Readings And Collect For June 25, 2023


God of strength and courage,
in Jesus Christ you set us free from sin and death, and call us to the risk of faith and service.
Give us grace to follow him who gave himself for others,
that, by our service, we may find the life he came to bring. Amen.


Genesis 21:8-21

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17

Romans 6:1b-11

Matthew 10:24-39

Reflection for June 25 From The Rev. Dr. Wayne Fraser

Hate the Family?

The gospel passage for this Sunday morning ends with Jesus making a rather shocking statement: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt.10:37) There is an even tougher version of Jesus’ statement about family and faith in Luke’s gospel: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) That’s quite a challenge by Jesus about the cost of discipleship, about family: hate the family? How does one understand the word ‘hate’ from the mouth of Jesus?

These hard sayings of Jesus do not negate the importance and love of family and friends. It’s always dangerous to read a verse of scripture without considering its several contexts. Jesus’ comments about family are consistent with his vision of the kingdom of God, a world ordered according to the values and character of the God of Love.

There are many such hard sayings of Jesus scattered throughout the gospels; there’s no denying that he challenges people quite forcefully at times. However, we must read such passages in context, to begin with, the historical and social context. At the time Matthew and Luke are writing, in the last decades of the first century CE, the followers of the way, the Christians, are being fiercely persecuted by Rome, dying for their faith. The writers include such harsh sayings in their presentation of Jesus’ life, to remind the early church of the cost of discipleship. Just as Jesus died on a cross, so his followers too may face harsh resistance, even death. That’s the first context: history, what’s happening in the early church community at the time of the gospel’s writing.

Secondly, we must understand the meaning and power of family in the society of that time. The term here does not mean the nuclear family of our understanding; the passage has nothing to do with any current political party’s focus on family values. Family in Jesus’ time referred to kinship, the extended multi-generational family, including its ancestors. People lived in extended families throughout their lifetime; people did not grow up and leave home. Family in that time defined you. It was patriarchal and authoritarian, and your identity, your social status, existed in relation to the father and to the ancestors; genealogy was important—that’s why the gospels of Matthew and Luke begin with Jesus’ family history. Family was who you were, and demanded allegiance; without it, you lost everything. That’s the second context: society.

The third context is the rest of the story of Jesus, everything we learn about him in the scriptures, what he did, what he said, the parables he told. We have to compare the number of times the word “hate” emanates from Jesus with the number of times the word “love” does. In the New Testament, the word “hate” appears 18 times, whereas the word “love” appears 221 times. In the four gospels, Jesus uses the word “hate” 16 times and the word “love” 51 times. Of those 16 references to “hate” from the mouth of Jesus, 12 of them warn of the hatred of the world toward his disciples because of Him: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18, 19) Jesus warns his followers of the persecution they will face; remember the historical context mentioned earlier. There are only three other uses by Jesus of the word “hate” similar to that verse from Luke. However, our Lord taught by word and deed the nature of God, that God is a God of Love; Jesus summed up all the law and the prophets with one great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, . . . and thy neighbour as thyself.” Love is the essence of his teaching, of his earthly ministry. We must place this one verse (Matt.10:37) in the context of Jesus’ entire life and teaching. He spoke very little about hating anyone; he certainly did not give anyone permission to hate.

Finally, there is the original meaning of the word translated as “hate”: it can mean “to love less” or “to put in second place.” For example, from Luke, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon too.” (Luke 16:13) The gospel passage today is consistent with Jesus’ call for us all to be born from above, to a radical centring in God, which upsets the conventions of this world, turns social norms on their head. Jesus is not rejecting family. Considering the concern he expresses for his mother from the cross and the significant role of his brother James in the early church, it is highly unlikely. “That Jesus spoke of loving our neighbour and even loving our enemies makes it impossible to imagine that his final word about family was simply negative . . . He saw the conventional patriarchal family as a constricting institution that demanded a loyalty inconsistent with loyalty to God. To give primary allegiance to it [was a form of bondage and] locked one into the world of convention.” (Marcus Borg) I think it is safe for us to love our loved ones, even the troublesome ones.

One more context in which to read this passage is of course the rest of the NT, the testimony and life of the disciples, of the early church, of St. Paul, for example. If you read Paul’s letters chronologically and remember his history from the book of Acts, you can see that Paul changes over time. As a young man, he fiercely persecutes this new Jewish sect of Jesus’ followers. He sees life and issues in a black and white kind of way. In his first letter, 1 Thessalonians, he was concerned that Jesus’ Second Coming had not yet arrived; he advises against marriage for he expects the Lord’s return in his own lifetime. In Galatians he is white hot with anger against the opinions of no less a person than James, the brother of Jesus. But time mellows a person, as we all know. Paul in his middle years becomes thoughtful, pens that most beautiful hymn to love in 1 Corinthians. And nearing the end of his life, imprisoned, he develops meaningful relationships, personal ones. His one-page letter to Philemon is probably written within two years of his death; it is the only letter of Paul in the NT written to a person, rather than a community. He addresses the letter “To Philemon our dear friend and co‐worker, [and] to Apphia our sister.” In this letter he speaks movingly of the friendship that he has developed with Philemon’s slave Onesimus, describing it as a father-son relationship: “I appeal to you on the basis of love and I, Paul, do this as an old man. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment.” No one can question Paul’s devotion to Jesus, his centredness in Christ and his passion for the gospel, and here in this letter written near his life’s end he speaks of the importance to him of friendship, of “family.” We have the example of this eminent church father to guide us, as well as Jesus.

These hard sayings of Jesus do not negate the importance and love of family and friends. It’s always dangerous to read a verse of scripture without considering its several contexts. Jesus’ comments about family are consistent with his vision of the kingdom of God, a world ordered according to the values and character of the God of Love. The conventional patriarchal family of his time demanded loyalty to the values of this world, the economic and social structure of Rome and the power and rules of the synagogue. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar can’t be. If God is Father, then your dominating patriarch can’t be. “Who is my mother and my father? Who is my brothers and sisters? He who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Mark 3:35) Jesus invites us into a new extended kin-dom, one centred in God, not the values and conventions of this world. Our church family and our worshipping community are necessary to nourish us in faith, hope and charity. As Brian McLaren puts it so succinctly, “the church exists to form Christlike people, people of Christlike love.” But as with all families, tensions arise; it was so in the early church, yet it is surprising, shocking, harmful to see disagreements today. People outside the church are put off by the unChristlike behaviour they witness inside the church; so are church members, and they drift away. But, as with all families, forgiveness and reconciliation are possible. Remember how Joseph was reunited with the brothers who sold him into slavery. Recall how Esau forgave his brother Jacob. Consider the ending of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, with the older son outside the house while the younger profligate boy is partying inside, and their father stands between them, urging reconciliation. A cliff-hanger of an ending, it’s probably the more realistic mirror of our relationships within family and church and nation. Let us pray that we will hold fast to our ideals, to the way, the truth and the life. Let us pray that the Spirit will guide our faith family “along paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Reflection for June 18 From The Rev. Donald Brown

The reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans appointed for today falls under a subtitle: Results of Justification. It reads ”Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

It is important when we reading the letters that we try to seek out a context—what do we think was going on in the various communities? The letters are complex and cannot be read simply like yesterday’s email.

Unfortunately this complex sentence is typical of much of the writing of Paul whose letters were often written in response to questions from the various communities he visited. However, the questions themselves remain a mystery.

Now justification could mean ‘saved’ or ‘forgiven our sins’ or ‘reconciled to God’ or ‘brought to wholeness’. And the question might have been ‘How do we earn God’s favour?’, most likely in response to a question about sacrifices, worship, or doing good deeds. Paul wants to emphasize that God freely gives salvation/reconciliation, if in fact we have faith/trust in God.

As to good works, the letter to James reminds us that ‘faith without works is dead’— that is, if we say we have faith, then we will want to respond with good deeds like feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, freeing the oppressed etc.

It is not a case that the Letter to the Romans and the Letter to James (author unknown) are in disagreement—they are, in fact, discussing similar things such as how we must be open to God’s grace working in our lives and how a person of faith can respond to such grace.

It is important when we reading the letters that we try to seek out a context—what do we think was going on in the various communities? The letters are complex and cannot be read simply like yesterday’s email.

It is a fact that Christianity from the 4th Century onward mostly revolves around the teachings of Saint Paul. He found himself in situation of being the expert on how to do Christianity when he, himself, had minimal exposure to the teachings of Jesus. Paul would have been influenced by his own previous Jewish religious training. This would explain, for example, his use of the Jewish sacrifice of the lamb as the model for explaining the Roman execution of Jesus as the lamb who died to take on the sins of all mankind. Later on the Gospel writers picked up the same ideas.

Paul used the idea of atonement and bloodshed as salvific, as his exclusive reason for the execution of Jesus; whereas the Gospels point to Jesus’ radical teachings that upset both the Jewish religious establishment and the Roman rulers as the reason for his execution.

Paul wrote his letters before the Gospels were written. He had to think on his feet as he travelled about the Middle East. He was not a philosopher or theologian, but an itinerant preacher/pastor. Because he spent little time in Israel after his ‘conversion’, he did not know Jesus (who was dead by this time) or much of Jesus’s teaching about love, compassion, and the Beatitudes (blessed are the poor, blessed are the peacemakers and so on).

One commentator wrote that Paul did the best he could with what he knew and experienced. He had no idea how his writing would impact the development of Christianity or why the early church would turn his writings into the infallible Word of God for all humankind.

I find it sad that things like the historical creeds adopted their theology from the letter writing of one person. Though the imagery he presented was powerful, it does not set out the whole story. For example, the creeds make no reference to Jesus’s message or teaching about love, compassion, justice and mercy.

Christianity represented by the official theological positions and doctrines of the Church (Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox) have very little of the teaching of Jesus in them or basis in the Jesus of history (Jim Palmer, Inner Anarchy).

In our time, through research, we can learn to appreciate the contribution of Paul without deifying his writings and recognize that following Jesus neither begins nor ends there.

I found an interesting quote that is, perhaps, pertinent to what I have written. “Before religion made it all about what we believe, Jesus was all about how we love”. (Susan Cottrell, Freedhearts.Org)

Reflection for June 11th 2023 From Deacon Sandra

What is it like to be chosen?

Well, I guess that depends on what you are being chosen for; or who is doing the choosing. I think we have all had that feeling, maybe in school, when we either hoped that we would be picked for a particular team or group and then other times we tried to hide ourselves so we would not be picked.

But then I think. God did not let this happen. It happened by choices or circumstances. God did however choose those people to serve this breakfast, to be there for a chat, give them a bit of love and most of all God walked in and out of that door with each and every one of them.

As children, and even adults as well (although that is harder to admit), we tend to choose because of looks or where a person’s sits on the status ladder. We all want to be on a good team, we want to be in the cool kids group. Most of these times we didn’t have any choice once we were chosen by this person, we had to join them.

With God, this is different. We have choices. When we are called, we can ignore him or say, “not me”. For those of you who have answered his call, you know that he doesn’t always take no for an answer.

The disciples would have had a choice. So here in the Gospel reading we have Jesus, who finds Matthew, a tax collector sitting in his booth doing his job of collecting taxes and says, ‘follow me’ and from what the story says, Matthew gets up and follows Jesus. There is no dialogue where Matthew asks, ‘where are we going’ or ‘I am busy’, he just gets up and goes with Jesus. I really wonder what Matthew was thinking about. Jesus’s ministry is with those who need healing, who need some ‘fixing’. He even says this in the reading: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”.

As a person who volunteers with the homeless or less fortunate this is comforting, not new but still it makes me feel good. Quite often, before we open doors and welcome our breakfast guests into the church hall, I am asked to pray. Often part of the prayer is that I ask God to make himself known to those who enter the doors, so that each of them understand that they are never alone, that God walks with them always.

The doors are opened, and the breakfast hour begins. As I watch over the group and chat with some, I sometimes wonder if what I pray for is true. How can this many people go through their lives in this kind of hardship and when a pregnant woman shows up or a particularly troubled person, I think, where is God in all of this. How can this be happening?

But then I think. God did not let this happen. It happened by choices or circumstances. God did however choose those people to serve this breakfast, to be there for a chat, give them a bit of love and most of all God walked in and out of that door with each and every one of them.

Readings And Collect For June 4, 2023


God, whose fingers sculpt sun and moon
and curl the baby’s ear;
Spirit, brooding over chaos
before the naming of day;
Saviour, sending us to earth’s ends
with water and words:
startle us with the grace, love, and communion
of your unity in diversity,
that we may live to the praise of your majestic name. Amen.


Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

Reflection for June 4th 2023 From The Venerable Sheila Van Zandwyk

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, and talking about the Trinity is always a bit challenging because we are talking about something we cannot truly grasp with our limited human understanding; one God, three persons Creator, Word and Spirit, how do we understand that? There are lots of very dense theological books and papers about it which are very interesting but how does all that philosophical discussion impact our everyday lives? A few quick caveats about the Trinity; God is not suffering from a split personality, the three persons of the Trinity are not just different ways for God to present God’s self to us in different situations.

In the life and death cycle of nature I see God bringing life from death.

The amazing thing for me about the Trinity is the idea that God is in God’s very nature communal. God’s very nature is about relationship about the ebb and flow of energy and idea and love between the persons of the Trinity and even us. We know what that feels like, to brainstorm ideas with others, feeling the energy rise as we bounce ideas off each other and work together to problem solve. We feel that when a child runs up and wraps their arms around us in a hug, that exchange of love is elating. We feel that when we are vulnerable with each other, crying together over our loss at funerals, understanding another’s pain and offering comfort. We experience all those things because they mirror what is happening within God, we are made in God’s likeness, pale and imperfect likenesses but though we see through a mirror dimly, we do get some glimpse. God is Creator, bringing something from nothing, God is Word, acting in our world most notable understood as the Incarnation of God as Jesus Christ and God is Spirit, bringing life, breath, the spark of inspiration, encouraging and equipping.

In the life and death cycle of nature I see God bringing life from death. Over and over and I am reminded that that I was created an eternal being and that one day I will experience death but it will not quench the life that is within me, given by the Creator, molded by the Word and enlivened and encouraged by the Spirit. Amen.

Readings And Collect For May 28, 2023


Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Acts 2:1-21

Psalm 104:25-35, 37B

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23

Reflection for Pentecost from Steff Doan For May 28

This week while visiting my Grandma, she told me about a recent news story that really touched my heart. A young boy with autism was about to celebrate his birthday, and invited all his classmates to his party. The heartbreaking part of the story is that only one classmate showed up. As a mother- with my own sweet child who has additional needs- this is one of the fears that keeps me up at night.

With Pentecost coming up, our own “birthday party” as a church, I have been reflecting on inclusiveness. It was easy for me to see God’s intent to include people from every nation and walk of life in this story.

There is a beautiful end to this story! The boy’s father, clearly heartbroken himself, learned through the grapevine how frequently this kind of thing occurs to kids who are viewed as “different.” He contacted the local Autism Centre, and together they organized a giant “birthday party” for all the kids who belonged to the programs. They all had a blast playing with each other, devouring their own personal birthday cake, and singing, “Happy Birthday to Everyone!” It was such a success that it is now going to be an annual event.

With Pentecost coming up, our own “birthday party” as a church, I have been reflecting on inclusiveness. It was easy for me to see God’s intent to include people from every nation and walk of life in this story. During the significant time of celebration, God poured His Spirit out in a way that surpassed every cultural expression and language barrier, enabling his followers to understand the different languages of everyone nearby. They were joined together, and brought closer to one another, through the Holy Spirit. And let’s not forget that they were there to begin with because they wanted to be like Jesus himself- the man who believed in loving and including everyone with no exceptions.

Today, we as Christians are working hard to demonstrate both inclusiveness and inclusivity. I see this every day in our church through our outreach to the less-fortunate, our Safe Space signs on the doors, the Territorial Acknowledgement in each service..the list goes on. This fulfilment of our Christian duties is a reflection of that same Spirit that descended on a hodgepodge group of Jesus-followers all those years ago, coming together as one. Amen!

Readings And Collect For May 21, 2023


Precious love,
your ascended Son promised the gift of holy power. Send your Spirit of revelation and wisdom,
that in the blessed freedom of hope,
we may witness to the grace of forgiveness
and sing songs of joy with the peoples of earth
to the One who makes us one body. Amen.


Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

Reflection From The Rev. Dr. W. Wayne Fraser For May 21st

Forty days after Easter, Christians commemorate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Ascension Day (this past Thursday) is more important in some Christian traditions, and in some countries, than in others. In Germany, for example, it is an official school holiday. In North American culture, despite a much larger percentage of practicing Christians, the day passes relatively unnoticed, especially among many Protestants. Yet the ascension of Jesus is a central element in the Christian tradition. Both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed affirm that Jesus “ascended into heaven.” Commentary by the late Marcus Borg outlines the significance of the Ascension.

Second, because the risen and ascended Jesus is “one with God,” he (like God) can be experienced anywhere and everywhere. Jesus is no longer restricted or confined to time and space, as he was during his historical lifetime. Rather, like the God whom he knew in his own experience, Jesus continues to be known in the experience of his followers.

In the New Testament, the story of Jesus’ ascension is found at the end of the Gospel of Luke and again at the beginning of the Book of Acts, both written by the same author. The classic text is Acts 1:9-11. After the risen Christ had spoken his final words to his followers, we are told: “As they were watching, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” The text then refers to them “gazing up toward heaven while he was going.” What is this story about? Its meanings are rich and important, even as it is one of the stories in the New Testament that most obviously requires a non-literal reading. For various reasons, it is a symbolic or metaphorical narrative.

The specific claim that the risen Jesus appeared “during 40 days” after the resurrection (the basis for the traditional dating of the ascension) is found only in the first chapter of Acts, verse 3. This is the first clue to the nature of this story: the number 40 often has a non-literal meaning in the Bible. It is a number that means a relatively long period of time, just as “three” is a number that signifies a relatively short period of time.

A second clue that the author of Luke and Acts does not intend this number literally is also suggested by a curious contradiction in this two-volume work. That is, the last chapter of the Gospel of Luke ends with a story of Jesus ascending into heaven (Luke 24:50-51), as we heard this morning. If we follow the chronology of that final chapter carefully, the ascension apparently happened on the night following Easter day. What is going on here? Is the author unaware of the contradiction of “40 days” at the start of the book of Acts? Or is this an indication that the author does not intend this story to be understood literally?

There is a further reason the story cannot be taken literally. We cannot imagine it happening. The issue is not whether “miraculous” events happen. Rather, the issue is the “three-story universe” presupposed by the storyteller. Within this ancient worldview, heaven is “up above,” earth is in the middle, and hell is “down below.” We don’t know how literally the author took this “three-story” language, but the author of Luke-Acts was very sophisticated, and he or she intended some stories to be understood in a non-literal way. What we today know, of course, is that heaven is not literally “up.” In the vastness of the universe we know today, there is only “out.” Therefore, we cannot imagine Jesus literally moving upward into the sky on his way to heaven. Ascension Day is not the celebration of a particular event in a particular place at a specific moment in history. The disciples would not have been able to record the event with their smart phones. Something else must be meant by this story.

There is rich metaphorical, symbolic meanings in the story of Jesus’ ascension. We need to treat it as a parable. Jesus taught by telling parables, and his followers taught by telling parables about Jesus. For Christians in the past and present, the story of the ascension meant and means that Jesus is now with God, indeed, in the language of scripture, sitting “at God’s right hand” and “one with God.” Of course, God doesn’t have hands and Jesus isn’t sitting on a cloud somewhere, but the meaning of the language in its historical and cultural context is clear. These affirmations have two primary meanings. Like the traditions of both ancient Israel and Judaism, they are religious and political, spiritual and social.

First, Ascension Day proclaims the lordship of Christ. To say that the risen and ascended Jesus sits “at God’s right hand,” a position of honour and authority, means “Jesus is Lord.” In the first century, when kings and emperors claimed to be lords, this claim had not only religious but also political meaning. To say “Jesus is Lord” meant, and means, that the Herods and Caesars of this world were not, and are not, lords of this world. They cannot “lord it over us.” In the first century, the choice was between the lordship of God, as known in Jesus, and the lordship of Caesar; the lordship of Caesar refers to “this world,” the humanly constructed world of injustice, oppression and violence, evidence of which we see today all over the globe, reflected on the nightly news. The lordship of Jesus, in contrast, is about God’s dream for the world versus the common human dreams of wealth and power, which too often become nightmares. God’s dream is for a world of peace and justice, of equal sharing of the world’s bounty for all.

Second, because the risen and ascended Jesus is “one with God,” he (like God) can be experienced anywhere and everywhere. Jesus is no longer restricted or confined to time and space, as he was during his historical lifetime. Rather, like the God whom he knew in his own experience, Jesus continues to be known in the experience of his followers. To use language from Isaiah and Matthew, for Christians the risen and ascended Christ is Immanuel, “God with us.” Like the Easter stories, the Ascension affirms that Jesus is not simply a figure of the past, but is present today as well. Jesus is an abiding presence in the experience and convictions and lives of his followers. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20) Or as the first letter of John reminds us, in the love of the members of the Christian community for one another, and for their neighbours in need, the divine presence and compassion can be known and made known. “The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us.” Ultimately, the Ascension story is about our own spiritual transformation: we are to be lifted up, “born from above.”

In Luke’s symbolic use of time, the Ascension prepares the way for the story of Pentecost 10 days later. The ascension stories mean that Jesus is no longer here, but with God, but the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, is about to descend and be with the followers of Jesus. Ascension and Pentecost go together, sort of like part A & B. Not only is Jesus “clothed with power from on high,” but also his disciples, you and me, all of us, find our lives transformed “from on high” by his spirit. To celebrate Pentecost next Sunday, wear brightly coloured clothes to symbolize the fiery presence of the Spirit, active in our lives together and in the world around us, moving us all toward peace and goodwill.

Readings And Collect For May 14, 2023


Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
you have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed. Empower us by your spirit to keep your commandments, that we may show forth your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
to all your people. Amen.


Acts 17:22-31

Psalm 66:7-18

1 Peter 3:13-22

John 14:15-21

Reflection From The Rev. Donald Brown For May 14

Lately I have been reading about Celtic Christian Spirituality, a rich tradition which arose in the first millennium as a fusion between Christianity (think St Patrick of Ireland fame) and a creation centred belief in the countries that spoke various versions of Celtic languages (think Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, and the Isle of man).

We need to re-think the image of God as a super-being high in the sky and try to relate to God as Holy Mystery, and as even more that we can ask or imagine. Our human languages cannot begin to define such a mystery.

Over time, Celtic Christian Spirituality developed a distinct view of God, God’s purpose, creation and the place of humankind in creation—views that are part of the history of the church, but isolated geographically from Western theology.

For example, the Celtic tradition rejects Augustine’s 4th century notion of original sin which declared that babies who died without baptism would not enter heaven.. and that God became human in Jesus so that he would die to atone for, pay for, the sins of humanity (past, present, and future).

The Celts believe that God became human in Jesus to show us what being truly human would look like.

There is much more depth to the Celtic tradition particularly rooted in creation and humankind as part of nature. The world is of God, and the world is of Christ and God is both the origin and destination.

And these ideas tie closely to our reading today from Acts chapter 17 which quotes Paul saying: ‘In God we live and move and have our being…for we are God’s offspring’. To put this another way is to say that God lives in us as we live in God.

I think if we embrace the idea of God within, that each part of creation bears a divine spark, there can be significant implications for our spiritual life and the life of all creation.

However, the traditional Christian image of God is as a being ‘above us’ as in God above, man below. This historical image permeates our worship, song, and prayers and has done so for some 2,000 years. The concept of a three-tiered universe (such as is present in much of the Old Testament) is there in the ancient creeds we often recite. It is there in the hierarchical structures of order and authority in the church. It is there in the architectural design of churches new and old.

I think we are poorer for not having embraced a deeper image of the Holy based on that thought that we live and move and have our being in God because God lives in us and all of creation.

For example, a common translation of an important part of Genesis says that man will have dominion over the earth. This would infer that humanity is separate from nature rather than part of nature as affirmed by modern science; that humanity is lord over all creatures, and the water, earth and sky. For over 300 years, good folks of the churches in England and Europe justified slavery and prospered based on the premiss that the people of Africa were sub-human, animals, not equal in any way to those who would enslave them. A better translation of Genesis would call humankind to be the stewards/caretakers of all of God’s creation.

This re-thinking of the image of God was left to the mystics who were often cast aside by the church. Here, I think of Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, and Meister Eckhart as well as people of this day such as Matthew Fox, Thomas Merton, and Marcus Borg.

We need to re-think the image of God as a super-being high in the sky and try to relate to God as Holy Mystery, and as even more that we can ask or imagine. Our human languages cannot begin to define such a mystery.

Readings And Collect For May 7, 2023


Risen Christ,
you prepare a place for us,
in the home of the Mother-and-Father of us all.
Draw us more deeply into yourself,
through scripture read,
water splashed,
bread broken,
wine poured,
so that when our hearts are troubled,
we will know you more completely
as the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.


Acts 7:55-60

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 1

Peter 2:2-10

John 14:1-14

Reflection from Deacon Sandra – May 7, 2023

Quite often when we hear stories from Jesus they are confusing. Sometimes I wonder if he had a bit of a weird sense of humour when he tells stories and answers questions with other questions. This doesn’t always reassure us that we have completely understood what he has been saying.

Just imagine what we can do, believing in Jesus, taking time to listen to his voice before reacting and following The Way.

In our first few words in our Gospel story for the week we have Jesus saying “Do not let your hearts be troubled”: We have to back up a bit to what was happening before this part in the Gospel. He had just told his disciples that he would be crucified; that one would betray him; and one would deny him. Just put yourself in the disciples’ sandals and you might understand why they might be troubled. So here we have Jesus reassuring them that it will be okay. It would probably have given them a bit of a relief that he was going to explain and reassure them a bit.

If we use these words for us, here in this time, gives us the idea or assurance that we have control over our lives and how we respond to our burdens, having Jesus within us.

Our next line is “Believe in God, believe in me also.” This makes sense, easy enough. Not that we can’t get lost in our beliefs but the sentence is clear enough.

The next two lines are clear as well and reassuring (especially for us who know how Jesus’ life ends and continues within us). “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you”. So Thanks to Jesus, our ‘room’ will be ready for us when we get there.

Then it gets a bit trickier, when Jesus says you know the way to the place where I am going. Bravo to Thomas for being brave enough to say that they didn’t know where he was going and how could they know the way. Jesus response is to say that he is the way and the truth and the life. No ones comes to the Father except through me. If you were listening last week, you might be thinking back to the words Jesus said that he was the gate. We all have to go through Jesus, through the gate, because only there will you find God.

Jesus talks about being the way… He is way to an abundant life. His way (through life) is the only way we should be following.

About truth…He is the true God, truly a man and taught the way of God in truth.

I am life…. In Jesus we always have life even though we have died.

I once again applaud Philip for saying that if Jesus would just show him and the others, the Father, they would be satisfied. Jesus then goes onto explain that God is in him.

How many of us feel God in us? I have quite often told someone that the sermon they gave or a letter that they wrote to me, was extremely powerful and that the words meant so much, to get a response like ‘I just listened to what God told me, it actually came from him’.

I never realized that Jesus said something very similar, “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in my does his work.” I never really connected this line to us as well.

Jesus is within us, always, but how many times have we not listened. Like we heard last week, we know his voice or we should know his voice. It is one of peace and love, not hatred or meanness. I know, that in some cases I speak too quickly and definitely don’t listen to that voice. Verse 12 which states ‘Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these’.

Just imagine what we can do, believing in Jesus, taking time to listen to his voice before reacting and following The Way.

Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
Thanks Be To God!

Reflection for Sunday April 30th, The Venerable Sheila Van Zandwyk

Throughout John’s gospel Jesus makes many “I am” statements. John writes this way to help his readers understand Jesus on a deeper basis then as a prophet, healer and teacher, in these statements John is directly connecting Jesus with Yahweh, the name that God is called by all people of Israel. In the book of Exodus, God (Yahweh) has a conversation with Moses from a burning bush. God commands Moses to lead God’s people from slavery to freedom and life in the Promised land. Moses asks God what name he should use when telling the Israelites what God has commanded them and God replies, ‘I am who i am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”: This is my name for ever, and this my title for all generations.‘ (Exodus 3:14-15). John’s I am statements that Jesus makes throughout his gospel are meant to link Jesus directly to Yahweh the God they have always known and worshipped.

Right at the start John wants his readers to understand that Jesus IS God and the I AM statements which follow throughout his gospel not only iterate that message but also help us to understand what that means in our understanding of Jesus and of God.

The ‘I am’ statements go a bit further than that though as they also help the reader understand God (Yahweh) now through their relationship with and the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. In today’s reading Jesus says ‘I am’ the gate. Specifically, the gate to the sheepfold and we are the sheep. Jesus is the path that we follow in order to enter into the rest, peace and refreshment that are offered in Psalm 23 that the Good Shepherd brings us to. Jesus is the one who has created a gateway through sin and death. Sin and death are no longer a closed door, an end to hope, to life, to rebirth and second chances as Jesus has become the gate which allows us passage through.

John begins his gospel with the statement, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Right at the start John wants his readers to understand that Jesus is God and the I am statements which follow throughout his gospel not only iterate that message but also help us to understand what that means in our understanding of Jesus and of God. Jesus comes to bring about the plan of salvation which was set in place from the creation of the world, the plan to ensure that the darkness and death is not the final outcome of our lives but rather we walk through the gate which is Jesus into pleasant places of peace and rest. Amen.

Readings And Collect For April 16, 2023

Collect by St. Thomas More

Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest.
Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humour to maintain it.
Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good
and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil,
but rather finds the means to put things back in their place.
Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments,
nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called “I.”
Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humour.
Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke to discover in life a bit of joy,
and to be able to share it with others. Amen.


Genesis 18:1-15

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Proverbs 17:22

John 2:1-11

Reflection For April 16, The Rev Donald Brown

For some unknown reason, and without checking the lectionary, I was certain the Gospel for this week was based on John 20, the story of Thomas and his questions (note the Gospel does not call him Doubting Thomas) Then I thought perhaps I should check that this is the Gospel for Easter 2, for the first Sunday after Easter.

By sharing our faith/owning our faith we can bring the light of God into a world of darkness. That is why it is okay to identify with Thomas, the doubter—the questioner.

I discovered three things: Firstly, John 20 was not the Gospel appointed for the day; secondly, this Sunday’s Gospel is the story of the wedding at Cana when Jesus turns water into wine; and finally, this Sunday is now referred to as Holy Humour Sunday on the worksheet that guides those who preach, reflect or read in Church.

The joke seems to have been on me..

Holy Humour Sunday is the recovery of an ancient tradition that saw the followers of Jesus host parties, and laugh, and have joyful celebrations for a whole week starting the day after Easter. I know from Sunday mornings that Sheila has a talent for finding humour and joy in what we do on Sundays. I thought it is best to leave the “Holy Humour” for her sermon.

I, for my part, will proceed with a modified reflection based on Questioning Thomas (please note that the use of the word ‘Questioning’ here is a somewhat weak pun to honour humour. Is Thomas questioning or is he being questioned?).

I like to think of Thomas as the patron saint of whose who would like to ask questions; questions about God, Jesus, a life of faith, faith as action not just intellectual ascent to ancient credal formulas, the purpose of the church and so on. One could ask “why is there so much evil in the world?” or “why aren’t my prayers answered?” or “Does God control things like hurricanes, typhoons and volcanoes?”

Many within church communities likely have some (or even all) of these topics as questions. The problem seems to be that we may be uncomfortable asking the questions because most of us have not been taught to ask. We might find the questions unsettling or the answers vague and confusing. We need to be aware that all of our discussions about God and creation are stuck with the limits of our language and perception. We also need to be aware that many thinkers (theologians) might present a variety of opinions on the same topic.

Many of you will remember the slogan used by the parish for a lot of communications: “Come and have your answers questioned”. This slogan is also used widely in the Episcopal Church of the USA. It recognizes that within the Anglican Communion authority rests among scripture, tradition, and reason. We have been blessed with memory, reason and skill which we can use to grow in faith and our understanding in the world around us.

This problem of answers, questions, answers and more questions is likely even greater for many who have left the church and many who have not explored the church as being relevant and life giving. Do these people know that they can ask their questions in a safe place? Have these people experienced love as our neighbours? Do they see the church as life affirming and relevant to today’s world or do they view the church as judgmental, rule oriented and restrictive?

There are two critical parts to this question/answer process. We need to connect with someone whom we can ask. We need be comfortable/brave enough to ask the questions. I think that this is a task that those of us who are members of this faith community can respond to, whether we are a questioner or an answerer or both.

The task is much more difficult with those do not participate in this community.

I think we have to listen carefully to find opportunities to invite people to question, perhaps by introducing topics with a ‘What do you think of…?’ or ‘why to people think that…?

By sharing our faith/owning our faith we can bring the light of God into a world of darkness. That is why it is okay to identify with Thomas, the doubter—the questioner. If those around us know that we have big questions and doubts it is also necessary to recognize the limits of what we can and cannot know with certainty.

You may remember the old adage ‘Talk about anything you like except politics and religion’. I say that given the problems of poverty and homelessness, war, climate change and a fragile economy, that politics and religion may be the topics most worthy of our time and consideration.