Archive for July, 2017

“The Child Sower,” (Sermon, July 16th 2017)

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!’

18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’”

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Good morning, St. Timothy’s. I’m so glad to be with you today.

This year was the first year my husband and I decided to plant a garden on our balcony. I was excited because last year, friends who hosted me in Gibson’s had given me nasturtium seeds. The peppery orange blossoms had made their way into our salads every day over there, I had been looking for something ornamental and fragrant to climb up a load bearing post on the corner of our balcony.

The time came to plant and I did. And, like many of you with gardens probably did in this very strange year, waited. And waited. And waited.

I had never grown anything from a seed before, only already-blossoming plants. A low point was probably when I went online to look for tips, and one website cheerfully assured me, “Nasturtiums are so easy to care for, a child can do it!”

That obviously did wonders for my self-esteem. I stared at my empty pots and cursed that writer to a fiery afterlife where demons daily assured him that poking sinners with a fork was so easy, a child could do it.

But since having that terribly uncharitable thought, and since my nasturtiums finally started blossoming this week, I have reflected on what a beautiful theological statement that can be for us, relevant to our passage today.

Perhaps sowing the seeds of the Gospel is also so easy that a child could do it.

Let’s take a moment to think of the exuberant movement in this parable. Let’s not focus on which seeds are which kind of people. Let’s not even focus on Jesus’ explanation. Instead, let’s think about children sowing seeds.

Teaching a child co-ordination takes a lot of patience and love. Parents will remember endless repetitions of, “Gentle, gentle,” and “Slow down!” and “Not too much!” But for a moment, let’s imagine the kind of child that occasions those words, imagine her safe but without any adult supervision, with a skirt full of seeds, running along the path, throwing them helter-skelter everywhere, throwing them without even looking, throwing them perhaps with that ear-piercing and rather delightful shriek that toddlers get when they’re just so darn excited about something, the kind of shriek that makes us wince but maybe also makes us giggle, because maybe we half-remember being that kid, astonished by the world and its wonders.

Imagine her getting to the end of the path and just letting go of the end of her skirt so that the last few seeds just scatter at her feet. Imagine her looking down and examining them with that beautiful and hilarious intensity that very small children have. Imagine her looking back at the chaos she hath wrought and then just booking it back up the path, so proud of her work, even though a more measured eye will twitch at the reckless wastefulness of good seed.

Christians were never meant to know what it was like to love small. While our work can be small – tending a few blossoms by the side of the road as opposed to a whole set of palace gardens – our love was never meant to be. The cares of the world can make us feel like there is not enough to go around, that no matter how much we sow, there is always more that goes barren.

There is a piece of this recognition in the verses that are cut out of today’s reading. Those verses are a bit scary. But I think we have to address at least a piece of it. So here is a piece of that lacuna.

“Then the disciples came and asked Jesus, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

That last part sounds awful, doesn’t it? We have all seen this truth, and we have all felt its claws. But I think also that we know those folks who seem to have everything and yet are restless, constantly worried about the next need, the next empty space, convinced that they have nothing even though they own the world. And we all know those folks who have very little but treasure the good things they do have, and live life in a constant state of gratitude.

Jesus continues, “The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.”

We know that people can go their whole lives without ever seeing the good or the growth or the gains. We know pain, and one of our faith’s gifts is that Christianity was never meant to hide from it. But like the earth turning in space, Christians are in shadow and light simultaneously, and we turn from one to the other over the years. We cannot afford the luxury of spiritual despair or spiritual rosiness. Hope and joy are not the same as optimism and happiness. Hope and joy have teeth. They both demand much from us. And it’s hard. It’s hard in a world that focusses so often on the negative and the tragic. It’s hard in bodies that evolved, quite rightly, to hoard for the lean times rather than embrace generosity. Generosity and openness and faith have risks.

But blessed are your eyes – our eyes – for they see, and your ears, for they hear. I know if you all take time to think about all of the ways God has blessed this place, and your life, and your heart, you will see, because you’re here. You could be doing anything else right now. You could be doing things that are, frankly, easier than this, or more fun than this. You could certainly be doing something that makes more sense in our world than this, this getting together and singing songs and talking about strange spiritual truths that are hard to translate across the gulf of time and eating a meal that is a memory of a meal but also a meal that transcends time and provides a window into eternity.

But God called you here, and God continues to call you. You who are here because your parents made you come, many years ago or today: that’s part of the call. You who are here because you’ve been coming all your life but on the hard days you’re not really sure why you still bother: that’s part of the call. You who are here for the first time and you’re still not entirely sure why you’re here today: that’s part of the call. You who come because you know that the Voice of Love which permeates all things has made itself at home in the still open space in your heart: that’s part of the call.

Bring back to mind that little child, booking it down the path throwing seeds to the wind, the chaos of seeds scattered hither and yon.

Resist the urge to tame this child, to make things tidy, to gather up the seeds that didn’t make it. Resist. Instead, water the ones that made it to the good soil. You will know them by their fruits: joy, peace, love, devotion, sacrifice. It may be that they will succumb to blight, or never grow. It may be that they will grow as tall as trees. And it may be that the ones which fell on the path become the ones that are poking little green fingers through the cracks in the stone some time later, doing their work unseen, creating a network that will burst right through. It may be that the ones which were swallowed by birds are then carried across vast distances to new places, and left in better soil. And it may be that the ones which grew up among thorns provide unseen nutrients for microorganisms which work silently in the dark earth and feed many other plants.

Allow yourself the freedom, the joy, the love, to become that child, and to scatter recklessly. We can sow and water and feed, but only God brings the sun.

Just sow, and care, and trust.

– Preached at St. Timothy’s Church, Burnaby

“Lost in the Call,” (Sermon, June 25th 2017)

“Jesus said, ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:24-39


Good morning, St. Anselm’s. I’m so glad to be with you today. For those who don’t know me, I’m Clare, and Father Alex and I are good buddies. We met doing Education for Ministry, and we like to joke that we absolutely failed the program, since it’s meant to empower laypeople and obviously we didn’t stay that way.

When he asked me to come in on this Sunday, I looked up the passages assigned for the day, and texted him: “Dude, these readings. Did you do this on purpose?” I imagine there’s a few parishes in our city that decided to observe St. Peter and St. Paul today so they could avoid them.

‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.’


This is a real challenge. For a thousand reasons we Christians have tried to denounce all in our faith that points to violence. We have tried to lay aside our swords after years of bloodshed and choose a path of peace. We have tried to disown the Crusader Jesus, the Dominionist Jesus, the Jesus that encouraged – nay, demanded – submission of those whom we saw fit to submit. We don’t always succeed in the denouncing, but we try, and we put our heart into the trying, and ask forgiveness for the times we fall short.

And then we hear a passage like this and it just unseats everything.

So what do we do? How do we hear it?

Do we remind ourselves of the context in which it was spoken: Matthew’s community, frightened and scattered, experiencing all of these things Jesus warned them about and yet trying to live in hope? Do we then safely relegate it to the dustbin believing that it no longer applies to us in the West, the privileged people of Christ? We could do that, but that might be a refuge from hard questions – and indeed, perhaps our privilege today means that this passage is more important than ever.

Do we put ourselves in the camp of the kind of people who interpret Christian persecution as hearing “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, the inclusion of LGBTQ people in all parts of society, the ceasing of prayer in public schools? We could do that, but I think most of us know we’re lying to ourselves if we believe that persecution looks more like apathy than state-sanctioned arrests and murder.

Let’s face it, both of these are the easy way out. It’s much more fun to wrestle with Scripture than to dismiss it or preserve it under glass, because no matter what we think or feel about it, it’s a living thing, it judges us as we’re judging it, and it is owed the respect of a good bout. God gave us intellect, and I think She takes delight in watching us use it.

So if we can’t tame it, warp it, or excise it, how do we hear it?

Let’s start by agreeing that it’s not likely that Jesus wanted us to go home and trash our families and friendships for the sake of the Kingdom. That would be the advice of a cultist, and cults don’t save the world; they condemn it and withdraw. Jesus came to save and sanctify, and the Anglican Church affirms that the world has been sanctified through the work of Christ. We are always walking on holy ground – that is why when we are baptized we commit to caring for others and safeguarding the integrity of creation.

Let’s consider instead that Jesus’ words are proverbial rather than prescriptive. A proverb can be used as advice, but is not itself advice: it is a statement of fact. Jesus saying, “I have come not to bring peace but a sword” doesn’t encourage us to bring swords; it lets us know that his message is not popular. Jesus didn’t get crucified for being a nice guy. He got crucified because he was undermining the edicts of the imperial culture and religious elitism around him. No one gets executed for telling people stuff they learned in kindergarten; they get executed for questioning a status quo.

Jesus was trying to give us a heads-up. If you’re doing this right, it’s going to get messy.

And we know that. We know that people get challenged, chastised, and crucified for doing the right thing every day.

It’s super depressing. But true friends don’t withhold the ugly stuff if they know it’s necessary.

And there’s good news.

As most of you will know, St. Anselm’s own Hyok Kim was ordained with seven others yesterday. It’s such a joy to see that for all the articles about low attendance and financial struggles, the church still has a voice loud enough to call eight people into a new life of priestly and diaconal service.

For all the talk of violence and fear, for all the apathy and doubt and struggle, the church still knows how to get under the ribcage, to pierce the heart, to inspire us to proclaim, “If I say ‘I will not mention God, or speak any more in God’s name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

The Apostle Paul helps us here too. What are we to fear? Death? The living Christ has already taken the sting out of death through his work of healing and his resurrection. This truth was actually a revelation of something already stitched into the fabric of the cosmos: the life cycle of a star; the work of seeds in earth; the fallen nurse log that brings new life to the rainforest right outside our doors; the embracing cycle of water, rising and falling every day to give new life to the whole earth; the cells in our bodies. This is the story of all finite creatures: change is possible, and with change comes death, and with death comes new life. For those of us who are baptized, we have been baptized into Christ’s death, dying to an old life and rising to a new one, pushing through the chrysalis, rising up from dark waters, given new life by his breath at Easter, by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, continually in the bread and wine of this sacred feast we will celebrate together. We have been given the spirit of John the Baptizer, whom we celebrated yesterday, and we should rejoice because our message is even more joyful than his, because John testified to things yet unseen. We testify to things that we may not have seen with our eyes, but that our hearts know to be true: that in the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God,” that in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

So despite all fear, all uncertainty, all violence, the Church lives, and we ourselves are made seeds for the Kingdom of God, the upside-down Kingdom where the walls we put up between each other are cast down, the precious Kingdom where we all care for one another because we know how much we need each other, the wild Kingdom where all give of their gifts and talents to glorify the One who gives us life, the greatest gift.

We are the Church, we have died and we rise, we are called to proclaim and embody this truth, and we can do this.

We can do this because, like in the prayer of consecration for deacons used yesterday over Hyok, we are all rooted and grounded in love.

And Love is our master. Love is our teacher. Love is our healer. Love is our challenger. Love is our willing lamb, dying to give us life.

So take heart.

We can do this, because Jesus is alive.

I’ll close with these words from the Sufi mystic Rumi:

“Remember God so much that you are forgotten.
Let the caller and the called disappear;
be lost in the Call.”


– Preached at St. Anselm’s Church, Vancouver