But He Never Fails

   The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.”

And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district. (Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26)


I once nearly took a job as general manager of a telemarketing company. I didn’t think at the time that telemarketing was such a nuisance. I would imagine that nowadays, people in that line of business might not want to tell anyone what they do.     But, if you allow for the fact that your life is getting interrupted –often inconveniently – there is nothing really wrong with telemarketing. Someone is merely finding a way to get information to you so you can make a decision about buying their product or service.

Over and over again!

A nother job that used to have a negative connotation was that of insurance salesman. You didn’t want to become friends with an insurance representative because it was said that sooner or later they would hit on you for insurance.

I should say that I know three insurance salesmen and not one has hit on me for insurance.  And what’s wrong with them wanting to help out a friend, anyway?

But what about occupations that are really down there in terms of status? Drug pusher comes to mind. Illegal gun salesman could qualify I suppose. Pimp – now there is a job that has no status at all.

You wouldn’t want your son or daughter to say they were thinking of going into any of those jobs would you?

Those occupations – they are not really jobs –  involve doing things that exploit other human beings. They are occupations that require a person to be ruthless, heartless, conscience-less. They require someone who is dead to the normal emotions and feelings that you and I have.

They require someone whose life has become forfeit to all the wrong things. Someone who doesn’t care any more. Someone who has been lost to God.

In the time when Jesus walked the earth, tax collectors were seen like that. They had sold their souls to the Roman occupying force, existed on what they could extort from people above and beyond what was actually owed in taxes, and were outcasts from society. As far as society was concerned, they were dead, and, religious people thought – dead to God too. 

There were other people who were considered dead to society, and to God, not because they had done anything wrong, but because something had happened to them beyond their control. Lepers for example were non- persons. They wandered around like lost souls.  They owned nothing, had been driven from their homes and villages, and were to all intents and purposes dead to  their families and to society.

The woman mentioned in today’s Gospel, the woman who touched the hem of the garment Jesus wore, had bled for twelve years. Since menstrual blood was considered unclean, a menstruating woman was therefore unclean, and as someone who had been unclean for twelve years she was denied her place in that society. She wouldn’t be able to attend the temple. People wouldn’t want to be seen with her. She was, to some extent a dead woman.

Tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, those who were ritually unclean, these were the people the Pharisees called sinners.  These were those who were cast out from society.  And if you don’t belong,  you might as well be dead. 

And being rejected by society is not something that only happened in Jesus’s time.

Some years ago there was a British movie, based on fact, called  I’m Alright Jack  which told the story of a factory worker who refused to obey his union when a strike was called. He worked through the strike, enduring all sorts of insults and taunts, and threats,  and when the strike was over his workmates punished him by a process called, sending to Coventry

That meant that was far as everyone else in the factory was concerned, he didn’t exist. No-one would talk to him, associate with him, assist him, or even acknowledge that he was there. To the other factory employees, he was, to all intents and purposes,  a dead man.

Jesus came to bring new life to people  who were shut out, ignored, isolated – dead. 

And this comes  about for those who have faith in him.  Who believe that he can do it.    People who realise their need to be transformed.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear of someone who has been sent  to prison for something horrendous,  and then a few years later claiming to be  born-again Christians, and asking to be allowed out on parole, I am always suspicious.

It sounds too easy.

And there may well be phonies among them, but the fact is, Jesus does save, and Jesus does heal – even the most hardened criminals. 

There has to be real faith, though.  People who have settled into a routine existence, doing whatever it is they do – legal or not – as wicked as it may be, and as sinful as it may be, will need a lot of faith to take on a new life, away from the familiar things, familiar associates, familiar ways – as self destructive as those ways may be.

A person addicted to drugs needs a lot of faith to face the future without drugs.

A person used to having power over others needs  a lot of faith to face life as a helpless follower of Christ.

Just as a  person who has it all – someone from the right side of the tracks – will also need a lot of faith –  to turn their back on the things they have relied upon and to rely instead on Jesus.

You don’t think of people who have everything as being  in need do you? 

I read about a big pop star, who when he wasn’t performing, had no life at all.  He was almost a non-entity. He only came alive when he was on stage.

What happens to that person when no one wants to see him perform any more?  If he is only alive when performing, then when he’s not, he might as well be dead.

In 1929 they say, when the market crashed, men who had lost their fortunes jumped out of  skyscraper windows.   

For them, no money meant no life.

But what they needed was for someone to give them real life.

There’s a story about a man who was driving his car down a country road one April and suddenly an animal ran out in front of his car. He braked but couldn’t help hitting it. 

He got out and saw a rabbit lying there. It was obviously dead. Then he noticed a large basket full of eggs, and he realized he had run over the Easter Bunny. He really began to panic now.

But just then another car stopped and a woman got out. “What’s happened?” she asked,  and he told her. “I  think I killed the Easter Bunny. What do I do?” 

“Don’t worry,” she told him, and took a canister out of her purse. She took off the cap and sprayed the rabbit. 

Suddenly, the rabbit’s eyes opened. It jumped up, picked up the basket and hopped away, all the time waving, waving its paws. as it hopped down the road. 

“Wow,” the man went, “Let me see that.”

The woman passed the canister to him. He looked at the label, and read,

“ Acme hair Spray. Gives new life to dead hair and permanent wave.”

Well it’s not quite like that when Jesus brings new life.

It’s  a process, isn’t it?

It comes about when we realise that there is more to life than the things we have been using to distract ourselves.  

And having faith enough to ask for it.

Paul had it. Matthew the tax collector had it. The woman who had suffered for twelve years had it. The official who  wanted  Jesus to  restore his daughter had it.

There was something they saw in this man Jesus that pointed them to God, and new life. There was something in this man that said, “Come home. Don’t be afraid. You are loved. Come to me.”

And they did.

I think that most of us here have answered that call. Most of us here have heard the voice of Jesus, and committed our lives to him.

And it is not easy, is it?    It means new life, yes,  but it also means a different life.

Deciding to put Jesus before drugs, drink, a low life, seems to us to be an easy decision, but putting him before a good life, before a loving family, before a great job, a great reputation, and so on – has to be really hard, doesn’t it?

But with all that we have, if we don’t have him, then we don’t really have life.

Because as we all know, those things –  great job, great reputation, great friends, even great family – have been known to fail at that crucial moment when they are needed.

But he never fails.

Believing that ……… knowing that….. having faith in that …….. is exactly what we must have, to know Him intimately.

And to be able to serve Him  in ways that are just as important today as they ever were.

For this world will never be safe or at peace until Jesus reigns again.



My heartfelt thanks for all those who have expressed condolences, by word of mouth, or by mail or by attending Susan’s Memorial service. I have been moved by the many kind comments about Susan and how well liked she was, and how she will be missed.

Thank you all..


Created, Saved, Empowered

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Matthew.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt.28: 16-20)


What is God to you?

Or who, is God to you?

Is God some larger-than-life figure, powerful and mighty, sitting on a throne in Heaven, and looking down – sometimes approvingly, sometimes critically – on His creation?

Or is God for you, a person who walks with you; someone who knows your doubts and worries, and shares them with you?  …..the person who experienced life here on earth at its nastiest,   but who did not flinch, and who finally was tortured, and put to death – not for anything he had done wrong, but for the things he had done right?

Or is God what animates you? Is God, someone who sees your powerlessness, your life in a rut, and who somehow infuses you with the spirit, the energy, the need to get out of the rut, and go on a great adventure?

I suppose the answer to that question could be different depending on the state of your life at the time of asking.

I guess we have experienced God in all of His three persons, during our lives haven’t we?

There are times when I take a walk down to the beach, and just sit there, on that rocky jetty, and listen to the lapping of the water, and feel the wind against my face, and look out across that great expanse, and I just know that a Creator God is responsible for it all.

And I feel a peace, and an affinity with the earth, and all that God has made, and I know Him as God, Creator God, Loving God.

And when you feel like that, the cares of everyday living and loving fall away, almost as if He or She has taken them from you, and a great sense of freedom ensues.

Reluctantly you pull yourself away, and head back to the everyday world.

In that everyday world, unfortunately, when  I read the newspaper, and watch the television news,  I hear about the latest suicide bomber; new statistics on how many children are working in slave-like conditions; fresh evidence of climate change we are told has come about because of our misuse of creation; new statistics that tell us how we are poisoning the very air we breathe, and a ghastly litany of humanity’s lack of humanity.

And I despair.

Then I remember a baby, born into a working class family, placed in an animal’s eating trough for a crib, in a shed, in a place called Bethlehem – a place right in the centre of a part of the world that is experiencing war, and terror – the Middle East –  and how that baby grew to become a man who took on the immense task, not of changing the world, but of changing people – so that people could change the world.

And I recall how this man gathered around him twelve people, and inculcated them with his love of people, and his belief in our ability to change, and how somehow, his death, which many thought would shut them all up, did the opposite, and that young man’s message of  salvation – did in fact change the lives of many for the better, and still does.

And perhaps more important than the message, if that is possible,  is that this young man died specifically for my salvation – so that I could change – and not be punished for the way I have been…………

………….that his whole reason for being was to call us back from selfishness, and wickedness, and being stuck in sin, and open to us the possibility of real life, life that gives, and is fulfilled; life that is involved, life that will go on for ever.

And  remembering all this about that young man called Jesus, I experience hope. I know that everyone who suffers has a loving brother – someone who himself suffered – to be with them, and to travel with them, even in the midst of the filth of this world – and to bring them to a knowledge of that God who created us to love him, and to love each other.

Not to abuse; not to use; not to manipulate; not to hurt; not to degrade; but to love and uplift, and to encourage, and to help, and to care for.

And that sounds such a wonderful place to be, such a wonderful goal to which to aspire, but alas, something that could be too tough, too difficult, just too hard to manage by myself.

But then I remember how those men and women who followed this man Jesus, how they too must have felt inadequate, and ill-equipped, and just not up to it, and yet they did in fact make a difference.

And I remember that they didn’t do it by themselves. Yes they had Jesus’ teachings to guide them – but so do we. They had more than that. They had a life-changing encounter with another person of the God we love. They  had an encounter with the Holy Spirit.

And remembering this, I rest assured, that whatever I try  to do in His name, His Spirit will be there to give me the strength, the courage, the wherewithal, to do it.

You might be thinking, “How can that be?   It’s ok to say that, but how can people be changed so profoundly? “

About eighty five years ago, a man by the name of Adolph Hitler, took control of a nation and by his  rhetoric, by his evil will, he turned thousands of good people into monsters who could torture and kill in his name, without compunction.

Beginning a little time before that, a man named Stalin took an ideology of materialism, of an economic system,  and using that ideology, turned thousands of  formally good people into torturers, killers, informers, oppressors – guards of the gulag.

So don’t tell me that the Creator of the universe  – the God above all gods, the one who placed the stars and the planets in their courses – that this God  can’t take  ordinary good people – like you and me – and do miracles through us.

Because he is greater than evil. He is stronger than ideology. He is more powerful  than rhetoric, than spin doctoring, than advertising.

Than advertising?

Do you know that the average child is exposed to more than a thousand hours of advertising during its formative years?

And do you know what advertising tells us? It tells  us that we bring happiness into our lives by the shampoo we use, the clothes we wear, the jewelry we buy, the car we drive. 

A thousand hours of  propaganda.

God can even counteract that.

It seems that there is a movement among young people these days to search for something beyond themselves, beyond the facile messages of advertising jingles.

There is a need.

For a Creator God, and a Saving God and an Enabling God.

A Trinity.

There is an emptiness that needs filling, a hunger for something more than the pap that is fed to them twenty four hours a day by this culture of consumerism.  

And we have that.

Don’t we?

We have a God who delivers.

We have a God who saves.

We have a God who is willing to give power to those open to it.

It’s about time that we started telling people what we have. And how to get it. If we are going to do one tiny bit of what those first disciples accomplished.

I don’t know about you, but I want this world to be a little bit better than it was when I came into it.

Else what’s the point?

And people are doing it you know.  People are leaving this place a little better  than when they came.

I see it all the time.  In the legacy of care and love that people leave behind them. In the monuments to their care for the kingdom that they leave behind.

You know what I am talking about.

I don’t have to tell you.

So why am I – telling you?

Because I want others outside of here – others who have never darkened the door of a church, who have never  known salvific love, others who have a need and a hunger, and a desire to be better, and do better, and leave their portion of this place better – I want them  to know what we know.

But they won’t know if we keep our joy to ourselves.

Let’s bring this God of ours out and share with everyone else.

This God of ours being God the Holy Trinity. The God who created all that we have and all that we are. The God who sacrificed Himself to save us. The God who everyday fills with power, those who want to bring about change.

Created. Saved. Empowered.

United in God, and in the Church, and determined to make this world a much, much better place.


My beautiful wife Susan, on May 23rd – a short while ago, -went to meet her Saviour. She was my rock, my shining star, my lover, my everything. I miss her terribly, but I know that God gives His people power at a time like this, to rise above grief and to give thanks for how our lives have been enlightened by the presence of the one we have loved. My life was enlightened by Susan and that light will always be there;  when I think of her, when I imagine her being right there with me, until I finally go to join her.                                                                 


Or if you have a Loose Connection eh?

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”( John 20:19-23)


A tourist visiting a picturesque village walked up to an old man sitting beside a fence, and in a rather patronizing way, asked, “Were any great men born in this village? “The old man said, “Nope, only babies.” 

People aren’t born heroes, whether in this world or in the kingdom of God. Growth takes time. [1]

Those disciples who were afraid of the Jewish leaders, on that same Sunday that the women had discovered the empty tomb, were babies in their faith. They weren’t ready for the challenge that would face them. They weren’t yet great men and women – far from it.

They weren’t even sure about the meaning of the sacrifice that Jesus had made on the cross. For them, his death had meant that it was all over.

Then suddenly Jesus was among them and he showed them his hands and his side.

‘Peace be with you,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid. I am going to send you out on a great mission just as the Father sent me.’

They were so glad to see that he was alive. Now they would see how Jesus’ death and resurrection were part of God’s plan for the whole world. 

And just as the Creator had breathed on the world, and brought it to life, the Son of God now breathed on them and gave them life.

So now the group was alive, and ready to go.

But to where, and how?

I remember when I was a young man, and would meet with my friends, at ‘our corner’ in town. We were all excited about going out Saturday night, but we would stand around, and someone would say, “Well where shall we go? “ and someone else would say, “I dunno, where do you want to go?.” And so it went on, until …….we missed the bus.

We were full of something, if you like, but didn’t know what to do with it, or where to take it.

The  disciples  met again, on the Day of Pentecost, ten days after they had last seen Jesus, and fifty days since the Passover  – hence the name Pentecost.  They were full of spirit. They would sing hymns, and pray, and talk about Jesus, but they were kind of stuck right there.

They didn’t know what to do with what they had.

Then suddenly, God acted. There was a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the sky above them and the wind rattled the shutters and the doors, and buffeted them in its wake.  And those who were there said there appeared to be flames or tongues of fire which settled on their heads.  And we are told that everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t even know.  They ran outside and yelled out loud about what had happened to them.

They were full of something exciting, and wanted to tell everyone about it.

Jerusalem was crowded with people who were there for the religious celebrations, and some of those people looked at these men, yelling and  praising God, in different languages, and thought they were drunk.

As if being filled with the joy of knowing God, and being filled with His Spirit is not something to be boisterous about.

As if it’s wrong!

But if you are raucous, or making a fool of yourself because you are drunk,  then it’s alright?

We need more people drunk …..drunk on the Spirit! 

The first infusion of the spirit which came from Jesus breathing on them, gave them life. This second infusion of the spirit gave them power. [2]

Power to ride over their timidity.   Power to ride over conformity – just as Jesus had done.

Power to go into the world, ignoring convention, and just telling people about Jesus.    Telling people!

How was that power going to drive them?  They were going to find out!

A long time ago when I was a new priest, Ian Dingwall, the Diocesan Executive Director phoned and asked me to pick up a young man – an Indian Chief and priest –  from the airport, take him to dinner and

then to the church in Niagara Falls where he was to speak.

Over dinner we talked of many things, and in the course of conversation, I asked him, “ The white man brought Christianity to the Indian, but the white man also did much harm to the Indian – how does an Indian reconcile these two things?

He told me that the shaman of the remote fishing village in the Canadian Northwest, where he lived, had a dream, in which he saw a light coming to the village from the sea. The dream was so vivid and the shaman so insistent, that lookouts were posted day and night to watch for this light.

After a few weeks, someone noticed a little spot on the horizon. It wasn’t a light. It looked more like a dark smudge.  But over the course of a day or two the smudge changed into a boat with a man in it. The man was paddling slowly to the shore.

When it was close enough, young men went into the water and helped to beach the boat. The man stepped from it, and after he had greeted them and been made welcome, he opened his Bible and began reading from the Gospel of John, chapter 8, where Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”

The shaman’s dream had come true. A great light had come to that village from the sea.

And it had come because one man, that missionary priest, had braved rough waters and his own fear of the unknown, to bring the story of Jesus to them.

This missionary priest went against convention, he went against common sense if you like, to come to this out-of-the-way fishing village, with perhaps no more than two or three hundred souls, and to bring them the story of Jesus.

How did he even come up with the idea? What drove him? And how did he manage it? Because he had the spirit of Christ in him. The spirit of life: the spirit of power. The same spirit that so passionately came upon the disciples.

And the priest and chief with me said, ” How could we not welcome Christ who was the light?

I used to hear stories like that when I was a little boy and I too, wanted to be a missionary. I thought I would go over the sea to Africa.

The Lord  in His wisdom brought me over the sea to Ontario!

You see, we aren’t all called by the spirit to go to strange and foreign places. And we aren’t all called to be preachers.

Paul tells us that there are many different ways to serve God. But, he says, they all come from the same spirit.

When the first pyramid was opened, and explorers went down deep passages to the very centre of that giant structure to find the mummified remains of a pharaoh, someone observed that they were breathing the same air that Egyptians had breathed 3000 years before.

Similarly, the spirit that comes upon today’s  followers of Jesus is the same spirit that came upon  followers of Jesus two thousand years ago, believe it or not.

Some have the gift of serving others. Some speak with wisdom. Others speak with knowledge. Others have the power to heal. Some are prophets. Some are organisers. Some teach.

Some can sit with a sick or dying person, and solely by their presence, bring peace to a troubled mind.

Some can visit a lonely old man or woman and ‘turn frown’ lines into ‘laugh lines.’

Some can talk to friends and neighbours about their church – and even if they never thought they could – invite them to come to church. 

That is the  power of the spirit.   Today!!

But you might say, “ I have been waiting years for the power of the spirit to hit me, and it hasn’t hit me yet. “

Well hear this: Herbert Jackson told the story of how, as a new minister, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push.  The first time he drove it and parked, to get it started again, he went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car so he could jump-start it.

After that, as he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He did this for two years, until ill-health forced him and his family to take their leave, and he welcomed his replacement to that station.

Jackson handed over the car and proudly began to explain his methods for getting the car started. The new man lifted the hood and before Jackson had finished his story, said, “Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson’s astonishment, the engine roared to life.

The power had been there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.

The  power available to us who believe in God is tremendous.  But if we have a loose connection with God, then it isn’t going to happen for us. [3]

Or it could be that our life is too full of other stuff and there is no room for the spirit.

Evangelist D. L. Moody said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is just no room for the Spirit of God.

We must be emptied before we can be filled.” [4]

The disciples wanted nothing so much as to serve Jesus. They had turned their backs on the world. They had emptied themselves of the stuff that would prevent them receiving the spirit of life, and of power.

Consequently every corner of their hearts was filled with the Holy Spirit, on that Pentecost Day.

There is no sense complaining about the lack of spirit, if your life is just too full of worldly stuff, to let it in.

Or if you have a loose connection. Eh?


My beautiful wife Susan three days ago, went to meet her Saviour. She was my rock, my shining star, my lover, my everything. I miss her terribly, but I know that God gives His people power at a time like this, to rise above grief and to give thanks for how our lives have been enlightened by the presence of the one we have loved. My life was enlightened by Susan and that light will always be there, when I think of her, when I imagine her being right there with me, until I finally go to join her.                                                                                       


[1] William C. Shereos  quoting Leonard Ravenhill from The Last Days Newsletter,

[2] See: Exegetical Commentary on John 20: W. Hall Harris III , Th.M., Ph.D.

[3] Ernest B. Beevers: Car that Wouldn’t Start

[4] Taking The Guesswork Out of Applying The Bible, J. Kuhatschek, IVP, pp. 153ff


The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to John.

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 2

All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.


How would you like it if God spoke to you and told you that you were going to do great things in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and everywhere in the whole world? I guess you would panic a bit, wouldn’t you? I mean, what about your job, and who’s going to look after the kids, and what about your bridge group next Wednesday? It would be a bit scary.

 I had a similar experience, you might say. I was in my final year in seminary, and I was staying on campus during the summer. There was a man, another Yorkshireman, originally from Doncaster, fifteen miles from my home town – he had that accent – and he was visiting from the Arctic. He was a priest, recruited in Britain by the Bishop of the Arctic, and he had ministered in the far North for, I think, seven years. He had seen an ad in the church paper asking for priests to go to the Arctic. He responded, and after a while, the Bishop of the Arctic, who was in England for that very purpose, came to interview him in his home. He said the bishop was unlike the UK bishops, some of whom live in palaces, and what goes with all that. He said the Bishop of the Arctic came into his home, sat in an armchair, put his feet on the mantelpiece, and told him about the challenges of ministering in that environment. .

He responded and after a short while found himself in the far north, getting off the plane in his raincoat, and brown shoes, totally ill-equipped for the climate. He spoke eloquently to us students, at one of our morning prayer services about serving the church in the North. He told about the great challenges, and the way they were being met. He talked about the great joy and satisfaction he got out of his ministry.

He talked about the gratitude shown by the native population for the mission work that he did. And he talked about the great need for priests to work in the North. 3 ” A great need for priests to serve in the north,” he said. And I felt he was talking directly to me. In fact I was sure he was talking directly to me. And I began to panic. Is this God’s way of calling me to go to the Arctic, I wondered? I hope not. I can hardly stand the winters here in Southern Ontario.

 I am here, so you know I didn’t go. When I had thought about it some more, I decided that maybe God wasn’t calling me to go North. After all I had a family to tale care of here in Ontario.

But I still wonder, sometimes. I wonder how different my life would have been. Jesus, just before his Ascension into Heaven, told his disciples, “ The Holy Spirit will come upon you with power, then you will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and everywhere in the world.”

The whole world! The whole world?

Wait a minute!! You can imagine them thinking, “ I can’t go out into the world. I am not prepared. I have never traveled more than a day’s journey from my home. How can I go into the whole world?” “I just told you that the Holy Spirit will come upon you with power. That is how you will go, and how you will glorify me.”

Jesus assured them. If God is helping you, then surely everything, and anything, is possible. John tells us that Jesus is praying with his friends in that upper room, the night before his crucifixion. He says to his Father, “Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you.”

The glory that Jesus is talking about is the glory of the cross. Jesus glorified his father by obeying him in all things. Even to dying on the cross. As it says, “In all things he did his Father’s will.” 4 That’s another way of saying that this man Jesus, lived for the Father. And he had such faith in the Father, and was so empowered by the Holy Spirit, that everything that he did, especially his death, did in fact, glorify God.

You know, we all do a lot of self -glorifying, don’t we? Probably without realizing it. But think about it. Human beings have done that throughout the ages. We seem to need to build ourselves up. The way we dress. The way we talk, carry ourselves, the people we mix with, the car we drive, the house in which we live, the schools we went to, the level of education we reached, all helping to elevate us in the eyes of other people – we hope. It’s worse in America.

You are never too far into a conversation, down there, before someone asks you what job you do. And if it isn’t something impressive, then you are going to be talking to yourself pretty soon. What a relief it would be to be free of that eh? Not to care. Just to live as someone who is so at ease with oneself that we don’t care what the world thinks. Jesus was at ease with who he was, wasn’t he? He stood up and spoke in the synagogue, in front of learned people; he gathered a group of followers around him and taught them as a rabbi would, this son of a carpenter. He stood up to those in authority, he reached out to those who were scorned by society. And finally, he went to his death on the cross, in supreme obedience to His Father’s will. He needn’t have, you know. He could have said, “No.” He could have stayed away from Jerusalem. Avoided it. But if he had done that, then God’s plan would have been thwarted. His death would show us the length to which God would go, in his great love for us, and in his wish to save us. And now we see Jesus sending his disciples out into the world – the whole world – to face dangers similar to the dangers he himself had faced. They would be hated.

They would challenge the evil powers of this world, and put their lives at risk. And how are these men, who haven’t shown signs of great bravery yet, going to do this?

 How are they to handle all the stuff that’s going to come their way?

Because make no mistake about it, they will face danger. Their lives will be forfeit, some of them. Some will be thrown into prison, others brought before tribunals, some flogged, thrown out of town. How will they handle this? Shouldn’t God protect them? Keep all harm away from them? Note that when Jesus prayed for his disciples, and this is important, he prayed, not that they should be taken out of this world, not that they may find escape, he prayed that they may find victory.

Christianity was never meant to have us withdraw from life, but to equip us better for it; never meant to release us from problems, but a way to solve them; never meant to offer us an easy peace, but a triumphant warfare against evil; never meant to offer us a life in which we escape our troubles, but a life in which troubles are faced and conquered.

Linus and Charlie Brown were walking along one day, and chatting with each other. Linus said, “ I don’t like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them. In fact, this is a distinct philosophy of mine. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.” Imagine if you ran away from every problem. Where would you be now? Back in the womb! See how your mother would like that.

God doesn’t promise us no problems.

He promises us the courage to face them, and the ability to overcome them. God has chosen us and dedicated us in his service. He doesn’t expect us to carry out that great task of our own strength, however. In fact, he graciously fits us for whatever task faces us, if we can just place our lives in his hands.

 I was speaking to a young mother once. Susan and I had already met her a short while before, and I remembered her saying then, that having two young children to look after was very hard. And she looked tired. She said she didn’t have any family nearby who would take the children off her hands for just a little while.

Then some time later, I saw her again, and we chatted for a few minutes. She told me she is extremely busy. She works week-ends, and has a part-time job she does at home, and then of course she has the two babies to care for. And 6 she does housework, and meals, and so on. And she couldn’t talk for long, as she had the laundry in. I bet that if you had told that young woman just a short time before, how much she would accomplish, as a wife and mother, she would have laughed in your face.

Don’t tell me that God doesn’t equip people when he gives them big jobs. God also equips us to handle sorrow, and suffering, and all sorts of hardship. I can tell you from my own observations that I have seen people face great challenges, such that I thought they would never be able to handle, and yet, by the grace of God, they did.

He is there in our suffering, right there in the dirt with us, waiting for us to feel his presence, and know his love. We have just got to let Him in. A man by the name of Rufus Jones lost a son of eleven years who was all the world to him. He wrote many years later about the experience, concluding with this luminous parable of how his own heart was opened to God’s love. “When the sorrow was at its most acute, I was walking along a great city highway, when suddenly I saw a little child come out of a great gate which swung to and fastened behind her. She wanted to go home behind the gate but it would not open. She pounded in vain with her little fist. She rattled the gate. Then she wailed as though her heart would break. The cry brought the mother. She caught the child in her arms and kissed away the tears. ‘Didn’t you know I would come? It’s alright now,’ she told her child. “All of a sudden,” he said, “

 I saw with my spirit that there was love behind my own shut gate.” This life is never fair, it seems. ‘That’s why God had Jesus Christ choose you to share in his eternal glory. You will suffer for a while, but God will make you complete, steady, strong, and firm.’ He is right behind that gate. Just waiting for us to call out to him.

God is in control