Sermons are now being posted here. To access the sermons from August 2009 to May 2011, please go to the St. James the Assiniboine website. The link is in the column to the right.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Pentecost 9

Good morning and welcome... Well, I guess summer is nearing its end... no, not because we only have a couple of Sundays left in this historic church. Not because the weather is letting us down; it isn’t and there is still a lot of hot weather to come.

No ... I know we are nearing the end of summer when I get a phone call in my church office from Ted, not his real name. Ted is the one who you will see sometimes if you are at the church during the weekdays in the fall and through the winter. He’s not homeless, but he has a very modest home, a small one, that he strives to keep living in. You see, Ted doesn’t work ... kind of like those people you see on the boulevard, the ones who typically hold up a piece of cardboard saying “ job... need money.” Have you seen them?

There are many like Ted, many with no home and many who seek cash or a handout. Each of them has a story and the ones who visit the church understand that the ultimate purpose of the church is to provide loving service to those in need. Puts me in mind of our Gospel passage from today... it’s been a rough time for Jesus and His followers. Jesus and the disciples struggled over the death of their friend and Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. He was beheaded for speaking the truth to a powerful leader.

Following this news, Jesus and the disciples needed a break so they head out to the wilderness. No one will follow us there right? Nice peaceful retreat ... like getting away to the cottage? Think again. No sooner did Jesus head out, than He was approached by thousands, looking for healing or wanting o connect somehow with Jesus. There was heavy demand on Jesus. Makes me wonder about his self-control. There was a need and Jesus attended to it...though the very human disciples preferred Jesus send them away.

Of course, Jesus directs them to feed the people and a miracle occurs. Once all the people have been looked after, Jesus tries again, and sets out and sends His disciples on ahead. This time there is a storm of sorts both outside and within. The outside storm sets in and the disciples are frightened the boat they are in might capsize. Jesus responds to Peter and commands him to walk on the water. Peter does so, but falls after only a few steps. He takes his eyes off Jesus and notices the storm about him. That is when he collapses into the water. The inner turmoil is not trusting in Jesus, not keeping faith with Him.

In today’s story, again they try to get some privacy...makes me wonder how Jesus puts up with the disciples and with us at times. Should be safe to head out to Canaanite territory, right? But no... ahead of this journey, Jesus first has to confront the Pharisees and scribes, religious leaders of the day. These leaders are appalled at Jesus for allowing His followers to not follow the legal tradition of ceremoniously washing their hands before eating. They are following strict laws and not understanding the spiritual truth beneath.

Listen and understand,” says Jesus. “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” It is what is within the human heart that counts...not the simple action of following a set of laws. “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart comes evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.

Brothers and sisters, this is the spiritual truth that applies even today, and it is what we need to understand as well. Even small misunderstandings that lead to gossip or thinking of ourselves as somehow better than another or more put together can cause us to make harsh judgments. It is no wonder the Church, and “religion” get a bad name, when folks of all walks of life get into relationship difficulty and commit sin. We miss the mark, we fall short of all we are to be when we act in unloving ways. When we refuse to forgive another, we can get bitter and that bitterness can lead to hatred and malice. The jails are overflowing with people who have made the wrong choices in life and committed terrible crimes. Our news is full of proof of our inability to understand the command to love one another.

In the district of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus Himself has a pleasant awakening of sorts. It comes in yet another attempt to get away. After all, no self-respecting Jew would be caught there. Perhaps now, Jesus would find some rest. Not so. He is approached by a Canaanite woman, who cries out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.”

The response of the disciples is interesting and shows the depth of their ignorance toward the Messiah. Jesus, at first, does not answer the woman, so the disciples urge Jesus “Send her away!” Sound familiar? It is the same response the disciples had to the crowd searching for food. “Send them away.” No, Jesus says. You get them some food, and of course, the disciples have a human reaction.

Jesus then tells the outsider, this Canaanite woman, that His mission is only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. This strong mom knows the power of Jesus to help her daughter and she will not give up. “Lord, help me!”

Jesus then says it is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. The children here refer to the children of Israel, while the dogs are seen as pets, loved, but secondary to the children of Israel. Here is where I believe the Lord’s eyes are opened to a new way of looking at the mission of God. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Jesus here comes to understand that His mission is not only to the children of Israel, the chosen nation, but to all people on earth. This outsider, this gentile woman, this persistent mom, has given Jesus keen insight.

Woman, you have great faith. Your request is granted.” Her daughter was healed at that moment we are told.

Isn’t it interesting that sometimes the Church gets so caught up in internal issues that it needs an outsider’s perspective? Just as the Canaanite woman opened Jesus eyes to the fullness of mission, our eyes are opened by the likes of Ted, who comes searching for an answer to the hunger in his stomach. His initial request was for money. The original thoughts were that if we give money, he will use it for purposes other than food. In time, we changed the approach so now, if the need is food, Ted is taken to the grocery store where food is purchased. Yet this isn’t the insight per se. The real insight is that the Church exists for people like Ted and he knew to come to the Church to find hope and the unconditional love that is preached about in the Gospel. It is the outsider like Ted and those who are being fed at the new program at St. Chad’s that has started up lately, and other places like Holy Trinity and Agape Table and All Saints and St. Matthews, who remind us always of our ministry to those outside of the Church. Jesus Himself said “I have come not to be served but to serve.”

We must pay attention to the voice of the outsider, those on the margins, the ones who rock the boat so to speak, no matter what the initial impression. The indigenous peoples of Canada have seen themselves as outsiders in their country as a result of their history of colonization and Residential Schools. That same sense of being on the outside was felt in Anglican indigenous people. Following their gathering in Kenora in the early 1990s, our former Primate, Michael Peers offered an apology on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada. Since that apology, the General Synod met and changed the Constitution to incorporate all indigenous ministries in Canon 22. Here in Rupert’s Land, similar actions have taken place and next June there will be a Sacred Circle for all Anglicans to come together and reconcile and move forward in mission.

The outsider has much to teach us, but the bottom line is that we must have faith. No matter what the situation, no matter what the crisis, we must learn to focus or fix our eyes on Jesus, just as Peter did before he fell into the water and just as the Canaanite woman did in calling out to Jesus for healing of her daughter. That is the hardest challenge of all, to focus and fix our eyes on Jesus in the midst of challenge and struggle.
Here, at St. James, we have fixed our eyes on Jesus and are providing quality programs of spiritual growth and healing. We are reaching out to the neighbourhood and we are cooperating with Jesus to bring Good News. I give thanks for the outsider, for the ones on the margins, those who remind and teach us the importance of that Good News, that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, to the end that all who believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

It is Good News for a world that desperately needs it. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will indeed move forward and may all we do be to God’s greater glory!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Greetings from Buganda

(Henry is the rector of our companion parish in Central Buganda - MS)

Sent: Monday, August 01, 2011 5:11 AM

Rev. Canon Murray Still,

It’s a pleasure that we heard from you during Easter season and indeed I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I also convey greetings from our church members and area community of Kyerima.

During the month of June our Lord the Bishop visited our Parish and this time it was decided to host him at one of our sister church called Jjumbi. A number of activities took place among which he confirmed 56 pupil, newly wedded couple and 12 persons were baptised. Also a number of 105 people had Holy communion that day. Going through he was being assisted by 7 Revs and 5 Lay men.

In the Bishop's sermon he congratulated those who were confirmed and thanked the people who attended the ceremony. He advised the Christians to put Ring Beam on the Church buildings .Also we were told that the new Diocesan offices are almost to completion. By his words we were that if God has left us alive, energetic and has given us time to work that we should work. He spent that day with us.

God bless you,
Rev Henry Matovu