St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

Sermon

July 26th Pentecost 8, 2020                     John Marsh


Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45c; Roman 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 45-52

For those who harbour fantasies of glory, deep desires for victory or success, today’s parables may not be what you want to hear…


The reign of god is like a tiny mustard seed, like yeast kneaded in dough, like a treasure hidden, like one small fine pearl amongst many…

But maybe we can feel the lure of these parables…


For we too are small, hidden, possibly insignificant, certainly easily overlooked and discounted yet, ‘I am convinced -so I hope and pray - that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-9)


Yes, maybe we can feel the lure as we work amongst the ruins of Christendom, as we work within the remnants of misplaced promises and misguided hopes.


We may long for the ‘glories of yesterday’ but we need to remember that we are not now, never have been, never will be the reign of god – god’s reign is beyond us, beyond our control, beyond our definition, something haunting, luring us…


Hopefully, we can still feel the lure, the call, the attraction yet we always need to realize that the commonwealth of god is not ours. It is not ours to control – which never negates participation - it is not the result of our work alone…


When we have thought so, when we have made this mistake of over identification and self-importance, we have not done so well...


We have played power games and we believed in power games…


We have been arrogant, domineering, dominating; we have participated in, or initiated, persecutions, executions, and exterminations…


We have played power games; we were the power game.


In the simplest of terms, we have sinned.


But hopefully, amidst sin’s consequences, we may still feel parabolic lures…


The reign of god is like a tiny mustard seed, like yeast kneaded in dough, like a treasure hidden, like one small fine pearl amongst the many…


Its smallness points to the vibrancy of hope; its fungal comparability points to the witness of otherness - ah the delightfully unpredictable possibilities of fermentation; its value points to alternative ways and means; its uniqueness points to the joy and surprise of discovery…


Yes, hopefully we still feel the lure of that which is not us but nonetheless claims us…


Truth to tell, if I may be permitted this slight digression, at this particular time we are perhaps more disposed to hear, to be open to the effects of something small, so small to be hid from sight yet having worldwide effect…


However, seeing an effect does not necessitate an understanding response…


Truth to tell, this viral pandemic outbreak, aside from health considerations, reveals political, social issues much as an x-ray reveals what is hitherto concealed, where those so suffering are more at risk not because of genetic disparities predisposing them to medical consequences but because of the devastating consequences of poverty, of economic and ecological disparities…


First Nations people and blacks are five times and Hispanics are four times more likely to be hospitalised or die not because of genetic inferiority but because they suffer more from political, economic, and social violence with all of its physical consequences…


Ending our digression, in terms of the beloved community, to use MLK’s phrase, beloved though we hope to be, we are not the reign of god, but we can live responsive to its lure, nurturing, letting it grow within and around us…


We must wait yet work with hopeful expectation…


We must knead with the labour and skill of working dough – folding and enfolding, covering, and letting the dough rise…


We must work co-operatively, patiently, persistently…


Yes, we are small, insignificant, sometimes hidden but can we be alive with faithful imagination?


Are we a people of faithful value in the spirit’s eyes?


These are leavening questions suggesting possibilities of enlivening…

So perhaps, St Mary Magdalene’s as community, as small as it is, dare I say as insignificant as it may be especially in the eyes of others, contains, as the parables suggest, transformational possibilities impossible though they may seem…

Perhaps, small though we may be, we may be that yeast hid, leavening, enlivening, raising impossible possibilities, extending the image, fermenting change, transformations promising the unexpected, intoxications impairing usual behaviours…

Perhaps with theologies stretched, with liturgies opened both to traditions and tomorrow, with hearts and mind responsive to compassion’s call and voices of those other, we may follow the lure of god’s reign…

Perhaps, small though we may be, we may be yeast hid, a community of a new kind of Christian where we affirm that if you love the world with all of its problems – you’re blood.

Perhaps, echoing our earlier digression, we may, small though we be, have an impact beyond our size, the immensity of small…

And whether we fail, whether we will see noticeable results, whether we will be seen, to this work I have, and I will continue to dedicate myself to…

This is my prayer; this is my work…

~

The stories of two people who were in many ways, role models:

Cyril and Marjorie Powles of blessed memory, my friends, former members of the early days of our community…

Cyril was the best bishop we never had; he was often approached to let his name stand but he always refused saying, ‘This is not my vocation.’ To understand Cyril (at least in part) you must understand that he was born into otherness. He was a Caucasian born in Japan; he was Christian in a non-Christian country and then he was a priest living and working in such; he spoke fluent Japanese yet he was no imperial westerner; parables of mustard seeds, yeast, hiddenness he would have understood – it was his work, his theology and his life; his was a work of leavening the church and the world. Truth be told, both Cyril and Marjorie were involved with work which was a leavening, an enlivening of church and world.

I heard of Marjorie long before I met her. Students at Trinity College, Toronto – male students – were nervous around her (afraid) because she saw beneath the pretense. She had the ability to ask the penetrating question revealing issues submerged, ignored, or denied, the skill to make a statement expressing the heart of the matter. She too was born into otherness. She was a woman born into a patriarchal culture where women were sidelined; parables of mustard seeds, yeast, hiddenness she would have understood – it was her work, her theology, and her life.

Theirs was a small life, neither powerful in the usual sense of power. They were shaped and formed by otherness. They worked in the mission field; theirs was a theology shaped by dispossession and hope, by soul and suffering; theirs was small life in that they always attended to little ones, those suffering from the injustices of race, gender, poverty, ecological denigration or triumphal and bureaucratic power in all forms.

To be clear, I am not interested in hagiography. Cyril and Marjorie were real people, complex and with flaws. They were faithful, not despite their flaws but with their flaws. They were real people who were gifts to us.

It is my hope, my prayer that we too, each and all, may also be gifts, freely given…