All posts by shesselgrave

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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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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Bear Fruit that Befits Repentance

Sherman Hesselgrave’s homily for Advent 2, December 8, 2019

Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10 Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 Matthew 3:1-12

Nothing will spike blood pressure quite like hypocrisy. “You brood of vipers!,” John the Baptist says to the Pharisees and Sadducees who have come to the Jordan River for baptism. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus will liken Pharisees and teachers of the law to “whitewashed tombs.” The veneer and the interior life lack integrity. My liturgics professor in seminary was a Jesuit who described a well-integrated person as someone, who no matter how or where you engage with them, you have a sense of the whole person. There is a consistency, an integrity, no matter where your lives touch.

This is a theme that flows through Jesus’ public life and teaching, and he uses the metaphor of bearing fruit regularly. Trees are known by the fruit they produce, and whether that fruit is any good. We have all had the experience of sinking our teeth into a gorgeous-looking peach, apple, or plum, only to be disappointed by its mealy texture or bland flavour. On this Second Sunday of Advent, when John the Baptist is always the focus, we are confronted today by his imperative to “bear fruit that befits repentance.” I would like us to take a moment to unpack John’s statement, by taking a closer look at repentance and bearing fruit.

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Abba, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Homily given by Sonya Dykstra on November 24, 2019

After my second homily this summer, I felt I was done giving them. In fact, when I agreed to coordinate this service, I did so under the assumption that I’d find an individual willing to give a reflection instead of standing here myself. So why is it that I’m attempting another homily? I’d like to share three beliefs I hold that work together and contributed to this homily.

One, I believe in God the creator. I’m sure it’s a belief many of you share, so much so, we say it together in the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed: I believe in God, the creator of heaven and earth.

Two, I believe God continues to create, the easiest example to cite are the newborns who enter the world each day: tiny creatures that I believe God had a hand in.

Third, I believe God invites us to be co-creators. I love this idea – that you and I can accept God’s invitation to participate intentionally in what God is doing in the here and now. God’s story in humanity isn’t finished. The bible ended in Revelation, but God’s story is still unfolding. When we align ourselves with being attentive to God’s will rather than our own often uncertain, often selfish wills, there is joy, there is purpose, there is life-giving energy. How to be attentive to God’s will is a harder question to answer and I want to use my standing here to serve as a small example.

Continue reading Abba, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.