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St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1789

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30 am - 1 pm

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

Worship Times

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Sermon

October 20th Pentecost 19, 2019                      John Marsh


Jeremiah 37:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8                                                                                                                                                       

“When the Human One comes, will faith be found on earth?”¹


An exceptionally important question; one which frames our experience as well as our identity…


Such a question disturbs us with the possibility that faith will not be found…


In exploring this question, let’s, for now, put to the side any literalistic sense that the Human Being will return to earth – such literalism demands far too much of our attention, as it blinds us in our specificity to other possibilities²…


Let us also put to the side the notion that faith is belief; faith arises from a more distant and obscure call demanding that we assume responsibility for a past we’ve inherited but did not create, a past we seek now to shape, for hopes we cannot control but must live into…


As John Caputo says, ‘When beliefs deepen, entrenchment sets in, fundamentalism waxes, searching wanes. When faith deepens, beliefs are destabilized, searching waxes, fundamentalism wanes. This deeper faith goes hand in hand with a more deeply lodged hope in the promise, in what is to-come, which lacks assurances about the object of our hope’³


With literalism sidelined and faith broadened, one of the possibilities which now surfaces is failure – the failure to incarnate, both within ourselves and our world, the calling of god, those impossible possibilities stirring within the event we name as the kingdom of god…


The failure that, perhaps, if and when the Human One emerges, we will have given up hope, lost our vision, lost our ability to love - just when we needed it most…


This is too tragic to imagine, because such a failure would be our end as humans – we may survive as a species but we will have been hollowed out. We will have become a dead end awaiting extinction because we will have failed in the act of transcendence, failed in moving beyond/within ourselves to discover the other which is, perhaps, the evolutionary promise stirring within our humanity⁴…


All because we will have given up hope…


And, as we slide into hopelessness, faith flounders…


Faith is nourished only if we have embraced hope enough to see us through those profound disappointments of life, through ‘the wilderness of shattered expectations.’


Hope is directed to both now and tomorrow…


Hope is about an insistent persistence stirring within the name of god, stirring now and in the end (eschatology)…


The mystic promise offered in the Christ is that of having vision enough to sense the sacred within present moments and within unknown possibilities of the future…


Embracing the paradox of faith, we open to a call, a lure which haunts us (what the mystics name as the ecstatic experience of godhead; what physicists call non-local, non-temporal reality) and attend to a potentiality inherent within the groaning of creation⁶…


However, some, finding paradox problematic, opt instead to find and value the sacred largely disregarding the languishing of others (spiritual narcissism) ...


While others, addressing the languishing of humanity, refuse the unimaginable possibilities of future alternatives (materialistic determinism) ...


Faith is opening to the reality of now while remaining ever open to the unfolding possibilities of the future…


Faith is the hope that that which we name as god, as sacred, is perhaps active within a call, within an insistence felt now, within a lure stirring within future possibilities…


We cannot know with certainty what tomorrow will bring; we cannot know the goal of creation or the mind of god, but we can perhaps sense general directions.


And those directions may shape the present moment, may inspire creative participation now and in the future…


For example, we cannot know the details of our environmental future, but we do know, do we not, the destructive consequences of our short term thinking⁷…


So, as we steer in the direction of the longest term interests of our planet and ourselves, we change our present moments, broadly shaping, influencing future possibilities…


This means, of course, that we humans must have a sense of cosmic purpose; we must honour the call and shoulder the responsibility of life...


And this responsibility is opening to a haunting stirring within the reign of god in which, for example, justice and compassion may shape our hope, our work, without limiting the possibilities of their expression…


This entails a necessary humility for both our humanity and our faith…


Truth to tell, we sense directions of the holy without knowing the details...


Such unknowing is expressed within the humility of Wisdom’s Child, Jesus, who holds the promise of the future without knowing the future…


As Jesus says in Mark:


But about that day and hour no one knows, neither angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Holy One.   Mark 13:32


We cannot know the ‘mind of god’ but, if we are to attend to the promise of the future, we must listen, converse and act…


We must risk the decision, deciding with humility what we hope is right for now, knowing that often we will fail because of inadequate information and/or our own hubris and blindness…


Nevertheless, regardless of our falling short, our shortcomings, faith requires that we shoulder the hope and the responsibility of living as humanly, as humanely, as lovingly as we can in this unjust world, hoping that god is present and active within the cosmos or that - this may be even more troubling – there is a call to dare life, to risk faith in the here and now...


We do not and cannot know outcomes but as beings yearning to be human, we do need to travel onwards…


And so, as travellers along the way, we need dreams, visions, stories and symbols to strengthen, sustain us on our pilgrimage…


There is no precision in our knowing but there is, hoping against hope, something stirring within visions of transformations, something some name as god, others name as love, as life, perhaps the nameless name…


And without this hope, these visions, many will cease to work for those transformations that humanity and faith require; without faith, hope and love people may not vote, not work for change, not dream dreams, not do the relational work inherent to communal living – simply put, they may not try…


We cannot and do not know the future, but we must try to be as human as possible, forever hoping, that when the future comes it will be as the prophets and the gospel hoped it would be…


And so, in the end, it seems that everything, both present and future, depends on whether the Human

One will find faith on earth…


So...


Do we have faith enough to act humanly and humanely?


Do we have imagination, hope or compassion enough to embrace alternative identities suggested by new possibilities?


Do we have faith enough to explore shared financial responsibilities and co-operative leadership models?


Do we have vision enough to take steps (albeit tentatively) to celebrate difference and to explore co-operative opportunities?


Do we have faith enough to own our grief or to name our surprise?


Do we have faith enough to work together with dignity and respect?


Will the Human one find faith here?


 ¹ A slight paraphrase of Luke 18:8b.

 ² To focus on a literal return is to fix a point which then becomes the reference point for our imagination and our living. As we work towards this point, it becomes a focal point which seriously limits the possibilities of our lives. To posit the literal truth of return is to posit the end of freedom which necessary for faith.

 ³ See John Caputo, Hoping Against Hope (Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim), Fortress Press 2015 p.97.

 ⁴ ‘Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’ I John 3:2

 ⁵ See Walter Wink, The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Enigma of the Son of the Man p. 173

 ⁶ ‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now’ Romans 8:22

 For example, consider the Cuyahoga River in Ohio which famously caught fire in June of 1969 or that recently the Amazon was burning.