This past year some among us have been participating in an interfaith bible study of the Book of Genesis. It has been my privilege to lead these sessions with the wonderful Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, Tara Livingston, Rabbi Mark Glickman and this last time, with Iman Hadi Hasan. It’s been a fascinating walk through this ancient and ever new text
We have spent a lot of time with Abraham. Following him, this past session, from his first encounter with God asking him to leave his country, all the way through the births of Ishmael and Isaac, the sons he is granted in his old age, all the way to death.
Shaul has repeatedly pointed out to us in this study how old Abraham is. Over 100 when he has a son, when he goes on a three day journey in the wilderness. He lived to the mighty age of 175.
It is not by accident that the age of Abraham is emphasized over and over again in the bible.
The bible doesn’t really believe in retirement. If the bible has any message for old people I think it’s that God isn’t’ finished with you yet. He wasn’t finished with Abraham, he wasn’t finished with Simeon and Anna, who at an old age finally saw Jesus, and he isn’t finished with any of us.
As I thought about what to say in this year’s charge to the parish the message that came to me over and over again is that God isn’t’ finished with us yet. I have now been here over 12 years, some of you have been here over 50, but I am know, deep in my heart, that God is not finished with us yet.
A lot of the people of this place are retired. But God doesn’t believe in retirement. I’m pretty sure this gospel message about taking up your cross and following me doesn’t expire. It’s something we are always and everywhere called to be at every age and stage of our life.
A listening campaign has been going on at St. Laurence this past while. A team of people interviewed a good portion of this parish. My apologies if we didn’t get to you. The point of the interviews was to find out what really matters to the people of St. Laurence. What issues are top of mind? We are still digesting, shall we say, what we heard but the major themes that were identified include:
- the divisiveness of society, how divided and isolated we are
- poverty, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, children’s poverty, and food insecurity
- first nations issues including disparity of wealth, clean water, and good relationships
- climate change and the environment
- seniors issues, especially health care and housing, and
- immigration and refugees.
The next step is to go deeper, find out more and then identify an issue or project we can sink our teeth into this and find an action out of all of this that is achievable, where we can make a difference.
I did not take part in the interviews, but I read through all the summaries. And I am excited to see what we come up with as an action.
But I have a word of warning for you all. Don’t go thinking that this is work someone else is going to do. It is only going to work if we all get involved. The first thing we all need to do is stop making excuses for why we can’t be the ones to lead this thing.
When I think about this place and where you all are on your journey I know that a good portion of you are retired. Some of you are fortunate enough to have the good health and resources to spend a lot of time travelling and a look at your calendars has big blocks of time when you are away travelling. Some of you are blessed to have grandchildren to look after or visit. You’re the here today gone tomorrow crowd.
And then there is a group of people who are retired but whose calendars are quite full of medical appointments. With all due respect you are at the high maintenance stage of life. Your eyes, your ears, your teeth, your various ailments and conditions require a complicated regimen of doctor’s visits and tests, etc.
And then there are a bunch of you here at St. Laurence in the sandwich generation. Your calendars are dictated by the Doctor appointments of your aging parents and the agendas of your kids. Basically, there are a lot of people in your life who need you. Your parents need you to support them with what comes with aging and your 20 somethings are having trouble getting launched in the world and need your help and guidance. Some days your lives are foot-loose and fancy-free but often they are a bit of who needs me next?
And then there are some of us who have young kids and are trying hard to keep it all together. I think, above all, we are the over programmed generation. We are so very busy and a little bit frantic. Most of the time we are trying to figure out how to be in two places at once.
So where does this leave us? We all have things that we are concerned about, changes we want to see in the world, and we all have excuses about how we are not at the right age or stage of life to be the one to really do something about it. Each and every one of us can make excuses about how and why we don’t have anytime about how there are all sorts of things that need to be done but that we really need someone else to do them. I know some of you were asked to identify optional leaders in the congregation and I don’t think anyone identified themselves. Everyone wants to point the finger elsewhere and say this needs to be done and I’m hoping this or that person does it.
But the fact is that together, somehow or another, we can get this done.
At the end of each church service we say together, Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. I know Anglicans do not tend to take things literally but let’s try taking that one literally shall we. For there is a lot of evidence around this place that this is actually true. In the past few years we’ve completed what at one point seemed like the impossible task of renovating and paying for the work this building needed to make it fully accessible, welcoming and flexible. We’ve started the Wisdom Centre – a ministry that continues to thrive and to attract and puts this little parish on the map of those really doing the work of re-imagining spiritual and religious life in the 21st century. We’ve also successfully sponsored a Syrian family of six who came to Canada as refugees and are doing remarkably well in this their new country. And, this past year, we were instrumental in getting our Diocesan Synod to pass a motion in favour of same sex blessings.
This parish, truly, is the little parish that could, the little parish that can. Glory to God indeed.
Just like Abraham, God isn’t done with us and God isn’t interested in our excuses. God knows our track record and God has yet more journeys, yet more work, in store for us..
At the top of the list of themes we heard from the interviews was a concern about the growing divisiveness in society. It’s good that is something that concerns you. It’s good that we’re seeing the disconnect between us gathering together at the Eucharist, in a circle, as children of God, and sharing the one loaf, drinking from the same cup, and then going out in the world and living isolated, divided lives where we spend too much time on screens, where there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor, where people seem to becoming more divided, more intolerant, more isolated every day. Yes, there is work to be done.
If we believe, truly believe, that each and every person on this planet is a child of God and that we are called to love our neighbors, all our neighbors, not just the ones who look like us but even the ones who might seem to be strangers or aliens or even enemies, as ourselves; if we truly want to live into our baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being, then there is work to be done. And it is God’s work and it is our work. So, let’s go into 2018 trusting in the God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine and that we are, truly, the little parish that can.