthy communities, it is as important to know the reality of community, and techniques to deal with community problems. The ideal community has processes for forgiveness and support, for challenging without excluding, and so on. People often leave church because it doesn’t live up to its stated ideals. How could it? We are human, struggling to learn and grow, but incomplete. That is the point about Jesus as our model, a yearning to become aligned with holiness.

Life is about error and risk taking as well as success and fear. Church, at its best, needs to be the place where we can be honest about our doubts and fears and failings and expect some help and support. Church can be the model community when honesty is valued over defensive righteousness, and hope over certainty. We are the people of the cross, caught at the crossroads of competing values, facts, pain and contradiction. To walk away from the cross means to walk away from resurrection, from hope. To walk onto the centre of the cross is to place ourselves with the wounded Christ of all times and places, to endure the silence of not knowing, not surety, only yearning.

The present challenges of the church are not to be deplored with longing for a more secure time. They are to be embraced, albeit with anxiety and hesitation. It is after all Christ who leads on the path to resurrection, a new life that we cannot yet see for the blinding sun behind the cross. Will it hurt? Yes. Will we wonder if we are doing the right things? Yes. Will god give us answers? No. Will there be a new day and a new incarnation for us? That is the promise, so let’s wait, open and vulnerable, and see what happens to these bones.