St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788


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


March 22nd Lent 4, 2020     John Marsh

1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

We are not beyond mistakes, missteps or misperceptions…

We are not beyond the shaping effects of fear, misfortune or tragedy…

We are not beyond the escalating effects of violence in all forms…

Sometimes we actively participate; sometimes we grudgingly yield; sometimes we are unwilling or unwitting recipients…

All this is true.  

All this is real - sometimes profoundly so.

But there remain questions unasked and unanswered:

Is this all there is?

Is there more?

Is there more going on than, ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’?


That we hope for happiness in the afterlife may be understandable, but it is not very helpful in the present moment.

Surely life is more than an endurance race with a very few winners.

Perhaps there is more than the cold calculus of winners and losers?

Perhaps there is more than the sterility of power games where the odds always favour the house.

Perhaps there is more than, “who sinned?” or, “who’s responsible?” or, “who did this?”

Perhaps there is more than simple cause and effect?

Perhaps within the chaos of random occurrence there lurks creative possibilities of life.

Perhaps there is ‘a softening of the way’…

Perhaps, to borrow a phrase or two, there are ‘tables spread before us’, ‘heads anointed with oil’ and ‘cups overflowing’ (see Psalm 23:5)

Perhaps – and you do need to carefully consider this – you are worth more than the worst thing you have done… ¹

Or, perhaps you are worth more than the worst thing that was ever done to you…

Or, perhaps you are worth more than the superficiality of bigotry and systemic blindness…

Perhaps within random occurrence, there is a chaotic, creative possibility of love drawing forth life, of forgiveness making a way out of no way, of reconciliation forging new relationships out of broken dreams…

Perhaps there is a way, a calling and a path to walk, a way with no assurances but a path nonetheless…


It is true that there are many ways to live, some helpful, some not, but those ways may not be our way for we are disturbed - hopefully - by texts, named as sacred, saying such things as, ‘we declare to you what we have seen and heard’. (see 1 John 1:1-4)

There are a variety of ways of acting but our way – ‘our’ being those who sense something stirring within the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – is a different way, admittedly a road less traveled (see Matthew 20:25ff/ Luke 22:25ff), so infrequently traveled that, at times, many lose sight of the path but there have always been those who remember and point the way…

And the way - if you have eyes and ears - is a way of embodied love, a way of enfleshed compassion, a way of reconciliation and nonviolence, a way of living the passion stretched between binaries which is a way of forgiveness - “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. (see Luke 23:34)

We honour a sacred story which says, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god and the word was god’. (John 1:1) From the beginning of the cosmos, the incarnational way has been a way of love, compassion, justice and reconciliation.²

Truth to tell, the cosmos, creation and the Christ are not driven by a narrow picture of human sin - we are, real though sin may be. For the cosmos, creation and the Christ, punishment is not the path; punishment is a path we embark upon following our insistence.³

The messianic promise is not so much the cause of creation as the draw of the future, a lure into life, within the ever-evolving complexity of love’s excess…

And the name we give to love’s excess is god, the holiness of one wholly other, one at times glimpsed within the face of the stranger, the widow, the orphan, one different, one expressed in embodied acts of compassion and justice.⁴

And yet, we still often ask, "Rabbi who sinned…that he was born blind?"

Truth to tell, if you are asking such questions, assuming guilt and punishment, you may have already missed the point – open your eyes…

If you see, you will realize - or at least, if you admit to ‘blindness’, you may come to see - that Jesus as the Christ is an explosion of love - an amorous big bang! - that perhaps ignites new ways of acting, of thinking about god, creation and the future.

Jesus as the Christ is an invitation to open to change for both the individual and society, change always in need of reaffirmation; we are called, invited to a transformational possibilities (conversion), those changes of life less a single event, more the ever- unfolding possibilities of something new within life.

At the very least, Jesus as the Christ invites living, hoping against hope, that something may arrive, that there may be possibilities stirring within the designation ‘the kingdom of god’.

At the very least, Jesus as the Christ invites placing a wager on love and compassion.

Truth to tell, Jesus ushered in, not a new religiosity but, a new humanism. How often we forget that the

sacred narratives teach that god is love not dominating power.

As Thomas Merton writes –

“Christianity does not teach [us] to attain an inner ideal of divine tranquility and stoic quiet by abstracting [ourselves] from material things. It teaches [us] to give [ourselves] to [others] and to [our] world in a service of love in which god will manifest [divinity’s] creative power …on earth”

Jesus as the Christ points to living the promise of making things whole, of bringing together those who are separated, divided or left out.


What do we see and how will we act?

Are we ‘blind’ or do we presume sight?

How do we respond to others?

How do we respond to our own pain or our own suffering?

How will we live unto death?


We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Holy One and with…Jesus the Christ. 4We are writing these things so that our* joy may be complete.  1 John 1:1-4


¹ A quote of Sister Helen Prejean the author of Dead Man Walking

 ² Perhaps, with a text as well known as, ‘In the beginning was the word…’, we should resist the temptation to describe and define the nature of that word – an ever-present institutional temptation – opting instead to embrace an existential hearing, a listening. Within this listening, lurks a hope of hearing, receiving something from beyond oneself, from beyond our control, something inviting us, perhaps laying claim to us, freeing us from the prison of trepidation and/or the will to power. Perhaps, within this hearing, existential desire and eschatological faith may hold hands. It is perhaps within this hearing that god surrenders us to the dangers of a life worthy of being called human.

 ³ For those who sense within the Cross and Resurrection invitations to a more creative life, human sin, while real, is less the breaking of a taboo or a law as the refusal of life. Understood in a conventional manner, against which Paul argued, sin is ‘life lived fearfully in the infernal cycle of law, transgression, and guilt.’

 Truth to tell, many use other names in an effort to express the inexpressible, the inexhaustible.

 Thomas Merton, Love and Living ed. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart (New York: Harcourt, 1979) p.147-150