Category Archives: Sermons

Reflections given as sermons or homilies at a public service. Members of our community take it in turns to preach to the whole community.

Epiphany Sermon 2018

Epiphany Sermon 2018 Holy Trinity
by Joanna Manning
Today’s celebration of the Epiphany has always been one of my
favourites. I find it’s full of mystery, and it speaks to the
imagination and the poetic.
The word ‘Epiphany’ means ‘manifestation’ or ‘revelation.’ In
today’s feast there are traditionally have been three levels of
revelation that have been celebrated. First, the Magi are led to
the manger and the light of Christ is manifested to the gentiles.
Then Epiphany is often linked with the Baptism of Christ by
John, and the launch of Jesus’ public ministry, with the
testimony of the voice from heaven confirming that ‘This is my
Beloved Son’ followed by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in
the form of a dove. Epiphany is also linked with John’s account
of the Marriage Feast of Cana, where Jesus first manifests his
power to the disciples by turning water into wine, a symbol of
the wedding feast that joins heaven and earth, God and
humankind, into a new and joyous union.
All of these are time-honoured traditional understandings of
today’s feast, and I respect and honour them. But today I’d like
to offer a new thread of reflection that has come to me over
the past little while.
At the centre of my rumination is the STAR that guided the
journey of the Magi. Now the Magi have sometimes been named
as three kings, as in the carol ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’
whose many repetitive choruses I’m sure have exhausted many
singers over the ages! But I believe that the MAGI represented
astronomers – observers who read the patterns of the night sky
and watched keenly for movements of the stars and
constellations. The Magi were like cosmic sentinels of their day.
Looking out far into the distant skies, they had read the stars in
the heavens, and so followed the light that led them to Jesus
so they could present him with their gifts.
I believe scientists today are the new cosmic sentinels, the new
Magi. Scientists who interpret and analyze the movements of
the heavens and the earth are bringing to the manger in our
day, their gifts of humanity’s new knowledge in the fields of
cosmology, evolution, astrophysics. They are opening their
treasures so that, through their discoveries, humanity can come
to a new understanding of God.
Like huge silent watchers, sentinels on the rim of the earth, the
great telescopes set in high, remote places on the earth such as
Chile read the heavens and transmit the signs of the cosmos. I
believe the insights they reveal have now become the handmaid
of spirituality and the pathway to mysticism. The new story of
the origins of the universe that cosmology and astrophysics has
revealed is a love story of a God so much bigger than we have
ever conceived God. A God, in the word of Paul Tillich, a “God is
the ground of all being…God gives all levels of being their
structure and energy.”
God, is the origin of the great mystery of the cosmos. – God is
the energy that permeates the universe with love. God’s love is
the strange, wild and mysterious energy at the ground of its
being.
Ripples in space-time ripples left over from the Big Bang 13.8
million years ago have now been picked up for the first time by
Harvard scientists. Astrophysicists have been hunting for
‘primordial gravitational waves’ since they were predicted by
Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity in 1916. Almost a
century later, scientists from the Harvard Smithsonian Centre
announced they had recorded the sound of the first direct
evidence of gravitational waves rippling through the infant
universe. “The implications for this detection stagger the mind,”
said project leader Jamie Bock. “We are measuring a signal that
comes from the dawn of time.”
So our universe bursts into existence 13.8 billion years ago. A
universe that is a mysterious ocean of energy and matter in
which space, time and energy are interwoven, and dynamic.
Fractions of a second later, the universe was expanding faster
than the speed of light. And God was in the wave, and the
particle – God was in the darkness, and God was in the light.
Before any one person or group had discovered the existence of
God, creation was filled with the divine presence.
Ilia Delio is an astrophysicist and theologian and also a member
of the Order of St. Francis. She writes extensively on the new
cosmology. Here’s a quote from one of her recent books, the
Unbearable Wholeness of Being. “Science” she writes “ tells us
today that energy is the stuff of life. Matter and energy are
interconvertible… so there is an undivided wholeness at the
heart of all cosmic life. (she continues) Mystics have described
God as the divine mystery radiating thought the cosmos though
energies of love, truth and beauty, in a plurality of waves and
particles. If God is energy, God must constantly exist as both
the field of gravitational love and the unique particularity of
each existence. It is quite possible that from all eternity, we
humans have been entangled with God’s being in the wellspring
of eternal love.”
“In the wellspring of eternal love…” Many scientists are realizing
that they cannot give full meaning to what they have
discovered….Of course, they are about facts and evidence, and
not necessarily more.
This came home to me me when I went to a conference at the
Ontario Science Centre last May called ‘Untangling the Cosmos’
During the conference question period, someone stood up and
said: “I believe in all that you’ve set out, but why is it
important and what does it mean? ” Some rather halting replies
were forthcoming from the platform and I was on the edge of
my seat, longing to say: “but that’s the work of spiritual
seekers and mystics – to interpret the meaning of what the
cosmos is revealing to us.
But this new knowledge is a challenge for spiritual seekers as
well: to realize that the gifts of science are not inimical to the
faith: rather they challenge us to re-evaluate how we have
defined God and religion. Our ideas of God, valid as they were in
their own epochs, have now become far too small…. Our
notions of God have become ossified, bearing within them the
debris of centuries of religious conflicts between warring
factions fighting over things that are no longer important. I
hope and pray that the gift of a common creation story, will
lead to the end of the era of tribal and competing religions.
After centuries of knowing the universe only by distant sight,
we can now listen to it and hear echoes of cosmic events that
took place billions of lightyears away, billions of years ago —
events that formed the stardust that made us. There is a
divine DNA imprinted within the cosmos. Our whole cosmos,
including the earth and every particle of life that has ever
evolved on this beautiful planet, all contain elements of that
divine DNA that is the energy of love.
So here is Epiphany 2018: new Magi bring their discoveries to
the manger and open them, to bring us to re-birth of hope with
the coming of the Christ Child. The light has truly shone on the
gentiles – those who have been considered outsiders and even
hostile to the spiritual sphere. Scientists in our day are the new
gentiles knocking on our doors. And we have to be open to
receive and explore these gifts.
At the the core of our tradition has always been the conviction
that the central message of Jesus is that God is Love. I believe
the message of the guiding star today is to reinforce that
conviction. The cosmos too, bearing the imprint of its creator is
on our side. So the star of the Epiphany shines over us once
again.
AND, like the Magi, we too are called to return home to God by
another way.
But where is home now?
As TS Eliot said it so well in his poem, The Journey of the Magi:
We returned to our places, the Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation.
I know now that having glimpsed into the starry skies through
the glorious panoply of the heavens revealed by new cosmic
discoveries, I know that I can no longer live within the old
dispensations of what used to define my faith. Its boundaries
have been irrevocably breached and I cannot return to old way
of thinking. Thus I often feel a certain discombobulation in the
present moment that I think a number of people also share.
And yet, there is another thought from TS Eliot, this time from
the Four Quartets, that shows a way forward:
We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
You see, we know from Jesus that God is love. Now we know
that God’s love extends to the vast expanses of interstellar
space. The universe is on our side. The cosmos encircles our
beautiful tiny planet earth with the starry blanket of the Milky
Way as we orbit around the sun. So when we work for justice
and peace here on earth, the whole connected cosmos is on our
side, rooting for us and with us. Now that I know and experience
God anew as the energy that grounds the cosmos in beauty and
love, I shall continue to explore the mysteries of the stars, but
always returning full circle to the flame of energy at the heart
of the cosmos, which is God’s love…and knowing it again for
the first time.
So today I pray that Star of Bethlehem grace you also with
light, truth, courage and love as you embark on this new year.

Broken-hearted Blessings (Homily for Advent 3)

By Susie Henderson

Readings:

  • Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
  • The Sweetness that Remains: Orange Blossom Honey Blessing in The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief by Jan Richardson
  • John 1 :6-8, 19-28

ROSEMARY FOR REMEMBRANCE

They say that grief is the tax on love — if you love you grieve, no getting around it. I brought rosemary today to honour the losses that we all carry and may be particularly mindful of at this time of year.

Rosemary — has a long history and there are many stories tied to this fragrant herb. Historically it has been thought to strengthen memory and that tie to remembrance and it has been included in both the wedding bouquet and the funeral garland.

Medicinally the camphor in rosemary has helped to clear congestion. In our house it mostly comes out with a little lemon to season Jennifer’s favorite roast chicken.

Today I offer it as a sign of remembrance, a scent that lingers, a way to witness that death is not the end of love. Death is not the end of love.

During this reflection, I invite you, if you’d like, to come forward and make yourself a mini wreath of remembrance that you can take home for a christmas tree or to place somewhere in your line of sight, a sign of the presence of those who have gone before us, still present, still missed, still remembered in our holiday times. You can make it during the service or just pick up the pieces to put it together when you get home. Continue reading Broken-hearted Blessings (Homily for Advent 3)

Anger as Fuel for Hope: Homily for Advent 1

Isaiah 64:1-9
Mark 13:24-37

Some of you may be a bit leery of an Advent homily entitled “Anger as Fuel for Hope.” Isn’t ‘anger’ one of the seven deadly sins, I hear you ask? Isn’t Advent the rehearsal for the angelic choirs singing about peace on earth, and the arrival of the Prince of Peace. Why buzz kill the season’s hopeful mood? Why, indeed?

Well, for one reason, today’s scripture readings are reminders of the pain and suffering that humans have inflicted upon one another since forever, and testimonials to an understanding or acknowledgement that it will take a wisdom greater than our own to set things right, perhaps even a transcendent wisdom. “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” the prophet Isaiah cries out. The story of Christmas has become so romanticized, its rough edges filed down, its scandalous message tied with a bow, the rough places steam-rolled, that it could be the work product of Walt Disney. Continue reading Anger as Fuel for Hope: Homily for Advent 1

What do we do with the King of Kings?

Keith Nunn, Nov 26, 2017.
In case the lectionary readings today didn’t tip you off, this Sunday is called the Reign of Christ. This is the last stop before we start the cycle over with Mary’s story and the infant Jesus.

Co-incidentally, the first sermon I delivered after entering theological education was on the reign of Christ. At that time, I felt a need and pressure to justify my position through scripture. Not so much anymore. However, I do feel a need to maintain the conversation with scripture in general and with the person of Jesus Christ in particular.

Today, in spite of my infamous reputation for jettisoning the lectionary, I have kept all the appointed readings, albeit in abridged form. The straightforward interpretation of these texts probably makes most of us somewhat uncomfortable—I know it does me. I’ll return to them shortly, however. Continue reading What do we do with the King of Kings?

Homily: November 18 2017

Isaiah 58: 1 to 12
Psalm: 72: 1 to 15a
Revelation 21: 1 to 4
Luke 10: 25-37

Good morning.

None of our lessons, not even the Psalm, were appointed for reading today. So, I’ll start by revealing the hidden agenda behind today’s worship: Driving our hearts and minds towards the third of our strategic planning sessions for Holy Trinity. That session begins just after today’s worship service ends. Continue reading Homily: November 18 2017

Ordinary Saints

by Jo Connelly
Nov. 5, 2017

A couple of years ago I would be standing here talking about my heroes- Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi. But I’m not going to talk about these amazing people. I could have talked about some of the saintliness of some of the homeless men and women I have known, particularly those I know now who live at Seaton House men’s shelter. But even these heroes I am not going to talk about today. These people have inspired many of my life choices, and are understandably held up as persons to emulate. But I don’t know about you, but most days I don’t feel much like a Dorothy Day when I don’t even look at a homeless person pan- handling for spare change, let alone ask them if they need a place to stay and take them home to sleep on my couch. Continue reading Ordinary Saints

Sour Grapes

By James Harbeck

Sermon, Holy Trinity, October 1, 2017

Readings: Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32; Psalm 25:1–10; Philippians 2:1–13; Matthew 21: 23–32

I’m going to tell a little story today. I don’t know whether I’d call it a parable. It’s not quite a literal history. But it’s close enough.

There was, once, a place that was very nice. Lush. Great for growing grapes and things like that. There was a family living there, and they were pretty happy with it. We’ll call them the Ones. Nothing’s perfect, but, you know, the Ones had food, family, all the things that people do with their time when nothing and no one is forcing them to do something else. Life was good enough.

And then another family showed up from another place. We’ll call them the Twos. They liked where the Ones were living. They wanted to live there. They didn’t say, “Hey, do you mind if we fit in here somehow?” or “What can we give you in exchange for some of what you have so we can live here?” They said, “Hi. We’re the Twos. These are guns. Look what they can do: [BANG BANG BANG]. Get the idea? We want this land. Oh, you? You can get out and live somewhere else, or you can stay and work for us.” Some of the Ones left. Some were killed. Some decided to stay and work for the Twos, because at least they’d still be in this nice place getting the benefit of the land. Continue reading Sour Grapes

CSI Gesthemane

While I still smart with the memory of that ruler striking my left wrist many years ago, I know that this is mild compared to the abuse, rejection, death, disease and discrimination measured in a thousand brutal ways that many have experienced through misogyny, colonialism, slavery, homophobia and too many other wrongs.

The full text of Michael Shapcott’s homily from August 13 is below.

Homily13august2017

How Big is the Tent We Call Home?

Notes for a Sermon by Suzanne Rumsey
Holy Trinity, August 20, 2017

From “Coming Home,” by Katharine O’Flynn. The year is about 1922; the place, southeastern British Columbia:

Fernie. Cranbrook. Yahk. His excitement grew. Here was a mountain that looked familiar. Could it be Goat? Yes. Yes. That was surely its peak. And here was the siding for the mine. Then the trainman came along the aisle shouting, ‘Creston! Creston is the next station stop. Creston next.” …The train puffed to a standstill, sending out clouds of white steam. The trainman set the nobbled brown stool on the platform, and reached up to give Charles a hand, but the boy was already running along the platform towards outstretched arms. “Gran! Gran!” he was shouting, “I’m home!” Continue reading How Big is the Tent We Call Home?

The Problem of Pain and Suffering (Easter 4 Homily)

Acts 2:42-47     Psalm 23     1 Peter2:19-25     John 10:1-10

This Sunday in the Easter season has long been nicknamed Good Shepherd Sunday, as you may have gathered from the gospel reading and the 23rd Psalm. There is a long tradition of portraying Jesus as the Good Shepherd; there are numerous depictions on the walls of the catacombs of a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. The Gospel of Matthew records that, “when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” [9:36] What caught my attention this time around, though, was the epistle reading, and its focus on pain and suffering. I was surprised at the number of memories it evoked. In my youth, when I worked as a music librarian, I had a Roman Catholic colleague, who was one of fifteen children. One of the things she heard regularly as a child, when one of them would whine or complain, was, “Offer it up. Our Lord hung on the cross for three hours.” Continue reading The Problem of Pain and Suffering (Easter 4 Homily)