December 24, 2014

Good News - A Savior Has Been Born to you!

At Christmas we celebrate the Good News of the birth of Jesus. Isaiah describes it as being like a light shining in the darkness. The Hebrews in Isaiah’s time, six Centuries before the birth of Jesus, felt they had been abandoned by God. As a consequence of their rebellion against God they had lost their spiritual protection and been conquered and oppressed by other nations. Their punishment was temporary. The Prophet Isaiah passed on the Good News that God would intervene in history in the future – through the birth of a child in Galilee (9.1) and “the government will be on his shoulders” (v. 6) This intervention would “shatter the yoke that burdened them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor” (v. 4) – i.e. our human fear of death and separation from God. The Good News was that a saviour would come and redeem individuals from their fear of death and the sin guilt that prevented them from being in the presence of God. To understand what God is doing in history, we need to understand why a saviour was needed, what this saviour needed to do and God’s desire to “make righteousness”. (Isaiah 61.11)

1. Why do we need a Saviour?
I was brought up as a cradle Anglican in a more Liberal environment where it was vaguely assumed that we were all saved by our baptism and only had to live a good life to be included in the heavenly kingdom. I remember mocking evangelicals who seemed to think Anglicans needed to be saved. What I did not understand, until I read the whole Bible myself and became involved in healing ministry, was that:

December 17, 2014

We Are All Chosen and Called By God (Advent 4, Year B)

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. (Luke 1.28-38)
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

November 29, 2014

Welcome To the End Time – and Advent in Year B

Advent 1 marks the beginning of a new liturgical Year. During Year B, we will be going through Mark’s Gospel. In 51 weeks we will be back to the Reading for Proper 33 which is just before the Gospel Reading for today (Mark 13.24-37). Jesus is nearing the end of His ministry and is giving a teaching on the End Time otherwise known as the ‘Day of the Lord’. This is the apocalyptic time at the end of history when the Hebrews and Christians believed there would be wars, plagues, apostasy by many, massive destruction and God / Jesus world return to judge the living and the dead and welcome the ‘blameless’ into heaven. The Bible teaches that the rest would be toast (i.e. dead) or sent to purgatory for cleansing. Modern false prophets teach that everyone is somehow included. Advent is a time of warning to prepare for both the coming of Jesus at Christmas and the Second Coming at the end of time.

 1. Isaiah 64.1-9 is a cry for help from a God who really does help
Isaiah is pleading for intervention against the enemies of God. What is important is that he is in a personal relationship with God and he knows that God has intervened in the past in mighty acts of power. This is in dramatic contrast to the other gods of other religions who have never left any real physical evidence:

November 14, 2014

Faith-Full Christians Grow Their Gifts (Proper 33, 2014)

We are at the end of the liturgical year. Next Sunday we celebrate the Reign of Christ. Jesus is teaching us about the End Times also known as the “Day of the Lord”. The question is “who will be included in the Kingdom of God? – and who will be excluded?”. The Readings give us three answers:

·         Judges 4.1-8 would include the Nation of Israel if it remained faith-full to its Covenant with God

·         1 Thess.4.13-18 includes the ‘people of light’ who die ‘in-Christ’ i.e. are faith-full to their Baptism into Jesus Christ

·         Mt. 25.14-30 includes those who grow their gifts

 1. There are consequences for rebelling against God
In the Judges Reading the People of God – the Nation of Israel have been “sold into the hands of Jabin, King of Caanan. The Hebrews were in a ‘Covenant’ relationship with God. God owned them and could punish rebellion by withdrawing His protection and using a pagan king to oppress them until they repent.

October 27, 2014

We Should All Feel Shame! (letter to National Post re shooting in Ottawa)

Mrs. Bibeau (October 27) is not alone. We have all probably failed to give our children the instruction and guidance they need to survive in a deceitful world and have a meaningful life. Her son was not ‘crazy’ when he went on a shooting rampage in Parliament as Dr. Frances noted. He was misguided. In fact he was born into a culture that is seriously ignorant and misguided in the area of religion. His life, like the lives of many people, had no meaning or purpose. We have inherited a post-Christian culture in which many people have lost touch with their Christian roots. Many Christians have been misguided by Liberal Protestantism’s denial of an active spiritual force of evil in the world.  Many parents do not have a faith – any faith, to pass on to their children. Schools do not teach the basics of Christianity and the Great Religions. The consequence is young people searching for and finding meaning for their lives in a Satanic religion of violence and conquest. We all need to wake up and smell the gun smoke.  Our schools need to teach the basics truths of all the Great Religions to give young people hope, meaning , context and the basic knowledge they need to resist misguided religious teachers - and get over their fear of offending someone!

 P.S. The meaning of life is to love God and enjoy God forever.

October 18, 2014

Luke Teaches Us to Proclaim the Healing Power of Jesus (St. Luke's Day, Oct. 18)

Luke / Acts is the longest and most practical of the Gospels. Luke focuses on the Good News as healing. This includes physical healing and spiritual healing. In fact spiritual healing often leads to physical healing. The goal is to restore individuals to wholeness or holiness so they can be in a right relationship with God – who is holy. Humanity is imprisoned by sin, guilt and fear under the power of Satan and destined to die both physically and spiritually. Jesus claims (Luke 4.16-21) the Prophetic mission of Isaiah to free humanity from this captivity to sin and death and restore us to physical health, right relationship with God and eternal spiritual life. This is accomplished by our proclaiming the forgiveness and healing power of Jesus.

 1. Jesus is the “ANOINTED” teacher and healer
Unlike the “false teachers” 2 Timothy 4.3 warns us about Jesus is anointed by God to teach the Good News to the poor. This anointing is critical in teaching and preaching. The history of the Church is a history of false teachers promoting heresies and conflict over doctrine. We seem to be living in an apparently kinder and gentler time when it is considered wrong to condemn heresies and disagree. Many people are concerned that some Church leaders, including Bishops, have caved in to political pressure around the Good News of healing. For example instead of offering healing prayer to the sexually disoriented; our Anglican Synods has affirmed ‘the sanctity and integrity of same-sex relationships”. This indicates that we have lost our Faith in the healing power of Jesus – and are listening to false teachers.

 2. We are to PROCLAIM the healing power of Jesus

September 27, 2014

Christians are baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit (Baptism)

 “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit (John 3.5) 

 The Gospel Reading (John 3.1-6) teaches us that Christian Baptism is like being born again - in two distinct experiences. The visible physical part is the water baptism in which there is a washing away or death to the past, self-centred and sin controlled life. Since the Holy Spirit cannot live in an unholy person, water baptism prepares the way for new birth when a person receives and experiences the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
1)     Ezekiel teaches us that God will “Gather” us and “bring us back” into right relationship in His Kingdom
Ezekiel (36.24-28) describes the ‘re-covenanting’ of the Hebrews who had broken the Covenant of Moses, rebelled against God and suffered for the 40 years known as the Babylonian Captivity. The root cause of this loss of faith was a failure of parents and synagogue leaders to pass on and nurture their children in the Hebrew Faith. Ezekiel, writing 400 years before Jesus prophesied a new Covenant of washing and cleansing sin away and infilling with the Holy Spirit:

a. Promise of “your own land’ a homeland / protection

September 12, 2014

The Gift of Mercy ( Proper 24)

It has been said that if we all got what we deserved we would all be taken out and ‘horsewhipped’. Mercy is what stands between justice and punishment. Mercy is a personal divine gift. It is not a ‘right’ – as many hope. It cannot be earned - as many people hope. Mercy is a sign of a heart that loves. The parable of the Unmerciful Servant is a kingdom parable. It is a teaching on what is required of those who are included in the Kingdom of God. They are required to have demonstrated mercy. This is what Jesus meant by "Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy." (Matthew 5.7) Mercy is the ability to give up the right to judge others and the right to pay back - and instead forgive from the heart. We will be judged and forgiven in the same way that we have judged and forgiven others. This is a test of our love and mercy.

1. The Parable teaches us how people are judged by God
The King or Master is of course God. Jesus is the one who loves us enough to give up His life in payment for the huge debt of our sins. The person being considered for entry into the Kingdom is the servant who was forgiven a huge, un-payable debt. None of us could ever work hard enough at being good to earn the forgiveness we need for entry into the Kingdom of God.

·         Protestant Liberal Theology has deceived many people into a vague belief that God will somehow love us and save us – this is not Biblical

·         The Bible is very clear that the ‘Somehow”  is always through repentance, confession and trust in the Cross of Jesus

·         Lords’ Prayer - We pray that God will forgive us our trespasses / debt as we have forgiven those who trespass against us

·         The Unmerciful Servant revealed his failure to love God and his neighbor and is put out of the Kingdom of God

2. Un-forgiveness is a sin that pollutes our soul and affects our life

August 13, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage and the Challenge and Opportunity of Liberal Theology

(Submission to the Anglican Church Commission on the Marriage Canon, Aug., 2014)
The Archbishop of Canterbury was recently quoted in Canada as saying he had ‘many questions’ when asked for his personal take on the issue of same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church. This is encouraging as up to now much of the ‘discussion’ on this issue has consisted of hurling vacuous insults back and forth. Those in favour of same-sex marriage have been described as un-Biblical heretics, apostates and non-Christian pagans. On the other side, those opposed have been described as hateful, homophobic, unloving holders of the pre-scientific and superstitious view of the Bible. Discussion on this level has polarized and fragmented the Anglican Church, distracted clergy from effective ministry and led to a steep decline in attendance. Many people - including Synod Delegates who will meet to possibly change the Marriage Canon in 2015; are confused, disgusted and I believe deceived by these simplistic arguments. The Anglican Church of Canada is now evenly divided. On one side many Anglicans have come to believe that a new, more loving and inclusive but vaguely defined Liberal Theology is an improvement over the more judgemental form of Biblical Theology found in many Anglican Churches. Others believe Liberal Theology, which affirms same-sex marriage, is actually a deconstruction of Biblical Theology and needs to be exposed and rejected. In order to discuss the issue of same-sex marriage from a clearer theological perspective we need to compare the two theologies. This is also an important opportunity for all of us to reflect on these differences as a Church and make a clear decision on whether to continue compromising with Liberal Theology or to change direction and embrace a more balanced form of Biblical Theology that includes both law and grace.

1.     What is Liberal Theology?
Liberalism is a philosophy of liberating people, often from religious doctrines that prevent them from – well, getting married! This philosophy has historically challenged the authority of the Bible and its’ interpretation by the Church on a range of issues. The result is that since the Reformation a new, largely unstated, Liberal Theology has developed to accommodate those who cannot believe in traditional Christian beliefs such as the Virgin Birth, the healing miracles and the sacrificial death of Jesus as atonement for human sin. The long history of this collision of science and reason with the supernatural spiritual worldview and claims of the Bible includes:

August 9, 2014

The Word Is Near You (Proper 19)

We all need Jesus to be there for us, to reach out and catch us when we are afraid. We are sometimes like Peter in the boat. We get “beyond our depth” in the storms of life and need someone to rescue us. This parable explains how the spiritual world is all around us and how Jesus as “the Word” is always very near to us.

1. Most of the time we do not think about our need to be saved
Most of the time we feel safe in our comfortable little boat. We are rocked by the storms of life around us but it seems safer in the boat than outside. In practical terms many people believe if they just keep the Ten Commandments - or at least try, things will somehow work out ok.
Story of Joseph and his brothers (all good people of the Hebrew Law) reminds us this does not always work in real life. In real life we are blinded by our pride. We may think we can manage without being saved and without Jesus - at least for a while.
  • Problem is that we are human. Our human nature is weak. We fail and fall into sin. Joseph’s brothers let their jealousy drive them into anger and almost murder. This is the story of all of our families.
  • The Good News is that when we do fall into sinful or destructive behaviour, Jesus is always there to reach out to us and save us from sinking any farther. The Good news is that God has created a way to remove the guilt and shame of our sinful behaviours. All we have to do is repent and cry out “Lord save me”.
2. The Story is not about walking on water

August 2, 2014

Wrestling with God

The Readings begin with the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel - possibly with God Himself. The Apostle Paul is also wrestling with God over the refusal of the Jewish leadership to embrace Jesus as the Messiah. Finally, in the story of the Feeding of the 5,000 the Disciples are wrestling with Jesus over not just the practical problem of feeding a huge crowd; but the deeper issue of who He really is. These readings teach us that it is normal and important to wrestle actively with God if we are to have a serious spiritual life.

 1. Jacob was re-named Israel which means "God Wrestler"
Jacob was in a very fearful situation. He was about to face his brother Esau. This is the same brother Jacob had cheated out of his father's blessing. He had fled and was now a wealthy man and ready to return. He sent waves of cattle on ahead of him to Esau as peace offerings. He is so afraid of Esau that he can not sleep. All night he wrestles with his fear, guilt and shame in the physical form of an angel or God Himself. In the morning he is re-named Israel by God. This is the beginning of the Nation of Israel. The change in name is also a change in purpose and mission. These people are to continue to wrestle with God. Their God is not to be a distant rule-giver. They are to wrestle with their God over their deepest personal fears and over the major decisions in their lives.

July 26, 2014

Thy Kingdom Come - My Kingdom Treasures (Proper 17)

The readings for the past few weeks (Matthew 13) have been teaching us about the Kingdom of God. In the Parable of the Sower Jesus focuses on how people respond to the Word of God. In the Parable of the Weeds Jesus teaches us how to deal with evil. In the three parables for today Jesus is teaching us how important it is to be included in the Kingdom. He challenges us to be able to bring out treasures from our own experience of the Kingdom to share with others. Let me model this for you by bringing out three treasures from my study and experience of the Kingdom.

1. The treasure of the Bible as 'True truth' – is everyone really included?
My first kingdom treasure is a lesson learned long ago as I was reading the Bible. The Reading was about Isaiah - “setting his face like flint” in the face of opposition. Isaiah helped me understand what I was getting into in my preaching. Christian teachers often have to choose between either trying to please everyone; or confronting people with what the Bible actually says about self-sacrifice, loyalty, holiness and loving God. Biblical Christianity has been under attack for centuries by individuals who do not like this or that Biblical teaching. The supernatural Biblical worldview has often been compromised by academics and clergy who want to be ‘relevant to the modern scientific culture’. The Biblical teachings on sexual morality have also been compromised by clergy who wish to avoid conflict with various interest groups. This is a new thing. Historic Christianity proclaimed the Biblical teachings as a challenge to the culture of the time

July 24, 2014

Christans Have A Destiny As Children of God (Proper 16)

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.

1. Christians have a destiny
Most of us spend a lot of time trying to figure out what we are supposed to be doing. The Parable of the Weeds reminds us of an obvious but important truth. Seeds grow into what they are intended to grow into. If you plant wheat, wheat is what you get. Last Sunday, in the Parable of the Sower, we were reminded how fragile and vulnerable this process is. The idea of an enemy was introduced as one of the many ways in which the seed of the Word of God in the Bible can be lost or prevented from growing. The Readings for today help us understand our destiny and the challenges we face on the way to that destiny. In Genesis (28.10-19) we are reminded that we are not alone. We follow in the tradition of Jacob who had an encounter with God. He was told that he had one God and that that God would protect him and bless him with land and children. His destiny was to live under the spiritual protection and blessings of the Covenant with Abraham. Our destiny is the same except we are also promised forgiveness, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and eternal spiritual life if we live out our Covenant.  In the Romans (8.28) Reading, the Apostle Paul refers to this as "the redemption of our bodies". The seed does not remain a seed. It dies and gives birth to something much greater. It has a destiny and that destiny is to become a child of God. The Good News is that as a child of God, we will inherit what the Father has - eternal spiritual life with God.

2. Christians have an enemy

July 10, 2014

Our Spiritual Birthright Is Life In-Christ (Proper 15)

A “birthright” is something you are entitled to because you were born under certain circumstances. Esau is the first-born son. He foolishly gives up his birthright of inheriting his fathers’ land and spiritual blessings. Our birthright as “Christians, “born again” in the power of the Holy Spirit, is eternal spiritual life, joined spiritually to Jesus Christ. Our lives are joined to His life by our love – our emotional attachment of faith. Our lives are a constant struggle to understand this and resist the temptations of our ‘natural self’ which can cause us to lose our spiritual birth-right.

1. The Parable of the Sower explains how we get our spiritual birth-right
A parable uses a simple visible activity to explain an invisible spiritual process. In this case the “seed” is the Word - the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ that is explained in the Bible. This good news is scattered everywhere, in every language and in every country. Everyone has an opportunity to read the Bible and make the effort to understand its meaning. Everyone can join a Bible Study group, church or fellowship where the meaning is explained.
·         The key is learning and understanding.
·         Understanding leads to a faith decision and being spiritually “born again”.

June 12, 2014

Christians Are to Make Disciples of All Nations (Trinity Sunday Readings)

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 of fellowship with the Father who loves and protects 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 forgiveness with others. This is a challenge in our time as the dominant cultural values of liberalism are secularism and not offending the religious beliefs of others – like Jesus did!

 1. We are Baptized to proclaim the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ...”(2 Corinthians 13.14).
Our Baptism is to strengthen and protect us in the ministry we are baptized into. That ministry is to “make disciples of all men”. “Make” is a verb, an action word that means working with other people to teach them what they need to know to experience the ‘grace’ of our lord Jesus Christ and become committed followers – disciples.
·         By sharing the good news of the “grace” that we have received.
·         By explaining the meaning and importance of grace as a way out of bondage to anger, bitterness and un-forgiveness
·         By being a sign of Grace and forgiveness in the world
·         By helping others understand the importance of being in a right relationship with God and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit

June 6, 2014

“Wholeness through Christ” Healing Ministry Model
(from a workshop presented to Diocese of Windward Islands Clergy, 2014)
The Good News of the healing ministry in the Christian Church is that when people come for healing, the Holy Spirit will help us work with them to discern the root cause in their sin or some form of inherited sin-guilt or curse, break the power of the sin through repentance, confession and absolution and build them up spiritually through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The Wholeness Through Christ Healing Model helps us understand this ministry by defining the goals of Christian healing ministry as:
·         Sins forgiven
·         Wounds healed
·         Evil spirits cast out
·         Bondages broken

Pentecost - Welcome to the Healing Ministry of Christians!

In Luke’s Gospel the ministry of Jesus began after two dramatic encounters. In the first He is tested by Satan (Luke 4.1-13) and puts loyalty to God over materialism, earthly power and spiritual authority. In the second (Luke 4.16-21) Jesus claims His destiny as Saviour and His plan of ministry. All of Jesus ministry was related to healing the separation of individuals from God by destroying the power of sin, evil and deception. We need to study and imitate Jesus model of ministry. Praying for healing was a major part of this ministry – and should be a regular part of our ministry. Let us examine how Jesus approached His Ministry:

1. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because He has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor.”
First of all Jesus ministry is anointed and guided by the Holy Spirit. We have in our time many false teachers and self-appointed ministers. These people have no authority or power from God. Unfortunately, the bad news is that Satan does seem to be able to empower his followers to do counterfeit miracles and healing.
·         Christian healing ministry needs to be under Episcopal or Church authority
·         Ministers need to be carefully chosen, trained and supervised
·         Clergy may not have this gift and need training and support
·         Healing Ministry is Holy Spirit led and experience – based
·         Show up, shut-up (listen) and be available
·         All ministry begins with “proclamation”

May 17, 2014

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Easter 5 Readings)

 This claim to absolute truth was made Two Thousand years ago. Every moment of every day we make choices between this claim and what other voices around us say. Other voices question the truth of this claim by presenting good works, secularism, multi-culturalism and religious pluralism as alternative ways. There is a real conflict between respecting the right of other people to believe in these other ways; and our Baptismal promise to proclaim Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. The cost of silence is our failure to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and the proclamation that other ways are valid. On the surface our silence appears loving. In reality it is unloving. By not proclaiming the Good News of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus we fail to love our neighbors enough to share the Good News and abandon them to ignorance and spiritual death.

 1. Jesus claimed to be" the way" (John 14.6)
In fact the early Christians were known as the people of the Way. What do we mean by "the Way"? It is a short version of way to salvation through belief in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus. Christians believe their way to salvation or eternal spiritual life is through Jesus Christ. Last Sunday we talked about Jesus being like a gate that people had to go through in order to be saved or to receive eternal spiritual life.

May 10, 2014

Priests of the Caribbean: Reflections by Rev. John and Mrs Lucille Gishler

We arrived in our Companion Diocese of the Windward Islands in November and stayed until Easter. The Diocese includes three main Islands which are also independent states, running from about 100 miles Northwest of Venezuela in an arc that reaches toward Cuba – Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. Advent began with a huge gathering (1,200+) of the eight parishes on St Vincent (diameter 26 miles) in an outdoor stadium – I am fourth from the Left.

The Bishop was very interested in the Alpha Course and Cursillo and asked each of the eight parishes on St. Vincent to send two people for training and another four to take the course. You can see the joy after the Alpha Weekend in the picture. We left the training video, Leaders Guide and Alpha Course DVD with the Diocese so they can roll out Alpha in each parish.

April 22, 2014

Easter Sunday - 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.

1. 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 19, 2014

Priests of the Caribbean: Fr. John and Lucille Gishler in St. Vincent

Santa from Canada and Fr. Brooker
We arrived in our Companion Diocese of the Windward Islands in November to be in place for Advent and the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year. They really celebrate things here so Advent begins with a huge gathering (1,200+) of the eight parishes in an outdoor stadium with all the clergy in full vestments and the Bishop celebrating the Eucharist. I was able meet the clergy, address the gathering and present a special purple cross, blessed by Bishop Kerr-Wilson to Bishop Friday. Bishop Friday loves to joke and noted that he was already wearing a cross so this might be a double cross.

Blessed Is He That Comes In The Name Of the Lord (Palm Sunday Readings)

Palm Sunday is a special time for me as I was ordained a priest twenty-two 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 Jesus humility and faithfulness in overcoming opposition and saving His people. Our Lectionary Readings have now been revised to replace Palm Sunday with the “Sunday of the Passion” – which most people observe on God Friday. My preference is to maintain the old order and focus on this one brief celebration of Jesus as Lord and Saviour overcoming obstacles to ministry and riding victoriously into Jerusalem

1.     The Isaiah Reading reminds us that Jesus had to ‘set his face like flint’
·         Words jumped 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
·         Jesus challenged the religious authorities of His time
·         Jesus challenged and opposed Satan
·         Jesus went against his family
·         Jesus was betrayed by His disciples
·         Nice guys don’t get crucified

2.     Jesus came “in the name of the lord”

April 4, 2014

Jesus Calls Us From Death To New Life (Lent 5 Readings)

\The readings are all about calling people from a state of potential spiritual death to a state of new spiritual life. Ezekiel is given a vision and instructed by God to prophesy and bring the bones of dead soldiers back to life. Paul teaches us to apply this wisdom to our own lives by contrasting the lives of people who are spiritually dead in their sinful nature; with the lives of people who have found a new spiritual life guided by the Holy Spirit. In the raising of Lazarus we see a dramatic example of Jesus calling someone He had a relationship of love with; from death back to physical life. These Readings encourage us to examine our own relationship of love and faith in Jesus as we go through our Lenten preparation for Easter.

1. Ezekiel is learning to follow instructions
God is teaching him. He is asked to do something that seems impossible. It is a test of faith. Ezekiel is learning to trust God and be guided by the Holy Spirit. He is also learning about the desire of God, the power of God and the glory of God.

  • Desire of God is that all people will have life and live in daily, personal relationship with God – right-relationship = righteousness = holy = unpolluted by disloyalty, rebellion and sin
  • Ezekiel sees that He has the power to do this – to bring what was dead to life.
  • Resurrection of the soldiers reveals the power and glory of God and gives us all hope
  • Outward physical sign of the inner spiritual grace of our own resurrection – definition of sacrament / how we explain the invisible spiritual dimension          
2. Paul contrasts those controlled by the sinful nature with those guided by the Holy Spirit

March 29, 2014

We Are All Born Spiritually Blind (Lent 4 Readings)

We can see physically, most of us, but we cannot see spiritually when we are born. ‘Seeing’ is a metaphor for understanding. In our case it means we do not understand how the unseen spiritual world operates. Our understanding of the unseen spiritual world is about the same as a blind persons’ understanding of the physical world.

  • With experience the blind person will develop understanding of the physical world just as with experience we can develop understanding of the spiritual world.
  • At birth we know nothing. We are, as the Apostle Paul says “darkness” and “disobedient” (Ephesians 6.8, 12).
The readings challenge us all to be open to being healed by Jesus, like the man born blind so we can see spiritually, come out of this darkness and be transformed into “children of light”. (Eph. 6.8).

 1. Spiritual blindness is worse than physical blindness
People that are born physically blind know they are blind. They begin adapting right away. Those who are spiritually blind, in contrast, usually do not know they are spiritually blind. They are often like the Pharisees who had deceived themselves and thought that they had special spiritual insight.

March 22, 2014

Jesus Gives Us the Living Water of Hope (Lent 3)

The Exodus reading (17.1-7) reminded us of how the Hebrew people had been dependant on God for physical water in order to survive. In the Romans reading (5.1-11) the Apostle Paul is explaining Jesus as the one who gives us the hope of forgiveness and a new personal relationship with God. This hope leads us into a personal experience of God’s love.
  • Hope is what can get us through difficulties in life.
  • Difficulties of life push us to choose to hope in God and actually make us spiritually stronger.
  • Downside is that for some people, who do not have this hope, life can be overwhelming and destructive.
Gospel reading (John4.5-42) gives a very detailed account of Jesus revealing the Good News of hope to the least likely person - a Samaritan woman living with a man out of wedlock. As a devout Jew he probably should not have even talked to her, let alone accepted a drink of water. Jesus is modelling evangelism and church building. As people wondering about the future of our church we need to study Jesus teachings very carefully. We don’t know anyone who does not need the living water of hope.

1. Jesus gives us the living water of forgiveness
In this conversation we see how quickly Jesus uses the example of physical water to explain “spiritual water”. This teaches us how to explain our faith in practical terms to other people.

March 14, 2014

Do You Believe in God the Holy Spirit?

The story of Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3.1-17) shows us the difference between a Biblical or spiritual world view and what most people think. It is the key story for people who want nothing to do with "Religion" but want to have an authentic experience of the divine - a spiritual life. As we examine our spiritual lives in Lent it is important that we enter this conversation and ask ourselves if we really believe in being born again and the Holy Spirit. This is different from knowing about the Holy Spirit and generally the result of a personal experience of being "Born Again" and experiencing the Holy Spirit in daily life.

1.     Candidates for Christian Baptism are asked some very heavy questions
             This question comes as part of the examination of the candidates / sponsors and is   part of the Apostles Creed in the Baptism Service. It is after the questions about renouncing Satan and evil and after the questions about accepting, trusting and obeying Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Nicodemus could not answer this question about being Born Again and receiving the Holy Spirit.
·   For him Baptism was water baptism and cleansing
·   For him you had to earn a right relationship with God by keeping the Law of Moses
·   Romans Reading explains the difference between salvation by works vs by grace through faith
·   The Apostles Creed summarizes this Faith
·   Nicodemus was highly educated but could not understand what Jesus meant by being ‘born again’
·   Many Anglicans in our time have the same problem
·   We need to examine our own faith to  prepare for our renewal of Baptismal promises at Easter
2.     Serious Baptism preparation is essential in our time

March 7, 2014

Self-examination Helps us Grow in our Spiritual Life (Lent 1)

The Reading (Mat. 4.1-11) teaches us that we will be tempted to rebel against God by the hidden voice of Satan. This is in addition to the voice of our own ego and our human cravings for love, wealth and power. Many people in North America have been deceived by false teachings on the Bible and do not believe in Satan. I was probably one of those people until I had a personal experience of Satan’s voice. I was standing on a busy sidewalk in Calgary beside the woman I had just fallen in love with. There were four lanes of traffic and we were waiting at traffic light for the signal to cross. A thought came into my head “if you just push her a little she will fall into the traffic and be killed”. I was stunned! Where was this coming from! Then another voice helped me understand – I had experienced spiritual evil. The Bible stories of Satan are not exaggerated!


 Let us consider the question of why we should examine our spiritual life before going on to the practical questions of how to do this and prepare for weekly Confession and Absolution.


1. Why should I examine my spiritual life?
Regular self-examination is at the heart of developing a spiritual life. . This is the work of examining your motives and actions to ensure you are cleaning out spiritual pollution and developing a closer love relationship with Jesus. This is the best way to identify and overcome our hidden temptations.

March 1, 2014

Life ‘in Christ’ is the Goal of Spiritual Life (Transfiguration)

The Transfiguration of Jesus is an Epiphany Moment when the supernatural dimension became briefly visible to Peter, James and John. We need these supernatural Epiphany Moments to re-focus our priorities in this secular age. The Transfiguration of Jesus (Mathew 17.1-9) revealed the glory of God and the divine nature of Jesus in a stunning new way. The Apostle Paul, writing in Philippians 3.7-14, responded to his own personal experience of Jesus by setting aside all his previous religious knowledge in order to focus on getting to know Jesus so intimately that he lived his life spiritually and emotionally “in Christ”. Knowledge and personal experience of Jesus is the goal of our spiritual lives.

 1. God created us to be in relationship with Him
People in our time are starving for a personal experience of the divine. They are tired of ‘religion’. They are seeking spiritual life. This sounds at first like a contradiction – spiritual life without the religion? What they mean is authentic spiritual experience without the long boring theological lectures and rituals. The problem is people need both:

February 16, 2014

How Can I Have A Life Of Joy? (Readings Epiphany 6)

One of the things we are learning in the Alpha Course is the interest there is in practical teachings on Christianity. Each week we have a teaching on an important life question. After my teaching on Righteousness at Ascension last week my wife reminded me to explain why we try to live our lives in right-relationship with God. So let me begin by stating the reason is not to make people feel guilty for their sins, but to teach them how to identify, repent and confess their sins so they can be free of guilt and shame and live a life of Joy. In the Gospel Reading (Mt. 5.21-37) Jesus is continuing a sermon that began with the Beatitudes, challenged us to be like salt and light in our righteousness in keeping the Hebrew Law. This is an Epiphany Moment for many people who assume Jesus came to replace the Law of Moses. Last week (see I explained how the Ten Commandments are tests of our love of God and our neighbour. This week we are focussing on Jesus teaching on Murder, Adultery and Oaths.

1. Murder in the heart
Most of us skip over this command – we have never murdered anyone. But we forget Jesus is almost always talking about the spiritual dimension. As Jesus teaches, if you have been angry you have committed murder in the heart and need to repent.

·         If you do not repent and confess, your anger turns to guilt and shame that remains like pollution in your soul.

·         This pollution poisons your soul, prevents having a life of joy

·         Gossip for example can murder a reputation – Bible Study example of ‘why I did not attend services in the Cathedral’ (I was leading worship in a sister church)

 2. Adultery in the heart
Turn on your TV and you are often watching “soft” pornography disguised as soaps, drama or action movies. Jesus is giving us a deep teaching about temptation and how our hearts can be distracted from the love of God, neighour and self. Adultery is not just about sex. Adultery is about polluting something pure and holy.

February 8, 2014

Jesus Came to Fulfill – Not Abolish the Law (Readings Epiphany 5)

It is quite amazing how many people seem surprised when you remind them that Jesus was a Jew. We all know this - but we seem to forget it - along with most of the Old Testament. We can become too narrowly focussed on a “me and Jesus” form of Christianity. During my two years as an Elder in a Messianic Jewish congregation I saw the other side of this as Jesus was seamlessly added to ancient Hebrew worship practice. In the Healing Ministry we are now going back to teachings on the “Ancient Paths” to learn how to bless and pray for people who have separated themselves from God and opened themselves to spiritual attack and oppression. In the Readings, Jesus (Mt. 5.13-20) challenges us to be more righteous than the Pharisees and teaches of the Law if we want to enter the Kingdom of God.

1. Jesus expanded the Covenant of Moses
Messianic Jews are horrified at the ‘me and Jesus’ / ‘replacement’ Theology taught in some Christian churches, which suggests the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament and Christians have completely replaced Jews as God’s Chosen People. Jesus in fact came to fulfill not replace the Old Testament Law and Prophecy.

February 5, 2014

Love Connects Us to Each Other and God (Celebration of Life)

I may be the only person here who never knew Amanda so all I can do is offer some words of comfort as you struggle to understand the tragic death of a beautiful young mother. The Reading (Corinthians 4.4-18) is a letter written in the first Century to the Christian Community in Corinth, Greece. Like you they were struggling with the problem of evil – why would an all powerful loving God allow them to be persecuted and even killed for their faith? The Apostle Paul is trying to get them to see the long view - the unseen and eternal view. He uses the metaphor of “treasure in clay vessels’ to explain the gift of eternal spiritual life they have been given as Christians – and how their lives are connected by love to the life, death and resurrection life of Jesus. All the people who have actually seen a vision of heaven report it is so beautiful and so wonderful nobody would rather go back to Earth.

February 1, 2014

Jesus Saves Us from Spiritual Pollution and Death (Readings for Presentation of Jesus)

The Readings (Mica 3.1-4; Heb. 2.14-18; Luke 2.22-40) for the Celebration of Jesus Presentation in the Temple remind us of the holiness of God and the need for human purification. This was an Epiphany moment for Mary and Joseph who knew God was doing something special but did not know Jesus was the long expected Messiah or Saviour of Israel. The Readings explain how Jesus sacrificial death broke the power of Satan - sin guilt, from leading us to spiritual death.

1. Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to God (Ex. 13.2, 12)
Mary and Joseph were carrying out their responsibilities as parents living under the Covenant of Moses and the Hebrew Law. This was similar to the New Covenant responsibility of baptized parents to prepare and bring their children for Baptism. Israel was a Theocracy where God was the supreme ruler or king.

·         God was holy so the people needed to protect and maintain their personal holiness to be in relationship to God

·         Sin led to spiritual pollution that meant a person could not be in the Hebrew Covenant relationship with God

·         People naturally rebel, sin and separate themselves from God

·         People needed  a way to forgiveness and restored relationship

·         Hebrew Covenant provided forgiveness through animal sacrifices in the Temple by priests

·         Sacrifices required a lot of priests so firstborn males were to be dedicated to God for religious responsibilities in families

·         Reminder that many men in our time have never been taught or have abandoned their role as priests for their family

2. Epiphany Moment for Mary and Joseph - Jesus the Messiah
Mary and Joseph knew God was doing something special with their son. They were astonished to learn that Jesus was the long expected Messiah. (Notice the personal holiness of both prophets).