25 December 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Kent G Baker on Flickr.com

Sermon Text:

            This year, in his Christmas message, the Primate (the head of the Anglican Church of Canada) has asked us to consider reflecting on the hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” This is not hard for me to do, because it is one of my favourite Christmas hymns and I have appreciated and thought about it for many years. It is especially important this year as we witness scenes of political upheaval and unrest in Bethlehem today. Perhaps the hymn can have even more meaning for us this year because of this fact. International politics can certainly distract from the true Christmas message. But then so can many of the trappings of a typical secular commercial Christmas.

            Well, it has seemed that the pace of life has just become more and more frantic over the last few weeks. It happens every year, of course, with the Christmas rush rushing through like a freight train travelling at high speed. It’s just that this year somehow that Christmas pre-season seemed to be more compressed – time seems to be moving faster the older I get – and so it has seemed a bit more frantic this year.

It helps remarkably that we as a family have more or less pulled ourselves out of the commercial Christmas game. We never really have done the huge gift-giving that seems so connected to the frantic reality that I witness. Yet, and I don’t know how this happened, but my annual eye exam was booked a year ago to land on yesterday – the day before Christmas Eve, and, you’ll never guess where my optometrist’s office is: Mapleview Mall – yes the very heart of the Babylonian captivity itself!

I expected that I would have to park in Oakville and walk, but I was extremely lucky to get a parking space. I arrived early and as I wasn’t there to buy anything, I was just able to people watch instead. People were waiting in line to see Santa. Many people have all kinds of bundles and gifts. Several – especially the men - had that kind of panicked look on their faces as time inexorably marched on. When it was time to leave the parking lot while I was waiting in line approaching the three-way stop everyone was taking their turn until one woman driving an SUV with a huge red nose on the front grill and with antlers sticking out the sides from the back windows cut in front and was instantly honked by another car. She rolled down her window and made a very rude gesture while she sailed on through the intersection. That image really summed up for me the commercial aspect of the season which provides us with such a complexity of emotions including love of family, impatience with others, and such expectations which probably no one can fully meet

            Thank God that the real meaning of Christmas isn’t complicated at all but is really very simple. It’s the Jesus story – the story of his birth all those centuries ago in Bethlehem.

            In great opposition to the commercial theme of Christmas, the Jesus story is quiet and still and holy. Despite the sound of the glorious anthems and music in Church which I love, despite the words of the readings and the sermon, the message of the Jesus Story is felt, more than understood, in a mysterious and perfectly silent peace. The anthems, the readings, the sermon all simply point to this mystery, they put the mystery into a setting, a container, but the mystery is received in awe and wonder in stillness. For me it is usually sometime during the distribution of Holy Communion that this mystery is received.

            Of all of the Christmas hymns which I knew as a kid, it was “O Little Town of Bethlehem” which spoke to me the most. I felt its truth. “Above [Bethlehem’s] deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.” Yes, that was right to me. Most of our life was like a dark and dreamless sleep when compared to the light of those silent stars and the truth to which they witnessed. And, yes, yet in our dark streets shines “the everlasting light.” Yes, holy things aren’t  apart from the everyday, but the everlasting light shines in the midst of it all - sometimes invisibly, it seems, and yet perceivable. The lesson from Isaiah speaks of this light when it starts off, saying, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined.”

            Essential to the deep truth of this hymn are the words about, ‘how silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given’, and though, “no ear may hear his coming, ... where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.” And the hymn ends with, “O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”  Emmanuel meaning “God with us.”

            I must have been around eight  when I remember really listening to the words of that hymn. I was left awe-struck by them. They were so real and true and deep. They left me feeling so excited and with a sense of immense privilege that God, who I had always assumed was far too great to be concerned with petty human affairs, actually rushed in to be with us - to abide with us.

            Of course it wasn’t something which my eight-year-old brain really understood: how exactly did it all work? But then, today, it is equally not something which my 57-year-old brain really understands either. But even at the age of eight I knew that the truth of this mystery was something which can be known without having all the facts along with diagrams and a flowchart to explain it all.

            This Jesus story is deep and true and meaningful – in stark contrast to the commercialism of a secular Christmas.

            It has only been in the years since I was eight that I have come to a fuller appreciation of the mystery. I’ve learned some new words and read of some new images. Incarnation is probably the most helpful word to point toward the mystery. Anyone who knows Spanish knows that “Carne” means meat. In-carn-ation, then, means that God became flesh, or human. How and why God did that is certainly a mystery, but one which can be grasped at if one can begin to imagine the great love that God has for us. God is a lover whose love is so great that he wants to be right with us.

            And God did it in the most amazing way - he came to us in the greatest humility - as a newborn baby. And not any baby - a baby born in the deepest poverty - laid in the animal’s feeding trough instead            of a cradle. And the message was heard not by the royalty and the wealthy of the land, but by the humblest of people - the shepherds who lived outdoors with the animals which they looked after. This God, wanting to include everyone, came to us as the humblest so that no one should be left out.

            As a kid, it would be after the late Christmas Eve service as I went outside with my family that I would always look up hoping that there would be no clouds and I would see the silent stars going by. For me, no matter where I lived, it was Bethlehem, and the great mystery had just taken place that night.

            The deepest, truest part of that hymn is in the prayer of the fourth verse which prays to the holy child of Bethlehem to descend to us and be born in us today. God comes to us not only in the child born two thousand years ago, but he comes to us again and again, born in human hearts today. I have witnessed this amazing mystery of others being Jesus to me throughout my life. But more astounding than that is the thought, for each of us, that the holy child of Bethlehem is not only born in others, but is born even in ourselves.

            I wish you all a joyous Christmas as we celebrate the true story: the Jesus story. May you truly experience the Jesus story this year. “O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”

21 December 2017

Advent 3B 2017

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Holly Hayes on Flickr.com

03 December 2017

Advent Carol Service 2017

Luke 1: 26-38 - The Annunciation
Sermon by Canon Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: John William Waterhous - Waiting for the Word on Flickr.com

26 November 2017

Reign of Christ 2017

Reign of Christ Sermon Podcast by the Rev. Holly Klemmensen
Photo Credit: Stephen Little on Flickr.com

19 November 2017

Proper 33A 2017 - Legacy Society

Sermon by the Rev. Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Olivier Terrier on Flickr.com

12 November 2017

Remembrance Sunday 2017

Sermon by the Rev. James Glass

Photo Credit: Stuart Pike on Flickr.com

05 November 2017

Proper 32A - Spirituality and the Means of Grace

Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Pamela Couture
Photo Credit: Warren Rachel on Flickr.com

29 October 2017

All Saints Sunday

Sermon by the Rev. Holly Klemmensen
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr.com

Feast of St. Luke

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Fr. Lawrence Lew O.P on Flickr.com

15 October 2017

Proper 28 A - 2017 - A Guest at God's Banquet

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike

Photo Credit: Slices of Light on Flickr.com

08 October 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving Sermon by the Reverend Holly Klemmensen
Photo Credit: Pinké on Flickr.com

01 October 2017

Harvest Festival Sunday

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Chelmsfordblue on Flickr.com

24 September 2017

Proper 25 A 2017 - Working in the vineyard

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike

Photo Credit: ~Pil~ on Flickr.com

17 September 2017

Proper 24 A 2017

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike.
Photo Credit: Christian Fausto Bernal on Flickr.com

03 September 2017

Proper 22 A 2017

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Georgie Sharp on Flickr.com

27 August 2017

Proper 21 A 2017- Who do you say I am?

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Babak Fakhamzadeh on Flickr.com

20 August 2017

Proper 20 A 2017 - Even the Dogs

Sermon by Canon Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Wendy on Flickr.com

13 August 2017

Proper 19A 2017 - Walking on Water

Sermon by Canon Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Andrew Bennett on Flickr.com

06 August 2017

Transfiguration Sunday 2017

Sermon by Canon Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Carulmare on Flickr.com

28 June 2017

Pentecost 3 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Holly Klemmensen
Photo Credit: Pilottage on Flickr.com

18 June 2017

National Indigenous Sunday 2017

Sermon by Canon Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Andy Purviance on Flickr.com

11 June 2017

Trinity A 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Sheila Plant
Photo Credit: SSJE on Flickr.com

Pentecost 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Father Lawrence Lew O.P. on Flickr.com

28 May 2017

Ascension Sunday 2017

Children's Talk by the Rev. Elliott Siteman
Photo Credit: Stuart Pike on Flickr.com

Easter 6 A

Sermon by the Rev. Canon Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Stanley Zimney on Flickr.com

07 May 2017

2017 El Hogar Mission Trip

Mission Trip Report from Rick and Ros Reycraft and Janice Skafel.
El Hogar in Honduras is a ministry of the Anglican Diocese of Honduras supported by many Anglicans across North America including lots of us from St. Luke's.
Photo Credit: Janice Skafel

ALSO: For a picture video which the team has put together, please click on this link.

30 April 2017

Easter 3A 2017

Sermon by Canon H. Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Waiting for the Word on Flickr.com

23 April 2017

Easter 2 A 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Holly Klemmensen
Photo Credit: Caravaggio - Rodney on Flickr.com

16 April 2017

Easter Day 2017

Sermon by Stuart Pike
Photo Credit: Ken Ratcliff on Flickr.com

Sermon Text:

I really like roller coasters. Always have. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline rush brought on by every instinct in your body telling you: you’re gonna die now! And yet, in the end, actually cheating death!

It has been a long time since I’ve been to Canada’s Wonderland. I remember that it was the year we moved to St. Luke’s that they opened the new coaster, Behemoth. Louisa and her friends were elsewhere in the park and I waited, alone with a gazillion teenagers in a line that seemed to take forever as I unwillingly eavesdropped on teenage conversations about who had broken up with whom and dozens of more intrigue. After finally getting on, the train started up the incredibly long first hill and then it seems like a bit of a time dilation right at the top – a hesitation – just before going over the edge.

I had never experienced anything like it. It felt like it was more than a 90 degree angle as we plummeted over the edge. We’re gonna die now, I thought, and as we were about half-way down that first insane drop I said to myself, “If I survive this, I’ll never have to do it again!” as I clung on for dear life. And then we swooped and spun and felt the g and negative g forces over and over for the duration of the ride. I finally poured myself out of the car and with wobbly legs, headed first for the exit, and then straight over to the line-up to do it all again!

A roller-coaster, I realize is a good analogy for this past week: Holy Week, with it’s highs and lows. We started out the week with the high of Jesus’ triumphal, yet humble, procession into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey on Palm Sunday. The crowds were eager to welcome him, waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna”, hailing him as their King. In the same service, after our procession into the Church we read the story of Jesus’ passion, taking us through his trial, humiliation, torture and execution on the cross. And we have had services every day of the past week, telling the story of his last days before his death.

Thursday, we had a simple but celebratory meal together, marking Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, and then switched gears as we stooped to wash feet, following Jesus’ example and ending in the Church, following Eucharist, with the stripping and washing of the altar, leaving the front of this Church bare and barren in preparation for the starkness of Good Friday.

Friday we went through the story of Jesus’ crucifixion bringing up symbols of Jesus’ passion throughout the service right up to the closing of the tomb with a heavy stone. That was the lowest of the low as we left that service. And then last night we celebrated the Easter Vigil with the darkness of the empty Church filling with people and their lighted candles and darkness was transformed into light. We even celebrated an adult baptism last night and remembered our own baptism as we were asperged with water from the sacred font. What an incredible high.

And today, again, we started out with Mary in the depths of despair. I’m sure that she thought things could not be worse when she made her way to the tomb when it was so early that it was still dark. And yet, when she gets there, it is worse: even the dead body of her Lord has been taken from her: stolen, she thinks. Once again we are rock bottom in the story. And then, with one word spoken: her own name, “Mary” we are brought right back up to the highest high again as Mary realizes that Jesus is alive! Hallelujah! He’s alive! What could be higher than this news?

Yes, holy week is a roller coaster with many ups and downs. But it ends on the highest high. Jesus is alive!

And then, when I reflect further on it, I realize that Holy Week is a microcosm of our own lives too. Our lives are like a roller coaster as well. We have all experienced the lows and the highs. And sometimes, when we’re in a low spot it is hard to imagine how we’re going to get out and up on the other side.

When I think of what we see every year, I recognize how many people have been living those ups and downs. Just thinking in terms of life liturgies, we’ve seen baptism over this past year, the most recent one being the parishioner who was baptized last night. We’ve celebrated many weddings, and this year, that same parishioner baptized last night will also be wed to his fiancée, another parishioner here, this summer.

Every All Saints Day we remember the names of those who have died who either had their funeral here or at the funeral home, officiated by one of our clergy. This past All Saints Day we remembered 54 names!

And in between the celebrations of birth, and marriage and the remembering of death, we’ve prayed with and for people at every stage of their life: anointing the sick and the dying, visiting the aged, visiting the prisoner. Celebrating with people in their new home and welcoming the homeless to share a nourishing meal with us. And we have welcomed a family of refugees and helped them to start the process of integration into Burlington and to a new life and a new chance at peace.

When I think of the past year and when I look out and see all of the people who have come to us to celebrate this Easter service, I realize that Holy Week is such a central story for us because all of us have experienced it (or at least a lot of it) in our own lives or the lives of those we love.

Yesterday I visited and anointed a parishioner who just moved into the Hospice for the last of his days and then I went to the funeral of a former parishioner of ours and heard some of the story of his life.  Another parishioner of ours lost her mother on Good Friday.

Next month, I will celebrate at the joyous wedding of a fine gentleman who is in his mid-seventies.

Over this past year, I have seen the same mix of emotions play over the faces of people as Mary had, when she thought her Lord’s body had been stolen, and also when she realized that he was alive.

But today is Easter Day: the day we remember that it all ends on the highest of highs because: life doesn’t ultimately end. Because Jesus has risen, he opened to us everlasting life.

Now looking out over you all, I know that even on this Easter Day, some of you are at different places in the Holy Week of your lives. Some of you are at the celebratory feast in the upper room. And some of you are in the depths of Good Friday, or at the starkness of the empty tomb. But I am here to proclaim to all of us, no matter where we are in our journey that it ends in glory because, ultimately the end isn’t an end at all, but a new and joyous beginning which defeats even death. Jesus is alive!

Now it wasn’t for another few years after I experienced the Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland, that they built an even bigger roller coaster called Leviathan. It was my niece, Rebecca, who taught me the proper way to ride a roller coaster, because I was sitting just behind her. I was in my Behemoth position, hanging on for dear life. But there was my niece showing me the way it’s done - taking what I call the Pentecostal position. Both hands raised up, right through the ups and downs, staring down fear, cheating death, laughing with glee.

The Pentecostal position at Easter: arms raised, laughing, shouting with joy, ending on the high: Hallelujah! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Hallelujah! Amen.

15 April 2017

Easter Vigil

Sermon by the Rev. Elliott Siteman
Photo Credit:Thys on Flickr.com

Palm/Passion Sunday 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Holly Klemmensen
Photo Credit: Anne Frye on Flickr.com

04 April 2017

Lent 5 - 2017

Sermon by Jody Balint
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr.com

26 March 2017

Lent 4 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Elliott Siteman
Photo Credit: Susan von Struensee on Flickr.com