I am Michael Fuller, Rector of St. John's. I will be sharing my thoughts with you week by week here.
It is still uncertain when Christians first began to make an annual (as opposed to a weekly) memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ. This Pascha was at first a night-long vigil, followed by the celebration of the Eucharist at cock-crow, and all the great themes of redemption were included within it: incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, glorification. Over time, the Pascha developed into the articulated structure of Holy Week and Easter. Through participation in the whole sequence of services, the Christian shares in Christ’s own journey, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the empty tomb on Easter morning. It is this that we invite you to participate in this year.
The procession with palms, already observed in Jerusalem in the fourth century, is accompanied by the reading of the Passion Narrative, in which the whole story of the week is anticipated. We shall observe this on Palm Sunday at 10am as we begin our service in the Trendell Lounge with the blessing of the palms and then walk in procession and into the west end of the church carrying our palms. During the Ministry of the Word we shall hear the dramatic reading of the Passion.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7pm you are invited, as part of your Holy Week journey, to be with us for a said Eucharist.
Maundy Thursday (from mandatum, ‘commandment’) contains a rich complex of themes: humble Christian service expressed through Christ’s washing of His disciples’ feet, the institution of the Eucharist, the perfection of Christ’s loving obedience through the agony of Gethsemane. We shall hold our Last Supper Eucharist at 8pm and our Bishop, The Right Reverend Michael Ingham, will lead our re-enactment of this event. The church is finally stripped of all decoration. At the end of this service the Sacrament that has been reserved for Good Friday is taken to the side chapel which will have been set up to remind us of the garden of Gethsemane and you are invited to remain there in quiet prayer for as long as you want to. The vigil watch will finish at 10.30 pm.
After keeping vigil (‘Could you not watch with me one hour?’) Thursday passes into Good Friday. We begin at 10.30am with a special Interactive Family Service -- do please make this widely known. Then at 12 noon we meet for the Liturgy of the Day with its characteristic episodes. The Bishop will lead us in a sequence of meditations and music and after this there will be the Veneration of the Cross, signifying our humility. It is a widespread custom for there not to be a celebration of the Eucharist on Good Friday, but for the consecrated bread remaining from the Maundy Thursday Eucharist to be given in communion. For the 10:00am Palm Sunday service we will be joined by our neighbours from St. Faith’s.
The church remains stripped of all decoration and continues bare and empty through the following day, which is a day without liturgy: there can be no adequate way of recalling the being dead of the Son of God, other than silence and desolation. We will however meet at 9am for Prayers at the Tomb. After this the decoration of the church will begin.
But within the silence there grows a sense of peace and completion, and then rising excitement as the Easter Vigil draws near. At 8pm we shall gather for the most beautiful and oldest of all the Christian liturgies. We shall light the new Easter fire, bless the candle and greet the Risen Christ. On Easter Day we will have our usual services at 8am and 10am. There will be a Baptism at the 10am service and in the evening at 7pm there will be Choral Evensong including the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis ("Mag & Nunc") of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.
This is an opportunity to deepen our spiritual lives and experience some of the richness of our liturgy. It is a time that requires discipline so often missing from our discipleship. Please do join us for as much as you are able.
I am often asked about things that we do in the service (Liturgy) and why we do it? This week someone asked why is the hymn before the Gospel called the 'Gradual' and why is the Gospel not read from the lectern? The two are related. The hymn between the reading of the New Testament lesson and the reading of the Gospel known as the gradual and the word is derived from the Latin for step, gradus. By tradition it was read from the second step from the top in the sanctuary, today we step down from the sanctuary and use all the steps to bring the word of God in the form of the story of Jesus, coming among his people as told by the writers of the four Gospels. We turn to face the reader so we can clearly hear what is being read. Do you have a question? Why not ask me, or send me an email!
My personal thought is that prayer is the key to our walk with God; it's what Jesus did all the time during His ministry and who are we not to follow His example? To this end I am introducing, starting 5.30 pm Tuesday 26 February, the 'Office' of Evening Prayer and unlike Morning Prayer, this will follow the order set out in the Book of Common Prayer. The service, which will be largely said, although occasionally there will be a hymn, will be at 5.30pm Monday - Saturday and will last for just over 15 minutes. Please join me if you are able to or even make an effort to. This means that our pattern of services during the week will be Morning Prayer at 8am, Monday - Saturday, Evening Prayer as stated; and Holy Communion on Thursdays at 11am, followed by coffee in my vestry.
If Christ had followed any one of the temptations recorded in Luke's Gospel, the immediate result might not have seemed so great, but the overall results would have been disastrous - Jesus would have been another fallen human like us, unable to redeem anyone, and the mission would have been ruined by the devil. But that was not going to happen, for the Father sent the Son into the world to redeem us, and by doing that He had to conquer Satan. So here the devil is defeated, but only momentarily! The final defeat over sin and evil however came with the Cross.
All we have to do is claim that victory.
This Week's Gospel Reading Luke 5:1-11
As we look at this passage we might be tempted to think that the meaning of this passage for us is some sort of call, let me be very clear in what I think the text does not mean. THIS TEXT IS NOT TEACHING THAT THOSE WHO ARE MOST COMMITTED TO CHRIST MUST LEAVE THEIR SECULAR JOBS TO BE HIS DISCIPLES. There are far too many Christians who seem to feel like second class Christians because they are not in “full-time Christian service.” There are many who have entered into “full-time Christian service” on the misguided premise that this would make them more significant, spiritual Christians. The Bible does not teach this, and our text does not teach this, though some may wrongly conclude that it does.
Didn’t the disciples have to leave their (secular) jobs in order to follow Jesus? They most certainly did. But why? At this point in time, Jesus was (only) physically present on the earth. If Jesus were to have His disciples with Him and He was called to preach the good news of the kingdom of God far and wide, then there is no way that these fishermen could continue their fishing career in the Sea of Galilee. But what we must see is that after our Lord’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension, He is now spiritually present with all saints through His Holy Spirit. While we may need to leave our homes or our employment to obey His leading and to proclaim the gospel, we do not need to leave anything in order for Him to be in and with us.
On Wednesday St John's were privileged to host a meeting of the Compass Rose Society, a relief organisation administered directly by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I would like to especially thank Robyn Woodward, Nancy Southam, Louise Hadley and Margaret Couch for their amazing work in hosting the evening. It was wonderful to welcome people back to St Johns, some of whom had not been here for over ten years. If you look carefully in the entrance lobby/baptistry in the church you will see that I have put my Compass Rose Tile on the wall; this was given to me some 25 years ago by the then Secretary General of the Society who explained that the tiles are made in Jerusalem, near the station of the cross on the Via Crucis where Saint Veronica wiped the face of Jesus, this reminds us that we are challenged, as a parish, to continue daily to wipe the face of Jesus in our community.
Further information on the Society may be found at its website.
Mary said, “He has filled the hungry with good things”
We have in Mary’s story what one might call the second creation story in the Bible. Again it is a creation that is ex nihilo, or out of nothing. Mary is the one quite willing to be the nothing.
God does not need worthiness ahead of time; God creates worthiness by the choice itself. And as I have said many other times, “God does not love us because we are good; we are good because God loves us.” It seems God will not come into the world un-received or uninvited. God is gentle and does not come into our world unless we actually want God.
‘Presence’ is a reciprocal or mutual encounter. One can give it, but it has to be received or there is no presence. For many Christians, Mary is indeed the model of how “real presence” effectively happens. It is not just through a priest’s making the bread holy, but by the transformation of the persons who eat that bread.
Advent asks us to reflect more intentionally on Jesus' future glorious return. I am increasingly convinced that embracing Advent will lead to a life of courageous vulnerability and self-disclosure. When the Lord comes, He “will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) In other words, anytime we hide, conceal or refuse to tell the truth, we go against the grain of where all creation is headed. That is why Advent challenges us to be more vulnerable, transparent and self-disclosing.
But this is hard in a world that teaches us to hide. We have so many unhealed wounds and the masks we wear and the lies we tell are our best attempts to cover those wounds.
As a child someone would apply ointment and a bandage when we skinned our knee because we know the value of binding up physical wounds. But emotional and spiritual wounds are different. Our spirits get “cut” early on by nasty words, neglect, rejection, smothering and abuse.
We learn to “soldier on” and medicate those wounds ourselves. We do this by adopting a persona we think will shield us from getting hurt again. We become people-pleasers or cynics or sycophants or rebels or performers or ‘religious’ or just plain pains in the rear-end. We become someone other than the naked, authentic, fully exposed, façade-free, fully-alive human that God created us to be. This is why there is no such thing as “spiritual formation,” only spiritual re-formation. We came into the world naked and have clothed ourselves with masks. Unless we change and become like children, we will not enter the Kingdom.
Speaking of Jesus, the author of Hebrews writes: “before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (Hebrews 4:13) This means a day will surely come when all masks will fall off, all wounds be exposed and healed, all wrongs be made right and all secrets revealed. That is why Advent is an invitation to a life of courageous vulnerability.
And so “take on” showing more of your scars to others this Advent. When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples, one of the first things he did was show them his scars. (John 20:20) We who have been raised with Christ in baptism must be in the habit of doing the same. Talk about your mistakes. Laugh at them. Cry about them. But tell the truth about them.
After all, when the Lord returns, he will “heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3) What a tragedy it would be to miss out on that glorious day because we were still committed to deluding ourselves, Jesus and everyone else that we’re really OK and not all that sick or hurting in the first place and that we’ll be “just fine,” thank you very much, soldiering on alone.
The Celebration of All Saints and All Souls
This Sunday we are celebrating All Saints Day, transferred from the 1st November. In Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained their place in Heaven, having followed and exemplified Jesus on earth. As a child I can remember this being a national holiday so significant is this day. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the following day specifically commemorates the departed faithful. We who celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in those in heaven (the 'Church triumphant'), and the living (the 'Church militant'). We also acknowledge that the word "saint" refers to all Christians and therefore, on All Saints' Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honoured and remembered.
It is said that we remember in order not to relive and never is that more true when it comes to the great wars of this world. We do not remember to glorify war but to pledge ourselves to work for peace. Next Sunday is Remembrance Sunday and during the 10am Eucharist we shall hold, as close to 11am as we can, an act of remembrance, we shall lay a wreath in memory of those who died, keep silence in their honour and commit ourselves to working for the peace that brave people gave their lives for. Coming to Canada has reminded me of the extraordinary braveness of the Canadians who fought, so far from home, for peace in the two great wars and in subsequent conflicts. “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, we shall remember them”.
Sunday November 11, 2012 Chor Leoni Remembrance Day Concert 7.30pm
Chor Leoni’s Intonations of Immortality explores through music and poetry the ephemeral vitality that lives on in collective memory and truly immortalizes individuals once they are gone. Featuring the premiere of a work by Peter Togni, and beautiful works by Smith, Lauridsen, Lennox, Thompson, and more, this concert offers a musical progression through grief and sorrow onward to consolation and joy.
TICKETS for this performance: Adults $30 | Seniors $25 | Student (with valid ID) $15. Use this convenient method to order tickets by telephone at 1.800.838.3006
Immediately after Christmas it is my intention to launch the book club. The first book is here and available for those who wish to join. We shall meet on Wednesdays in the library on the first Wednesday in each month at 7.30pm. There will be light refreshments (i.e. Coffee, wine, biscuits) and the group will finish at about 9pm
Mass Anglican Choir
On December 8 a group known as the Mass Anglican Choir is performing Handel’s Messiah at St John’s at 8pm. This wonderful Oratorio would be a great addition to our Advent observance. Full details are not to hand yet, but as soon as they are I will post them. Webmaster's note: now moved to Canadian Memorial United, 1825 West 16th Ave.
New Youth Ministry Coordinator
We welcome Kate Newman as our new Youth Ministry Coordinator is the Principal Developer for the 2012 Sunday School Curriculum for the National Church of Canada, The Compendium of the Church Mice. She has been working with children and youth in the Anglican Church for twelve years. For the past 6 years, Kate worked as the Coordinator of Youth Children and Families at Christ Church Cathedral where, after hard work and the strong support of the congregation and clergy, the Children’s Church attendance tripled.
A cradle Anglican from Victoria, Kate is delighted to be at St. John’s with an inspiring group of people. Kate taught her very first Sunday School class at St. John’s in the 90s. Afterward, Kate travelled to the heart of the city with some of the core members of L’Arche Greater Vancouver. This experience inspired her to begin teaching at St. James in the Downtown Eastside. An Anglican at heart, Kate has shared Communion at diverse Anglican altars and has always been welcomed back with a smile.
Kate extends an invitation to you to work alongside her to create a strong, Spirit-filled ministry for children youth and families here in our community. Please continue to hold the Ministry for Children, Youth and Families in your daily prayers. And don’t forget to bring children! Kate knows how to connect to all kinds of children; as well as working with children and youth in church; Kate is a Fine Arts Instructor in the secular school system. Kate has been part of the arts in Vancouver in both live performance and most recently in visual arts; her digital illustration for children will be shown at the Pop-Up Gallery on Broadway this month. Every Spring Kate puts 120 children on stage in New Westminster. In Spring 2013, you are welcome to take the Sky train and be part of the fun at the Columbia Theatre. Kate has a Masters Degree in Education and has studied film, and puppetry. Kate is a mother and currently lives with her family in downtown Vancouver.
New Musical Director
I am pleased also to announce the appointment of Michael Dirk as our new Musical Director. Michael is a native of Kelowna and has played and studied extensively in B.C. and Europe; he comes to us from Holy Trinity Anglican Church here in Vancouver. For one so young he brings a wealth of experience including being trained under Ed Norman here in St John’s Church. He is an Executive member of the Royal Canadian College of Organists and very much involved in local music. He is engaged to be married next year to Annabelle Ip, who is a percussionist. Michael will begin his duties on December 2, Advent Sunday. Next week I shall publish a more complete biography of Michael.
Please remember Sylvia Pitfield in your prayers. She fell en route to church last Sunday and had a hip replacement on Tuesday. At present she is still in VGH. She has asked for no visitors until she feels stronger, please, but cards and greetings may send to her c/o Ward 7D. We congratulate Elisabeth Ogundara on achieving her 18th birthday.