Saturday, March 27, 2010

Who? Will Determine What? and How?

Well, I apologize for not keeping up with my blog. A week-long break followed by a wicked sinus cold and a busy schedule has kept me away from my laptop.

I have been reflecting on my preaching lately. As many of you know, part of my role as the South End Area Vicar is to visit parishes in the area in order to preach and share what I am experiencing and learning from my time in the South End. You see, I overheard a few comments from folks expressing surprise that I preached from the biblical text for the Sunday. I am not certain, but I suspect this surprise came from the people who expected to hear me present an explanation of my role in the South End, describe the needs I am discovering there and then outline the roles that that particular parish could play in the future to address those needs. While I hope to address each of these topics, I can be no means begin there and expect a positive result.
Before we can begin looking at any mission we must be exposed to the reality of God. This occurs through solid biblical preaching. In the Bible the Church is described as being, among other things, the Body of Christ, Sons of God (i.e. Adopted heirs to the Kingdom of God), and as Ambassadors for Christ. This reality must be our starting point. It is from understanding who we are that we can determine what we are about and how we are to express that. In other words, when we know we are to live like Jesus, we will find what needs there are in society and how to address those needs in godly ways.
A few years ago I met up with a clergy friend of mine at a conference in Toronto. I was surprised when he said, "Paul, I know how to save the Anglican Church of Canada." I listened to him skeptically as he laid out the different "factions" in the ACC. He described how we are trying to convince each other to adopt very divergent points of view. "The solution," he exclaimed, "is to draw everybody back to their roots! We are Anglican, so lets meet there in the middle, celebrate what makes us Anglican, and move on from there!" I must admit, I am still skeptical, but what he said made some sense. In fact our Primate Fred said much the same in his visit to our Diocese a year or so ago. He told us we need to reclaim our identity as Anglicans and celebrate that. Fair enough. We have a lot to celebrate, if we do not focus solely on our sad divisions.
What does this have to do with my sermons? Simply this: before we can even begin to see what must be done in the South End and how our parishes can accomplish whatever that is, we need to be grounded in Whose we are. A friend of mine says, "Before we can tackle this or that issue, we need to paint the kingdom." This is our starting point. This is what will inspire us when the going gets tough. When we see the Kingdom Characteristics that Jesus proclaimed in word and deed in the Bible, we can identify the things that grieve the heart of Christ now. It is not enough for us to identify the symptoms of these things, we must get at the cause - which is the various powers at work in and through damaged human hearts.
When we begin with Scripture we align our hearts with the heart of Jesus. From there, we will find the direction, encouragement, and humility that are essential for Kingdom People on the move. These will describe how we are to address the needs. Take away our foundation and we will focus on the issues alone, then we will find a sense of hopelessness, frustration and anger at the brokenness of the world.
I look forward to preaching at the various Anglican Churches in Saint John. I am amazed at how similar we are, and at the same time how unique each community is. When I do come please pray that my preaching will be faithful to the Bible so that we can see clearly who we are called to be, what needs we are called to address and know how we are to address them - empowered by the Spirit of Christ.