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Sunday, May 24, 2015

15 March 2015 - KAIROS Sunday

Fourth Sunday of Lent -- Reflection / Homily Starter

 

If you are here for the first time, after my sermon, I usually ask a question that has to do with the theme but not necessarily on what I've said. Please feel equally free to share or not. As this is kairos Sunday, today's homily will touch on kairos Canada and celebrate our community's participation in the local kairos group.

The Greek word, pleonexias, used in today's Gospel, means both greed and covetousness. Covetousness is greed that surpasses the desire for more than what one needs for a comfortable life. It is an insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to another, no matter how little the other has. Such greediness is prone to continual accumulation by means of violence, trickery, or the manipulation of authority. Jesus was aware that the questioner was attempting such a manipulation. Jesus' response ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ was a refusal to be manipulated. Jesus' response also told the questioner to act justly. To be perfectly clear, Jesus added the warning to him and to the listeners, 'Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.'

In the parable, we hear that the rich man's land produced abundantly. Yet, instead of sharing or even selling his excess crops for a fair price, he decided to tear down his barns and build larger ones to accommodate his excess. In today's context, we could substitute the excess 'crops' in the parable with excesses in land ownership, in power and privilege, and in access to the resources necessary for survival. All of these are things today's rich persons, often including us—particularly with regard to power and privilege— are not will to share. We'd rather buy bigger houses, continue to have unequal access to opportunities, hire more police to protect our assets, have exclusionary immigration policies and/or, be complicit in the poisoning of people and the planet. Is God talking not only to the rich but also to us with the statement, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” This parable and the Gospels are instructive devices to influence us to make the right choices and this is where kairos comes in.

Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos, which refers to chronological or sequential time; and, kairos, which signifies a moment of indeterminate time, a holy, God- given time, full of meaning, choice and, possibilities. The Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich described the plural of kairos, kairoi, as those crises times in history that create an opportunity—or more accurately—a demand for us to make choices.

In both ancient and modern Greek, kairos, also means weather. Could it be that we are being asked to pay attention to and prepare for the weather (kairos) of our times (kairoi). kairos Canada's Greater Vancouver group could just be the umbrella or snow tires that enable us to be on our guard against all kinds of greed; to help us make and act on decisions that promote justice and equity with our neighbours and creation.

For those of you new to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Community, we joined kairos Canada as a community in late 2012, shortly after our birth as a community. kairos, the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives defines itself as uniting Canadian churches and religious organizations in a faithful ecumenical response to the call of Micah 6:8, which is to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” kairos is informed by biblical teaching and inspired by a vision of God’s compassionate justice. Based on this foundation, kairos deliberates on issues of common concern, strives to be a prophetic voice in the public sphere and advocates for social change by amplifying and strengthening the public witness of its members.1

As individuals and sometimes collectively, we have supported justice initiatives concerning human rights, climate justice and resource extraction. However, we have been most active in the kairos Indigenous Rights initiative, most specifically, justice for Canada's Indigenous People's.

Before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) came to Vancouver, we hosted a reconciliation circle with Hummingbird Ministries at Samaritan House and attended ecumenical reconciliation circles and events. During Vancouver's TRC event, several of us attended in person or watched the live-stream. We also participated in the Walk for Reconciliation, the Sunday following the close of the TRC.

It is time that justice prevails for Indigenous peoples with regard to land, power, privilege and, access to the resources necessary for survival. As we go forward together, let us remain committed to the work of the Greater Vancouver kairos group in its dedication to the reconciliation process.

Kairos is now! It is a holy time! And so my relatives, I pray that we embrace the example of the Trinity in this relationship-building time. I pray that we choose action on reconciling with our Indigenous relatives, not as a series of superficial events, but as a lovingly, consciously, and passionately pursued process . I ask our Triune God to help us as we strive not to be among those “who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God” or God's own. Amen.


Please reflect a moment, then please share a personal experience of kairos in your life, that is, a time that you felt was a holy and full of meaning, choice and, possibilities.
1http://www.kairoscanada.org/who-we-are/about-kairos/

 

17 May 2015—Gilead Sabbath

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

Homily1

Gospel: John 17: 6-19 – Easter 7B


Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. The purpose of the day is “to promote a world of tolerance, respect and freedom regardless of people’s sexual orientations or gender identities. 
For people of all faiths and no faith, the day calls us to compassion. For Christians, Jesus in today's gospel points the way beyond tolerance and towards compassionate action. John’s gospel tells of a compassionate Jesus who, while on earth, both experienced persecution, hatred, and violence and protected his disciples from them.
The most prominent element of this passage is Jesus’ compassion. We see that Jesus and the early Christian community knew the pain of violence and persecution. Even though he is soon to be betrayed by one of his disciples and crucified, he prays to God on behalf of the disciples. He protects them on Earth and prays to God asking for their continued protection. We see a deeply incarnational God in Jesus—one who experiences pain and hatred alongside his followers, one who is deeply concerned for their welfare, and one who prays for their protection.
This compassionate Jesus stands too with all those who are at the margins. Jesus stands with all those who face hatred, violence, and persecution today. Jesus experiences their pain, is concerned for their well being, and hopes for their protection. The compassionate Jesus also lives among the persecuted African LGBTQ persons and LGBTQ around the world who are discriminated against because of their sexual or gender identity. Jesus invites us, his disciples today, to practice the same active compassion.
Another striking component of today's gospel is the way Jesus places the hatred of the world in the context of being “sent into the world” (v.18). Admittedly, this is a challenging part of the text. Although Jesus prays to God for the protection of his disciples, his desire for their protection does not override their commissioning to witness to the truth in the world. Even in his prayer for their protection, Jesus reiterates the importance of the disciples going into the world and witnessing to the truth.
As Jesus’ disciples, we too are meant to go into the world and witness to the truth. Whether it is the truth of our own gender and sexual identities, or the truth that it is not acceptable to discriminate against others on the basis of these identities, or the truth that religion can no longer be exploited for the use of violence and persecution, we are called to speak those truths publicly and actively into the world.
And, as Jesus acknowledges so must we, that speaking such truth means meeting face-to-face with opposition. Even so, to speak the truth means our actions must match our words. On the back cover of your Order of Service booklet there is a list of some of the global LGBTQ organizations. Whether we're an ally or identify as LGBT or Q, whether we're in the closet or out, we can take some time to learn more about the organizations on the list or more local organizations. We, as individuals and as a community, can find out how one or more of the organizations can use our support in advocacy and outreach. We can work to make our hearts and community more welcoming.
Standing up against the violence and persecution of LGBTQ persons perpetrated in African countries and around the world means facing a hostile world in which there are countries with hostile laws, in which there are individuals committed to homophobia and persecution, in which there are religious people with hostile ideas about sexuality, and sadly, in which there is apathy and silence among fellow Christians.
In spite of all this today's gospel reminds us that Jesus sends his disciples including us into such a world to witness to the truth. Today's gospel also reminds us that we go into such a world with God’s care and protection.




Please reflect a moment then, if you wish, share a sentence or two on your thoughts.


1Adapted from resources found on the Religious Institute website: Accessed April 10 2015. Retrieved from http://www.religiousinstitute.org/gilead/pray/sermon/Easter-7b/

 

3 May 2015--Fifth Sunday of Easter

First Reading
Acts 9:26-31
Second Reading
1 John 3:18-24
Gospel
John 15:1-8

Shared Homily Starter

Today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. It is set after Saul's conversion. We are told, “ he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. The didn't believe that this man who had been persecuting them had changed his beliefs or his heart. It wasn't until Paul's actions verified the sincerity of his words, that the Apostles truly accepted him.

Yesterday some of us attended the KAIROS Blanket Exercise put together by local Kairos members and graciously hosted by St. James. The KAIROS Blanket exercise is a teaching tool that uses participatory popular education to raise awareness of the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.1 At the beginning of the exercise all the participants stand on blankets spread on the floor . The blankets represent the land mass occupied by the original peoples of Canada. The population and blanket/land area decreases as European and other occupation increases. Periodically, the British, and later Canadian government would pass a law, commission a study or inquiry or issue statement favouring Indigenous peoples. Rarely, however, would actions or policies to support the favourable posturing take place.

We have said we are committed to reconciliation with our Indigenous relatives. One way to show it is to collaborate with local Indigenous people on building honest relationships with each other. Collaboration means that we respect the fact that we are on Coast Salish land, in their house so to speak, and should let them take the lead on protocols when planning an event or ceremony. The protocols of given region are the proper way to do things in that region. True collaboration is an expression of love, anything less is not.

Let us not let our hearts condemn us because we refuse to love one another. We refuse to love one another when we deny the history and its impact on present relations between Native and non-Native Canadians. We refuse to love when we fail to listen deeply to the stories of Indigenous peoples or try to trivialize or diminish the Indigenous Canadian experience. So let us be like Paul in the first reading and let our actions match our words.

The second reading reminds us “to love one another.” To love one another is to work for justice for one another. The Gospel tells us, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” So let all of us in this room allow Jesus' words become our part of us. Let the Holy Spirit move in that part of us so that our words become manifest in our actions. Perhaps little by little our actions may bear the fruit of a just society for all inhabitants of Turtle Island (North America).



Please share your thoughts
1KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. The Blanket Exercise, Third edition, revised August 2013,p. 3

19 April 2015 -– Third Sunday of Easter

Shared Homily Starter

First Reading:
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Second Reading:
1 John 2:1-5
Gospel:
Luke 24:35-48

The liturgical season of Easter is the only time that the readings are all from the New Testament. During this season the first readings are from the Acts of the Apostles. Today's reading from Acts is another occasion where our Roman Catholic Lectionary differs from the Revised Common Lectionary and omits scripture verses. This textual omission significantly changes the meaning and therefore our understanding of the scriptural message.

Today's reading is from Acts, Chapter 3, which begins with Peter and John's encounter with a cripple beggar outside the temple, where they are about to enter. Peter tells the beggar, “‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you.” Peter then cures the man in Jesus' name. The man jumped, took Peter's outstretched hand and began to walk. We are told, he entered the temple with the apostles “walking and leaping and praising God.”

People swarmed around the three of them, the beggar, John and Peter as they entered the temple entrance walkway, called Solomon’s Portico. Peter addressed the people telling them that it is not by his own power that the cripple man was healed—and, it is here that today's reading begins. The point of what Peter is saying is not to lay a guilt trip on the people. Rather, it is to let them know that it was in the name of Jesus, whom they crucified that the man was healed. The first omitted verse states: And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.”

It is after this statement that Peter lets them know that he understands that they and their rulers acted in ignorance. The last part of today's reading cuts the scripture verse of part way through a sentence. In its entirety, it reads: “19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, 21who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.”

I said textual omissions change the meaning and therefore our understanding of the scriptural message and it does. Without the left out verses, the message is “you are guilty of collaboration in the crucifixion of Jesus, you are sinful, repent.” When the passage is read as it is written, the messages are: even the name of Jesus can make you whole; God invites us to “times of refreshing”; and, God promises a “universal restoration” to the goodness that God proclaimed at creation. With each act of creation, God said “it is good”.

This does not preclude the need to repent—but, we must look at the true meaning of the word “repent”. The word comes from the Hebrew concept of Teshuva. The concept of Teshuva was mistranslated into the Latin word poenitire, which means “make sorry” and Christians have been bearing the brunt of that faulty translation ever since.

The Hebrew word for “make sorry” is Charatah and not Teshuva. Teshuva is commonly understood as the act of turning over a new leaf, when someone has made a mistake in life and after coming to the realization that he has erred, he commits himself to change and become a new person. This explains why the word repentance is used as a translation of Teshuva. However, the real concept of Teshuva is not a process of changing ourselves but rather a process of returning to our true self. The core of every person is good....The solution to any momentary lapse is not to transform oneself into something else but rather to revert back to our default state of goodness.1
Today's first reading is not from a Gospel but it is Good News for three reasons. The first is that at home you are motivated to consult your bible along with the readings in your missals or liturgy of the hours. The second reason, and key for today, is so you know that today's first reading is not a message that is stuck in the crucifixion. It is not asking you to be sorrowful or remorseful. Rather, it's to bring you Easter joy through the knowledge that Jesus' resurrection means we will all be made whole, that God has promised a universal restoration to goodness for all creation. Third and last is a lesson for us in the here and now about repentance. Repentance is to emulate the cripple man, who accepted Peter's offer and outstretched hand. God's hand is outstretched to us in the invitation to be restored, refreshed and made whole. Our acceptance or rejection of the invitation is demonstrated by the way we live our lives.

Today first reading is good news. Alleluia, alleluia.


Please share your thoughts.

4 April 2015 -- Easter Solidarity

The readings of the Easter Vigil are a retelling and a remembering of our salvation history. The story of God beckoning us back to our original selves. It's the story of God, coming among us and enduring suffering to show us the way home; demonstrating that death is only transitory, not only for Christians but for the greater community of all God's people—indeed all of creation.

Similarly, although we are a marginalized part, our salvation history is also connected to the Roman church. So tonight, as a token of our connection with and love for the church that formed many of us, I will share with you a slightly amended: [Due to possible copyright infringement, I have not posted the amended message. However, the original can be found here or the original in pdf format can be found here]

2 April 2015 - Holy Thursday

Shared Homily Starter

The Community is invited to share after the foot-washing

First Reading:
Exodus 12.1-8, 11-14
Second Reading:
1 Corinthians 11.23-26
Gospel Reading:
John 13.1-15


John's Gospel shows us that in living in the daylight of grace, we are to help accomplish the intent of the Gospel, the Good News. The Evangelist tells us Jesus loved them to the end! That also means, He loves us to the end! That is, Jesus loved them and us to the very last moment and that Jesus loves us totally, completely, with the full extent of his love. John wants us to understand that Jesus' love is a love that at its core is incomprehensible in its fullness. God's love for us is the reason that Jesus came. Jesus' mission was to teach us to have confidence in Him as the revelation of God's love. He would be put to death because what he taught could free people from the oppressive structures and life-ways that kept them captive.

At the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, we hear the words, “Mortal, you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The Evangelist tells us, that Jesus had come from God and to God he will return. The Good News that Jesus came to model for us is that, dust though we may be, we too will return to God. However, Jesus wanted to give the disciples one more comprehensive lesson.

Peter did not understand what Jesus was doing by washing the apostles feet. He did not understand that unless we let Jesus wash away what separates us and what keeps us from becoming whole, we blind ourselves from seeing the unifying love that God gives us. The washing of the disciples feet is not only an act of service but one of love for them and for us. As we read and hear it today, the foot-washing serves as a reminder of the ethical grace of our baptism.


Ethical grace is the grace of the essential goodness of earth and all its inhabitants combined with our responsibility for sustaining it. Jesus knows the disciples are not really getting it. If we were to put what Jesus was saying in today's terms, it would go something like this. Yes, I'm your teacher but your seminary days are almost over. I have washed your feet as a symbol of ethical grace in action; as an example that I want you to follow. I washed your feet to show you that you are to follow my example by your humility, love and generosity in your communities, in caring for all who have need, in healing the sick, in your appreciation for all life, by confronting the powers of injustice and exploitation.1 In essence that is what Jesus was saying to them and to us.



When we receive the Eucharist, which means, Thanksgiving, we give thanks that Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life so that we might learn love and justice as the life-sustaining will of God. At the same time, when we receive the body and blood of Christ, we commit to following the same example of discipleship Jesus instituted along with the Eucharist on the night before he was crucified. Jesus modelled that attending to the bodily needs of people is not divorced from caring for the needs of their souls. The practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are derived from Jesus' teachings and example. So during these holy days and beyond, let us pray that the phrase, “They will know we are Christians by our love” becomes a fact not just a lyric to a song. Let us pray that our actions reflect the words we profess. So in memory of that holy night, I will wash your feet as a symbol of my love for and service to you.




1Brock, Rita Nakashima, and Rebecca Ann Parker. Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire. Boston: Beacon Press, 2008.

29 March 2013 – Palm / Passion Sunday

Homily Starter


As I was going over the readings for today, the story of the woman with the alabaster jar seemed out of place as part of the passion story. But as I reflected on it, I realized that there was indeed a message here. The woman is caring for Jesus, now. The Gospel Writer is pointing out, it's not what we could have done, rather, it is our actions in the present moment that are important.

The disciples had Jesus-God Incarnate with them. We have the poor and oppressed, whom Jesus said will always be with us. Jesus told us that, he too, would always be with us. Unlike the disciples, we don't have Jesus with us in the flesh—yet—Jesus suffers with all who suffer.

This Lent some of us participated in a Lenten Program called, “Creation Covenant.” The program introduced us to the term the “anthropocene age,” which is used to describe the current geological age, where human activities are impacting the global climate and ecosystems—for the most part, negatively. The Creation Covenant series looked at how human choices and human greed are causing species extinctions, poisoning of the earth, her inhabitants and atmosphere. We saw that as a species, we are saying, “Let them be crucified!”

We saw how through human actions and inaction, we participate in this crucifixion of Christ in creation. Unfortunately, we are caught up in a system from which it is almost impossible to extricate ourselves. We can, however, become responsible neighbours. We can learn about the company policies of products with regard to human rights, social justice and, environmental sustainability. We can use our purchasing power to demand environmentally safe and human rights violation free products.

The woman with the alabaster jar is a role model. She points us to how mindful actions can serve as ointment for the current suffering of Jesus, embodied in the suffering of creation. We can heed Jesus' admonition to the disciples, that it is the actions of present moment that are important. Our current and future action that matters, if we are to avoid the crucifixion of God's creation.

As we look forward Easter, let us commit to act in ways that help heal the wounds of the earth. Perhaps in this way, we can usher out the anthropocene age and usher in the earth's Age of Easter.


Please share your thoughts.

Second Sunday of Lent – 1 March 2015

Homiletic Reflection


First Reading
Genesis 22.1-2, 9-13, 15-18
Second Reading
Romans 8:31b-35, 17
Gospel:
Mark 9:2-10


Please bear with me as today's homily is a bit more didactic then usual. Today, I chose to concentrate on the first reading, which is about the mystery of testing and providing. However, a God who will command the murder of a son is problematic and difficult to understand--not only for me, but also--for today's people of faith. To gain insight into this part of the Abraham story, I sought insight from Jewish as well as Christian sources. This story leads to a new disclosure of God. At the beginning of the passage, God is tester (v. 1). At the end, God is the provider (v. 14). These two statements about God form the frame of the story.”1

Today's Hebrew Bible story, known as the Akedah or binding, occupies a central role in rabbinic theology and was eventually incorporated into the daily liturgy. In Jewish tradition, this story is regarded as the tenth and final test of Abraham, the first Jew.

The first verse gives us a clue into Abraham's character. The Hebrew "hineni," translated “Here I am,” indicates readiness, alertness, attentiveness, receptivity, and responsiveness to instructions and serves as a kind of refrain throughout this passage. It suggests the attitude Abraham has –and—the attitude we are to have in response to God and in contemplating God. Abraham uses it in response to God and to the angel.2 Abraham also uses it in response to Isaac in the following verses 6-8, which are part of this story but were omitted from lectionary reading.

Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.
I am always reluctant to read Christian understandings backwards into the Hebrew Bible. However, the Jewish Study Bible, offers the following comments regarding the verses I just read:

The image of Isaac's carrying the wood on which he is to be burned adds enormous power to the story. A midrash relates this to a Roman (not Jewish) method of execution that was sometimes used on Jewish martyrs: "It is like a person who carries his cross on his own shoulder" (Gen. Rab. 56.3). 7: Our ignorance of Isaac's age makes it difficult to interpret his poignant question [but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?]. Most rabbinic commentators see him as an adult and thus a willing participant in his own sacrificethe prototype, that is, of the Jewish martyr.... Even after their exchange, father and son still have a single resolve: "the one to bind, and the other to be bound; the one to sacrifice, and the other to be sacrificed."3 ...
Then regarding the last part of the story, the Jewish Study Bible commentators write:

The second angelic address conveys the LORD's final blessing on Abraham.... Only this time, the earlier promises are reinterpreted as a consequence of the 'Akedah [/binding]'.4
As I said, I am always reluctant to read Christian understandings backwards into the Hebrew Bible but in this case, the testing and providing, is analogous to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. The crucifixion and resurrection belong together and are inseparable. Jesus' crucifixion is the ultimate expression of the testing of God.

Brueggemann suggests that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, like Abraham, is in a situation where he must choose. But also, like Abraham, Jesus trusts only in the promise. Just as Jesus' passion sayings speak to the testing of the crucifixion, they also speak of the resurrection, God's ultimate providing, the miracle by which God provides new life in a situation where only death is anticipated. The dialectic of testing/providing in the Judaic story translates into the dialectic of crucifixion/resurrection in the Christian story.. It is also a story of faithful discipleship. “The structure of the story corresponds to a central teaching on discipleship: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it (Mark 8.35).”5

But what does the story tell us about God? Perhaps the answer is found in 1 Corinthians 10: 13, where Paul tells us, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

So the God who tempts is the same God who provides. The truth about the God who tempts and the God who provides is that God is faithful; God provides; and, God keep's promises. What if, as Brueggemann suggests, this story is not so much about Abraham being found faithful but about God being found faithful?6

This is only a cursory look into this story of God, Abraham and Isaac but I hope it will do two things: first, that it will prompt you to contemplate and explore the meaning of this scripture passage on your own and; secondly, that you will reflect on these three questions posed by Brueggemann, who suggests the Scripture Writer may be asking us to ponder.

  1. What do we mean when we say the word “God” and how does the meaning of the word “God” in serious faith differ from that in the harmless, one-dimensional, contemporary civil piety?
  2. In what ways are we prepared for the God of Abraham who gives and takes away, who promises but also commands and tests?
  3. To what extent are we prepared for the radical God who meets us in the Crucified One who is risen?

1Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982, p. 188.
2Berlin, Adele, Marc Zvi Brettler, and Michael A. Fishbane. The Jewish Study Bible: [Featuring the] Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 45.
3ibid, p. 46.
4Ibid, p. 47
5Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982, p. 194.
6Ibid.