Sermon for 2 Epiphany Yr B

Read my sermon for January 17, 2021 here: 2 Epiphany Yr B

 

Sermon for 2 Advent Yr B

Read my sermon for December 6, 2020: 2 Advent Yr B 

 

Sermon for 1 Advent Yr B

Read my sermon for November 29, 2020 here: 1 Advent Yr B

 

Sermon for 23 Pentecost

Read my sermon for November 8, 2020 here: 23 Pentecost Yr A

 

Preachers’ Thought for Today

Bethany Meadows pulpit, photo by GW-H

“Preaching is effective as long as the preacher expects something to happen-not because of the sermon, not even because of the preacher, but because of God.” -John Hines

Sermon 26 Pentecost Yr C

Read my sermon for November 13, 2016 here: 26-pentecost-yr-c

Brief Book Review: Conquering Fear

Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World        Author: Harold S. Kushner                                                      Publisher: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, A Borzoi Book, 2009      ISBN: 978-0-307-26664-4, 173 pages, Hardcover                              CDN $29.95

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

conqueringfearFears. Every human being, at one time or another, encounters fears. The question is: How does one deal with such fears? Harold Kushner, who served as an active rabbi for many years, offers some of his experiences, knowledge and practical approaches to the subject at hand.

The volume consists of ‘First Words,’ and nine chapters. Each chapter focuses on a particular theme, and begins with at least one pertinent quotation.

There are over eighty references in the Bible instructing human beings not to fear. According to Rabbi Kushner, God does not want fear to dominate our lives; hence he gives us the Eleventh Commandment—“Do not be afraid.” This means, among other things, that: “Our goal should never be the denial of fear but the mastery of fear, the refusal to let fear keep us from living fully and happily.” (p. 24)

If readers are familiar with any of Rabbi Kushner’s previous books, they will recall that he casts the literary net far and wide, drawing on an array of sources, including: the Bible, the Talmud, rabbinic stories, contemporary psychology and literature among them. This volume continues in that vein.

In chapter after chapter, the author counsels his readers not to be paralyzed by their fears. Rather, the best way to handle fears is to face them and try to overcome them.

For example, Viktor Frankl told his patients, “Go out and do what you are afraid of. Expect the worst to happen.” When they did it and the worst did not happen, he would say to them, “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” (p. 168) Of course there are some exceptions to providing such counsel, especially regarding life-threatening behaviours.

My favourite story in this volume is one of hope inside a Nazi concentration camp, when Jews wanted to celebrate Hanukkah. Holiday celebrations were forbidden in the camp, but one man saved a bit of the bread from his evening meal, dipped it in grease from his dinner bowl, fashioned it into an impromptu candle, said the appropriate prayer and lit the bread. His son said to him, “Father, that was food you burned. We have so little of it. Wouldn’t we have been better off eating it?” The father replied, “My son, people can live for a week without food, but they cannot live for one day without hope.” (pp. 93-94)

This volume is written in accessible prose, and readers who are familiar with Rabbi Kushner’s previous books would most likely benefit from this one.

 

All creatures great and small

Butterfly

Butterfly

This, I think, Canadian Swallowtail butterfly with part of its wing missing, reminded me of the words of Cecil F. Alexander’s hymn: “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” Especially the words from stanza four: “God gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.” My wife took this photo with her iphone camera in our front yard. Even though part of the wing is missing, it could still fly.

The Silent Night Project

Last Sunday I was celebrant and doing pulpit supply for my Anglican colleague at St Barnabas Anglican, while we recorded this video for the Silent Night Project to raise funds for Anglican chaplains in the Armed Forces. The Selah Singers were are also singing with the congregation here.

Sermon Trinity Sunday Yr C

The Holy Trinity Sunday Yr C, 30/05/2010

Ps 8 & Jn 16:12-15

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity”

After a major downpour filled all the potholes in the streets and alleys, a young mother watched her two little boys playing in a puddle through her kitchen window. The older of the two, a five-year old, grabbed his younger brother by the back of his head and shoved his face into the water hole. As the boy recovered and stood laughing and dripping, the mother runs to the yard in a panic.

‘Why on earth did you do that to your little brother?!’ she asks as she shook the older boy in anger.

‘We were just playing ‘church’ mommy,’ he said. ‘And I was baptizing him in the name of the Father, the Son, and in the hole he goes.’

Speaking of holes, and water in them, there is a story about one of Christianity’s most famous theologians and bishops, Augustine, who lived in North Africa in the fourth and fifth century. As the story has it, one day Augustine was walking along the beach by the ocean and pondering the deep mystery of God the Holy Trinity. He met a boy there on the beach who had dug a hole in the sand and kept busy running back and forth from the hole to the ocean; collecting water and pouring it into the hole. Augustine was curious about this, so he asked the boy: “What are you doing?” The boy replied: “I’m going to pour the entire ocean into this hole.” Augustine then said: “That is impossible, the whole ocean will not fit into your hole.” And the boy answered Augustine: “Neither can the infinite God the Holy Trinity fit into your finite mind.”

How true that is! Our minds are limited and finite; they cannot possibly know all there is to know about the infinite and unlimited “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” Over the centuries much ink has been spilled out and many books have been written on the deepest mystery of the Christian faith—God the Holy Trinity. Yet, when all is said and done, God the Holy Trinity remains our deepest mystery.

Who is this God that we worship? Well, one way we speak of God is as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; or Father (and in recent times also Mother), Son and Holy Spirit. In today’s Psalm, we have a picture of God the Creator, who is “our Sovereign,” our King and Ruler. He is not the same as creation—rather, he is set above the heavens and rules the whole universe, which he created by speaking it into existence through his word. The Creator God we say is all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), and all-present (omnipresent).

Before this God the Creator of a vast universe, the psalmist is aware that we human beings are small and finite creatures. I think that we too can identify with the psalmist’s feeling of finitude and smallness in comparison with the vastness of the universe. We too feel small beside an ocean; or on a mountain-top; or on the flat prairie looking to the far horizon; or when we are lost inside a forest, standing beside the tall, stately Douglas fir trees in places like Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island; or on a hot summer night when the sky is clear and we stretch out on the grass and gaze up at the stars. All of these experiences of God’s creation give us a sense of smallness and finitude.

Yet, the psalmist doesn’t end there. Rather, the Psalm goes into a hymn of praise to God the Creator for creating human beings as “a little lower than God.” As beings created “a little lower than God,” in God’s image, we are given the privileged and very responsible role as stewards of God’s creation. The psalmist, speaking of our role, states that God has “given them—i.e. human beings—dominion over the works of your—i.e. God’s—hands.” Our connection with God the Creator then is in caring for his creation and all of the various life-forms within the creation. Sad to say, we have, in our sinfulness, interpreted the words “dominion over” as permission to exploit and even abuse God’s creation to such an extent that many species have either become extinct or are in danger of extinction. In short, we have not always been responsible, caring stewards of God’s creation. Our highly technological and urbanized world doesn’t help us in this respect either—since the more urban and technological our lifestyle becomes; the more we seem to lose our connection with God’s creation. That is why some folks today are endeavouring to try to “live more simply that others may simply live.” So there are folks who grow organic foods and try to limit their diet to food products that are native to their geographical region—rather then import mass produced foods from all over the world, which contain harmful additives and preservatives and are produced by workers who are paid very poorly. As responsible stewards of God’s creation, many folks are also trying to rely more on alternative, environmentally-friendly energy sources such as wind and solar. These and other environmentally conscious options seem more in harmony with God’s creation and our role as responsible, caring stewards of creation.

Looking at today’s gospel now, Jesus speaks of God the Holy Trinity in a rather interesting way. Jesus speaks of the unity, the oneness of God in three persons when he says: “All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he—i.e. the Holy Spirit—will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Over the centuries there have been different ways of explaining the unity, the oneness of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. However, the more I think about it, the more I think of a marriage relationship. A loving, healthy marriage relationship is a fulfillment of the promise in the book of Genesis that “the two shall become one flesh.” Yes, they are two separate, unique human beings. Yet, when they become husband and wife, they are one flesh. I know from my experiences over the years that to be true. The longer my wife and I live together as husband and wife; the more it seems that we think like each other. I’m amazed sometimes when we witness some sort of event and both of us think the same thing and make some comment about it that the other one agrees with one-hundred percent. In many things, we both think alike and behave in the same way—so yes, the two do become one flesh. So too with God the Holy Trinity—each person is unique, yet they are one God—sharing the same thoughts and qualities.

One of the interesting aspects of Jesus’ words concerning the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. In this role, the Holy Spirit functions as God’s accurate communications expert.

Many of you may have been involved in a popular communications exercise at some time. The exercise is as follows. There are several persons sitting in a room. One person whispers a specific message in the person’s ear sitting next to them. That person then whispers the message to the person next to them, and so on, until the last person receives the message. Do you know what happens? Is the message that the first person gave the same message that the last person receives? I have been amazed to learn how the message gets distorted, changed, and sometimes to such an extent that the final receiver has the exact opposite message of the original one.

In our gospel, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is an accurate communications expert. The message the Holy Spirit receives from God the Father and Son is communicated accurately, exactly as the same message as the other two persons of the Trinity. So we can trust the reliability and accuracy of God the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth concerning God the Holy Trinity. In a world full of sin and sinners, the truth often gets distorted beyond recognition. We can trust in our Triune God who, thanks to the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us through God’s word.

The central truth about “God in three persons, blessed Trinity,” is that the Holy Spirit gives us the faith to believe the words of Jesus who says that he is God come down from heaven to be a human being—that is our clearest picture of God. In human communication, we are most likely to trust and believe someone who is like us and can understand and accept us; someone with whom we have a lot in common; speaks our language and shares in our experiences. God loved you and me and the human race so much that God became like one of us in the human flesh and blood person whom we call Jesus of Nazareth. All that we need to know and believe about God the Holy Trinity has been revealed to us through Jesus who shared in our humanness in every way, except that he was without sin. For that, thanks be to God!