Rev. Alex Wilson
February 25, 2018
Rev. Alex Wilson

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Mark 8: 31-38

Do you remember when you and I first met? I remember when I first met you. I was scared and so nervous. I had no idea what I was doing, and there was so much energy in the space here that I had to get out to calm down. The only place no one could find me was outside the door to the carpark, and it was glorious. I was able to see the world around this parish, all the cars that drive by, the runners and families who walk past. I waved at each of them as they drove or ran past, one even ran over to ask if I was a ghost dressed in this white robe with black glasses. Slowly, as the weeks became months and years I met you at the door. We said hello, shook hands, and my heart leapt with delight to see you. I struggled with your name and you responded with patience and grace. What started as my own stress relieving, has become a hallmark of this community, with our greeters, curate, welcome team, and choir often joining me outside waiting to say hello to a new and old face, a new relationship, a new gift of God's grace amoung us. The day you and I met, changed my life. You have supported, challenged, prayed, sung, offered, and given thanks with me in this last year. You have built stronger relationships and been challenged with new ones. Together we have found ways to stay close to the cross of Christ, which is a relationship that continues to transform our community.

In our Gospel this morning, Mark continues his frank assessment of community life- its hard, its full of rejection, and at the end there is death. If that doesn't get you thrilled for vestry, I don't know what else will! Yet there is some truth there, for the listeners of Mark would know intimately what he is talking about. The community of Marks time would be intimately tied to the hierarchical nature of the temple and secular authorities. They’d know that life meant keeping both those parties happy, taxes paid, and minding your own business- yet here they are following this man who is telling them to give up their comforts and self interests, to take up their cross and follow him for his sake and the sake of the gospel. While it may feel nice and cute to hear a story like this mornings, in a world where we have more control than our predecessors ever did over our everyday lives, we have for sixty five years been leaning into this truth: that we can’t live our lives without being in relationship which is grounded in our proximity to the cross, for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

In the last year we have leaned into these relationships deeply. We have prayed, anointed, celebrated, grieved, taught, given, ordained, learned, taught, struggled, and sang. We have started things, stopped things, tried things, failed at things. The source of our last year has remained the cross of christ, the ultimate symbol of life and constant reminder of our own transformations into God’s vocation for our lives. In our proximity to the cross we are reminded that in taking it up and following Christ we are continually asked to build on our abilities, weaknesses and strengths, to listen with the ear of our hearts, and to follow the nudging of the spirit into new waters which means we become more aware of who and what we are. It is this awareness that brings about the deaths of ourselves and new life into Christ, which is not to suggest we just ignore who and what we are, rather it is the constant recognition within ourselves that we can not do this alone. We need each other, we need this community. At the cross of Christ we find the intersection of relationship which calls us into the fullness of life we find in community here in this place through our baptism.

Through that baptism, and via the intimacy of Christ’s cross in our lives, we continued our commitment to the neighbourhood ministry and the relationship we have with our sister parishes as well as those people who call our streets home. We met, fed, clothed, tended to healthcare and housing needs, and shared conversation with many different people. We gave of our time and talents to ensure they were warm in the winter, and aware that someone knew who they were and cared about them. We helped initiate the angles program, and the mobile care unit. We continue to transform and be transformed by the powerful witness this ministry is for us. We started our life groups, Meeting together to Learn to inform ourselves through fellowship for the evangelization of world through the gospel. We have held town halls, in which we have asked the hard questions about ministries, liturgy, and a theology of money, all of which will help inform a ministry plan for the next five years. We have leaned into a burgeoning mission statement from Matthew’s gospel which implores us to go and make disciples, to go and make relationships with those around us. We have ordained a new deacon for Christ’s church, held parities, fairs, concerts and fundraisers. We partnered with Early Music Vancouver to offer three concerts a year, one held just last night. We have hosted coffee hours no one wants to leave, marked our year with baptismal renewals and prayed for God's vision in this place to become clear to us. Our vestry marks a momentous moment in our common life where we are able to celebrate the incredible gifts of our wardens Peg and Shirin, as they pass the mantle of leadership to a new generation. As peg and shirin pass on the authority we have given them to represent us, we look with anticipation and thanksgiving for the new places of ministry that they will both serve. The Church continues to grow, and our relationships deepen. This has been hard, and at times frustrating work as we grow together in relationship.

In our year ahead there are three areas I want us to focus on in an effort to remain ever close to the cross of Christ: Stewardship; community; ministry.

  • Stewardship: Over the next few weeks we will start to hear some of us sharing a short reflection about what this parish means to them and why they contribute their money to this parish. This will be followed up with an intention letter from me, which provides some background and space for us to think about of financial commitments to this parish in the next year. This is not about keeping me employed or the building up. This is about our commitment to the parish which is based proportionally on our abilities. No one is less welcome for being unable to give financially, however this program will give us the space think about what God's place in our finances and our vocation as christians with those finances might be for 2018. This will be connected to a fall fellowship gathering where we will talk about our ministries and how we are being stewards of the riches we are given in our time and talents for the propagation of the Gospel in this place. There will be an abundance of support, time, and room in this for everyone to engage as they are able. I invite you into a relationship with your resources as a steward of God’s creation in this place this year.
  • Community: In the coming year we will have new opportunities to come together for fun and community, some of which I want to hear about from you. What is something you want to try this year. Do you have a theme for a social gathering? Want to host some parishioners for dinner? Start a life group? How do you want to be in relationship with each other between monday and saturday? This question is not about how the vicar can do more, or a wish someone would do it. This is about you and I partnering together to offer space which fully engages you, brings you fully alive and uses the beautiful talents God has given you to the growth, expansion, and mentoring of this parish. This has been a year of increased investment in community. I want to hear more about how God is moving within you, to challenge you, to work towards something within this space. I invite you into a relationship of vision and dreaming about life in community this year. Come and see, there is space for you at the table.
  • Ministry: In the coming year I want to lean into our developing sense of ministry to the wider neighbourhood and sister parishes. My vision is that our parish develops into a laboratory for new ideas to flourish in ministry. Where we take informed risks on something good, in the hopes of something big. Where we lean into the discomfort and safety of failure because even there we meet Christ, while learning how better to serve our community. Where we open our doors wide to our neighbours to come and be, to encounter, to hear, to listen, to speak, and to be nurtured. We will have increased opportunities to pray with our ministerial colleagues during special evening events this year including Good Friday, Pentecost, and Reign of Christ. How do you want to transform the community we serve through your baptismal ministry. What do you want to be part of it? What gets you excited about being here, and how are you going to say yes to participating in that this year? I invite you into a relationship of ministry this year. Come and transform the world because of how this place has transformed your life.

Come and encounter the relationship of this next year first hand, not for our own vainglory but for the sake of Christ and the sake of the Gospel. It is for this very reason that I am convinced we continue to grow and expand in our ministry, because of our total dependence on this relationship with Christ and his gospel. It is in this counter cultural kind of dependance, relying on Christ rather than our own glory, that we see and understand the denial Christ is talking about in taking up our crosses and following him. It is about knowing that we are built for relationship and that none of this can happen by one or two people alone. We are baptized in order to baptize others. We gather in order to support, nurture, and grow. Baptism brings us into the closest proximity to the cross, in order to start our lives not finish them. The ministry of Christ, given to us in the intimacy of our intersectional relationship at the foot of the cross, calls us out of our isolation and fears and into the wider joy of service through community.

Come, see, and taste this year what this relationship is all about. Come, see and taste, what God is calling you to do with your life. Come, see, and taste as stewards of ministry and community. Come and see for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel. Come and see a way of life which is grounded in transformed community. Come and see! Come and see! Come and see!