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Sermons > Sunday after the New Year

4 Jan 2015

“When [King] Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious.”  (Matt. 2: 16a)                                              In the name …

In this past Sunday’s Boston Globe I was reading an article by Steven Syre.  I guess at the end of every year he reveals in his column his choice of Boston’s Fund Manager of the Year.  Boston is the home of an awful lot of large mutual funds.  So I imagine being named the best fund manager out of all them is pretty impressive.  And what caught my eye was the fund manager of the year’s statement when he said, “I believe the world is going to change more in the next 20 years than it has changed in the past 70 years.”  This guy is in charge of a fund that controls $12 billion worth of investor’s money.  He has proven able to see where things are going before they get there, and because of that, over the past five years he has been able to earn a total return of 128% for his clients.

This guy isn’t throwing darts to make his choices.  He understands what he’s talking about, and he’s talking about accelerated change in our world.  Change is happening right now and it’s likely that change is going to come about even more quickly than it has for the past three generations.  Change is inevitable, it’s unavoidable and it’s quickening.  And the reason I bring up this $12 billion fund manager from Boston is that the world in which he lives is the same world in which the church lives.  I get the feeling that sometimes the church feels like she is immune from the change that is natural in the world, that somehow she can exist in a timeless vacuum that doesn’t need to respond to the pace of the world around her.  I don’t think that’s only a silly idea; I think it’s a dangerous one.  It holds the possibility of the church becoming increasingly isolated and irrelevant.

I think we all know that church was once a necessity and that now it is a choice.  Just a few generations ago everyone felt obligated to go to church. It was as certain as going to school or going to work.  Now people come to church not because they have to, but because they choose to.  And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  When people are able to choose church rather than just be plopped into a church, they go there because she brings them closer to God.  They choose church because the mystery of Jesus becomes more tangible in this place, within this community, before this altar.

The world is changing.  We’re changing.  Hopefully this means that the church and our spirituality are changing too.  But how do we protect the process of change?  How can we know if we’re changing in the right direction?  The scary answer is we can’t know any of this for sure, and that’s another message the church has a very hard time accepting, but the search for certainty too often prevents the church from acting in a timely fashion.  Sometimes by the time the church decides to change everyone around her has already done so.  The church that should lead then becomes the church that follows.  The reason that the guy in Boston is making so much money for others and probably an insane amount for himself is that he’s making the right changes at the right time.  If everyone could do it, then his skills would not be needed and people wouldn’t be handing him $12 billion of their money to play with.  So how do we as church tell if we are changing in the right direction?  I think it begins with relationship.  I think as the people of God we have a sense of when we are doing the will of God and when we are not.  And I think we need to better appreciate this power.

The colour of relationship in the church is red.  I think it says a great deal when on the Sunday after the New Year the liturgical colour is that of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God always among us.  The whole of the new year lays in front us with all of its uncertainty.  Knowing this, the church calls out loud and clear this Sunday morning asking the Holy Spirit to guide us.  As Christians this is why we can look at any New Year with hope, but Christian-hope is not set in a fairy tale.  It’s not only a matter of hoping for everything good and pretty and sweet.  Sometimes hope means being able to persevere.  And that’s where today’s Gospel also enters the story.  It’s Matthew’s account of the Holy Innocents.  King Herod was a ruthless tyrant who would even kill his own brothers and sons to protect his authority.  In the context of this reality, Matthew tells us that Herod believed the King of the Jews was born in Bethlehem; and since Herod didn’t know which baby boy he was, Herod order the execution of all the baby boys in that village.  This savage act symbolizes for us the unfortunate reality of our world.  Man-made and natural tragedies fill our news every day, year in and year out.  Even in such a world we trust in the Holy Spirit, maybe not always to protect, but always to persevere in hope.  That’s a sign of a relationship with God and the stronger that relationship becomes the more certain we can be that our course is the right one.

On this first Sunday of 2015 let us begin the new year by turning it over to the Spirit, and let us be ready to follow where the Spirit leads.  In Hebrew the word for Spirit is the same as the word for wind.  It’s ruah.  The Spirit has always been envisioned as active and moving.  It’s the same today.  Change is inevitable and I would venture to say that’s because God is a God of change, of movement, of progress.  So may our prayer this morning be to embrace the changes our faith requires, and may we build relationships with God strong enough to know which are His changes.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.  (+)

Fr. Randolph Calvo


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