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Father Alan’s Blog for the Second Sunday in Advent


“Our First Love”

“Even so, when you see these things happening,

you know that the Kingdom of God is near.”

St. Luke 21:31 (NIV)

American author and Protestant Christian missionary to China

Charles Richard “Dick” Hillis (1913–2005) tells the following story:


“She was lying on the ground.  In her arms she held a tiny baby girl.  

As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand,

I wondered if she would live until morning.  

Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift.  

The sweet potato could help so little – but it was all I had.  

Taking a bite she chewed it carefully.  

Then, placing her mouth over her baby's mouth,

she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat.  

Although the mother was starving,

she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive.  

Exhausted from her effort,

she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes.  

In a few minutes the baby was asleep.  

I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped,

but her little girl lived.  


“Love is a costly thing.  


“God in His love for us (and for a lost world)

‘spared not His own Son’ to tell the world of His love.  


“Love is costly,

but we must tell the world at any cost.  

Such love is costly.  

It costs parents and sons and daughters.  

It costs the missionary life itself.  

In his love for Christ

the missionary often must give up all to make the Savior known.  

If you will let your love for Christ cost you something,

the great advance will be made together.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for the First Sunday in Advent


“Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room”

“My house will be called a house of prayer,

but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”

St. Matthew 21:13b (NIV)

A Sunday School teacher challenged her class

to take time at home that Sunday afternoon to write a letter to Jesus. 

The children returned with their letters the following Sunday,

and one little boy had written:


“Dear Jesus, We had a really good time at church today –

wish You could have been there.”


***** 


Four Sundays before Christmas Day,

a newly-minted deacon was nervously trying to give

his very first children’s talk on the “Advent wreath”.  

The young deacon took pains to explain to the children

what the three purple candles represented,

and then asked them:


“Does anyone know what the pink candle means?”


A terrible and absolute silence ensued until

– after what seemed like an eternity to the young deacon,

who was growing more anxious by the second –

a little girl raised her hand and in a quiet voice asked:


“Is someone expecting a girl?”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Stir-Up Sunday


“The Cost of a Miracle”

“Behold the Lamb of God!”

St. John 1:36 (KJV)


Tess, a precocious eight-year-old,

heard her Mom and Dad talking about her little brother, Andrew. 

All Tess knew was that Andrew was very sick

and her family was completely out of money. 

They were moving to an apartment complex next month because

Daddy didn’t have the money to pay for both the doctor’s bills and their house.  A very costly surgery was needed to save Andrew

and it was looking like there was no one to loan them the money. 

Tess heard her Daddy say to her tearful Mother with whispered desperation:


“Only a miracle can save him now.”


Tess went to her bedroom

and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet. 

She poured all the change out on the floor and counted it carefully three times – the total had to be exactly perfect, there was no chance here for mistakes.  Quietly placing the coins back in the jar and twisting the cap,

Tess slipped out the back door

and made her way six blocks to the local drug store.


She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention,

but he was too busy at the moment. 

Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffling noise

– nothing.  

Next, Tess cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster

– no good.  

Finally, Tess took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter

– THAT did it!


“And what do YOU want?”


the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice,


“Can’t you see I’m talking to my brother from Chicago

whom I haven’t seen in ages?”


he added without waiting for a reply to his question.


“Well I want to talk to you about MY brother,”


Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone,


“He’s really, really sick and I want to buy a miracle!”

 

“I beg your pardon?”


asked the astonished pharmacist.


“His name is Andrew,

and he has something bad growing inside his head

and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now.  

So, how much does a miracle cost?”

 

“We don’t sell miracles here, little girl – I’m sorry, but I can’t help you,”


the pharmacist said, softening a little.

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 24


“A Light in a Dark Place”

“She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’”

St. Matthew 9:21 (NIV)


One Sunday morning,

a parish priest noticed a seven-year-old boy staring at a large plaque

that hung in the foyer of the church. 

The plaque was covered with names,

and small Canadian flags were mounted on either side of it. 

The boy had been staring at the plaque for some time,

so the priest walked up beside the boy and said quietly:


“Good morning.”


“Good morning, Father,”


replied the boy, still focused on the plaque. 

A moment later he asked,


“Father, what is this?”


“Well, son…”


the priest replied,


“…it’s a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.”


For the longest time the two of them stood together

silently staring at the plaque. 

Finally,

in a barely audible voice,

the little boy asked,


“Which service, Father – the 8:00 or the 10:30?”



Children’s ability to state profound truths in the simplest of terms

never ceases to amaze me. 

In fact,

their uncluttered perspective has often helped to keep mine on an even keel. 


For example,

my eldest son shared this profundity with me

when he was only four years of age. 

I was tired of bumping into everything

whenever I’d walk in to the bathroom at night. 

So I decided to “borrow” one of my boys’ nightlights. 

(They had more than a few of them,

and this one was not being used at the moment –

besides, it had a teddy bear-shaped shade to boot.)

For a few years, that teddy bear lit the way for me at night,

resulting in, to my immense relief, a significantly declined injury rate.  

In any event, one afternoon,

not too long after I’d “installed” the nightlight,

my then four-year-old son happened to notice it

and announced in his most matter-of-fact voice:


“You don’t need to use it during the day – only when it’s dark.”


To say the least,

the enormity of my young son’s simple statement stunned me –

for his version of this simple truth caused me

to instantly “rearrange my spiritual furniture”:


“Lights are only needed in dark places.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 23


“Rendering”

“Then saith Jesus unto them,

‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's;

and unto God the things that are God’s.’”

St. Matthew 22:21b (KJV)

One morning, a mother took her three children out to a diner for breakfast. 

It was crowded, so they had to take separate seats at the counter. 

Eight-year-old Mary, her eldest daughter,

was seated at the far end of the counter,

and when her food was served, she boldly called down to her mother:  


“Mother, don’t people say grace in this place?”


A hush came over the entire diner

and before Mary’s mother could figure out what to say,

the smiling counterman turned and said to the young girl:  


“Yes, we do little sister – how about you say it?”


Suddenly,

all the people in the diner bowed their heads,

at which point,

Mary bowed her head and in a clear voice prayed:


“God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.” 



Words and how we CHOOSE to use them can make a world of difference. 

Or to put it another way,

we can CHOOSE, through our use of words, to be:


  • part of this world; or

  • part of God’s.

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 22


“Forgiveness”

“So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you,

if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

St. Matthew 18:35 (KJV)

A young woman had two children;

her son was seven years old,

and her little daughter was about two-and-a-half. 

One day,

the woman heard this terrible scream. 

After running upstairs,

she found out that the little girl was pulling her older brother’s hair

and he was crying out in pain.  

The young mother gently removed the girl’s hands off her brother’s hair

and said to her son:  


“Sweetheart, your sister does not understand that it hurts.”


The son nodded okay to what his mother said. 

However,

as the mother was walking down the stairs,

she again heard this blood-curdling shriek.  

Immediately,

she wheeled around

and ran back upstairs to see what had happened.  

This time, the boy was sitting next to the little girl

who was now crying out in pain –

at which point,

the boy matter-of-factly said to his mother:  


“NOW she understands!”



During every single worship service found in

the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer (BCP)

we pray “The Lord’s Prayer”,

wherein we earnestly ask Our Father in heaven to:


“…forgive us our trespasses…”.


Nevertheless,

there’s a catch – a BIG catch – to this humble petition. 

Extremely easy to say,

yet extremely hard to do,

it’s found in the very next clause:  


“As we forgive them that trespass against us…”.


Forgiving as God forgives us

means that we are to sacrifice our right

to inflict pain on the one who has pained us:  


“As we forgive THEM that trespass against us…”.


All too often, though,

just like the seven-year-old boy in the story above,

we want to make sure that the person who has hurt us

knows exactly what it is like to be hurt.

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 21


“The Armour of God”

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…”

Ephesians 6:12a (NIV)


Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went camping. 

After dinner and a bottle of wine,

they laid down for the night and went to sleep. 

Some hours later,

Holmes awoke,

nudged his faithful friend,

and said:


“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”


Dr. Watson replied:


“I see millions of stars.”


Holmes then asked him:


“And what does that tell you?”


Dr. Watson pondered for a minute before answering:


“Astronomically, it tells me that there are billions of galaxies

and potentially trillions of planets. 

Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. 

Horologically, I deduce that

the time is approximately a quarter past three. 

Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. 

And theologically, I can see that God is all powerful

and that we are small and insignificant. 

What does it tell you Holmes?”


Sherlock Holmes was silent for a moment and then spoke:


“Watson you idiot – someone has stolen our tent!”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 20


“Ozymandias”

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

St. Matthew 6:21 (NKJV)


Percy Bysshe Shelley

(who was born on the 4th of August 1792)

was one of the major English Romantic poets. 

In fact,

Percy Shelley was considered by many of his contemporaries

to be among the finest English-language lyric and philosophical poets

(and, certainly, one of the most influential). 

Labelled as a radical in his poetry as well as in his political and social views,

Shelley did not garner much celebrity during his lifetime. 

Yet,

appreciation of his accomplishments in poetry grew increasingly

following his untimely death

– having ironically drowned in a sudden storm

while yachting off the Italian coast on the 8th of July 1822 –

less than one month before his 30th birthday. 

Even so,

over the course of his brief literary career,

Shelley succeeded in becoming a central member of a close circle

of visionary poets and writers that included: 


  • Lord Byron;

  • John Keats;

  • Leigh Hunt;

  • Thomas Love Peacock; and

  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (his second wife),

author of the 1818 novel “Frankenstein”.


Lastly,

in 1817

(the year prior to his wife Mary’s noteworthy success),

Shelley wrote what many regard to be his greatest work –

a political poem entitled, “Ozymandias”.  

Written at a time when Napoleon Bonaparte’s domination of Europe

had come to a crashing end

and yet another empire

(namely, that of Great Britain’s)

was on the verge of preeminence,

Shelley’s immortal lines encapsulated, metaphorically,

the outcome of such tyrannical wielding of power that no:


  • king;

  • ruler;

  • leader;

  • dictator; or

  • despot


can overcome – time:


“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:  Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert.  Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains.  Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 19


“We Make a Life By What We Give”

“Be kind and compassionate to one another,

forgiving each other,

just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)


Given the theme for today,

“The Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity”,

I thought it would be most appropriate to share the following story

from Chapter 3 of Max Lucado’s 1991 book, “In the Eye of the Storm”:


“A boy went into a pet shop, looking for a puppy. 

The storeowner showed him a litter in a box. 

The boy looked at the puppies.

He picked each one up, examined it, and put it back into the box. 

 

“After several minutes, he walked back to the storeowner and said,

‘I picked one out.  How much will it cost?’

 

“The man gave him the price,

and the boy promised to be back in a few days with the money.  

‘Don’t take too long,’ the storeowner cautioned. 

’Puppies like these sell quickly.’

 

“The boy turned and smiled knowingly,

‘I’m not worried,’ he said.  ‘Mine will still be here.’

 

“The boy went to work –

weeding, washing windows, cleaning yards. 

He worked hard and he saved his money. 

When he had enough for the puppy, he returned to the store. 

 

“He walked up to the counter and laid down a pocketful of wadded bills. 

The storeowner sorted and counted the cash. 

After verifying the amount, he smiled at the boy and said,

‘All right, son, you can go get your puppy.‘

 

“The boy reached into the back of the box,

pulled out a skinny dog with a limp leg,

and started to leave. 

 

“The storeowner stopped him.

 

“‘Don’t take that puppy,’ he objected.  

‘He’s crippled. 

He can’t play.

He’ll never run with you. 

He can’t fetch. 

Get one of the healthy pups.’

 

“‘No thank you sir,’ the boy replied.  

‘This is exactly the kind of dog I’ve been looking for.’

 

“As the boy turned to leave,

the storeowner started to speak but remained silent. 

Suddenly he understood.  

For extending from the bottom of the boy’s trousers was a brace –

a brace for his crippled leg.

 

“Why did the boy want the dog? 

Because he knew how it felt. 

And he knew it was very special.

 

“What did Jesus know that enabled Him to do what He did? 

He knew how people felt,

and He knew that they were special.

 

”I hope you never forget that.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 18


“Love God and Neighbour”

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God

with all thy heart,

and with all thy soul,

and with all thy mind

and with all thy strength. 

This is the first commandment;

and the second is like it,

namely this,

thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

St. Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)


At breakfast one morning,

a mother was preparing pancakes

for her two young sons Kevin, aged 5, and Ryan, aged 3,

when, predictably,

the boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. 

Their mother saw a golden opportunity for a moral lesson and said:


“If Jesus were sitting here, He would say

‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’” 


Whereupon Kevin turned to his younger brother and said:


“Ryan, you be Jesus.”



To be sure,

when it comes to the “Summary of the Law”

(as found in St. Mark 12:30-31 above),

we have no trouble in seeing what the words mean

– as they are perfectly simple, straightforward, words –

and (undoubtedly) they strike us as having a distinct and obvious authority. 

So, clearly,

that does not present a problem for us. 

Rather, the problem is,

these 57 words demand a transformation of our very lives in every aspect: 


  • a transformation of our attitudes and our standards;

  • a transformation of our hopes and our expectations; and

  • a transformation of the way we choose to live our lives. 

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 17


“Pride, Humility, and Grace”

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,

and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

St. Luke 14:11 (NIV)


Two ducks and a frog who lived happily together in a farm pond. 

The best of friends,

the three would amuse themselves and play together in their waterhole. 

When the hot summer days came, however,

the pond began to dry up

and soon it was evident they would have to move. 

This was no problem for the ducks, though,

who could easily fly to another pond

– but the frog was stuck. 

So,

they put their heads together

and decided that

the two ducks would put the ends of a stick into each of their bills

– that the frog could then hang onto with his mouth –

as the three flew to another pond. 

The plan worked well so well,

in fact,

that as they were flying along,

a farmer looked up in admiration and mused:


“Well, isn’t that a clever idea!  I wonder who thought of it?”


Overhearing the farmer

– and forgetting where he was –

the frog couldn’t help himself and blurted out:

 

“I…d-i-ddd!!!” 

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 16


“Prepare for Eternal Life”

“Jesus said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’”

St. Luke 7:14 (NIV)


On the morning of his 42nd birthday,

Grabwell Grommet awoke to a peal of particularly ominous thunder. 

Glancing out the window with his bleary eyes,

he saw written in fiery red letters across the sky:


“SOMEONE IS TRYING TO KILL YOU, GRABWELL GROMMET!”


With shaking hands,

Grabwell lit his first cigarette of the day. 

He didn’t question the message. 

You don’t question messages like THAT. 

His only question was:


“Who?”


At breakfast,

as he salted his fried eggs and buttered his toast,

he told his wife, Greta:


“Someone’s trying to kill me.”

 

“Who?!?”


Greta gasped with horror.


Grabwell slowly stirred the cream and sugar into his coffee,

shook his head,

and said:


“I don’t know.”


Convinced though he was,

Grabwell Grommet wasn’t going to the police with his story;

instead,

he decided his only course was to go about his daily routine

and hope,

somehow,

to outwit his would-be murderer.  

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 15


“Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve”

“No man can serve two masters: 

for either he will hate the one, and love the other;

or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. 

Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.”

St. Matthew 6:24 (KJV)

A freshly minted Anglican priest

spent the first four days in his new pastoral charge

making personal visits to each of the members

and inviting them to come to his first service. 

However, come Sunday, the church was all but empty. 

Accordingly, the young priest placed a notice in the local newspaper

stating that because the parish church was dead,

it was everyone’s duty to give it a decent Christian burial. 

The funeral, the notice said, would be held “next Sunday afternoon”.  


Morbidly curious,

a large crowd turned out on the following Sunday for the “funeral”. 

In front of the pulpit, everyone saw a closed coffin smothered in flowers. 

After the priest delivered the eulogy,

he opened the coffin and invited the congregation to come forward

and pay their final respects to their “dead church”.  

Filled with curiosity as to what would represent the corpse of a “dead church”, all the people eagerly lined up to look in the coffin. 

Each “mourner” peeped into the coffin

and then quickly turned away with a guilty, sheepish look –

for in the coffin,

tilted at the correct angle,

was a large mirror.

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 14


“Count Your Many Blessings

“When Jesus saw them, He said, ʻGo, show yourselves to the priests.ʼ 

And as they went, they were cleansed.”

St. Luke 17:14 (NIV)

A large dog walks into a butcher shop carrying a purse in its mouth. 

He puts the purse down and sits in front of the meat case,

whereupon the butcher jokingly asks:


“What is it, boy?  Want to buy some meat?”


“Woof!”


barks the dog.


“Hmm…”


says the intrigued butcher,


“What kind?  Liver…bacon…steak…?”


“Woof!”


interrupts the dog.  


“And how much steak?  Half a pound…one pound…?”

“Woof!”


The amazed butcher wraps up the one pound of steak

and finds the money in the dog’s purse. 

As the dog leaves, the butcher decides to follow him. 

The dog enters an apartment house,

climbs to the third floor,

and begins scratching at a door.  

With that, the door swings open and an angry man starts shouting at the dog.  The butcher tries to intervene:


“Stop!  That dog’s the most intelligent animal I’ve ever seen!”

 

“Intelligent?!?”


snarls the man,


“This is the third time this week that he’s forgotten his key.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 13


“It’s All About Me”

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus,

‘And who is my neighbour?’”

St. Luke 10:29 (NIV)


I once saw a teal-coloured, fully loaded Japanese sports car

with a plastic license plate holder which proudly declared:


  • “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME”.


Another time when I was on my way home,

I witnessed a young man driving a North American muscle car

with a bumper sticker which arrogantly announced:


  • “AS A MATTER OF FACT, I DO OWN THE ROAD”.


(Apparently, he really meant it,

as he held up traffic while trying to make an illegal left turn,

but he made it – laying rubber as he cut across four lanes of traffic.) 


But hey:


  • “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME”.


Finally, one summer

I happened to be driving down BC’s Coquihalla Highway

– about half an hour outside of Kamloops –

on my way out to the West Coast,

when I was passed like I was standing still

by a candy-apple-red, Italian sports car

with a licence plate which pompously proclaimed:


  • “AVARICE”.


But again:


  • “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME”.

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 12


“Most of the People Did Not Even Know

Why They Were There”

“…our sufficiency is from God,

who hath even made us worthy to be ministers of the new covenant;

not of the letter, but of the spirit: 

for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

2 Corinthians 3:5b-6 (KJV)

One sunny day in rural Alberta,

a cowboy was driving his dependable Ford F-150 down a dirt road,

his faithful dog riding in the back of the pickup truck,

and his trusty horse in the trailer behind. 

Suddenly, the cowboy failed to negotiate a sharp curve in the road

and had a terrible accident. 

Sometime later, an RCMP officer in his highway cruiser came upon the scene.  An animal lover, the Mountie first saw the horse

laying in the ditch beside the trailer,

and realizing the serious nature of its injuries,

drew his service revolver and put the wounded steed out of its misery. 

Next, the Mountie walked around to the back of the overturned truck,

whereupon he came upon the dog, also hurt critically. 

Being unable to bear to hear the hound whine in pain,

the Mountie ended its suffering as well.

Finally, off in the weeds, the Mountie located the bruised and bloodied cowboy

– who had suffered multiple fractures –

and asked him:


“Hey, are you okay?”


The cowboy took one look at the smoking revolver in the Mountie’s hand

and quickly replied:  


“Never felt better!”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 11


“God, Be Merciful to Me, ‘The Sinner’!”

“God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

St. Luke 18:13d (NASB)

A checkout clerk at a grocery store

once wrote to advice columnist Ann Landers

to complain that she had seen people buy “luxury” food items,

like birthday cakes and bags of shrimp,

with their food stamps. 

She also wrote that she thought all those people on welfare

who treated themselves to such non-necessities were “lazy and wasteful”.

A few weeks later Landers’ column was devoted entirely to people

who had responded to the checkout clerk. 

One woman wrote:


“I didn’t buy a cake, but I did buy a big bag of shrimp with food stamps.  

So what? 

My husband had been working at a plant for 15 years when it was shut down.  

The shrimp casserole I made was for our anniversary dinner

and it lasted three days.”


Another woman wrote:


“I’m the woman who bought the $17 cake and paid for it with food stamps.  

I thought the checkout woman in the store

would burn a hole through me with her eyes.

What she didn’t know was the cake was for my little girl’s birthday. 

It would most likely be her last. 

She has bone cancer and will probably be gone in six to eight months.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 10


“Jesus Wept”

“And as Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.”

St. Luke 19:41 (NIV)

On the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta

is engraved the following poem she is purported to have written,

entitled, “Do It Anyway”:


“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.


If you are kind,
people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.


If you are successful,
you will win some false friends and some true enemies.

Succeed anyway.


If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you.

Be honest and frank anyway.


What you spend years building,
someone could destroy overnight.

Build anyway.


If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.


The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow.

Do good anyway.


Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough.

Give the best you’ve got anyway.


You see,
in the final analysis it is between you and God;
it was never just between you and them anyway.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 9


“The Lord is My Shepherd, That’s All I Want”

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,

do it all for the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

One Sunday morning during Holy Communion,

a young Anglican priest, as part of his sermon,

thought he would take the opportunity

to review the Catechism with some of the teenagers

who were currently being prepared for Confirmation

by the bishop on his next episcopal visit to the parish.  

Specifically, the priest asked the confirmands,

who were seated in one of the front pews,

to quote a verse from Holy Scripture for each of the seven sacraments.


For “Holy Baptism”, one teen suggested:


“St. John 3:5 – ‘Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee,

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,

he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”’”


For “Penance”, another young person offered:


“St. James 5:16a – ‘Confess your faults one to another,

and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.’”


“Very good,”


said the priest,  


“Now, can anyone give me a verse about ‘Marriage’?”


A long pause ensued, following which one youth cautiously “volunteered”:


“St. Luke 23:34a – ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 8


“Wherefore By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them”

“Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

St. Matthew 7:20 (NIV)


Often, we find out exactly what we are made of

by what comes out of our mouths –

in both good and bad circumstances. 

Case in point:


There once was a good, law-abiding citizen who,

during rush hour,

was being tailgated by a stressed-out man on a busy street,

when, suddenly,

the traffic light at the intersection just in front of them turned yellow.  

The law-abiding citizen did the right thing by immediately slowing down

and stopping at the crosswalk,

even though she could have beaten the red light

by gunning her car through the intersection.  

The tailgating man, meanwhile, hit the roof - and his horn.  

He started screaming in frustration

because he had missed his chance to get through the intersection. 

He was still in mid-rant,

alternately pounding the steering wheel

and gesturing to the woman in front of him,

when he heard a tap on his window

and looked up into the serious face of a police officer. 

The officer ordered the man to exit the car with his hands up

and proceeded to slap a pair of handcuffs on him. 

Then the officer took the man to the police station,

where he was searched,

fingerprinted,

photographed,

and locked up in a holding cell.  

After a couple of hours,

another police officer approached the jail cell,

unlocked, and opened the door,

and escorted the still frustrated (but somewhat chastened) man

back to the booking desk,

where the arresting officer,

who was waiting with the man’s personal effects, said to him:


“I’m very sorry for my mistake.  

You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn,

flipping off the lady in front of you,

and cursing a blue streak.  

Then I noticed the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder,

the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker,

the ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’ bumper sticker,

and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk.  

Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 7


“Do What You Can”

“Jesus called his disciples to him and said,

‘I have compassion for these people.’”

St. Mark 8:10 (NIV)


It was obvious that the parish priest was tired and badly in need of a vacation when one Sunday, as part of his sermon, he told the story of Jesus feeding:


  • seven men;

  • with a few loaves of bread; and

  • 4,000 fish.


The next Sunday

– completely unaware of the erroneous information

he had passed on to his congregation the week before –

the priest, in his sermon, began to tell the story of Jesus feeding:


  • 5,000 men;

  • with five loaves of bread; and

  • two fish. 


Whereupon one young boy excitedly jumped up from his seat

and proudly proclaimed:

“That shouldn’t be a problem for Jesus –

after all, He had more than enough fish left over from last week!”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 6


“And God Shall Wipe Away All the Tears from Their Eyes:

An Urgent Call for Repentance, Reconciliation,

and Redemption”

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;

and there shall be no more death,

neither sorrow,

nor crying,

neither shall there be any more pain:

for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 (KJV)


Twenty-seven years ago, this month, I found myself standing at

the only set of traffic lights north of 60 degrees latitude. 

They’re located on Mackenzie Avenue

in downtown Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. 

Although it was almost two o’clock in the morning,

the sun was still shining as brightly as if it were noon.  

(You see, in Inuvik the sun doesn’t set at all for 56 days

from late June until early August).

Anyway, I had just finished spending a total of nine days in Inuvik

and I was just starting to feel a little less like the “southern rookie”

that, in fact, I still was.  

For example, I hardly even flinched when only a few hours earlier

I had shelled out $12.50

(or the equivalent of about $23 today)

for my meagre supper of a caribou burger, French fries, and a coke.

Perhaps more telling was the fact that

– after having spent the previous three weeks in the MacKenzie River Delta

on the coast of the Beaufort Sea feeding relentless hordes of flying insects –

I barely noticed the ever-present,

but much smaller,

swarms of mosquitoes and black flies

which relentlessly buzzed around me,

looking for any piece of exposed flesh upon which to enjoy a late-night meal.

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 5


“Fishers of Men”

“Then Jesus said to Simon,

Don’t’ be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’”

St. Luke 5:10 (NIV)

In September 1985,

an American newspaper reported on a celebration

that had recently taken place

at a city-owned and operated swimming pool in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

The party was held to celebrate the first summer in memory

without a drowning having taken place at the pool. 

In honour of the occasion, 200 people were gathered:

including 100 certified lifeguards.  

Even so, as the party was breaking up

and the four lifeguards on duty began to clear the pool,

they found a fully dressed, lifeless body in the deep end.  

The four lifeguards tried to revive the 31-year-old man,

but it was too late:  he had drowned –

surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their successful season of lifesaving.


I really don’t think it was an accident

that at least seven of Jesus’ original 12 apostles were fishermen.  

Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, and Nathaniel had

(unbeknownst to them)

spent their entire lives training to be “fishers of men.”

In fact, up until the day that Jesus of Nazareth walked into their lives

they thought they were just catching fish. 

And yet,

the Nazarene carpenter eventually managed to make faithful servants

– and, even, saints –

out of these fishermen,

who would otherwise have died in the obscurity of a little fishing village

on the shores of the Sea of Galilee called Capernaum,

without anyone

(except their relatives, friends, and neighbours, perhaps)

ever being aware of their existence. 

And all it took to start the ball rolling was for Jesus to command them

(in St. Matthew 4:19):


“Come, follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.”


And the Church has been in the “fishing business” ever since.

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 4


“Do Not Judge”

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. 

Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. 

Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

St. Luke 6:37 (NIV)

I once came across the following poem, penned by an anonymous poet:


“I was shocked, confused, bewildered

As I entered Heaven’s door,

Not by the beauty of it all,

Nor the lights or its décor.

But it was the folks in Heaven

Who made me sputter and gasp –

The thieves, the liars, the sinners,

The alcoholics and the trash.

 

“There stood the kid from seventh grade

Who swiped my lunch money twice.

Next to him was my old neighbour

Who never said anything nice.

Herb, who I always thought

Was rotting away in hell,

Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,

Looking incredibly well.


“I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?

I would love to hear Your take.

How’d all these sinners get up here?

God must’ve made a mistake.

And why is everyone so quiet,

So somber – give me a clue.’

‘Hush, child,’ He said, ‘they’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d be seeing you.’”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 3


“Being There”

“In the same way, I tell you,

there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God

over one sinner who repents.”

St. Luke 15:10 (NIV)

A little boy was watching his father the priest write a sermon and asked him:


“How do you know what to say Daddy?”


His father replied:


“Why, God tells me.”

 

“Oh…”


said the little boy,


“…then why do you keep crossing things out?”



Often something magical occurs

in the exchanges between fathers and sons. 

For example, ever since they could talk,

my own sons have never ceased to amaze me

with the things they come up with. 

And who’d have ever thought it? 

But as I grew older, my own Father got a whole lot wiser. 

(Because when I was a teenager,

my Dad seemed to know extraordinarily little.)


Now, my Heavenly Father – well, He is something else again.  

For He cares about me every moment of my life.  

He always has, even before I was born. 

As the Psalmist attests (139:13b), God ever-so-lovingly:  


“…knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 2


“Come to the Banquet”

“Then the master told his servant,

‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in,

so that my house will be full.’” 

St. Luke 14:23 (NIV)

“Why don’t you go to church?”


The priest asked the man

with whom he had struck up a conversation in the grocery line.  

Looking down at his dusty jeans,

muddy boots,

and sweat-stained tee shirt,

the man replied:


“All I have are my work clothes –

I can’t possibly come to church looking like this.”


So, over the next few days,

the priest collected some nice clothes from the men in his congregation and, the next time he encountered the man,

happily presented him with quite an upgrade to his wardrobe.  


While walking down the sidewalk one sunny day several weeks later,

the priest happened to bump into the man

(who now sported a pair of khaki slacks,

and penny loafers,

and a white cotton, short-sleeved, button-down shirt)

and asked him:


“Why haven’t I seen you at church?”


Sheepishly, the man confessed:


“Well, Father, it’s like this –

the past few Sundays I showered,

and shaved,

and put on some of the new clothes you gave me…

well, I looked so darn good that I decided to go golfing instead.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity 1


“Love Your Neighbour As Yourself”

“Beloved, let us love one another:  

for love is of God,

and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” 

1 St. John 4:7 (KJV)

Bucharest, Romania has one of the world’s largest and most opulent palaces, built to be the private residence of then communist dictator,

and General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party,

Nicolae Ceauşescu.

Boasting impressive gardens,

grand ballrooms,

and banquet halls,

along with massive chandeliers and expensive carpets,

it took thousands of workers years to build

and consumed a significant portion of Romania’s Gross Domestic Product

in the process. 

(All of this in one of the world’s poorer countries.) 

To secure the land for the palace,

many homes and businesses were confiscated and demolished. 

Even so,

across the new plaza from the new palace

there were the bleak houses of the poor people of Bucharest. 

As a result,

General Secretary Ceauşescu ordered

that façades of attractive buildings be constructed in front of them –

so that he would not have to look at the homes of the poor.

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for Trinity Sunday


“Get a Life”

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Revelation 4:8b (NIV)

While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, 

an Anglican priest heard the intoning of a prayer

that nearly made his collar wilt. 

Apparently, the priest’s five-year-old son and his young playmates

had found a dead sparrow. 

Feeling that a proper burial should be performed,

the boys had secured a small box and some cotton batting. 

Then they dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of “the deceased.” 

The priest’s son

(no doubt because of his “familial connections”)

was chosen to say the appropriate prayers. 

So, with as much dignity as his five-year-old voice could muster,

the boy intoned his version

of what he thought his father-the-priest always said:


“Glory be unto the Fa-a-a-ther,

and unto the So-n-n-n,

and into the hole he goes.”

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for the

Day of Pentecost

“Whitsunday”


“They Were All with One Accord”

“When the day of Pentecost was fully come,

they were all with one accord in one place.”

Acts 2:1 (KJV)


British author C. Gordon Brownville

in his 1945 book, “Symbols of the Holy Spirit,”

tells this story about the great Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen

(the first human to discover the South Pole

in addition to the magnetic meridian of the North Pole):


“On one of his trips north, Amundsen took with him a homing pigeon. 

When he had finally reached the top of the world,

he opened the bird's cage and set it free. 

Imagine the delight of Amundsen’s wife back in Norway. 

When she looked up from the doorway of her home

and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above,

no doubt she exclaimed:

 

‘He’s alive!  My husband is still alive!’”


And so it was when Jesus ascended into heaven:  

He was gone,

but the disciples clung to His promise to send them the Holy Spirit.  

What joy, then, must have been theirs

when the dovelike Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost –

for the disciples had with them

the continual and the eternal reminder

that Jesus was indeed alive,

and victorious,

and reigning at the right hand of the Father! 


And this,

might I add,

continues to be the Holy Spirit’s message today –

a message,

by the way,

that needs to be delivered to a desperate and hurting world:


Jesus is still alive,

and still victorious,

and still reigning at the right hand of the Father!

 
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Father Alan’s Blog for the Sunday After Ascension


“Significance”

“Above all, love each other deeply,

because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

1 St. Peter 4:8 (NIV)


A father was at the beach with his children,

when his four-year-old son ran up to him,

grabbed his hand,

and led him to the shore,

where a seagull lay dead in the sand.  


“Daddy, what happened to him?”


The son asked.


“He died and went to Heaven.”


The dad replied.  


The boy thought for a moment and then asked:  


“Did God throw him back down?” 



Even though it is one of the four “high holy days” in the Church calendar

(along with Easter Day, Pentecost, and All Saints Day),

Ascension Day,

perhaps because it always occurs on a Thursday

(just this past Thursday, to be exact),

does not get the attention that it richly deserves.  

This is really a shame

because the Ascension holds great significance

in the historical life of Jesus when on Earth

and in His continuing ministry for us in heaven. 

Why I am particularly drawn to the annual celebration of the Ascension is that,

as a weekday event,

the Ascension reminds us

that Christianity is not just something that is confined to Sundays;

rather, it is to be experienced and lived every day.