Pastor’s Blog

Jesus is God and Baptism now Saves you

Sometimes we get so caught up with cultural forms of Christianity that push their own spin on these points – and yet, a simple reading of 1 Peter 3:13-22 highlights how the first Christians (the Apostles no less!) did indeed understand Jesus to be ‘God in the flesh’ and that Baptism was God’s appointed extension of the saving work of Jesus on the cross – so that Baptism does indeed save us – it’s not just symbolic.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Thinking those things that are right…

I’m not sure how much time you spent looking at the ‘Collect Prayers’ week after week. It’s easy to overlook them – as just another prayer that the pastor usually prays and while the rest of us are waiting for the sermon. And yet, there is a treasure-trove of wisdom hidden in these little petitions week-after-week which speak directly to the way in which our lives of faith are shaped and formed.

The Collect from this past Sunday is one such gem where, acknowledging that God is the giver of all good gifts, we pray for His inspiration so that He would reframe and reform our thoughts to what is right so that, by His merciful guiding, we would be able to accomplish them.

There is a cool correlation hidden under these words. ‘Thinking rightly’ is what the Greek words under ‘orthodoxy’ point us to. And not only, right thinking, but also to proper praise – as the Greek word doxa captures within its meaning as well.

This notion might strike us as strange in a world and society which values so-called ‘free thinking’. The funny thing is, however, that even though we might initially react to the notion that the Church (of all things) might ‘direct’ the way we think, we have no problem with allowing teachers and university professors, self-help books, psychologists and counsellors, not to mention movies and music and TV shows to do that for us. Even the commercials we watch with their jingles are all aimed at shaping the way we thing so as to shape the way we buy. And most of the time, we embrace this without complaint.

This Collect reminds us that faith-formation – the shaping of our spiritual lives – has everything to do with how we look at life – and for this, we need the help of the Holy Spirit as He helps and leads us through the words of Scripture. That is, after all, where our transformation be become more Christ-like begins. This is why Jesus referred to religious folks who are only concerned about external behaviour as ‘white washed tombs’ (Matthew 23:27-28). Their outsides might look pretty but their insides sure stink. Faith formation begins on the inside – in the tomb – and just in the same way that Jesus transformed His tomb into a place of life, He does the same for us too. So yes, we pray that our Triune God would retrain our minds to think those things that are right and shape us to become more-and-more faithful in our witness.

Posted in Uncategorized |

A Martyr’s Witness – St. Stephen

Acts chapter seven tells the story of St. Stephen’s martyrdom. Dying for our faith isn’t something that we’ve had to grapple with in any meaningful way in recent history – at least not here in North America. But for many Christians around the world, this is very much a part of their daily reality. As Western culture moves progressively away from its Christian roots, we too will face increasing hostility and persecution. Stephen’s witness is a good one for us to consider as we strive to live out our faith in our world today too.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Racism in the Early Church?

Acts 6:1-9 is just a small sampler of a bigger problem that the first Christian communities had to deal with. It’s a good lesson for us to wrestle through for us today. Racism is never an easy term to hear but, when it comes to the faith, it is important that we acknowledge that God’s Word and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is bigger than any one culture. Otherwise, Gospel wouldn’t be Gospel and the vast majority of us would be left outside of Salvation by the simple fact that we are not born as natural Israelites. But thanks be to God in Jesus Christ that Jesus’ work applies to not only people of Jewish heritage (as the early Christians sometimes believed), but to Samaritans and Gentiles (that’s the rest of us) as well – and it’s a Gift that Jesus gives through baptism. Let’s be cautious that we don’t stand in the way of the Gospel in our attitudes – racism should never be a pattern of life that makes a home among us.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Crave Pure Spiritual Milk

1 Peter 2:2-10 is one of those fascinating passages from the New Testament which, if you miss the sacramental context of Peter’s first letter, you miss the bigger whole. As I’ve been commenting, Peter’s first letter is written to a bunch of newly baptized Christians – both as an encouragement in their faith as well as support for them, given the context of persecutions that existed already in the early Church.

This passage ends reminding the first readers (and us) that through baptism, we have been transformed into a new kind of people – whose identity is framed by the mercy of God which we have received in Christ. “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (verse 10). This is a reminder that baptism changes us through our association with Jesus Christ – it gives us a name, a living purpose, which is rooted in and arises out of God’s mercy as His Gift.

This is illustrated in the verses before (verses 4-9) where Peter uses the example of Jesus as that cornerstone upon which the ‘royal priesthood’ of the Church is build. We, he writes, are ‘living stones’ – plucked from the field (like so many useless rocks) and transformed into stones with a purpose, being brought together, shaped together, through the mortar of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness which we have been planted into through baptism, to be a new people – who both declare God’s praises in both our lives of worship and witness – as we participate in that life of prayer and intercession for the world which Jesus as our high priest carries in Himself.

We are to be a people of prayer – absolutely. A people who gather (because we have been gathered in baptism) to worship together and work together. We are to be a people who immerse ourselves in His mercy so that we can live that same grace with one another – even and especially when times get rough … which leads us back to the opening verse: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (verses 2-3). This is Peter’s reminder that faith needs to be nourished and nurtured and that not everything that passes as ‘spiritual’ foodstuffs is necessarily good for us.

As parents, we strive to feed our children good food so that they grow up strong. At the same time, we understand the allure of junk food. It’s easy to grab for a bag of chips or a favourite chocolate bar to quench our rumbling tummies – but what we really need to good food – nourishing food – our mother’s milk, as St. Peter here suggests.

As baptized children of God, these words are a reminder for us not to get distracted by chasing after whatever seems easy or captures our fancy in the broad smorgasbord of spiritual ideas and opinions that are out there in our world today. No, instead, Peter calls us to look for our mother’s milk – that pure spiritual food – which comes to us in the Word (Scriptures) and through the means of the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) as a way – GOD’s way – to nurture our faith and spiritual lives in union with Jesus Christ who alone died and rose again to be that Saviour for us all.

Be careful what you ingest as spiritual food. I know that it’s far too easy to chase after preachers and speakers that seem to promise all the kingdoms of the world ‘if only’ you follow them. As Christians, however, we ought only to have one Master – Jesus Christ; and Church ought to be a place where we point to Him, and nurture our lives of faith in Him through the means and Gifts which He has given us. Let’s set aside the junk food and nurture that craving for the pure spiritual milk that Jesus gives.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Bible Study – 3 John

Posted in Uncategorized |

Suffering unjustly – 1 Peter 2:19-25

Gotta love those frame freezes! Oh well – what do you do. Our lectionary readings through St. Peter’s first letter, however, allow us the opportunity to dig into some challenging topics in our Christian faith life and spirituality. Are we broken in sin? Yup! Does Jesus’ forgiveness come to us even in our brokenness? Absolutely! At the same time, we do struggle and even suffer – both in the process of repentance which always challenges us – and often in very personal ways; but also in the way in which the ‘world’ and our culture out there doesn’t quite ‘get’ what this Christianity thing is all about. The temptation is always just to follow along the easy road and tack the name of Jesus on top of it somewhere. But the Holy Spirit calls us to a deeper engagement with our faith. Peter here reminds us that the ‘world’ out there will ultimately always seek to silence true faith. So don’t be surprised – and don’t let it discourage you. Instead, run back to your baptism where you have been joined with Jesus in His crucifixion as well as that gift of resurrection to eternal life!

Posted in Uncategorized |

… One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church …

This line, from the third article of the Nicene Creed, rolls off the tongue – and sometimes too quickly. What we forget is that part of our confession of faith includes this understanding that the Church is not just something that we can tinker with to suit our fancy for our modern world today. The Church – and even Christendom itself – is apostolic with one Confession of faith, not many – and that this one Church is holy because of the Triune God who comes to dwell and work within and through us. This is why we emphasize the role of Scripture as a window through which the Holy Spirit comes to us – yes, but also as the glimpse into what the faith and spirituality of this ‘apostolic’ Church looked like.

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized |

Bible Study – 2 John

Posted in Uncategorized |

More on “Born Again” – 1 Peter 1:17-25

Peter’s words here are good for us to take to heart as we look forward to getting out of quarantine and isolation. Our experiences shape the way in which we look at life. It is far to easy for fear and anxiety to get in the way of living that fullness of life – expressed in both our faith toward God but also in the social life of our Communities. With God’s grace – and staying ‘plugged in’ through worship, Scripture Reading, and the Sacramental life of the Church – our Heavenly Father does give us His Holy Spirit to help us let go of our self-styled ways of building our identities and then leads us to grow up in that new Life in Christ day by day.

As we get ready to lift restrictions – as Provincial authorities direct – let’s heed Peter’s words and give the Holy Spirit room to work in our lives as He leads us back into community – gathering together as the Body of Christ – the Church!

Posted in Uncategorized |