15 Apr 2017

The Artistry of Easter

     I am NOT an artist. At a recent workshop on art as prayer, however, I did my best to tap into any semblance of creative ability.
     In one activity, we reflected on a passage of scripture, identifying a word or phrase that spoke to us, and then drew it with pastels. I won’t say WHAT I was trying to create/represent, or what the passage was, but I ended up with this: 

     Bypassing the fine-art-critic stage, we then changed how we viewed our own work, by placing a bi-fold mirror on it. We adapted the location and bend of the mirror until we saw something we liked. So, suddenly, my work looked like this:

     How much of a difference by a changed perspective!
     Taking things one step further, and were invited to create a mandala (circle-based drawing) from what we had seen in the mirrors, this time using pencil crayons. My eye was attracted to one area of the reflections, and so my new pencil crayon artwork ended up looking like this:

     Again, a new perspective was brought into being through an intentional new process and careful effort, and even with a new medium.
     This Easter weekend, we are invited to look at the artistry of our own lives.
     Our lives are a manifestation of what we see and do and believe – it may not be exactly what we want or how we want it, but we are the creators of our own lives. We create and blend our work and worship in such a way that we understand the meaning behind, and hope that maybe that meaning will be understood by others. Sometimes it works how we want it to, other times (like my pastel drawing) it may not be what we envisioned.
     And then, an external factor (like a mirror) invites us to recognise that beauty exists in our work: whether we were aware of it or not, whether we were expecting it or not. We can be shocked by seeing how a change in viewpoint can change the focus of our lives, and how we then present and are received by others viewing us. For us as Christians, this happens through the Resurrection. What we are celebrating today (and everyday, as Easter people) is our willingness to be changed by the power of the risen Christ.
     Finally, we are then encouraged to take things one step further, and to create something anew as a result of having been changed by the experience (the mandala). We get to look for new areas of focus, new expressions of light, new ways to be the church that Christ calls us to be. We can recognise the original aspect, because we know where we started from; and we can celebrate that there has been opportunity for spiritual growth and development by the process itself. 

     May our lives ever celebrate the truth and joy of Easter as a moment of artistry! Alleluia!

8 Apr 2017

Remission of Sins

Cristo Redentor at sunset, Rio de Janeiro
            In our society, when we hear the word "remission" we tend to think that someone has had a positive reprieve or turnaround in their medical condition.
            For us fans of the BCP, it takes us through the offices and the Eucharist, where we understand it to mean the cancellation of a debt or an exculpation of sins.
            More modern translations use 'forgiveness' but the subtlety is, in my opinion, important. The creed in Greek uses the word aphesis (ἄφεσιν) which means that the sins are treated as though they have never been committed. The great gift we acknowledge, that through the One baptism our sins will be remitted, should not be taken lightly.
            For this forgiveness is not merely a 'blank slate' to start sinning again, or an articulation about ourselves individually. It is an assurance that the sin which has stained us, the sins we have committed by thought and word and action, the sins that we have unknowingly committed, the sins that are committed by the very nature of our sinful human condition: these will be removed from us.
            We are encouraged, of course, through the path of confession and self-examination, to do our best to avoid sin. And what reassurance, therefore, to know that God's remission transcends any human laws or earthly limitations. It is absolute; it is
            It is, in fact, a positive reprieve or turnaround in our spiritual condition. It is a remission even more significant than what a cancer patient may hear from their oncologist. It is a turn towards health and well-being.
            It acknowledges, as with the medical counterpart, that dis-ease and un-health may return; and return at any time. But it celebrates that full remission; that for one beautiful moment we recognise and delight in the joy and peace and comfort of that turnaround.
            And in that recognition, we might go one step further and re-examine the remission itself: to re-mission ourselves. To align our lives in such a way that we intentionally aim to avoid future engagement with known sins; that we make effort to become more aware of our unknown sins and their impacts.
            One hopes that our Christian journey will be full of gratitude and humble appreciation, that the remission of our sins is a re-mission of our lives, with a focus on loving and serving our God.

1 Apr 2017

A Bold Post

            When I was in New York, there were times when I was feeling rather bold.    Admittedly, I'm not a shy person: however during my time away I started conversations I might not have otherwise started, including learning more about global situations, sharing Canadian and Anglican realities, and offering possibilities for collaborative future efforts.
            Part of it may have been that as I was away from home, I was somewhat anonymous. Part of it may have been that I was feeling empowered by the influence of my sisters at an amazing experience. Part of it may have been that in an intense situation, with limited time, I was living a now-or-never reality.
            Whatever it was, it was good. And it came home with me.
            This boldness was just that: bold. I was not rude or mean, I was not impolite, I was not inappropriate or brazen.
            It was also not about my own personal gain: rather, my lack of subtlety had more to do with matters of justice and peace-building, of dignity and basic rights. In faith terms, it had to do with my best efforts to make the Gospel a living reality in my work.
            If I hadn't spoken up, some of the conversations that were quite fruitful may not have otherwise happened. Meetings with political movers-and-shakers, and networking with like-minded people may not have happened. I was determined to get the very most out of every moment of the remarkable opportunity I was afforded.
            This boldness came in a number of areas: a commitment to gender equality, a determination to denounce violence, support for interfaith dialogue, a desire to learn more about global issues of social injustice (such as human trafficking, indigenous rights, humanitarian relief needs, &c.) It is a boldness that challenges me to continue, from my current position of abundance, to speak truth to power, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable.
            My boldness came from an understanding that the work I was doing - and continue to do - gives glory to God, builds the Kingdom, and shares the faith. This boldness grows out of my faith, and my desire to express that faith as fully and completely as possible. I feel we should all exercise our ministries and witness with boldness, demonstrating the Goodness of God active in our lives. I hope we all live in such a way that, not unlike Paul on Malta, the world will see through our actions that we are "proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance." (Acts 28.31)

A bold statement from the Anglican Communion Delegates can be found at http://iawn.anglicancommunion.org/media/289039/CSW61-Anglican-delegation-statement-to-ACC.pdf

25 Mar 2017

My Bucket List

            Yesterday morning I checked something off my bucket list (that list of things one hopes to accomplish prior to 'kicking the bucket'): I went for a run in Central Park. It was, by far, NOT my best run, but I did it. My body was really wanting to still be in the hotel bed, but I managed to hammer out a few miles.
            I was feeling rather pleased with myself, and treated myself to a fancy coffee on the way back to the hotel, where someone in the lobby commented on my rather rough appearance (you know how some people look fantastic when they run? I'm not one of those people. My skin goes blotchy red, I huff and puff like I'm about to blow a house down, and my current level of tiredness means the bags under my eyes are large enough to pack my luggage in.) BUT - pleased with myself, full of endorphins, about to be adequately caffeinated, I mentioned that this was a bucket list check-off.
            I was unprepared for the response I got: "Oh. Really? That's sad."
            Sad? Sad. SAD? My still tired brain wondered if 'sad' was a new catchphrase for 'exciting' or 'exhilarating' or 'empowering' - apparently not. My companion continued that a bucket list should be for really extravagant things, nothing so *simple* as a run in a park.
            I refused to deflate. Because for me, this run *was* extravagant.
            I am not a natural runner; I've had enough injuries and surgeries to make running a significant challenge. I've spent intentional time preparing for this run, so my body wouldn't (totally) collapse when I made the effort. I had opportunity to be present in New York City in the first place. I opted to spend the time and money to stay an extra day here, on Columbus Circle, so I would have easy access to the park. I made space in my luggage for the requisite shoes and clothes.  I timed other workouts accordingly, and mapped several routes.
            It was not a small feat; it was not simple; it was, for me, an extravagance. Well worth it, mind, but an extravagance: I have no regrets!
            The truth is, my bucket list includes other things that are extravagant to me, which may seem comparably simple to others. But - it's MY list. These are my dreams and hopes, and I do what I can to make them happen.
            How unfortunate that the lobby stranger could not appreciate that. However, I use the experience to reflect that as a Christian it is my responsibility to build up the kingdom of God. As such, I pray that God will help me to respond with sensitivity to others as they share with me their plans and accomplishments, their dreams and intentions.
            Realistically, when we have narrowed down to a short bucket list the things that are most important to us (whatever they are, and for whatever reasons), we have articulated a part of our inner self. And when we share that part of ourselves, we are trusting the recipient of that information to respect it and join with us in celebrating its completion.
            No matter how small or how extravagant, your bucket list is yours. Own it, love it, live it.

            I pray that you have some extravagancies on your own bucket list; that you are able to engage with those intentions and find deep joy from the journey, and that you will be supported by everyone you meet as you make those dreams a reality.

24 Mar 2017

We Have Work To Do!

            This morning, the chapel was nearly empty... only a faithful few staggering in, looking exhausted. Today was the last day of the UNCSW, and many of the normal worshippers were either departed, or slept in, or... well, they were somewhere else.
            But this did not deter the worship team. Ever energetic (really, REALLY energetic!) chaplain the Rev Dionne led us through a worship of song and prayer, testimony and poetry, scripture and blessing.
            We were reminded of the scriptural role of women as workers. We were reminded of our role as women, to be workers. We are do-ers. We are movers and shakers. We are empowered and energised to do the work of God that will bring the divine glory shining forth into the world.
            And we have work to do! Like the opportunities that face us when we leave the Sunday morning worship and engage with the world, we who attended CSW have opportunities to come back to our homes and do the work. We carry the policy spirit of the CSW, and the spiritual sisterhood of our faithful sisters (and brothers!) form our time here, and the Spirit - that holy wisdom who stirs up all of creation and fires up a passion for mission and ministry within us - that Spirit will be carried with us and through us in the work that we will do.
            So during worship we were asked: what will we do - really do - as we headed home. The answers we shared were realistic: we will work, teach, pray, sleep (it's been a long 2 weeks!), share, write, commit, preach... we will continue to live out the reality of empowering women.
            The CSW Agreed Conclusions have been made, with strong commitments to gender justice through economic empowerment. Some of the issues directly addressed include the pay gap, decent work, the care economy, technological advances, parental leave, the 'pink tax', women in directorial and leadership roles, and a focus on indigenous women's economic empowerment. You can read the press release here
            So we have work to do. We all have a responsibility to engage with these conclusions, with this work, with this ministry. It is now in our hands if we will act with integrity, with one another and with our governments, to make these agreements a reality.

            May we rise to the challenge. May we overcome our tiredness, our lethargy, our apathy. May we recognise that an injustice to any one of our society is a detriment to us all. May we live our baptismal vows to respect the dignity of all and to seek Christ in everyone - regardless of gender or race or language or nation. May we become the generation who will make gender injustice a thing of the past. Sisters: brothers: we have work to do!