Loss and Recovery (Homily for September 11th)

Exodus 32:7-14   Psalm 51:1-10     1 Timothy 1:12-17     Luke 15:1-10

Sherman Hesselgrave, Homilist

Nine. Eleven. 2001. Fifteen years ago today—another date that “lives in infamy.” The horrific losses on that day pale when compared to the exponential suffering that has resulted as a direct consequence of the subsequent score-settling. Like all of history, there is nothing we can do to change the past. We can hope that the kind of thinking or believing that led to creating hell on earth for countless people might change, but the lust for power in times of political instability make it a very steep climb, indeed.

Our scripture readings today also speak of losses. But they speak too of recovery after loss, and the lost being found. The Israelites have lost faith in Yahweh who led them out of slavery in Egypt. They have been seduced by the neighbouring Baal-worshipping tribes, and taken to worshipping a golden calf. Moses mediates on their behalf, and they are given the opportunity to make a new beginning.

The writer of the pastoral letter to Timothy speaks of the recovery that can come, even to one who had been an enthusiastic persecutor of Christians, through God’s abundant grace. “Grace,” Frederick Buechner writes, “is something you can never get but only be given. There is no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth…. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it.” [Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC.  pp. 33-34]

In this third year of the lectionary cycle, the gospel we have been reading our way through in a semi-continuous fashion is the Gospel of Luke. About half way through we come to chapter 15, which begins (as we heard today):

One time the tax-collectors and other [notorious] sinners were all gathering around to listen to Jesus. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law began grumbling, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Jesus responds with the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, and a third parable, one we read on the Fourth Sunday in Lent earlier this year: the parable of the Prodigal (or Lost) Son. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law live in a binary world where things, actions, and people are either clean or unclean. People who were ignorant of the purity code and didn’t live by it were regarded as unclean. But people like tax-collectors were in a special category as they were seen as collaborators with the oppressive Roman state. Collaborators have always been hated. Nazi collaborators in Vichy France were executed by the Resistance. In Apartheid South Africa, those who collaborated with the white regime were often “necklaced” with a tire splashed with gasoline and set afire.

The biblical scholar, Kenneth Bailey, in his book, Finding the Lost Cultural Keys to Luke 15, summarizes Jesus’ three-parable reply to his challengers in conceptual language:

Gentlemen, you accuse me of reclining to eat with the ‘am-ha-‘arets and with tax collectors! Your information is correct. This is exactly what I do. And not only do I let them in—I go out into the streets and shower them with affection, urging them to come in and eat with me!

The story of Zacchaeus, the sycamore tree-climbing tax collector whom Jesus invites to dinner a few chapters hence, is another example.

Let’s take a closer look at the two parables before us today: the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. Something else Kenneth Bailey points out with regard to this passage is that, while there are numerous references in the Hebrew Scriptures to God as Israel’s shepherd, by the time we get to the encounter between Jesus and his antagonists, the occupation of ‘herdsman’ is not kosher, so to speak. Shepherds were always grazing their sheep on other people’s land, which put them in the “unclean” column. So, when Jesus begins his reply to his challengers by saying: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them does not leave the ninety-nine…and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” Not only is Jesus asking them to imagine they are shepherds, but he’s telling them they are BAD shepherds—for LOSING the sheep they had been given. But because the language of parables is metaphoric, Jesus is not talking about shepherds of sheep, but shepherds of people, just as earlier in his ministry, he told his first disciples that they would become “fishers of people.”

The binary universe of the purity code—clean and unclean—was not the way forward if God’s reign on earth was to be realized, and Jesus was naming names as to who was getting in the way.

When you look around the world today, people are still waging war using the clean/unclean paradigm, only the categories have different labels: believers/infidels, right race/wrong race, powerful/powerless, rich/poor, etc. In the parable, recovery is the result of being found and being brought back into the community of the whole flock.

In the second parable, Jesus likens his tormentors to a careless woman who has lost a precious coin. (Bailey notes that in “Middle Eastern culture a speaker cannot compare a male audience to a woman without giving offence.”) By making a woman the hero of the story, both Jesus and Luke affirm the intrinsic value of both sexes in God’s sovereign realm. The missing drachma represents a day’s wage for a labourer, so it would have been of significant value to the household finances. The woman knows it is somewhere in the house—perhaps it has fallen in a crack between stones in the floor, or it has rolled into a dark corner. Whatever, she doesn’t quit until it has been found.

As in the first parable, it’s not really about a lost coin, but about a lost soul, and caring for everyone who has intrinsic value as a child of God. If the angels in heaven rejoice whenever a lost soul is found, why is it impossible for the Pharisees to join in? It seems to me that they are not able to see beyond the paradigm they have constructed. Clean or unclean—that is their question, and there they are trapped.

When you stop to reflect on these parables, the ones who are lost are the ones who continually take issue with Jesus’ modelling of God’s generous grace.

Calls for justice for all God’s children continues to generate conflict today. There are   people unwilling to accept the witness of Black Lives Matter. Others aren’t convinced there’s much that can be done about missing and murdered women. Others would rather argue about which bathroom a trans person should use.

Jesus asks his harassers to imagine themselves in another’s situation. It may be only a beginning, but it could be the first step leading to recovery and reconciliation after the deep losses so many have felt.

In the Toronto Star yesterday, Tony Burman published the five lessons he has learned from the ashes of September 11, 2001. Two of them could have come from the lips of Jesus:

• Revenge as policy never works

• Terrorism doesn’t come from nowhere

If we want the future to look different from the past, then we continually have to stomp down the barriers that people keep erecting or reinforcing that divide us from one another. It is God’s will that everyone has a place at the table; all are welcome under God’s roof. And we are either part of the solution or part of the problem. We each have a choice.

Autumn Equinox Labyrinth Walk September 20

Join the Labyrinth Community Network in a public walk on Tuesday, September 20 at noon.  Free

Several times a year the network hosts public walks accompanied with music. Although you are invited to walk the labyrinth anytime it can be a particularly moving experience to walk it with others in the presence of inspiring music. Live Music by Michael Franklin

Wheelchair accessible with braille labyrinth on site

Next up Wednesday, December 21 at noon for Winter Solstice

ECHO Women’s Choir returns to Holy Trinity tonight!

echo choir

Echo Women’s Choir celebrates it’s 25 year, and began a new season on September 6.

 

There will be a welcome tea for new members on September 13.

If you would like to join Echo please register on our website.
Spots are available for our next season starting in January: www.echowomenschoir.ca

Other things to add to your calendar 

Echo Open RehearsalOctober 4, 7pm (please arrive fragrance free)

Echo Winter Concert December 11, 7:30pm

To get an idea of why you would join a choir watch this CBC video.

Tomorrow! Homeless Memorial Tuesday, September 13 at noon

We meet monthly to remember all 833 people whose names are recorded here and the countless others who have been forgotten by some.

The June memorial marked the adding the 831 name to the Homeless Memorial which is not a milestone to be proud of, but one that was marked none-the-less. The Toronto Star wrote an article on this event that quietly took place outside the church on the second Tuesday of July.

Read the article here

We spoke out against police violence that led to “John Doe’s” death, observed our moment of silence for him and all those who have died. We heard Bonnie’s poem and shared announcements of actions we could take to change the system so that no more deaths will occur.

let's talk housing

 

Make your voice heard on a new national housing strategy by visiting the Federal Government input page Let’s Talk Housing.

Panter’s Pub kicks off 3rd season Sep 17

Inline image 2

The third season of of our pub party in the old chapel here at Holy Trinity starts Saturday, September 17.
Doors open at 7:30. The show starts at 8pm.

https://www.facebook.com/events/102347313546978/

My old band Merbecke is getting together to play through our old recording, a few other favourites and one new tune. We sounded pretty good when we got together privately last winter, so I have high hopes for a fun and rocking show. I know we’re up against TURF, but sometimes that’s the way it goes with hard to schedule events like a Merbecke reunion. The name was originally Merbecke Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, but since nobody knew who the heck Merbecke was anyway, we decided to shorten it.

There will still be an open mic portion at 8pm, so if you have a poem, song, or something else you want to try out with an audience, let me know so I can schedule you in.

I’m turning 50 on September 15. While there likely won’t be much in the way of official birthday activities here (and please don’t bring presents), this will likely be the closest thing to a party that I arrange.

Panter’s Pub is a semi-private party upstairs in the old chapel at Holy Trinity, 19 Trinity Square, Toronto where local singer-songwriters, poets and radicals gather to have a good time and maybe plot the revolution. It’s for members and friends. If you’re seeing this, you’re almost certainly a member or friend. 🙂 Feel free to bring your own friends too.

Open Mic at 8pm,
Merbecke (Judy Steers, Caroline Owen, Keith Nunn, Neil MacNaughton) at 9,
Dancing at 10.
Entrance by donation,
BYOB (We also have wine, beer and seasonal cocktails if you just want to show up).

RSVP appreciated, but not necessary.

There are many stairs, I’m sorry. I will have some more ground floor events soon.

Fashion on Yonge – Wednesday September 7 at 6 PM

fashion_at_church

We love being a good neighbour.

Our great relationship with Downtown Yonge BIA has included the storage of their Play in the Parks equipment for their summer concert series and some shared advocacy for new bike racks on the square.

As fall approaches and we look into our closets for warmer, fashionable inspiration Fashion on Yonge comes to the rescue.

Join us Wednesday September 7 for a FREE Interactive Fashion Experience as Fashion on Yonge hits the Catwalk for it’s fourth year!

Everyone is invited to come see the hottest looks for fall 2016 available at the different retailers in the Downtown Yonge neighbourhood. During the event indulge in a little pampering courtesy of local salons and spas and enjoy food and beverages from local bars and restaurants.

From 6:00 – 8:00PM we invite you to step inside the historic Holy Trinity Church for three runway shows featuring falls best fashions. Space is limited inside the church, tickets are required.

This may not be a traditional church event, but when were we ever traditional. Come enjoy another aspect of our vibrant, downtown community!

Canada and First Nations – Our Shared History – Aug 11

blanket exercise feetBefore there can be reconciliation, there must be truth. The Treaty People group is hosting a pair of Kairos Blanket Exercises on August 11. One at noon and again at 5:30pm.

The Blanket Exercise is a visceral way to hear and enter into the history of indigenous peoples and settlers in North America. It provides a starting point for doing the work the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has asked of all Canadians.

This event is aimed at all citizens and residents of Canada and those curious about the history of Canada with respect to indigenous peoples. We invite you to join us for the Kairos Blanket Exercise at noon (or 5:30pm), to be followed by an age appropriate circle and discussion. If you can’t spare more than an hour, the exercise is still worthwhile, but be aware that it is profoundly affecting and we encourage you to stay for the second hour to build relationships.

We will serve a light meal of soup and bread.

See www.kairosblanketexercise.org to get a better understanding of this experiential workshop.

Let us know you are coming by visiting our Facebook events: KBE at noon, KBE at 5:30pm.

Please feel free to print and hang our Kairos Blanket Exercise poster.

treatypeople

Follow-up document: “What can I do?”

Homeless Memorial noon Tuesday, July 12

Homelessness is a year round condition for many of our city’s residents. Come and remember those who have died and talk about how we are working for change.

On Tuesday, July 12 we added a John Doe who died on June 17. A man who is reported as being homeless by the Toronto Sun was shot and killed by the Toronto Police after being tasered at around 9am, June 17. Here are 2 articles about the incident. No names have been released.
https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2016/06/17/man-dead-in-firearms-investigation-involving-toronto-police.html

http://www.torontosun.com/2016/06/17/siu-investigating-after-man-shot-dead

Visit the Toronto Homeless Memorial page and see the full list of people we remember every month.

Make your voice heard on a new national housing strategy by visiting the Federal Government input page Let’s Talk Housing.

Last chance today, August 30 at noon!

We are open Monday to Friday from 11 AM to 3 PM to welcome anyone who steps through the doors.

Tuesdays the music happens outside on the square, sponsored by The Downtown Yonge BIA. This series ends, but there are other concerts nearby if you visit their website.This year’s theme is “Dance Inspiring Fusion of the Americas”

A gathering place for danceable rhythms from across the Americas. Salsa, samba and more, are reimagined to feature a wider variety of genre-defying music from the best established and emerging artists in the city.

Full schedule of concerts in Trinity Square and other events close by can be found here.

loving justice in the heart of the city