Saturday, October 28, 2023

Land and Neighbours: A Homily on the Current Gazan War for the Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost

Preached at All Saints, Collingwood, the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, on the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost October 29th, 2023 

Readings  (Proper 30 Yr A) - Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46 

The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants” (Deut 34.4)

Today’s first reading from the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) brings us to the end of Moses’ long journey leading his people from slavery in Egypt to the land that God has promised the Israelites will be theirs if they keep his law.  Moses will die before they cross the Jordan, but he is consoled with a vision of this promised land.

In our bible study this Wednesday, we looked at this verse with some discomfort, realizing that that the lands mentioned in our first reading, and God’s promising of these lands to the Jews, are part of the ancient foundation of the tragic war we are witnessing between Israel, Hamas, and potentially the wider Middle East.  How do we as Christians understand God’s promise of land to Israel when that land is being so terribly fought over?  How do current events complicate our relationship to scripture, particularly to the Hebrew Scriptures?

I think any preacher who wants to wade into these waters must do so with immense caution, given the enormously complicated history of this conflict and the strong feelings that it’s provoking.   So today I’m just going to invite you to think with me about land, and to see, with the help of our gospel reading, whether we can get from a theology of land to a theology of nieghbourliness.

The first thing we need to say is that there is a reason why Israel is called he Promised Land.   On six different occasions in the book of Genesis, God promises a homeland to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (13.14-17, 15.12-21, 17.8, 26.4-5, 28.13-14).   At the beginning of the Book of Exodus, God promises to save the Jews from slavery in Egypt and “give them the land of Canaan” (Ex 6.4).

But this promise of land is not absolute;  it is always conditional, a two-way agreement, hence in the Bible it’s called a covenant.    The deal is that God will protect his people and keep them on their land if they obey the laws that God gave them.  Moses tells the people that “the Lord charged me at that time to teach you statues and ordnances for you to observe in the land that you are about to cross over and occupy” (Deut 4.14).  So, the promise of land is always conditional on Israel’s faithfulness and good conduct.

The next thing we need to say is that God’s promise of a homeland unfolds over long centuries of human history and human agency. God’s people conquer the land of Israel (see Joshua, Judges) and then struggle to hold it (see Kings, Chronicles).   Israel is conquered by Assyrians and Babylonians and its people taken in captivity and exile.   The chroniclers and prophets (Jeremiah, Ezekiel) point to Israel’s disobedience and the faithlessness of its kings as a reason for these disasters.

God’s people return to Israel and rebuild the Temple, but Israel is conquered again, by Greeks, then by Romans.  Jerusalem is destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and the Jewish people are scattered across Africa and Europe.  Then through the middle ages Christian crusader kings and Muslim caliphs competed to own what became known as Palestine, with the Muslims winning.   Much of Palestine became Arab and Islamic over the centuries after the fall of the Crusader Kingdoms in the 1200s.

Meanwhile the Jews were persecuted in almost all  countries where they lived, surviving pogroms and massacres and the Holocaust.  During the 19th century many Jews were attracted to Zionism, the return to the land promised by God, and even before World War Two many Jews had resettled in Palestine, which had become a British possession.

After World War Two the British were tired of trying to hold onto Palestine.   America was the dominant power, and President Truman supports the creation of the state of Israel.  Thousands of displaced people, many of them Holocaust survivors, settled in Palestine.  They in turn displaced many Palestinian Arabs.   The UN tried to divide Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, the Arab states refuse to accept the partition of lands, and the first of many Arab-Isaeli wars begin in 1948.   So, long centuries of conflict led to an Israeli  state where Jews could reclaim the ancient promises of land.

This brief history lesson helps us at least to understand the origins of the present conflict, which is enormously complicated and tragic.   In the concluding part of this homily, let me offer some thoughts on what resources we have as Christians and as Anglicans to understand this war and to pray for its victims.

Our first resource should always be the gospel and the words of our Saviour.  It is thus helpful to note that in today’s gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus, speaking as a Jew and speaking to his fellow Jews, summarizes the whole teaching of the Torah in an idea of neighbourliness that is rooted in obedience to God.

Drawing from the Hebrew Torah, Jesus defines the greatest commandment of Jewish belief as loving God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Deut 6.5) and loving “you neighbour as yourself”.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:36-40).  

What’s interesting here is that Jesus says nothing, here or in any of his ministry, about the land of Israel.   Instead he talks about love of neighbour, but without any restrictions.  Is the neighbour a fellow Jew?   A Samaritan?  A Gentile?  Even a Roman?  Jesus does not specify which neighbours we should love,  nor does he make any exclusions. Since the arc of his ministry bends towards inclusiveness, we should love all our neighbours.

As Christians, we recognize that when Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God, he was speaking of something that was not drawn on a map.  The borders of the kingdom of God run through our hearts and minds, as we are open to the will and work of God in Christ.   But that’s a Christian theology, and we can’t impose it on our Jewish brothers and sisters.

I can’t imagine how difficult it will be for Israel and Palestine to accept one another as neighbours.   Many Israelis, especially in the settler movement, cling to the idea that God has promised them this land as an absolute and wish to expand their settlements, while many Palestinian militants and their supporters want the state of Israel to be destroyed.   W need to pray that the two sides will be able, one day, to move from a theology of promised land to a theology of neighbourliness.

 For us in Canada, I would say that Jesus’ words about love of neighbour should steer us clear of demonizing one side or another.  We have large Jewish and Arab and Iranian Muslim populations here, and ongoing demonstrations in our cities.   The potential for hatred and hostility is high.   It’s important to watch the news unfolding with a spirit of compassion.  Canadians of all backgrounds should build bridges, in the hope that we can offer examples of coexistence for those in the middle east.

A second resource we can draw on as Canadians is how we have slowly begun to think about land.    Our Sunday services now begin with a land acknowledgement, as we remind ourselves that indigenous peoples lived here before us and were often dispossessed from their ancestral land.   The first western settlers who came here often acted as if the land was virtually empty, given to them by God to populate and exploit while civilizing the original inhabitants (The Doctrine of Discovery).

  We’ve learned to repent of these attitudes, and are slowly coming to understand realize the indigenous idea of land as a common gift of the creator, providing for the needs of the creator’s peoples.  If we think of land as a gift held in common, then we might learn to see our common responsibilities to the dispossessed, the homeless, and the refugee.  Our Bishop Andrew spoke very strongly about this in his letter this week.

A third and final resource that we have to help us make sense of this terrible time of war is our Anglican Communion.    The Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem includes parishes in the Palestinian West Bank and also operates the Al Alhi hospital in Gaza City, which was the site of a significant rocket explosion on 17 October, with many casualties.

On October 24th, Bishop Hosam of Jerusalem, together with our Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, asked us all first “to pray for our mission here, as well for the peace of Jerusalem (Psa 122:6)”, to.”advocate with your representatives for a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land, so that all who dwell within these lands can live in security”, and lastly, for this who are able, to financially support [the Dioceses’] ministries in Gaza, Palestine & Israel”   

Dear saints, this is all enormously complicated and I fear that I’ve made a muddle of it.   But, for us as Christians in the Anglican tradition and communion, I hope I’ve shown how scripture evolves from a theology of land to a theology of neighbourliness.   I’ve argued that as Canadians, we’ve ourselves evolved from seeing the land as a possession given to some, and rather as a gift of the Creator to all the Creator’s children.   And, as Anglicans, I’ve suggested that our prayers and support for the Diocese of Jerusalem can make possible a ministry of neighbourliness in the midst of a terrible war.  

In the words of Psalm 122, let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for a holy land that may be shared by all God’s children.   

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Imagebearers and Idols: A Homily on Matthew 22:15-22 for th 21st Sunday After Pentecost

A Sermon For The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Preached at Prince of Peace, Wasaga Beach, Anglican Diocese of Toronto,  Sunday, October 22nd 2023 

Readings - Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22  





“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (M 22:21)

I’m not sure that anyone in Jesus’ day believed that the Roman Emperors were actually gods, but it was useful for the Romans to pretend that they were.  Even Roman money said as much.  The coin that is produced at Jesus’ request was most likely a denarius (about a day’s wages for a poor working man) bearing the image or picture of the emperor, Tiberius, and it called him “the Son of the Divine Augustus”, meaning that he was the son of God.


As I said, I doubt that anyone sensible in the Roman empire believed this nonsense (if emperors were in fact gods, why were so many assassinated?) but it was useful propaganda.  If the emperor was a god, then everything in the world belonged to Rome.   Slaves, conquered lands and their peoples, the money in you purse, all belonged to Rome.   If money came from Rome, then Rome could take it back whenever it wanted, which is why in Mathew the denarius is called “tribute money” - even the money praises Rome.


Jesus’ opponents knew all this well, which is why they try to trap Jesus.    They knew that Jesus had taught that their God the God of Israell, the creator of all, was above all other so called Gods (as any faithful Jew would have said), so if he had said there should be no taxes, especially taxes paid with blasphemous and idolatrous coins, then they could report Jesus to Rome as a rebel and troublemaker.


However, if Jesus said no, it’s ok to pay taxes to Rome, then he was contradicting his teaching and they could bring him down a few pegs in popular opinion.  Either way, Jesus’ opponents would win.


Jesus does not fall into their trap.   His answer might seem evasive, but in fact, as the biblical scholar Yung Suk Kim notes, it’s a very wise and humane response.    Jesus grew up in poor Galilee, he knew that hard working families had to get by and survive, even if it meant forfeiting some of their wages as taxes to the Roman empire.  


Earlier Jesus had told his followers to trust God to give them what they needed.  Jesus said that we should “strive first for the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all [necessary] things will be given to you” (Mt 6.33).


So, anyone who knew anything about Jesus’ teaching would have realized that he was admitting the reality of Caesar, but he was pointing to the far greater reality of God,  the maker and provided of all.  God, Jesus was saying, is far above any Caesar, and unlike Caesar, who only took, God loves and provides all God’s children.


As for how to live between these realities, Jesus leaves that up to his followers.    It’s up to use to recognize the would-be gods and emperors of our own age, and to live amongst them in a way that is faithful to our God, the creator, and to his son who shares our human image.  It’s up to us to recognize that power and prestige do not flow from money, and that the billionaires are not the Caesars of our day.


Jesus would have known that the image on the denarius was a lie.  It was not the image of a God, only a proud and cruel man.    If we want to see the true image of God, we can see it in those around us, image bearers of the divine, whose humanity Christ understood and shared.   We can see one another with eyes of compassion, and see what we have with a gracious recognition that whatever we have that matters, it comes from God, and can be shared.


You, dear people of Prince of Peace, understand this well.   You know the value of the things you hang on you sharing line, of the food that you donate to the food bank, and you know the value of the time and money that you give to keep this small but mighty church going.   And so it is that very day as Christians, God leaves it up to us to to decide, what do I need, and what must I share?   For, as I said to the children, “all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee”.

Introducing Our All Saints Saturday Night Eucharist



Starting on Saturday, November 4th, we are launching a new service, a Eucharist that will run every Saturday at 5pm.  The folks behind it are the clergy, Michael and Sharon, as well as Patricia Baldwin, who brings a wealth of wisdom and knowledge of contemplative spiritual practice.    


Why are we doing this?  We want to offer an option for those parishioners and visitors who may not be able to attend our 09:30 Sunday service.   We also want to create a space where we might explore some of the depths of our Anglican tradition.


What will these services be like?  These services will be a work in progress.  Some will feature periods of silence and space for contemplation.  Some will feature simple hymns from the Taize tradition.   Some may feature music, and others may be simply unaccompanied voices.  A few may be more formal, with chanting and perhaps even incense.   Short meditations instead of formal sermons. Whatever we do, the eucharist will be at the heart of each Saturday evening service.


Will these services be recorded or streamed?  We’re thinking not.   We want to keep the Saturday evenings simple and in the moment., so no slides, screens, or streams  We also want to minimize the demands on our tech crew so they’re fresh for Sunday mornings.


Will these services replace Apres Ski?  Absolutely not.   Come the ski season, from January through March, parishioners are welcome to contribute to the food and drink that makes the Apres Ski services their own special thing.   


What’s the goal?  The goal is to see if we can sustain a Saturday evening eucharist  that offers something a little different from our Sunday practices, while deepening our spiritual lives.    Much of the church growth literature agrees that strong churches are ones that focus on nurturing and forming people in their faith lives.


Can I get involved?    Absolutely.   Michael, Sharon and Patricia will welcome all offers of help as we experiment and worship together.



Sunday, October 8, 2023

With Jesus In the Running: A Homily For the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Preached at All Saints, Collingwood, 8 October, 2023, the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost.

Readings for this Sunday (Proper 27A):  Exodus 20:1-4,7-9,12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46 


“forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)

Today’s homily focuses on Paul’s sporting language in Philippians 3 and asks if we should likewise live our Christian lives as if we were athletes.  Hopefully my conclusions will be reassuring.

I once celebrated a wedding where these verses from Philippians were chosen as one of the readings.  I knew the bride and groom from a running club we belonged to, and we all wore running shoes along with their wedding attire and my vestments.  This couple were committed  Christians, and they told me they wanted to take their faith lives as seriously as they took each race day.

While I thought that their attitude to running was altogether admirable, I confess that I took race day somewhat more casually.  If I could run most of the way, then good, but if I had to walk for a bit and catch my breath that way, then that was also good, even if it meant a slower finish time.   As long as I could cross the finish line under my own power, that was all that mattered to me.

I’m not sure that the Apostle Paul would have accepted my casual approach to race day.   Paul’s main point in the second half of Philippians is to urge followers of Jesus to live their new lives as Christians with intensity.  Having described Jesus giving up all his divine glory and authority so that he might serve us, as we heard last Sunday, Paul then turns the tables by urging the Philippian Christians to likewise turn their whole lives to serving Jesus.

Paul uses his own life as a model of this total devotion and dedication.  All of his pride in his learning and in his piety as a Pharisee, he says, are so much “rubbish” compared to his new life given to him by Christ.  All his efforts as an evangelist, all his sufferings as a prisoner, he says, are now dedicated to his goal of winning the reward which is “the resurrection from the dead”.

Likewise Paul expects his fellow believers to match his intensity.  Not only here in Philippians, but elsewhere, Paul frequently compares the spiritual life to an athletic event, something the ancient Greeks, who invented the Olympic Games, would have well understood.  He tells the Corinthians to discipline themselves and run hard so that they receive an “imperishable” wreath (1 Cor 9:23-27), and he tells the Galatians that they were “running nicely” until they got confused by false teaching (Gal 5.7).   

Earlier in Philippians he tells the church to keep “striving side by by side with one mind for the sake of gospel” (Phil 1:27) which could be translated as “keep playing together on the same team”.    A favourite Greek word of Paul’s  for the faith life is agon which can mean athletic contest, though it also gives us our word agony, which I frequently experienced as a runner.

So how are we meant to understand Paul’s athletic language and apply it to our lives?   Our we meant to live our faith lives with the same intensity?   Now I now that there are some among you, especially some golfers, who are quite competitive.

However, I suspect that when it comes to our faith lives, most of us don’t think of ourselves as spiritual lives.   We try to be generous with our time, treasure and talents, we come to church when we can, do what we can to help out.   However, if the spiritual life is like running, most of us aren’t interested in the full marathon.  We would rather do the three kilometre run/walk/cycle fun event while hoping there are still good donuts and T-shirts at the end.  

And maybe that’s as it should be. If there’s a danger in Paul’s athletic language, it lies in thinking that there’s only so much room on God’s medal podium.    The idea that we have to impress God with our spiritual dedication is deeply at odds with some of the parables we’ve heard lately.   The parable of the workers in the vineyard has all he same wage despite unequal efforts and hours worked.  It would rather be like the first place and last place runner at a marathon getting the same gold medal.   Likewise, last week’s parable of the two sons suggested that the son who took his time to do his father’s will was the good son, which suggests that God doesn’t mind if we take our time getting over the starting line.

Which is all to say that it really all comes down to grace.   Some saints can be elite competitors, like the self-sacrificial overseas missionary, but most saints are quite ordinary, humble Sunday school teachers, warbling choristers, folk just lightly resting their eyes during the sermon.    God’s love is poured out in equal measure on us all.  Jesus died to save us all.

Which means that we don’t have to think of the spiritual (or material) life as a striving for rewards.  Because Jesus isn’t waiting at the finish line to judge us as winners or losers.  Rather, Jesus is walking and running alongside us, every step of the way with us.

Perhaps the most important verse in today’s reading is this:  “I press on to make [the goal] my own; because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil 3.12).   If our lives are races, then they started when Jesus chose us and backed us, before we ever took a step forward.  For most of us, this was at our baptism as infants, though for some it was later, when we first heard Jesus calling us.  And we run the race of our lives, not in some epic blaze of glory, but in the daily round of the ordinary hours and minutes.

Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest and writer, has written about how we can find God no in our spiritual strivings bit in the ordinary business of getting through each day.  She writes:

“[B]efore we begin the liturgies of our day - the cooking, siting in traffic, emailing, accomplishing, working, resting - we begin beloved.   My works and worship don’t earn me a hing.  Instead, they flow from God’s love, gift, and work on my behalf.  I am not primarily defined by my abilities or marital status or how I vote or my successes or failures or fame or obscurity but as one who is sealed in the Holy Spirit, hidden in Chest, and beloved by the Father.”  (Liturgy of the Ordinary, 20).

I had a running coach who said that anyone who could get out of their front door deserved to call themselves a runner.  Likewise I would say that anyone who can get through the day and remember at some point that they belong to Jesus, that person is a Christian.  

Yes, our lives can be a hard slog.  Putting bread on the table and getting through the day can feel like a race in itself. Caring for grandchildren, or for an aged parent or ailing spouse can be exhausting.   Maintaining an old church can be a grind.   Encouraging the crabby or sorting through the chaotic stories of the mentally ill can be an ordeal.  But remember that before you woke up to do any of these things on any given day, you were already chosen by Jesus to do these things.   Jesus runs the race with you every day, Jesus believes in you, and he will give you the strength to finish.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Daily Offices: A Rich Resource of Anglican Spirituality




The Apostle Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Th 5:16-18).


This is a tall order when we have to feed ourselves and others, work, sleep, provide care, and do the myriad other things that occupy our time.  


The early church compromised; St. Benedict set fixed times of the day and night for prayer for monastic communities, which became known as the canonical hours: small services called matins and lauds (usually counted as a single hour), in the middle of the night; prime, at sunrise; terce, 9 a.m.; sext, noon; none, 3 p.m.; vespers, sunset; and compline, bedtime. 


These fixed hour services became known as the Daily Offices, from the Latin word officium meaning duty, following the idea that Christians had a duty to pray regularly.


During the English Reformation, Thomas Cranmer simplified the daily offices and boiled them down to four services:  Morning Prayer (also called Mattins), Noon Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline.  All four of these services can be found in the 1962 Prayer Book.    Thus our tradition of daily prayer is essentially Benedictine.


Cranmer’s idea was that these short and simple services could give clergy and laity alike a structure for regular prayer and scripture reading that would deepen their spiritual lives while allowing them to live and work in their daily lives.


Old time Anglicans will remember Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays and some who have lived in institutional settings may know the offices as well.  Compline got Fr. Michael through a difficult year at a church boy’s school and he loves it to this day.  


Sadly, most Anglicans today don’t get much chance to say and hear this ancient and rich prayers, which can ground us in our faith and orient our day on God and God’s purpose for us.


However, lately at All Saints we have been to revive this tradition with some success, in that a few people are showing up to join our clergy in the mornings and evenings.


The schedule we are aiming for is as follows;


Morning Prayer:  Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8am

Evening Prayer:   Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 5pm


However, this schedule may vary slightly from week to week, depending on the availability of our clergy to lead, so please check our parish Facebook page or the bulletin.    


Services will be be adapted from the Book of Common Prayer and are easy to follow.  There will be no Eucharist, hymns, or sermons and each service takes about 20 minutes.   The Elgin Street double doors will be unlocked 5-10 minutes ahead of time.  When clergy are unavailable to lead, lay people are perfectly welcome to say the offices, and Sharon and Michael can provide instruction on that (it’s easy).


If you can’t attend but would like to  try the Daily Offices at home, there is a simple version which you can download from https://anglicancompass/dailyofficebooklet and there is also an app that you can download from the Prayer Book Society at


We would be delighted to train some of our parishioners to lead these services, so they can be offered with regularity.   There is absolutely no reason why a layperson can not lead morning or evening prayer, it’s easy to do and the clergy can show you how in ten minutes.


Of course, the daily offices are purely optional, so take this merely as an invitation to deepen your prayer life if any of these days, times or methods are convenient.     As is true of most things Anglican, the old rule applies:  all may, some should, none must.  

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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