29 Jun 2019

Moved By the Spirit

            I recently had opportunity to hear someone discussing the movement of the Spirit... literally. This person was keenly sharing how the Spirit has called some people into mission, and was celebrating those folks who have picked up their whole lives and moved in order to do mission. "They do it so well" was gushed. How exciting!
            ...and yet, it was also enough to give me pause. Because the person speaking was using we/they terms. We are just clergy, they are missionaries! We are just in the parish, they are out in the mission field! We are just stationary, they are being led by the Spirit to move!
            My personal bias floated to the surface. As someone who has moved, I know what it's like to pack the boxes, to struggle through tearful good-byes, to ignore nervous butterflies as I meet new friends and neighbours, to delight in making 'home' in a new community. 
            And I can tell you that each time such a move has happened, it is because I have felt strongly called into the exercise of parish ministry; to participate in God's mission within a church and community as a parish priest.
            So while the speaker was enthusing over the folks who dare to be moved by the Spirit, they inadvertently overlooked (and discredited) everyone else who has moved - and not just the "stationary" "parish" "clergy" (because we do engage in exciting mission work, I assure you!) Anyone who has uprooted their families and their lives to follow God's call - whether it's in the same city or across the globe - will tell you how much gets stirred up by the Spirit. Likewise, there is an excitement to discerning a call by God to continue in their place and space, as their work in God's mission has not yet been completed.
            I reflect that this will be a reminder to recognise that there is no we/they when it comes to God's mission; we're all in this together. I invite us all to embrace how the Spirit has caused many to move - for seasonal employment, for transitioning careers, for educational opportunities, for new stages of life. I hope we can all be faithful in discerning how God is calling us to be active, to move, to engage in the work of God's mission.

22 Jun 2019

...and Jesus Laughed

"Falafel" CC By-SA 2.0 by Jacob Enos. Source: Flickr

            I had some church meetings this week that took me out of town overnight. I went out with a friend after the evening's meetings were concluded, to grab a bite and chat. Admittedly, we were tired, and a bit punchy.
            ...And we have a history of laughing.
            So, when we saw on the menu "calamari dusted with falafel", we both started visualising some poor squid being pelted by deep-fried fava beans, developing a black eye from the jettisoned protein-nuggets.
            There were chuckles. Then chortles. Then giggles. Then: the all-out belly laugh.  
            We had seated ourselves away from other patrons, so we didn't have to apologise too much. But we laughed. The topics changed, the laughter continued.
            It was a lovely conversation with a friend, free of malice and full of joy.
            It was the type of fun conversation that I can imagine Jesus would have had with his friends - a little silliness, a lot of fun, sharing some food, and engaging in conversation about life and ministry.  And: laughter.
            Now, the bible never says that Jesus laughed - so if we were limited to thinking that the only emotions he experienced were what was catalogued decades later, I think we're denying ourselves the fullness of his humanity.
            Because Jesus lived, and loved, and journeyed. He had friends, and family, and experienced the entirety of emotional realities. I believe he built friendships the way the rest of us do: sharing experience, and emotions, and (often) food. So I believe that Jesus laughed, and joins us as we continue to laugh. And maybe, given his heritage, he could have made even better jokes about dusting with falafel.
            Jesus lived with joy - may we do the same, seeking laughter and love wherever we can.  

15 Jun 2019

You Are Somebody!

CC BY 2.0 by Oatsy40 Source: Flickr

     Each and every one of us is somebody: and this is good news. This is an affirmation of being named and claimed by god in our baptism; it's the confidence of being a member of God's family, an heir and a citizen of God's Kingdom. In that context, we delight that we are all SOMEBODY! It matters!
     But there's more to this statement that a mere confidence-booster. There is also a role of responsibility and accountability.
     Several times this week, I heard people commenting about a situation they found distasteful, or hurtful, or heartbreaking. And each time, the comment was made: Somebody should do something!
     I can understand how easy it is to get caught up in the despair. When we get caught up in the incessant news cycle of fear-mongering and hate-spewing, the world can seem far too overwhelming for us. If we could just hide out in a blanket fort of blissful ignorance, I think many of us would like to.
     Yet: we know better. We know that something needs to be done. And so we lament, from a distance, that SOMEBODY should do SOMETHING!
     I wonder what would happen if we challenged ourselves to take action, even in some small way. Even if things don't change the way that we want them to, we would know that we have made an effort.
     If somebody should do something about injustices to indigenous peoples, maybe we need to write our MPPs and MPs about Bill C-262.
     If somebody should do something about the climate crisis, maybe we need to be intentional about our consumer habits.
     If somebody should do something about neighbourhood kids misbehaving, maybe we need to ensure there are safe and affordable local programmes and spaces for our youth.
     If somebody should do something about the empty pews in the church, maybe we need to invite our friends to worship, and evangelize with our family and friends.
     The possibilities are endless: we are not meant to wait for an anonymous 'somebody' to fix all the problems of the world, we are meant to engage with the world with love and compassion. Jesus sent his disciples out to spread a message of community and relationship and grace: and we are called to heed that same message.
     So it is true: as the world is experiencing challenges, somebody should do something! Let's look in the mirror and see that somebody is us.

8 Jun 2019

Gifts of the Spirit

            I'm delightfully in the year of firsts where I serve - it's a busy parish, and I'm learning as I go what the traditions and practices are in this gorgeous community. (There's a lot of grace from parishioners and neighbours who are helping me in this process - a LOT of grace!)
            Part of the fun of firsts is that I am able to offer some of my gifts in ways that are new to the parish. For example, our summer fellowship time is about to start, and for our first Sunday (today) I offered to make a cake. It's Pentecost (also town's anniversary, parish's anniversary, restoration re-dedication anniversary... you get the idea: we have much to celebrate.) I was excited to share with the parish the (previously) unknown fact that I sometimes decorate cakes.
            Little did I know, when I offered to provide this cake (with grand visions in my mind!) that the week would get wildly away from me.  Instead of working with confections, phone calls were taken, visits were made, meals were shared. Conversations were enjoyed, prayers were offered, hugs were exchanged: these are a MUCH higher priority than cake decoration. Somewhere after 8pm Saturday night (while I was still not home) I altered my plans. The cake would still happen, just in a different way.
            And: that's okay. I hadn't shared my elaborate cake details with anyone, and even if I had, it doesn't matter. A Pentecost cake will still be at church, and I won't fall asleep mid-sermon from having stayed up all night to create it. The community- and relationship-building that had happened was WAY more important than artful sugar.
            The cake reminds me that we all have gifts to share, even if they might look a bit different than our original plans. I think the gift of Pentecost is to remind us to share those gifts, whenever we can - gifts of teaching, evangelism, healing, service... we are meant to use these gifts to help one another. We aren't meant to be perfect in our gifts, but to be generous in sharing our gifts.
            This Pentecost, I pray we are emboldened by the Spirit, and inspired to share the gifts; trusting that the recipients will appreciate our offering, and that God will be glorified through it. After all: a simple cake is just as tasty as an elaborate one.
            (Join us in Lunenburg area for worship - and cake! 8.30 & 10.30)

1 Jun 2019

Magnolia Lament

         My neighbours across the street have a magnolia tree in their yard. This means that right now, I get to view some truly stunning blooms every time I open the door, or pass the window. It's stunning!
         Imagine my surprise when I overheard someone lamenting about magnolias as a waste of time and garden space. Their walking companion seemed as confused as I was, and inquired why the speaker felt so strongly.
         "Sure, they're pretty," came the reply, "but only for a little while. Why bother?"
         While I didn't hear the rest of the conversation, this part stayed with me - in a sad way. There is undeniable beauty in a magnolia; and not just in the short vibrancy of bloom. How unfortunate for the people who refuse the opportunity to enjoy it; either the blooms and flowers (gorgeous!) or the other stages of the plant's life (also enjoyable). The beauty is there, if only we would see it.
         I pondered this perspective, as we consider people as well. As we encounter the various gifts and skills and offerings of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we're given the chance to see the beauty, the growth, the contribution. Yet so often we tend to focus on a perceived negative; how we consider their ministry to the world as not good enough, or long enough, or important enough. We ignore the beauty that someone is offering, because we're so limited in our own vision and expectation.
         I believe that everyone has something to offer - and that these offerings are to be appreciated for what they are (and how they are given!). We are all part of the beauty of God's world and the Holy Church - whether we're ever-changing magnolias or ever-stable evergreens.
         I simply pray that I will see and enjoy the beauty of the offerings around me, and not be blinded from another person's expressions of God's gifts in them.