Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Many years ago I stood in line waiting to check out at a local Zellers store (remember them?) It seemed pretty obvious that the cashier was not having a very good day and the customer in front of me wasn’t making it any better for them. When it became my turn to pay for my purchase, the cashier was, well, let’s just say, less than amiable; all semblance of good-naturedness had evaporated. I tried to be cordial and avoid the darts coming from their eyes; no need making things worse for them. I paid in cash and when I received my change I noticed that the vexed cashier had given me too much – there was an extra $10.00 bill.
In all truth, I was tempted to just walk out of the store but I didn’t know if the cashier would be responsible for any shortage in their till at the end of their shift. So, I held out my hand with the change I had been given and said, “Excuse me. You’ve given me too much change.”
Well, that poor cashier only heard criticism; they heard only that they were not capable of getting the change right. I was tempted to just put the $10.00 in my pocket and walk out of the store. Rather, I put it on the counter and left without saying anything else.
Temptation comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It seems that good weather is also a source of temptation, especially after the cooler and damper springtime we have had – not to mention being cooped up so long because of the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions on us all. Yesterday, so the news sources highlighted this morning, the temptation of the warm sun proved too much for many who flocked to Trinity-Bellwoods Park in Toronto. The lure of the sunshine and the park outweighed the call to uphold societal well-being through physical-distancing and wearing masks.
Here is my segue: I have heard that some folks have been making home visits. At the risk of sounding like a broken record I need to emphasize that here at St. Peter’s (and indeed, in all Anglican churches in our Diocese of Toronto) official parish visiting is under suspension. I cannot dictate what anyone does of their own volition but I must insist that there be no visiting on behalf of St. Peter’s. We are keeping in touch with our church members in many ways but at this time we need to resist the temptation to visit in person as representative of the church. If you are visiting for personal reasons please remember that Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada is now advising people to practice physical distancing (remain at least 2 meters apart) as well as wearing a mask when out in public or when speaking to non-household members.
I know the temptation is there. Yesterday I was so tempted to ignore Covid caution and hug my younger son – but I remained at a distance and we exchanges an ‘air’ hug.
Our faithfulness in these things is paramount at this time. We must remain faithful in all the little things we are being called on to do. Even Jesus had something to say about it: “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.” (See Luke 16:10.) The temptation is there, the temptation is real but we who follow Jesus need to put the $10.00 on the counter and we must show forth the love of Christ in all that we do – even through our faithfulness to the current pandemic restrictions. It is the right thing to do, for ourselves and for our community (local, national and global!)
Lord of love, Lord of peace, Lord of resurrection life; be known through our lives.
Blessings this wonderful Sabbath, Ric
PS. Some folks may feel that Dr. Tam is sounding like a broken record, as I may sound, too, but we must remain faithful. To share just a little bit about me (and some of you will realize this already); using the analogy of a broken record is tough for me – I don’t like broken records, I mean, I really don’t like broken records. I like records. I collect records. Records are precious in my eyes. And so, for fun, I have attached a picture of some of the ‘not broken records’ that I have. And I have attached the text from today’s homily
May 24, 2020 HOMILY
Diversity of opinion: we are hearing a lot of that in the news and on the street these days. Will there be a second or even a third wave of Covid 19 or not? Will there be a vaccine by the end of this year or will it take 18 months to two years? Should we reopen the economy and society more quickly or are we moving too fast with what we are doing now? Does wearing a mask help or does it just give us a false sense of security? Did our political leaders and our medical experts react soon enough or in the right way? What is the balance between individual rights and societal well-being?
My, oh my, the list could go on and on. And in truth, it does … and not just regarding the many complex nuances of the reality we are facing with the current Covid 19 pandemic. Diversity of opinion exists in all most every aspect of human thought and human life, including within the church and within Christian theologies and beliefs. Baring witness to that is the number of Christian denominations there are in our contemporary world – and there are lots of them. But even when it comes to how many different Christian denominations there actually are in the world today, there is, – yup, you guessed it, – a diversity of opinion! Just check out Mr. Google. One site says there are ‘about’ 41,000 different denominations the fall into in 5 major ‘ecclesiastical families’ while another claims there are ‘over’ 33,000 Christian denominations in 6 major ecclesiastical families.
Truth is, there is even a diversity of opinion among many Christian denominations on teachings as basic as what it even means to be a Christian denomination, or for that matter, what a Christian really is. I remember a parishioner in a previous congregation coming into my office and very sympathetically tell me that they thought I was a nice person but not really a Christian – or was it that I wasn’t a ‘real’ Christian. I don’t actually remember.
So, if there is such diversity of opinion about something as basic as defining who is and who is not Christian, can you imagine the chaos and confusion when it comes to serious theological matters?
Well, I have to tell you that our contemporary Church isn’t the first generation of Christian believers who have found themselves in this predicament. It goes back even into the lives of the disciples of Jesus: that ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor; let me sit at your right hand in your kingdom; you shouldn’t associate with those Samaritans; which is easier to say, take up your bed and walk or your sins are forgiven; send them away so they stop calling after us; why don’t your disciples wash their hands; and, I should be baptised by you and yet you come to me. Again, oh my, the list could go on and on.
In today’s Gospel passage, we have read in part from what is called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus – the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in any of the Gospels. The High Priestly Prayer is the prayer Jesus offered after he had finished his final instructions to the disciples and before he was betrayed, arrested, and crucified. In this famous prayer we hear Jesus recognize that God had given him authority to “give eternal life.” Now there is a theological topic filled with diverse opinion. But in this passage, in this prayer, Jesus gives us an understanding of what eternal life is when he says, “And this is eternal life – that they may know you, the only true God, and the Christ whom you have sent.”
Here, eternal life is to know God and the Christ of God. Dr. Donald A. Carson, Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, says of this verse that “Eternal life turns on nothing more and nothing less than knowledge of the true God.”
The words of Jesus that John records in this High Priestly Prayer reveal that even within the developed theology of the first century of the Church there were noteworthy difference of opinion about the nature of eternal life. Here the Gospel of John emphasizes eternal life as a present reality experienced in our knowing God, in our participation in the Kingdom of God. Whereas in the other Gospels and in the writings of St. Paul eternal life seems to be viewed as something that is yet to be, a future reality, a gift to be received only once this earthly life comes to an end in death.
Is eternal life then, the one or is it the other? Overall, the New Testament does not provide a clear-cut, definitive description of eternal life but rather seems to hold in tension both the present and the future aspects of that life that comes through our knowledge and love of God and of the Christ of God. Put another way, in that the Greek word for ‘eternal’ (αἰώνιος – aiōnios) carries the idea of quality, not just quantity, eternal life is the quality of life, that we receive when we accept the invitation of the Christ of God to live our lives rooted in the Kingdom of God and animated by and expressive of the love of God.
At the end of the day, eternal life is not gained by our theologies or our diversity of opinion about it. It is not gained by what denomination we are part of or what liturgical practices we embrace. Rather, eternal life is gained here and now by our entering into an intimate relationship with the God of all creation through the Christ of God and by living our lives holding true to the values of the Kingdom of God. Thanks be to God and the ascended Christ of God.