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

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Worship Times

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

Sermon

July 7th Pentecost 4, 2019                      John Marsh


2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6:1-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

                                                                                                                                 

Historically considered, you could not be faulted for thinking that Christianity is a religious system, overseen by the few, providing an integrated package of religious products promising meaning, salvation and blessings in eternity. (Is that too fine a point?)


However, beyond the dictates of religious systems, there have been those who have yearned for something beyond, beneath or other than the status quo; there have been those sensing movements on the horizons of life, within the depths of the world, those following spirit within varieties of cultures.


It is within this spirit, who blows where she wills,¹ that the way of Jesus is to be discerned; it is within this way that the gospel text is to be understood because the sending of the seventy undercuts our history and our usual experience.


The sending of the seventy, ‘to do what Jesus did’, fits within his ‘call to all’ to live life differently, not to live religious life differently but to live life differently.


That the seventy were sent into the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee and not ordered to go to the holy city of Jerusalem undercuts any thought that the reign of god is an alternative religious system.


It is simply life, life lived differently...


As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in his Letters and Papers from Prison,


Jesus does not call [us] to a new religion but to life.


Such life is our way…


The way of Jesus is ‘new wine’ requiring a ‘new wineskin’… (see Mark 2:22)


The reign of god, the core of Jesus’ teaching, is not a competing alternative religious system; it is a new awakening to life requiring new eyes, new ears and new ways of living. The reign of god is not a reward for doing works of love, the works of love are the reign of god.


Consequently, we are called to make Jesus’ message our own; actually, to be more precise, we are called to live our life as fully as Jesus lived his…


We are all called to embody compassion, respect and justice-making within the heartache of loss, disappointment and betrayal; we are called to find the sacred, not within religious systems imposed on life, but within life - in the act of loving, in the embrace of the world…


We are called to savour the magic of life without elevating magical thinking about life…


We are called to a way of life which, curiously, seems to be seeking us…


A way of life where respect replaces condemnation and fear, inter-relationship and interdependence replaces competition, compassion and non-violence replaces judgment, conversation replaces the violence of binary battles, and mutuality replaces arrogance and absolute certainty…


This is the awakening of faith, not a creedal faith but one deeper, beyond/before creed’s, a faith in life, the awakening of a hope hoping against hope, of a love which loves despite, or perhaps, because of reality…


This is a quantum shift in awareness, a turning toward what I and others call a religion beyond religion, that life which embraces not ideas about god or the world but practices, not beliefs but faith: that particular way of seeing, understanding and feeling in which we experience the world as worthy of living for, fighting for and dying for...


The name we give this way of life is love, ‘loving god’ or participating in the reign of god, that immanent transcendence astir within the very fabric of the world...


Which is to say that god is present where and when we love; we do not love god and therefore love the world that god loves, we love the world and in so loving discover that which name as god…


As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:


…we cannot be honest unless we recognize that we have to live in the world ‘etsi Deus non daretur’ [even if there were no god]. And this is just what we do recognize – before god! God… compels us to recognize it… The god who lets us live in the world without the working hypothesis of god is the god before whom we stand continually. Before god and with god we live without god. God lets [himself] be pushed out of the world on to the cross.²


If we are a community following the way of Christ, we are a community which risks opening to Paul’s insight that the cross is an event which opens a way of living alternative to the dominant principles of this world…


Let’s be clear, this way, the cross, has always been a scandal and a stumbling block…


Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, instead of following the way of the cross which ruptures cultural divisions (Jew/Greek, slave/free, gay/straight, rich/poor) we have often transposed the way of Jesus into yet another religious way, a competing religious system promising eternal life in the afterlife…


With eternity transposed to life after death, the world is left to its own devices; the scandal of the cross is denied, and resurrection is but another comforting mythology reinforcing conformity and the status quo…


If we are a community risking following Christ, it is not to be that way among us!


If we are a community true to the way of Jesus, we must embrace that way of life which begins right here, right now which is to say that we enact the cross and the resurrection where we live regardless of our confessional posturing...


We may sing with gusto ‘Lift high the Cross’ but unless we live the way of the cross, our song is but ideology and propaganda; we may love the hymn ‘Jesus Christ is Risen Today’ but unless we embrace this world as it is, we deny the resurrection…


Let’s be frank, if the most countercultural thing we do all week is to attend church then we are part of the problem, part of those structures and systems (both political and religious) preventing the radical change signalled by the resurrected life…


The event of resurrection opens a religionless faith in which we embrace the world without any certainties, without promises of success.


In the crucifixion, we lose the idea of god who justifies our loving engagement with the world by approving it.


In the resurrection we continue to affirm god as we love the world regardless.


In the experience of being forsaken by god (crucifixion) we find god in the very affirmation of life itself (resurrection)…


If we are a community of faith, we have too much to lose to allow ourselves to be reduced to yet another religious imperative…


Perhaps the problem can be stated this way: we may attend an Anglican church but for god’s sake do not think of yourselves as Anglican. This is so reductionist that we cannot help but lose our way. We are more, our lives are more than this. The world needs another person risking humanity in the name of god, we can however survive rather well without another Anglican…


As St Mary Magdalene’s, is it too much to hope that we dare a different way forward?


Is it too great a hope to hope that we affirm a call within a call, opening to that freedom and liberation in which we are able to embrace this world without repression, resentment and fear?


Is it too great a hope that we may embody that way of living in love, that love which embraces life not because it is perfect but because it is beautiful in the midst of its imperfection?


If it is not too great a hope, then perhaps, just perhaps, we will watch ‘Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightening’ (see Luke 10:18) …


For Satan cannot stand if we embrace the world for no other reason than it is the world…³


Satan cannot stand if we refuse to deny the resurrection (life) even though we have been forsaken…


Satan cannot stand if we refuse to run from our suffering or hide from ourselves…


Satan cannot stand if we do not hold too tightly to what we have or identify too closely with our idealized images, if we face our finitude, respecting our doubts, embracing our weakness…


Satan cannot stand if we refuse to say no to life…


However, truthfully, this means that Satan often not only stands but dances because most of us say no to life on a daily basis…


But then, then there are those times when I’m haunted, stirred, lured by those who sometimes say yes to life, those times in which we do the seemingly impossible, surprising even ourselves regardless of confessional stances…




 ¹ See John 3:8


 ² Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Witness to Jesus Christ, p.112-3.


 ³ Satan is obviously a metaphor for dominance, disinterest, division and retributive violence. If Satan existed, then such would be as limited as all other beings. Satan, as metaphor, is far more pervasive and persistent than existence could ever allow. This is why Paul perceptively stated that we fight not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities, those cultural, political and religious ‘forces’ opening us to all kinds of social evils entangling our lives (see Ephesians 6:12).