Being Formed over 30 Years

This can be listened to here

Gate Pa – Year A 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Reformation Sunday, 30th Anniversary of my Ordination as a Priest

Psalm                          Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
First Reading:               Deuteronomy 34:1-12                    
Second Reading:        1 Thess 2:1-8                                 
Gospel:                        Matthew 22: 34-46                            

What I want to say:
On this Reformation Sunday I want to explore some of the elements that have helped re-form me over the last 30 years. I also want to suggest that our gospel today gives us hints as to how we might as a church be re-formed as we move into our own time of Reformation

What I want to happen:
Invite people to prayerfully consider what has helped re-form them?

The Sermon

       1.     Introduction:

Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of my ordination as a priest by Archbishop Brian Davies in St. John’s Anglican Church, Feilding.
It was a grand occasion for both of us who were ordained that day
a next step in my ministry.
I have never called that call a call into THE ministry
we all have ministries
none more important than others
but priests have important roles in gathering communities
and this was an important step
It has been an amazing 30 years
it has been a privilege
a very different one from what I thought would happen 30 years ago.
23 years of that was out of parish ministry resourcing those who worked with young people
at regional, national and international level
Those experiences have led to me see what being a priest and being church is about in very different ways
to many of my fellow priests
and if we are honest, to many of you

       2.     The Influences

The biggest thing that shapes how I see being a priest and what we are one about as church is being Franciscan
12 years ago I was at Taize, and in my small group was an OFM friar (catholic Franciscan) lived in Angola.
he introduced me one day to a friend as “John – a Franciscan priest.”
Sometimes we in the Third Order think of ourselves as the supporting act to the real Franciscans who are the first order brothers and sisters – the ones who wear the brown robes.
That brief introduction reminded me/taught me
that we are the real thing
we don’t wear brown robes
this cross is our habit
but we are as Franciscan as any friar or sister
I was taught that day that being Franciscan is who I am
That my calling to walk in the footsteps of Francis and Clare
who walked in the footsteps of Christ
shapes everything
including my being a preist.

       3.     What shaped Francis?

An initial call for Francis was when he was praying before crucifix in the little dilapidated church of San Damiano just out of Assisi
he heard the crucified and risen Christ on that cross
“Francis, you see my church is in disrepair. Rebuild my church”
He obeyed that call for the rest of his life
was not so much into church growth
or attracting people  to come to church
or making the church relevant
He didn’t look at the registers and see what attendance was doing
or how many baptisms or confirmations had been performed
He just lived what he had found for himself.
he lived love.

       4.     The Leper 

In his testament Francis said that his moment of conversion was a little earlier
when he was still the troubled once playboy
and he rode past a leper
            someone he feared and loathed
normally he would have stayed as far as a possible from this despised once person
but on this occasion he felt drawn to dismount
cross the road
embrace this diseased and bewildered creature
to kiss him
and offer him alms
one version of the story says that as he rode off he looked back as saw the risen Christ standing where the leper had just been
he would return often to minister in that hospital
minister to the crucified and risen Christ he saw in each one
all his early brothers were similarly commanded to do the same

        5.     Invitation

two years before he died, Francis was on retreat preparing for the feast of St. Michael and all the Angels
He is said to have prayed that he would be marked with the same depth of love that Christ expressed as he hung dying on the cross
He was granted his wish
he was marked with the stigmata
marks of love
rest of his life carried the marks of that love
the wounds of Christ in his own flesh
Francis and Clare rebuilt the church of his day with love
love for the least
the forgotten
the despised
love for the powerful
the corrupt
love for the ordinary people who struggled to survive day by day
On his death bed Francis said to his brothers
“I have done what was mine to do, may Christ show you what is yours!”
My ministry as a priest is marked by this calling
living in response to what Christ shows me is mine

       6.     The Gospel

I offered all that in part because today marks a disconcerting milestone for me
30 years.
Francis thought that all he had to do to rebuild the church was to live the gospel
live the gospel
go sell everything he had and give to the poor
it worked!
love God with all you heart and soul and mind
and love your neighbour as yourself
that worked too
you know both of those are equally hard aren’t they
too often we stop with loving God
when I looked up this passage in google
a really big percentage of images were like this 
loving God becomes the thing
however we think we do that
loving neighbour becomes a much less important and optional thing
and then there is the issue of who is my neighbour?
earlier this year I accidentally commented on a discussion about Trump’s travel bans
-         started by a south African who critiqued it
-         defended by Americans
o   who I assumed were both Christian and white
o   who stated “we have a duty to protect our neighbours!”
o   who are our neighbours?
o   to story of the good Samaritan would suggest the very people Trump is still trying to keep out
o   the very people Francis learnt were his neighbour when he kissed the leper 
-         who are our neighbours?

       7.     Reformation Sunday

This Sunday also marks the 500th anniversary of when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church doors and sparked the Reformation
others had tried but this time it had protection and traction
and all hell broke loose.
Some people have suggested that the church goes through one of these periods of upheaval about every 4 or 500 years
sure enough, here we are in the middle of a similar upheaval as new forms of church emerge
we in the traditional church are once again asked to reform ourselves
what would it look like to reform?
some have said get rid of liturgy
others – don’t robe
others – lets do messy church
others – lets be relevant
all of those are about finding ways of surviving as an institution
but I would say
following Francis and Clare
let us love
love God with all our heart and soul and mind and body
by loving all our neighbours as ourselves
when we follow in the footsteps of Francis and Clare
and in doing so walk in the footsteps of Christ
when we love as they loved
we will do what is ours to do
we will rebuild the church