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St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel St. At W. 14th Ave.

Vancouver, BC, V5Z 3T3


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

Worship Times

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Sermon

January 6th Epiphany, 2019     John Marsh


Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12


Culturally speaking, when it comes to the Christmas story, we are indiscriminate…


We squash together the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke and the resulting mishmash becomes the narrative backdrop of a massive retail extravaganza, expressive of an unmoored, idealized, romanticized feel good story. We’re simply not interested in the unique story lines of each narrative because freed from their contexts they are more pliable to serve marketing goals and consequently our desires for consumption…


We care little that, each in their own way, the narratives are engaged in a serious and profound critique of their socio-political and religious culture…


We care little that, each in their own way, the narratives speak of the great reversal of the in-breaking of god, of the welling up of long held prophetic desires and the expectations of prophetic voices and passionate actions – voices and actions risking the vulnerability of creation, daring the possibility of creative humanity…


We care little that Luke in his narrative takes on Caesar and the culture of violence and domination…


We care little that Matthew echoes the Exodus with a flight to Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents with Jesus cast as the new ‘Moses’…


We care little about opening to the nuances of the various texts for such awareness may destabilize our carefully constructed and reinforced worldviews...


We do not want to hear the critique of violence and domination because it may shine a light on our own…


We do not wish to hear of ‘good news’ for all because it reminds us of how ‘provincial’ we can become…


We do not wish to hear of god wholly emptied into the world, a god risking the inherent vulnerability of creation as it reminds us of our attempts to deny such vulnerability…


As Parker Palmer says of the birth narratives:


…it’s…a…human story about a baby being born under very difficult circumstances. It’s a story about God taking the risk of showing up in the flesh and all that comes with it…and I think that it’s a risk that we are called to, the risk of incarnation, the risk of embodying our values and beliefs, the risk of manifesting our identity and integrity in the world, the risk of being fully human, and it’s a risk we shy away from. The Christmas story for me is a constant reminder that our calling is to be born and reborn again and again and again.1


Any sensitive reading of the narratives invites us to such a risk of rebirth and renewal if we are to become ourselves in response to spirit at work in creation, if we are to grow in stature and overcome psychic and spiritual entropy which dims our vision, limits our hearing and impedes our ability to serve life…


In terms of spirit and soul, we often live such insignificant lives; we often refuse the work of growing in stature and wisdom opting instead for the easier path of conventional thinking and acting: compete, win and if possible, dominate; if threatened, make a counter threat, if attacked, counter attack, if threatened with guns, get more guns – as we have all heard, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.


Yes, any sensitive reading of the narratives is a troublesome enterprise because it subverts and reverses convention:


The mighty are pulled down from their thrones and the lowly are lifted up… (see Luke 1:52)


The hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent away… (see Luke 1:53)


Good news is shared with the lowest of the low… (see Luke 2:8ff)


The vulnerability of new life is the source of salvation… (see Luke 2:6-7; Matthew 1:24-25)


Yes, any sensitive reading of the narratives recognizes that such subversion is at odds with the interests of the powerful who act and react in a predictable manner:


The poor are ground down by Caesar’s taxes… (see Luke 2:1)


When dominated by fear, the ‘kings’ of this world inevitably resort to violence… (see Matthew 2:16-18)


New beginnings often create refugees out of those seeking life… (see Matthew 2:13-15)


Yes, any sensitive reading of the texts clearly reveals that in the real world (our world) the rich and powerful will act and react forever seeking to shore up their position and power by whatever violent means are necessary: legislation, exclusion, persecution, arrest, execution and slaughter…


Yes, any sensitive reading of the text helps us realize that no matter how much the context shifts the story remains the same…


Yes, the story remains the same…the powerful seek to preserve power and to exert control…

 

Yet, perhaps impossibly…


Spirit blows where it wills; god seeps through the cracks and appears from the bottom up and the outside in, in the lifting up of the lowly and the visitation of those considered ‘other’…


Yes, the story remains the same…


The rich and powerful act as they have always acted yet the holy one acts beyond conventions call…


Despite appearances, despite the ‘normalcy of civilization’, new visions and new actions are invited by spirit:


‘Arise, shine for your light has come…’


Yet, this coming light is not just your light for your purposes, it is a light for all…


‘The Lord will arise upon you, and…nations shall come to your light…’ (see Isaiah 60:1-3)


The light has come to ‘make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden in God…’ that, ‘the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel’ (see Ephesians 3:9; 3:6) It seems god’s call is for all, especially ‘those people’!


And, with spirit moving within creation, pray and do not submit to conventional leadership; rather, pray for their transformation:


Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people…


For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. (see Psalm 72:1-2,4,12-14)


So, may we live as we pray…


And as spirit moves on, a revelation for the low brow and for the highborn is revealed (see Luke 2:8ff); it is a revelation that ascends to the heights and to the depths…

 

It is for Jews and for others (see Matthew 2:1); it is for the great and the humble, neighbours and strangers…


It is a revelation both obvious and unexpected; it is for the followers of the Way but respects followers of other ways…


The light of the Holy One shines on Zoroastrian magi and illiterate Jewish shepherds (see Matthew 2:1-12 and Luke 2:1-20)


Yes, the story remains the same – the powerful act the way they always act yet god inspires, insisting on impossible dreams: a light in darkness, a voice crying in the wilderness, a child born announcing, inviting the many ways of participation in a new reign…

 

Yes, the story remains the same…the powerful seek to preserve power and to exert control yet spirit blows where it wills…



On the Mystery of the Incarnation


It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.²




1 Parker Palmer, The Risk Of Incarnation from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

² Denise Levertov, from The Stream & the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Themes