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Reflections, Images, and Videos from Our November 6 Services

November 7, 2016

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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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