Archive for February, 2018

Holding Fast Track #4 – Starsail (Comet Version)

Holding Fast Track #3 – Heartwood

“God seeks Covenant,” (Sermon, February 18th, 2018)

I made reference to the Hebrew Bible and Gospel readings in this sermon. They can be found here and here.


This is a full Sunday, friends! Lent 1, Vestry Sunday, Baptism…if there was a scorecard we’d all win.

It’s hard to find just one thread to pull on this one, because despite first impressions there are many common themes to these subjects. But for me, the one that shines through the strongest is covenant.

Our God – the God we honour in Lent, the God we serve in the work of the Church at Vestry, and the one we commit ourselves and our families to in baptism – is a God of covenant.

Let’s explore this.

First point: In the Genesis reading we hear the account of the covenant between Noah and God after the Flood has receded from the earth. We often get so enchanted by the image of the rainbow that we forget that the Hebrew text is quite clear that this is a weapon, an archer’s bow. And God is laying it down. This is a God no longer interested in making Her will manifest through violence and intimidation. This is a God who makes an eternal commitment to nonviolent communication and empowerment, a God choosing to enter into an adult relationship with the earth and its creatures, and modelling for us the way we should behave. What we don’t get in today’s reading is the reason for the Flood, which is given in Chapter 6: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” The God of justice is angered by this, and has every right to be. The ancient Israelite devotion to the oneness of God was so great that they believed good as well as bad came from God’s hand. This might not work for us today, but the story itself is still incredibly radical. God has promised to not send destruction even when we are at our worst. God is not a “tough love” God. God is committed to letting us live with the consequences of our decisions.

God has laid down Her weapon.

That alone should fill us with awe in this day and age.

I always think it’s odd when people criticize the Hebrew Bible as depicting a violent God without remorse. Obviously there are passages that are problematic, but even when the story has God angry enough to destroy everything…She doesn’t. She saves a remnant. You will see this popping up over and over in the Hebrew text: the penitent are forgiven, the broken and poor are lifted up.

Because God is in covenant with us, and the Israelites believed (and still believe) that this covenant with Noah extended to all of humanity. God’s mercy and desire for intimacy is not only for a special few. It is for all of us.

God the Creator seeks covenant.

Second: In the Mark reading for the first Sunday in Lent, Jesus is driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, flung headlong into isolation from humanity…and yet, something amazing takes place, something utterly necessary as bedrock for the work that will follow.

Mark, in his characteristically no-nonsense way, describes in a few sentences what Matthew and Luke take most of a chapter to describe. We do not hear of Jesus’ conversations with Satan. Instead, we learn simply that he was tempted, and was with the wild beasts, and waited on by angels.

Don’t let the sparseness of the text fool you. This is a tremendous statement of faith. Christ, who is built up as a sort of “New Adam” by the Apostle Paul, is sent out into the wilderness to become a bridge between heaven and earth. Here in the desert, which of course is only deceptively barren and really full of secret life, Jesus lives in covenant with wild beasts, who somehow do not do him harm, and is waited on by angels. The word used for “waited on” is diakoneo, which is where we get the word “deacon,” those who assist at the altar. Here Jesus is, like Moses, the priest and prophet in exile. He is filled with the knowledge and power of God’s covenant with all of creation.

No wonder he came back and immediately began to heal and liberate and challenge.

Lent is a time to remember that as our Saviour was driven, so we too are driven by the Spirit into seemingly barren spaces. But do not let the barrenness of your fasting fool you. There is rich, secret life in the desert. You will find yourself remembering what it means to be in covenant with earth and angels. That covenant is invisible, so sometimes we need to walk away from the light pollution of our busy lives to really see it shining through. Like wheat we need winnowing before we can become bread.

Jesus the Christ seeks covenant.

Third: While all of creation is called into covenant with that which is uncreated, those of us who are called to baptism are called to enter into a different covenant. Not better or worse, but different, and deeply prophetic to the world. The Christian commitment made in baptism is that we pledge to enact the truth of God’s redemption of the world with our bodies, minds, and spirits. There are as many ways to do this as there are believers, but the root is the same: we come forward, or are brought forward by those who love us, to be consecrated by God through the Holy Spirit to the work of incarnation, of making the Kingdom of God’s love and justice and reconciliation known not just to those whom we love but to all people.

This is why infant baptism is so prophetic. Today we are saying that God’s power is such that even infants can do this work – not later, but now. On some level we know this is true, but it’s easy to forget. Infants giggle and screech and hold nothing back. They can make strangers smile and transform the hearts of those who love them. They change lives by re-orienting our priorities. They make love and delight blossom where once was cynicism. They do this all without language or conscious thought. Every infant is capable of doing this, but in baptism we not only acknowledge that power, but consecrate it to Christ. We make a decision on behalf of a child – like we do in matters of health, education, and ethics – to empower them for the work of making manifest God’s Kingdom. It’s not up to us what happens next. Really, it’s not even up to them. It’s up to God.

God’s covenant is available to be discovered by an individual any time. But it is only together that we can truly discern God’s will for the Church. Vestry proceeds in the way that it does to honour this truth: that the Spirit comes when she is invited, and is with us whenever we conduct business dedicated to God, even when things don’t go the way we planned. She can still be made known through what we learn from each other, and what our community learns going forward based on past decisions good and bad.

The Holy Spirit seeks covenant.

So, let us honour the God of the covenant: by winnowing ourselves in Lent, by doing our work together as a family, and by baptizing this precious child, called before she was born, to make known this sacred truth: that God is for us, and God is with us, and God loves us beyond measure.

Holding Fast Track #2 – Maybe

Holding Fast Track #1 – Seeds

Imbolc Album Project: Goblin Market