Monthly Archives: June 2021

And then leaves the rest to Him.

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark.

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.     (Mark 4:26-34)

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Here in Mark’s account of the parable of the sower, we have some truths that bear thinking about. Jesus has brought a message – the Good News that God wants to welcome his children back to His side, that he is willing to forgive their sins, and that He will accomplish this through Jesus Christ the Anointed One.

Just prior to telling the parable of the sower,  Jesus said a light is not given to be hid under a bushel. That this message, hasn’t been given us to hide away, under a bushel basket as it were, but others need to see it.  Others, still in the darkness, need to see it. 

Some people take the light they have been given and illuminate the darkest of places – prisons, death row – places where you would think that Satan rules undeterred. They take the light of Christ into the lives of those who have only known darkness. One on one.

And it is by one person showing the light to another – that the rule of God will eventually extend over all the earth.

Satan knows about that method and uses it to spread  his own influence. He uses it to have one depraved person lead another into depravity. He uses internet chat rooms, porn sites, one-to-one communication to help spread his evil. 

But Christians too meet on websites. Websites are set up to spread the Gospel. You can read the Bible in any translation, and practically in any language, on the net. You can read sermons, visit churches oceans away.  You can be part of on-line discussion groups.

You can also be part of a bible study group right here at home. You can mix with other Christians, pray, work together to help others, and take part in spreading the Gospel. Just by talking to others. Just by inviting a friend to come to such a group with you, or to one of our dinners, or even – dare I say it – to church.

It’ll only work if we pass it on. If we are prepared to share the light. 

One of the things that puts people off from just asking someone to come to church is that they think they might be asked to do more. That they will somehow be responsible for that person’s salvation or something. Or worse still, asking them to take offering envelopes.

Of course you will be responsible for them if you bring them to church. You will introduce them to others, accompany them to the coffee hour,  but that’s it.

The parable of the sower tells us that all we have to do is sow the seed. God will do the rest. Their life is not our responsibility. It’s not our success that is paramount here. 

We aren’t called to succeed, as Mother Teresa used to say, we are called to try.

Just asking someone to church is planting a seed. Just telling someone in trouble that you will pray with them is planting a seed. Dropping a card to someone who is ill is planting a seed.

And the seed, the message in other words, that you are sending, has a power all on its own.

Samuel the High Priest of Israel went rather timidly to Bethlehem to see who it was had been selected by God to lead His people. He was afraid that King Saul might find out. David was the one. A young slip of a thing, too young to be given much responsibility, he had the lowliest job, caring for the flock.

Samuel, on God’s command, anointed this boy as the future king of Israel, and the boy was blessed by the spirit of God.  The seed planted in David, that day, would lead him to grow in strength and maturity,  and in obedience to God, and to learn from his experiences how to be king.

So, we are to try, one on one to forward the message we have been given. We are to trust that God will use what we do, to move in the heart of those so touched. And we are to have faith that when we do that we will be contributing to a worldwide movement of love for God and neighbour.

And that whatever we do, whatever we try, He will be there, assisting us.

I have often had the privilege of being called to be at the bedside of someone who is dying. I drive up to the house, or to the hospital, and there in my car, I just pray: ” Lord, I have no idea what I will find here, what the situation is, and what I have to do to bring comfort. Please guide me in what to say, and what to do.”

And He always has.

We all aren’t called to such serious moments.

But we can all reach out gently and simply to another.

Frankly that’s all we can do to counter Satan’s campaign to spread hatred of God and neighbour in the world..

Reach out without fear of rejection, without fear of failure.

You might remember one of Charles Schulz’s cartoons, featuring Charlie Brown and Lucy.

Charlie Brown is at bat. Strike three!. He has struck out again and slumps over to the bench.

” Rats, I’ll never be a big league player. I just don’t have it. All my life I have dreamed of being in the big leagues but I know I’ll  never make it.”

Lucy turns to console him. “Charlie Brown, you’re thinking too far ahead, What you need to do is set yourself more immediate goals.

He looks up,” Immediate goals?”

Lucy says,” Yes. Start with this next inning when you go out to pitch. See if you can walk out to the mound without falling down.”

We don’t have to be great. We don’t have to be famous. We don’t even have to succeed, frankly.

All we are asked to do is try.

That’s how God’s work will be done and how good will triumph over evil. 

Jesus uses the example of the mustard tree whose seed is so small, and yet which grows into a large bushy plant with room for all sorts of birds to shelter in it.

God’s kingdom would grow to cover the whole earth. Jesus and that little band of brothers were the ones who would begin to plant the seeds that would make that happen.  

We latter day disciples, are likewise entrusted with the task of sowing  the seed, and tilling  the soil.

The problem as I see it is that we have forgotten our original purpose.

As Christians we have the idea that what we are is a worshipping people,  a people who worship in a church which we are entrusted with keeping open at all cost,  with paying the bills, singing the hymns, and generally being in each other’s company.

And that idea of what a Christian does is a pretty nice notion, isn’t it?

I’ll go for that.

But I believe we sometimes need to take a different look at things.  We need to take a lateral rather than a linear view of Christianity.

See things differently.

Peter Hay, in his Book of Business Anecdotes, tells the story of  marketing whiz Stanley Arnold who in the fifties, was working at Young & Rubicam, where he was asked to come up with a marketing campaign for Remington Rand. The company was among the most conservative in America. Its chairman at the time was retired General Douglas MacArthur.

Intimidated at first by a company that was so much a part of America, Arnold also found in that phrase – ‘so much part of America’ –  the first inspiration for a campaign.

After thinking about it, he went to the New York offices of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane, and placed the ultimate odd-lot order: “I want to purchase,” he told the broker, “one share of every single stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange.” After a vice president tried to talk him out of it, the order was finally placed. It came to more than $42,000 for one share in each of the 1098 companies listed on the Big Board at the time. Arnold now took his diversified portfolio into a meeting of Remington Rand’s board of directors, where he argued passionately for a sweepstakes campaign with the top prize called ‘A Share in America.’

The winner would get an actual share in America.   One share in every listed company!

The conservative old gentlemen shifted around in their seats and discussed the idea for a while. “But Mr. Arnold,” said one, “we are not in the securities business.” Said another, “We are in the shaver business.”

“I agree that you are not in the securities business,” said Arnold, “but I think you also ought to realize that you are not in the shaver business either. You are in the people business.”

They bought the idea. [1]

See, we are not in the worshipping business, although that is what we do. We are not in the music business, although we like to sing our little hearts out.   We are not in the real estate business,  although we need a place to gather. We are not in the hospitality business although we do serve wine and bread, and after the service, coffee and cookies.

We are in the salvation business.

We are here to help others come to know the overpowering love of Jesus Christ and how he died to save us – to make us free!

When people come to hear and accept that message then we will have done what we are really here for.

But I want to emphasize: that doesn’t mean we are responsible for the whole message. We don’t even have the responsibility of making sure they listen.

We have just got to plant the seed.

It’s not that complicated.

Oh, I know people  like to make things complicated, don’t they?  I knew a man once who used to tell everyone he was a horticultural  propagationist.

 He was a gardener for Pete’s sake!

We are not evangelical propagationists.

We are not even gardeners.

You and I  are simply someone who by a kind word or deed, or a casual invitation, simply puts someone in the way of God’s love.

And then leaves the rest to Him.  Amen.


[1] Peter Hay, The Book of Business Anecdotes, in Bits and Pieces, Oct., 1990

And – it’s not a secret!

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”

And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”

And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”   (Mark 3:20-35)

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The Second Sunday of Pentecost .

I knew a man who had a particularly irritating trait.

I used to work with him,

I would ask him something like, “ Do you have those numbers ready?” and he would shake jhis head, and then say,” Yup. I got them. Right here. “

Or, I would ask, “ Do you want to stop off  for a drink after work tonight,?” And he would nod his head, and then say “No, I can’t make it tonight.”

His body language – or his ‘head language’ said one thing and his mouth said another.

That’s ambiguity.

Some people are taught how to do that, believe it or not. To indicate one thing and mean something else.

For example I heard a woman once, who said that she spent three years in a Swiss boarding school, and all she learned there was, that when she heard someone say something stupid, she would say, “ That’s interesting,” instead of , ” That’s a load of…..

Not saying what you mean, or not meaning what you say.

Well, on a larger and more  tragic scale -– June 4th  is the  anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre which took place in 1989, in China.

This major historical and tragic event isn’t taught in Chinese schools; it’s not in the official history books. Most young people in China don’t know anything about it.

It’s as if it never happened, which is how the authorities want it to be.

Because of social media, it is more difficult these days to hide something like this. However, if you are in China and search for information on the internet, about that event, using, ‘Tiananmen Square,’ or any other derived word you might use to get information on that event, you will find it difficult, if not impossible.

Any combination of words, that might lead you to such information has been noted by censors, and turned into a dead end.  For a while, some people beat the censors by searching for 6/89, but not for long.

The powers that be don’t want any mention of the event. And will do anything to stop people accessing information about it.

Something happened, but the authorities are saying it didn’t.

And the Chinese are not alone in denying the existence of something that actually happened, as we have seen in the past year just across our southern border, where an alternative reality has been presented.

And it’s hard to go against such ambiguity – saying one thing and meaning another, especially if its your government speaking.

The authorities who were against Jesus were accusing him of breaking the Sabbath laws. What they really meant was that he was upsetting the established order, and they wouldn’t put up with it

When the scribes and Pharisees challenged what Jesus was doing; for example disregarding the Sabbath laws as they said,  – by healing on the Sabbath, he answered them,” The Sabbath law was put there for the benefit of people, not to oppress them,”

This made sense to anyone who had the slightest inkling of logic, but it didn’t fit against the alternative truth his enemies were presenting.

When he asked them, “Is it lawful to do good, to save a life on the Sabbath?” They really could not say ” Yes” and they could not say    “No”. They would be caught in their own ambiguity.

That would be like my friend, nodding “Yes, ” but saying,” No.”

So later, the Pharisees decided to ally themselves with the Herodians – another party –  to find a way to destroy Jesus.

The verdict against Jesus may actually have been decided right there, not in that sham trial in Jerusalem months later.

That event could have been the start of the campaign which resulted in Jesus’ death.

Still trying to catch him out, however, they had to admit to themselves that clearly Jesus’  healings were genuine and had to be supernatural, but they couldn’t bring themselves to admit that such miracles must have come from God.

So they hit on this idea that they would accuse him of doing the devil’s work. That his power came from Beelzebub.

Here they are again saying one thing, but meaning another. It was a flawed argument and they knew it.

And Jesus demolished their argument by pointing out the obvious, that if Satan were doing good things  – healing sick people – then he must be working against himself, and that just wouldn’t make sense, would it?

Not only were they foiled again, but they had done the unforgivable; they had  blasphemed  against the Holy Spirit –  saying the Spirit which enabled Jesus to heal, was Satan.

But they were so consumed with getting rid of Jesus that this probably went over their heads, anyway.

Now they have decided that he has to die, and they have given up trying to find legal means to get rid of him.  Since he has demolished all their arguments, they will use some other means, and as we know, they will later use Judas.

So what we have here, in what the authorities are going to do with Jesus, is exactly how modern day tyrants behave, presenting themselves as caring, but doing the opposite.

And we have an expert in obfuscation, and ambiguity just down the road aways in the US. Haven’t we?

It is hard to fight against ambiguity. You can’t pin it down.

And if you try, it can get you crucified.

It happens in everyday life. You may be in a job, and you see that your boss is doing something illegal, and you speak up about it, and find yourself out of work!

You may be the best candidate for a particular position. You may be working wonders for your company, but because you didn’t  look the other way when something wrong took place, you didn’t get that job.

That has been the case throughout history, hasn’t it? On bigger, or smaller scale.

Our forebears fought the battles that gave us our freedoms. So we can speak up against what we see as oppressive, or illegal, or against the common good.

Usually.

But such freedom is a fragile thing. And can be gradually whittled away if we are not on guard.

So what lesson do we draw from all this for our own lives?

There are many examples in history,  of courageous Christians speaking out about evil.

The people who followed Jesus, spoke out courageously against what was happening in the Roman Circuses; spoke out against kings who oppressed their subjects; centuries later, spoke out against slavery; spoke out against the exploitation of young children in Victorian factories; spoke out against the exploitation of women, and are still doing so.

And we, also, have a duty to speak out, and act, when we see injustice.

We are asked to speak up in support of those who suffered terribly as children in the residential schools. And against violence against aboriginal women which may have its roots in what took place in those schools.

So in a symbolic gesture, some years ago, Anglican churches across the country rang their church bells on a particular Wednesday – Ron rang ours – and we were asked to do so for another two Wednesdays. As a sign that we are against such wrongs.

But ringing bells wasn’t enough. Nothing much changed.

People have to speak up. And people have to act.

These are the words of a poem, written by  the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis‘ rise to power.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The people who followed Jesus went out into the far reaches of the earth to bring the light of Christ to those who lived in darkness. Some were killed. Some were turned away. Some lost hope. But some succeeded. And the word was spread.

Some years ago, I got a call from the diocese, asking me to meet a visiting Indian Chief and priest from the north, take him to dinner and deliver him to a church in Niagara Falls where he was to preach.

Susan and I met him and had a wonderful couple of hours with him.

In the course of dinner, I asked him, in light of what had happened in the residential schools, what did he feel about Christian faith now?  How did his faith stand up?

He said, “ One day the shaman in our village said he had a dream wherein he saw a light coming to us from across the sea, so every night, someone was posted to watch the sea, and look for this light.”

After about six weeks, the lookout spotted, way off, something coming their way. At first they couldn’t make out what it was. Then  eventually, they saw it was a small boat, and a man was in the boat.

The boat eventually reached the shore, and the man got out.

They welcomed him, and he asked them to be seated, and he read to them from  his Bible, the words of Jesus, “ I am the light of the world,”

I am the light of the world.!

This was the fulfillment of the shaman’s dream.

Our dinner companion then said, ‘How could we turn against someone who brought us the light of the world?”

You see, someone spoke up about Jesus!

And brought about positive, and lasting, change.

So, it seems to me, we are reassured, that in all the world’s adversity, in all the oppression that we hear about, in all of man’s inhumanity to man, that somehow the light of Christ will shine through.

And will endure.

That all that evil persons can do to advance their evil in this world will come to naught.

That the only constant thing in this world is the love of God as supremely shown to us in Jesus the Christ.

And – it’s not a secret!

Amen