Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ordination Announcement

God willing
George, Area Bishop of York-Simcoe
will ordain

Daniel Francis Graves

to the
Sacred Order of Priests
Christ’s Holy Catholic Church

on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Sunday, January 13th, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.

Holy Trinity Anglican Church
140 Brooke Street, Thornhill, ON L4J 1Y9

Your prayers and presence are requested

Reception to follow in the auditorium.

Clergy: Red Stoles

Friday, December 14, 2007

Reading the Bible – Part I: The Daily Office Lectionary as a Tool.

Blessed Lord, who has caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
-- The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent (Book of Common Prayer).

When I was in seminary, our dean was fond of reminding us that Anglicans read more Scripture than most other Christians. For those who follow the daily pattern of Morning and Evening prayer as set forth in the prayer book or any of our alternative forms, this is likely true. I think that a truer statement might be that Anglicans have opportunity to read more Scripture than most other Christians. In the parish I meet those who are deeply devoted to daily reading of Scripture and prayer. However, I also meet many who are deeply confused about how to approach the Bible, much less read it. This confusion often leads to embarrassment. Recently, in the parish, we have had some frank discussions in which several courageous individuals have expressed their confusion and embarrassment over how to approach the Bible and have asked for help.

First, there are many things that we may learn from the Bible, but as Christians we should hold fast to this important interpretive principle, that Bible contains God’s gracious self-disclosure of the Incarnate Word. This to say that in the written word we meet the Incarnate Word, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should approach Scripture with an expectation that we will meet our Lord. Of course, not every experience of reading Scripture will be a rapturous encounter. There is much to confuse us, sidetrack us, and much for us to misinterpret. However, as important as it is to understand Scripture, we must first cultivate the important discipline of reading Scripture. When we make time to read the Bible, we make space for God in our lives. Sometimes God will seem close and sometimes God will seem far, but God is faithful and will nor forsake us. We, too, are called to be faithful and one way in which we can do this is making the space for God through a ritual of daily Bible reading (whether or not the text makes any sense to us at the time!).

Making space for God through daily Bible reading is one thing, but if the Scriptures consistently fail to make any sense to us, our discipline of daily reading will soon fall apart as a meaningless exercise and our opportunity to encounter the Word in the word will be limited. We are blessed in our Anglican Tradition with a program for reading Scripture. Whether it is the intensive annual daily lectionary found in our traditional Book of Common Prayer, or the two-year cycle found in our Book of Alternative Services (in combination with a monthly or two-monthly recitation of the entire Psalter), we have a cycle of readings that makes some sense. During ordinary (that is, non-seasonal) time, readings from the Old Testament, the Epistles and the Gospels are mostly sequential readings through various books of the Bible. Many people begin their Bible reading at the beginning with Genesis, but quickly tire and fatigue after the narrative portions give way to Levitical Laws. The Daily Office lectionary attempts to present sequential pieces of Scripture in a sensible order, that the reader might get a sense of the narrative flow of Scripture, and thus be edified. To be sure, there are tough spots (Amongst my friends who pray the Daily Office, we often lament how difficult some of the latter portions of the Church Year can be through the tedious ramblings of II Kings). For the most part, though, we are able to enter into the narrative flow of both Old and New Testament narratives and lessons and the whole begins to make sense through the parts. During special seasons (Advent, Lent, Christmas/Epiphany, Easter) the sequences of readings tend to reflect the character of the season and allow the reader to begin to experience the change in liturgical time through the reading of Scripture.

It is not simply enough to read Scripture, though. It must be prayed. Again, our Daily Office of Morning and Evening prayer provides the context in which Scripture might be read and prayed. The reading of Scripture is punctuated by the recitation or singing of psalms and canticles. The choice of canticle can help us to highlight the season, and draw out in an emotional way some of the more intellectual concepts that we may have encountered in some of the narrative passages of Scripture. I always think of the readings for the Great Vigil of Easter in this way. At this service we always read the story of the Exodus, as told in narrative fashion, and then, immediately afterward, we sing it in the form of the Song of Miriam. This greatly deepens our understanding of the story at an emotional level. We begin to experience Scripture and not simply read it.

In Morning and Evening Prayer we combine the reading of Scripture with song, with praise, with petition and with periods of silence and meditation. In this context, day-by-day, Scripture begins to come alive for us, it begins to make sense to us, and we begin to feel it and allow it to become part of us and of our story. We encounter the Word in the word and begin to deepen our relationship with the living God who is confined not to the pages of a book but who lives and moves in us and animates our entire being.

Morning and Evening Prayer services can be found in both the Book of Common Prayer (page 1, page 17) and the Book of Alternative Services (page 47, page 61). Both the BCP and BAS contain lectionaries and instructions on how to use them (BCP page xvi, BAS, page 450). Another favourite resource, Celebrating Common Prayer, comes from the Anglican Franciscans and does a good job of highlighting seasonal cadences. Other daily Bible reading programs are available through both the Forward Movement in the United States, and the Bible Reading Fellowship in the U.K.
Next: Some useful tools to help us unlock difficult problems in the text.

Copyright 2007, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed, by any means, either in whole or part without the express written consent of the author.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sleepers Wake!

As we travel toward the longest evening of the year, as we near the shortest day, as darkness covers the face of the earth, St. Paul calls us to wake from our sleep. And as with most of our understanding of the gospel, we learn once again that the Kingdom of God is unlike the kingdoms of this world. As we go about our daily tasks in a world that never sleeps, never rests, in a world of continuous wakefulness, the message, “sleepers wake” sounds strangely counter-intuitive. Are we not already awake? Are we not in need of rest, especially at this most trying and exhausting time of the year? Would not the words of Jesus “come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest,” better suit us at this time? And yet, we remain confronted by the call, “sleepers wake!”

From what sleep are we called to emerge – just what is the slumber we are challenged to shake off? In the days of great darkness, a light arose in the midst of the people of Judea. While under the oppression of a tyrant king, who was a client of an oppressive empire, a new day dawned. In the face of a history of desecration of their holy place, in the loss of their hereditary priesthood, in a period of increasing darkness, a new dawn broke forth. The light shone forth through the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not, and has not been able to overcome it. The call of the day was “sleepers awake!” Wake from your fear, wake from your sadness, wake from your cynicism, wake from your apathy, wake from the oppression that robs you of your life. But awake to what? What is it that jars us from our nocturnal existence?

“Behold, thy king cometh unto thee.”

Awake and behold the King of Glory, seated not on a majestic steed but on a humble mule, lowly and unbecoming. Awake, behold the King of Glory passes on his way and all of our dreariness shall be shaken from us. Our salvation draweth nigh, closer now than when we first believed.

Every year at this time we are reminded that our king cometh and we hear the call to awake, prepare for his coming. The old Law is fulfilled perfectly in Christ’s law of love. We hear the call to shake off the works of darkness and behold the dayspring from on high. The darkness, under which we slumber and are enslaved, is penetrated by the light of the world shining forth and drawing us into the light. At this time of year we ask ourselves what are the works of darkness that enslave us? Is it the busyness of the season? Is it the demands of family beyond what we can bear to accommodate? Is it the fear of not being able to “afford” a good Christmas? Is it the fear of being alone and forgotten as the busy world passes us by? The work of darkness that enslaves most of us is the sad truth that while our King cometh unto us, the King of Glory, we simply do not care. It is too easy to remain in the paradoxical slumber of our frenzied but lonely lives – it is too easy to embrace the darkness of apathy.

The people who caught a glimpse of their king that first Palm Sunday, who recognized him as their king, in spite of his lowly estate and the pathetic animal on which he rode; they welcomed him with palms and scattered garments strewed. They beheld their king coming unto them, they beheld the King of Glory and began to cast of the works of darkness, but were suddenly seized by fear and scepticism. “Crucify” was all their breath. And how many of those who shouted loud “Hosanna” stood at the foot of his cross a mere five days later?

Sleepers wake! Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed!

We have been baptized into the light of the new dawn, we have received the light of Christ as we rose from a watery grave, we have become heirs to a new kingdom. Why then, do we choose to return to that sepulchre of slumber. Have we not learned that the grave of death has been become a bed of hope for all people? Have we not risen to new life? Why, then, I ask again, do we choose to stay beneath the cover of darkness? Why do we continue to turn away from our Lord in our midst having once welcomed him with adoring loud hosannas now only to shout “crucify”? Each of us knows the answer in our own hearts. What will it take for you to don a garment of light this Advent season? What will it take for you to stand against the darkness of the season and the darkness of the human betrayal of this holy time? Will you stand against the powers of this world that draw us from the love of God, the love of our Lord so eloquently proclaimed by St. Paul? Will you say to those around you, “Lo, your king cometh unto you?” Will you proclaim not only with your lips but with your lives not the pomp and grandeur of this age but the subversive call to love against all hate? Will you dare to follow that lowly man from Nazareth who began his life in the lowliest of estates and comes to us riding on a lowly mule? Do you dare to cast off your fear, cast off your loneliness, cast of your dreariness and drowsiness and put on a garment of light?

Sleepers wake! The watch are calling! Lo, thy King cometh unto thee.

Follow him, stand with him in the light during this dark season, proclaim him and his love. Love others as he first loved you. Indeed our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. If you put on the garment of light, if you wake from this sleep, if you love as you were first loved, then God’s kingdom has come on earth.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Preparing for Advent

Before entering parish ministry all of my professional life was spent in the retail sector. From the time that I was sixteen I worked in a store. One thing was always consistent in the retail world: The Christmas season began November 1st. In those early days of November, we pulled out our Christmas decorations, began to display Christmas merchandise, and on went the Christmas Carols and music. Even as retailer in the ecclesiastical market – I was retail sales manager of Toronto’s Anglican Book Centre for ten years – this was the case. From time-to-time, we tried to push things a little later into eleventh month, but the reality of retail is simply that a retailer needs to get a good start on the season if the books are going to turn from red to black in that last quarter of the year. As a retail manager, I found Christmas came even earlier. In the month of May, I would receive a sales visit from one of my favourite sales reps, a gentleman named Stephen Wright, who would lay out stack after stack of Christmas card samples. They were of all sorts and varieties, and I would go through each card quickly, but carefully, looking for those with a religious theme. This would generally take an entire morning – usually, a lovely May morning when the natural world was coming to life once again, and summer hinted gently from around the corner. And there I was choosing Christmas Cards.

I never seemed to mind this annual May ritual, nor did I mind the ritual of beginning the Christmas sales season in early November. You see, I have always loved planning for Christmas. It wasn’t just the Eaton’s Christmas “wish book” arriving each Fall (which my brother and I would scour for hours, deciding which action figures we wanted), nor was it the early longing for that two-week holiday. The home in which I grew up was not a particularly religious one. Yet, as the days of November crept ever closer, as a child I would eye up the Perry Como Christmas album and in due course, place the vinyl record on the player and hear about the “tidings of comfort and joy.” I was unaware of anything called “Advent”, and yet I think this childhood ritual was, in a way, an observance of an advent-time.

And so, as an adult, a retailer, a bookseller, the early onset of Christmas never bothered me, much to the chagrin of the ecclesiastics around me. Nor does it today, even as a cleric. This morning, amidst the first fall of snow, I heard the first Christmas advertisement on the radio – a pitch for a Christmas album by a noted boys’ choir. My heart lifted to the strains of “Once in Royal David’s City,” and within me I felt the age-old prayer begin to swell, “Come Lord, Jesus, Come.”

Copyright 2007, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed either in whole or part without the express written consent of the author.

Friday, November 2, 2007

On Remembrance

Athena and I were talking recently about how “The War” informed life for our generation. While it is true that we were both born a good twenty-five years after the end of World War II, it formed a strong part of our shared cultural narrative as Gen-Xers. The war was ever-present in the conversations of our elders – in their storytelling, in their hopes and fears, and in their response to challenges of the day. On the one hand, it seemed to us that it had just happened and that we had missed it, and on the other that it was already an event of mythic proportions.

My maternal grandfather, Frank Rason, was member of the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (R.C.E.M.E.) and served in England, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In England he met my grandmother, Joan Edwards, and married her before the war was over, sending her home to become one of the many war brides who, barely adults, left all they had to begin a new life in a new land. Thus, our family came into being because of the war. We knew the stories of my grandparents’ courtship and we knew that it was the war that brought them together. They were, however, reticent to talk of the war. They were times best left forgotten. Typically, I recall my grandfather telling funny stories about some of his compatriots and the antics in which they engaged. I recall one Christmas dinner, though, when in the midst of relating one of these tales, he stopped, looked around at each of us, and misty-eyed began, “I want each of you to know how lucky I am. So many boys never came home. I saw terrible things. When we landed in Belgium I remember seeing a field where a battle had just been fought, and I will always remember the image of a pair of boots with legs, but no body. So many never came back. I’m so lucky.”

That was the only time I ever remember him talking about the brutal reality of the war. I never heard him speak of it again. I do remember him falling asleep in his chair at nights and sometimes shouting. I do know of the deep psychological scars the war made on him, and on so many others. I am deeply aware that many men found solace in the self-medicating ritual of alcoholism. I am deeply aware that so many found gentle parenting and healthy domesticity difficult after being trained to kill. I am deeply aware that even those who did not sacrifice their lives gave so much, including their youth. Many, like my grandfather, lied about their age to get into the service.

In the fifteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The men of that generation gave up their lives – some in the ultimate sacrifice, others in offering up their youth, their hopes and dreams, their possibilities of a life untouched by mental illness, alcoholism, or peace of mind. War devastates, and I believe that as Christians we are called to walk the way of peace. I am also aware that I make this claim from the vantage point of someone who lives a life of freedom because of the sacrifice of others. I am aware that my grandfather bore much pain so that I would not have to. I am deeply aware as a Christian that our freedom is born through the violence of the crucifixion. The Eucharist, itself, is an act of remembrance of that act of violence that freed us from bondage. But in remembering, recalling that act, we recognize this, that it is not the act of violence, itself, that frees. Rather, it is the love that is offered in the sacrifice of the one who willingly lays down his life. Jesus did just this. And even those who lived to come home from the war, did just that – they laid down their lives in so many ways. The war that made up my narrative thought world no longer has the force it once did. My grandparents and so many others are gone. World War II has not the narrative power to our children as it had for us. But ultimately, I wonder, does it really matter? The self-giving sacrifice of love has power for all generations, and week-by-week as we receive the Eucharist, we meet that offering of love. As children of any generation, it is our call to walk the way of peace, to live into the freedom of that peace, offered to us in Christ Jesus.

Let us then remember those who offered themselves in love. As we remember those fallen as well as those who came home with so many deep physical, mental, and emotional scars, let us remember the love for which they bore their pain and their dream that none other should ever endure it. We shall remember them, lest we forget.

Copyright 2007, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This post may not be reproduced or redistributed either in whole or part without the express written consent of the author.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Rites of Passage Evangelism

On Sunday, Oct 21st, at Holy Trinity Church, we welcomed six new Christians into the body of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is a great privilege to walk with individuals, families, and sponsors as they begin the Christian journey. I find that it is a time for storytelling: They tell us their story, we tell ours, and in the midst another story is told, “the old, old story,” which binds us all together in one Lord, one faith, and one Baptism.

As I meet families not only for baptism, but also for wedding preparation, and yes, even as I meet families of those who have departed this life, as we prepare a Christian funeral, I am struck by a hopeful reality, namely, that God’s Holy Spirit continues the work of building up the Church and the Kingdom. People are seeking. We often lament the fact that our numbers are declining and that we seem to have fewer new people coming through our doors. And yet... I see them on a weekly basis -- individuals and baptism seeking Holy Baptism, couples seeking Holy Matrimony, and families seeking Christian Funerals for their departed loved ones. But do we really see them? And more importantly, when we see them, do we welcome them into our midst?

It is not uncommon for those of us who worship regularly in our parish churches to be frustrated when those who do not attend regularly on Sundays seek the rites of the Church. At Baptisms, we may find our parking spaces taken, or someone else sitting in “my” pew. And, good heavens, the service lasted ten more minutes than usual! Then there are those who think that our “lovely historic building” would be the perfect “venue” for their upcoming nuptials. However, I always consider one important question, namely, how is it that these people have come to us? What has led them here? I think that there can be no answer but this: The Holy Spirit of God. Whether it is in some nagging sense that we should give our child a Christian beginning, or some nagging granny urging us parents to get our baby “done”; whether it is the thought that there must be more to life than what the world offers; whether it is a couple wanting to be married in the church that meant so much to them as children; whether it is the desire to give our parents the proper Christian ending to their life, whether or not they, or we, have slipped in their church attendance over the years, I believe sincerely and truly that God works through any and all of these motivations, and so many more. I believe sincerely and truly that our call as Christian people is to welcome home those who come back through our doors, after many years, with the same loving arms that a certain father welcomed his son in the fifteenth chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel.

I believe that we in the Anglican Church have the opportunity to embrace a new kind of evangelism – what I call “rites of passage evangelism.” As someone who worked in a retail business for many years, I can tell you that we spent a good deal of money trying to get people to come through our doors – money that was often wasted. And yet, here in the Church, without any expenditure of significant capital, we have people calling us daily – yes, daily – seeking the rites of the Church. Why? Because somewhere in their past, the Church has had an impact on their life. Sadly, somehow it ceased to make an impact, and at some point, they left. Yet, here they are, once again, led, I have no doubt, by the Spirit of God. Shall we welcome them, love them, support them, and uphold them, with our care and prayers? I hope and believe we can, because it is not us that is drawing them, but God’s Holy Spirit. What God is counting on us to do is to help them catch a glimpse of the Kingdom in our midst. I believe that God empowers us to do so and I hope and pray we will welcome the stranger in our midst, who is not really a stranger, but a brother or sister in the Lord.

Text: copyright, The Rev. Daniel F. Graves, 2007. Not to be reproduced or redistributed in any form without the express written permission of the author.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Welcome Lola Grace Andrews

On Friday, Oct 12, 2007, I had the pleasure of offering prayers giving thanks for the birth of Lola Grace Andrews, daughter of life-long friend Darryl Andrews and his wife Sara. It was privilege to be part of this special moment in their lives.