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Posts Tagged ‘gift’

In many parts of the Church, the second Sunday after Easter is filled with “Holy Humour”.  I have a colleague who writes a short sermon and intersperses it with jokes, quips and aphorisms.

I think it’s wonderful to laugh…and especially in Church.  Don’t get me wrong, what I do, I do with great love and affection.  With great respect and devotion.  And with absolute mindfulness.  Where I currently serve, I have two services on Sunday mornings.  The first service is from the Book of Common Prayer, written in 17th century vernacular.  Kind of Shakespearean in language, but we don’t speak like that anymore.  And yet, there is a beauty to the rhythm of the language.

At the second service we use the more contemporary Book of Alternative Services.  Both books are incredible in their own ways.  The services are moving and beautiful.  And there are times when laughter can be introduced intentionally…or even unintentionally.

Today, the gospel reading was about Thomas, who is also known as the Doubter.  “Don’t be a Doubting Thomas” kind of thing.  A great story that, I believe, is often misunderstood.  Thomas is accused of doubting Jesus, but in fact, I believe he is doubting his friends.  They had just been through the most frightening time of their lives and they are gathered again in the upper room to regroup and figure out what happened and what to do next.

Jesus appears to them, out of thin air, shows them the wounds on his hands and side and breathes the Holy Spirit on them.  Thomas isn’t present at that moment.  What I think happened is that Thomas came back and they said “Guess who was here?”

Thomas says, “I don’t know, who was here?”

They say “Jesus”.

Thomas says “No way!”

They say “Ya-weh”.

Theologians or Hebrew scholars will be groaning.  Yaweh is another way to pronounce the Holy name of God.

Today I threw this joke out when I was preaching and only one person got it right away.  The overemphasis from me made it humourous to the rest of the congregation.  The joke itself failed.  The attempt to make it was successful.

I don’t tell jokes each week…in fact, I rarely do.  But we live in a time of such angst, anxiety and strife.  We live in a place where we fear for our safety and don’t trust anyone…and that’s not right.  We will lock ourselves away for fear of the stranger, just as the disciples did after Jesus arrest.  And we will lost the innocence and the humour in who we are.

That is devastating.

We were created in God’s image, which is nothing short of perfection.  Not in a societal standard, but in a way of love.  We were loved into being from the Divine, who could not imagine a world without us.  That should be celebrated.  That should be cherished.  That should make us feel incredible.  That should be celebrated!

And so, when you venture into God’s house, please think of it as a place of worship, of fellowship, of humour.  We know God has a sense of humour…otherwise how do you explain the platypus?  An animal made up of leftover parts…beaver’s tail, duck’s bill, etc.

Way to go God!  Thanks for the sense of humour!  Keep up the grand work!

Alleluia!!!  Let’s dance!

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Happy Easter!  What an incredible rush to celebrate the risen Lord.  This Holy Week was as busy as other years, but I think having two parishioners die within hours of each other on the Saturday before Palm Sunday added a bit to the tension of the week.  Having remembered to breathe deeply, put one foot in front of the other, and remember just who is in charge (not me) made things seem a little bit easier…having perspective really makes things manageable.

Palm Sunday was the usual outdoor start, in the cold temperatures of late March.  But we braved the chill and the wind and waved our palms and chanted “Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest!” waking the neighbours and startling the drivers that passed the Church.  Some waved back, which was a lovely added bonus.

Holy Monday we gathered to walk the fourteen Stations of the Cross, as we travelled the journey which Jesus took, pausing to give thanks for the choices he made.  Discussion afterwards with the small, yet dedicated crowd made me feel how incredibly powerful this service is for many.

Holy Tuesday we gathered for a special service originally written for the Youth Group.  It was tweaked somewhat but included the main question, “What if Jesus had said no?”  It focussed on the readings from the gospel which tell the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He asks God to take away this cup.  The response is silence.  Why doesn’t God speak?  What if Jesus had refused to go any further?  These questions elicited some incredible discussion.  We joined together in prayer, sang a couple of songs and departed.  Tuesday afternoon was spent at a visitation for one parishioner and a prayer service/private family viewing for another.

Holy Wednesday’s service was cancelled in order to accommodate the Celebration of Life for one of the parishioners, and it was an opportunity to see how a small town supports those who are struggling.  The congregation was not huge, but the man we gathered to celebrate would have been very proud at who came out.  The weather was perfect for the day, sunny and warm, a perfect spring day.

Holy Thursday saw us at the Cathedral Church to celebrate the Blessing of the Oils and then back home to celebrate Maundy Thursday, the first of the Three Sacred Days or Paschal Triduum.  We sang, we washed feet, we cried, we hugged.  We celebrated communion for the last time before the crucifixion and then stripped the altar and left the worship space in silence and darkness.  The tomb was readied.

Friday morning we gathered for the middle service of the Triduum, Good Friday.  We sang, was prayed, we cried.  The cross was decorated with towel, sign, stalk, nails, crown and royal purple.  I preached on what is “good” about Good Friday; that a symbol of hatred and control was changed to a symbol of love and new life.  A reminder that we worship the empty cross, and the empty tomb.  Again we left in stunned silence…and in hopeful anticipation.

Saturday morning a small but dedicated crew gathered at the Church to clean up the palms from Palm Sunday, to polish the brass and silver, and ready the worship space for Easter Day.  I dragged the font into the Gathering Space and set up chairs in the Parish Hall for the last of the Triduum, The Easter Vigil.  That night we lit the new fire, illumined the darkness, sang the Exultet, shared the stories, psalms and prayers, sang, laughed, cried, shared the peace and renewed our baptism vows.  We got to the entrance of the tomb, but were not allowed in…it was not yet time.

This morning the font was returned to it’s rightful place.  The papier mache stone was rolled away and adorned with lilies to show new life.  The tomb has burst open and we see signs of new life.  A larger than usual crowd came to the early service and we celebrated the resurrection and our first Alleluia’s of the season.  At 10:30 we were comfortably full, welcoming 6 strangers to our midst as well as a half dozen baby bunnies…two weeks old.  We sang, we laughed, we learned of the vessels we are and how we receive strength through the fires of trial and temptation.  We shared communion for the first time since Christ was risen and sang Hallelujah until our voices were hoarse.

Tomorrow will be tidying up a few things at the office, putting robes away, sorting service books…working on bulletins.  Then my own three sacred days…of rest.

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!  The Lord is risen indeed.  ALLELUIA!

I’ll be over here napping, if you need me…

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It seems you cannot turn on social media these days without hearing about the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.  The idea, initially, was two-fold, to raise 1. money and 2. awareness about living with ALS.  It is a degenerative neurological disease in which the body slowly stops working.  It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the famous baseball player who was one of the first people to be diagnosed.

Sufferers of the disease lose control of their body, but never lose control of their mind.  It’s been likened to being buried alive or slowly suffocating in sand.  Not very welcoming images.

The controversy on social media is the perceived water waste for people who are taking part in the challenge.  I have seen lots of videos posted to Facebook and You Tube.  Some are dignified, some are humorous and some are disgusting.  Recently I was challenged to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  This hits very close to home for me.  One of my parishioners died from the disease last fall.  He was in his 70’s when he was diagnosed, which is “late” for diagnosis.  Another of my parishioners is currently battling the disease and she is only in her 50’s.  She has an 13 month old grandson.  Slowly, she is losing control of her body, is now full-time in a wheelchair.  

Her and her husband built a barrier-free house in the same community as her daughter and they are living with the disease. I decided, last Sunday, to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge, on the front lawn at the Church by the Church sign.  In collecting from the folks attending church we generated $50 which I will mail to the ALS Society of London.

Folks are getting upset because water is being wasted.  And while that may be a true statement, Canadians and Americans waste an inordinate amount of water every day.  One person participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge will not make a child in Africa die of thirst.  It’s the same concept as not eating our dinner as a child would make a child in Africa go hungry.

I chose the front lawn of the church so the water could be return to the ground, sacred ground at that.  The ice was collected and used a second time for my husband and daughter to participate.  There was very little waste, in my humble opinion.

The other controversy surrounds the funds being pledged and generated.  Every non-profit charity is held to great scrutiny at times like this.  And they should be.  Administration can often make up 40% or more of funds received.  Back in the day when I had a “real job” I worked for three health-charities.  All of them worked on shoestring budgets and were not supported by United Way.  Our Administration stayed at approximately 8% which was considered high.

There will always be people who try to pull a fast one.  They will make a video and not donate.  Or collect money and not send it in.  However, the vast majority of people will send in money, will pledge to send money and follow through.  Standing on a fence built of moral high ground is not a fence that will be strong.  It will blow as the wind does and eventually you’ll be sitting flat on your butt.  A humbling experience indeed.

Do I support the ALS ice bucket challenge?  I do!  I did, and I challenged my brother and sister-in-law.  

Do I understand the cries about wasted water?  To a certain extent, I do.  And that is why we chose to be economical in the amount of water we used and in the location where the water was poured.  I do think there were some videos that were excessive, but I expect it was more about people trying to promote a greater video than to intentionally waste water.

The bottom line for me is that the challenge raises awareness about a disease that has no cure.  If 1,000 people now know about the disease, it was worth the media hype.

So everybody, please calm down.  If you don’t want to participate, then don’t.  But please stop shouting platitudes at those who choose to participate.

Every party has a pooper.

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Today is the second day in the three sacred days of the Triduum. This morning we gathered in silence at the Church. The sanctuary was empty, save for the bare cross, the base draped in burlap. The altar was stripped, the aumbry was open and empty. The service began without a formal start, we simply picked up where we left off last night. The service consisted of prayers, of chants, of song.

And then our attention turned to the cross.

One by one we added the towel, the nails, the crown of thorns, the royal purple, the stalk of hyssop and the sign. And we were breathless, spent with the indignity of it all. How humanity could kill one who was so innocent. And even moreso how he could excuse our weakness and petition for mercy on our behalf? We crucified our Saviour and left him to die on a simple wooden cross.

What is so “good’ about that?

The Good part is that the story does not end there. In fact, because Jesus chose to die for us, we have been forgiven. Jesus had a choice and chose our life over his own. How many of us, in a similar position, would do the same thing?

The story does not end with the crucifixion. Rather, the crucifixion is a page in the story, not the end of the story. It is not the end, but in many ways, the beginning.

Which is why we have adopted the empty cross as a symbol of Christianity. A symbol that had been used for death was the instrument to new life. New life that we do not deserve and yet we receive it anyway.

The greatest gift we will ever receive, and for which we can never repay. Instead we are called to love our neighbour, to live in the way Jesus lived; to live for the other and not for ourselves.

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