December 31, 2011

Bible Teachings For Spiritual Life: Epiphany Moments Drive Our Spiritual Life

Bible Teachings For Spiritual Life: Epiphany Moments Drive Our Spiritual Life

Epiphany Moments Drive Our Spiritual Life

An Epiphany Moment is when we learn something that changes how we think and how we live our life. The Wise Men have an Epiphany moment when they personally see the baby Jesus. They had been watching the stars for a divine sign for years and now, in a remote stable, they found God in a baby. Their thinking about God was dramatically changes and they responded by giving precious gifts only appropriate to a king, a priest and one destined to die a special death.

December 17, 2011

The Birth of Jesus is Like a Light Coming Into the Darkness

John is trying to explain the significance of Jesus birth. This is one of the most important events in human history. We measure time from Anno Domini – the year of the birth of Jesus. This is AD 2011. John begins with an explanation that would be clear to people familiar with Greek Philosophy. Their idea of God was wisdom which Greeks described as The Word. Once he has their attention John moves on to connect the birth of Jesus to being like a light coming into the world. Let us get a grasp of what John means by light coming into the world before we move on to look at the meaning of Jesus birth.

We Are All Chosen and Called By God

Most of us take most of our lives trying to figure out what God wants us to do. It took me about 45 years. The story of God calling Mary to become the mother of Jesus  is the ultimate “call story”. God is calling Mary to take an enormous risk, to really trust in God. She lived in a culture that stoned women to death that had children outside of marriage. This young girl of about thirteen was called to have an intimate relationship of absolute trust in God.

1. Notice how personal this relationship is.
The angel does not say God is going to give her some teachings or some rules to pass on. This is what the prophets had been doing ever since Moses. God was doing a new  thing. God was about to come Himself in human form. He needed a human partner he could trust. He chose Mary and called her into a personal relationship.

December 3, 2011

Advent Calls Us To A New Beginning

Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year. This is a new cycle of teaching. In Year A we studied Matthew's Gospel. In Year B we will study the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of Mark was written just before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. It is a bare bones historical account written in a breathless tone. The first sentence - "In the beginning" tell us this is a new creation story modeled on Genesis. God is going to do a new thing. This new thing begins with the ministry of John the Baptist calling people to repentance. This repentance and symbolic water baptism is in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John promises that the Messiah will come in spiritual power and baptize people with the Holy Spirit. This is the beginning of a new relationship between God and humanity.

We Are to Watch for What God is Going to Do

The First Sunday in Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year. The Readings follow Jesus warning from last Sunday to watch for His return at the end of time. Now we also watch for what God is going to do at Christmas. Watching is a serious religious responsibility. In ancient times only the best soldiers were trusted to be on watch for enemy attacks. The survival of the whole community depended on the diligence of the watchman. The watchman needs to stay awake, know what e is watching for and avoid distractions.

November 18, 2011

Love Reaches Out To Those in Need

The Reign of Christ is the last Sunday in the Church Year. It is the time we celebrate our looking forward to the coming of Jesus at the end of time. We are looking forward to that time when those in right relationship will be separated from those who are not, and gathered into the Kingdom. In today’s Gospel (Matthew 25.31-46) the sheep and goats are separated on the basis of their response to God’s reaching out to them in love. Only those who have responded to God’s love by reaching out to others in need will be invited into the Kingdom. This is the test of our love.

1. Ezekiel (34.11-17, 20-24) describes a God who actively seeks the lost and those in need

November 3, 2011

I Believe In The Resurrection and the Life Everlasting

Both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds affirm belief in personal resurrection and eternal spiritual life. Christian believers have hope. Unlike others, we have the hope of eternal spiritual life in Jesus Christ. Our hope is that when we die, we die 'in Christ'. We are connected to Him in a relationship of love. This relationship of love is the 'oil' of the Holy Spirit that the Foolish Virgins in the Parable did not have. The message is that those who do not have this 'oil' of relationship or love may be shut out of the Heavenly Kingdom.

October 13, 2011

Our Mission Is To Proclaim The Good News

(Homily notes for St. Luke’s Day, Year A, 2011 by Rev. John Gishler)

This brief announcement by Jesus is both a declaration of who He is and a statement of His mission. It is one of the most dramatic moments in the Bible. As followers of Jesus we need to keep focussed on this mission of proclaiming good news to the poor. Many people and churches have become side-tracked and settled into a more comfortable mission of keeping the physical church going. The good news that Jesus proclaimed challenged religious and political authority and led to constant and violent opposition. It transformed lives. In our time many people are fearful, confused prisoners to false religious ideas. Many are spiritually, emotionally and physically blind and in need of healing. Many are not even aware of the possibility of spiritual oppression. Our mission is to proclaim the year of God’s blessing, to challenge people to go from error into truth, sin into righteousness and out of death into life.

October 8, 2011

Thanksgiving Leads To More Blessings

(Homily notes for Thanksgiving, Year A,  2011 by Rev. John Gishler)
Thanksgiving is a special time of the year when we focus on how God has blessed us – at least that was the original intent. The readings remind us that Thanksgiving leads to increased blessing. Thanksgiving acknowledges our dependence on God for material and spiritual blessings and keeps us in right relationship with God. Thanksgiving increases our blessings. It is like a harvest of righteousness

1. The flip side of this is a warning that failure to give thanks leads to disaster
In the Deuteronomy Reading (8.7-20) Moses is reminding the Israelites of how God has made a covenant with them. God has promised to give them protection, good land and prosperity. They are reminded of the powerful and miraculous things God has done for them. They are warned to not become proud and forget their God. Being human, this is of course what happened over the centuries. In the Old Testament Isaiah describes the long period of apostasy when Kings and clergy forgot their part of the covenant. The official reading from the Common Lectionary stops at verse 18. The next two verses are very sensitive, particularly in our time of conflict in Palestine. In verses 19 and 20 the Israelites are warned that “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you...” Moslems and Christian Palestinians obviously interpret this as negating the territorial claims of modern Israel. Failing to give thanks has consequences

September 30, 2011

Ten Tests of Our Love of God

Baptism, like tenancy has obligations. The Parable is a warning that we are sometimes tempted to rebel against God and refuse to ‘pay the rent’. What is this ‘rent’? In our Baptism we promise ‘to continue in the Apostles teaching, in the fellowship and in the breaking of bread’ – to love and honour God. Moses explains the Ten Commandments by telling the people “God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Ex. 20.20)  The ten tests of our love of God are:

September 16, 2011

We Are To Grow Spiritually By Striving For the Gospel

 The parable of the Workers (Matthew 20.1-16) teaches us that God is generous, keeps reaching out to ua and expects us to be working in His vineyard. In modern times the “vineyard” is our neighbourhood. But what are we supposed to actually be doing? I believe the Apostle Paul explains this to us in the other reading, Philippians 1.21-30. Paul is teaching us that our work is to strive for the Gospel – being and telling others the good news of forgiveness and eternal spiritual life through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul lived in a time much like our own. There were many religions, each teaching that they were right and others wrong. Paul and the early Christians were under constant attack in working to teach a new understanding of God that directly challenged the leadership of those trying to maintain historic Judaism and the many pagan religions. They did not hesitate to speak out and say Jesus was the only way to real salvation and right relationship with God.

July 30, 2011

Harrison Burke Taught Us To Love

(Homily notes for a celebration of the life of Harrison Burke)

We are gathered here to celebrate the life of a little boy who graced his family and friends with his love and innocence for five and a half years. He never held a high position, made a lot of money or became famous. The tragic death of this little boy is teaching us that these things are not important. He is teaching us that the quality and depth of our love relationships with family and friends are more important than wealth or fame. Harrison was successful in life because he loved with a pure love. He taught us to love.

July 15, 2011

Christians Have A Destiny As Children Of God

We live in a time when many people do not know who they are and where they are going. In contrast serious Christians know they are children of God and they are eventually going back to God. They also know that they have an enemy described in the Bible as Satan or the Devil; and a spiritual helper described as the Holy Spirit. Our lives are a struggle to overcome the temptations and deceptions of the enemy of our souls. The good news is that we are protected by God and guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. In the Parable of the Weeds, Jesus is giving us both wise advice and hope. The advice is to not get tangled up with evil people. The hope is the harvest, when we will go home to Jesus.

July 2, 2011

Come To Jesus Time

The Genesis (24.34-38, 42-49, 58-67) Reading is an example of what it might look like in our lives if we really made a decision to come to Jesus and put on the Yoke of our Baptismal Covenant. We would act more like the servant of Abraham who depends completely on God for guidance and help in obeying his masters’ instructions for finding a wife for Isaac.

 1. Come to Jesus time is when we realize we need help
For most of us this comes after we have tried to do something our way and gotten into trouble. Our human pride resists the idea that we need help. This is the spiritual version of our tendency to not read the instructions on assembling something until all else fails. It is often a dramatic and painful moment. We have come face to face with the limitations of our humanity. We are often like the people in the first part of the Matthew (11.16-19, 25-30) Reading who fail to respond to the teaching and ministry of both John the Baptist and Jesus. In the gospel Reading Jesus is inviting us to respond. We are invited to give up our pride and come to Jesus. This is a the essence of a conversion experience. We turn from our old way that has failed and come humbly to Jesus.  

June 17, 2011

Christians Are To Make Disciples of All Nations
(homily notes for Trinity, 2011, by Rev. John Gishler)

Jesus did not teach His followers to just attend church, be good and hire evangelists. He challenged them – and us to “...go and make disciples of all nations...”. (Matthew 28.19). “Make” is a verb – an action word. As Christians we have been baptized into a new covenant relationship with God who loves us, Jesus who died in our place for sin and the Holy Spirit who guides, heals and nurtures us. As we grow deeper in this relationship and discover our spiritual gifts we naturally want to share the good news of Gods’ grace, love and healing with everyone around us. This is a challenge in our time as many people have not had good teaching or have rebelled against God. It is not easy – but it is a wonderful gift to give others.

June 3, 2011

Easter 7 - Eternal Life Is To Know the Glory Of God

In the Acts Reading (1.6 – 14) the Risen Jesus is saying goodbye to His disciples and promising them the gift and power of the Holy Spirit before ascending into Heaven. This was followed by some detailed instructions from Peter (4.12-14, 5.6-11) warning them to expect trials and sufferings before they are restored, made strong and “...called to His eternal glory...”.

1.     “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you...” John 17.3
Jesus is giving us a new definition of eternal life. Notice that it is not just about performance or moral behaviour. Our good behaviour flows out of what we know and believe about God. Our eternal life, the one we are baptized into, is about personal knowledge of and relationship with God.  Jesus explains in great detail how He and God are one. He prays for His disciples saying “All I have is yours and all you have is mine...” (v. 10) Jesus and the Father are one in a bond of love. This is where the doctrine of the Trinity comes from. They are so close to each other they are one person. Jesus was with the father before the world was created. He came into the world to reveal the Father to individuals. The whole purpose of the exercise was to draw people into this same relationship of love. The problem was that human sinfulness and ignorance had separated people from their God. So Jesus mission was to reveal Gods’ love and glory to people and create a way to overcome human rebellion and sin. In the John Reading (17.8) Jesus reminds the Disciples that He “...gave them the words that you (God) gave me and they accepted them.” The Disciples believed in Jesus as the one sent from God to redeem humanity. By believing in and getting to know Jesus through personal experience, they were also getting to know God the Father. This was living the new eternal life that Jesus promised.

May 12, 2011

Easter 4 Homily - Do You Know the Shepherd's Voice?

(Homily revised for Easter 4, 2011 by Rev. John Gishler)
Jesus is using a very simple example to explain who he is.
It is called a "parable" because while the story seems to be about the relationship between sheep and shepherds, it is only using this to explain the relationship between God and people. In particular it is about the question of how do we know when God is really speaking to us. The point is that there are other voices speaking to us:
·         Self – my way
·         Materialism
·         Pride
·         Popularity
·         Fear 
Jesus refers to these other voices as "thieves and robbers". The parable is also a warning about spiritual warfare. The good news is that the wise sheep (people) will survive spiritually because they know the voice of the shepherd and can tell it from the many other voices around them. 

May 6, 2011

 By Believing You May Have Life in His Name

(Homily notes for Easter 2, 2008 by Rev. John Gishler)

This is the basic message of the Gospel of John 30.31. It is repeated over and over so we know it is very important. But what does he mean by "believing". Does he mean being baptized, attending church, being born again, reading the Bible, doing good works or just having hope? And what does he mean by "life"? Is he talking about physical life or spiritual life? How do we know if we have this "life"?

April 26, 2011

Easter - The Resurrection Validated the Covenant of Jesus

Easter is the celebration of one of the most important events in human history. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was God's cosmic yes to all the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught that he was the long promised Messiah of Deuteronomy 18.18 and Isaiah 52 - 54. He proved his authenticity by healing miracles and prophesying His own death and resurrection. Jesus taught that God was making a new Covenant of forgiveness. This Covenant offered forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in Jesus sacrificial death. It did not replace but did supersede the Old Testament Covenant of Moses.
This sounds too good to be true
It is hard for modern scientific people to believe in miracles. Many have sadly bought into the great lie of modern liberalism which has deconstructed the Bible and questioned everything supernatural. There are three reasons for believing the resurrection story is historically true. First of all the specific details about the linen bandages and napkin suggest an eyewitness account as opposed to a made up story. Secondly the non-heroic confusion and misinterpretation of the Disciples also suggest this is real life rather than fiction. But the biggest reason for belief is the changed lives of the people who were there. This small group of people who had known and seen the risen Jesus went on to change the world. They went fearlessly to horrible deaths with joy on their faces as they witnessed to the intervention of God in history.

April 20, 2011

Palm Sunday – Blessed is He That Comes In The Name Of Te Lord

(Homily Notes for Palm Sunday by Rev. John Gishler)

Palm Sunday is a special time for me as I was ordained a priest twenty years ago on Palm Sunday. I chose Palm Sunday because it is a celebration of Jesus love and faithfulness to God in a difficult time. Jesus is the model for how to get through a difficult time on faith. On Palm Sunday we celebrate God's faithfulness in being with and saving His people.
The Isaiah Reading reminds us that Jesus had to 'set his face like flint'The words jumpeded out at me as the choice all Christians must make in our time. We all risk opposition when we declare our faith or take a stand on issues. My parents opposed my call to ministry as an example of this. Weneed to remember that Jesus challenged the religious authorities of His time. Jesus also challenged and opposed Satan. Jesus went against his family which was much more serious in His time. Jesus was betrayed by His disciples. Nice guys don't get crucified. Jesus came in the name of the lordHe was like Isaiah in giving both warnings and good news. Jesus came in fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus spoke with a new authority. He warned people about spiritual pride. He warned people about mocking God. Jesus called for repentance and new faith. He gave hope of new spiritual life where forgiveness of sins and right relationship with God was possible. Gave new hope of eternal spiritual life.