Scripture Readings: Isaiah 2:1–5 | Psalm 122 | Romans 13:11–14 | Matthew 24:36–44
“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Matthew 24:42-44)
Have you ever pulled an all-nighter, staying up until the sun rises again?
I don’t really recommend it. But when I was younger, it was kind of an exciting thing to attempt on certain occasions… and I still remember the first time I was able to stay awake all through the night: way back in middle school, along with a handful of friends, I was invited to an overnight birthday party, and as you might expect, we found lots of ways to have fun and wind each other up, and several of us decided to try to stay up all through the night.
But slowly, one by one, my friends all started to turn in… until only myself and one other friend were left awake. While the others all snored in their sleeping bags, the two of us quietly talked for hours. We looked out the window and together stared into the heavens… I saw my first shooting star that night too. We talked about all sorts of things… keeping each other company, and deepening our friendship… until we started to see the light of dawn slowly filling the sky. After all that waiting, we had made it. And what started off as a childish challenge turned into a special and treasured part of my story… a memory of friendship that even now remains close to my heart.
Staying awake can be hard work. It can take lots of effort, especially when all is dark around us. But of course, it’s much easier to stay awake when we have company.
As we know, today is the first Sunday of Advent: a season of anticipation and waiting for the coming of Christ.
We wait for His coming, at Christmas… for the celebration of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, as the eternal Son of God takes on our humanity… and is born as a helpless babe.
But we also wait for His coming again in glory, as we say in the Creed… for Christ’s return not as a child, but as our Saviour King, coming to bring God’s eternal Kingdom to completion. To rescue and restore His creation for good.
Each week in Advent, we contemplate a different aspect of the Christian life in this time between Christ’s first arrival, and His final return… and this first week we reflect on the gift of Hope.
Hope is deeply intertwined with waiting. It is impossible to hope without also having to wait… and it is intolerable to have to wait without having hope. It is something essential. Something we can’t do with out, even though we don’t always understand it. In fact, there’s a lot of confusion these days about the nature of hope.
Hope is not simply wanting something to happen… that’s just a wish or a fantasy. A dream or desire we have that has no real roots in reality. There are lots of things we may want in life that will never occur. And to be honest, that’s a not a bad thing… because so much of what we humans tend to want would actually cause us more grief than good.
Hope is much more than wanting something to happen. And it’s also not simply expecting something to happen. That’s called optimism… choosing to “look on the bright side”, which sounds great, but can at times be just as disconnected from reality as our fantasies are. Optimism assumes that things will work out on their own, or that all the troubles we see aren’t as bad as they might seem. But the danger of optimism is that we just ignore the real challenges that lie before us, not taking them as seriously as we should. In other words, if we just expect things will work out, we’ll be blindsided when they don’t… setting us up not just for disappointment, but maybe even despair.
So what is hope?
We can say hope is the willingness to act in accordance with what has not yet come about. To not just want, or expect, but to behave… to live in line with what we’re hoping for… to reorient what we do each day towards its guiding light.
And hope is hard. It’s much easier just to dream of days gone by, or idealized visions of the future. Or to lean on optimism to try to stay positive… seeking for signs of something good on the horizon, or gazing at the dark clouds in search of a silver lining. Ultimately, dreaming and optimism ask very little of us… but Hope can be hard work.
Hope calls us to hold on… to endure… even when we can’t even imagine how things might get better… and even when we can’t see any signs of a silver lining… when we’re surrounded by the dark. Hope calls us to carry on and trust in what cannot be seen… to not give up because we believe in Someone who will truly see things through.
Hope means enduring even in the darkness, and choosing to act as though the dawn is on its way.
Our Scripture readings today all invite us to hold onto the Christian Hope… which is grounded firmly in the light of what the Living God has done… and what He has promised to do.
In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear the word of the LORD pointing His people ahead to a time when they would become a beacon of hope for the nations… when their lives would serve to invite those from far and wide to draw near to God, saying:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:3).
Of course, this was God’s purpose for His people all along: for them to become a sign of hope for the whole world… their lives in communion with Him shining out into the night, so that all would be eager to share in His fellowship and eternal life.
This message from God is a wonderful promise, but at the time it must have seemed more like a fantasy. Far from being a holy community united in God’s love, in Isaiah’s day, God’s people had fragmented into two rival kingdoms… and both were living in spiritual darkness… chasing after their own desires instead of seeking God’s ways.
And rather than the nations recognizing in God’s people the brilliant New Life they had been longing for… drawing them near to share in its glory, the nations were gathering like storm-clouds, ready to pour out a flood of violence and destruction, washing away these two tiny kingdoms into Exile.
There was no way to draw a straight line from where they were standing… spiritually compromised, cut off from each other, and encircled by threatening empires… to the promised future God had offered to them: as agents of His world-saving love.
But even so, Isaiah invites God’s people to hold onto hope: to act in line now with the LORD’s promised future… to put into practice now what He says will one day come about. Isaiah 2:5 “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” Though on their own, they could not hope to bring about this hope-filled promise, the right response to God’s promise is to live now in His light.
God called His people to endure… to turn from the darkness, and choose to act now as though the dawn was on its way.
This leads us to our second reading from the letter to the Romans. Through much of this letter, St. Paul was walking his fellow Christians in Rome through the message of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, and the amazing implications of His death and resurrection.
But just like Isaiah, St. Paul was writing to a divided community: the Churches in Rome we made up of Christians from Jewish and Greek or Roman backgrounds , who were struggling to stay connected, and had all sorts of issues getting in the way of their fellowship… which also got in the way of their mission to share the Gospel of Jesus with their neighbours too.
One serious issue he explores has to do with deep disagreements about how to live as a Christian… the dos and don’ts of disciples, so to speak. Did they all need to obey the Laws of Moses? Or was it enough just to believe the right things, and then they could do whatever they wanted, like their non-Christian neighbours?
We don’t have time to unpack all of the letter to the Romans this morning, but this is the context for our reading today: a letter to Christians confused and fighting about what God was calling them to do with their lives.
St. Paul’s response throughout this letter is to point his readers to Jesus, the Risen Lord… to what He has done to rescue, not only Israel and Judah, but to fulfill His promise through Isaiah to draw all nations to Himself… to reveal to them what it means to walk in His holy ways… and share in the New Life Jesus has won for us all through His cross and resurrection.
So, St. Paul writes to this divided and confused community, and calls them to live together in hope:
“you know what time it is,” he says, “how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.”
It's so tempting at times to sleep in. To hit the snooze button and stay in bed. Especially when it’s cold and dark outside. As Christians too, it can be so tempting to stay spiritually asleep. To let our hope of God’s Kingdom, which calls us to take part in its work here and now, begin to drift into dreams of our own, disconnected from God’s calling on our lives.
But St. Paul reminds us, that even though it still may feel like the middle of the night, it’s actually time to get up. Like an alarm clock, beckoning these believers to shake off their spiritual doziness and get ready for the work of the day, St. Paul reminds them, that the object of their hope, Christ’s coming Kingdom, is truly on its way, calling them (and us) to put this hope into practice… not simply by following religious rules, or by rejecting them… but by choosing to behave each day as those who belong even now to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ: “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:11-14).
In short, we are being summoned to keep the hope of God’s salvation awake in our hearts by keeping our lives in line with the light of God revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. This is not the time to become spiritually sleepy, but to be alert and active. Walking daily in God’s ways, and actively awaiting Christ’s coming Kingdom.
This leads us to our Gospel reading this morning, from Matthew Chapter 24, which takes place within a much longer passage where Christ is calling His followers to faithfully endure even the dark days ahead, holding onto hope, knowing in the end God’s salvation is assured.
What stands out in this passage, supported by the dramatic imagery of the suddenness of the flood, is the call to be ready… to not be distracted or lulled away from the work of the Kingdom of God… whose final arrival will be even more world-changing than the flood, or the COVID-19 pandemic combined.
We aren’t given the time or date, in part because the point of the Christian life isn’t for us to puzzle together clues to predict how or when Christ’s Kingdom will come in all its fulness. The point is that we don’t put off the good work we are called to do today… faithfully enduring even incredibly difficult circumstances because we have placed our hope in God’s promise not simply to rescue us, but to bring an end to all the injustice and brutality and evil in our world, trusting His word to us that Christ Jesus the Crucified and Risen Lord:
“shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4)
One final word: Even so great a hope can be hard to hold onto alone. Each one of us, no matter how strong our faith, face dark nights when we struggle to endure. That’s why along with the gift of hope, we were given the gift of each other… the gift of the Church… of a community, a family of believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who share our hope, and who can help us stay awake while we wait for the dawn to break.
In this time between Christ’s first and final arrival, we are meant to lean on each other, to lift up each other, to draw near to one another, and strengthen each other against the challenges we all face in this world. Without one another, the hope of God’s salvation can easily grow cold and drowsy. One by one, we can simply drift away, and spiritually fall asleep. But if we endure together… if we learn to share this hope more and more with one another, we will find our fellowship deepen, and our love grow stronger, and our longing to share the hope of the Gospel with those around us grow brighter.
Brothers and sisters, we need to stay awake. So let’s stay awake together, looking forward in hope for the dawn of Christ’s good kingdom at last. Amen.
Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 23:1–6 | Luke 1:68–79 | Colossians 1:11–20 | Luke 23:33–43
“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:42-43).
Today we commemorate the Feast of Christ the King… a day to remind the Church that regardless of how it might seem, from moment to moment or day to day, Jesus Christ the Risen Lord reigns even now, and His Kingdom will have no end.
In Him, our hope and the hope of the world will endure.
In Him, we entrust our past, our present, and our future.
In Him, the reconciling love of God will rule forever.
In Christ Jesus, the King of Kings, God’s victory is complete.
But our reading today from the Gospel of St. Luke reminds us of what His reign really looks like… and that the King we Christians are called to follow and serve with all our hearts is strange. In fact, St. Luke shows us that Christ the King is not the kind of King our world imagined, or wanted at all.
I mean, they thought He was at times… like when He was filling their mouths with bread, healing their sicknesses, and amazing them with powerful signs and wonders. And yet, all along Jesus kept confusing them… confronting their expectations, challenging their deepest commitments… and this is something He continues to do, for twenty centuries and counting.
In every age, in every generation, in every culture where the Gospel has been preached, Christ Jesus the King has confronted and challenged ‘the way things are done around here’, and calls us instead to share in God’s Good Kingdom, not just someday, but here and now too. He shows us what it means to live God’s way: as the true incarnation, “the image of the invisible God” in the flesh, Jesus continues to stand out from the crowd, and call us back to our Creator.
And yet, in every age, generation, and culture, He is met with our resistance. For He is not like us, and yet He calls us all to come, and become like Him. To let His life reshape our own, and trade in our kingdoms for His.
Christ our King is a strange King. Not least of all because He is a suffering King. One who’s power and glory are revealed in all their splendour amid the horror of the cross.
The scholar, Ben Myers, points out that the suffering Jesus faced at the cross goes well beyond just physical pain: “In the Roman Empire, crucifixion wasn’t only about death. It was about public disgrace. The problem with getting yourself crucified wasn’t just that it would kill you but that it would humiliate you at the same time. Modern readers of the New Testament might assume that the worst thing about crucifixion was the physical suffering. But in a culture of honor and shame, the pain of the soul—humiliation—can be even worse than the pain of the body.”
And yet, Christ willingly endured the shame… the agony of the cross in all its dimensions. God’s chosen King chooses to receive the world’s rejection and cruelest hate. What stranger image of a victorious king could there be than a crucified one?
Reflecting on our passage today from St. Luke’s Gospel, the Anglican scholar and bishop, N.T. Wright, says this about our suffering King: “Jesus has stood on its head the meaning of kingship, the meaning of the kingdom itself… Now he is hailed as king at last, but in mockery. Here comes his royal cupbearer, only it’s a Roman soldier offering him the sour wine that poor people drank. Here is his royal placard, announcing his kingship to the world, but it is in fact the criminal charge which explains his cruel death.”
In every way, what happens at the cross seems like a defeat. The end of hope. The end of life. The end of someone completely cut off, and cursed.
But the Good News that St. Luke and countless Christians in every age, and generation, and culture have come to believe, tells us that the cross is how Christ accomplishes the victory of God’s Kingdom, once and for all. As strange as it might seem, through His suffering, Christ Jesus was at work saving our world, reconciling us to the Living God through the gift of His own life.
The Good News is we don’t just serve a strange and suffering King… we serve a saving King! One who’s reign has a clear purpose: to rescue and restore God’s broken but beloved world. As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Christians in Colossae:
Christ “is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:18-20).
Christ Jesus is our strange, suffering, saving King, who gave His life to bring us God’s peace. And who has been raised from the dead so that God’s peace will reign, now and forever.
But who are those who recognize this beautiful truth, and strive to make it known? Who is it that has the joyful task of serving today in Christ’s strange, suffering, and saving Kingdom? Of joining Him in His mission?
It’s us. It’s you and I, and every Christian from every age, every generation, and every culture who, just like that criminal hanging nearby, looked at the crucified Jesus, and still chose to believe in the coming of His Kingdom.
We are those called to place our hope in God’s power to overcome every obstacle… to undo even the defeat of death. We are those whose faith is not to be based upon the way things are, but on the One who makes everything new. And we are those who are called to see in the shameful death of an innocent Jewish man, God’s own self-giving love poured out for the world… and invited to share in it.
In short, if Christ is King, we Christians are to be fully committed to His Kingdom. To be His faithful subjects, following His ways… His strange, suffering, saving ways.
What does this all mean for us?
For starters: as we heard last Sunday, in our Archbishop’s charge… we Christians are increasingly becoming strangers in our society. Fewer and fewer folks in Canada claim to be following our Lord, after many generations where that was simply taken for granted.
Given this change all around us, those of us who continue to follow Jesus Christ as our King, need to know that our neighbours will notice… that moving forward, we will sometimes have to stand out from the crowd in ways that seem strange to those around us.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The key is for us to be strange for the right reasons! To be strange because God’s Kingdom is at work in us… helping us be strangely compassionate… strangely forgiving… strangely gracious, and generous, and faithful, and genuine, just like Jesus.
Whenever we feel vulnerable, there’s always the temptation to do whatever it takes to get the others to like us… or to dig in our heels and hold onto the things we really don’t want to change.
But serving our strange King Jesus means following the one who prayed to His heavenly Father: “Not my will, but Yours be done.” It means committing ourselves to what the Living God is up to… whether or not it seems strange to our neighbours, or even ourselves… which is something we can only do if we’re committed to getting to know our strange King Jesus more and more. As Archbishop David reminded us in his charge:
“Unless I can understand even a little more about God and the way he loves and suffers for his creation, I will never understand God’s mission in God’s world.
Furthermore, unless I come to understand God’s mission, even a little more, I will not understand how we, the Church, are to reflect God in the world; and thereby never know what God is calling us to do.”
I believe that at least part of what God is calling us to do right now is to share in His sufferings.
Another temptation we can face when we feel vulnerable is the temptation to simply avoid pain as much as possible: to hid from the challenges, and difficult choices that self-giving love entails.
But the Kingdom of God is not an escape from the present troubles of the world… it’s actually a way to share in its pain, while still holding onto hope.
St. Luke tells us that one criminal mocked Jesus by demanding that He prove His divine power by delivering them from the suffering of the cross. How often do we expect Jesus to do this for us as well?
The other criminal, we’re told, still believed that Jesus would one day come into His Kingdom… even as He was being crucified next to him… an innocent man, sharing in his sufferings. But instead of expecting an easy out, he simply asks to be remembered. To not be forgotten.
And to this second man, Jesus turns and promises… not to shield him from suffering or pain… but to share, along with their present sufferings, the joys of paradise.
Christ Jesus endured the suffering of the cross because that was where God’s love led Him: to step right into the pain of our broken world, to bring us the joy of God’s new life.
So how can we share in the sufferings of those around us in ways that make known to them the love of God? How might God bring them hope and even joy through our willingness to be present with them in their pain, and not simply look away?
We know God’s salvation is about far more than escaping this earthly life, fleeing to heaven and abandoning our world in its brokenness. Our Saviour King suffered and died, and rose again to bring about it’s transformation and healing. To bring reconciliation, not to help us run away.
And so our Saviour King calls us to trust Him, and not simply to strive for our own survival, but to stay true to Him, and point those around us to their Saviour too. So that, along with us, they may look to Christ and hear Him say: “Truly I tell you… you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
We serve a strange, suffering, saving King who calls us to join Him… to share in His wonderful, holy strangeness… to faithfully endure with Him pains of love in our broken world… and to point towards His saving power most clearly displayed at the cross… the power to defeat death itself, and bring God’s peace to all.
I’ll close now with the words of St. Paul from his letter to the Colossians:
“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:11-14, 19-20).
This is our King, who reigns now and forever. Amen.
 Ben Myers, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism, ed. Todd Hains, Jeff Reimer, and Sarah Awa, Christian Essentials (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 67.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 284.
 David Edwards, The Bishop’s Charge to the 138th Synod of the Diocese of Fredericton (Fredericton, New Brunswick. November 5, 2022).
Scripture Readings: Micah 4:1-5 | Psalm 46 | Romans 12:15-21 | Matthew 5:1-16
[Note: We are being joined this Remembrance Day Sunday by our local Beavers, Cubs, and Scouts groups, which had been a cherished tradition for many years before the outbreak of COVID-19.]
On behalf of everyone here at St. Luke’s Church, I just want to say how great it is to be joined again by you members of our community’s Beaver Colony, Cub Pack, & Scout Troop. We have really missed you these past few years, and we’re looking forward to staying more connected now that the COVID-19 situation in New Brunswick has improved.
You know, a long time ago, far away in Northwestern Ontario, I was once a Beaver, a Cub, and a Scout… although sadly, I never quite made it to the Venturer level. I have many happy memories of camping, hiking, learning all sorts of new skills, making friends, and finding ways to help out in my own community.
As a Scout, I even got the chance to attend the Canadian Jamboree in 1997, or CJ ’97, when it was held in my hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. It was pretty amazing: there were Scouts from all over Canada… from very different communities, and backgrounds, all coming together for an exciting adventure, filled with all sorts of activities and experiences. Of course, a whole lot of work and preparation went into bringing all of these Troops together, but it was amazing to be a part of such a huge gathering, with everyone sharing a common purpose.
As I said, this was all a long time ago, and my memory’s not what it used to be. I wonder if I could get some help from a few of our brave guests:
Could any of our Beavers stand up and tell us all, nice and loud, what the Beaver’s motto is? [“Sharing Sharing Sharing”]
And can any of our Cubs stand up and tell us their motto? [“Do Your Best”]
And same for our Scouts. What is your motto? [“Be Prepared”]
And does anyone know the motto for Venturers? [“Challenge”]
Awesome. Thanks for your help. These are all great words to help guide you, not just when you’re with your fellow Beavers, Cubs, or Scouts… but all through life, as you keep learning and growing, and head out into the wide world on all sorts of adventures. Challenge. Be Prepared. Do Your Best. Sharing Sharing Sharing.
As you know, today we are celebrating Remembrance Day here at St. Luke’s… a day when we remember those who served in the Canadian Armed Forces during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the War in Afghanistan, and in the many Peace Keeping missions that Canada has taken part in.
But Remembrance Day is not about celebrating war… it’s about taking time to honour the many people who faced great danger in war so other people would be kept safe. Some people survived these wars unhurt. Many were wounded, in body, mind, or spirit. And many people died… but in a sense all of them offered their lives as a gift to us: facing incredible challenges… being prepared to put their lives at risk… doing their best to bring these conflicts and wars to an end… all so that our world could once again share in lasting peace.
Remembrance Day is really about remembering the price others paid for our peace… so we can show our gratitude, learn from their examples, and do our best to prevent injustice and war from happening again… and so we can be prepared to face the challenges of our day to help our world share in peace.
The words we read from the Bible this morning have a lot to say to us today about peace… helping to guide those who want to bring peace to everyone.
Our first reading this morning is from the writings of an ancient Hebrew Prophet named Micah: sharing God’s message of hope for His people at a time when they had forgotten God’s guiding words, and gotten themselves far off track.
Sometimes when we get off track, we can get lost and into real trouble… facing dangerous situations and challenges that can be pretty scary if we’re not prepared to handle them.
And in Micah’s day, God’s people were scared too: they were surrounded by lots of dangerous and powerful enemies and armies, and they didn’t know what to do. So God gave Micah a message to share with them to help them find hope, and to find their way back home to Him: that is, to remember to trust God, and know that one day God will sort out all of the wars and conflicts, once and for all, and finally bring us peace. On that day, God says:
“nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more…
and no one shall make them afraid”. (Micah 4:3-4)
Micah reminds us that God’s big plans for our world is to bring peace… not just for one nation, but for all. For everyone.
In our second reading, we heard the words of St. Paul, one of the first Christians, who was writing to other believers in Jesus Christ over two thousand years ago, trying to help them prepare for a whole new way of life… the way that Jesus had taught them to live… which would be challenging, but also play an important part in God’s plan to share peace with everyone.
St. Paul tells them (and us) to share in each others joys and times of sorrow. To live in harmony with each other… to do what is right in the sight of all. And to do our best to try and live in peace with everyone. To “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This connects with our last reading from the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus Himself teaches His followers that the way God wants to bring His peace to the world looks very different from what we might expect: that God is working powerfully through those who we might see as powerless… the poor in spirit, those who are grieving, the meek, those hungry and thirsty for what is right… the merciful… those who are persecuted… and those eager to make peace… These are the people that Jesus says can look forward to the blessings of God’s peace.
Jesus shows us we don’t need to fight fire with fire. We can work to put it out instead by trusting in God’s great love, which guides us and works through us to bring real peace.
Though at times we might feel lost, and scared, and hurt, and powerless, we can trust that God has not left us all alone. We can trust that God loves, and cares for us, and longs for everyone to find His peace, and that everyone has a role to play in bringing real peace to our world.
So may we all be prepared to work for peace.
May we all do our best to resist evil by doing good instead.
May we face the real challenges of our days confident in the hope God gives to the world, even when things seem to be at their worst… so that we can all share in the peace of God’s new life, now and forever. Amen.
Scripture Readings: Daniel 7:1–3, 15–18 | Psalm 149 | Ephesians 1:11–23 | Luke 6:20–31
Who comes to mind when you hear the word “Saint”?
I usually think of people like St. Luke, or St. Paul; the famous evangelists and apostles from the earliest days of the Church.
Or people like St. Patrick, or St. Augustine; Christians who made some significant contributions to spreading the faith, or helping the Church to grow in understanding of the truth of the Gospel.
Or people like St. Teresa of Calcutta, or St. Francis, those who devoted their lives to serving the poor and identifying with those who suffer, in order to share God’s love with them in real and tangible ways.
And it’s clearly for good reasons that the Church has recognized in folks like these the grace of God powerfully at work; shaping and guiding them to face the unique challenges of their days, and to take up their calling as those meant to share in the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. To take their place serving in the Kingdom of God, both now and forever.
But I sometimes wish we didn’t use the word “Saint” in this way… to single out someone we see as special… someone whose connection to Christ’s kingdom appears so exceptional. Not because I doubt that they are saints, but because it makes it seem as though sainthood is only for the exceptional… helping us to forget that to be a saint in the Christian Church is actually meant to be the norm.
I’ll say that again: in the Church, sainthood is norm… the rule, not the exception.
So where did this misconception come from? Why do we see saints as somehow set apart?
Well, it’s all in the name, I suppose.
The word “saint” in the Bible means “holy one”, someone set apart to share in the life of the Living God both forever someday, and in the here and now too. Someone shaped and guided by God’s Kingdom, living in it’s light here on earth as in heaven.
But this is what the Living God has always intended for all of His people! The whole community was to be set apart… together called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Their lives, both alone and together, were meant to share in and show off God’s holy love at work… shining like a beacon in the night, so that the whole world would draw near and be saved. They were to be set apart from the world, as a sign of God’s life and love still at work in the world… as His partners in the great rescue mission meant for everyone.
But somewhere down the line, we’ve come to see saints as those set apart, not from the world, but from the rest of us in the Church! As exceptional heroes of the faith we ‘normal’ Christians can safely admire from a distance, without having to worry about following their examples.
Somehow, we’ve separated ourselves from our saintly brothers and sisters.
Part of the problem, I think, is that our culture in particular sees faith itself as an individual project… simply our preferred way to have our spiritual needs met… which God’s life certainly does… but God’s life at work in us is meant for so much more than meeting our needs! To understand the Christian life the way the Scriptures invite us to challenges the idea that sainthood is something only for the “hardcore believers” to pursue, rather than the basic calling of the whole Christian community.
So, what does it mean for you and I to be numbered among the saints?
Well, first of all… and most important of all we need to remember that holiness is, from first to last, a gift of God! We need to remember that grace is the basis for our whole life with the Living God. That nothing we ourselves bring to the table can make ourselves holy… it’s God work that sanctifies.
And God works with all sorts of unexpected, unlikely, messed up people! People whose lives were just as broken, just as off course, and just as unholy as you could imagine. People who struggle and stumble and sin, and need a Saviour just like the rest of us.
People like St. Paul, who called himself ‘the chief of sinners’, remembering how his passion and religious zeal had turned him into a persecutor of the faithful.
Or people like St. Patrick, who was captured and sold into slavery in a foreign country. Or St. Augustine, a highly educated spiritual seeker, but who was also continually plagued by doubts and a deep sense of guilt.
Or St. Francis, a spoiled, wealthy layabout. Or St. Teresa, who, despite her famed devotion faced years of spiritual darkness and an agonizing sense of distance from God.
Or people like St. Luke… Well, we don’t know all that much about St. Luke’s life… just like the vast number of saints across time, who in their own ways and in their own days were somehow drawn into the Kingdom of God by the Good News of Jesus Christ, which turned their stories around… the Good News that shaped and guided them into every corner of our world, making God’s holy love and saving power known among the nations.
That is, after all the whole point of being a saint: not to get the best seats in heaven… not to impress everyone in the pews, or make a great name for ourselves out in the world, but to make known the Good News of Jesus Christ in all of it’s life-changing glory. It is God’s gift to us in Christ, drawing us into His rescuing story… touching and transforming our lives, and through us, reaching out to the world in holy love.
St. Paul, the self-proclaimed chief of sinners, encountered the forgiveness and grace of God in the face of Jesus the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus… and went on to become a missionary, church planter, and martyr whose efforts to spread the Good News of Jesus to the nations gave us much of the New Testament.
St. Patrick, the slave encountered the freedom of God through his miraculous deliverance from his Irish slave-owners, only to be ordained and return to Ireland as a missionary and bishop, who played a huge role in establishing the Church on the emerald Island, and beyond.
St. Augustine, the bewildered seeker, encountered the light of God through the reading of Scripture and prayer, with years of searching and struggling to know the truth leading to an invitation to believe… and who then spent the rest of his days as a teacher and bishop in a small town in North Africa, yet whose writings have shaped much of what the Church has come to believe, even centuries later.
St. Francis, the spoiled rich kid encountered the riches of God in giving away all he had, and taking up the life of a poor wanderer, embodying humility, compassion, simplicity, and faith in a way that inspired many others to reject selfishness, vanity, greed, and pride.
St. Teresa, who spent years without feeling the consolation of God’s closeness, encountered the presence of God in the lives of those she served, and she refused to give in to despair and doubt… remaining devoted to Christ, and sharing His love with those most unloved and ignored by the world… trusting in God’s holy love, even when she could not feel that love for herself.
And St. Luke, who is most known to us not for his own story, but for helping the world to hear the story of Jesus Christ our Saviour… helping us to encounter the one who was born to bring God’s Kingdom to life once and for all through His own death at the cross, and resurrection… rescuing us through the gift of His body and blood to make us holy united to Him.
And united in Him. Not just a collection of scattered saints, but a holy whole body… one family, one communion… together filled with the fulness of His resurrection life.
Jesus Christ is still at work in His people, in His saints… the ones He makes holy… set apart to be filled with His saving life… to be shaped and guided by His holy love, and to share it with everyone… even with those who seem to be working against God’s good Kingdom.
Which brings us to another important part of what it means to be a saint… a part of the holy people of God: it means choosing to stay true to Christ in the midst of a dangerous world, where we will have our share of suffering, rejection, and even apparent defeat.
Remember Daniel’s vision from our first reading today… where brutal, vicious nations are depicted as monstrous beasts rising up in violence against one another, and terrorizing God’s people.
There have been so many examples of this happening in our history… and even today, with the wicked seizing power, and eagerly crushing the innocent. Sadly, even the Church has not been immune to the allure of violent oppression. We too can easily side with the beastly powers at work in the world.
But remember too what was also revealed to Daniel: “the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18). The time of the beasts will come to an end, but the saints will endure forever.
And how do these saints, theses holy ones receive the promised Kingdom? Are we to rise up and destroy these beastly powers at work in the world by force? No. No.
We receive the Kingdom through faithfulness… through being true to the Holy One who Himself has won the victory.
Our reading today from Daniel skipped over a few important verses, but we find the sure foundation of all our hope here in Daniel 7:13-14.
“As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.”
Our hope is in Jesus Christ the Holy Son of God, and Son of Man who gave His life to be trampled and crushed by the beasts in all their rage and fury at the cross, and who conquered them once and for all through His resurrection… disarming the dreadful power of sin and death forever… for us, and for the world. Forgiving even those who took part in His betrayal and crucifixion, and paving the way for anyone to come to Him and be transformed by His holy love.
And so, our Holy Saviour Jesus Christ gives us the gift of holiness to be like Him… to take on His life of holy love, and put it into practice… revealing to us what it looks like now to reign in God’s Kingdom forever:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:20-23, 27-31).
This is not the exceptional, optional path for a handful of spiritual over-achievers to take on… this is the rule… the way of Christ, His gift to us to make us holy like Him.
It’s no surprise that God’s people today face many struggles, in our own lives and in our communities… but we’re called to face these struggles faithfully, filled with the grace of God given to us by Jesus Christ in all it’s fullness through His Holy Spirit at work in us… living lives set apart that stand out… simply because they have been shaped and guided by God’s holy love.
Today on the Feast of All Saints we remember our holy brothers and sisters of the past, and how God’s grace was given to each of them in Jesus Christ, shaping and guiding them all in different ways to share in the life of God’s Kingdom here and now, and forever.
But we are called to remember that this is our story too! That all those who are in Christ Jesus, who have believed in Him, received His gift of life, and have given our lives to Him in return, are called to be His holy people: shaped and guided by His grace to take up our part in the story of the Gospel… the Good News of God’s saving love.
How has God’s grace encountered you and I? What ways has it shaped and guided our stories? What ways are we being called today to embody God’s holy love? How can we help one another to faithfully share in Christ’s Kingdom life among the saints?
I’ll end now with these words from St. Paul’s letter to the saints in Ephesus: “I 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.” Amen.
Freed from Pride, Bound By Love - Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost (October 23, 2022)
Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 14:7–10, 19–22 | Psalm 84:1–7 | 2 Timothy 4:6–8, 16–18 | Luke 18:9–14
“all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14).
In our parable today from Luke’s Gospel, God’s word brings to mind a familiar theme that runs right through the entire Biblical story: the contrast between Pride and Humility… and the story of which one will end up on top in the end.
It's a story we’ve heard many times before. One that has grabbed and even saturated our culture’s imagination… found in just about every novel, and drama, and narrative we create, a story we even expect to play out in real life as well as fiction. After all, pride comes before the fall. And who doesn’t cheer for the underdog?
But as familiar, and even cliché as this simple message may seem, it’s still needed today. The temptations to take the path of pride are certainly as potent as ever, with one strong example being the way so many engage online.
One of the simplest ways that pride is fed by social media is through how it encourages people to ‘self-brand’… to market themselves… to treat their online profiles like a constant advertisement, only revealing what we want others to see… the best pictures of ourselves… only perfect family photos… striving to make it look like we have it all together, all of the time… all the while hiding the messiness of life off camera, where no one can see. No one, except the people we actually share our lives with day to day.
Another way pride shows up online is through something called “virtue signaling”, where people make a point of showing off their ‘goodness’ in public to build up their reputation.
And consider “cancel culture”, the practice of publicly shaming those we feel don’t deserve any more attention… cutting off those we deem unworthy for the wrongs they have done in society’s, or our eyes.
In all these ways, people today are pushed into constantly comparing ourselves to each other… to figure out who’s in and who’s out… who measures up, and who’s best left behind.
Of course, all this has been around a long time, in one form or the other. Our online technologies and practices have just amplified and nurtured what was always at work in the human heart. But this online world is the world young people are growing up in. They’re breathing in this online atmosphere that they did not create for themselves… it was handed to them… created for, and basically forced upon them. No wonder so many of them are struggling, when this is the world as they have known it: only show other’s your perfect side, and don’t dare step out of line.
Do they have anywhere that they can be truly known, accepted, and loved? Would they even know where to look for it?
I know that many of us probably don’t spend that much time online, or worrying about social media, or self-branding, or cancel-culture. But this online world is just an amplification of this broken world we all inhabit. The world we have all had a hand in creating and breaking. The world we are handing onto future generations even now.
It's easy for us to look down on those who have very different experiences of life than we do. To dismiss or disparage those who have temptations and struggles that we will likely never know, or have to overcome. Lots of folks look down on young people today without a second thought for what they’re dealing with every day… the fears, the pressures, the uncertainty, and isolation and temptations we’ve never had to face.
And there are all sorts of folks that we do the same things to: people with struggles, and failures, and fights far beyond our experiences… people with stories we’ll likely never know, that we just dismiss as unworthy.
After reading our Gospel this morning, maybe we’re tempted to look down on that Pharisee? Have we ever wanted to say “God, I’m so glad I’m not like those self-righteous jerks?”
We can look down on anyone. We can tear down anyone in our hearts. So who are we tempted to look down upon today? Who are the people or groups that we find it easy to disregard?
Maybe we’re tempted the most to look down on ourselves… to see ourselves only with contempt. If we do, we’re certainly not alone. So many today are just about consumed with self-loathing and shame, hidden in all sorts of ways. Despising the person they see in the mirror more than anybody else.
And sadly, this self-contempt is sometimes held out as the cure for pride… the antidote for self-righteousness, some claim, is to hate yourself instead. For some of us, this is a much stronger temptation than looking down on those around us. But far from being the way to life, this self-hatred brings only more burdens.
Yet the Good News we hear in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who speaks to us in this parable today, seeks to set us free from the chains of contempt and pride… and show us another way. A way open to anyone who will truly seek it. To catch a glimpse of this way, let’s take a closer look at today’s parable, where Jesus invites his hearers to imagine two people approaching the Temple of God: one a Pharisee, and the other, a tax collector.
In that culture, it would have been perfectly clear to everyone who would be the hero of this story. The Pharisees were the moral standard bearers of their day, the ones who were by far the most devoted to doing what was right. And this Pharisee it seems is on the right track… and he knows it. So, coming to God’s Holy Temple, he thanks the Lord that he is such a good person.
And yet, Jesus tells us that something is deeply off with this Pharisee’s standing in God’s eyes. Something is standing in the way between him and the Lord.
Turning now to the obvious villain: the tax collector, infamous not only for taking people’s money, but for giving it to their Roman overlords. Tax collectors were seen as collaborators with those oppressing God’s people, and were often able to profit personally by taking more than their fare share for themselves. Right from the start, we know he’s no good. He’s chosen the way of selfish greed over his own community. If there’s anyone unworthy of our concern, surely it’s him.
And he knows it.
In contrast to the Pharisee, Christ paints this picture:
(Luke 18:13) “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!’”.
He knows he’s made wrong choices. He knows he’s gone down the wrong path in life, wronged his neighbours and disgraced himself in their eyes. He knows it all. But he does not sit alone with his self-hatred… as hard as it must have been, he draws as near to the Holy Temple of God as he could… deeply aware of his very real faults and failures, weighed down with guilt and shame… he humbly asks for help. He asks for mercy. He pleads with God for forgiveness… not based on his own goodness, but based on faith… trusting that the Lord of all must know what’s right, and yet still might have mercy on a sinner like him.
And Jesus tells us that his prayer for mercy is heard in heaven, and he is forgiven. That amazingly this tax collector’s standing with God is on better terms than the Pharisee who did all the right things, but who only though about his own reputation. The lowly sinner is set free by God’s mercy, which was freely given to him.
This is the point of the parable: not just the general downside of pride, or the virtue of humility, but that the Living God is truly merciful to those who seek His help, and that God will not play along with those who seek only to puff themselves up with pride. It is God Himself who declares that “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14), which is both a warning and invitation for us all to not go along with the prideful patterns and habits of our world, but to turn to Him and place our trust in His mercy and faithfulness alone. Whether we’ve kept our noses clean… or completely messed up our stories, we are all invited to be set free of the chains of contempt and be bound by His saving love instead.
Bound by His love.
That’s the freedom we need: freedom from fear… freedom from having to present the perfect self-image… freedom that comes from knowing we’re truly known, even the worst parts of ourselves, and yet still forgiven… still wanted… still welcomed. Bound by love.
Guarded and guided by God’s merciful love.
This is what Jesus Christ was up to all along: making the merciful love of the Living God known and available to us all. This is why He healed the sick and raised the dead, and ate with outcasts and sinners: making it clear by His teachings and actions that no one was too far gone for God’s great mercy to reach them.
This mercy led Him to take up His cross and face the full weight of our broken world… and to bare it Himself. To be publicly rejected and utterly shamed for all to see; the righteous Son of God humbling himself to the point of death on a cross. We held him in complete contempt, yet God raised Jesus from the dead and crowned Him in glory… exalting Jesus the Risen Lord to His Father’s side to reign forever.
And He did this all for us! To share His glorious life with our broken world… to spread God’s healing, forgiving, and freeing power through the Spirit at work in the lives of His people… not because we’ve got everything right… not because we’ve picked ourselves up… but simply because we have believed in Christ’s great mercy given once and for all at the cross.
In Jesus we’ve come to believe in the saving power of God’s love. Pride and contempt only get in the way of sharing this love… with ourselves, with each other, and with all those around us who desperately need it today.
So how can we actively work towards saying yes to God’s love, and no to our pride? Or to our temptations to look down on some of our neighbours who God has called us to love?
One way would be for us to learn to listen. To simply let others tell their stories, share their experiences, and work through their struggles without dismissing their concerns, or looking down on them for their choices, even when we don’t agree.
In other words, we can learn with the Holy Spirit’s help to look at others, and even ourselves, through Jesus’ eyes… through the eyes of His love… eyes that can see clearly that all of us are broken by sin, that we all need to receive mercy and help to turn back to God with all of our hearts. Eyes that looked out at those who were eagerly calling for His unjust death, and yet saw in them God’s own beloved children… whom He was willing to die for.
So may the merciful love of God we’ve come to know in Jesus Christ bind us, and keep us from falling to pride and contempt. And may his merciful love guide all we do, at St. Luke’s and beyond.
I’ll end now with the words of a well-beloved hymn:
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 31:27–34 | Psalm 119:97–104 | 2 Timothy 3:14–4:5 | Luke 18:1–8
Today our parish remembers and celebrates the life and ministry of our patron Saint, St. Luke the Evangelist: who is most well known as the author of the Gospel account that bears his name, which carefully tells the story of the Good News of Jesus Christ, and how this message of hope began to spread… a story that continues to unfold in St. Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles, which highlights how God’s Holy Spirit fills the first believers after the resurrection of Jesus, empowering them at Pentecost to share in God’s New Life in a whole new way… to experiencing it’s transforming grace for themselves, and striving to share it with the wider world.
In short, St. Luke tells the story of Jesus Christ and His Church. He tells us our story… inviting us to believe in the Good News and New Life the Living God is offering us, and to let this story guide and shape our lives.
That is, after all, what the best stories do: they invite us to see everything differently. To recognizes how our own lives fit into the narrative, and to let it guide our choices and actions in the light of its message.
Of course, we can choose not to let even the best stories effect us in these ways. We can let the words we hear go in one ear and out the other, without allowing them to take root in our hearts or our imaginations. We can read them, and leave them there on the page. We can memorize them, but still refuse to engage with their deeper meaning.
In other words, we need more than mere words. We need true inspiration.
Our Scripture readings today all help tell this story… and they invite us to engage with more than mere words, but with the One who has spoken through them, and who is still speaking to us today.
Our first reading this morning from the book of the prophet Jeremiah contains the promise of God to make a New Covenant with Israel and Judah. Their first Covenant confirmed at Mt. Sinai, had been the grounds for their unique relationship with Yahweh, the Living God; clarifying for everyone what it would mean for this nation to share in the New Life that God had prepared for them: being set apart to live in the light of God’s faithful love.
They all knew the story… how God had rescued them, and led them to a New Land, and a New Life… but time and again, they kept on refusing to let that story sink in… to take root in their hearts and minds, and guide their actions and choices. And so, time and again, they found themselves wandering away from their Lord. This led them into all sorts of trouble, including in Jeremiah’s day, to the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, and exile out of the Promised Land.
But even as this bleak fate loomed large over God’s unfaithful people, the Lord remained faithful to them… longing to draw them back to Himself so they could find life again… offering hope that one day God Himself would repair their shattered relationship, and open a whole new way for them to take part in His saving story.
Jeremiah 31:33-34 - “this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
God will write His own Law on their hearts… so they can truly be His people, and He their God… so they all will know Him… and know the power of His forgiveness and love.
This is moving far beyond what mere words can accomplish. God is promising here to pour out His grace on His stubborn and sinful people, and turn their hearts back to Him. To bring them His own life-giving power, able to work within His people to will and to do what is truly pleasing in His sight. To move beyond a written code and towards a living faith… a story to trust in, and live by, based on the rescuing love of God that they would all come to know intimately.
In short, God promised to share His own life with them. To draw them near to Himself, grounding their hope in His faithful love.
This beautiful promise began to be fulfilled at Pentecost, with the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit on the first disciples, empowering them to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Risen Son of God, who through His life, death, and resurrection accomplished God’s ultimate act of saving love: atoning for, not only Israel’s sins, but for the sins of the whole world. In Jesus, not only was God drawing one nation near to Himself to share His New Life with them, God was at work opening wide the way for all nations to enter His Kingdom. What had once been a story known by one community, one family was now being proclaimed to all: in Jesus, the Living God has given His life to rescue Israel, and everyone else.
This is our story, which St. Luke longed for us to learn, and live by, and which the Living God is still at work in, speaking to us today.
Turning now to our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, we hear the Apostle urging His fellow believer to delve deeply into this story: 2 Timothy 3:14-15 - “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The sacred writings, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, (at that time referring to the Old Testament, as many of the books of the New Testament were not yet written). Though Timothy had learned their words as a child, St. Paul knew they are essential for every stage of the life of faith, instructing us regarding the salvation of God Christ came to bring.
But St. Paul goes on to say that these stories and writings are not simply words on a page: “All scripture is inspired by God”, he writes in verse 16. “God-breathed” is another way to put it. The Living God who created the universe, from the smallest atom to the largest star, had His careful hand in the formation of these writings too… working through those who had come to know Him, and His story… taking up their human words and making them into true instruments of His grace… making them a means of receiving His grace… as God’s own word to us.
But being “God-breathed”, or “inspired” is not just about their origins and creation by God’s grace, it’s also about how God is still at work through them speaking to us today.
And it’s meant to do something! Or rather, God does something with it: He shapes us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 -
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
All of Scripture is God’s tool, to teach, correct, and train us… to equip us to carry on the mission that Christ Jesus has called us into… the mission of God to reconcile the world.
Sometimes we can treat the Bible like it is our tool… pulling out the verses that suit our purpose, and trying to convince others, or ourselves, that we’re the ones who are on the right track. People use Scripture to justify all sorts of things, to build up their status, and tear down their rivals… most of us use it without ever wondering what it’s really all about. St. Paul faced this, even in his day, warning Timothy that "the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4). How true are these words today?
What better description of our so-called “post-truth” world?
The answer for St. Paul’s, back then and today, is the same: stay true to the true story! Stick to and share the message! Don’t get pulled off track by distractions, or dishonest desires. The Good News of Jesus proclaimed all throughout the Holy Scriptures is God’s gift to us, and as we learn to live by this sacred story, with lives shaped more and more by the Bible, God’s Spirit will be at work preparing us to faithfully share in His New Life here and now, and forever. Stay true to the true story, for that is where God is at work.
But just like every means of grace, it’s not always clear in the moment how God is at work… or what the final result of receiving this gift will be. Some of us have been reading the Bible for ages, but still struggle to make sense of it. Some of us have been wounded by someone else using the Scriptures against us like a weapon. Sometimes, even those of us who long to know God more deeply find time reading His word draining, confusing, or dry.
Sometimes it’s a real act of faith to flip through it’s pages.
An act of faith. So much of the Christian life comes down to this: choosing to believe. To persevere. To not give up, especially when it seems we’re not getting anywhere. Which brings us back to St. Luke, and the words of Jesus we heard from his Gospel today, where our Lord offers a parable to teach us “to pray always and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
In this parable, Jesus portrays an unjust judge: someone entrusted with maintaining justice and doing what’s right for all, but who really couldn’t care less about what God or anyone else might want. Whether led by corruption, self-centredness, or just plain apathy and laziness, this judge refuses to do anything when a poor widow brings her case before him. And yet, because of the sheer persistence of the widow, the unjust judge gives in and grants her justice.
But the point of the parable isn’t that God is like the unjust judge, and that we just need to pester Him to make Him care enough to hear our prayers. The point is that God is nothing like the unjust judge! The God we see in the Scriptures cares deeply for us all: for the oppressed, the lonely, the heartbroken and powerless… as well as for those who are strong, healthy, and whole. The God of the Bible cares deeply about justice being done for all: about the proud and wicked being disarmed, and the humble being lifted up.
Christ’s point is that if even an unjust judge will be moved by persistent petitions, how much more will the Living God respond to those who keep calling on Him in prayer?
This parable is a call to faith. To not give up praying, even when it seems that God does not answer, trusting in His faithful love to see us through to the end.
And as with prayer, so with reading Scripture. We are called to trust that God is at work in us as we read His word. To trust that God actually wants to speak to His people. That He longs for us to know Him better… to share in His New Life… to have a living faith, not mere words alone.
We are invited to keep reading the Bible as an act of faithful prayer and devotion… drawing near to the Lord as we seek to learn about who He has shown Himself to be, both in the story of Israel, and especially in the life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ His Son.
We are invited to read, expecting Him to do something with this story… even when it might not seem that way… even when it may not feel like much is happening… trusting that He actually wants us to know Him… to come to know Him, and share in His eternal life… and that His Spirit will be at work in these words to bring His life within us.
Reading the Bible is a means of receiving God’s mysterious and life-changing grace, so don’t give up on it! And don’t just settle for Sundays. In Church, as we gather for worship, we catch glimpses bit by bit, passages from here and there, which is a good place to start, but this practice of worship is meant to support a life soaked in God’s story, not as a replacement for it. And there are all sorts of ways we can all delve more deeply into it’s beautiful truth.
We can read it with others… with a Bible Study group, with our family or friends.
We can read it alone… in times of prayer, slowly listening to each sentence.
We can read it quickly, in large portions all at once, like a novel… getting a broader picture of its scope.
We can read it with the help of guides, tools, studies, and commentaries, benefitting from the insights of those who have spent their lives exploring these words before us.
Above all, we can read it in faith, trusting that God will be at work within us, and through us… so that the Good News of Jesus Christ may take root in our hearts, and shape our lives, preparing us to take our part in telling the world what has been first told to us by people like St. Luke: that in the ultimate act of faithful love, the Living God has come to us in Jesus Christ to bring His New Life to all who will believe.
So, stay true to the true story. It’s how God’s going to change the world for good. Amen.
This week we remembered and celebrated our patron Saint, St. Luke the Evangelist, well known as the author of the Gospel that bears his name, and it's sequel, the Book of Acts.
For a visual overview of the story St. Luke offers us, check out this collection of videos exploring the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts put out by the Bible Project.
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, & Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1–11 | Psalm 100 | Philippians 4:4–9 | John 6:25–35
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35).
One of the pictures that comes to mind most often when I think about Thanksgiving has to be the food: the family meals where we’d all share delicious dinners together… eating until we were well satisfied, and then some… stuffed with all sorts of tasty treats and traditional recipes.
Now that I’m a bit older, I’ve come to appreciate these meals even more because I’ve come to understand a bit more about just how much work actually went into preparing them. As a child, I’d just show up and eat. All was made ready for us kids just to receive. It was all a big gift, a labour of love from those who put in all of the effort to share it… in the hopes that all who were gathered around the table would enjoy this time together.
But as wonderful and plentiful as all those Thanksgiving dinners have been… eventually, we’d always be hungry again. Usually, not right away of course. But eventually, the delicious tastes in our mouths would fade. The feelings of fullness would give way to familiar needs for another meal. And eventually we’d have to look for another source of sustenance.
In our Scripture readings today from Deuteronomy and the Gospel of John, we’re invited to reflect on the saving sustenance offered to us by the Living God, and on the kind of response most fitting for those who would receive it.
The Book of Deuteronomy is a series of speeches that takes place with the people of Israel on the borders of the Promised Land… in sight of the beautiful end of the road their whole community had been heading towards for 40 years… a prosperous land unlike any that they had known… a land that God had promised to their ancestors, and had miraculously now led them to.
As we know from the book of Exodus, their parent’s had all been slaves in Egypt… without a homeland or a life of their own, but the Living God had seen their sufferings, and had mercy on them, and set them free in an act of care and compassion. Doing for them, something they could never do for themselves.
God had then led and sustained them through the long years in the wilderness… a journey made much longer as their parents kept on wandering away from the LORD in their hearts, and chasing after their own destructive desires.
It had been a rough road, alright. But now by God’s grace they were finally about to enter the land… to finally find rest. Peace. Freedom. To begin a New Life together as a gift of God.
And so the Book of Deuteronomy is largely about getting ready for this New Life, and how to live faithfully with God and with one another in the Promised Land… including the kinds of practices and traditions that will keep them on track.
The ceremony described in our reading today is one of those practices, and at it’s heart it’s really a way of giving thanks to God… of offering back the first portion of the gift they had received… the first produce from the ground in the new life God had given them. They were not offering what was left over, but off the top, so to speak… as an act of trust that God would continue providing in the days to come.
And when this first-fruits offering was brough before the LORD, the giver was then to recall and retell the story of God’s faithfulness, mercy, and care for their ancestors. How God took “a wandering Aramean”, Abraham, and made from him a whole new community. How God rescued them from slavery in Egypt “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm”, and provided for them, bringing them into “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Honouring the Living God as their people’s Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, they would give back a portion of what God had first given them… which was everything. Everything. This sacred ceremony reminded the Israelites that everything they had was a gift from God. Absolutely everything.
Why would this be important? What did God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all that is want with this little offering? These humble baskets of food from His people? Well, their offerings were a way to show with their outward lives what was going on in their hearts: a response to His gracious gift of faithful love with gratitude. Not as a token gesture, or merely a duty devoid of deeper meaning… but as a tangible way to draw near to Him, as a child draws near to a beloved parent: with sincere trust, wholehearted fellowship, and eager to share in each other’s joy. God gave Israel a way to cultivate gratitude, stirring up in them a hunger for faithful communion with Him, and with their neighbours!
We know this because of what they were to do with the gift that they brought to the LORD: they were supposed to have a party! To share a special, joy-filled meal… not only with their friends and family, and Levites, those who served in the Tabernacle… but also with “the alien”, or the foreigner in their midst… the people from other nations who had become part of their lives. Just as the Living God had mercy on their ancestors when they were aliens in foreign lands, Israel was now meant to show mercy and share what they had with strangers in their midst.
In short, God wanted His people to practice gratitude and joyful fellowship with everyone around them, sharing with them what they had first received from His hands.
And this is still God’s heart for His people today: to stir up within us a grateful and joy-filled response to His own great gift of love, so that we will draw near together and share this with all those around us too.
Drawing near to God’s Table today for Eucharist, a Greek word literally meaning ‘thanksgiving’… we have been given our own ceremony where we are invited to remember all that God has done for us… where we get to respond to the New Life that God has given to us… gathering with friends, and neighbours, and even strangers to celebrate God’s grace and faithfulness… doing for us what we could never do for ourselves… in fact, doing far more than we could have ever asked of imagined.
As our reading from John’s Gospel today reminds us, the real gift that the Living God is offering to us is so much greater than we can wrap our heads around… but it’s also what we truly need to find New and Lasting Life.
Our scene from John’s Gospel takes place the day after a miracle: Jesus had fed a crowd of thousands by giving thanks, then breaking, multiplying, and sharing a small lunch of bread and fish. Jesus had been pursued by crowds of His fellow Jews, the one branch of the Israelite family still dwelling in the Promised Land, who were hungry to experience the New Life He was bringing about. Worn down by life’s many pressures and burdens, physical, social, and spiritual… many came to hear Him speak, and to receive healing and find freedom at His hands. They followed Him far from the cities and villages where food could be found, and so moved with compassion, Jesus provided more than enough food to satisfy their stomachs… calling to mind God’s own miraculous care for their ancestors as they traveled through the wilderness /on the way to the Promised Land.
Jesus had just fed the crowd, and they wanted more. And Jesus wanted to give them more. Just not in the way they expected: not just with more bread, or fish, or food, but with more Life… with a share in the life of the Living God… offered to them once and for all as the ultimate gift… that is, His own life.
Jesus said to the crowd: “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:26–27).
The crowd saw Jesus as someone who could get them what they wanted: healing, hope… satisfied physical hunger. Christ could, and did give them all those things, but that was not all, or even the most important things He had come to bring to His people. He came to share with them God’s own eternal life.
How often do we follow the crowd’s lead and just come to Jesus to give us what we want? Expecting Him to basically be there to satisfy our hungers?
Of course, Jesus does care about our needs. He can and does provide for His people, graciously sustaining us in all sorts of surprising ways. But just like a special family dinner is not merely about filling stomachs, but about drawing near together in fellowship, sharing in much more than food, Christ came not simply to satisfy our desires, but to bring us the gift of communion with the Living God… of unending fellowship with our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, which is the only gift that will fully satisfy forever.
In the light of this gift, what kind of response does God want from us? The confused crowd chasing after Jesus in John’s Gospel asked the same thing: “Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:28-29).
Believe in Jesus… trust in Him… entrust our very lives, our broken pasts, our shaky presents, and our uncertain futures, to the One the Living God has sent to save the world. Trust, not only with words, or ceremonies, but with our lives shaped and guided by that trust.
And God wants us to place our trust in Jesus, His Son, because this is the true path to New Life… to sharing in God’s own divine Triune fellowship. To look back and remember all that Christ Jesus has done for us, especially in giving His own body to be broken at the cross, and to see in Him the true bread of heaven sent to sustain, satisfy, and save once, and for all time.
As we gather today, just as we have done many times before around Christ’s Table, remembering the gift of His life, His death, and His resurrection… receiving His invitation to commune through Him with our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer… as well as with all those, here present and around the world and across the ages, who also belong to Him… let us respond with thankful hearts. Let us remember that all we have is a gift, meant to draw us nearer to God, the Great Gift Giver. Let us remember that we are invited to share what we have received from Christ with those in our lives. Let us trust Him in tangible ways, inside and out, confident in His compassion and care. And let us continue to come to Him and find in Him New Life. Amen.
 Deuteronomy 26:5. All Scripture passages are from the NRSV.
 Deuteronomy 26:8.
 Deuteronomy 26:9.
Scripture Readings: Lamentations 1:1–6 | Psalm 137 | 2 Timothy 1:1–14 | Luke 17:5–10
How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal (Lamentations 1:1).
For a lot of folks, this has been a pretty heavy week.
Our neighbours to the East in Atlantic Canada have been dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Fiona; many places are still without power, and many lives have been completely upended, as homes and businesses were blown away by the waters and the winds.
Then came hurricane Ian, striking the island of Cuba with terrifying force, and causing horrendous damage there before slamming into Florida, South Carolina, and other Southern States. Again, many places in the storm's path were simply destroyed… lives were shaken to the core, or lost completely… with whole communities uncertain of how to rebuild and carry on.
These two storms were heavy enough, but this past week also gave us cause to remember that we humans can be just as brutal as the winds and the waves.
This week we also witnessed a big escalation in the war between Ukraine and Russia, with Russia now claiming control of large swaths of Eastern Ukraine through rigged votes, and threatening to use all necessary force to hold onto the territory they seized. These past seven months, we’ve already seen so much devastation in that conflict… cities leveled… civilians and soldiers alike viciously slain. And this same kind of story has played out so many times throughout our history… as we humans, created in God’s own image, to tend and care for each other and God’s good world, become instead agents of de-creation… and evil.
And this week, we were also reminded that evil and devastation don’t just take shape on battlefields far away… our own country has had its share in the spreading of desolation. This Friday was the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day set aside to reckon with the legacy of how indigenous peoples had so much of their lives and cultures stripped away by Canadian institutions and society… particularly in the practice of forcing First Nations children into residential schools, specifically designed to erase their traditional ways of life… and where they also faced incredible cruelty and abuse… often in the name of God.
(The Scream, by Kent Monkman)
As painful, and as shameful as this part of our story is, it needs to be told… and re-told… remembered… and brought into the light… in order to bring its evil to an end… in the hopes of finding a better way forward for everyone.
Like I said, this week was a heavy reminder of the devastation and de-creation of God’s good world at work in all sorts of ways. What should be said in response to a week like this?
Well, this morning, as we gather to worship the Living God, and hear His word to us, I’m sure we’ve noticed we’ve had some heavy Scripture readings to receive… especially the reading from Lamentations and Psalm 137.
Yet as heavy, as pain-filled, and shocking as these passages are, they remain God’s Good News, His gift to us… intended for days and weeks like these. Offering us not an escape or evasion of evil… but a path to take to endure it, leading us through the darkness and into the light of life.
The first step on this path is a clear commitment to the truth… to facing reality, as painful or as frightening as it may be. Sometimes we can be tempted to just try and deny the darkness… to just put on a happy face, and pretend that everything’s fine. Sometimes this temptation can be quite strong in the Church, when we think that believing the Good News means that real troubles won’t come our way.
But the Scriptures don’t offer a vision of life where the faithful are immune to trouble… or one in which the Living God is unmoved by our suffering. No, we’re given, again and again, the promise that God goes with us into the deepest abyss… and through the darkest night. He walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death, as the Psalmist reminds us… but more than that, He also raises us up out from its frightful grip… not giving us, as St. Paul says: “a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). In short, even in the most pressing and painful circumstances, the way forward isn’t to deny or ignore, or downplay the devastation at work around, or even within us… but to be honest about it with the Living God, our Saviour.
This is what we see at work in our first reading today from the book of Lamentations, a series of poems written in the aftermath of the downfall of Jerusalem. In our reading today, we heard the expressions of anguish and grief over the destruction of the Holy City at the hands of the brutal armies of Babylon. Jerusalem had become the last bastion of refuge for God’s people, surrounded by great and hostile empires on all sides, and with Jerusalem’s end so too seemed to end the promises God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to all of their descendants. For Jews, it seemed like the end of the world… with no future, and no way home again.
Perhaps we have had times in our lives like this… when everything stable seems to have been ripped away from us, leaving us lost, bowed down low with grief. Lamentations invites us to bring even our broken hearts to God… to be completely honest with Him, even as our world is falling apart.
The devastating fall of Jerusalem was the same wellspring from which Psalm 137 drew its bitter waters… with unspeakable grief turned into cries of fury against cruel conquerors. This Psalm is deeply unsettling with its graphic and horrific imagery… but coming as it does from the depths of despair, it’s not meant to be easy to hear. It’s the heartfelt expression of Jewish exiles wishing that what had just happened to them would to be done to their captors… calling for God’s justice to be done to those who had just mercilessly slain their children.
And remember, this is not a call to arms… it is a prayer… the pouring out of someone’s heart to God, and yet also inspired by God’s own life-giving Spirit.
In the book Hard Sayings of the Bible, one scholar makes the point that “These invocations are not mere outbursts of a vengeful spirit; they are, instead, prayers addressed to God. These earnest pleadings to God ask that he step in and right some matters so grossly distorted that if his help does not come, all hope for justice is lost.”
Where do we turn to when our grief turns into fury? When we are unable to contain our outrage at injustice, done to ourselves or to others?
Along with Lamentations, this Psalm is a gift to us… inviting us even in those extreme moments to turn our eyes and our cries to God… reminding us that even in when facing our most intense suffering and anguish, we can still be real with the Lord… we can come to Him, bearing every ounce of the weight we are carrying… calling on Him to do what is right, and trusting Him to not let evil go unchecked forever.
All this is the first step on the path: honesty… commitment to the truth… with ourselves, with those around us, and especially with God, who gives us space to grieve… and sacred words to pray that point us to His outstretched arms, calling us to trust in Him even when we must walk through the darkness.
So what is the next step, then?
Here’s where we turn to our Gospel reading.
At first, this passage seems like an abstract lesson about the power of faith, followed by some confusing statements about slaves simply doing what they’re told. It’s hard to see what’s going on here, and how it fits into the Good News.
Again, this passage makes much more sense when we see its larger setting and context, but for some strange reason, the lectionary cuts off the first half of this episode. That’s frustrating because it’s the first five verses of Luke Chapter 17 that set up the whole conversation, and help us get our heads around what Christ is saying to His disciples, back then and today. It's a heavy message, but one that is at the very heart of the Gospel.
After a series of confrontations with those who were claiming to be close to God, yet were opposing Christ’s ministry, Luke 17:1-2 says this: “Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”
Speaking to His followers, Christ warns them about causing little ones to stumble. How can we not call to mind all the indigenous children devastated by those claiming to be doing God’s will? Or the countless other examples of the weakest and most vulnerable of our society being exploited or abused? Clearly, these sins have no place in the Kingdom Christ came to bring.
Jesus continues in verse 3: “Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender…” No cover-ups. No downplaying abuse. If a fellow Christian sins, Christ tells us, we are to rebuke them. This isn’t about shaming people, but about honesty… integrity… commitment to the truth. Cultivating a community where things aren’t covered up, or dismissed, but dealt with. How much damage and devastation that has been done in the name of Christ would never have happened, or would have been stopped much sooner if we had just heeded His words?
But as important as all this is, Jesus has even more to say. Verses 3-4: “If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”
It's to these words… this radical call to the way of forgiveness that makes the disciples respond: “Increase our faith!” They’re struggling to wrap their heads around this way of life… commitment to truth and to forgiveness, again and again and again.
And Jesus picks up on their resistance… their hesitancy to walk down this path He is leading them on. He responds to their call for more faith by pointing out that the amount of their faith is not the problem. As N.T. Wright puts it, in this passage Jesus gives us “one of the great lessons of Christian living: you don’t need great faith, you need faith in a great God… the stress is on the extraordinary power of God when invoked even by apparently tiny faith.” Lack of faith was not the issue. Lack of commitment to following God’s way of forgiveness was the real obstacle. Which helps make sense of what Christ says in the rest of our reading today.
The image of slaves at work would have made plenty of sense within their ancient context. Jesus is not advocating for the institution of slavery, He is using a common example of someone who is clearly not free to go their own way, and do whatever they like, but must follow another’s command. “Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?” Christ says to His followers. The obvious answer in their day would be no. They’re just doing what’s expected. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just like a soldier is simply expected to follow proper orders as a matter of course, Christ is pointing out that if we claim to be following Him, then we must go where He leads us.
In this case that means, alongside truthfulness, practicing forgiveness is simply the basic, bedrock, ordinary pattern of life for Christians. It may be heavy. It certainly is hard work. It may take all that’s in us, and more, but it’s not really optional. Forgiveness is central to God’s Kingdom.
That said, a few caveats: First of all, the call to forgive those who repent and actually turn from their sin is directed to us. We are to forgive those who wrong us. We don’t get to turn this around and demand that other people forgive us.
Sometimes people twist Christ’s call to forgive into a kind of weapon to help them keep getting away with hurting the people in their lives. They might say “I’ve said I’m sorry, so you have to forgive me!” But those who would misuse Christ’s call to practice forgiveness in this way should well remember what He said about those who cause “these little ones” to stumble.
At a less intense level, it’s important to remember that forgiveness is not a switch that we flip on or off, just like it’s not simply a feeling either. It is a choice, a commitment to let go of our resentment and our claim for revenge against the other person for what they have done to us, but it is a choice that must be made again and again. It is a process… a path forward. One that brings freedom, and leads to peace and life. But it is not one we can force anyone else to choose. We can repent, and ask for forgiveness, and hope and work to be reconciled. But we cannot demand that they forgive us. That choice is between them and God, who we can trust to help us forgive, even when our wounds, resentment, and bitterness seems as deeply rooted as a tree. And with even a tiny bit of faith that trusts and turns to Him, that deeply rooted tree can find itself thrown in the sea.
That’s because forgiveness, along with truthfulness is at the centre of God’s Good News, and everything Christ came to do. As He said to Pontius Pilate, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). Jesus made known the truth that God’s good world had run off course, led by our human hands towards all sorts of injustice, abuse, and devastation.
And at the cross, He held this truth up for all to see; as an innocent one crucified and killed. There’s no clearer sign of our sin.
But at the cross, in the midst of His agony and shame wrongfully heaped on His head, He cries out, not for vengeance… but for mercy. He cries out “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34). Forgive us. Christ feels the heavy weight of all that is wrong with our world, but breaks the cycle of retribution and de-creation by the power of God’s love. His death becomes our path to life. His shed blood the means of our forgiveness… not just one time, but once and for all. And His resurrection from the grave means forgiveness will reign forever.
We Christians are called to take the steps of truthfulness and forgiveness as the path to life which Jesus leads us through the darkness into the light of God. And we can walk this path, as hard as it is at times, because we don’t walk it alone. Christ Jesus our Saviour has walked this path before us, and through His Spirit He is with us every single step of the way, leading us into all truth, and empowering us to practice true forgiveness. Amen.
 Walter C. Kaiser Jr. et al., Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 280.
 N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year C (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), 111.
Not Quite "A Christmas Carol" - Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost (September 25, 2022)
Scripture Readings: Amos 6:1a, 4–7 | Psalm 146 | 1 Timothy 6:6–19 | Luke 16:19–31
“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)
I know it’s only the end of September… but is it too soon to be thinking about Christmas?
I blame today’s Gospel reading, which got me thinking about A Christmas Carol: the classic short story by Charles Dickens, which I must confess I’ve never actually read... although I have grown up watching A Muppet’s Christmas Carol… which, even if its not always accurate, has the advantage of some really catchy songs. Anyway, as most of us probably already know, A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a rich but hard-hearted Victorian moneylender, who is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of an old business partner, now suffering torments in the afterlife for neglecting the needs of his neighbours.
Later that night, Scrooge has three more ghostly visitors, who all help him see his past, present, and dark future in a brand new light, which not only scares, but stirs up in him a change of heart. The hard-hearted rich man changes course and becomes a fountain of good will and generosity.
While Dickens’ story is certainly well known today in our culture, there were other kinds of stories like this on in the ancient world as well… flawed characters turned back to the right path by a visit to, or from, the grave. Apparently, these kinds of stories were common in Jesus’ day too. Among others, the professor and Presbyterian minister, Marguerite Shuster, claims that: “The basic form of the story, which involves reversals of fortune in the afterlife, is common in folklore and was popular among Jewish teachers”.
And so here in St. Luke’s Gospel we have Jesus offering His own take on this common story, with His own unique twist which adds a whole new dimension to the warning and invitation it offers.
The warning? That God’s people already know the way of life, but are refusing to follow it… and the path they are on right now seems safe, but will only lead to agony.
The invitation? To trust and follow Jesus now, who is the fulfillment of what the Living God has revealed to His people all along… through Moses and the Prophets… it’s the invitation to believe now in the One who would soon enough Himself be returning from the dead.
Before we go much further, an important point needs to be made here: This story is another parable… that is, it’s a narrative or story not meant to describe in detail actual events, or to offer a fleshed out depiction of the afterlife… but rather it’s meant to drive home a message… to open us up to an important but challenging truth about God’s Kingdom… about what Christ Himself is up to, and how we are to respond.
And like most parables, if we want to understand their point… their message, it helps to take a closer look at their context and surroundings… which in this part of St. Luke’s Gospel highlight a growing confrontation around the priorities of God’s Kingdom.
St. Luke’s spends a lot of time in his account of Christ’s life and ministry depicting how God’s Kingdom was not quite what most people were expecting… especially those who were seen as the religious experts in Jerusalem… the Pharisees and Scribes who claimed they knew best what God wanted for His people, and who focused their energies on close observance to the Law, that is, the teachings of Moses, and the Prophets… much of what we call the Old Testament Scriptures.
But St. Luke tells us that Christ challenged many of their assumptions… not by arguing against the Old Testament teachings, but by pointing out that while these leaders were claiming to be faithful followers of the Law and the Prophets, in their hearts they were actually chasing after their own selfish desires.
Back in Chapter 14, St. Luke tells how Jesus challenged their understanding of the Sabbath… that it’s not just a religious duty, but a taste of the wholeness and healing that God’s Kingdom would bring about. In Chapter 15, St. Luke gives us Christ’s parables about God’s love seeking out those who are lost, which Jesus was putting into practice by welcoming outcasts and sinners.
And last week, we looked at the Parable of the Dishonest Manager in Chapter 16, which ends with a call for God’s people to be faithful, not just with their money, but with their entire lives. Luke 16:10-13 left us with these words:
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Once again, Jesus was challenging the assumptions and priorities of those who were opposing Him… as St. Luke makes plain that one of the major obstacles dividing the Pharisees from following Jesus was their attachment to material wealth… to money, and all it claims to offer.
Luke 16:14-17 says this: “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.”
In other words, the Pharisees wanted people to think they were faithful to God and His commandments, but were not willing to put their money where there mouth was, so to speak. Christ was inviting folks to put their wealth into the service of God’s Kingdom by caring for their neighbours with compassion, generosity, and love, but the Pharisees were content to keep their material blessings for themselves.
So Christ was calling them out: contrasting their priorities with those of God… priorities spelled out clearly in the Law of Moses and the prophets… priorities brought forward by the message of John the Baptist, and fully unveiled in the Good News of the Kingdom that Jesus Himself was bringing about…. and calling into question our confidence placed in money.
Our first reading today from Amos utters this same challenge in his own day, with the prophet pronouncing woe to those wealthy Israelites indulging in luxury, but who give no thought to helping their own neighbours in ruin. Those on top, Amos claims, would soon find themselves the first ones to be led into exile.
This same message about the dangers of wealth are echoed in St. Paul’s letter to Timothy from our second reading: 1 Tim 6:6–10 says, “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”
The prophet Amos and St. Paul are on the same page: rather than a sure sign of God’s favour, wealth often poses a dangerous obstacle to practicing compassion, generosity, and love… dividing people from each other, especially creating distance between those with money and those without it. A distance completely at odds with the Kingdom of God.
After His challenge to the Pharisees’ love of money which was keeping them from sharing in God’s Kingdom, Christ goes on to tell the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
The rich man enjoyed a life of comfort and ease, unmoved by the suffering of his neighbour, Lazarus, whom he could easily have lifted up from his misery. St. Cyril of Alexandria in the fifth Century had this to say about Lazarus: “Cut off from compassion and care, he would have gladly gathered the worthless morsels that fell from the rich man’s table to satisfy his hunger. A severe and incurable disease also tormented him. Yes, it says that even the dogs licked his sores and did not injure him yet sympathized with him and cared for him. Animals relieve their own sufferings with their tongues, as they remove what pains them and gently soothe the sores. The rich man was crueler than the dogs, because he felt no sympathy or compassion for him but was completely unmerciful.”.
But in the end, death comes to all, rich and poor alike. We are told that Lazarus finally finds comfort and peace, while the rich man finds only agony awaiting him.
Now the rich man begs for compassion and relief, but is told they are now totally cut off from one another, divided forever. With no hope for himself, he now starts to think of the fate of his own family, and begs for Lazarus to be sent like a servant to warn them before it’s too late. But these haunting words come back to him: “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31).
N.T. Wright makes the point that this ending is an unexpected twist to a fairly familiar story: “a variation on a folk tale that was well known in the first-century world—with one dramatic difference. In the traditional story, the request that somebody be sent back from the dead, to warn people in the present life of what is to come, is normally granted. In this case Jesus declares that his contemporaries knew enough, from their Scriptures, to see that their behaviour was out of line with God’s intention, and that even resurrection will not convince them otherwise.”
In this parable Jesus was challenging the hard hearts of the Pharisees… whose love of money was keeping them from truly loving their neighbours, or for that matter, the Living God in whose image they were made… offering a warning and an invitation both to those who opposed His ministry two thousand years ago, and to those of us who claim to care about God’s Kingdom today.
How are you and I like the rich man, or the Pharisees for that matter… seeking our own comfort, but blind to the pain and misery of those around us? And who is Lazarus today? “[W]e all know Lazarus.” N.T. Wright affirms: “He is our neighbour. Some of us may be rich, well dressed and well fed, and walk past him without even noticing; others of us may not be so rich, or so finely clothed and fed, but compared with Lazarus we’re well off. He would be glad to change places with us, and we would be horrified to share his life, even for a day.”
So in our temptation to ignore the Lazarus’ of our day, Jesus warns us that if we don’t take seriously God’s call to practice compassion, generosity, and love towards our neighbours, we too will find ourselves at odds with God’s Kingdom. But along with the warning we have the invitation to believe the Good News of God’s Kingdom, and put its ways into practice… to not only confess it with our lips, but to reframe our lives around its beautiful truth.
This is what St. Paul is talking about in his letter to Timothy which we heard this morning: 1 Timothy 6:11-12
“…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
And specifically when it comes to how we handle wealth, St. Paul goes on to say: “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
The Pharisees in Christ’s day, and many in our world today are trapped by the temptations of wealth, but Jesus is inviting us into a whole new and beautiful life not based on money, or material possessions, but on an unending communion with the Living God and with one another based on His compassion, generosity, and self-giving love. What we do with our money is now to serve the priorities of God’s Kingdom, not simply to keep ourselves comfortable for a time, but to help break down the many barriers that keep us from loving each other, and our neighbours in their need.
We are invited to be thankful for the many good gifts we have received… not only enjoying the comforts that come from money, but the greater gifts of friendship, of being brought into God’s worldwide family… of not only receiving His compassion, generosity, and love, but of being given the opportunity to share it with others as well.
Pope Leo the Great, also in the fifth Century says it well: “Let those who want Christ to spare them have compassion for the poor. Let those who desire a bond with the fellowship of the blessed be “readily disposed” toward nourishing the wretched. No human being should be considered worthless by another. The nature which the Creator of the universe made his own should not be looked down on in anyone.”
Love of money may be the root of all kinds of evil, as St. Paul says, but the love of God at work in us is the root of all kinds of good.
Going back to A Christmas Carol, Dickens gives us a nice story of rich man having a change of heart scared onto the right path by some ghostly encounters, which spur him to love his downtrodden neighbours.
But in Christ, we have the true Christmas story: God sending His Son into our broken world to rescue us all… pouring out His life in self-giving love at the cross to reunite us all in Jesus Christ with God and with each other.
Far more than a parable or a classic tale, Christ Jesus has truly been raised from the dead, as the fulfillment of God’s plan at work from the very beginning. Unlike our earthly wealth, Christ’s Kingdom will have no end, a bright future guiding us forward. And it calls to us today in the present to put into practice the compassion, generosity, and love of God… to take part in the work of His Kingdom here and now, so that along with our neighbours, in Christ, we may take hold of the life that really is life. Amen.
 Marguerite Shuster, “Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, Volume Three, ed. Roger E. Van Harn (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 419.
 St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 111. Quoted in Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle C (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 225.
 N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year C (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), 108–109.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 200.
 Pope Leo the Great, Sermon 9.2. Quoted in Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle C (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 225.
Scripture Readings: Amos 8:4–7 | Psalm 113 | 1 Timothy 2:1–7 | Luke 16:1–13
“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:13).
What in the world are we supposed to do with the parable in our Gospel reading this morning?
Few of the sayings of Jesus can trip us up quite like this one: a parable about a dishonest manager… praised by his master for acting shrewdly while trying to save himself.
It seems like such a bizarre, and out of place example… an image completely at odds with the way of life Christ calls His disciples to follow… the way of faith and faithfulness… trust and trustworthiness. No wonder so many of us simply shake our heads and skip over this passage.
But this strange story from Jesus is also a part of His Good News for us and for our world. So rather than passing it by, let’s take a closer look and listen to the voice of our loving Master, and seek to understand what He is giving to us.
Part of the problem, I think, is that we’re not all that used to parables… at least, we’re not used to hearing them the way that Jesus uses them. In the Gospels, these short but powerful stories and word-pictures have a very particular purpose: they’re not “timeless truths”, or “sage advice”, but glimpses of what the Living God is up to… glimpses into the mission of Jesus Christ, calling for our response. Though we might be able to glean all sorts of other wisdom and insights from Christ’s parables, first and foremost, they are imaginative invitations to understand God’s Kingdom in a new light. If we misunderstand this purpose, we’ll likely miss out on what they mean.
With all this in mind, lets quickly go over the story again:
A dishonest manager get’s ‘busted’, and his master gives him notice of termination: “Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer” (Luke 16:2).
The ex-manager then panics, and jumps into ‘self-preservation’ mode. His primary concern? How am I ever going to survive once this job is taken away? He’s suddenly feeling vulnerable, and starts weighing his options.
He quickly settles on a strategy to set himself up well in the uncertain days to come: still in possession of his master’s business records, he drastically cuts the debts of those who owe his master money… hoping to make some friends who will remember his unjust generosity, and offer him hospitality and welcome him into their homes. His master then hears all about the scheme, and admires his ex-managers shrewdness. That is, his forward-thinking practical judgment about how to respond to the crisis… even if it was a crisis of his own making.
What’s the point… the purpose of this parable? Remember, it’s not a roadmap for best business practices… or just
general guidelines for life… Christ’s parables are about God’s Kingdom, and how we as God’s people respond to it.
So what does Christ say? Luke 16:8-9, “for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”
Use our money to make friends… so when it’s all gone, we too will be welcomed. OK… but what in the world does this have to do with the Kingdom of God? How does all this connect with what Jesus was, and still is, up to?
It seems that in this case, Christ is offering a warning… by contrasting the dishonest but decisive wisdom of the world which looks ahead, sees trouble, and acts quickly… with the apparent cluelessness of the children of light, who don’t recognize the coming crisis and risk losing everything we have been given. Part of the point is to urge God’s people to quickly get our priorities straight… to use what we have right now, and which will not last forever, to work for what is everlasting.
But although this parable uses the images of money and wealth, it’s about way more than that… encompassing everything that God’s people have been entrusted with. That is, it’s about what it means to be a faithful servant of our Heavenly Master, who will not ignore the dishonest, and unjust practices of His servants.
Our First Reading today from the prophet Amos should be ringing in our ears now… where the Lord warned His people Israel that their wickedness and greed would not go unnoticed or unanswered. Starting at verse 2 of Amos Chapter 8, this is what God says to His people:
“Then the Lord said to me,
‘The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by.
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God;
“the dead bodies shall be many,
cast out in every place. Be silent!”
Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”
The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.’”
According to Amos, Israel, God’s covenant people, had turned from His holy ways and become corrupt… trampling the needy, oppressing the poor… and chasing after dishonest wealth. They were no longer serving the Lord, but serving money… following their own desires… they had failed to faithfully manage their Master’s affairs, and were now being called to account.
In the light of these warnings from Amos, as well as the warnings of many of Israel’s prophets, the New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright makes this claim about the meaning of our parable: “If we were faced with a first-century Jewish story we’d never seen before, about a master and a steward, we should know at once what it was most likely about. The master is God; the steward is Israel. Israel is supposed to be God’s property-manager, the light of God’s world, responsible to God and set over his possessions. But Israel—as we’ve seen in so much of this gospel—has failed in the task, and is under threat of imminent dismissal.” And again, in another place he writes “Jesus regularly charges his contemporaries with infidelity to their commission: called to be the light of the world, they have kept the light for themselves, and have turned it into darkness.”
In other words, Israel had mismanaged what had been entrusted to them: the opportunity to share God’s light and life and holy love with the world, and with each other. But as they had lost this sense of their mission… like the dishonest manager, and Jesus now warned that the time would soon come when they would have this honoured role taken away.
Almost two thousand years after these words of warning were first spoken… are we Christians paying attention? Have we been any better at managing our Master’s affairs?
This passage speaks to all God’s people… to Israel, to the first disciples… and to the Church today… to all who would follow Jesus Christ into the way of life. In it, Christ warns that how we handle what has been given to us really does matter… not only our money, but our whole lives as God’s children, and our precious opportunities to share the Good News of Christ’s Kingdom: “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12).
The sad truth is, the Church today is not all that better off than Israel was in the days of the prophet Amos. We too have often turned away from the Living God, and chased after our own desires… our own interests… our own sense of security, and power.
And like the dishonest manager, when our own way of life feels threatened, we too can quickly jump into self-preservation mode… more concerned with our own survival and comfort than with being faithful to our Master, and what He’s entrusted to our care.
Like Israel in Jesus’ day, we Christians will also be called to account for what we have done with what we’ve been given. And we too will face the just judgment of our Master.
But the Good News is, Jesus did not just come to pronounce judgement on God’s people… He came to be judged along with us … to take our failures and sins upon Himself at the cross… and more than that, to make a way for us all to face God’s just judgement and yet find grace and life… cancelling our debts by His own blood to rescue and reconcile us to the Living God forever.
As we heard in our Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy: “This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For
there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
who gave himself a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:3-6)
Unlike the dishonest manager, who desperately tried to buy his survival by cheating his master, Jesus Christ came to fulfill His Father’s will to rescue us rebels, and lead us all into the truth.
All through His life, and especially at the cross, Jesus was the one true and faithful servant of God, surrendering everything in order that, through Him, all of us could become God’s friends and be welcomed into His eternal home. This is what Jesus came to do… this is the Kingdom He came to bring about: turning dishonest stewards and corrupt caretakers into faithful children of light… drawing Israel and all nations together into God’s family.
If this is the glimpse of God’s Kingdom that this parable offers to us, how are we called to respond to it? How does this parable still speak to us today?
We’ve already noted that this parable is a warning… that we too can have what we have been entrusted with taken away… especially if we persist in squandering what belongs to our Master.
It also serves as a reminder that God’s Kingdom does not call us to amass money or possessions for our own self-protection or survival, even when we can see times of great challenge and change on the horizon. Our primary calling as the Church is not simply to survive, but to be faithful with all that we have in order to share God’s generous welcome with each other, but just as importantly, with those who have not yet come to know the One who has cancelled their debts at the cross. N.T. Wright puts it beautifully: “The master loves the world outside, and wants stewards who will seek its salvation, not merely their own.”
This parable also reminds us of our calling: to act decisively and be faithful with what little we have… our money, yes… but also our time, our abilities, and our opportunities to share God’s love with everyone around us… fostering communities where all can experience God’s welcome. This isn’t easy, especially when we are feeling vulnerable and uncertain. But it is precisely when things are toughest that we need to cling to the core work of God’s Kingdom. Again, Wright says it well: “The church passes through turbulent times, and frequently needs to reassess what matters and what doesn’t.”
So, how will you and I, and all of us here at St. Luke’s use all that we have been given? How is Christ calling us to be faithful servants of God’s Kingdom? What can we do to help others come to know the truth of what Jesus has done to save us all? How can we help them, and each other experience God’s welcome today? Amen.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 194.
 N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year C (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), 106.
 N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year C (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), 107.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 195.
“The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15).
There are two sides to every story… and coin… and sheep, I suppose.
In our Gospel reading today St. Luke gives us two parables from Christ: storied images meant to tell us something important about the surprising Kingdom work that He is up to in the world.
The first is about someone who was willing to leave behind a flock of ninety-nine, in order to go searching for one solitary lost sheep.
The second tells of a woman who turns the whole house upside down… searching everywhere for just one lost coin, even though she still has nine more.
Both parables end with joy, and the invitation to celebrate because what was lost is finally found. A powerful image of our salvation. These two stories have offered much comfort, and strengthened the faith of many over the centuries, reminding us that at the heart of the Good News of Jesus Christ is God’s searching, rescuing love for us… and the mind-blowing lengths He went to to bring us home.
Of course, that’s true of the entire story of Scripture as a whole… this majestic theme of God’s rescuing love runs all the way through it.
Like in our reading from Exodus today, where we see Israel on the brink of disaster. At the very moment when Israel was entering into a sacred covenant partnership with the YAHWEH, the LORD, we hear God’s chosen people had forsaken Him, building an idol to worship, and spitting on His honour, justice, and goodness.
And yet the LORD makes room for Moses to intercede, to stand up for His sin-filled people and plead on their behalf… and so the people are spared. Much damage was done to their relationship, but the way forward was preserved. The Living God would continue to go with them and lead them to the Promised Land.
And again, in our reading from first Timothy today, we heard St. Paul tell of how God’s grace had found him out, and turned his life around. Turned from a persecutor of the Church to a penitent, faithful servant, St. Paul had seen up close the difference God’s mercy can make.
Both of these stories reveal God’s heart of love as well, in their own special ways: Though the crisis at Sinai pushed God’s plans for Israel to the very limits, God prompts Moses to pray on their behalf, and then God listens to those prayers… showing Himself to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7a).
And though St. Paul’s story was filled with bloodshed and regret, he came to see it as an example of the greatness of God’s love: “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15).
From Moses to St. Paul, to you and I today, this is what God has been up to all along: seeking out and saving those who are lost… not as something extra on the side, but as the very core of all Christ has come to do! It’s the reason that all of us are here today… to receive God’s gracious gift of life offered to us through the work of His faithful Son.
We are the lost sheep. We are the lost coin. We are the ones who had turned our backs on God, and needed someone to pray for our salvation. We too are sinners, sought out and saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
This is one side of the story. One side of the coin.
But what is the other side? What else is it that these parables of Jesus have to tell us today?
We’re used to thinking of ourselves as the sheep that Jesus pursued… the one who wandered, but who was finally found by love and brought safely home.
But what if we’re actually also one of the ninety-nine in this story? Or one of the nine coins safe and sound inside the woman’s purse?
No less loved. No less valued or precious… but what if Christ’s actually calling us to be concerned about, and join with Him searching after those ones that aren’t yet safe at home? What if theses stories aren’t all about just you and I?
St. Luke tells us that Jesus had a specific reason for telling these two parables: Luke 15:1-2, “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’”
Religious folk were frustrated that Jesus was spending His time with the wrong sort of people. People that no one who was truly close to God would want to welcome.
Who comes to mind when we hear the word “sinner” today? Or maybe that word’s too familiar… too spiritualized… Who is it that we can’t even imagine welcoming into our door, or to share at our table? Who are the ones we would rather Christ not care about?
I’m sure we all have our reasons why. The Pharisees and scribes had their reasons too. But this is the other side of the story… the other side of the coin: How are we going to respond to God’s searching, saving love… for other people? Especially for other people that we might, on our own, want nothing to do with?
Christ spells it out for us: “Rejoice with Me. Rejoice with Me.”
Jesus invites us to share in His joy with all who come to Him. Because all His sheep belong together. All His coins are precious. There’s no hierarchy of importance or worthiness among God’s children. No first and second class. No inner circle. No outcasts.
So why do so many of God’s people today seem to struggle so hard with this one? Why is it that Christians of all people are often seen as those most likely to look down on our neighbours? Why are we the ones with the reputation for being judgmental and standoffish? Who have so much trouble inviting others to join in the joy of heaven?
One answer is that we’ve forgotten the real meaning of the first side of the story. We’ve forgotten the depths of the love of God for sinners like us. For everyone.
I’m convinced that the Pharisees and scribes were so upset that Jesus was welcoming sinners because they had lost any sense that they had at onetime needed saving themselves. And the same temptation lies before us all the time: the temptation to forget the generous love of our Father, and frown disapprovingly at those who are drawing near to Christ, but who don’t measure up to our particular standards.
But what are God’s standards to be saved? First of all, that they are lost! That’s the starting point… as N.T. Wright so helpfully describes: “What was it, after all, about that one lost sheep that made the shepherd go after it? It wasn’t the one with the woolliest coat. It wasn’t the one with the sweet, almost human bleat. It wasn’t the one that regularly nuzzled up close to his knees. It was simply the one that was lost. No qualification except a disqualification. No structure to its life, no good sense, no obedience. That was the one that got the ride home on the shepherd’s shoulders. That was the one that made the angels sing for joy.”
The sheep, the coin… they’re searched after and found because they are lost. They’re just as precious, just as valued, just longed for as the others… and nothing else was needed in order to make them worthy of rescue. The sole motivation behind the search is the saving love of the one searching, and their Saviour's longing for all to share together in the joy of perfect reunion.
Bottom line: we’re not saved because we deserve it, and others don’t. We’re saved by the great love of God, who has reached out to us in Jesus His Son, and who’s still at work through the Spirit reaching out to everyone else as well. This is Christ’s mission, and as His people it must be at the heart of our life too.
Again, this theme runs through all of Scripture: the saving love of God offered to sinners, none of whom deserve it.
In the moment of crisis at Mt. Sinai, as the scholar Brevard Childs points out, “Moses does not attempt to excuse or mitigate Israel’s sin, but he seeks to overcome it by falling back ultimately on what God can do in making a future possible.” In other words, Moses calls on God to forgive, and to somehow bring life out of the death that Israel had rightly earned for themselves. And that’s what He does. Time and time again, the LORD remains faithful, and listens to the prayers of those who intercede to save His people.
And again, St. Paul was convinced that he was turned around by God’s grace, not his own worthiness. Wright makes the point well: “He wasn’t just a lost sheep; he was a wolf, harrying and devouring the flock. But even he received mercy, so that he might serve as an example. If he could be rescued, anyone could.”
If St. Paul could be rescued, anyone could. Anyone could. Anyone CAN! Because it’s not we who do the saving…
Jesus Christ is the One who still searches for every lost sheep, and every lost coin… He’s the One interceding for all of us, even in the midst of our worst failures… He’s the One who can turn all our hearts around by His love, and turn our lives into signs of God’s great forgiveness at work… He’s the One who bids us all share with Him in the joy of His Father in heaven.
Both sides of the story, both sides of the coin, God’s searching, saving love… for you and I, and for everyone, come together in Jesus Christ, who came and found us at the cross, and lost His life to rescue ours… and rose again to reunite us with God and with each other in His eternal joy.
We are the rescued sheep who had once wandered. We are the recovered coin, that once was lost. We are the people who turned away from our LORD, yet received forgiveness. We are sinners, saved by “the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 1:14).
So then, if this is who we are… how does that change how we see everyone else? If we were once lost, but now are found, how will we treat those who aren’t yet in the fold? As those Christ loves and longs to save, and bring back rejoicing? As those, like us, embraced not because we did something to deserve it… as those, like us, saved by the mercy and grace of God alone? Equally dependent on the rescuing love of Jesus?
I’ll close now with a prayer from the writings of St. Basil: “O Lord, the helper of the helpless, the hope of those who are past hope, the savior of the tempest-tossed, the harbor of the voyagers, the physician of the sick; you know each soul and our prayer, each home and its need; become to each one of us what we most dearly require, receiving us all into your kingdom, making us children of light; and pour on us your peace and love, O Lord our God. Amen." ” 
 N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year C (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), 104–105.
 Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary, ed. Peter Ackroyd et al., The Old Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 568.
 N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year C (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), 105.
 Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, found in Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle C (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 212.
Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 2:4–13 | Psalm 81:1, 10–16 | Hebrews 13:1–8, 15–16 | Luke 14:1, 7–14
“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11).
When I was growing up, we got our water from a hand dug well. If my memory is correct, the well was only about 9 feet deep, and I can remember several hot and dry summers when our well would run dry. Thankfully, our neighbours across the road had an artesian well, and so thanks to their neighbourly kindness, we could still get the water we needed until we got enough rain for our well to fill up again.
Then one day my parents decided it was time to find a more long-term solution to our water troubles, and so we had a new well drilled… over 70 feet deep into tough Northernwestern Ontario clay and rock, but in the end we had tapped into the same steady water source as our neighbours… and to my knowledge, that well has never once run dry. We now had a source of water we could truly count on.
But how foolish would it have been if we had abandoned that deep-drilled well that never ran dry, and turned back to using that hand-dug well that could not reliably sustain life? That choice would be absurd… but how often are we tempted to act just as foolishly? To turn our backs on the Source of all life, and pursue instead what only leaves us empty and dried up?
This is the powerful image that we heard from the prophet Jeremiah this morning: Jeremiah 2:12-13 says “Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.” Having tasted the goodness and grace of the Living God, His people had preferred to pursue things that could never actually sustain or satisfy. Foolish. Absurd. And yet it’s a choice that God’s people have made again and again.
Jeremiah had shared this message from the Lord at a troubling time in the life of God’s people. Centuries earlier, the Lord had rescued Israel from Egypt, and led them through the wilderness… where He graciously and faithfully provided both food and water for them for forty years. God brought Israel into the land He had promised to give to Abraham and to his descendants… not because of how great or deserving they were… or how much they’d earned honour or respect… but as a sign of God’s own faithfulness and generous love, especially given to those the world tends to overlook as unimportant and lowly. From the start, and all the way through the story of Scripture we hear that God cares deeply for the people of Israel, and invites them into an honoured and sacred place nearest to His heart: calling them to be a people raised up from nothing to share in His own glorious life.
But in Jeremiah’s day, things had gone horribly, horribly wrong. The kingdom had turned their back on God, time and time again, and rather than honouring the LORD and walking in His ways, they longed to be like the powerful nations all around them: proud kingdoms and empires, like Egypt to the South, or Assyria and Babylon further to the East. Chasing after their own desires their Kingdom in the Promised Land was torn apart by civil war, and the northern tribes of Israel were overrun by Assyria.
The Southern Kingdom of Judah was still being ruled by the family of King David, whom God had sworn to uphold, promising David that: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me… Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Sam. 7:12-14, 16).
But even granted such a hopeful promise, Judah had also forsaken their commitments to the LORD, like their kin to the North… their kings and rulers, their priests and peoples had all turned away from the LORD… so now, the prophet Jeremiah had been sent to bring to light their foolishness and unfaithfulness, announcing that walking away from God placed His people in jeopardy of not only losing their kingdom, but everything. And within Jeremiah’s own lifetime the Kingdom of Judah would be lost and its people exiled in Babylon.
Let’s hear again the prophets words in this light: as solemn warning which went unheeded. Jeremiah 2:7-8, 11-13.
“I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.
The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.
Therefore once more I accuse you,
says the Lord, and I accuse your children’s children…
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”
The prophet’s words point us today to the challenge each generation of God’s people has had to face: will we trust God, and turning to Him receive the gift of life He longs for us to share? Or will we turn from Him, and look for what we need elsewhere?
With this question before us, let us turn now to our Gospel reading today, which is about much more than proper party etiquette in the ancient Near East, or today for that matter… rather, it’s another word of warning to God’s people, exposing our own ‘cracked cisterns’, and pointing us to where we can find God’s true life giving ‘water’.
St. Luke tells us that Jesus was invited to dine at the house of a Pharisee: a member of the devout Jewish religious movement, focused on obedience to the Law of God so that nothing like the Exile would ever happen to God’s people again. They looked back on their sacred story, the Scriptures, and to the promises of God, like the ones made to King David, and they became convinced that if they were faithful enough to the Law, if they were diligent, and obedient, and righteous enough, then God would take notice and rescue them and finally bring about His good Kingdom at last.
But as the Gospels point out, the Pharisees, as devout as they tried to be, also had their own serious blind-spots. Yes, they had stopped chasing after the obvious false gods, and outright wicked ways of their ancestors before the Exile, but they had found new dry and cracked ‘cisterns’ of their own… commitments and practices which seemed to offer them everything they needed, but were actually keeping them from sharing in God’s new life that Christ Jesus was bringing about. And one of these pitfalls, it turns out, was the problem of self-righteousness and pride: seeking their own glory and honour, often at the expense of those around them.
N.T. Wright makes this point about pride: “Pride, notoriously, is the great cloud which blots out the sun of God’s generosity: if I reckon that I deserve to be favoured by God, not only do I declare that I don’t need his grace, mercy and love, but I imply that those who don’t deserve it shouldn’t have it.”
It’s like we imagine: if we just do everything God asks of us, then we will be someone special… then we can look down on and disregard those who are clearly not as close to God as we are. We’ll be the most important… the most honoured guests at God’s table.
How much damage has been done in and by the Christian Church due to this attitude? How many of our neighbours think that this is what we Christians believe about ourselves… and that proving that ‘we are the best’ is the motive behind all that we do?
But Christ came to show us… to lead us into another way… to open up for us, and for all, the floodgates of God’s new life.
And so St. Luke tells us two things that Jesus says in response to the pride He sees at work in the lives of those gathered at the Pharisees’ house that day: First, instead of chasing after the places of prestige and honour, practice humility… that is, seek to honour and lift up other people, don’t seek after your own glory.
And second, instead of only being generous to those who are able to pay you back, open yourself up to the lowly, the poor, the outcast, those easiest to ignore, and those who can never pay you back… that is, care for others and have compassion without expecting anything in return.
Humility and generosity, as the antidotes of pride. Both of which seek to bless and bring life to others. Essential components of self-giving love, which Christ shows us is the heart of God’s own divine life… the fountain of living water that alone can sustain and satisfy.
Again, Wright contrasts the empty path of pride with the way of God’s self-giving love: “The small-mindedness which pushes itself forward and leaves others behind is confronted with the large-hearted love of God. All Christians are called to the same healthy dependence on God’s love” [that is, humility], “and the same generosity in sharing it with those in need.”
This was God’s intentions for His people, for all people from the start! To be shaped by His self-giving, humble, and generous love, so that we can share it with everyone too. And when we had all chased after our own desires… our own faulty visions of what life’s really about… turning to our own dried up and cracked cisterns that can’t give us what we need… that’s when Christ came to call us back to God, to help us walk in His ways, not so that we can boost our egos, and look down on others, and prove how good or important we are… but so we can all come to know what it means to truly be loved… to truly love others… to love the Lord our God wholeheartedly… and for this love to flow out from us into God’s world.
This overflowing life of love is what the author of Hebrews is calling us to in our reading this morning: practice mutual love… hospitality especially to strangers… solidarity with those in prison or suffering… marital faithfulness… contentment instead of greed… a willingness to learn from and to be led by others, instead of insisting on our own way. Humility. Generosity. A whole way of life nourished and nurtured by God’s gift of life and love to us in Jesus Christ.
Who at the cross did not suffer for His own glory and honour, but rather in humility… poured out His blood and died to bring life unending to us, who least deserved it. Who offered His own body to be broken to save and sustain us, who can never hope to repay His generosity.
At the cross, Jesus reveals the heart of God, and invites us to draw near to Him in faith, to let His love raise us up from nothing to share in His own glorious life… and help those around us do the same.
Like my childhood neighbours who shared with us the water we needed when our old well ran dry, God wants us His people to be the means of sharing His living spiritual water today… sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and God’s great love, in words and deeds, with our neighbours, in the hopes that they too will drill down deep in faith, and find Him to be the source of life that can truly satisfy and sustain us all.
But to share all this with others, we need to drill down deep in faith ourselves… to keep drawing near to the One who is the true source of our life… leaving behind our own cracked cisterns, and clinging instead to the cross of Christ, that with our Saviour, who humbly gave Himself for us and for all, we might be raised with Him to graciously share in the love of the Living God forever. Amen.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 175–176.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 176.
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 58:9–14 | Psalm 103:1–8 | Hebrews 12:18–29 | Luke 13:10–17
“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.” (Luke 13:12-13).
It’s good to be back.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity these past four weeks to enjoy a bit of a break… to take some time to rest, recharge, and reset… and now to return to the rhythm of our shared Parish life. Again, a big ‘thank you’ to all who offered their gifts to help lead our services of Morning Prayer this Summer. It was a big gift to me knowing that St. Luke’s was in such good hands.
As we might know, the gift of rest is a really big deal all throughout the Bible. From the first pages to the last, rest plays a vital role in shaping our hopes for God’s good future, as well as shaping our everyday habits and ways of life in the here and now. The story we live by.
Rest shows up in the opening scenes of Genesis as the culmination of God’s act of creation… Genesis 2:1-3 says, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” Here we see the Living God blessing, making holy, and taking part in rest… enjoying His good creation, and teaching us to do the same.
Rest shows up again as one of the famous Ten Commandments… the key pillars of God’s covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai in Exodus. Here resting on the Sabbath is part of the way God’s newly rescued people were to be recreated, transformed from slaves in Egypt into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Exodus Chapter 20:8-11:
“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” Practicing Sabbath pointed God’s people back to God’s gracious gift of Creation, and gave them a taste every seven days of the peace of paradise.
On top of this reminder of God’s gift of Creation, Sabbath was also a reminder of the gift of Salvation… of God’s rescuing work, and their new life shared with Him. In Deuteronomy Chapter 5, the Ten Commandments are repeated… but the reasoning behind the Sabbath rest is stated differently: Instead of pointing back to the seventh day of Creation, Deuteronomy 5:15 says this: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.” Slaves don’t get days off. Their pressed into service until their strength is all used up. But God rescued Israel, not to be slaves, but in order to be a people set free to share in his love… to be blessed, made holy, and serve as signposts of His saving love for all the world to see.
Sabbath rest was to remind the whole community of God’s salvation every seven days, inspiring them to respond with wholehearted worship, thanks, and praise.
We could go on and on, but you’re probably getting the picture: keeping the Sabbath rest was God’s gift to His people, drawing them back again and again into their sacred story, and into the New Life that God had in store for them. And centuries later, in Jesus’ day, practicing Sabbath rest had become one of the main distinctions between faithful Jews and Gentiles. In this light, “keeping the Sabbath” correctly became a pretty important matter… marking the difference, in many people’s minds, between who was in God’s good books, and who was not.
And this tension around what it truly means to practice Sabbath is highlighted in our Gospel reading today, where we are asked to contemplate the question: What does real Sabbath rest look like?
Our Gospel reading begins one Sabbath with Jesus teaching in a local synagogue, as God’s people had gathered together for worship. But then we’re told he sees someone, a woman, whose back was bent low… like a slave bearing a terribly heavy load… and she had been bent like this for eighteen years, unable to find full rest.
N.T. Wright makes an interesting point about her ailment: “Luke says she had ‘a spirit of weakness’, which probably means simply that nobody could explain medically why she had become bent double. Some today think that her disability had psychological causes; some people probably thought so then as well, though they might have said it differently. Maybe somebody had persistently abused her, verbally or physically, when she was smaller, until her twisted-up emotions communicated themselves to her body, and she found she couldn’t get straight. Even after all the medical advances of the last few hundred years, we are very much aware that such things happen without any other apparent cause.”
Whatever the cause, Christ Himself is God’s remedy. Luke tells us that Jesus lays His hands on her, and immediately she is set free and stands tall, praising God for His deliverance. She had been rescued from her spiritual and physical oppression… and was now filled with thankfulness, worshipping Yahweh as someone made new… a taste of re-creation.
What a beautiful sight! A life transformed, set free and overflowing with praise to God. But instead of joining in with wholehearted worship, we’re told the leader of the synagogue became “indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath… saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’” (Luke 13:14). Passionate to protect the sanctity of the Sabbath, this central pillar of the life of the God’s people, the leader of the synagogue can only see Christ’s healing work as a violation of God’s day of holy rest. But God’s blessed and holy rest was in fact what Christ was bringing to life right before their eyes.
Jesus was demonstrating what God’s Sabbath is all about.
We can hear clear echoes of this in our reading from the book of Isaiah, where the prophet makes a clear link between properly honouring the Sabbath on the one hand, and alleviating the plight of God’s people in their suffering on the other. The point of Sabbath rest is about intentionally stepping into God’s story of redemption and recreation… experiencing God’s grace, again and again, and helping others to do the same.
In other words, Jesus was not breaking the sacred Sabbath rest of God by having compassion, and bringing about the healing, restoration, and rescue of others… He was fulfilling it! He was bringing the blessed rest of the LORD to the lives of those in desperate need of it.
So Christ calls out the hypocrisy of those like the synagogue leader who thought honouring the Sabbath would mean leaving people in misery, instead of seeing the Sabbath as their means of being made new. “[O]ught not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” (Luke 13:15-16). What better way to take part in God’s blessed rest than to help others share in it?
This is of course only one moment in the story… one Sabbath day encounter… one life transformed… but it’s also a sign of the work Christ Jesus had come to do: to bring about God’s true and eternal Sabbath rest… the ultimate rescue from all that keeps us bound, and broken… bringing us into the fulness of life with the Living God, and making us new, able to stand and worship Him wholeheartedly through the Spirit of God at work in us.
St. Luke tells us this story to remind us that this is our story too. That in Christ Jesus we too are invited to look forward in the hope of God’s blessed and holy rest… the restoration and re-creation of God’s good world through the work of the Word made flesh. To remind us that in Christ, we too can experience even now His transforming power, setting us free to worship the Lord in gladness, and rest safe in His loving arms.
This story reminds us that Jesus came, not to help us play religious games… or to be our personal miracle worker… He came in the mercy and great compassion of God to save the World.
So how are we sharing in the real Sabbath rest that Christ came to bring?
Many of us and our neighbours are tired… caught up in the restlessness of our age… unable or unwilling to step back from our own interests, and seek instead God’s life-giving rest.
Many of us and our neighbours are bound and broken… feeling completely weighed down and crippled by things like fear… guilt… loneliness… anger… sin… unable to find lasting relief, no matter where we look.
Many of us and our neighbours see the Christian life as more of a burden than a blessing… a bundle of obligations, rather than a wholehearted, whole-life response to the wonderful gift of rescue, re-creation, and rest of the Living God, given to us in Jesus Christ, through His saving work of love on the cross.
God sees our need for His blessed rest. The Lord knows our world desperately needs to be rescued and renewed. And as Christians, we’ve already been drawn by the Holy Spirit into God’s New Creation, and set free from our sins by the saving work of Jesus Christ. This truly is our sacred story.
But it’s so easy to forget it… to go about our week bent low by the burdens that life throws our way.
Yet even so, the same Jesus who was filled with compassion for that daughter of Abraham all those long years ago, calls for us to come and follow Him, and find true rest at last.
So let us keep coming to Jesus, trusting Him again and again to lead us into God’s rest… not only for ourselves, but so that as a Church community and as individual disciples, and through His Spirit at work in us, we too can become signposts of God’s saving love for all the world to see… helping our neighbours to come to know the rescue, and re-creation, and real Sabbath rest of the Risen Saviour who says:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Amen.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 165–166.
Our service of Morning Prayer, Bulletin, & Sermon this week can be found here:
And our Songs for this week can be found here:
Rev. Rob serves as the Priest-in-Charge at St. Luke's Gondola Point, and as the School Chaplain at Rothesay Netherwood School