Slideshow image

Dear Friends in Valhalla Parish—

This week, my Facebook news feed popped up with a memory that's now twelve years old. It's the picture of the front page of Cross Talk, the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa's newspaper. The headline reads

"The gospel is always astonishing, synod told."

The article goes on to summarize the keynote presentations from Bill Cliff, now bishop of the Diocese of Brandon, but at that time, chaplain at Huron College in London, Ontario.

Every year, when the Technological Overlords remind me of this headline, a smile comes to my face. This is an awfully dry headline for some incredible news. It's just so...Anglican.

The gospel is astonishing. It is transformative.

For those of us who have been part of the church for a long time (and for those of us who have discovered the way of Jesus) this should not be news. And yet how often do we treat it as mundane? How often do we wake up in the morning thinking "you know what, the gospel really is astonishing. How might I live as though I believe it today?" 

This morning after re-reading the headline, I wrote these words. I wrote them more as a reminder for myself than anything. But then I wondered how you might respond if I shared them with you—the beloved Valhalla Parish community.

I wonder how they move you. I wonder how they sit with you. Do they resonate? What questions to these short reflections bring up? Please don't hesitate to send me a note or give me a call, or to chat after Sunday's service in Castlegar. I'd love to hear what you're thinking. 

I hope that as you read these reflections, you pay attention to what they stir in you, how you react, what you push back on, what you embrace. And I hope that you share your thoughts with me. I hope that we can use these reflections as a jumping-off point for deeper conversation and action.

Week by week in advent, we are entering ever more deeply into one of the great deep mysteries of our Christian faith—the mystery of the incarnation. The story of God amongst us is as mysterious as it is astonishing. As we take one more step on this journey before we finally arrive with Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and angels in Bethlehem, may we open our hearts to astonishment again this year.

The gospel is always astonishing

Imagine that.
No really, imagine that.
What if we actually believed that the Gospel was astonishing?
What if we lived astonished lives?
What if we lived in awe at the beauty and mystery
of God-who-walks-amongst us

And perhaps we do. 
Perhaps we do believe it. 
On our better days we believe it.
On our better days we live that way.
And then there are the other days
when neither the urgency
nor the astonishment
feel quite so great.
What if we lived as though the Gospel changes everything?
Starting with ourselves, starting with our hearts,
that whisper of faith that takes our hearts by storm,
rippling outwards and outwards in the world,
transforming our actions and relationships,
our ways of being, our ways of knowing, our ways of acting.

What if we lived as though the Gospel changes everything?
Lives lived in pursuit
   of God-breathed wholeness
Communities gathered in and marked by the pursuit
   of God-breathed justice

What if our communities were so energized
   by this story that we would drop everything
   to pursue this way of living:

A way of living that reassures
   all people, all creatures, all creation that they are enough,

The God of Creation has an open secret to share:
   You are beautiful, you are enough.

That the ones who believe they are bigger, better, stronger,
   be brought in humility to their knees,
That the ones who believe they are smaller, worse, weaker,
   be brought in wholeness to their feet

That we together, hand in hand, arm in arm,
   gathered round the table, 
   gathered round the suffering,
   gathered round the sick
   gathered round the bereaved
   gathered round the prisoner,
   gathered round the outcast,
   gathered round the hungry 
   gathered round the sad, the isolated, the alone,
   gathered round the accused
   gathered round the refugee
   gathered round the one far from home
That we together, hand in hand, arm in arm,
   believe that restoration is possible
   believe that wholeness is possible
   believe that justice is possible,
   believe that another world is possible,
      and live in such a way as to make it so
      through the power of the astonishing gospel

A gospel that proclaims and embodies 
   a world where all know that they are enough
   (not more, not less)
A gospel that proclaims and embodies 
   a world where all have enough
   (not more, not less)
A place to sleep. A place to eat.
A place of safety and warmth and trust.
A place to gather with friends, to share in life's gifts,
A place to gather with strangers,
   to be transformed by our encounters,
A place to gather, to conspire, to go out,
   transformed by our encounters with God,
    transformed by our encounters with one another,
A place to come together in humility,
A place to come together, to build each other up
   as we take on the injustice of our world,
   the sadness of our world
   the poverties of our world
   the exclusions of our world
And hold it all in loving embrace.
What if we were so astonished,
   so transformed, that we couldn't help but live
   in ways that image, in ways that embody
   that astonishment, that declare that astonishment,
   at what is possible, what new world is possible,
   what liberation is possible,
   if only we would open our eyes

So let us open our eyes!

Let our astonished hearts be awakened
   to a new world, a new way of living, a new way of being,
   that is about to be
   that has already been
   that is always being