I had been called to the hospital bed of an elderly woman whom I had visited before. She was frail and forgetful but now there were major health problems, and her family was concerned that she might not have too much longer. Upon arrival, I went up to the nursing station and asked for her room number. When I got to the ward and looked in, my heart sank a little. The bed she had been assigned was empty and stripped of sheets. I knew she had not been scheduled for any tests. It looked like I had gotten to the hospital too late, and she had died in the night. I was just about to turn around and head back home when I heard a sound of a toilet flushing. The door to the washroom opened, and out she came on her own two feet. Rumours of her demise were overstated. Continue reading “Homily for Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 By: the Rev. Stephanie Shepard”
I am very conscious today that for many of you, this may be the last time we ever connect in person; I am also conscious that this is most likely the last time I will ever speak from this pulpit. Over the last eight years, I have preached to you something like 350 times on Sunday’s alone, so, if you have been listening, you have already heard what God sent me here to say. But keep the ears of your hearts open today too, just in case.
I want to say to you that in all those 350 or so times, every time out, I was trying to proclaim to you, in the best way that I could, something significant, something worth thinking about, something of the truth and life of the awesome God we serve through Jesus Christ.
We have studied and reflected together. At least 60 (and probably more like 70 or even 80) of you have taken part in adult formation classes we have offered in the Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening studies and in sermon\discussion series.
We have explored Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality, reflected on Jesus in the movies; we have considered “contemporary faith and spiritual practice,” and we have tried to imagine where the church might be going in the 21st Century. We have re-visited the painful legacy of the Residential Schools and made an effort to empathize with contemporary First Nations people; we have looked at inter-faith issues and we have visited mosques together; with the help of Dr Nancy Reeves, we promised to say Yes to God; with the help of people like Matthew Fox, Marcus Borg, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Harold Kushner, Brian McLaren, Lillian Daniel, Thomas Green sj, Stephanie Spellers and Michael Ingham, we met Jesus again for the first time, we have considered what it means to be radically welcoming, we have pondered why bad things happen to good people, and we have tried (God knows we tried) to imagine a complaint-free world. All being well, we know how to age with grace, and we know something of what it means to “live the questions.”
We have done a lot together over these eight years. I have lived a substantial piece of my life here, and yet the time has gone by very quickly.
I have grieved with you, celebrated with you, golfed with some of you, walked and talked with many of you, and we have enjoyed a lot of fellowship around the table, and even though I’ve gained 30 pounds and added some white hair, I am enormously grateful (as well as just being enormous) and I think Jesus would have approved (he was, after all, accused of being a drunk and a glutton).
The parish welcomed my approach to liturgy and it seems to have worked. The survey we did a couple of years ago indicated approval and appreciation ratings that were almost unbelievably positive. As I like to say though, Anglican liturgy is a team game, so that couldn’t happen without the deacons, sacristans, readers, communion assistants, and LaRee and her choir – and without your participation. Keep on making a joyful noise.
We did a study on “radical welcome” and then we gave that a big test when we opened our doors and hearts to the people of St Margaret’s. We are, as a result of that act of faith, stronger, more diverse, more devout, and we eat better than we ever did (and that is saying something!).
I am grateful for what I have meant to you, for the place you allowed me in your hearts. But ministry is never the responsibility or accomplishment of one person. We have created and modeled more of a team approach to ministry, and encouraged a “priesthood of all believers” theology, encouraging people to become engaged in the ministry of the parish, whether that was in pastoral care or governance or Synod, music and liturgy, or outreach or mission, or the work of the Diocese.
I’d love to expand on the Gospel today, of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the Temple – it is such a rich and symbolic parable. But suffice it to say that you could see the Pharisee as one of those people who makes no room for others, who occupies the best seats, assumes a place of prominence, and make others feel less-than and unwelcome. It’s great to gain a place of belonging and become part of a community; it’s great to develop friendships, but there is always a responsibility to be looking to the margins, to be open to the newcomer, the stranger, the seeker. Jewish people were urged never to forget that they were once wanderers and strangers – to allow that memory, that experience, to continue to shape their theology and their pastoral practice.
Please remember Archbishop Temple’s insight: that the Church is the only institution that exists for those who are not its members.
The unaware Pharisee in todays gospel reminds us of the importance of times of self-reflection, times of seeking deeper self-awareness and perspective. From time to time every person, every family, every community, every society, and certainly every parish, needs renewal – new ideas, new directions, new people. This is something to be embraced and welcomed and celebrated, regardless of whether you think those ideas and directions and people measure up to your standards or not.
Why did Jesus tell this parable? The text says “he told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.” This is one of the reasons Jesus warned about the false virtue of loving people who are just the same as you are, because sometimes staying the same is a dead end, a spiritual death sentence. I have met this angry Pharisee in so many church settings and I have to say I have met him in myself as well – well-meaning, with a strong sense of how things should be, but so angry at the way things are going that the anger itself becomes chronic, even pathological, obscuring other qualities, blinding us to the beauty and goodness that are always around us.
You can become so serious and obsessed with how bad things are that you’re just a curmudgeon and part of the problem, or, like the other guy in the parable, you can de-value yourself to a point that you never allow the good that is in you to shine.
So these two men come, from very different places in life, to the same place to pray – one deeply aware of his need for deep healing, the other bitterly angry about what he sees going on all around him, and I think the parable tells us something of the way in which God’s house is meant to accommodate a great variety of people. “In my Father’s house” as Jesus said, there is a lot of room. I think it tells us something about the scope of God’s love. We bring what we think are our virtues and we bring what we think are our faults, and God sees through them all with the eyes of love.
The temple – the house of God — is the place that welcomes all, and it is always surprising how God puts us into contact with others we might tend to dismiss or even despise, or who might seem to us to be missing more than a few screws.
Going forward …
I hope you will remain conscious and intentional about the quality of community you are offering… This was a great place to come to, and I think it has become a more promising kind of place. But it’s up to you, all of you, to make sure it remains a safe and affirming and inclusive place, as well as a challenging, engaging and transformational place, so pay attention to the behaviours and attitudes and actions of all the members and seek to hold up a certain standard, the one standard that matters, which is love, and not just love in a generic sense, but the love of Jesus, remembering always that the Church doesn’t belong to us; it belongs to God.
St John of the Cross, whose festival we observed last week, said “in the evening of life, we shall be judged on love alone.”
There are some great lines in today’s readings, very fitting for the moment. As the writer of II Timothy says “the time of my departure has come.”
As John describes Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, Jesus says, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you” (Jn 16:7). Not that I am Christ, and that itself is part of the point: Christ isn’t going away, I am. But part of our tradition of ordained ministry is rooted in the idea that when your mission is complete, you move on. Part of what clergy do in attempting to model the apostolic ministry is to be open to the call to move on, to know when they are done in a certain place, and to go where they believe they are meant to be.
It’s that time for me. If I do not go away, the new life that God has in store for you cannot enter, the new doors that are meant to open will stay closed – the new ideas and directions a new person can bring will remain unexplored.
We also celebrated the feast day of St Teresa of Avila last week, and the front cover of today’s leaflet reminds us of her sense that everything is provisional and also about the importance of the art of detachment:
Let nothing disturb you; let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing away; God never changes.
Peace obtains all things; whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is sufficient.
I always loved the line given to John the Baptist – “He must increase and I must decrease” — in which John describes himself merely as a friend of the bridegroom, but not the Bridegroom himself. Indeed, what a friend we have in Jesus! But we need a certain humility as priests — we need to know our real place in the bigger scheme of things. I need to disappear from your radar, and there needs to be a period in which St John’s creates the space for a new priest, and that can’t happen if I am still occupying that space. So, according to what I believe is God’s schedule, not necessarily mine, it’s time to go.
And this is the reality that sustains me as I do: that in Communion we are never separated. God is Communion, and that Communion connects us to all that is, past, present and future, so don’t ever underestimate what you are doing around the altar, because it is the meeting place in which we connect with Christ and all of God’s people in the Communion of Saints.
One ancient saint described God as a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. When we gather for Eucharist, we are reminded, and we experience the reality, that everything is included and connected in the oneness of God in Christ. Whoever knows that knows that there is almost nothing to worry about, and that, no matter what, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
The Rev. Grant Rodgers+
Joel 2:23-32 O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame. Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
Psalm 84:1-7 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
A year ago I accepted an appointment to Vancouver School of Theology (VST) as Director of Anglican Formation, a position which seems to suit me and which I love.
Initially, it looked like the arrangement – of working 1/3 time there and 2/3 time here — had the potential to be a new lease on life for me and for St John’s as well, with creative interaction between the two realms. It was ideal for me, as it allowed me to remain in this parish which I have loved leading and serving.
It also carried the exciting possibility of bringing another person into the ministry picture at St John’s. After nearly a year, though, we had some supply help, but no one emerged to fill that 1/3 space that my being at VST created. I began to be aware that you can say you’re 2/3 all you like, but 100% of the work and expectations of the Rector were still present, despite my efforts to delegate and draw back. Those expectations and assumptions are only natural when people have been so accustomed to one pattern. The problem is that I have at least 1/3 less time to do all that, and to meet all the expectations.
I spoke to people at the Synod office several weeks ago about whether there was someone out there who might provide ministry on a 1/3 basis but there seemed to be no one at all on the horizon.
Despite all that, until very recently I saw myself continuing indefinitely as St John’s – to retirement age and beyond. It has been a place that I have enjoyed, I have had good support, we have a great clergy team, we have dedicated leaders, and there is a lot of promising new life emerging. However, as time progressed, I was slowly becoming aware that with two full days a week dedicated to VST, I was not going to be able to provide for St John’s what this parish needs and deserves as it goes forward (and it needs to go forward). I just do not have enough time to plan programming, or to offer adequate pastoral attention, and many weeks have been characterized by not having enough time to get things done either here or at VST, so having to make time by not taking time off, working at strange hours of the night, and essentially working seven days of some weeks. It’s not a pattern that can continue for long.
Questions like : When are you done? When is it time? When do you need to move on so someone else can carry things forward? – are not easy questions to answer, and when you are happy in a place, they are questions you would rather avoid.
For a while, I remained pretty much oblivious, but it was becoming clear to others at least that it was unrealistic (maybe even selfish) to think I should continue. However, I was not ready to accept that yet.
However, perhaps influenced by health issues earlier in the year, it did start to occur to me that maybe I was done. 8 years is a long time. By now you have heard most of what I have to say; some no doubt have grown tired of me long since. I have never believed that stagnating or just treading water were helpful models of ministry.
During a recent conversation with Richard Topping, Principal at VST, it became clear that my work there is appreciated to the degree that they would take me on at least half time if possible. That changed the dynamics of my situation even further and I was presented with another choice.
Further conversations with the Bishop and the Executive Archdeacon helped me realize that my time has come to leave St John’s, to clear the space for another person to offer their leadership, their gifts, their insights, their compassion, to bring new energy and direction, full time, to help you move forward in becoming what you are called and meant to be.
A missionary to Chile who was a guest speaker in my last parish left me with a meaningful insight. When asked about what it means to be a missionary, he said we clergy are all missionaries – that we are always interim, and temporary. We have a purpose, a mission, to accomplish and then we have to go. Discerning when that moment has arrived is never easy, as I mentioned, and the fact that I took so long to come to this decision, and to accept it, is an indication of the degree to which I care about this parish. But accepting the fact that it is time to go is also an indication of the degree to which I care for this parish.
I am reminded of a sign I used to have hanging in my office: “You are not totally, personally, irrevocably responsible for everything. That’s my job! Love, God!”
The Bishop and Executive Archdeacon helped me think this through and reflected with me about an appropriate parish in which to continue my priestly ministry on a half-time basis. This past Wednesday, I had an interview which was to begin the process of exploring. I thought it would probably take months to come about. But after a very good meeting with the folks at the very first parish I spoke with, they were on the phone to the Bishop the following morning, and she was on the phone to me not long after. The whole process took only several days – I remain slightly stunned!
As a result, I will, as the wardens indicated, be going to Christ the Redeemer in Cloverdale (in Surrey), some time later in the Fall – the dates are a little fuzzy due to previous commitments, but either late October or early November.
I am feeling excited about the prospect, but I have not even begun to deal with my feelings about leaving St John’s. This isn’t the first time I have had to make the decision to move on. I know there will be a variety of feelings, from sadness to disappointment to fear to anxiety to anger. But I hope we will choose to engage and enjoy this time of transition; as I move on, we can celebrate certain things, laugh about a lot of things, and share memories of significant moments. I go away from here carrying many good memories along with the 30 pounds I gained during my 8 years here.
Clergy are in fact something of a model in terms of responding to God’s call and going where they believe they are supposed to be – early on, most of us realize you can’t argue with God, as the prophet Jeremiah found out.
Somewhat coincidentally, today’s readings provide direction, wisdom and reassurance as we begin this phase of transition:
The prophet Jeremiah reminds us of how important it is to remain open to God’s call, even when things seem inconvenient and overwhelming to the point of impossible. This passage reminds us never to underestimate our own significance – our own place in a larger picture — our own chapter in a bigger story – even when we may not be confident in our own value or gifts or abilities.
The alternate reading today from Isaiah (which I worked into the Confession) urges us to get past our own interests, reminding us that religion is never just about ourselves – that if we can get away from merely serving our own interests, God will take us to new and amazing places: “I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth … The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs” (from Isaiah 58).
Except in God, in all things there is a beginning and there is an end. The Letter to Hebrews teaches us that we seek and celebrate and serve the God who shakes things up, the One for whom everything is temporal, provisional, interim and conditional, the One who leads us beyond the forms into the substance, beyond the appearances and into the reality of the life that generates and animates the universe. The real life of God is something ineffable – difficult to comprehend – and not just a matter of connections with certain specific objects, places or ways of doing things.
And today’s Gospel, of the woman who was healed after suffering 18 years, encourages us to believe in the power of Christ to heal and restore, and to remain open to possibilities even though things don’t happen according to our own sense of timing. Jesus was the bearer of new life and transformed many who allowed him to touch them. It is an important reminder to keep our hearts open, to allow them to be accessible rather than hardened and closed, even though to keep your heart open leaves you susceptible to being hurt. The way of Jesus transforms the way of suffering – gives it new meaning and dignity – and incorporates it into the bigger picture of his life, death and resurrection, the kingdom of God and life in the Spirit.
You can be profoundly changed by an encounter with someone that lasts only seconds – over eight years, we have certainly shaped and changed each other in substantial ways. I am not the same person I was when I arrived; you are not the same people you were.
For eight years I have spoken of St John’s in terms of “we”, and now it is hard to begin to use the second person pronoun “you,” as the distancing and departing begins. As I begin the process of separating from you I am conscious that we are all part of a larger Communion – a ministry that is not isolated to one parish. In the Spirit, we remain one. So it is very appropriate that we speak of this in the context of the Eucharist, that one place where we know the healing life of Christ is present, the one place that unites us all.
Let us bless each other and give thanks to God and patiently work toward the future of this great Communion, especially as it is manifested in the parish of St John the Apostle, in which I have been privileged to play a part over the past eight years.
St Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, wrote: “All will be made alive in Christ” or as the old King James Version puts it: “In Christ shall all be made alive.” Either way, what we are talking about is life. We gather today to celebrate this promise, this hope, this reality; to embrace the life we share in Christ and to re-enter it through the sacrament of the Eucharist; to worship the God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not even exist” (Romans 4).
We are not just expressing a belief or remembering an historical event; in some real way, we are celebrating the life that is in us. And Jesus is the first expression of this life, this new creation; Jesus is life. As theologian N.T. Wright puts it: “Easter was the moment when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.”
My theme at Christmas was a bit of ancient wisdom: “Christ became what we are in order that we might become what he is.” Today, let us celebrate the fact that “All will be made alive in Christ” – another phrase worth remembering.
The bulb in the ground, the child in the womb, the bear hibernating deep in its cave; the husband who has languished on the couch all winter – all feel this inexorable pull toward life – and amazingly, spring to life. It is in all of us to know that we are constantly being summoned toward transformation and renewal and evolution, as compellingly as Jesus summoned Lazarus out of his tomb.
And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
In the Resurrection we see clearly that God is about life, and on this day we are reminded of something essential about God, a clue about what God is: “God did not make death, and God does not delight in the death of the living” (Wisdom 1). Again, “All will be made alive in Christ.” Even what we think of as death becomes an avenue, a means, of entering into life. It was Jesus after all who said that a seed must fall into the ground and die before it can come to fullness of life, and Jesus who said that we need to lose our existing life in order to be open to our new life. And it was Jesus who did this improbable thing of embracing death, even in the form of execution, in order to be born again into the full life of the Spirit of God. In Christ, God summons all creation into a new creation, a new way of being.
The Book of Wisdom makes it clear that this is a choice, not something simply imposed or automatic. This is an essential aspect of our humanity, one of the key ways in which we bear the image or character of God – that we are free to make choices. So especially at Easter, we could say “Choose to be dead if you wish, but why on earth would you do that? Instead, choose life, choose to be fully alive. That’s the real reason why we are here.”
In Christ, we are constantly offered new birth. St Paul says in Romans: “If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells within you.”
Having just had a Facetime visit with one of our grandchildren, I am very conscious of how animated and dynamic children are.
Children typically can’t sit still – they are constantly impelled to motion. So Avery was sometimes in our view and often bouncing off in another direction. Have you noticed how children emphasize what they say with a jump or a spin or by singing what they’re saying? Their reactions to things are immediate and uncontrived. She’d say something like “I love you Grandad,” and then go off and fling herself on the couch. And children’s punctuation is physical – “I know!!” can be punctuated with a stomp of the foot or hands shooting toward the ceiling, or arms clamped around their little bodies – or a laugh, which to me is always a giveaway that they are close to God. In no uncertain terms, you know there is an exclamation mark on what they are saying. When there is music, they dance; when there is singing, they sing. Children are unguarded and curious — this openness and spontaneity is part of what Jesus pointed to when he suggested we all need to be like children – the clue to the way to find the kingdom of life within ourselves. “Seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened” Jesus said, but if you just sit there, maybe you never realize that what you thought of as noise, or as an interruption or a nuisance was actually Christ knocking at the door of your life, maybe in the form of a child, or perhaps a bird, or a song, or maybe even a sermon, trying to get you to open the door that leads you out of the tomb and into life.
An insatiable desire for life – enthusiasm – hopefulness – joy – these are sure signs of the life of God within you. Of course we can’t be bouncing around like 3yr olds at 40 or 50 or 80 (or can we?). Maybe it gets more subtle as we age but it should never disappear. The analogy or metaphor of children is meant to be a reminder that being in Christ means being fully and emphatically and unapologetically alive. There’s a reason why Jesus said “leave the dead to bury the dead.”
You really have to work at being dead. We could choose death but it would be difficult because life is our true nature and it vibrates and pulses in every fibre of our being because that is how God created us. You really have to work hard deaden those impulses within yourself; you really have to persist in telling yourself some other story than the one that is before us this morning.
What exactly happens to us at death – where exactly we go – even the apostle John acknowledges he doesn’t know. But as he says: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”
Paul, in 1 Corinthians, wants to make it clear that death is not of God. Death is an enemy, something foreign and abhorrent to who we truly are, and that enemy is ultimately overcome in Christ. So being dead, or acting dead, or even overly solemn, or pompous or pretentious, is no way of honouring God.
The Gospel today contains one of my favourite lines from the entire Bible, as the men in white (angels?) ask the women who have come to tend to Jesus’ body: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here.”
The women going dutifully to the tomb to do the honours to Jesus’ corpse symbolize the fact that we often persist in going to those places where life used to be, driven by the power of habit and custom, embracing the shadows and the memories that once made that real and vital, but we are not very likely to find life there any more.
We look to the past and we can understand much. The Big Bang; Tyrannosaurus Rex; primitive humankind — all are aspects, momentary expressions of God’s being – in process, evolving — but in Christ we see the new creation; we see the future. We see who we are meant to be and what we are becoming. Christ is not a figure of the past and not an anomaly – Christ is the future and Christ is the norm. And we are being summoned into that future – the Omega point as Teilhard de Chardin called it.
The Gospel warns us not to be looking for life in places where death is the norm. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” This is a question so pertinent to real Christian life that it should be posted on the doors of our churches as a question that must be asked by all who come there. This is not a museum. This is not a mausoleum. If all we are about is old habits, nostalgia, memories, dreams of what used to be, we are more to be pitied than any other human beings on the planet.
But in fact, as St Paul says, Christ has been raised from the dead – death has no more dominion over him – death is no longer where we look for him. Having read St Paul for many years now, I am certain he was not the sort to base his life on something he did not believe was true, or “factual.” For Paul, this had not only happened but it had been experienced and witnessed by many, including himself. Paul knew what he was talking about not because he had some vital bit of information, like a scoop from the TV news. Paul knew what he was talking about because he was living it; he was already in Christ, as Christ was already united with God, right in the context of this earthly life.
Jesus is supposed to have said to Mary “I AM the resurrection.” He didn’t say “I WILL become something in the future” – the Resurrection was already present and he was already abiding in it, and sharing it with others. That is the life we are called to in Christ; in essence, that is what Christ means.
In today’s Collect we prayed: “God of Life, through the resurrection of your Son Jesus, you have overcome the old order of sin and death . . .” With Jesus’ death and resurrection, an old paradigm had passed away – life is now to be interpreted and experienced in an entirely different way. Jesus contrasts those who are wedded to the old paradigm and those who have embraced the new reality: “they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection” Lk 20).
We are always left with a choice about Easter and Resurrection, even though we have known of its pull and its power from before we were even in the womb and certainly during it. There are so many negative factors that dissuade us and urge us to doubt and dismiss what we know in our deepest self, something we did know and experience as children.
But we lose touch with that and in all those places where we stop connecting with life we start to experience death, as the Book of Wisdom suggests – negativity, unhappiness, cynicism, inactivity, loss of interest and curiosity, deadening of relationships, illness, disease that begin to characterize our lives.
As the Book of Wisdom says: “perverse thoughts separate people from God.” One of my seminary professors said that sin is separation – from God; from others; from our true self. So Wisdom says emphatically: “Do not invite death by the error of your life, or bring on destruction by the works of your own hands; because God did not make death, and takes no delight in the death of the living.”
Whatever story we may tell ourselves, whatever we may believe about ourselves, the Gospel proclaims that God’s desire for us, God’s intention for us, is life. Jesus says: “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.” My hope is that you leave here today convinced that you are a child of the light, a child of the resurrection.
The women did not comprehend what they saw at the tomb – they did not understand it – they could not really explain it. Initially they simply experienced it. In the beginning it was simply an experience of life being where it was not expected, an experience that reversed their expectations and plans, an experience that filled them with hope and joy and sent them running in excitement to share what had just happened to them.
I hope that you will experience at least something of the reality of the resurrection – the new life – with the hope, enthusiasm, joy and new directions that that Life always brings.
“All will be made alive in Christ” – even you! Even us! Today, let us like children feel that life force pulsating and resonating within us and know that it is God. If the glory of God is human beings fully alive, as St Irenaeus said, some1800 years ago, then let us feel free to feel it and show it and share it, in the name of Christ who is our life.
The Ven. Grant Rodgers+
Readings for Easter Day
Wisdom 1: 12—2:5; Do not invite death by the error of your life, or bring on destruction by the works of your hands; 13 because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them, and the dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal. But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him, because they are fit to belong to his company.
Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls; for God created us for incorruption, and made us in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.
I Corinthians 15: 19—26 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Luke 24: 1—12 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
We could ask: What we could we possibly learn from a humble little man who lived in another part of the world 800 years ago, who walked away from his home and family to wander about the countryside barefoot, in a rough brown robe, preaching to birds and begging his bread and sharing his love of God in complete simplicity? Continue reading “Homily for Lent One- February 14 2016 – The Ven. Grant Rodgers”
A month ago we were singing Christmas carols! It seems hard to believe, but it’s an indication of how quickly time moves on, and a reminder that life itself moves along very quickly, which in turn raises a question of what we’re doing with our lives.
The poet Mary Oliver, reflecting this sense of how quickly it all passes by, asked: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Good question! Continue reading “Homily for Epiphany 3”
A little boy and his “papa” are being interviewed by CNN in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The little boy is trying to make his father aware of the danger: “Bad guys are not very nice … They have guns and they can shoot us because they’re really, really mean, papa. We have to be really careful or we have to change houses.” Continue reading “HOMILY FOR THE REIGN OF CHRIST – THE VENERABLE GRANT RODGERS”
Inspirational organization seeks key personnel to expand global operations. Successful candidates must have faith to move mountains, courage to face hungry lions, willingness to follow obscure instructions or die trying. No experience necessary; training provided on the job. Should have independent source of income; some support may be offered by those who like what you have to say. Work environment can be hazardous especially when confronted by hostile clients. Good death benefits. Continue reading “Homily for November 1st ,All Saints Day- The Rev. Trudi Shaw”