This Virus is Teaching is All of Us How to be Pacifists

The Time of the Virus has taught us all many things. We’re learning new words, how to cook new meals at home, and that we rarely washed our hands for twenty seconds. But I’ll bet you didn’t think that you were learning how to become a pacifist!

That’s right! You have been embracing the enemy-loving, Jesus-y ethic that is pacifism!

Pacifism gets a bad rap. It gets mixed up with passivism – doing nothing. In our present situation “doing nothing” would mean continuing on with how we used to live: meeting with friends and family, hugging or shaking hands with others, going out to work, school, restaurants, parks, and gathering in large groups for sports, weddings, or funerals. Doing all those things would actually mean “doing nothing” in the face of this virus.

However, like good pacifists, we are actively working against the spread of this virus by doing the hard work of not “doing nothing.” We are staying home, washing our hands for twenty seconds, cleaning or disinfecting more frequently, socially/physically distancing, and only making essential trips. 

Pacifism requires creativity, commitment, trust, and a whole lot of patience. It is much more than being anti-war. Pacifism also engenders criticism by those who want quick, decisive, and often violent actions. This virus can’t be defeated that way. People talk about “fighting the virus,” but there’s nothing violent about staying home. We need to be patient, creative, and actively not “do nothing.” We’re all learning how to become pacifists.

People, despite their wealth…

People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish.

 וְאָדָם בִּיקָר בַּל־יָלִין נִמְשַׁל כַּבְּהֵמֹות נִדְמֽוּ׃

Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendour of their houses increases;

אַל־תִּירָא כִּֽי־יַעֲשִׁר אִישׁ כִּֽי־יִרְבֶּה כְּבֹוד בֵּיתֹֽו׃

for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendour will not descend with them.

כִּי לֹא בְמֹותֹו יִקַּח הַכֹּל לֹא־יֵרֵד אַחֲרָיו כְּבֹודֹֽו׃

Psalm 49:12, 16–17

The Bible Project

If you sometimes feel like the bible is way too big, too complicated, to ancient, and/or not understandable–check out The Bible Project and their videos!

I highly recommend The Bible Project and their YouTube channel. I especially like the Read Scripture series (both Old Testament and New Testament), which gives and overview of each book of the Bible in a 7-10 minute video. There’s also videos for biblical themes, word studies, and other specific series.Everything is graphically crafted in ways that a visually stimulating, memorable, and helpful for learning!

Their videos help inspire me (and others!) to read the bible. How great is that?!

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Sermon on Acts 23:12–24 (Psalm 121)

This is a sermon I preached in Founders’ Chapel at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto; Wycliffe students regularly preach on Tuesdays at Morning Prayer and occasionally on Thursdays at Evening Prayer.

This sermon is addressed to those who regularly attend Morning Prayer, but I hope you can also life-giving. For those who testify and bear witness to Christ:

Audio: 


Readings from: Acts 23:12–24 | Psalm 121, 122, 123 | Micah 1:1–9

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
      from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
      who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1–2)

Last week Tuesday, and two chapters earlier (Acts 21), we heard about Agabus’ warning to Paul in Caesarea:

Thus says the Holy Spirit: The Jews in Jerusalem will bind you Paul: your hands and feet, and hand you over to the Gentiles.

Paul response is courageous:

“I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Where do we find Paul in today’s reading?

After the mob in Jerusalem attentively listens to his every word…
After they raise their voices and shout for Paul’s death…
Sure enough, hands and feet, Paul is bound in the Roman barracks.

This morning, I want us to pay attention to verse eleven of chapter twenty-three:

“That night the Lord stood near him and said, ‘Keep up your courage! (Or “Be of good cheer!”) For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.’”

I want us to think and pray about what these words mean for us. We aren’t in the Roman barracks in Jerusalem—we’re in Founder’s Chapel at Wycliffe College. We are seminarians, theologians, teachers, and servants of Christ.

What does it mean when we know that Christ is standing at our side and saying: “Be of good cheer, have courage, you have testified for me, and I have more people and places for you to be my witness”?

—————————

Paul’s question to the centurion: “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who is uncondemned?” get’s those soldiers and the Roman tribune in a bind of their own (pun intended).

Being bound in Jerusalem works to Paul’s advantage.

Paul is safe from the angry Jewish crowds that want to murder him. Paul has his Roman protectors back-pedalling, now that they are aware of his Roman citizenship. Huge kudos to Paul’s nephew, who reveals to the Roman tribune the plot of the pact-makers that wish to murder Paul. The Tribune, who does not want a Roman citizen murdered by a Jewish mob under his watch, gives Paul safe passage to Caesarea and governor Felix.

Paul has been bound by Roman soldiers before. We read in Acts 16 about the authorities apologizing to Paul and being afraid after finding out about his citizenship. Was Paul HOPING for this to happen again? Did Paul have a smirk on his face or, even, have hope when Agabus prophesied of Paul’s chains? We now hear the words of the Holy Spirit not as a prophetic warning, as something to avoid, but as a prophecy to be fulfilled—for God’s will to be done in Paul.

As one chosen to bring the name of Jesus before Gentiles, Kings, and the people of Israel, Paul knows this prophecy is now fulfilled. However, I really don’t think that Paul was saying to himself: “Yes! Sitting enchained in Roman barracks is how I’m going to witness and testify Jesus before Gentiles and Kings.”

But I do think it is possible that Paul was saying the words of Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord.”

The Lord stands with Paul in those barracks: Keep up your courage! Have good cheer! You must also bear witness in Rome.

—————————

Those in professor Paulsen’s evangelism course this term are required to do a bible study project with someone they know that isn’t a Christian. Each student will be reading and talking through three different encounters that Jesus had with people. At first, I had some fear about this; the friend whom agreed to do this project with me is someone I still want to be friends with… but as I prayed about it, I heard Christ say to me:

“I am so ready to bring my love and my joy into their life. What part of me are you afraid to proclaim? Get rid of that fear.”

God is present with Paul. Regardless of uncertainty, suffering, corrupt or virtuous authorities, even plots of death, God is working his will through his willing servant.

And so, in hearing this morning’s text, may we—as a people who testify and bear witness to Christ—know that our help comes from the Lord.

Christ stands with us, encouraging us, saying: “Be joyful and filled with courage. I have more for you: more people and places to bear witness and testify.”

 

Be Full of Care; Be Full of the Spirit

I preached this sermon at my grandparents church, Grantham Mennonite Brethren Church, in St. Catharines, Ontario. I am delighted to call pastors Mike and Tabitha VandenEnden friends, and was thankful for their invitation to preach.

You can check out the audio on the church’s website (look for: “19 Aug 2018”)


Ephesians 5:15–20 | Be Full of Care: Be Filled with the Spirit

Be very careful how you live, make the most of every opportunity.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery or excessiveness.
Instead, be filled with the Spirit!

Oast-Growler-Web

 

This is a growler.
It is from the Oast brewery down on Niagara Stone Rd. in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
It is empty right now, but you can go there and refill all 64 ounces with beer anytime.

The pulpit may seem like a strange place for such an object. But do not worry, it is meant to make you feel a little uncomfortable. It is making me feel a little uncomfortable.

 

Bringing a bottle of wine up on stage did not seem that harmful of an object, but this… especially for one person… would certainly cause to make you or I drunk. It would be unwise, it would be embracing an evil of today, it would be foolish, it would not be following God’s will, it would lead to worse things…

But, today’s sermon is not about drinking and drunkenness.

In verse 18, when Ephesians says do not get drunk on wine, it is not just talking about alcohol and drunkenness. It serves as an image, a very concrete image, like this bottle. It gives us an example of something we can very clearly grasp. We all know what walking in drunkenness looks like. But we’re talking about more. Ephesians is dealing with darkness, with sin, foolishness, and our Old Humanity—which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires–all of these things should make us all uncomfortable.

This drunkenness is contrasted with the exhortation to be filled with the Spirit.

Continue reading “Be Full of Care; Be Full of the Spirit”

Hear Your Name, Called by the Resurrected One (an Easter Sermon)

29871877_10160388152455171_1114473262367905170_oAs the 2017-18 Senior Student at Wycliffe College, I had the privilege of giving the sermon at the final Eucharist service of the school year. I thought I would share the message for those who weren’t able to make it 🙂

For those of you unfamiliar with Wycliffe, preaching in Founders’ Chapel is a significantly different experience and different community than where and to whom I normally preach. Each Wednesday the community gathers for Eucharist–faculty, students, families, and friends–and usually a visiting bishop or guest speaker delivers the homily. No pressure… right?

Note: the italicized text in square brackets is added just for you online readers.]


Readings: Isaiah 25:6–9 | Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24 | Acts 10:34–43 | John 20:1–18

Prayer: For the Extension of the Church, Book of Common Prayer, p. 42

Almighty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give commandment to the Apostles that they should go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature: Grant to us whom thou hast called into thy Church, a ready will to obey thy Word; and fill us with a hearty desire to make thy way known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[It’s important to note that this prayer is from the BCP, an OLD prayer book that Wycliffe uses on alternating months with the Book of Alternative Services (BAS), I like the prayer, but would not ordinarily use this kind of language]

Christ is Risen! (He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!)

 [The “Hallelujah!” catches me off guard, as I’m used to simply “He is risen indeed!”  A certain faculty member was especially exuberant about the “Hallelujah!” so I laughed with joy, and also asked everyone to be aware that I will expect a couple of responses throughout the message.]

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). [link to passage]

When Jesus calls her by her name, she immediately knows that it is her Lord.

The Good Shepherd knows his sheep and “calls them by name,” and his sheep “know his voice.”

In one word, spoken by the most significant person Mary Magdalene had ever known, her entire life changed. She became the first person, ever, to experience the personal presence of the Risen Lord.

Continue reading “Hear Your Name, Called by the Resurrected One (an Easter Sermon)”

“Evangelism is not a task given to the Church, but a promise”

The invitation to follow [Jesus] is, in the Gospels, immediately followed by a promise which is often misunderstood as a command or authorization — “I will make you fishers of [people].”

Evangelism is not a task given to the Church, but a promise. Jesus promises that as we follow him we will become fishers of men, women, and children. Our lives, reflecting the image of God, will attract and change others. To hold the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to ourselves is a supreme act of selfishness.

– The Most Revd Ng Moon Hing, Bishop of the Diocese of West Malaysia and Primate of the Church of the Province of South East Asia (Anglican)

 

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let another man tell me how to live my life!”

A feminist friend once said to me, with passion and no small hint of exasperation, “If Jesus is just another wise teacher, I have no interest at all. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let another man tell me how to live my life! If he is not the Son of God, God’s Chosen One, the Messiah, then forget about it!

– Good News in Exile: Three Pastors Offer a Hopeful Vision for the Church, p. 9–10

 

Why Keep a Sabbath?

The Deuteronomy reason for Sabbath-keeping is that our ancestors in Egypt went four hundred years without a vacation (Deut. 5:15). Never a day off. The consequence: they were no longer considered persons but slaves. Hands. Work units. Not persons created in the image of God but equipment for making bricks and building pyramids. Humanity was defaced.

Lest any of us do that to our neighbour or husband or wife or child or employee, we are commanded to keep a sabbath. The moment we begin to see others in terms of what they can do rather and who they are, we mutilate humanity and violate community. It is no use claiming “I don’t need to rest this week and therefore will not keep a sabbath” — our lives are so interconnected that we inevitably involve others in our work whether we intend it or not. Sabbath-keeping is elemental kindness. Sabbath-keeping is commanded to preserve the image of God in our neighbours so that we see them as they are, not as we need them or want them.

From Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity by Eugene Peterson