December 15, 2012

Why Was John the Baptist In the Wilderness? (Advent 3, Year C)

(Homily notes for Advent 3, Year C, 2012 by Rev. John Gishler)

John was the son of a priest and would normally have become a priest in the Temple himself.
  •        We don’t know what happened – but we can speculate 
  •          John did not fit in, probably saw the corruption and hypocrisy
  •          John wanted something more – a real experience of God
  •          Decided to get away from the un-holiness of the Temple
  •          Cleansed himself through self-examination and repentance
  •          Removed his spiritual garbage, Holy Spirit could live in him
  •          Holy Spirit used him to prophecy the Messiah’s coming
  •          Warn people to prepare through the baptism of repentance

 1    1.   John’s message is ‘turn or burn’
·         Coming Messiah will baptize with fire and Holy Spirit
·         God is holy and cannot be around un-holiness
·         God has been described as a consuming fire
·         Those who are not prepared will be burnt up like chaff
·         Gets our attention, motivates us to change our lives
·         We do not want to ‘scare people into the Kingdom’
·         Objective is to start a process of self-examination that leads to repentance, confession and forgiveness

December 4, 2012

Christianity and Mormonism

Mormonism has historically claimed to be an advanced form of Christianity based on new (“latter day”) revelations to modern prophets. The ‘latter day’ revelations of the Book of Mormon have been rejected as false teachings by Christian churches which regard Mormonism as a non-Christian cult. While there is a great variety of teaching between Christian Churches, the bottom line has always been the original Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible as interpreted ‘in all times and in all places by all people. Mormonism is based on a distinctly different revelation and spiritual authority with a different understanding of God, Jesus, forgiveness and eternal spiritual life.

1.     Religious and Spiritual Authority
Christianity recognizes the 66 books of the Bible as the primary source of authority for religious and spiritual teaching. These books were agreed to after vigorous debate in the First and Second Centuries as being reliable and divinely inspired. In the Bible, Jesus (Matthew 7.15; 24.11; 24.24 and Mark 13.22) warns believers of the danger of false prophets to come. Christians are clearly told to wait only for the personal return of Jesus in the End Time (Mt. 2.64; Mk. 14.62; 1 Thess. 5.23; 2 Thess. 2.8; 1 Peter 1.13 and Revelation 22.20.

Mormonism recognizes both the Bible and the Book of Mormon as authoritative teachings, with the later considered more reliable (History of the Church, vol. 4, p.461). The Mormon Articles of Faith also limit Biblical authority to what is “properly translated” – meaning they can (and have) developed incompatible theologies of God, Jesus, Forgiveness and Salvation. It is unlikely that those who claim this ‘mistranslation’ have either seen or would have been able to translate the earliest Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible in the Bodleian and Vatican Libraries in Oxford and Rome.

November 17, 2012

“Watch Out That No One Deceives You” (Mark 13.5)

In the Collect we ask God to “Free us from all that darkens and ensnares us.” The Readings remind us of the spiritual dangers of this life. Eli the priest is not paying attention when he accuses Hannah of being drunk when she is praying (1 Sam. 1.14). In the Hebrews Reading (10.11-25) “those who are being made holy” are encouraged to persevere. Let us focus on the Jesus warning and consider:
·         How are we deceived?
·         How can we protect ourselves from being deceived?

11.  How are we deceived?
a.    There is a deceiver – the Bible names him as Satan, the father of lies
                                          i.    Satan whispers temptations in our ears and hearts
                                        ii.    Satan gives us assurance it is ok – “You will not certainly die” (Gen. 3.4) - die spiritually
                                       iii.    Satan even quotes Scripture to Jesus
                                       iv.    When we give in to temptation we are accused
                                         v.    Think of Satan as head of quality control on Earth
                                       vi.    Many people dismiss as superstition - are vulnerable
                                      vii.    Others can get paranoid or blame Satan for own foolishness
                                     viii.    Need balance of awareness and vigilance

b.    Jesus warns us “many will come in my name – clergy
                                          i.    Clergy are Just as vulnerable to being deceived
                                        ii.    Enlightenment questioned the authority of Church as based on superstition
                                       iii.    Biblical Criticism deconstructed the Biblical as a reliable source of religious truth
                                       iv.    New Liberal theology was developed which questioned the supernatural worldview of the Biblle -Healing miracles, Virgin Birth, Resurrection of Jesus
                                         v.    Reason and intellectual debate replaced Biblical authority – literal vs allegorical meanings
                                       vi.    Church councils / synods replace Scripture, Tradition and Reason as the authority for determining truth

c.     Culture of inclusiveness that excludes true truth
                                          i.    Inclusiveness has become the new authority
                                        ii.    Inclusiveness is not a Biblical value
                                       iii.    Inclusiveness is a secular political value
                                       iv.    Inclusiveness excludes the possibility of truth
                                         v.    My experience is my ‘truth’
                                       vi.    Ended up with ‘my truth’ and ‘your truth’ as equally valid – no religious authority (only political)

d.    On the Psychological level we deceive ourselves
                                          i.    Our minds have a built-in protection mechanism
                                        ii.    Information which causes stress or emotional discomfort is filtered out in our subconscious
                                       iii.    We hear but we do not really hear – Biblical
                                       iv.    Example of Eve – believe the lie, does not ask for clarification on what Satan means by “die”
                                         v.    Eve assumes relationship will not die
                                       vi.    My experience with Red Deer Public Library Board
1.     Did not hear their concerns
2.     Assumed they were satisfied
3.     Contract was terminated
4.     Researched self-deception and discovered that this is a scientifically valid process

2   2.  How can we protect ourselves from being deceived?
a.    Read the Bible as the basic standard to test truth
                                          i.    Christianity flourished in England because each family had a Bible they could read at home
                                        ii.    Contrast with France and Italy where there was no effective Reformation and little Bible reading
                                       iii.    My experience of reading the Bible – and being angry that nobody had taught me the truth
                                       iv.    Daily Bible reading is our best protection
b.    Invite the Holy Spirit to teach discernment
                                          i.    Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth – guides us
                                        ii.    Knowledge and wisdom come from the Spirit
                                       iii.    Daily prayer and listening time protects us
c.     Do self-examination in preparation for Confession
                                                      i.    Need to “Renounce all things that draw you from the love of God”  (Prayer after Communion)

October 20, 2012

We Are Anointed To Proclaim Forgiveness & Healing

(Teaching notes for St. Luke’s Day 2012 by Rev. John Gishler)

This is a moment of high drama:
  • Jesus announces who He is and what He has come to do
  • Prophecy is fulfilled in their hearing – i.e.  I am the one who will release prisoners, open the eyes of the blind and release the oppressed
  • To understand this we need to notice the context in Luke – follows Jesus temptation by Satan, precedes an exorcism
  • Jesus is not talking about physical prisons or blindness
  • Jesus is talking about freeing people from spiritual prisons and spiritual blindness
  • We also believe in the physical healings of Jesus

 1.    “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4.21)
a.    Isaiah had written this at least 400 years earlier.
b.    Hebrews expecting another saviour like Moses
c.    Moses was anointed by God to lead them out of physical slavery in Egypt to prosperity in a new land
d.    Moses had given them Laws to ensure they remained in right relationship to God
e.    Moses had given them instruction for animal sacrifices to atone for sins when they failed to keep the Laws
f.      Jesus proclaims Himself as the Saviour they expected

September 15, 2012

Marriage Is a Spiritual Relationship

(The marriage of Kate and Michael Armstrong, 2012 by Rev. John Gishler)

In the Gospel Reading (Mark 10.6-9) Jesus teaches us that in marriage two people both leave their parents protection and authority and are joined together in a “one flesh” relationship. This is a spiritual relationship because they are joined not by physical birth but an emotional or spiritual attraction.  To understand love more deeply, we need to look at marriage as a relationship between two human spirits that have physical bodies. These two spirits are about to promise to love, comfort, honour and protect each other in order to grow and experience joy in this relationship.

1.     They will promise to love each other.
a.    There are no limitations or conditions attached
b.    These promises are being made in the presence of God
c.     Apostle Paul defines unconditional love as patient and kind
d.    Unconditional love is not self-seeking – self-sacrificial
e.    Unconditional love keeps no record of wrongs – forgives
f.      Unconditional love perseveres in hope
g.    Unconditional love enables us to overcome our fear

2.     They will promise to comfort each other

September 8, 2012

Those Who Love God Are Promised a Kingdom

(Teaching notes for Proper 23, Year B 2012 by Rev. John Gishler)

The Readings remind us of our need to develop and maintain a personal love relationship with God if we wish to have an eternal spiritual life. The Proverbs remind us that there is justice and if we fail to love others, including the poor and vulnerable there will be consequences. James comes right out and says they will “...inherit the Kingdom He promised to those who love him.” (James 2.5) Finally in the Gospel Jesus uses the example of the non-Jewish woman (who was considered outside the Covenant of Moses) to teach us that those who demonstrate love by enduring rejection and come to Him in faith will be included in the spiritual kingdom.

1.     Jesus tested the Syrophoenician woman’s faith
1.1.   It was brutal – he called her a dog, unworthy of God’s attention
1.2.   She was not put off – she came back with a tremendous reply
1.3.   She demonstrated love in challenging accepted teachings
1.4.   Showed she believed God loved all people – not just the Jews
1.5.   Showed she believed blessings were to be shared with others
1.6.   Her love and faith were greater than her fear of religious authority
1.7.   Jesus in return loved her and honoured her request
1.8.   In honouring her request Jesus demonstrated love by taking a risk in offending the Jews and in  revealing His power over the demonic

2.     The Ten Commandments are key tests of our love of God

June 15, 2012

Fathers Are Co-creators with God and Women

The Readings (1 Sam. 15.34-16.7; Mark 4.26-33; and 2 Cor. 4.6-15) give us good teaching on the role of Fathers as co-creators with God, wives and friends, of the Kingdom of God on Earth. This is a spiritual kingdom based on love and faith where men are judged by what is in their heart, not by outward appearances. The two agricultural images of reaping what we sow and taking responsibility for sheep, help us understand what God expects men to do in our time.

1.     Many men have lost their identity and authority in our time
Men and women were given their identity and authority by God. In Genesis 1.28 we are taught they are to ‘fill the earth and subdue it’.
The rest of the Bible is the story of how men and women have struggled to fill the earth and subdue it over the last 4,000 years. In our time there has been a serious loss of male identity and authority:
·         Many men have not had fathers who taught them how to be a man and a father
·         Many men have not read, been taught or studied the Bible
·         Many men have either lost their faith or never had a faith
·         Separated from God they have lost their identity & direction
·         Separated from God they have lost their authority as priests to the family and become self-centred and isolated
·         Women have shamed men and often replaced them as the spiritual authority in the family in our time
·         Good news is that many men are now beginning to realize that they need to attend a church and join a Bible Study group to re-discover their identity

2.     God judges men and women by the character of their heart

June 2, 2012

I Believe In the Holy Spirit: The Trinity in 15 Minutes

This is a Creedal statement we make every Sunday. It is part of our affirmation of Faith in the Trinity. The difference is that unlike the Creedal statements about God the Father and Jesus the Son in the Apostles Creed; nothing is said about what it is we are supposed to believe about the Holy Spirit. This is deliberate. The point is we are to believe in the Holy Spirit so we can be led by the Holy Spirit into a deeper and eternal relationship with God. This process of developing a deeper spiritual life is called being born again.

1.    The Holy Spirit is the part of a God who is with us in our lives
a.    Trinity Sunday is a good time to learn how God works in our daily lives as Father, Son and Holy Spirit
b.    The Holiness of God is something we sometimes forget
c.    God the Father is the creator who creates a holy world
d.    God includes freedom of choice in His creation
e.    Rebellion -à Sin à Guilt à un-holiness à separation
f.      Like Isaiah we have unclean lips and need healing
g.    Cannot be in the divine presence until we are clean
h.    Fire burns up un-holiness, old self dies, new self born
i.      God intervenes as Jesus, Redeemer to pay the price
j.      Again freedom of choice on Jesus part and ours
k.     God also intervenes by coming as the Holy Spirit
l.      Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier who makes us holy
m.   Helps us see our sin and decide to repent to Jesus
n.    Holy Spirit is the Comforter who teaches and heals us

2.    Belief In is more than acknowledgement