Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feels Like Home


Week after week, we hear this comment from those who visit us at St. Mary's. We are family, yet we are more than family, we are a community.  Together we seek and serve Christ in our own lives and in the world around us.  We are building a place that is a home for all,  no matter who you are or what your life situation.  Come and join us!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lent: Looking Inward/Looking Outward

The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Wearing the symbol of ashes has long been used as an expression of grief and sorrow for sin—all those things in ourselves and our society that cause hurt and sadness in our world. Sin is what happens when we separate ourselves from God and each other. Ashes remind us of our humanity: that we are born, we live our lives, and then we die. Ashes remind us that we are made of the same stuff as all the creatures of this earth. Finally, ashes are also a sign of new life emerging from the past—of forgiveness, blessing and transformation. It is a well-known fact among gardeners that ashes have a wonderful fertilizing effect upon the ground. And from the ashes of a forest fire, new life emerges.
Lent is a time when we look deeply inside ourselves to see the ways we hurt one another and our world by not living as God intends; a time when we commit ourselves to changes and to new beginnings.


Receiving the ashes is much more than simply a religious ritual. If you think about it, wearing the ashes can be an exercise in humility. Imagine the response you would get if when people ask about the ashes, you replied; "Oh these, they are a sign that I am a created being, that I am not God, and that I am a dust person (A-dam) and one day I will return to dust." The sign of the ashes is a strong reminder of who and what we are and that identity is an essential part of Christian living.

Accepting our createdness allows us to shed our self-suffiency and turn to our Lord, who has taught us that it is only by putting others first, emptying ourselves of our selfish desires that we enter into the life-giving relationship with God our father.

The traditional Lenten disciplines, prayer, self-giving, fasting and alms giving are not ends in themselves, they are meant to bring us to a place of self-surrender to the presence of God. The disciplines of Lent are designed to bring us to the place where we come to the end of ourselves, where we lose ourselves in God, where our self-surrender to God's ways by serving others allows us to discover what it is to be a beloved child of God.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Live as though you mean it...


Over the Christmas season, I had an opportunity to tackle my reading list. One of the books I read was "The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian" by Derek Maul, a clergy spouse. He writes his own story of how he experienced a change from being what he calls a "part-time" Christian, to a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ. Central to his transformation was his increasing awareness that his life had purpose, meaning and was a gift from God. For him the challenge became to "life as though you mean it".

As I read this spiritual memoir, I began to wonder; what is "IT", anyhow...what is "IT" to a person who is not a person of faith? What is "IT" to a person of faith? What is "IT" to a person like the ones Maul calls "part time" Christians? Although "IT" might be different things to different people, I would think that to a follower of Jesus, "IT" may be the understanding that all of life is a gift from a generous and loving God, who delights in us and in the world God has made, who delights to the extent that God calls us all "beloved". Thus, living as though you mean it, just might be the key to living the kind of transformed life that the Gospels hold out to us, a life that is so different that it can only be described as being "born again".

Might it be that living as though we mean IT, would make being a "part-time" Christian impossible? If we were to live fully into the awareness of our belovedness and the belovedness of every other creature, might allow us to redefine everything we are, everything we do, and everyone we encounter. This New Year, I would invite each and every one of you to do just that: to learn to live life as though you mean it, to come a deeper awareness of yourself as "beloved" of God. Together, as a community, let us learn to live our life together as if we mean it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Welcome to the season of Expectant Waiting, Hopeful Anticipation and Cheerful Preparation



OCCUPY ADVENT

Welcome to the season of Advent, a time of preparation and waiting.

I think I was probably 10 or 11 years old when my parents decided I was old enough to be left home while they attended a Christmas Party. I was thrilled, not only because of the trust (unfortunately misplaced; as you will soon hear) that they had that I was mature enough to be left alone, but also because it would give me an opportunity to satisfy my overwhelming curiosity about the gifts that were scattered about under our Christmas tree.

I don't remember how the evening went, but I very clearly remember lying on my stomach under the tree in the dimly lit room. I was clever enough to turn the tree lights off because I knew that if I left them on passersby would see me creeping about under the tree. I remember trying to keep the needles from getting caught in my clothing; a dead give away that I'd been where I shouldn't be I knew. I remember very carefully peeling back the taped ends of the parcels, peeking inside and just as carefully attempting to re-stick the tape once I had discerned the gift. It's interesting that I don't remember the gifts I received, but I do remember the horrible let down feeling that came about on Christmas morning when I realized that I had spoiled the joy that came from the delight of finding just exactly what I had longed for.

Ever since that evening, so long ago, I NEVER, EVER, EVER even peek at Christmas gifts. It is well known that my family can walk in front of me with an unwrapped gift and I'll turn my head, close my eyes or bury my head in whatever I am doing to avoid reliving that sense of disappointment that comes when the time of wondering, anticipating, and waiting is cut short. I often think of that story as I approach Advent with its accompanying pressure to simply see the season as a time of counting down the shopping days left until Christmas. I love Advent, because I learned long ago that anticipation can add so much delight to an event. If there is one time of the year that invites us to "live in the moment:, it is Advent.

For the past number of years, the observance of Advent is becoming more and more popular, and recently "Occupy Advent an Internet based movement has arisen as a way to encourage us to reclaim Advent as an important and life-giving time in our Christian lives. Advent is so much more than four weeks of shopping, parties, decorating, baking and gift wrapping. All of these activities point to a deeper reality, the reality that we are not only clearing and preparing our homes for the arrival of friends and neighbours for our celebration of the coming of the Christ Child, but but we are preparing a place in our own hearts to welcome the coming of Christ into our everyday lives once again. As we sing in the familiar carol Joy to the World: "Let every heart, prepare Him room."

I wish you all a Holy and life-giving Advent season, and invite you to stop by often this month as together we Occupy Advent.

Here is a great YouTube video that explains a little more about Advent. JUST CLICK HERE

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Beginnings

When I sat down to write this post, I began by searching for an image to use and I found this one. Even though I no longer have children in school, September still brings to mind the excitement of New Beginnings and new possibilities. The future is indeed an open door inviting us into new experiences of God's presence and graces that He offers us.

It is my hope and prayer that you have had some wonderful times this summer with family and friends and have found time to be refreshed and reinvigorated. As we move into this time of New Beginnings, please consider walking through one of the doors that are open to you to move deeper into the life of our community. Whether it be taking part in one of the many opportunities to serve others thorough teaching and serving, joining one of our small groups, or taking part in our worship service, you will find that our doors are wide open and your gifts will be warmly welcomed.

If you are visiting our blog, please look around and get a flavour of the warmth and welcome that we offer here at St. Marys. We hope that you will consider joining us in person. Our doors are wide open and you will be warmly welcomed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ah...summer!


Summers tend to be short in this part of the country, and this year is no exception, yet, for most of us, a little rain or the odd thunderstorm is unlikely to deter us from finding time to spend away from the regular routine of daily life. Time spent away (especially in nature) is life giving for many of us, an opportunity to recharge our batteries and rest our minds and bodies.

In the lections this summer we've been listening to Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus' use of ordinary items (weeds, wheat, yeast, fish, pearls) and everyday activities (cleaning, farming, fishing, baking) remind us that we don't need to remove ourselves from the everyday to discover the presence of the Kingdom among us. It would seem that the Kingdom is as close as a rainbow after a summer storm, a word of encouragement from a friend, the sense of fulfillment that comes from serving others, or the awareness that we are in God's presence when we pray. The "treasure" that is beyond price is found in the most obvious places, yet it is "hidden in plain view" and in order to find it, we need to be actively seeking its presence.

"Getting away from it all" is a way that we distance ourselves from all the distractions that drown our awareness of God's nearness and presence to us. For many of us, activities like walking along a riverbank, or through the woods, visiting friends and family, travelling to new places, allow us to remove ourselves from the many voices that distract us; we become more single minded, and are able to focus on one thing at a time. Freed from the activity of our "regular" lives we are given an opportunity to reflect on God's presence among us. The slower pace of summer allows us to remember the promise of God to be "with us always", we are reminded that God chooses to be present to us in the simplest and most commonplace of ways and that God is always patiently waiting to respond to us when we call.

The difficulty, of course, comes when we return to the pressures of daily life with its myriad of demands and the cacophony of voices demanding our attention. This summers readings remind us that the treasure that God offers us -- His abiding presence with us -- is as close as a prayer. They invite us to reset our priorities so that we can remember to find the time (even if only for a moment) to access the grace that God offers us.

Summer vacations can offer us an opportunity to "reset" our priorities so that we can continue to live our lives with the joy that comes from the awareness of the presence of God's Kingdom amongst us and around us.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Vacation time

I will be away on my annual vacation until July 16th. If you require the services of a priest during that time, please contact either Charles or Corinna and they will help you contact the on-call clergy.