(Modified 2021-08-15: Added audio recording of this sermon.)
You might have realized the change in the altar colour and clergy vestment from green last Sunday to white this Sunday. This feels and looks really unusual for a Trinity Sunday.
The reason for the change in colour is because we are celebrating the Feast of Mary the Virgin, the Mother of God (Theotokos) Jesus Christ. We are learning more about the person, attributes and role of Mary the Virgin through her own song of praise, commonly known as the Magnificat.
In the Anglican tradition, we sing or say the Magnificat mostly during the Evening Prayer, where we open our hearts and minds to the Lord, our God, loudly raising our voices, saying: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour…” (BCP 21).
We put ourselves in the shoes of Mary, the blessed servant of the Lord whose acceptance of the word of God has become a great example of discipleship. Her song becomes our song, her praise our praise, her humility our humility, her fear our fear, and her joy our joy.
(Modified 2021-08-08: Added audio recording of this sermon)
St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Regina.
Tenth Sunday after Trinity – August 8, 2021
Rev. Nathaniel Athian Deng Mayen
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
What comes to your mind when you read this promise from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? I immediately think of the Holy Communion, where we break the bread and share the cup of wine in accordance with the Lord’s institution until He comes again to establish the kingdom prepared for us from eternity through the plan of our loving and merciful God to sustain us in Christ.
(Modified 2021-08-01: Added audio recording of this sermon.)
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand is the context for today’s Gospel lesson from John chapter 6. For our Gospel writer John, that context also included the experience he and the other disciples had later that same night, when Jesus walked to them in their boat across the waters of the Sea of Galilee. If last Sunday had not also been the Feast of St. James, we would have heard about the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the miracle of walking on water last week. This year we are moving through the Gospel of Mark, but actually, the creators of the lectionary we follow have moved us over into the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel for the month of August. John chapter six covers the same two miracles as Mark’s Gospel, but it also includes this teaching of Jesus on the bread of life, which isn’t in Mark’s Gospel. For the month of August, we will be moving through John chapter six, before we go back to Mark in September.
The people had followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee because they had heard him teach about God in remarkable ways, and they had seen him perform amazing miracles of healing and raising people from the dead. When he managed to feed a crowd of thousands by multiplying five barley loaves and two small fish, they were ready to crown him king, whether he wanted them to or not. Jesus retreated from them further into the wilderness to be alone, and his disciples left for the other side of the sea in a boat. In the dark, the people didn’t see Jesus walk across the water to join the disciples. The next morning, they wake up, and he’s gone, but they aren’t ready to lose sight of a man who can provide food in a wasteland. They set off across the sea after him. “Rabbi, when did you get here?” This scene always reminds me of the Pixar movie The Incredibles, when Mr. Incredible comes home after a long day, and gets mad and picks up his car to throw it but then he notices their little neighbor boy on his tricycle, and they’re supposed to be hiding and not using their powers, so he doesn’t say anything, but sets the car back down and tries to pretend nothing happened. And then another day he comes home again, just the same way, and sees the neighbor boy sitting at the end of his driveway staring, so he asks, “What are you waiting for?” and the kid says “I don’t know, something amazing I guess.” The crowds that follow Jesus in the Gospels are like that little boy. “What are you waiting for?” “I don’t know, something amazing I guess.”
And while it’s always a good thing to follow Jesus, your motivation in doing so matters. Following Jesus because you want to see “something amazing I guess,” or because he can fill your belly, is not good enough. Jesus calls the crowd out on this. “You are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” Miraculous signs, which Jesus has been doing all along, are deeds that are full of significance, revealing Jesus’ identity and God’s saving activity in his ministry. The people had seen the miracle, but it did not focus their attention on Jesus. Rather, they saw him as a means to the filling of their stomachs. But Jesus did not come to fill stomachs with food, but to fill lives with the very presence of God.
This crowd is focusing on the physical realm. In John’s Gospel the physical and the spiritual are interconnected, for the physical is spirit-bearing: the Word became flesh. Jesus faults the crowd, then, not for their interest in their physical bodies, but for not perceiving spiritual through and in the physical. Too often we fail to have eyes to see and ears to hear where God is present in our lives, through either the sacraments or the events of everyday life. (Whiteacre, 152). “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
The people ask Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Translated, I think that means, we want you to stick around and keep giving us miracle bread. What’s the trade-off? What do we need to do to appease God, to make that happen? They are thinking in terms of manna in the wilderness, which is an obvious connection for them to make, really. They grew up on the story of the Exodus, and how their forefathers were sustained with miraculous food in the desert for forty years. “What do we need to do to make that happen?”
But Jesus isn’t interested in “works.” “The work of God is only this: believe in the one he has sent.” When your focus is on the needs of your body, you think in economic terms. I need food. How do I get that? I work. I want miracle food. How do I get that? What works do you need me to do in exchange? But Jesus is trying to get them to realize that the miracle bread isn’t the point. It’s a sign. It points to something else; to a deeper need they have, and an eternal, not a temporal concern. Our physical lives of flesh and blood are given by God, and they are significant, but they are not the whole story. This life is transitory. There is a “food that endures to eternal life.” It does not rot but instead nourishes real life, divine life, life that continues on forever.
But this crowd isn’t quite there yet. They’ve seen Jesus do some powerful things. They’ve been on the receiving end of a miracle feast. But they were also raised on stories of the miracles their forebears saw and experienced. They have the stories of Moses on their mind. Jesus miraculously fed them once. Moses fed the people in the desert for forty years. Will Jesus prove to them he is as great as Moses?
Like a good rabbi, though, Jesus points out the fault in their reasoning. It wasn’t Moses who fed the people in the desert. It was God. They called the manna “bread from heaven,” but Jesus is saying that yet again, they’ve missed the point. The manna wasn’t the bread from heaven. Or rather, it was so only in a limited sense. Manna was first and foremost a sign. It fed the bodies of the people, but it was meant to point them to a larger spiritual truth. “It is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Notice the tenses of the verbs in what Jesus says. “Moses has given,” “my Father who gives.” The bread from heaven was now, in their midst, given to the people in the crowd that day, not to their ancestors in the past.
The other thing Jesus is doing in this statement is the thing that’s eventually going to get him killed: he is aligning himself with God the Father in a way no other rabbi would ever dare to do. My Father. If it’s not the truth, it’s definitely blasphemy. With his teachings, Jesus claims for himself the prerogatives of God; giving life, and judgement. He offends the Jewish leadership with his words, and makes the people cautious. No wonder they keep asking for signs, drawing near, then moving away again. Jesus is either the Son of God, or he’s dangerously unhinged. Neither really is comfortable for mere mortals to be around!
Still, the prospect of being fed by God with something better than manna is too enticing. “Sir, from now on give us this bread.”
Jesus says the words “I am” seven times in John’s Gospel, and this is the first of the seven. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” It’s big and bold and wonderful and scary all at once. And we’re going to see in the next few weeks, as we go through the rest of John chapter six, how the people respond to this incredible statement.
This big, bold, wonderful declaration is what we will assent to and participate in now in the sacrament of communion. We have made our own declaration in the creed: we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, being of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made, who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven. We will eat the broken bread, the sign of the broken body of Jesus, broken for us; the Bread of Life. Our participation in this sacrament is our assent to Jesus’ words: “He who comes to be will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” We believe you Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
(Modified 2021-07-26: Added audio recording of this sermon)
St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Feast of St. James, July 25, 2021 Revd. Canon Claude Schroeder
So today is very happy and joyful day for us at St. Mary’s. We have come to celebrate Gunnar’s baptism. It was just about two years ago that we celebrated Steve and Karen’s wedding at the church, where I recall praying that they would receive the gift and heritage of children and that they would see their children Christianly and virtuously brought up to thy praise and honour. So I would say prayers are being answered!
Now we have, gosh, 4 generations of Maupins, and 3 generations of Perssons in church today, with great- grandmother Irene, grand-parents Karen and Kelley, and Art and Marion, and great aunts, and aunts and uncles and cousins. This is really wonderful because the way in which the Word of God is handed on through the generations, always seeking to become flesh in us, as it did in Jesus Christ.
In the calendar that governs the worship of the church, today is a red-letter day, hence the colour of church and robes. Red Letter days are days set aside to honor and celebrate the Saints of the Church, and today, July 25this the Feast of St. James the Apostle and Martyr. Ordinarily, on Sunday we come to church to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his victory over Satan, sin, and death in the service of Holy Communion. And so when a Saint’s Day falls on a Sunday, it gets moved to the Monday. First things first.
(Modified 2021-07-18: Added audio recording of this sermon.)
Sermon for St. Mary’s Anglican – by Henry Friesen July 18, 2021
Scriptures Lessons: Jermiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22 and Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts together, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
Caring for the Scattered
When I read our Old Testament lesson earlier this week I was struck with the word “scattered” which Jeremiah uses to describe the actions of some of Israel’s shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, says the Lord.” I looked up the word “scatter” and found that it can also mean dispersed, dissolved or spread. In English we use the word to mean objects randomly lying around as in leaves scattered on the ground or clothes scattered all over the laundry room floor.
God, through Jeremiah the prophet uses the word to describe a group of people who are spread apart or dispersed and I think it is the opposite of a group of people who are united in both body and spirit; a group that feels comfortable and safe in the place where they live.
This morning I want to us to think about this word together. Even if we do not consider ourselves to be shepherds or leaders perhaps there are ways in which we contribute to a kind of “scattering” and more importantly, perhaps there are ways in which we can work to alleviate those who feel as if they have been scattered, dispersed or simply lost and uncertain.
St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Trinity 6, July 11, 2021, Canon Claude Schroeder
“Speak the Truth to Power.”
It 1942, the African American Civil Rights Activist, Bayard Rustin, wrote in a letter that “the primary social function of a religious society is to ‘speak the truth to power’.”
So it was in 1955 that the Quakers, a pacifist religious society, published a pamphlet entitled, Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence.
This really marked the beginning of the wide-spread adoption and co-option of the phrase ”speak truth to power” in North America, not only by various religious societies, but by journalists, social activists, educators, and all manner of whistle-blowers.
So I think we can all agree that human beings are pretty messed-up. I used to feel pretty smug about my identity markers. I’m a girl – that’s definitely better than being a boy. I’m Canadian, and that’s better than being American. Like a lot of people I thought of us as America Lite, the kinder, politer version of America, with all the good things like democracy and human rights and diversity and much less of the bad stuff like prejudice and arrogance and hyper-nationalism.
And I was smug about having Christianity as my identity marker in terms of the world’s religions. The worst thing people ever seemed to accuse us of was the Crusades, and since those ended 700 years ago I thought we were doing pretty well on the problematic waging-war-and-murdering-people-in-the-name-of-God front.
Feeling smug about your identity markers is mostly a young person’s game. If we are not actively deluding ourselves, life soon disabuses us of our illusions about the rightness of our own tribe compared to everyone else. Someone you trusted to tell the truth lies to you. You find out an institution you belong to has been hurting people. A political party you believe in gets caught up in a scandal, and won’t admit to being wrong. The longer we live, the more times we are disillusioned by our tribe, and by our own behavior, the more we realize that all human beings are pretty messed up. No one has a legitimate claim on virtue.
(Modified 2021-06-27: Added audio recording of sermon.)
St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Trinity 4, June 27.2021 Revd. Canon Claude Schroeder
Sermon on Mark 5. 21-43
“The moment is coming when, having done the ‘right’ thing all along, your round peg will not fit in the hole that’s next presented to you. The time is coming when you will be on the outside: a divorce, a bankruptcy, a felony, a betrayal, a cancer, an addiction, a death. Well, yes, death.” (Timothy Kimbrough)
I don’t think there is a person here doesn’t know what it’s like to find yourself on the outside, when the round peg that is your life doesn’t go into the square hole that is presented to you. Divorce, bankruptcy, crime, betrayal, cancer, and death, well yes death, sooner or later come calling.
The sooner one realizes this, the better. “It is good”, writes the author of the Book of Lamentations,” for one to bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it, to put one’s mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope), to give one’s cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.” (Lamentations 3. 27-30). It’s why if at all possible, you should try have your nervous breakdown early in life, in your youth, and learn what it means to place your hope in God. It will hold you in good stead for when things really get difficult later in life.
Our Gospel lesson for today from St. Mark tells the story of three people, whose round peg did not fit the square hole that had been presented to them.
St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Wedding of Derek and Li, June 19, 2021
Sermon John 2. 1-11. The Revd. Canon Claude Schroeder
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory; and his disciples believed in Him.” (John 2.11)
I guess that first thing that strikes us about our Gospel lesson today where at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, Jesus miraculously transformed something of the order of 180 gallons of water into wine, is that there was obviously no public health order in place forbidding the serving of beverages at religious ceremonies!
“Wine”, according to the Scriptures, “makes glad the heart of man.” (Psalm 104.15). How natural that the wedding guests at Cana in Galilee were found to be drinking wine. Would you raise your glasses for a toast to the bride! Would you raise your glasses for a toast to the groom!
But then, as we heard, they ran out of wine. We all know what that means. When the wine runs out, the party is over, and it’s time to go home.
This for us is the real point of identification with our story today. These last 15 months of COVID the wine had been running out all over the place. It’s been running out on our jobs, it’s been running out of on our friendships, it’s been running out on our marriages and families. When the wine runs out, the party is over, and it’s time to go home. And then, what? As many have been doing under COVID, we go and buy a puppy dog.
(Modified 2021-06-20: Added audio recording of sermon)
Third Sunday after Trinity, June 20, 2021. St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Regina. Nathaniel Athian Deng Mayen
Brothers and sisters, I submit to you a brief overview of the interpretation of suffering and loss of different kinds from Apostle Paul’s teaching before we can spend some time with the Gospel of Mark in some kind of Bible Study preaching.
The greatest distortion to the gospel message comes from the ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers who teach a misguided view of Christianity that the individuals who have been blessed by or have faith in Christ do not (should not) suffer. In this context, God’s blessing for and faith of the believers are sold as some kind of commodity whose outcome is individual ‘happiness’, good health, and prosperity.