Hope for the world

Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus
Sherman Hesselgrave

Readings: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Vaclav Havel on Hope, Matthew3:13-17
Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash

Twenty years ago, on the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus, I was on sabbatical in Italy, and on this particular Sunday I was in Assisi at the Basilica of St Francis. The Abbot began his homily that day by saying, “With the baptism of Jesus we have all been baptized.” I had never thought of it that way before, but he was right. Every baptism has its roots in that moment Jesus stepped into the Jordan River
with John the Baptist. It was a moment of revelation, but also a moment of dedication and commitment to a particular journey. Orthodox Christians kick the significance up a notch by observing that Jesus’ presence in the Jordan River that day had the effect of blessing all the water in the world. So, today is a fitting opportunity to remember our baptism and to reflect on what it means in the world today.

The DNA of what it means to be Christian is embedded in the Baptismal Covenant. We will be invited to renew our baptismal vows in the service today. We will respond, “I will, with God’s help” to questions like:

• Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?
• Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
• Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain, and renew the life of the Earth?

The Golden Rule is baked into the Baptismal Covenant, as is peacemaking and care for the environment. To live our baptismal promises intentionally is to steer the world toward the peaceable kingdom envisioned by the prophet Isaiah and the reign of God that Jesus described through stories and encounters with others. Baptism taken seriously is a sign of hope in a world filled with strife, greed, and confusion. But regard for baptism has somewhat of a chequered history.

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finding a new route home

Homily on the Feast of the Epiphany 2020

Joanna Manning

I know a lot of people in this congregation will be familiar with that popular feminist ballad: ‘Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened.” We’ve even sung it here on a number of occasions.

The chorus goes like this:

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
Sometimes I wish I could no longer see
All of the pain and the hurt and the longing
of my sisters and me as we long to be free.”

Please excuse me if I take liberties with the lyrics this morning and change the last two lines :

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
Sometimes I wish that I just couldn’t see
All of the pain and the hurt and the longing
of the earth and her creatures as we long to be free.”

Here we are the beginning of not only a new year, but a new decade for earth and all her creatures. As we take a look around, tyrants abound; innocent infants and children are being killed, jailed or dying of hunger and thirst. Assassinations are carried out on the whim of the new tetrarch south of the border. Innocent animals in their millions are dying from the effects of fires, drought, and floods. Definitely not a pretty picture.

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a hole in the wall

Homily for Christmas Eve 2019

Sherman Hesselgrave

“Mercy is the dynamite that brings down walls.” “La misericordia es la dinamita que derriba muros.” That is a line from the new movie, The Two Popes, spoken by the man who would become Pope Francis. That line resonated deeply, and I knew it would work its way into this Christmas homily. That is because the Incarnation—God’s coming among us as one of us—is God’s greatest mercy in bringing down the walls that divide humanity from God and from one another. Someone has defined ‘mercy’ as a “love that responds to human need in an unexpected or unmerited way.” At its core, mercy is forgiveness. Mercy is grace.

Jesus was born into a world all too familiar with systems of domination, systems of empire and oppression that had existed from before the time the prophet Isaiah wrote of the “people who walked in darkness” who would see a great light of a new day of hope and promise, where the yoke of their burdens would be broken; the bar weighing down their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, snapped. A child would be born who would become the Prince of Peace, and would reign with justice and equity.

I decided to include Garrison Keilllor’s retelling of the famous story of the 1914 Christmas Peace, because, in a World War that would result in about 40 million military and civilian casualties, we know that the people on the front lines were not only capable of demonstrating their humanity with a spirit of generosity, they certainly would have welcomed an end to all hostilities, were it not for their imperial masters. Peace was, at once, both so near and yet, so far away.

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STAR: Homeless memorial records 995th name as city committee debates new housing action plan

Toronto Star: Homeless memorial records 995th name as city committee debates new housing action plan

Darlene Stimson spoke with anger and grief, standing at the base of the church steps, of the many systems who failed her loving and trusting son.

“He never let illness or pain get in the way of being the most generous human being I have ever known,” said Stimson, about the six-foot-tall man who loved wrestling and karaoke and who, because of early health challenges, viewed much of the world through the eyes of 12-year-old child.

“In the end, while it was a respiratory infection that resulted in Adam’s death, the proximate cause was a social safety net that let him down.”

loving justice in the heart of our city