Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection: Preachers try to explain this Gospel by saying that Jesus convinced the people to share their food with each other. Their open-heartedness and mutuality were the true miracles. This is a fine lesson, but there is something deeper here – the power of the “Bread of Life” in the face of overwhelmingly hopeless circumstances. Let’s briefly explore what this text might teach us about Christian hope, as well as the notion of testing (v6) and finally the move to make Jesus king (v15).

We note that John evokes the memory of the Exodus by setting this story in the wilderness near the time of the Passover festival. Those sacred events from Israel’s past were also apparently hopeless situations overcome by the creative, surprising power of God. Ronald Rolheiser observes, “What do we need to understand about the loaves? We need to understand that we are with the bread of life, everything we need to feed the world we already have…We have the resources already; though on the surface those resources will always look over-matched, hopeless, dwarfed, nonsensical, wishful thinking. On the surface, invariably, we will look…not up to the task of …feeding a hungry, greedy world.” Hope is trust that God, with our cooperation, will find a way.

Where in your life are you being called to exercise the kind of “hope” discussed above? Brian B. Pinter, Sermons that Work

Prayer: O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection: These verses of Mark’s gospel serve as a bookend for a “bread miracle” in which Jesus feeds five thousand people (vv. 35-44) and the episode that immediately follows in which Jesus walks on the sea (vv. 47-52). Taken together, Jesus’s invitation of the disciples into a “deserted place” (v. 31) followed by his miraculous provision of food and demonstration of power over the chaotic element of water all hearken back to Israel’s first wilderness wanderings with God (see Exodus 14 and 16). The comparison is no accident. The “many” (vv. 31 and 33) who are “like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 34) also figure importantly in these parts of the narrative. Twice we are told that the people “recognized” (vv. 33 and 54) Jesus, and far from ignoring or intently evading them, he has “compassion” on them, “teach[es] them many things” (v. 34), and heals them (v. 56).

·         What do you think the people “recognize” in Jesus?

·         What, if anything, can we glean from the people’s approach to Jesus and Jesus’ approach to the people?

·         Does anything else stand out to you in this passage? 

Prayer: Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

From the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection: Here we see Jesus both ministering in his hometown and sending out the disciples two by two to undertake their own ministry. Both encounter some forms of unbelief. Jesus’ hometown cannot accept his teaching because he is too familiar to his friends and neighbors; they only see the town carpenter. The disciples are warned that not all will welcome their message (and they have just seen a clear example of this in Nazareth). The unbelief has consequences in both instances. Still, as the disciples and Jesus’ travel around to villages, the good news of God’s kingdom is spread widely; people are healed and demons are cast out and repentance is preached. Humanity will resist God’s grace, gospel, and healing power, but this does not end God’s ministry. God’s kingdom will prevail even in the midst of our unbelief.

Jesus accepts rejection in stride, leaving behind people who have rejected him, and continuing his ministry elsewhere—a good model for the church today. ‘two by two’ – a partner bestows strength and support. They also provide pleasant companionship and encourage each other in difficult circumstances. The disciples go where Christ sends them and do what Christ tells them to do. Anyone can accomplish great things in Christ’s name. 

Where do you see resistance to God’s message and power, either in your own life or in your ministry? How can you trust God to help you overcome this resistance? Where do you see God’s power to heal and teach in your life and in your ministry?

Prayer: O GOD, God of the prophets, in every age you send the word of truth, familiar yet new. Let us not be counted among those who lack faith, but give us vision to see Christ in our midst and to welcome your saving word. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen. Opening Prayers (1997) alt. Amen.

From the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection: Brian B. Pinter wrote, “Ministry often happens in the interruptions! We might have our plans and agendas, but life will interrupt, calling us to put those aside. The most meaningful, impactful moments come as interruptions, surprises, unexpected moments that become doorways of empathy and grace.”

The author of Mark’s Gospel uses a technique here called intercalation – the use of one passage to interpret another. Notice how skillfully Mark has woven together the story of the daughter of Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage. Both are “daughters”, both seek assistance, they are at opposite and parallel ends of the economic hierarchy, one woman is old, the other young, and the 12-year-old daughter was born when the woman’s hemorrhage began. The bleeding woman is healed on two levels. First, her physical ailment is cured. Second, she is restored to right relationship with the community. Her issue of blood would have made her unclean and separated her from others. Jesus calls her “daughter”, signifying that her connection to the community has been restored. Where have you experienced grace in moments of “interruption”?

Reflections on Canada day and what it means to be Canadian: 

To be Canadian is to be kind: A nation is shaped by the character of its residents. Kindness is an ideal that has defined the self-perception of Canadians for generations. Canadian have been known as polite and kind, but we must continue to maintain it as more than a perception but as a genuine truth.

To be Canadian is to be Resilient: To overcome a pandemic requires the work and resolve of every level of government, every community, and every one of us. Canadians did their part. We changed our habits, postponed our plans, switched to teleworking or had to completely reinvent our work, all this, while caring for one another. We owe an immense debt to those who served and still serve on the frontlines, to health care personnel and essential workers, women and men in uniform, volunteers, and leaders, everywhere in the country.

Prayer: O GOD, who didst lead the first peoples into this land of Canada, and hast increased us by thy favour: Grant, we beseech thee, that we who now enter their inheritance, may prove ourselves a people mindful of thy mercies and ready to do thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.

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Sunday Reflection

Parables are powerful teaching tools. They purify wisdom from our everyday experience, wisdom we often overlook. Parables are also multivalent, that is, they can be interpreted in several ways. Above all, parables invite us to draw our own conclusions. A teacher who uses parables shows respect for her/his audience. John Wesley put it this way: “He spoke the word as they were able to hear it – adapting it to the capacity of his hearers; and speaking as plain as he could without offending them. A rule never to be forgotten by those who instruct others.”

Our gospel today relates two parables about seeds. Both play on the smallness of the seed and how so much that is consequential is happening when no one notices. But it is the mustard seed parable that would have been most arresting for Jesus’ first-century audience. You see, the mustard bush was considered a weed, and a fatal one at that. The rabbis taught that one could not plant mustard in the same garden as other crops. There always had to be a wall between it and anything else. Why? Once mustard took root, it was nearly impossible to control. It would crowd out everything else.

We also note that the mustard bush is not the largest of trees and shrubs – “largest” is a bad translation. Rather, it is the “greatest” (from the Greek “meizon panton” – “greater than all”). Why? It is a place where “the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” The kingdom of God, it seems, does not mirror the powerful kingdoms of the world, yet it is a place where people will find peace. There’s wisdom in this – as we as a church go about our work for the kingdom, we do not need to focus on being the largest or loudest, but a safe refuge where all the “birds” will find peace. How do we continue to share the good news of salvation to all people?

From the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.

Prayer: God of Mission, who alone brings growth to your church,
Send your Holy Spirit to give Vision to our planning, Wisdom to our actions And power to our witness. Help our church grow in numbers, In spiritual commitment to you, And in service to our local community,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Thanks to Jane Keedwell, Christ the Redeemer Parish, for sharing this prayer.

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2nd Sunday of Pentecost

The worship service started with the territorial acknowledgement. In solidarity to the First Nations people and in honour of the 215 children found buried at the residential school in Kamloops, the parishes of St. Michael’s and Christ the Redeemer offered a moment of silence and solemn prayers to their families and friends who mourn for the lost of their loved ones. 

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Sunday Reflection

Of Faith in the Holy Trinity: There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Articles of Religion, #1, The Anglican Church of Canada. 

The term is from the Latin tri, “three,” and unitas, “unity.” The term was devised by Tertullian to express the mystery of the unity-in-diversity of God. Trinity means “threefold unity.” 

The Trinity is a perfect relationship of love in which neither unity nor distinctness of the divine persons is compromised. God’s life is understood to be dynamic, loving, and available to be shared in relationship with humanity for salvation. 

In our gospel from John 3:1-17, Nicodemus knows that there is just something about Jesus. The idea of rebirth is not new with Jesus. God is the primary player in this passage – the action is God’s. Our response is to believe in Jesus as Lord and saviour to have “eternal life”. 

If it was necessary for God to send the Son to save the world, it must be that God so love the world so much. God’s goal is to restore and save the world God created. 

Is there a part of your own faith journey that you look back on and gently, remind yourself of God’s saving love to you? It’s hard for all of us to get our heads wrapped around God’s infinite love, and we all get sidetracked or scrambled. Can you picture God—our infinitely loving father—smiling at you as you try to puzzle it out? From the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.

Prayer: God of Mission, who alone brings growth to your church,
Send your Holy Spirit to give Vision to our planning, Wisdom to our actions And power to our witness. Help our church grow in numbers, In spiritual commitment to you, And in service to our local community, Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Thanks to Jane Keedwell, Christ the Redeemer Parish, for sharing this prayer.

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Sunday Reflection

The Day of Pentecost: Pentecost is the moment when God’s physical presence on earth shifts from the earthly body of Christ to the global Body of Christ. That moment was ten whole days long.

Until today, many churches still have Jesus on the cross in the worship space, but as we celebrate the day of Pentecost, where is Jesus now? In an episcopal parish church in Missouri, Jesus can be clearly seen above the cross, in a beautiful stained glass  tryptic, depicting him ascending into heaven.

Sometimes, we may wonder why churches have that kind of an image of Jesus. Why did he have to disappear into the clouds and leave us here without him? His disciples at the time wondered that, too.

But here’s the thing about the Incarnation—about God becoming one of us and dying and rising as one of us: It is the most powerful work God could have done to save us. And yet, if Jesus had remained on earth afterward, as a human, he would have been painfully limited. If he had stayed, God-in-the-flesh could only ever have two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet.

But here we see the risen and exalted Jesus, calling us into himself – to be his body. His hands and feet. His millions of hands and millions of feet. That is why we call the church the Body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit did not come down until Pentecost—the fiftieth day after His resurrection. In between, the disciples were instructed to “remain in the city” and wait. To have faith, like Noah building an ark, like Abraham leaving his home, like Moses addressing Pharaoh, in the good gifts that God has in store for those who believe.

Prayer: Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Revised Common Lectionary. Resources are from the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection:  Abide in my love. In today’s gospel, these verses are a continuation of the idea of ‘abiding in Jesus’ which we have read in verses 1 to 8. The passage indicates the idea that “everything begins with the Father in verse 9.” It also continues that imagery of ‘bearing fruit, fruit that will last’ in John 15:16.

There are a number of similar themes in the Gospel of John and 1 John 5:1-6. It echoes the theme: obeying God’s commandments and loving God’s children. Following Jesus makes a difference in who we are and how we live. It is a life born out of our faith in Christ Jesus. It brings us the assurance of the love of our God who has walked with us, who understands what it is like to suffer, who has shared with us in the very depths of the pain that living can bring. It transforms how we understand and engage all of life, joys, pains, and sorrows. We show our love for God by keeping God’s commandment to love others. — “12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

This is also a deep, abiding relationship, not one casually entered and easily discarded. This is a relationship rooted in loving one another, love that extends itself for others. Love that bears lasting fruit.

The emphasis is love. Love begins with the Father and flows through the Son to the disciples. It is contingent on obedience— “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (v. 10) And this relationship is for us!

God’s mission is done by people distinguished by a powerful characteristic—they have given God their heart. That should encourage us. If we are to produce fruit for Christ, it is important that we seek his will for our lives—to let him lead our ways. How is our joy complete when we live abiding in Christ’s love? What does it mean to have Christ’s joy within us?

Prayer: God of abiding love, you dare to call us friends. Take our fragmented hearts, command them to love, and make whole our joy, which is our life, reborn in Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us. Amen. Prayers for an Inclusive Church (2009) alt. Resources are from the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.

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Sunday Reflection

Sunday’s Reflection:  I am the vine, you are the branches. This verse is an allegory. It represents another thing and symbolically expresses a deeper meaning. And so, Christ is the vine, and we are the branches. When Jesus identifies himself as the true vine, this suggests great mutuality between Father and Son. The vine (Son) is dependent on the vine grower (Father) for its care and feeding, but the vine grower (Father) is also dependent on the vine (Son) for its produce (faithfulness). Each gives life to the other and takes life from the other. We cannot overstate the mutuality that exists between the Father and the Son. Jesus says, “I and the Father are one”. John 10:30

Jesus makes it clear that our relationship with him— “you are the branches” —is the key both to our fruitfulness and to our destiny. We, Christians, find strength and purpose through our relationship with Christ. We become stronger when grafted onto the Christ-vine, and bear fruit. We should constantly be connected to the Father through Christ. This can be done through personal prayer, common worship, acts of generosity and many more. Jesus tells us that fruitfulness starts in a quite different place. People should remain in His presence, and His strength becomes ours. If we turn our back on him, our strength begins to drain away.

We know that abiding in Jesus is central to our ministry and enables the branch to bear fruit. What fruit? To love one another (John 13:34; 15:12). To obey his commandments (John 15:10). Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

How do you remain connected to God and God’s creation? True fruitfulness, however, flows from our abiding relationship with Jesus and with all of creation. The person who bears fruit (Christ-like living) becomes Jesus’ disciple. Abiding in Christ is all about letting Jesus into your daily thoughts and visions, just like the life-giving water that runs through the grapevines and into the branches. 

Prayer: God of deep soil and luxurious growth, you call us from our shallow selves to find our depth in you: may we abide in him alone who can teach us who we are, Jesus Christ, the true vine. Amen. 

Prayers for an Inclusive Church (2009) alt. Resources are from the Anglican Church of Canada and Sermons that Work.

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