Homilies

Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany, January 20, 2013: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

            WHAT DOES GOD REQUIRE OF US?   The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was invented just over 100 years ago, and its timing was based on two significant faith events: the Confession of Peter on January 18 and the Conversion of Paul on January 25 – festivals commemorating two breakthrough moments in the history of Christianity – two great moments of awakening and transformation — and ironically, linking together two people who in life did not get along with each other! Each year a different country is approached and each year a different theme emerges.  This year’s version of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes from India – particularly from the  perspective of the Dalit people, people from the low end of the social spectrum — long-term out-castes whose experience of injustice and prejudice has been chronic and severe. The majority of Christians in India come from a Dalit background. The theme chosen by the Dalit church leaders is from the Book of the prophet Malachi, which asks and answers the question, “What does God require of us?”  The answer has to do with choosing a particular journey – a journey of justice and kindness and humility.  I like the fact that it links prayer with action. What is the essence of religion?  The prophet Malachi suggests we already know:  “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  In other words, it’s a lot simpler than we often tend to make it. I have said for many years that my prevailing image of our efforts at ecumenism is from the old Monty Python show, the skit about the Upper Class Twit...

Read More


Read More

Homily for Christmas Day 2012

  TRYING TO CHOOSE A REAL CHRISTMAS Years ago I led a tour to Europe, and one of the stops was at Pisa, in Italy, famous for the “Leaning” Tower of Pisa, but we were very pressed for time, so we stood there, with the long row of souvenir shops on one side and the actual tower on the other, and the dilemma was: go for the souvenirs, the facsimile – or the real thing.  Many opted to grab a few souvenirs and skip seeing the actual thing.   I thought, what a parable of spiritual life in our time!   Christmas can very easily be steered off in the direction of unreality and excess, with all the stress, envy and disappointment that entails.  At no time is our tendency to preoccupy and distract ourselves more obvious.  As someone said: “What man has to sell becomes more important than what God has given”  In our part of the world, where commercialism is like a religion, people are defined as consumers or tax-payers, and the shopping malls are our cathedrals, the malls become our gathering places, the places where we feel fulfillment and belonging, and we are validated by how much we can spend.   With many businesses promoting Boxing Day (or “Week”) starting in November, and the 12 days of Christmas being counted down in early December, the beautiful season of Advent, with its reminders of God’s promises of justice, equality, peace and enduring presence in Christ, is swept aside impatiently, as if to say, “let’s get to the presents, let’s get on with the party!”  But it’s a party that seems to have no focus, no object, no purpose – a birthday party with the guest of honour missing.   It is ironic how a story of the birth of...

Read More


Read More

Homily for the 1st Sunday After Christmas, December 30, 2012

EUREKA! WE’VE DISCOVERED KINDNESS!  What are your prevailing images of 2012? I was watching a “year in review” the other night and there were many things that seemed significant.  One that really stood out for me was the image of a beautiful and intelligent 15 year old High School girl, Amanda Todd, a girl who would seem to have had every reason to be happy, pathetically holding up a series of cards to the camera, attempting to communicate with some anonymous constituency, with whoever would listen, spelling out her reasons for ending her own life. In two of the readings this morning we have images of young children learning the way of wisdom from their elders, and so these readings serve as reminders of the importance of early moral and spiritual education for our children, as well as the importance of mentoring our children into a meaningful way of life. We read of Samuel, the young miracle child born to Hannah, serving at the temple in Shiloh, who later went on to become one of the great leaders in ancient Israel. And we read the story of the 12 year old Jesus, pictured by the Gospel of Luke as becoming so fascinated by the great learning and debates he heard in the Temple, that he totally lost track of the time and where his parents were.   “I must be in my Father’s house,” is his only explanation. These readings may not offer easy answers to complex social problems in our day, but I believe they provide important clues. A new study conducted by researchers from UBC in cooperation with scholars from the University of  California (Riverside) worked with 400 elementary school students in various Vancouver schools.  The study found that if you encourage people to be nice, they get along...

Read More


Read More

TELLING THE TRUTH THROUGH STORIES: Homily for Christmas Eve 2012

  This Christmas, I invite you to reflect with awe and wonder on the great story of how one boy, against incredible odds, is able to take us on a journey of deliverance and redemption – an incredible adventure in which we may rediscover our connection with creation, with our own spirit, and with God.  I am speaking, of course, of the movie, The Life of Pi.   If you haven’t seen it, lean back, close your eyes, and imagine a boy in  a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger on board!   There are numerous stories of boys and tigers.  Why is this one so compelling?   Pi Patel is first portrayed as one who is able to find the common threads in all the major religions of the world (as Chair of the Ecumenical and Multi-Faith Unit of the Diocese, I wish there were more people like him).   He is one who invites us to look into the depths and to face into our most primal fears, one who finds the courage to co-exist with, and even love, his enemies.  I learned a long time ago that every detail in a story is there for a reason. The ship is called the Tsimtsum, which is a term from mystical Judaism that speaks of the way God withdraws his light so individual creatures can come into being. And there is a beautiful scene in the movie where Pi has plunged into the ocean and is suspended in a huge halo of the lights of the sinking ship, as the ship’s lights, and everything he loves, sink into the dark depths. Then, as the zebra dies in the back of the lifeboat, it is as if the world...

Read More


Read More

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent – December 23rd, 2012

WOMEN WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE During the seasons of Advent and Christmas there is a constant interplay between light and dark, good and evil, old and new;  between the way of John the Baptist and the way of Jesus; between the way of the world and the way of faith; between the ways of human beings and the ways of God.   And there is also an interplay between male and female.   Last week we had the very powerful masculine voice and presence of John the Baptist – a warrior of the Spirit.   Today we focus on Mary’s story, and the two main characters are women: Mary and her cousin Elizabeth.   As I had my little nose procedure on Thursday at the very skillful hands of a woman doctor, I was given a very effective reminder of the way in which women have come to the fore in our time.  100 years ago, in 1912, Mabel French had just became the first woman lawyer in British Columbia, but women still could not vote.  In today’s Gospel, Mary and Elizabeth are portrayed in a way that makes them prominent, which was not a typical approach in that era, and it says something about the way Jesus called the marginalized to the fore, and gave them equality and opportunity to share their gifts.   One of the themes today with many young people is: The world is so complicated and screwed up.  We’re nobodies – we’re not rich — What can we do?  It is one of the themes in scripture today as well.  But in response to that tendency toward defeatism, the prophet Micah suggests that the little, almost irrelevant clan of Bethlehem was about to play a major part in the developing history of Israel.  He makes an obscure...

Read More


Read More

HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, DECEMBER 16, 2012

Centuries before Christ, the prophet Zephaniah said to the people of God: “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory.”  Every year about this time, we hear from one of the most powerful figures in the Bible: John the Baptist, a man who could certainly be described as a warrior of God. His powerful voice was not (is not) an easy voice to hear.  For one thing, I suspect that the language he used, translated into today’s terms, would have had parents covering their children’s ears and maybe their own.  The names John was using to insult the religious leaders and people of the time were meant to offend and to shock – he was trying to wake them up, get a rise out of them, in order to effect change.   Challenge and confrontation was the style John the Baptist adopted, and he serves as a stark reminder that Christianity is not primarily about being nice or making people nice.  As CS Lewis said: “A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save. For mere improvement is not redemption . . .  God became man to turn creatures into : not simply to produce better people of the old kind but to produce a new kind of person. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better, but like turning a horse into a winged creature” (Mere Christianity).   John’s voice, harsh as it may seem, might remind us of the parent who on occasion needs to be more emphatic with one of his/her children, and finds him/herself yelling at the...

Read More


Read More

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent December 9, 2011

  WHO ARE YOU WEARING?     In our time, the Hollywood red carpet is an image with which we are all familiar, with the media people constantly asking the celebrities “And who are you wearing?”   We are a culture obsessed with outward appearances and it seems we feel a need to identify with certain brand names in order to feel good about ourselves. As a five year old, at Christmas that year I received my first hockey outfit, and so that night I went to bed dressed as a Toronto Maple Leaf. How we dress is a statement about ourselves, our status, our character, our identity.   We are often extremely reluctant to let go of  that.  I was convinced that one guy I knew actually slept in his clericals. As the Beatles sang it: “What do you see when you turn out the light?   I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine” (I Get By With  a Little Help from My Friends).  At the end of the day, who are you?  More than clothing, more than a costume, we hope. Some time before the coming of Jesus, the prophet Baruch addressed himself to the city of Jerusalem in these words:  “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.  Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;  for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.  For God will give you evermore the name, ‘Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.” From ancient times it has been a custom to wear “the garment of praise” – clergy put on vestments before entering the sanctuary, as a sign of their reverence and of the significance...

Read More


Read More

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2011

  WHO ARE YOU WEARING?     In our time, the Hollywood red carpet is an image with which we are all familiar, with the media people constantly asking the celebrities “And who are you wearing?”   We are a culture obsessed with outward appearances and it seems we feel a need to identify with certain brand names in order to feel good about ourselves. As a five year old, at Christmas that year I received my first hockey outfit, and so that night I went to bed dressed as a Toronto Maple Leaf. How we dress is a statement about ourselves, our status, our character, our identity.   We are often extremely reluctant to let go of  that.  I was convinced that one guy I knew actually slept in his clericals. As the Beatles sang it: “What do you see when you turn out the light?   I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine” (I Get By With  a Little Help from My Friends).  At the end of the day, who are you?  More than clothing, more than a costume, we hope. Some time before the coming of Jesus, the prophet Baruch addressed himself to the city of Jerusalem in these words:  “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.  Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;  for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.  For God will give you evermore the name, ‘Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.” From ancient times it has been a custom to wear “the garment of praise” – clergy put on vestments before entering the sanctuary, as a sign of their reverence and of the significance...

Read More


Read More

Homily for November 30th, 2012

Homily for the Festival of Saint Andrew the Apostle We celebrate Andrew – disciple, apostle, brother of St Peter, former fisherman, Galilean outsider, patron saint of Scotland, and of lacemakers (!) — witness and martyr for Christ and the Christian faith. As the book For All the Saints says: “Andrew was a Galilean fisherman minding his own business, mending his own nets, when along came Jesus. The Lord called him, and Andrew got up and walked — he walked into the story of Jesus. From that moment on, his life was no longer his own; Andrew had no other story but the story of Jesus, the story that is told about Jesus, the story that Jesus himself tells.  And that is how we honour the memory of the apostle named Andrew: by remembering his name as we tell the story of Jesus, the One who called both Andrew and us into the story of salvation. “a Galilean fisherman minding his own business”  — I like that term because it suggests Andrew was being mindful, truly present, where he was.  He was thoroughly committed to what he was doing.   Jesus could use exactly those talents but in a different milieu.   Hopefully, Andrew would bring exactly those talents into his vocation as an apostle. As a  centurion (Matthew 8: 5—10)  could understand what Jesus was about because by virtue of his military training he understood authority and duty and consequences, so a fisherman could understand Jesus’ call to become a fisher of people by virtue of his experience of the laws of nature and the sea, and the personal qualities to rise to its challenges and disappointments. “Henceforth you’ll be catching men!”  Jesus seemed to like fishermen – according to Matthew, he chose four of them virtually the same day.  Good news...

Read More


Read More

Homily for Advent I, December 2, 2012

ADVENT IS ABOUT HOPE There’s a story of two men, both seriously ill, who once occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, and where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The man by the window described a park with a lovely lake. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Graceful old trees presided over ducks and swans floating peacefully on the water while children sailed their model boats. In the distance, the city skyline created a stunning backdrop. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn’t hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the man by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.  Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the...

Read More


Read More

Page 20 of 22« First...10...1819202122
%d bloggers like this: