The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 32:7-14 – PSALM 51:1-11– 1 Timothy 1:12-17 – Luke 15:1-10
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
It is good to be here, at the beginning of a new season, a new academic year, with our choir making its comeback after the summer recess, and all of you here today – whether Christ Church Cathedral has been your spiritual home for a while, or whether you have recently arrived in Montreal or looking for a Christian community to join. We are very glad to see you.
Of course, our joy at being together today is tinged with the sadness of the death of HM Queen Elizabeth the Second this week and we have all been reminiscing with the world, pouring over countless documentaries and articles dissecting her life, and reminding us of the many world events of the past century in which she had had a part.
Her death certainly marks the end of an era, and as we pray with the world for the repose of her soul, we also pray earnestly for her successor King Charles III on his accession to the throne at a time of political, economical and environmental turbulence in the UK, the Commonwealth and around the world.
The late Queen will certainly be remembered as someone who pledged herself for the service of her people, and whose life was a model of grace filled commitment and dedication, even if inevitably there were difficult moments between the Monarch and her people, as she was navigating the stricture and restrictions of her public role with her own personal feelings and emotions, especially in the context of sometimes volatile family matters.
For many of us, Elizabeth II is the only face of the British Monarchy we have known, a face which has evolved in time to become that of a surrogate grandmother, holding together the gravitas of her office with a wisdom which spoke to people of all nations. Whether we are monarchists or not, we will miss her presence, and the world will be the poorer for the loss of her quiet influence.
The Cathedral will be holding a special memorial service for the late Queen in the coming weeks, and details will be circulated as soon as details are confirmed.
This month, the Anglican church around the world is keeping the season of Creation, a particular focus of prayer, conscientization and action in the face of the climate change emergency that has been unfolding before our very own eyes for years, and which has become ever more urgent.
Energetic demands of a post Ukraine war world are sending nations scurrying for more rather than less fossil fuel solutions, in part due to the slowness of investments in alternative energy solutions, and of course the ongoing stranglehold of fossil fuel lobbies with big pockets on politicians across the world.
Here at this Cathedral, this is one of the issues that has been the focus of our Ecological Social Justice Action group for many years, noting that there is a clear link between the continuing growth of energy demands from the global north and the effect that this has on poorer nations, and here in Canada, people of our First Nations in particular.
We have been hearing from experts from within the Cathedral and have looked at the steps we can take individually in day to day life, as well as corporately.
Last year, our Cathedral has taken action in replacing obsolete gas powered furnace with a thermal pump system to heat the cathedral, thereby considerably reducing our fossil fuel consumption, and we have also been refocusing our ministry endowments on non fossil fuel investment funds.
In Quebec, using electricity feels almost virtuous, since most of it is created by rivers that have been dammed. There is much we have yet to learn about conserving even this precious green energy as our own campaigning politicians are talking up the possibility of more dams and drilling for natural gas, with the inevitable effects this will have on the environment and communities in which these developments take place.
While we may often feel powerless and unsure as to how we can effect change, it is during election time that these issues need to be brought to the fore, and voices advocating for sustainable development and fossil fuel reduction heard. If you feel you cannot do anything else, write to your candidates with your concerns and use your vote wisely – considering the balance between short term personal financial gain in a fleeting tax credit and the future of our planet.
Our Old Testament story today is relevant to the way we are caught up on this and many other issues. The people of Egypt, whom Moses was leading towards their promised land, were getting tired of a God that they started to believe had put them in an uncomfortable situation during their transition from slavery.
Even though they had plenty to ensure their health, they were bored with the lack of diversity in their diet, bored with having to walk on for years, without established settlements. Bored with following an old man and listening to his visions, which did not seem to bring an answer right here, right now, but instead required perseverance, self control, and a vision for the whole world rather than for themselves.
And so they made for themselves a new idol in order to lead them on, to bring some excitement in their life, and make themselves believe that it was this idol made in their image that had saved them from Egypt.
As we know, history repeats itself over and over again, and in our time and under our watch, idols have flourished to make us believe that we are in control – consumerism, the omnipresence of digital information and games and apps that make us feel like masters of the world, and many others, idols that have been distracting us from our promise to work to build the Kingdom of God.
For Christians, it is our baptismal promises which informs our life and the ways in which we live it. As a further guide, Jesus summarised the law thus: ‘love God, and love your neighbour as yourself’.
And in our Gospel reading today, we see one of the many examples of how this worked out in his life, in the way he interacted not simply with those who were, somehow, already ‘in the fold’, but instead by welcoming ‘sinners, – those who were technically outcasts and beyond the pale, and yet eating with them. Because it is in conversations and shared personal experience that we are transformed, it is in the casual sharing of a meal that we can see our common humanity, and it is there that we may relate most to one another. Orthodoxy was not Jesus’s main concern, love in action is.
We find that in the Cathedral’s last Sunday of the month lunch that we offer to itinerants and people in need, where volunteers are encouraged to eat with those attending.
Perhaps what may have been an obstacle to faith to many has been the way in which, over time, the last supper of Jesus – a highly emotionally charged meal shared before his impending martyrdom – has been so ritualized that sometimes it separates us rather than bring us together. And yet at the same time, the beauty of embodied liturgy, music, singing, space, art, all have also contributed to the deepening of faith of many over millennia.
At Christ Church Cathedral, we do show our love for God and one another in beautiful liturgies, which put us in touch with the transcendence of God in our life, and provide us with the spiritual energy we need to go back into the world, wherever we are, and be worthy witnesses for Jesus.
Our liturgies bring the needs of the world before God, and help the people of God to return back into the world and respond to those needs.
They are also an area in which there are obvious opportunities for getting involved. If you are yearning to read during our Sunday services in English or French, to lead the prayers of the people, to serve at the altar, to distribute the chalice, to welcome people or be part of the Coffee team to contribute to our hospitality, then do not be shy. Or you might want to be involved in our soon to restart children ministry. If any of this speaks to you, let one of the clergy know, or send an email to the office.
At Christ Church, we are also a community with many activists, and always welcoming ideas and spare hands for new projects – so if you see an obvious need and are willing to help, please let us know. If you have a passion for a particular aspect of social justice or outreach, we would love to hear from you.
And we are a community of learning and prayer, seeking to help one another on our journey of faith.
At our core, we are unashamedly rooted in the knowledge of the unconditional love of God for all his creation, and all are welcome here.
We strive to be bearers of hope, even when things look beyond redemption. The hope which was gifted to Moses as he pleaded for his people, praying for God’s mercy. Because in the community of God, there is always joy when one is found, one is transformed, when the Kingdom of God comes nearer, one change at a time.