Trinity 16 Sermon

We are approaching the end of Ordinary Time.  We have been working our way through Matthew’s Gospel, and now we find ourselves near the end of the Gospel and the end of Jesus’ ministry.  Here in Matthew 21, Jesus has returned triumphantly to Jerusalem.  He has been to the Temple already, and driven out the money changers and the people selling animals for offerings.  In these last days of his ministry, he will be confronted multiple times by the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the chief priests and elders of the people.  They will try to trip him up, to make him say something they can arrest him for.  We read about the first in this set of challenges this morning.

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Slow Work

“Trust in the Slow Work of God”

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually.  Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
— that is to say, grace —
and circumstances
— acting on your own good will —
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser. Amen.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1881-1955

I imagine many of you are feeling, as I am this week, that the work of God in your life is going very slowly indeed.  We are tired.  We are stressed.  Many of our usual sources of stability are decidedly unstable right now.  But God is still God.  As the poet says, “Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you.”  Our times of worship in Morning and Evening Prayer at St. Mary’s are an oasis for those weary of the chaos outside.  You are most welcome.

Reserve your place for in-person worship!

Sermon 2020-08-16

There is a video on YouTube I like to watch from time to time called “Cosmic Eye”.  It begins with an image of a smiling woman lying on the grass.  From there it pulls out, straight up into the air, and continues out, encompassing the park and city she lies in, then the continent, the planet, the solar system, and right out of the Milky Way, past our galaxy and its nearest neighbors, to what we can only guess is what the universe looks like, because it is too far away for us to ever see or get to.  The video then zooms back down to the smiling woman again, then carries on into her, through her laughing eye and into her body, carrying on down through her cells and into her DNA, and on down to the quarks we also have to imagine exist, because we can’t see them either!

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The Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat

Beth Christianson
July 19, 2020

Sermon audio

Well, we find ourselves well into summer today by the Earth’s-trip-around-the-sun calendar, and well into Trinity season by the church calendar.  Trinity season encompasses all the long, lovely days of summer and fall in which we slow down from our mad rush from feast day to feast day that takes up December to May, and begin our slow and systematic journey through one of the four Gospels, Matthew this year.  We move carefully through the chapters, examining the ministry of Jesus, the miracles, the sermons, and the parables.  Trinity is the season where we dig deep into what Jesus taught his followers, and through the Gospel writers, teaches us, about what it means to be Christ-followers, and to participate in God’s Kingdom.  

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The Cost of Discipleship

Sermon for Trinity 2 – June 21, 2020
Beth Christianson

When I was a teenager, there was a phrase we heard a lot in youth-oriented church ministries: being “on fire for Christ.”  Being on fire for Christ meant going to youth group every Friday, and showing up for Sunday School every week at 10 am.  It meant going to the various youth retreat weekends on offer throughout the year, and going to Bible camp in the summers.  It meant signing up for short-term missions.  Being on fire for Christ meant going to the front of the church when the worship band was playing to sing and dance, raise your hands and speak in tongues.  Being on fire for Christ meant going back from these mountaintop experiences to your school and telling your classmates about how cool God is, and how cool you were by association.  Being on fire for Christ meant being fearless.  You couldn’t care if anyone was looking at you, or talking about you.  But that’s easy, right?  What teenager cares about those things anyway?

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Sermon for May 24, 2020 Sunday After Ascension

May 24, 2020 Sunday After Ascension

Beth Christianson

Jesus Christ, the King of Glory,
has ascended today into the heavens.
He sits at the right hand of the Father
and rules heaven and earth.

Now all the psalms of David,
our father, are fulfilled.
Now the Lord sits with the
Lord on the seat of God.

In this greatest of triumphs
let us bless the Lord.
The Holy Trinity be glorified.
Let us give thanks to God.

That’s the English translation of a 12th century Ascension hymn called “Coelos ascendit hodie”.  “Now all the psalms of David our father are fulfilled.”  I love that line!  

Ascension Day, the fortieth day after Easter was this past Thursday.  It was lovely to celebrate the feast together, and to see Claude and Nathaniel and Gene, even if only by video.  And while I will not be quoting from Led Zeppelin, we do continue on in the same vein today with our scripture readings and our celebration of the ascension of Jesus.  These final ten days of the Easter season, between Ascension and Pentecost, really are worthy of the joyful attention of all Christians.

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The Lord is My Shepherd (and Bishop)

May 3, 2020, Easter 3

Beth Christianson

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot this week about the type of leadership the world is experiencing during this pandemic.  And it’s really as you might expect: some leaders are doing  a really great job.  And some leaders are suggesting we inject ourselves with bleach.  So, you know.  There’s a range out there.

I wonder if any of you have heard the quote from Silveria Jacobs, the prime minister of Sint Maarten that’s been making the rounds of the internet lately?  She sounded like every mom ever, and it was just so comforting in its familiarity.  “Stop moving,” she said.  “Simply: stop. moving.  If you do not have the type of bread you like in your house, eat crackers.”

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The Mind of the Messiah

St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church. Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020, Beth Christianson

Well, I think this may go on record as the strangest Palm Sunday I have ever passed in my life in the Church.  Last year at this time, we were parading in St. Mary’s with palm branches, palm crosses, and banners.  We sang, we lit candles.  When I think back, my imagination conjures up sound and motion and color.  Today, I am thinking of each of you in your homes, with your loved ones.  I hope that you are singing together, and that you found something to stand in for palm branches!

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Image of the Invisible

July 21, 2019

Beth Christianson

I indulged in a flight of fancy this week. I imagined the preacher as preschool teacher, and the authors of our various lections as mini, four-year-old versions of themselves. Over there is Amos, watching the news on television and scolding the authorities who are explaining why tearing down an old and poverty-stricken neighbourhood to make room for a shopping mall is a good idea. And in that corner, little Paul is standing on a chair looking out the window, declaiming poetry to the squirrel in the tree outside. And here in front of me is sweet Luke. He’s got a big idea for a great story, and he’s sitting at the little tab!e with his crayons and a big sheet of drawing paper, making a map to go with his story world, a la J.R.R. Tolkien. The psalmist is the little girl sitting in the playhouse singing to her doi!. Even little Collect is there. She’s the kid who invariably catches you if you stub your toe and swear. and she mostly only speaks in short, declarative sentences. Working with these preschool iections is a little bit like herding cats. It takes a light touch and a little bit of reverse psychology, but the trick is to get them to realize that in fact, they are all telling the same story.

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