27 Oct 2018

The Honour System

"Please pay the rooster
if no one is here. Thanks"
            I regularly drive past several family-run road-side fruit and vegetable; we're just at the end of another bountiful season of plenty.
            A staple at these stands is the honour-system payment box. It may be a wooden box, or a plastic container (usually used to store leftovers), and in one case: a rooster-shaped mailbox.
            These boxes are a means of continuing the exchange of money for goods, without the necessity of constant staffing, especially in the shoulder seasons. More than economic convenience, they are indicators of a relationship.
            Sure, people could choose to help themselves to the product and depart without paying, but the majority of people will honour the system: by paying for their goods, even when no one is looking, it indicates integrity and respect. This action denotes an appreciation for the people who have put time and effort into the production of the goods, respecting them as individuals who are part of the local community.
            The Honour System is a beautiful thing. And it's not just the right thing to do, it's a faithful thing to do.  To honour someone is to recognise the God-given dignity they inherently carry; to dishonour someone is to fail to see the presence of Christ in that person.
            Throughout the scriptures, God's people are reminded that respect is part of our faith. Whether honour is through appreciation by food or gift, position or authority, respect for one's body and reputation, commitment of life-long care: honour is a big deal to God. The honour system is biblical, and extends well beyond 'feeding the rooster' with currency.
            As Christians, honour is something we choose to do: with those are immediately in front of us, and with those we do not see. Because we are all linked in the communion of saints, we are all commanded to love and honour each other. We honour our ancestors, our spouses, our friends and community, our ecosystems that sustain us. God has given us opportunity to practice honour every day, and I expect delights when our hearts (and hands!) respond accordingly.
            Whatever your own system of life and connection to the world around you, I pray you are intentional about honouring all of God's world.

20 Oct 2018

Jesus First!

            A few weeks ago, my churchwardens had the unenviable task of reading to the congregation a letter from the bishop, announcing my resignation as rector.  This was not an easy task: it is only the second time in over 40 years that such an announcement has been made. The wardens and I were all a little nervous, and prayerful.
            The wardens engaged in much prayer and discernment about the best time to share this news. With 2 services, this needed to be kept confidential until the announcement was made at both services. One warden stated that everyone would "need the opportunity to come and worship as they have come to do and not be distracted by the news."
            Thus, with deliberate and diligent care, the announcement was made at the end of the worship service (traditionally this parish holds announcements before our processional). The intention and focus was clear: Jesus first!
            This way, we worshiped. We prayed, we praised, we sang, we broke bread. We had children's time, and sermon time, and prayer time, and communion as the intergenerational body of Christ alive and called to mission in this community.
            By placing the announcement at the end, the church saw its leadership demonstrate a Jesus First! model. It is a model that is meant to be applied to our whole lives, when we know ourselves to be disciples of Christ within our own contexts. It affirms all that we do as ministry, as an extension of our place in God's holy church, as people who live out our baptismal vows - with God's help - every day of our lives.
            It is a model of ministry that I have long tried to live; and God willing will continue to espouse throughout my days. It is a model that my churchwardens maintained and drew strength from during the time of announcement, and which will aid the leadership during the time of transition.

            It is my hope and prayer that the community I am preparing to leave, and the community preparing to welcome me, will join me on this journey where the priority is clear. Jesus First! May we live in peace, as we love and serve the Lord!

13 Oct 2018

You're Doing It Wrong!

"One Bad Egg"
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Tom Fassbender.
Source: Flickr
            Across social media, there seem to be a variety of click-bait opportunities inviting people to learn how they are doing things wrong.  From using a can opener to dispensing a TicTac, we seem to be doing a LOT of things wrong.
            At least, according to the writers of these articles.
            I wonder if that's really helpful... I don't know many people who enjoy being told how wrong they are, all the time.
            Also, I don't know if that's accurate. My examples of can openers and candies... some can openers can be used on the top of a can, and some on the side - if the objective is to open the can, does it matter which way is used? Or to acquire one candy out of a plastic box, shaking it into a waiting hand is no less effective than placing it on the adjacent lid.
            I wonder if we realise the scope of negativity we are engaging in, and even endorsing, when we use language like this. I wonder if we are aware of how cruelly judgmental it is to arbitrarily declare someone WRONG - even (especially?) for such a small thing.
            I overheard this kind of language once in reference to cracking an egg. One person was cracking it on the side of the bowl, the other demanded it should be cracked on the counter - in the resulting mêlée, the egg ended up on the floor. It was a mess - and not just of food.
            Perhaps it is time for an intentional re-examination of how we describe things. Perhaps we might better express ourselves as Christians if we do not say someone is wrong for doing what they do, but that we have learned or practices in a different way. There's a different way to open a can, or get a tiny mint, or crack an egg.
            My reading of the scriptures very seldom has Jesus telling people that they are wrong - he avoids that harsh judgment. Instead he invites them to a different way - a different path, a different learning, a different life. And people followed him; not chastised or criticised, but welcomed and invited.

            Perhaps we might engage folks in our communities in a similar way: choosing inclusion over judgement.  As Mother Teresa said, ""There there is no room for love when there is judgement." Perhaps we can find the joy in recognising that differences are part of the beauty of creation, and part of the joy of God's world. Not everyone will do things our way, but that's okay. It's not always wrong: just different.

6 Oct 2018

A Thanksgiving Letter

Can you remember the last time you were surprised by grace? 
Not as a specific commodity that you would pray for, a specific blessing or particular gift.
But grace. The free-flowing and abundant grace that God shares with us every day. God decides to lavish this grace upon us no matter who we are and what we do: it is an unmerited gift made known to us in the promise of salvation.
It is at this time of year, this harvest festival, that we dedicate time to celebrate this grace. We delight in the abundance of blessings – both physical and spiritual – that fill our hearts and our homes.
         Again, I invite you to reflect on the last time that you were surprised by God’s grace. God’s favour is shared so freely that we might take it for granted.
         Yet I invite us to do the opposite: to enter into a time of Thanksgiving by giving thanks. Thanks for the gifts of this life, and thanks for the promise of the heavenly banquet awaiting us in the next. Thanks for the love which we receive in this life, and thanks for the opportunity to share love with all whom we encounter. Thanks for the significant moments where we delight in feeling God’s presence, and thanks for the ordinary times that are nearly forgetful.
         For in each and every one of our moments, God’s grace is present. In each and every encounter, God’s grace is present. In each and every object and thing, God’s grace is present.
         I pray that we might engage with this ever-present grace; to intentionally seek it out, to intentionally offer thanks to God for it, and to intentionally share the good news of God’s grace in our lives.

         May your hearts be thankful for having been surprised by God’s abundant grace, this day and every day.