Homilies

Homily for Lent 3, March 4, 2018 – The Rev. Stephanie Shepard

John 2:13-22 St. John the Apostle “Turning Tables” I speak as a sinner to sinners, and as one who is loved to the beloved of God, through the mercy of God. Amen. It started out as just a regular day.  The doors opened, the members entered and began browsing the goods on display.  The sales people stood by, ready to help with the financial transactions for purchase.  Just business as usual.  And then someone came in and started turning the tables.  And the institution changed. In Jerusalem, it was a young rabbi from Nazareth named Jesus.  We hear the story this morning from the second chapter of John’s gospel. In Edmonton, it was a young mother named Sarah.  We heard the story on the news this week.  Sarah was deeply disturbed by recent events in the United States, especially mass shootings involving semi-automatic weapons. She started an online petition calling on Mountain Equipment Co-op, an organization to which she belongs, to immediately stop the sale of all Vista Outdoor Brands.  She had discovered that Vista is the owner of Savage Arms, one of the leading providers of semi-automatic weapons in the U.S., derives 40% of the company’s profits from the sale of weapons, and has deep financial ties to the National Rifle Association.   The petition quickly gained signatures from across Canada.  M.E.C. had to decide how to respond. On one hand, an institution has a responsibility to its shareholders.  Some welcomed the opportunity to take a political stance on this issue of gun control.  Others were concerned that certain members, especially those who hunted or shot for sport, would react negatively and take their business elsewhere.  The more astute commented that other major corporations with ties to armaments were not being targeted, and Vista Outdoors was being singled out by...

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Homily for Epiphany 3, January 14, 2017- The Rev. Stephanie Shepard

1 Samuel 3:1-10 St. John the Apostle, Port Moody “God in Dialogue” May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen. Cats have selective attention.  You can stand at the door and call their name for hours before they deign to come inside.  (Cats actually don’t seem to care very much for what name another species refers to them; they probably have their own names).  But crinkle the smallest bit of paper in the kitchen and they come running to see what interesting food you are about to share.  We humans choose what we pay attention to as well.  There is so much going on around us, we have to filter out what we think is not important, or rely on technology to do it for us.   We can get distracted by the shiny bits of information that are dangled in front of us to get our attention, and lose the deeper messages embedded in the noise. Too often we can overlook or misinterpret what is going on unless we have reliable ways to make meaning. The story of Samuel and Eli from the Hebrew Scriptures is all about being ready to listen.  Listening to God, but also listening to each other.  It takes both the young boy and the old man to make sense of their experience in the darkness of the Temple.  One hears.  The other understands.  And this intergenerational exchange takes courage, humility, and love.  It is a model for dialogue, in our families, in our Church, and in our world. In the Scriptures, the boy Samuel has been dedicated by his parents to serve at the Hebrew shrine at Shiloh. There Eli is the elderly priest, along with his own...

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Homily for Advent 4, December 24, 2017 – The Rev. Stephanie Shepard

Luke 1:26-38 St. John the Apostle “Praying with our spirits” In this season of Advent, we have been exploring the meaning of prayer.  Over the last three Sundays, Father Michael and I have spoken about praying with our bodies, our minds, and our hearts.  Today we look at praying with our spirits.  But as has already been expressed, we cannot neatly subdivide our human nature into one part or another.  What we do to our bodies affects our feelings, influences our thoughts, feeds our spirits.  They are not separate.  Each is part of a larger reality.  The greenery of the Advent wreath represents the eternal and encompassing Creator who joins hope and peace and joy and love together.  We too are on a wellness wheel in life, and as we strengthen one aspect of ourselves, we move deeper towards wholeness and the centre of our being. In the centre of who we are is not a vacuum or an empty space or a dirty black blot.  There is a hidden core of holiness, a seed of what might be, if we allow it to swell and gestate.  This lovely, precious, unstained soul is protected and folded deep within.  We may feel stagnant or sullied or despairing, but there is a latency here waiting to be released when we are ready.  The moment comes when we invite the Holy Spirit to indwell.  And quietly, slowly, powerfully, things happen. This is what praying with our spirits is all about.  Not about doing something on our own, but allowing God to work from within.  We are incapable of healing ourselves or doing God’s will apart from this partnership.  We need the Holy Spirit power to pray with and in us, to intercede and become incarnate.  God helps us grow and realize and set...

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Homily for Christmas Eve 2017 – The Rev. Stephanie Shepard

Luke 2:1-20 St. John the Apostle “no perfect Christmas?” If you went to the mall during the past couple of months, you know what Christmas is all about.  Christmas is about getting everything you want.  It’s holly, jolly, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and sleigh bells jingling.  It’s let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, because we’ve got all the time in the world to build a snowman.  It’s I’ll be home for Christmas with family and friends and Santa Claus stacking presents under the tree.  It’s Christmas cards mailed off according to schedule and online ordering and payments put off to the new year.  According to the tropes, Christmas has to be perfect and you are expected to plan, decorate, entertain, gift, and be happy for the whole season. And so we feel guilty because the tree didn’t get up this year. We know better.  There is no vacation from the realities of life just because a certain day on the calendar got designated by the Church and celebrated far beyond the boundaries of Christendom.  Sickness and death don’t take a break.  Natural disasters and political crises still happen.  Financial situations are even more stressed and family relationships more awkward because of the pressures of this time of year.  We want to believe in a magic that will transform us even for one day a year. Perhaps it is because we so want things to be better that we are irritated and depressed when things go wrong for December 25.  Maybe we could move the day to April.  Or maybe we could re-think the whole thing. Because Christmas was never perfect.  Especially not the first one.  Between the lines of the good news of the birth of Jesus, according to Luke, we catch glimpses of the...

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Homily for Epiphany, December 31, 2017 – The Rev. Stephanie Shepard

Matthew 2:1-12 St. John the Apostle, Port Moody “Testimony” I speak as a sinner to sinners, and as one who is loved to the beloved of God through the mercy of God.  Amen. Today we continue to celebrate the Christmas season with the conjunction of two festivals.  One is the day dedicated to the patron saint of this parish church:  St. John the Apostle.  The other is the coming of Epiphany on January 6, when we remember the visit of the magi to Jesus.  On the surface, the two don’t seem to have very much in common with each other or with our everyday lives.  An excuse to keep the decorations up an extra week (in our house, January 6 is the signal to finally take the tree down).  But wasn’t Christmas the big deal? The entrance of God into time and place with the birth of Jesus is unique in history.  In no other faith is the record of the Divine coming among us as a human being.  There are narratives of divine beings who interact with humankind, and individuals who are raised to exalted levels of being, but Christianity is alone is affirming that in the person of Jesus we saw the fullness of God’s love for us lived out.  Here is the crux:  believers who have experienced this love testified to the good news.  We have their testimony.  This is the thread which links the events of the first century to today. If nobody had witnessed what God was up to, we wouldn’t be gathered here this morning.  The root of the Latin word “testamentum”, or testament, is “witness”.  From it we get the words “testify”- to bear witness- and “testament”- a witnessed statement.  The New Testament is the account of witnesses to the birth, death, and...

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Homily for Advent 2, December 10, 2017 – The Rev. Stephanie Shepard

Mark 1:1-8 St. John the Apostle “Praying with our Minds” May only truth be spoken here, and only truth be heard, in the name of the one, true, and living God.  Amen. There is a tradition that John the Baptist spent years in prayer and study at the desert community of Qumran before he begins his public proclamation.  His idea that the time has come for people to repent of their sins and embrace a new life of righteousness in preparation for the Messiah doesn’t just spring out of nowhere.  A wealth of Jewish thought and theology lie behind his words.  When he preaches and teaches, he draws a multitude of people to the river Jordan.  There, they are led to understand afresh the faith of their forebears.  Many confess and are baptized.  But he tells them, “Wait.  There’s more to come.” John urges them to continue in their journey of faith.  To live righteously: yes.  But also to keep their minds and hearts open to the revelation before them in the person of Jesus.  His finger points to the Messiah and leaves individuals to make their own decision.  He releases his own disciples to go and follow Jesus- to find for themselves what he has been prepared to understand and what he has prepared them to receive.  In the words of a recruitment poster for a theological college that I kept above my desk: “God gave you a mind and He expects you to use it!” So when some of John’s followers transfer their loyalty to a new Master, they look to Jesus to continue the teaching.  In Luke chapter 11, verses 1-2, we read that “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to...

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Homily for Advent 1, December 3, 2017 – The Rev. Stephanie Shepard

Mark 13:24-37 St. John the Apostle “Praying with our bodies” Abba, Father: you are the potter and we are the clay, the work of your hands.  Mold us and fashion us into the image of Jesus your Son.  Amen. Most people come to church on a Sunday morning to find a word of hope for their lives.  This morning, we are challenged by the readings from Scripture to discover where this lies.  The prophetic speech of Isaiah 64 implores God to come down in awesome might to cleanse humanity of sin.  Then Jesus proclaims what happens when the Son of Man does appear: “the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give light, and the stars will be falling from heaven.” (Mark 13:24-25).  Stern stuff.  To find hope, we need to be alert to Christ coming into our lives.  That’s why it’s always a good idea to turn to prayer. But who taught you how to pray?  I didn’t learn when I was a child.  I remember going up to Camp Artaban for the first time when I was ten.  On our first morning in the chapel service, the theme leader, who happened to be a priest named Ron Barnes, told us kids to close our eyes to pray.  That was a new one for me, and I had grown up in the Anglican Church! Nobody had said anything or showed us about prayer before that.  One was supposed to absorb the right way of doing things by osmosis.  In the typical Prayer Book service, there were times when everyone stood, or sat, or knelt, or crossed themselves.  In my high church parish there was a weird little bob called genuflection that we were supposed to execute when we came into or left the pew or “acknowledged” the altar....

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Homily for November 19, 2017 – The Rev. Deacon Anne Anchor

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11;  Matthew 15:14-30 May these words and these thoughts that I share as a Deacon of your church be true to you gracious God. I would like to share with you my experiences over the summer, that have deeply impacted my life. As background to this I need to go back to August 2012. I shared on that day my reason for my plans to participate in the first Walk for Reconciliation in September 2012. I feel it provides for a foundation for my ongoing passion for the issues of reconciliation with the First Nations peoples of Canada. That day I said, “This walk is part of the ongoing goal of reconciliation with our Aboriginal peoples.  Those that attended the Residential schools and their families have challenged our church to be accountable for the ills perpetrated on them in years gone by. This issue has a personal element for me. While we were living in Vancouver I attended Southlands Elementary. It was a couple of blocks away from the Musqueum Reservation. The first generation of Musqueum children to attend public school attended Southlands and I had a good friend, Theresa, who was Musqueum. Theresa and I had a friendship that was restricted though. I will never forget how difficult it was for me to be told by her that although she could come to my birthday party I was never able to go to her house on the reservation. At that time, even at the age of 9 or 10 I knew this was unjust and by the time we moved away I was saying, in my childhood innocence, I was going to work with Indians (to use the vernacular of the day) to right the injustice. Little did I know...

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