28 Apr 2018

Accessing the Body of Christ

            While there has been much upheaval in the world this week, as I pray for the world I have been finding my thoughts returning to the Eucharist: the simple bread and wine that promise union and communion both now and in the hereafter.
            It is fitting. The world displays examples of brokenness, yet the Eucharist itself is a symbol of brokenness. It is the broken and pained body of Jesus that we are holding up, that we are coming to, that we are coming into as we access the elements of Christ present in our midst.
            In and through the brokenness of the world, in and through the brokenness of our lives, we are invited to a feast of heavenly proportions. We are invited to remember our own brokenness in order that we might re-member ourselves as the community of Christ-followers. It is through our own intentionality that we access the body of Christ: and I don't mean just physically.
            As the church, we are ever-mindful of the need to ensure physical accessibility to the Eucharist: reserved parking spaces for the lesser mobile (even on weekdays!), communion stations that avoid stairs, larger print prayer books.
            However, I emphasize the spiritual access as just as important, the Eucharist encourages us on a deep and profound spiritual journey, simultaneously inward and outward. The liturgy reflects our baptismal vows and encourages us to continually discern our shared commitment to God and one another. This holy reconciliation is the intentional focus on overcoming personal differences to be the body of Christ. To spiritually access this body means we choose to be the best version of ourselves, not just in the church building, but in everything we do. It means we take seriously the confession, the peace, and the communion: making relationships right with ourselves, our neighbours, and our God.
            We know that these relationships can always be improved, and part of our responsibility as Christians is to strive towards that reconciliation. It's not always easy, but it is that intentionality which provides us true and humble access to the Body of Christ. For those who find the differences too great to overcome, I pray there is comfort in knowing that by the grace of God the invitation to access is eternal.
            May we all live in the knowledge that the brokenness of this world is not stronger than the healing and reconciling love of the Risen Christ.

The Body of Christ: broken for you.
The Body of Christ: seeking wholeness through you.
The Body of Christ: accessible to you. And to you. And to you....

21 Apr 2018

What's Your Passion?

            As a fan of the Winnipeg Jets, the last few weeks have offered tremendous excitement. Playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, there is much joy for Jets fans, already known for being the loudest and proudest fans of the league, while maintaining decorum and politeness (for the most part).
            I'm passionate about the Jets. I'm one of those fans with attire (shirts, socks, hats), decorations (bobblehead, calendar, pucks), even quirky things like a stuffed toy moose and a rubber ducky. I include game tickets in vacation plans, try to keep game night free to watch/cheer, I once wore a jersey over clericals to a parish council meeting (it was the first Jets playoff game in almost 20 years!) I live into one of the team maxims: "Fuelled by Passion." People know where I stand when it comes to hockey.
            What I am more passionate about, however, is being a Christian. In my life it is most important to me that I actively live out my faith, loving God and neighbour, to the best of my ability.
            Being a Christian is difficult. It takes passion, and commitment, and lifelong learning. It takes humility, and community, and outreach. It is a life of prayer and discernment and ministry; of worship and bible study and devotion.
            Being a Christian is not as easy as being a sports fan; perhaps that is why it can be less popular. To be a sports fan is passive: the Jets will play whether I watch them or not. To be a Christian requires action: I am called to love, to live my baptismal vows, to find ways to apply the teachings of Jesus to my everyday life.
            To watch the Jets is entertainment, limited to one season after another; people are traded, they retire, they move on. To live as a Christian is a way of life; it influences and supports everything I do, it impacts my every relationship, and it never takes a break. 
            While it's exciting right now to be a passionate Jets fan, it's more empowering to be a fan of Jesus. The options for enthusiastic engagement with the risen Christ are more than we can ask or imagine, yet also ever-present and ever-inviting. (Imagine what would happen if all sports fans shared an equal passion for the Good News of the Gospel!)
            I ask Jesus to eternally fuel my passion to be Christian. May inspiration and enthusiasm grow around the Gospel call to justice and peace as I seek new ways to share that passion with the world. May I live that passion so freely that it continues to grow in and through me. (Regardless of who wins the Cup this year - but Go Jets Go!!)

14 Apr 2018

Presumption of Safety

"I would travel to the end of the universe"
Some rights reserved CC BY-NC 2.0 by Raja Sambasivan.
Sourced from Flickr.
        This week I had opportunity to reflect on how often I presume I will be safe - and how arrogant that presumption can be.
         This came about as I engaged in conversations at a provincial discussion on Human Trafficking. Reflecting on 'getting there' (to the conference centre), I shared that in one typical journey, I drove to the commuter train, which took me to another train station, where I entered a taxi to the retreat centre. Easy, yes? What could possibly go wrong?
         Well, as it turns out - nothing. Nothing went wrong. But so much *could* have been problematic. My house was secure when I came home, my dogs happy to see me. There had been no break in, no burst pipes, no tree falling through the roof. The roads had been clear and maintained, the other drivers (mostly) followed the rules of the road. My car was still at the station, untouched, all day. The trains stayed on the tracks and there were no incidents en route. I literally got into a strangers' car by myself to be taken to a less-populated location.
         My goodness, how much could have gone wrong.
         My goodness, what an opportunity to be thankful that nothing went wrong.
         Sure, I could complain that the traffic had been busy, or that I had missed my first intended train, or that I had to transfer trains in Toronto, or that the taxi was costly... there are any number of things I could complain about.
         But they really are superficial. My safety was not threatened. My well-being was maintained.
         For many, all over the world, a journey of that duration could be a life-threatening experience. For many, it could be cost-prohibitive. For many, it could mean a trip in fear due to external threats.
         But I was safe. Our culture and communities strive to provide sufficient safeguards; my finances are such that a taxi trip does not mean I have to skip meals this coming week; my physical self was not fleeing some unfathomable danger. I was safe. As I had presumed I would be.
         So I am thankful. I am thankful for the circumstances that aligned so that I could be safe, in body and in mind and in spirit. I am challenged to be mindful of those for whom such a journey is not safe. And I'm called, as a Christian, to do all that I can to make the presumption of safety a normal and normative reality for all fo God's children.

         I was safe - as I presumed. God help me never to forget to be thankful for the safety I enjoy; God help me never to be so arrogant as to presume that everyone enjoys the luxury of safety.

7 Apr 2018

"So How's Your Prayer Life?"

            "So How's Your Prayer Life?"
            It's a normal question for my spiritual director to ask. We have a good connection; I'm so privileged to have him journeying with me.
            My response, however, was not normal. Normally, I reply with some insight I've had when I've been doing my prayers - the office, the examen, some revelation from sermon prep, something.
            But this time, I took a deep breath, held it, and merely stared at him. He stared back, eyebrow starting to raise. Letting out the breath, I said "I'm just sort of sitting with Jesus right now."
            "Tell me more about that" he said - another one of his normal phrases that encourages me to go deeper.
            And deeper we went. I shared that while I'm still praying my daily office (it grounds me!), life has been rather hectic of late: balancing parish ministry, my doctoral studies, then the UNCSW, and Holy Week - it's been busy.
            Often, my spiritual director will encourage me to challenge myself to a new engagement with the divine - journalling, examen, retreats, devotions - there's always another opportunity to pray deeper. But, I haven't been doing that lately.
            "I'm just sort of sitting with Jesus right now."
            The great thing about working with a spiritual director who understands me and my life, is that there's no judgement. He didn't offer a pithy "if you're too busy to pray, you're too busy!" - he actually joked that he was amazed I wasn't napping in those 5 minutes!. He knows I've been praying, he also knows that life sometimes leads us to a different style and format of prayer. It ebbs and flows. Right now, taking 5 minutes at a time to just sit with Jesus is providing me with a sustaining calm in the midst of chaos. It is as though peace is flowing through my body and I am taking those moments to celebrate it, and reap the rewards of it.
            So: "I'm just sort of sitting with Jesus right now."
            When life is complex and confusing, what better option can there be than to come to the one who offers us rest and refreshment?
            So how's my prayer life? It's great; because I'm not overwhelmed, I'm just sort of sitting with Jesus right now. And he's got me covered.