Category Archives: Reflections

Reflections on 1 Corinthians chapter 13 – a homily by Michael Creal

Homily Jan 31,2016 — Michael Creal

Michael Creal

Today’s readings provide rich fare for reflection and commentary but following the principle that sometimes less is more, I’m not going to deal with either the Isaiah passage or the gospel passage, important as they are. Instead, I’m going to focus on Paul, and that chapter from first Corinthians. [Ch. 13]

Just to contrast some features of the contemporary world with what Paul sets out in that famous chapter, let me draw to your attention the movie, The Big Short. If you have seen it, you will probably agree that it is pretty chilling stuff. It’s about four stock traders (and, of
course, there were many like them)in the period of the 2008 crash who saw they could make a killing by selling to unsuspecting buyers bundles of mortgages that they knew would eventually be worthless). Continue reading Reflections on 1 Corinthians chapter 13 – a homily by Michael Creal

Feast – reflecting on community and intimacy

Our liturgy this morning was on the theme of feast. I am including the reflection I shared, in both text and video forms as well as the bulletin which has most of the service text. There are a few bits missing from the bulletin, but the most exciting bit was that the Fallen Angles played “Changes” by David Bowie as a Postlude and tribute. Thanks to everyone who sang and danced along. Continue reading Feast – reflecting on community and intimacy

Ecumenical Working Group on Residential Schools

Reflections to Spark Conversation on Christian Theology

April 2015 It has been 45 years since the formal participation of mainline Christian churches in the Indian residential school system was dramatically reduced, and more than 25 years since survivors began confronting those in the church with the disastrous consequences of that system on themselves, their families, their communities, languages and cultures. For a long time, the churches avoided coming to terms with this history and its legacy. The subject of residential schools has been shrouded in silence and justified by a veneer of “good intentions.” It only has been relatively recently that churches have begun to reflect in deep humility on the theological assumptions and interpretations that gave rise to the churches’ complicity in this evil. This paper proposes that theological colleges, learning centres, and scholars have vital roles to play in supporting deeper theological engagement with this topic. Continue reading Ecumenical Working Group on Residential Schools

Homily for The Baptism of Jesus

Readings: Isaiah 43:1-7     Psalm 29      Acts 8:14-17     Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Called By Name 

by Sherman Hesselgrave

What’s in a name? My mother’s father, Grandpa Larsen, was descended from a Dane names Lars. My grandfather Hesselgrave’s family hailed from a town in Northern England named Hazel Grove, so it is thought that our family name is a variant spelling of a place. Some people bear the names of ancestors’ occupations: the Bakers, Carpenters, Farmers, and Schneiders, for example.  My father told the story of an occasion when he was conducting a baptism in the African bush, and asked the parents the name of the child. They said, “Matata.” Now, thanks to The Lion King, many people know the Swahili phrase ‘hakuna matata,’ means ‘no problem or no trouble.’ So, my father asked the parents why they wanted to name their son Trouble, and they explained that they had had great difficulty in bearing children, and this baby had finally survived. He managed to persuade them to choose another name, and not saddle the child with the memory of their suffering. Continue reading Homily for The Baptism of Jesus

Gleanings from the We Make the Road by Walking Bible Study

Each Sunday as we gather at 9:00 AM for the We Make the Road by Walking Bible Study, we begin with this prayer: Creator, we give you thanks for all you are and all you bring to us for our visit within your creation. In Jesus, you place the Gospel in the centre of this sacred circle through which all creation is related. You show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your spirit, for you are God, now and forever. Amen.

This past Sunday we engaged with some difficult scriptures. The session title was “From Ugliness, a Beauty Emerges.” The first passage we read was from Deuteronomy 7: Continue reading Gleanings from the We Make the Road by Walking Bible Study

Pinch me, I must be dreaming…

Homily on November 8, 2015 by Katherine Assad

Yesterday on the bus I got a text message from Rob Shropshire, a member of the Holy Trinity refugee committee whom many of you know, telling me to listen to an interview on CBC with John MaCallum, our new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Rob said that the interview was so amazing he was literally pinching himself, so I listened to it right then and there.

The minister confirmed that the government will indeed be moving ahead with the resettlement of 25,000 refugees and that the interim federal health program for refugees that was cut a few years ago would be fully reinstated. And these 25000 to be resettled will be government-assisted refugees. These numbers do not include the number of refugees that will be privately sponsored by constituent groups like ours of groups of five. For me this point is huge. Continue reading Pinch me, I must be dreaming…

One Hundred and Sixty-Eight Years of Social Justice

October 28th is the Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude. It was on the eve of this day in 1847 that the Church of the Holy Trinity was consecrated. At the midweek Eucharist today we remembered Simon and Jude, and as I was reading aloud the biographical comment in For All the Saints, I realized how appropriate they are as patrons. “Simon was called ‘the Zealot,’ which suggests that he once belonged to the Jewish resistance movement. …Jude is considered the patron saint of what is shunned by the world, especially lost causes and those who suffer from incurable diseases.” [p. 318]

On Wednesdays, in place of a homily, we have a group reflection on the appointed scripture readings, on the person/s being commemorated, or on what God is doing in our lives or the world around us. The gospel reading from John 15 included this passage: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.One of the Wednesday regulars, Matt indexMcGeachy, related the time from his university experience when the journalist June Callwood spoke to his class about the first time she was arrested for her social justice activism. Ms Callwood was participating in a demonstration on Bloor Street when she saw the police grab a black man and pull him into an alley to give him a beating. She went into the alley and demanded to know why they were doing this. They told her it wasn’t any of her business. She responded that they were public servants–members of the Toronto Police Services–so yes, it was her business. She was arrested for obstructing the police in the performance of their duties. (No cell phone videos in those days.) Continue reading One Hundred and Sixty-Eight Years of Social Justice

The Heart of a Teacher (September 13, 2015 Homily)

Readings:

Isaiah 50:4-9a     Psalm 116:1-8       James 3:1-12     Mark 8:27-38

Sherman Hesselgrave

It has been fun to follow the first-week-of-school Facebook posts. The photos of youngsters heading off to day one of grade one, and their assessments of their first day trigger a flood of memories. The mixture of excitement and dread that accompanies the plunge into new educational adventures and social negotiations are not easily forgotten. What will a new teacher be like? How will the transition to a new school go? Am I ready for the independence a university environment affords?

It is probably not accidental that all three of today’s scripture readings mention teachers or teaching. The lectionary is often mindful of universalities that intersect with the church year. In Isaiah, the voice of the servant in the Third Servant Song announces: “Yahweh has granted me the tongue of a teacher, able to console the weary with a sustaining word.” The Letter of James cautions: “Not many of you should become teachers,… for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” And in the gospel reading, Jesus teaches his disciples that those who desired to be his followers would face suffering.

I think one of the reasons so many were drawn to Jesus was because he was one of those teachers—‘rabbi’ means ‘teacher’ after all—who helped people find meaningful answers to the deep problems they faced in their daily lives. Isn’t that what teachers do? Help people to figure out how to think about an enormous range of challenges or problems—communicating clearly with language; analyzing how the universe works using mathematics and science; what makes for effective and beautiful artistic expression; or how human societies behave. Teachers are responsible for passing along the wisdom of the ages while, at the same time, considering innovations that may steer the future in new directions.

Sigmund Freud popularized the following quotation, without ever identifying its source. It goes like this: “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.” It is a powerful observation, because it reminds us that the future is not necessarily condemned to repeat the past. “We’ve always done it this way before,” was not carved on the stone tablets delivered to Moses on Mt Sinai. Today’s decisions and practices can steer the future in a completely different direction than the decisions and practices that brought us to where we are. We can be taught how to create a future that is not a mere extrapolation of our past.

Even though Jesus was formed in the Jewish spiritual traditions, traditions that included a well-established strand of retributive, eye-for-an-eye justice, he knew that forgiveness was the most effective way to abort the never ending cycles of score settling. Huston Smith, the great scholar of world religions, asserts that this teaching of Jesus is the essential contribution of Christianity. Christ, the Teacher, spoke from the heart of God, imparting wisdom that had the power to change human history.

The Rule of St Benedict has been around for nearly 1,500 years. The first line of the prologue of the rule encourages one to: “Listen carefully,… to the teacher’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” “Attend to them with the ear of your heart.” The teacher in this instance is Benedict, who is sharing his guidelines for Christians living and working in community, but the exhortation to listen with the ear of our hearts does not require us to be members of a religious order as we struggle to discern the instructions of the divine Teacher.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And after they responded, he followed up with, “What about all of you? Who do you say that I am.” I have been reading James Carroll’s newish book, Christ Actually: the Son of God for the Secular Age. The book was inspired by a letter Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his student and friend Eberhard Bethge. At a time when many German Christians had no crisis of conscience over the Nazi program, Bonhoeffer intuited the need for a radically reimagined Jesus:

“What keeps gnawing at me,” Bonhoeffer writes, “is the question, What is Christianity, or who is Christ actually for us today? The age when we could tell people that with words—whether with theological or pious words—is past, as is the age of inwardness and conscience, and that means the age of religion altogether…. The question to be answered would be, What does a Church, a congregation, a liturgy, a sermon, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we talk about God without religion?… Christ would then no longer be the object of religion, but something else entirely, truly the Lord of the world. But what does that mean?”

We have observed or been part of the wrestling with questions such as these over the last 70 years since Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s martyrdom just a few days before the end of the war. We have made some progress. The word ‘genocide,’ for example, was first used in 1944, and while there may be universal condemnation of the practice, we can point to numerous eruptions of genocidal violence in places like Cambodia, the former Balkans, in Africa and elsewhere. And then there is the cultural genocide we in North America have enabled.

If the gospel is good news, where do we find hope as we continue to struggle with these questions? What spoke to me over the past two weeks as I let today’s readings marinate, was the idea of asking God to give us the heart of a teacher. For the best teachers meet a person wherever they are and they listen carefully to the problem or challenge at hand, and they work together to apply the wisdom or the resources or techniques or models that will bring understanding and accomplishment.

As people shaped by eucharistic practice, we ask God each week to feed us with spiritual bread for our journey. May that include giving us compassion to bring healing, reconciliation, and hope into a world overflowing with pain. May the spirit of Christ the Teacher actually fill our hearts with the shalom of God.

When is Enough Enough?

Readings for August 9, 2015: 1 Kings 19:1-5;  Psalm 34:1-8;  Ephesians 4:25-5:2;  John 6:35, 41-51;

WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH?  Homily: Ian Sowton   

ELIJAH: THE SAGA OF ELIJAH PITS ELIJAH, PROPHET OF YAHWEH AGAINST QUEEN JEZEBEL, SPONSOR OF THE GOD BAAL AND HIS PROPHET-PRIESTS.   THERE IS A SAVAGE WAR GOING ON.  KAREN ARMSTRONG ARGUES IN HER RECENT BOOK FIELDS OF BLOOD THAT RELIGION HAS A BAD RAP AS A PERENNIAL CAUSE OF WARS.   WARS ARE MOSTLY FOUGHT, SHE SAYS, OVER POLITICAL POWER, OVER ESTABLISHING THE AUTHORITY OF A SECULAR REGIME WHICH, BECAUSE RELIGION IS SO IMPORTANT TO SO MANY PEOPLE, IS ALL TOO OFTEN VERY WILLING TO INVOKE AND CO-OPT RELIGIOUS PRESTIGE AND PRACTICES IF AND WHEN CONVENIENT.    WHATEVER YOU THINK OF AMSTRONG’S THESIS—WHICH OF COURSE I’M DRASTICALLY ABRIDGING—IN THIS PART OF THE ELIJAH SAGA IT’S CLEARLY APPARENT THAT THERE IS A MERCILESS POWER STRUGGLE GOING ON BETWEEN THE ELIJAH/YAHWEH AND JEZEBEL/BAAL FACTIONS.   WHOSE GOD IS MORE POWERFUL?  BOTH GODS ARE LOCAL, TERRITORIAL DEITIES.   BOTH JEZEBEL AND ELIJAH HAVE BEEN TRYING RUTHLESSLY TO EXTIRPATE THE OTHER’S FACTION OF PROPHETS.   JUST BEFORE THE EPISODE IN THE ELIJAH SAGA THAT WE’RE CONCERNED WITH TODAY YAHWEH HAS WON THE LATEST ROUND OF THE CONTEST WITH BAAL IN A DAZZLING DISPLAY OF POWER IN ANSWER TO ELIJAH’S PRAYER.  AND ELIJAH HAS JUST TOLD THE ASSEMBLED MOB OF ISRAELITE WITNESSES TO TAKE THE UNFORTUNATE LOSERS—THOSE “400 PROPHETS OF BAAL WHO EAT AT JEZEBEL’S TABLE”— DOWN FROM MT CARMEL TO THE BROOK KISHON WHERE HE, ELIJAH, BUTCHERS THEM HIMSELF…..

Continue reading When is Enough Enough?