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Words, Images, and Videos from Our Advent Sunday (November 27) Services – Plus Reflections on Advent by Rowan Williams

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normanWe celebrated Advent Sunday at St. Paul’s on November 27. Our Officiant, Norman, greeted us all with “Happy New Year!” at the start of our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services, reminding us that the First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new Church Year. The above picture was on our screens as our theme image. In the photo in the top left corner, a Syrian mother and her baby are crying after having safely made land in Lesbos after a desperate voyage on treacherous seas to find hope.

With the changing of the Church Season came the changing of our liturgical colours to blue and purple. 

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This year we were blessed to have a new banner to hang, made by our Sunday School to celebrate Jesus as our King. A big “Thank you” to Linda Penton and the children for making this!

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Embedded immediately below are the 4 videos we showed on our screens before our 10 a.m. Service to help prepare us for worship.

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We began our 10 a.m. Service with the following video for Advent 1.

The First Sunday of Advent focusses on Our Lord’s Second Coming, as is shown by the following excerpt from Matthew’s Gospel, which is the Gospel passage we read at both Services. (November 27 begins Year A in the Lectionary – the year of Matthew.)

Here are reflections on the Season of Advent by then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

At both Services, we carried out the centuries’ old practice of processing the Great Litany on the First Sunday of Advent (and the First Sunday in Lent), as the people are doing in the video embedded below.

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As the following videos played at the 10 a.m. Liturgy’s conclusion, we went forth as an Advent people, looking in hope to Our Lord, longing for him to come soon, living as agents of his Dawn.

Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our Reign of Christ (November 20) Services

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On November 20, the last Sunday of the Church Year, we gave ourselves in worship to the King of kings and Lord of lords as we celebrated the Feast of the Reign of Christ!

ghada-2-2As part of our worship, we continued our custom on this Feast Day of having an outreach focus that helps us reflect on how we can help spread Jesus’ rule of love in the world. This year, we were most honoured to have Syrian-Canadian author, translator, and University of Calgary Doctoral student Ghada Al Atrash (pictured to the left) speak to us in the homily time at our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services, to help us better understand the feelings that Syrian refugees like the family we’re sponsoring may be experiencing when they come to Canada.

marcel_khalifeEmbedded immediately below are the 4 videos we showed on our screens before the 10 a.m. Service to prepare us for worship. Reflecting this focus, they feature songs sung in Arabic, and a video of some of the beautiful sights in Syria (accompanied by music featured in the video just below it from the Lebanese musician and 2005 UNESCO Artist for Peace, Marcel Khalife, instead of the soundtrack it has on the video in this posting). The Lord’s Prayer in video 3 is being sung at a church in Aleppo.

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Embedded below is the Gospel Reading we had at both of our Services.

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Embedded below (from Ghada’s YouTube channel) are videos of Ghada giving 2 of the recitations she shared with us. 

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Ghada talked with us about “verstehen,” a term associated with Max Weber, which means “empathic understanding” – an act of putting aside our own framework and seeing others’ experiences from the frameworks they themselves possess. She helped us to reflect on the trauma that the Syrian family we’re sponsoring has experienced by being forced to leave their homeland, and move our perception beyond an us-them, West-East, Canadian-Syrian dichotomy, to the awareness that our similarities with one another are greater than our differences – for we all share the same deep yearning to belong, to love and be loved.

Friends of Syria host dinner for refugees

Ghada’s words to us, and the passion with which she shared them, contributed greatly to our Services’ being emotionally charged times of encounter that none of us will forget. Something very powerful was happening in our midst – our hearts were being moved by God’s love. After Ghada finished speaking, I thanked her for raising our consciousness and helping us to connect with the family we’re sponsoring and spread love’s reign in our beautiful, broken world.

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We ended our 10 a.m. Liturgy, and the Church Year, by leaving the Sanctuary with hearts overflowing with praise to our King, whose loving rule it is our immeasurable privilege to go forth into the world and extend!

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At the Coffee time after both Services, we were delighted to have the opportunity to talk with Ghada, and purchase her book, Stripped to the Bone.

Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our Remembrance Sunday (November 13) Services

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Our Sunday Services at St. Paul’s had a Remembrance Day theme. The Sanctuary decorations, music, sermon, Act of Remembrance, and Prayers of the People at both Services reflected this.

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So too did our pre- and post-Service videos. Embedded immediately below are four videos we watched before our 10 a.m. Service to help prepare us for worship.

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Here’s the Gospel passage that we read at both Services.

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mummery-2015In his sermon, Deacon Bob began by reminding us of the children’s story “Chicken Little,” in which Chicken Little cries out to all who will listen that “the sky is falling.” Bob then said that 2 lessons from the story are, “‘Don’t believe everything you hear,’ and, ‘Fear is contagious.'” He referred to the following motto, which was used at the beginning of World War II to help steel the resolve of the people of Great Britain in the face of the attacks they were about to endure. 

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Bob said this motto has a message similar to what Jesus and Paul are saying in the day’s Gospel and Epistle readings. In the face of the turmoil they were experiencing (wars, rumours of wars, or persecution) – when they felt like the sky was falling, followers of use-this-oneJesus were called not to grow weary of doing good, not to become paralyzed by fear, but to proclaim by word and deed the Good News of God’s love. They were called to trust the Lord, to keep calm and carry on. The calling is the same for us today. We may feel like the sky is falling, whether it is as a result of the recent US election, the global threat of terrorism, concerns about the environment, or more immediate challenges such as the loss of a job or a cancer diagnosis from our Doctor. In the midst of the turmoil in our lives, we’re invited to keep calm and carry on trusting and doing good. In so doing, our lives will bear witness to the truth of the Gospel: We don’t need to be afraid; we are not alone; God is with us. Thanks be to God.

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After the sermon, we shared the following Act of Remembrance. The first 2 videos we watched only at our 10 a.m. Service.

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We left our 10 a.m. Service with the following videos inviting us to receive and go forth as part of the answer to the BAS Prayer for Peace we shared as part of the Prayers of the People at both Services.

O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your Church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (p. 677).

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At Coffee Time following both Services, Linda Penton and our Youth Group sold “hot dogs for heroes,” raising nearly $200 for the Veterans Food Bank! We thank Linda and our youth for enabling us to remember our veterans in this concrete way!

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Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our November 6 Services

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We celebrated the Feast of All Saints at our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services at St. Paul’s on Nov. 6. At the 10 a.m. Service, we also had the great joy of sharing the Sacrament of Holy Baptism with Henry Hathaway and Cohen Scott. Embedded immediately below are the 5 videos we showed on our screens before our 10 a.m. Service on Sunday to help prepare us for worship (the fifth video was minus the audio).

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[Embedded below is an adapted version of the sermon I preached at our Services.]

I’d like to begin today’s sermon with a 2013 story about a woman named Karen Gentry.

This story had a happy ending, but for 6 months Ms. Gentry was unaware of her inheritance, and she came perilously close to living the rest of her life unaware of the riches she possessed.

We want to make sure this doesn’t happen to the dear children being Baptized today, or to any of us. So, today, we’re going to look at the inheritance all of us share.

Our inheritance is that we are saints!

sf_ntbooks_ephesians01Ephesians 1:1 says: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus. Paul is not writing to just an elite few in the church in Ephesus. He’s writing to them all. All of them are saints.

The word “saint” has the same root as “sanctify” – it means “set apart for God – for ever.” 

We’re set apart to know blessing. Verse 3 says: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

We’re set apart for eternal relationship. Verse 5 says: He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.

We’re set apart for redemption. Verses 7-8 say: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.

What this means in our lives is Transformation. Paul says:

ephesians-1-15-19I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:17-20).

We’re being transformed into the likeness and character of Jesus!

This is our inheritance, the inheritance of Cohen and Henry!

What if Karen Gentry had taken her winning ticket and rather than decide to bring it into the Lottery Service Center had instead decided to rip it up? Or hide it away back in her kitchen? Or frame it in her living room? She could have been aware of the riches she could access, but never experience them because of willfully or ignorantly not receiving what the winning ticket was meant to give.

Our Gospel passage today, Luke 6:20-31, gives Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, which turn upside down the present structures of the world: “Blessed are the poor. Blessed are those who weep …” Our gut reaction can be that if this is the blessed life, we don’t think we like the sound of it!  So we can run from it, and through ignorance of who we are, willful sin, or fear, miss out on living the riches we have.

lawWilliam Law, in his A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, wrote:

If you will here stop and ask yourselves why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you, that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.

So let’s not run!

It begins with remembering who God is.

 N. T. Wright, commenting on this passage, says: 

The point of Jesus’ words was to inculcate, and illustrate, an attitude of heart, a lightness of spirit in the face of all that the world can throw at you. And at the core of it is the thing that motivates and gives colour to the whole: you are to be like this because that’s what God is like.  

God is love. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.

Wright continues:

wrightIf you lived in a society where everyone REALLY believed in this God, there wouldn’t be any violence. There wouldn’t be any revenge. There wouldn’t be any divisions of class or caste. Property and possessions wouldn’t be nearly as important as making sure that your neighbour was all right. Life would be exuberant, different, astonishing.

There are two particularly astonishing things about Jesus’ instructions in this passage: First their simplicity: they are obvious, clear, direct and memorable. Second, their scarcity. How many people do you know who really live like this? How many communities do you know where these guidelines are rules of life? What’s gone wrong? Has God changed? Or have we forgotten who God really is?

When we resist and run, it reminds me of a story:

25531240001_largeIn 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait. Now the police and the owner of the VW Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save the thief’s life than to recover the car. So often when we run from God, we feel it is to escape God’s punishment. But what we are actually doing is eluding God’s rescue.

We’re running from God’s life within, which IS life!

The 2000 movie “Red Planet”has a dramatic scene scene showing the last seconds before the astronauts on the surface of Mars run out of oxygen.

The astronauts were mere seconds from smothering to death while surrounded by oxygen! Only when they were at the end of their own air supply, when they were so desperate that there was nothing else they could think to do, did they allow what was outside in – and live! 

So too with us. We’re surrounded by God’s Presence, but we need to come to the end of ourselves, and allow God’s breath, God’s Spirit within us, to enter us and fill us with God’s own life. 

Another analogy is life-saving surgery. This is not just comfort, it’s life and death! Because God is who God is, to be cut off from God is death.  

We have to be remade within. This is a frightening prospect to us. We’re afraid of allowing this transformation to take place, and are tempted to try to shrink back from Our Saviour’s touch.

 C. S. Lewis wrote, in Mere Christianity:

lewisWhen I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother—at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie; if you gave them an inch they took a mile.

Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take a mile. … Once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.

Jesus wants to give us “the full treatment”: full transformation. But there’s no need to be all “woe is me” about it! Let’s remember who God is: God not a cosmic ogre! Let’s remember the words of the professor to the young student, which I related a couple of weeks ago, where he said to a young man who was resisting becoming Christian, because he didn’t want to become “weird”: “If you could see the person into whom Jesus wants to transform you, you would say, ‘YES, that’s the person I want to be!'”

dictionary_shutterstock_45765181I decided to look up the meaning of “beatify” in freedictionary.org. It said it has 2 meanings:

1. To proclaim a deceased person to be one of the blessed and thus worthy of public religious veneration.

2. To make blessedly happy.

I love that second meaning! True blessedness is to be broken, in solidarity with, among (as one of) the broken of the world, having Jesus’ love within us, so that we care, loving others (loving our enemies, turning our cheek, doing to others as we would have them do to us – forgiving, being merciful, not judging nor condemning them). It’s to be made into Jesus’ image, with love having so entered in and penetrated our being, that it is who we ARE through and through, to the core.  

And we need to remember the vital importance of our calling – of our starting to live as we are – not just for us, but for others as well.

Salisbury, Frank O., 1874-1962; The Reverend Dr Leslie D. WeatherheadLeslie Weatherhead, in The Transforming Friendship, wrote:

Imagine a soldier sitting on the fire-step smoking a cigarette at the moment when his pals were just preparing to go over the top. The sergeant comes along and says, “What are you doing?” (Only he puts it better than that.) “Oh,” says the man, “I’m going home; I’m not getting anything out of this war.” I am afraid the air would be blue. Perhaps navy blue! Some one pointed out in a volume of essays written during the war that a person who joined up to get something out of it would be rightly considered half-witted. Well, the Church – which is only another word for the organized friends of Jesus – is a great army fighting the most tremendous battle in the world.

There’s work to be done. We live in a broken world, and are called to give the best of us that we have to make it right.

Weatherhead  continues, using a different analogy:

Christ wants you to keep fit, to play the game, to be an athlete, and to lay aside everything that might steal away your fitness for the greatest, and therefore the most strenuous, game in the world. And you will not need evidences of the power of Christianity. You will become one yourself. Such people are real Christians, and there is no dirge about their Christianity failing. It’s the most glorious thing in the world. 

The dentist and surgeon analogies break down, for we are not merely “fixed” by something external being done to us; we are transformed by having the Spirit of Jesus within us! J.B. Phillips paraphrases Ephesians 1:19-20, How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. We’re connected to the Divine power supply; we’re branches in the Vine, with Our Lord’s life within us, so that we can bear fruit for a hungry world. The greatest part of our inheritance is having this intimacy of God within us!

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A girl went to church with her father on a sunny Sunday morning.  She was enthusiastic about the many colourful glass figures that the sun traced through the stained glass windows onto the floor, and she excitedly asked her father what this and that meant. He whispered that this was such and such a saint, and that was another. Some time afterward, in religion class, the teacher asked if anybody knew what a saint was.  The excited girl, raising her hand, said “I do:  A saint is someone the light shines through!”

Let’s allow the Lord’s light to shine through us, so that we may share with all creation the richness of our inheritance as the saints at St. Paul’s. Amen.

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At both Services, we said the following litany on our screens together.

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And we also sang this hymn:

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We left our 10 a.m. Service, to the sound of the following 4 videos proclaiming our eternal hope.

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We shared a special time of post-Service fellowship with the 2 newly Baptized members of our Parish and their families. Thank you to Angela Richardson for the cake and these great pictures.

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Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our October 30 Services

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Embedded immediately below are the 4 videos we showed on our screens before our 10 a.m. Service on Sunday to help prepare us for worship.


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In the Children’s Talk at our 10 a.m. Service, we focussed on the Gospel reading story of Zacchaeus. We watched the following video of the song “Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man,” and then sang  the song ourselves.

After this, I ended the Children’s Talk with these words:

NOBODY is too small, inside or outside, for Jesus to care for them! I hope that you always remember this – that Church is not just for big people – it’s for you, too! And most important of all, JESUS is not just for big people. Jesus loves you, and Jesus is for you right now – you can know his love for you today, every day of your life, and forever in Heaven.

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Here’s the Gospel passage we read at our 8:30 and 10 a.m. Services.

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[Here are some adapted excerpts from the sermon on Sunday.]

We’re going to start today’s sermon with a video not for the claustrophobic by a man lost in a cave system.

The light at the end of the video is the outdoors. The man moved towards it and managed to get out safe and sound. Today, we’re going to look at the inner darkness of loneliness, and the answer: Jesus, the Light of the world, as we reflect on the encounter recorded in our Gospel reading of Jesus and the tax collector Zacchaeus. 

In verse 3, it says that the chief tax collector Zacchaeus, “was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.”

zacchaeus-2016Now remember about tax collectors in Palestine in this period: they were collecting funds for the occupying power, Rome. Not only this, tax collectors were also prone to extortion, squeezing the people for all they could. Zacchaeus was also a “chief” tax collector, which meant he was the contractor for the whole of the taxes of Jericho and had collectors under him. He was a rich man, achieving this  from the sweat of the people. He was despised.

And so, of course, nobody is going to make room for Zacchaeus to see Jesus. It was one way they could “get back at him” for how he had treated them. (Think of this, though!! Trying to prevent someone from seeing Jesus – how terribly sad this is!)

Zacchaeus was not to be blocked so easily, however. Verse 4 continues: “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.”

zacc-2Note that Zacchaeus’ interest is more than just curiosity. Joel Green points out that it was humiliating  in that society for an adult to climb a tree like this. In fact, even to be in the crowd at all put Zacchaeus in danger – a quick dagger here; certainly an extra elbow or shove there! William Barclay pointed out that Zacchaeus would be black and blue with bruises that day. Had he heard that Jesus was the friend of tax collectors and sinners? Was he longing and yearning for a way out of the darkness of his loneliness?

The Gospel continues: “When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.'” Jesus has a divine appointment with Zacchaeus. In the midst of the crowd, Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus one on one, and calls him by name. St. Augustine said: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” Jesus focus on each of us and says: “I want to meet with you. I want to shine upon you … in your life right now, today.” 

Verse 6 gives Zacchaeus’ response: “So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.” We can sense Zaccaeus’ excitement, and probably disbelief! I’d say,  it was “like winning the lottery,” except the point is exactly that he DIDN’T need more material riches. He needed LOVE!

Zacchaeus was trapped in a loneliness of a self-inflicted prison from the choices he’d made.

C. S. Lewis wrote:

c-s-lewis3Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

Zacchaeus’ abuse of others – his diminishing of others – had diminished himself. He was little outside (physically) and inside (in his soul).

St. Teresa of Calcutta said:  “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted.” But Zacchaeus’ loneliness was greater yet: He had an even greater poverty of being empty inside of love to share.

zacheus_grtBut now, Jesus’ love has touched him! 

Verse 7 says shows the response of the crowd to this interaction: “All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.'”

Remember how Zacchaeus had treated them. But it seems that in the Gospels we are always seeing attempts to limit those to whom whom Jesus should reach out: ‘sinners,’ the unclean, and even children (in Luke 18) all have people say that they shouldn’t be allowed his contact.

Perhaps we feel we’re in this category. Perhaps we feel someone else we know, who perhaps has hurt us deeply, should be. In either case, let’s listen carefully to what happens next.

“Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.'”

zaccheusOut of a grateful heart, love pours out from Zacchaeus for others. It’s reminiscent of Jesus’ words about the “sinful woman” in Luke 7:36-50, that her love showed that she had received forgiveness.  Actually, Zacchaeus uses the present tense: “I’m resolving to do this now.” He’s sharing joyfully. Zacchaeus may have been rich before, but after giving half of his possessions to the poor, and paying back those he’s defrauded four times as much, there’s not going to be that much left.

Perhaps the reason there’s no record of Zacchaeus going with Jesus to Jerusalem is that he stayed in Jericho, the place where he had caused to much pain, to make amends and show his changed life, repairing and restoring his connections with, relationships in, the community.

Verse 9 continues:  “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.'” Like the lost son in Jesus’ Parable in Luke 15, Zacchaeus is welcomed home as part of the family.

048-048-christandtherichyoungruler-full-1Just before this, in Luke 18:18-25, Jesus’ invitation to discipleship has been turned down by a rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-25),  which prompted Jesus to say: “‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.'” Those who heard Jesus say this exclaimed: “‘Then who can be saved?'” Jesus replied, “‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.'”

How wonderful it is that Luke follows this by showing how a rich person can indeed receive salvation! He shares this story of God’s grace. All around were saying, “No this person is beyond Jesus’ reach – he’s too insignificant, too small inside, for Jesus to touch or notice.” But they were wrong. Jesus never gives up on or writes off anybody, and neither must we, who like Zacchaeus have been touched by God’s amazing grace, have now the joyous privilege sharing it with others.

The passage concludes with Jesus saying:  “‘For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.'”

jesusJesus initiated contact with Zacchaeus. (We may feel we’re seeking him, but really, he’s seeking us.) Like the shepherd in his Parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus’ attitude is not: Oh well, 99/100 being safe is pretty good! He’s like a loving parent. No parent says, “Oh well, 9 out of 10 children being safe is good enough”!

If you feel you’re lost in the dark today, if you’re lonely,  Jesus is seeking you, and reaching out to you today. This is for you. Jesus doesn’t see you in a crowd, it’s one on one. None of us needs to have the inner loneliness and darkness that come from emptiness inside. All of us can be found in the light of his love. I invite all of us to invite him in. No: JESUS invites all of us to invite him in today, and he promises that if we do, we shall never, ever be alone. May we all respond to his invitation, and open the door of our lives and let him in.

For the next few moments, let’s spend time in prayer saying “Yes” and “Thank you” to Jesus in a deeper way than ever before, while we watch the following song on video.

Amen.

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Before our Offertory Hymn at both Services, we watched the following stewardship video, part 2 of “Hospitality and Resources.”


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We left the Sanctuary a grateful people, touched by the grace of the Lord, and resolved to share that touch through our own hands, with everyone we meet. After our 10 a.m. Service, the following videos sent us forth. 

Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our October 23 Services

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Embedded below are the 4 videos we watched before our 10 a.m. Service on October 23 to help prepare us for worship.

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We began the 10 a.m. Service with the first 2 minutes of following video, to help us be aware of, and open up to, the Presence with us of our God of unstoppable mercy and grace.

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At our 10 a.m. Service, Linda Penton read Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle for the children. Here’s an animated version of the story.

The story makes the same point as the line in the image at the top of this posting, taken from the Gospel Reading we read at both Services, Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14).

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11 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. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 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!’ 14 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.”

Here’s a dramatized version of the Parable.

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Before our Offertory Hymn at both Services, we watched the following stewardship video, part 1 of “Hospitality and Resources.”

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The image immediately below of a child in Mosul was on our screens for the second half of our 10 a.m. Service, with words from our Epistle promising fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human heart, and challenging us to long with all our hearts for Our Lord’s appearing not to ourselves only, but to all God’s beloved children.

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We played the following 4 videos as we left our 10 a.m. Service with hearts overflowing with thanksgiving for God’s mercy and grace for us and for all, and the opportunity to share this mercy and grace with everyone in our world.

Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our October 16 Services

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We celebrated the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist at St. Paul’s on Sunday, with a special focus on healing. Embedded below are the videos we showed on our screens before our 10 a.m. Service to help prepare us for worship.

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 [Embedded below are adapted portions of my sermon at both Services.]

I’d like to begin today’s sermon with a story about a Calgarian whose name has become synonymous with giving.

The rest of Crist’s family are helping choose to whom the funds are being given. In an interview, Crist’s daughter said: “My youngest son loves animals, so he wanted to donate to the zoo, and so we donate to the Calgary zoo. There’s a lot of grief support programs that I utilized after Mom passed away, so we give to that.”

Crist’s daughter said that the family is completely supportive of his decision to give away the money, and that they’re grateful for the chance to contribute to causes that matter to them. “We support the plan 100 per cent,” she said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for us.”

Today: we’re going to continue last week’s focus on Thanksgiving and add a focus on healing as we celebrate Feast of famous doctor in Holy Scripture: Dr. Luke. As we do, we’ll see, as Tom Crist and his family are discovering, that the amazing opportunity to share from thankful hearts enables us all to find healing together.

Luke has Jesus’ public ministry begin by his opening up and reading from Isaiah 61. The entire Isaiah scroll is handed to him, but Jesus picks the passage: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour'” (4:18-19).

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Luke 4 then continues in electric, dramatic fashion: “And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. [People sat down to teach.] The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  {Notice how time has slowed down to a stop.] Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'” (4:20-21).

This, Luke says, is what Jesus’ ministry is all about!

Luke Volume 2, which we call Acts, sets out a parallel between Jesus’ calling in Luke 4, and the calling of the Church, his Body, in Acts 2. Luke 4 says that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring healing to a broken world. Acts 2 says that the members of the Church were anointed by the Holy Spirit, to continue Jesus’ ministry as his hands and feet in the world.

Acts 2 and 4 speak of how right away the members of the fledgling Church began to live out this calling, as they shared with one another, demonstrating the turning on its head of priorities expressed in Mary’s Magnificat, so that in Acts 17, Christians are, “dragged before the city authorities by people shouting, ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also'”.

Ours is a world that desperately needs to be turned upside down! Today [October 16] over 150 countries throughout the world are observing World Food Day. Here’s a video clip about this year’s theme.

[There’s more information on World Food Day at the bottom of this posting.]

On World Food Day, we remember that, as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General has said: “The greatest injustice of our time” is that 795 million people in the world are hungry when “There is enough food to feed all.” We live in an upside down world where people starve while there’s enough food for all to share.

In 2012, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Zero Hunger Challenge. The Zero Hunger vision reflects five elements from within the Sustainable Development Goals, which taken together, can end hunger, eliminate all forms of malnutrition, and build inclusive and sustainable food systems. The aim is to achieve zero hunger by 2030. Already, the number of hungry is down 167 million over the last decade, and it’s 216 million less than 1990-92.

It always strikes me to be so appropriate that World Food Day occurs always around a week after Thanksgiving, because today we’re remembering that we’re called to share the gifts God has shared with us, for which we’ve given thanks (including our creativity and ingenuity) – these gifts we’re called to share – with others; and that, if we do, there will cease to be the open wound of hunger in our planet. If, as the disciples did in Luke 9, we give our food to Jesus, so that it is his to bless and multiply, there will be more than enough for all of us to experience healing together – and help turn the world right-side up.

We are called, as members of Jesus’ Body, to be in the world – to be in the middle of life, with all its sufferings and its joys, rather than try to cloister ourselves and keep ourselves safe. To live out Luke 4 and Acts 2, will require us to push past our comfort zones and give ourselves in sacrificial love. Our Crucified Lord who told us to take up our own cross and follow him expects no less of us as we live as his Body.

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The great Hymn of Harvest Thanksgiving has the words “Come, ye thankful people, come.” But just as with Luke, there should be a second volume to this hymn: “Come, ye thankful people come, to Jesus. And then, go, ye thankful people, go” – as he fills you with the Holy Spirit and sends to be agents of healing and wholeness in a broken world! 

Because, it’s not enough to thank God for our daily bread. It’s not enough to thank God for being our daily bread. We must thank God by sharing our daily bread with others, indeed, by becoming bread for the world, broken – as Our Lord was – to share. We must have a thankfulness that moves us to be poured out, like the Lord Jesus – like Tom Crist’s lottery winnings – holding nothing back.

As we do, we shall discover that this kind of brokenness is the path of true wholeness. When we become so transformed into Our Lord’s likeness that, like Tom Crist and his family, we’re filled with amazement at our opportunity to give away all that we are and all that we have, the love and life of Jesus will truly have made their home in our hearts. And this is the deepest healing of all.

May we all share God’s love from such thankful hearts, and know God’s healing together. Amen.

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Just before our Offertory Hymn at both Services, we watched the following video, the second of 10 stewardship videos we’ll be showing in October, November, and January. [The first video is included in my October 12 posting.]

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At announcements’ time, we invited everyone to a concert we’ll be hosting at St. Paul’s at 8 p.m. on November 4 by the husband and wife group “Infinitely More“. Here’s one of their songs.

Here’s a video of Allison Lynn’s sharing the powerful story of her discovery of her calling. [I especially love the conviction she shares at the end of the video: “We will know when we are living in God’s plan when it takes the best of us – the best of your talents, and skills, and things that are beautiful about you – and uses them in service of God and in service of God’s people.”]

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Also in announcements’ time, we showed the following image on our screens giving the website for World Food Day.

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Here is a longer version of the video that was shown as part of the sermon.

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 The following videos were shown on our screens at the end of our 10 a.m. Service, as we were sent forth with a song in our hearts to share the healing love of Our Lord.