Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Anglican Church Versus the Pentecostal Church


My wife Valerie and I have just returned from a Hill Song music and leadership Conference in New York City . I didn’t know much about Hill Song, only that Valerie uses some of their music in our liturgy. When she said she was going to a conference in New York, it wasn’t Hill Song that I was interested in, it was the experience of visiting New York!



The conference was held at the historic Radio City Music Hall on the corner of 7th and 50th Avenue, one block from Time Square. The Music Hall was filled to capacity with over 6000 Christians (the majority  of which seemed to me to be in their 20’s and 30’s). The music and worship was amazing and uplifting. The various speakers were inspiring and encouraging. The place was electric and alive with the Presence of God. And the whole thing - the conference and Hill Song - are Pentecostal.




There are aspects of the Pentecostal expression of Christian faith that don’t particularly sit well with me: the tendency toward biblical fundamentalism; the gospel of prosperity; the “are you saved” approach, to name some. I don’t like the repetition of the “amen” “allelulia” and “in Jesus Name”. Nor am I particularly fond of the hands in the air and jumping up and down.

Having said that, Pentecostalism seems to attract young people, and those who commit themselves to Pentecostalism, really commit themselves. In other words, Pentecostalism is doing something right.

As an Anglican within the more catholic stream of our diverse tradition, I tend towards a quieter spirituality. I like the practice of silence, of meditation and contemplation. I value the the sacraments and the rhythm of our liturgy and liturgical year. These are all good and important, but they do not necessarily attract and retain the unchurched or the young.

Having now visited the 9/11 memorial at the site of the Twin Towers in New York City, a horrible reminder of the evil of intolerance and hatred, I am reminded of our need to be open to learning about and learning from those who are different from ourselves.



On a very much smaller scale, as an Anglican, what can I learn from churches and traditions that are different from mine? What can I learn from churches that are connecting with younger people? What can I learn from churches that are growing and are making a difference in people’s lives?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A story of goodness out of Auschwitz: Maximilian Kolbe


Today the Church is honouring Maximilian Kolbe. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, he helped thousands of refugees, including Polish Jews. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1941 and imprisoned at Auschwitz. Three months after Maximilian's arrival, a prisoner escaped and, in retaliation, 10 men were chosen at random to die. One of them was a young father and Maximilian offered to take his place. His offer was accepted.

In October of 1982, Pope John Paul II canonized St.Maximilian. At the Vatican for that ceremony was the family and descendants of the man that Maximilian exchanged his life for. Wow.

What a powerful story and witness.

As Christians we are called to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. We are called to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Maximilian Kolbe knew and experienced at a deep level the one Life that we all share in Christ. He recognized that Divine Life in the Polish Christian and Jewish refugees whom he risked his life to help. He recognized that Life in the young father who was one of the 10 chosen for execution - when he offered his life in exchange.

Maximilian Kolbe knew and followed the Master of Life. He respected the dignity of every human being regardless of cultural and religious differences. He served the needs of those around him by offering his own life.

Let us be inspired by Maximilian to come to know Christ more, and to offer our lives in serving and responding to the needs of others. This is the hope of the world.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

New Life, Even in the Midst of Suffering



All of our lives are filled with suffering, pain and loss. There can certainly be joy and happiness, but suffer we will. 

The question for us is: “how do we still live and love even in the midst of suffering and loss?”

In Sunday's Gospel, Luke 7:11-17, a mother’s only son has died.
  • the mother is dealing not only with the grief of the loss of her only son, but that only son was the one to look after her into her old age.
  • to her understanding, she has lost her life, her everything.

It makes me wonder about how Mary felt when Jesus was crucified.
  • at one level, the death of a young son or daughter has to be excruciating. 
  • but Mary knew that there was something more to Jesus.
  • She knew that he was the Son of God, and shared in the Divine Life.

It is this Son of God who has taught us and shown us that there is more to life than the physical and material.

It is this Son of God who has shown us that in death, life does not end, it only changes.

But Jesus is not yet ready to reveal this wonderful truth to this mother who has just lost her son.

So what does he do? He has compassion on her.

This is what Jesus does. He has compassion and love for all whom he encounters, and in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.

Jesus has compassion and love for each of us, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

The key is for us to learn to be spiritually open to the light and life of that compassion, and not to be closed up and kept in the darkness of death.

Jesus says “Do not weep”...He touches the pallet...He says “I say to you rise”

Jesus enters into the midst of the pain and suffering, and offers new life.

Jesus wants to enter into our pain and, in the midst of our suffering, to offer us new life.

Invite him into your life and into your pain.
Let him comfort you, heal you, and give you new life.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Palm Sunday Reflection


Palm Sunday, 24 March 2013

Today is Palm or Passion Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the most sacred time in the Christian’s year.

Jesus journeyed from the transfiguration (the disciples experiencing Jesus' Risen Life) on Mount Hermon to the suffering and passion of Jerusalem, to die and to rise for humanity. 

Jesus Christ is for all of humanity
Jesus Christ reconciles humanity and Divinity.
Jesus Christ reconciles humanity and humanity.
This Good News, this Gospel is for all of creation for all time.

Jesus embraced his suffering for all of humanity because he recognized that his life was not his own, that it was a Life that he shared with the Father .

The whole of Jesus’ life: humility and service
  • From His birth in a manger in Bethlehem.
  • Being brought up as a son of a tradesman in Nazareth.
  • To his being baptized by John in the river Jordan.
  • The temptations in the wilderness.
  • His ministry to the sick and suffering.
  • His ministry to the marginalized and outcasts.
  • His living on the charity of others.
  • His entering Jerusalem on a donkey.
  • His passion and death on the cross.

Today on Passion Sunday, we recognize that His suffering and dying is for all of humanity.
  • So that we may be in loving relationship with God and with one another. 
  • So that we may be FREE AND EQUAL with one another.
  • that human societies may be free and equal.
Our Witness: Is it Hosanna or Crucify Him?
We have to bear witness to this beautiful truth in Jesus Christ – that we are all made free and equal. Do we live our lives in such a way that we are critical of those who are different from us, who challenge us: in other words, "Crucify Him, crucify them." Or are our lives lived in such a way that regardless of the person or issue before us, we can affirm life in the power of a Love bigger than we are? In other words, "Hosanna to Christ who is Lord of Life."

As a Church, let us know and share this Good News with our families, friends, our community and the world, as we seek to live a life of humble service to those around us, and to those most in need.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

You who are without sin, cast the first stone



What a journey we have been on during this lent. From the ashes & mortality of Ash Wednesday to the turning of the prodigal son to the love and compassion of the Father. And now...

“The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.”
  • Wow! What a scene.
  • What a desire to judge and condemn. 

Try to imagine the shame and guilt of being caught at sin, and then being publicly displayed?
Recall any of your own sins….and imagine being forced to come into the middle of a group of people  to scrutinize and judge and condemn you.

The scribes and Pharisees want an answer from Jesus….and he remains silent…he wrote on the ground with his finger…
  • the law of Moses was written in stone.
  • Yet Jesus writes our sins in the sand…sins that cannot be remembered and held against us no more.
  • He is the one who takes them away.

When Jesus does speak, this is what he has to say
“You who are without sin cast the first stone”

Try to recall some of the stones you have thrown at others.

The judging of others must stop. 
This can only happen as we mature in our surrender to and participation in the life of the Resurrection, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and knowing our unity with the Father.

We are called to love the image of God in every human being regardless of what they do or don’t do, have done or haven't done, will do or will not do.

We are on a Lenten journey to the suffering and death of Calvary, and onto the joy, freedom, life and love of the Resurrection.

As we repent and turn again to the Father, there is no sin in our lives or in anyone else’s life,  that is beyond the power of the Cross of the Son of God.

The risen and glorified Jesus loves us. He does not judge us, but calls us to turn away from our sin, and turn toward Him Who is Love.

Let us embrace one another and help each other up when we fall as we continue our pilgrimage into the fullness of Jesus’ Resurrection. 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Burning Bush of Divine Life



As we continue our Lenten pilgrimage, the biblical themes of mountain and wilderness are still present to us.

Mountain and Wilderness
Moses led the flock “beyond the wilderness to the mountain of God.”

This is a foreshadowing of Moses leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt, to the holy Mountain of God, and on into the Promised Land of abundance. A sort of  God planned “reccee,” so that Moses would know where he was going with the people of God.

A shepherd (or parent or friend or mentor) can only take others to places where he or she has been!

Wrestling and Truth
The wilderness is a spiritual place to wrestle with God. It is about pealing off the layers of lies and illusions within us that hinder our realization of true self and true God.

We need to be on a journey of discovering that our deepest self is the very image and essence of God.

The Mountain of the Burning Bush
It is in such a spiritual place that Moses had an experience of the living God.

An experience that called him and the Israelites out of bondage and death and into life and promise.

Like Moses and the Hebrew people, we the church are called to ever enter into the painful journey of change and transformation…we are called to REPENT. 

Jesus says that “if you do not repent you will perish”

Repentant and Unrepentant
To repent is to turn toward God and change. And the foundational change is our growing awareness of loving union with God. This awareness is the fullness of Life itself.

To be unrepentant, is to ignore God, to be unchanged, to not know your loving union with God. This unawareness is death and hell.

When we are grounded in our “Burning Bush” experience of the living God
  • we can hear God’s voice calling us forward from bondage and death and into Love and Life; 
  • we can hear God’s voice calling us to journey forward through all forms of change, knowing that He is with us;
  • we can hear God calling us to surrender to the Love that unifies and makes whole and complete. 

When we are grounded in our experience of the Living God, we will be more able to follow Jesus to Jerusalem and to offer our lives  for the benefit of others. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Carrying the Cross in Jerusalem


6am this morning, while it was still dark outside, and the streets of Jerusalem empty, we picked up our cross and began to follow in the steps of Jesus through the old city.
Carrying the Cross through Jerusalem


It was an interesting experience to be able to carry a cross in Jerusalem, and to hear the Gospel stories around Jesus’ Passion, and to pray in these public places. 














Entrance to the Church of the Resurrection







As we made our way through the Stations of the Cross, we were making our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. 











A picture from the chapel below the place of crucifixion 





It was very meaningful for me to see the rock of Golgotha, the place where Jesus was nailed to the Cross and crucified. In the picture below is the chapel below the place of crucifixion, and you can see the rock of Golgotha behind the glass. 










From the place of Crucifixion, we moved to the Empty Tomb. It is a shine decorated in the Greek Orthodox tradition. And the truth is that it didn’t impress me too much - nor should it. He is not there, He is Risen!! 
Entrance to the shrine of the Empty Tomb













But what did impress me was the artistic connection with the empty tomb and the magnificent ceiling of Resurrection far above - the Great Dome of the Resurrection. As one looks from the empty tomb upwards, you are given that sense of Light and Life. 



Dome of the Resurrection directly above the empty tomb


As interesting as today’s experience was, it was certainly a reminder to me that God is so much more than these places and things. They are important shrines and reminders of what has happened in our sacred stories, but we are not to hold on to them. Jesus says “I will destroy this temple and raise it up in three days.” Jesus calls us to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. He calls us to live the Risen Life of His Divine Love. He calls us to love and serve him in all people, especially those most in need. “What soever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me.”

Faith in Christ is a living dynamic faith. Faith in Christ is relational in expression and experience. Faith in Christ loves and serves the world.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Jerusalem: Religious Toleration and the Inequality of Women


Jerusalem. What a history! What a city!

When it comes to the world’s three monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - Jerusalem is the center of the religious universe.

On the rock on the Temple Mount, Abraham was going to sacrifice Issac.
On the Temple Mount, Jesus was sentenced to crucifixion. 
The Temple Mount was, before the move to Mecca, Islam’s center for prayer and pilgrimage.

The Hebrew’s have lived in and controlled Jerusalem.
The Christian’s have lived in and controlled Jerusalem.
The Muslim’s have lived in and controlled Jerusalem. 

As a pilgrim or visitor make their way in and around the Temple Mount and the Old City, the presence and identity of all three religions are clearly visible.  

Jerusalem Christian Churches
Yesterday I was in the Jerusalem Churches of: Bethpage, Dominus Flevit, Gethsemene, and St.Peter in Gallicantu. And we celebrated the Ash Wednesday Liturgy in the Anglican Cathedral of St.George last night. Tomorrow I will be in the Churches of: The Resurrection and St.Alexander.

Islamic Temple Mount
Today we were on the Islamic Temple Mount. The Israeli’s control access and security on the temple mount. But the Muslim’s alone have the use of the Temple Mount for prayers and community life. There are strict Islamic rules when in their holy place: no bibles, prayer beads or images are allowed on the Mount (and you are scanned at a security check point). Women and men are not allowed to touch each other when on the Mount; and if you do, you are quickly identified and instructed not to. And, when it is time for the Muslims to pray, all non-Muslims are escorted off of the Temple Mount. 

It was a strange feeling being in that holy place. There is definitely something special and holy about it. But with the presence of soldiers, Islamic watch dogs, and the sense of being forced in and forced out, I felt tolerated, but far from welcome. 

Coincidently, as we were leaving today, the city was going through an air raid siren drill! What a place.

Jewish Wailing Wall
After a strong Arab coffee, we made our way to the Jewish Wailing Wall. That was another very interesting experience. 

At the Wailing Wall

Notice the women separated from the men by a fence

First of all, the Wailing Wall is right below the Temple Mount. So when the Muslim’s were entering the Mosque above for their prayers, the Jews were directly below on the outside of the Temple Mount, offering their prayers at the Wailing Wall. 






There was a lot of energy today in that particular Holy Place because of Bar Mitzvah. The place was filled with music and song and celebration as young adolescent boys made their right of passage into manhood. It was wonderful to observe this beautiful Jewish custom. But it was also sad to observe the separation of men and women in the celebration. Women are not allowed in the section of the Wailing Wall where the men gather. So the mothers and grandmothers and sisters of the boys going through Bar Mitzvah had to stand outside their own wall and look on at the men in their celebration. 

On top of the Temple Mount, women and men worship in separate places, and non Muslims are not welcome during the prayer time. Below the temple mount, the separation of Jews and Muslims is made clear: the Muslims on top, the Jews below. And yet another separation of men and women at the Wailing Wall in Jewish custom. 

The Christian principles of freedom and equality for all people - which Jesus’ death and resurrection at Jerusalem inaugurated for all people of every nation and language - has taken christian societies hundred’s of years to work through in our collective consciousness, and is still working itself through when it comes to issues like the equality of women and men. 

Being at the Temple Mount today was a real challenge for me as I experienced two different cultures, and how women are excluded and unequal. Just earlier this week, 10 Jewish women were arrested at the Wailing Wall for wearing a prayer shawl that only a man is allowed to wear. 

But on a more positive note, I did experience religious toleration in one of the most religiously diverse and charged places on the face of the planet. 

Religion of all stripes is certainly here to stay. We need leaders in all of the world’s religions who are moderate, loving, compassionate, reasonable, and not threatened by those who share different views. What is also required of all religions is the deeply spiritual and mystical dimension that allows us to see that we all share the same Divine Life - we are equal, free, and united in the One Life that is God.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Garden of Gethsemene


Bethpage
The Church at Bethpage
Mounting the Donkey to enter Jerusalem
Bethpage has at least two important meanings for us. Because it is very near Bethany, it is the place where Mary came to meet Jesus when he was on his way to the tomb of the dead Lazarus. It is also the place where Jesus mounted the donkey and began his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 


The Palm Sunday procession begins at this holy site each year in the Holy City. 


Dominus Flevit
Where Jesus would have looked out over the city and wept
On his way from Bethpage to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped on a site overlooking the Temple, and wept over the city because it had turned away from the Living God. Dominus Flevit means “The Lord wept.”
The chapel in the form of a tear drop where Jesus wept


   




          






A chapel on this site, built to look like an tear drop, looks over the city towards the Church of the Resurrection.

Gethsemene
Just outside the entrance to the Garden of Gethsemene
From Dominus Flevit, we continued the slop down towards the Kidron valley to Gethsemene. The Garden of Gethsemene is on the Mount of Olives, and it is the place where Jesus went to pray after the Last Supper was celebrated in the Upper Room just outside of the city walls. It is the place where Jesus was arrested.


The Church of Gethsemene, in the Garden

The Olive garden at Gethsemene






















The Upper Room

Before Jesus made his way to Gethsemene, he celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples in the Upper Room. Scholar’s tell us that this Upper Room was in either Mark’s or John’s house. The historical development of the site was to see a church built on to the room, to the room being enclosed into a larger building, to the Muslim’s building a Mosque next to it, to the Jews suggesting that David’s tomb was underneath it (beginning around the 12th century).

Entrance to the Upper Room
Interior of Upper Room


Mosque on far left, Upper Room on top, David's tomb on bottom floor



Church of St.Peter in Gallicantu

The site of St.Peter in Gallicantu, is where tradition says that Peter wept after denying the Lord three times.

St.Peter's

Peter denying Jesus at the trial




Another amazing day in the Holy Land. It is one thing to hear of and know the Biblical stories. It is quite another thing to see them and to fit that part of the picture together. It changes things.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Israeli and Jordanian Soldiers, and Baptism


Mount Tabor

Mount Tabor
There is a second century tradition that places the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. Mount Tabor is mentioned in the Psalms, but it is not mentioned in the Gospel story of the Transfiguration. It is much more likely that the Transfiguration of Jesus took place on Mount Hermon, in the north of the country in what was Caesarea Philipi.  But as far as having a location for pilgrimage in order to reflect on this great and important Gospel story, Mount Tabor works.

  

The remains of an early Benedictine monastery is part of the mountain summit.

Remains of an early Benedictine monastery

The beautiful Church of Transfiguration

Spectacular view from on top of Mount Tabor

But a beautiful more modern building is now on the site. Notice the design of three booths on top, one for Jesus, Elijah and Moses.


Jordan River

From Mount Tabor, we then made our way to the Jordan River to renew our baptismal vows.

The drive along the Jordan River Valley, clearly showed the military zone dividing Jordan and Israel. And again, as with the West Bank and the Syrian border, Israel is occupying Jordanian land along the two country's borders. 

The military zone dividing Jordan and Israel


To get to the Jordan River as a destination of pilgrimage, we had to drive through the military zone, with Israeli and Jordanian soldiers on each side.








Israeli Solders at the River Jordan

Jordanian soldier on the other side of the river


Despite the clear military presence, we were thankful and blessed to be in such a holy place. The place where Jesus entered into the water and was baptized by John the Baptist. And when he came up out of the water, a voice from heaven said “you are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”











Touching the water from the Jordan




















The St.George's group


Jericho
The Zacchaeus Tree in Jericho
We then moved out of the fertile Jordan Valley and back into the West Bank and the Palestinian city of Jericho. Jericho is the Biblical city that Joshua and the Israelites attached and its walls fell down. It is also the city where Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the sycamore tree, and healed a blind man.











Jericho is near the Judaean Desert, and therefore a place that attracted monks after the fourth century.

Monastery in the Mountain of the Temptations


This monastery still has monks living in it, and is built right into the mountain, that the Crusaders called the “Mount of Temptation;” a place not unlike where Jesus retreated to be tempted by the devil.


















Abid, our Muslim bus driver, riding a camel

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Rock of the Rocks


Banias, Caesarea Philipi

This morning we drove north into the mountains to what is today known as Banias, and the beginning of the springs for the Jordan River. 

The word Banias is related to an ancient pagan religion of Pan, the god of the underworld. At the time of Jesus, this religious thought was in the northern territory of Caesarea Philipi.

Jesus would retreat with his disciples to this northern area, and the mountain of Hermon. Hermon is a mountain range of 1000 sq km, and is the highest mountain in Syria and Israel. It is “the” mountain of the region.



It is at this place that Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the powers of Hades will not prevail against it.”

Seeing the “loneliness” of this holy place, and the significance and magnitude of the “rock,” the Biblical story now has a whole new meaning for me.


The Golan Heights
The further north we drove, the colder it got, and one could see the snow on the mountain tops. Also, the further north we drove, the more obvious it became yet again that we were on land that the Israeli’s were occupying - this time it was not the Palestinians, but the Syrians. Since 1967, the Israeli's moved in to Syria and took over this land because of the heights and the valuable military position. Overlooking a UN Observation Post, we drove to within 50 kilometers of Damascus, and could see the Syrian border and a Syrian border town. Notice the UN observation post below, and the Syrian flay and community in the second picture. 






To go from conflict over Israeli settlement in the Palestinian West Bank, to Israeli occupation of the Syrian border, to looking out over Syria and knowing of the horrible conflict within its own borders, with Damascus only 50 kilometers away, was a very real and clear reminder to me of how broken our world is.


Feeding of the 5000
Our next stop was, way back down the mountain range, back by the Sea of Galilee, and the place were tradition says that Jesus fed the 5000. There is a Benedictine Church on the location, and an altar over the rock where tradition says that Jesus blessed the loaves and fish before distributing them to the crowd.




Sailing on the Sea of Galilee

The final experience for the day, was to sail on the Sea of Galilee!!



As a Newfoundlander, and as a Christian very much in love with Jesus, this was an "at home" feeling!!








Sunday, 10 February 2013

Gold in Galilee


We spent last night in a lovely monastery on a high hill in Nazareth. As I lay in my bed falling asleep, I was very aware that Jesus, Mary and Joseph had laid down in their beds and slept very near to were I was.

The Wedding at Cana

Our first stop this morning was at the village of Cana, which is not far from Nazareth. In fact, when Nathanel says “nothing good can come out of Nazareth,” I can better picture a little small town rivalry going on.

The Wedding at Cana
Cana was where Jesus performed his first miracle in turning the water in to wine at the wedding feast.        


An Ancient Cana Water Jug










This picture is of an ancient water jug found in archeological dig in Cana.

Cana Water Jug, water to wine



  
                                                                                                                                                                           

                                                                

Mount of Beatitudes
Following in the steps of Jesus, our next stop was at the Mount of the Beatitudes. From the church built on this hillside, you can see the beautiful Sea of Galilee.


Mount of Beatitudes looking over the Sea of Galilee


We walked from the top of the hill down through a field, just as Jesus did, in this very place. Wow!
He would have picked a grain of wheat from the field, and told a Life story using it. He would have picked up a mustard seed flower, and told another story about the Kingdom of God with it.


Picking wheat from the field on the way to the sea of Galilee



When we reached the bottom of the hill, we saw a cave that would have been “the quiet place” that Jesus would retreat to pray. And then to emerge to talk about the Beatitudes that the people gathered below to hear.



What an amazing experience to trace Jesus’ steps in this way.


Capernaum

Capernaum is not that far from the Mount of the Beatitudes, and it is the town Peter is from. Jesus would have spent a good amount of time in this small fishing village, teaching in the synagogue, healing those who came to him, and staying in Peter’s house.

The foundation of St.Peter's house, and what was later a church


Peter’s house, after the Resurrection of Jesus, would become a place where Christians would gather for celebrating the Lord’s Supper.




As we go through all of these sacred sites, it is also interesting to note that there are other pilgrims from all over the world, of every colour and language and ethnic back ground - all seeking to follow in the steps of their Lord.




I am so thankful for the archeological witness to the life of Jesus and the early church. I am  more thankful for the Living Faith imparted to us by our Living Lord.