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-Living justly as a sign of salvation-
Date: October 30, 2016 (Pentecost 24) 1. Texts: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Ps. 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: justice in action. 4. Aim: guide, encourage. 5. Proposition: “Living, breathing justice is proof of our salvation.”

"Zacchaeus was a wee little man , and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree For the Lord he wanted to see.
And when the Savior passed that way He looked up and said, 'Zacchaeus, You come down, For I'm going to your house today! For I'm going to your house today!
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, But a happy man was he, For he had seen the Lord that day And a happy man was he; And a very happy man was he.”[4]

Ordinarily, wouldn’t we all just like to see a full Sunday School singing this song? Wouldn’t they be just so cute?

And, as soon as we admit to melting at the mere thought of that scene, we have dealt a serious blow to both the proclamation of the gospel and to our own expression of our salvation. True! Zacchaeus as the cute little impulse for a cute little Sunday School song by cute little Sunday School kids robs this story of its impact.

Please note that this story is not a parable, contrary to what we have been reading of late. A parable is a story, told by Jesus to teach us a lesson about God and his people using everyday situations sometimes with a surprise. This is not a fictional story—this is history. Jesus was passing through Jericho. Zacchaeus,

a short, rich tax collector, had to work hard to actually see Jesus. Jesus noticed Zacchaeus and invited himself to supper. At supper, Zacchaeus announced his plans to redress the injustices he has created. This is history.

In light of that, Jesus’ pronouncement at the end becomes even more powerful and meaningful: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”1 Think about it.

“…he too is a son of Abraham”: Jesus pronounced a definitive, rabbinic statement on Zacchaeus’ identity. Even this rich, tax collector—who became rich by abusing his office as a tax collector at the expense of his fellow Jews—was a Jew, a son of Abraham. He was a member of the Chosen People and an inheritor of all the privileges of that identity. No longer should his fellow citizens treat him as a Gentile and outsider—Zacchaeus was a Jew, a brother in the faith and a son of Abraham. Period.

But, according to Jesus, Zacchaeus was also one of the lost—“For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Zacchaeus was a Jew, yes, but he lived in a broken relationship with God. He was lost.

Then, he became like another famous song character: Amazing grace how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see.2 This, too, is the assessment of Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house…” Zacchaeus moved from being lost to being found. His relationship with God had been broken and now it was healed.

But how is this so? We don’t really see the change in Zacchaeus. We can presume that his relationship with God was broken because of his practices as a

chief tax collector who became rich. We don’t really get to see the change—all we have is Jesus’ pronouncement on Zacchaeus salvation.

Except for the reality that we see Zacchaeus’ changed life: Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.3 Zacchaeus was a changed man. He moved from a life of unrighteous oppression to a just life and meaningful reparation of past injustices. Injustice to justice, unrighteousness to righteousness, all reflected in tangible, practical way— Zacchaeus gave proof of his changed life. It is on this basis that Jesus is able to authoritatively proclaim the change in Zacchaeus’ status.

So, what started out as a nice, even comical Sunday School event has turned into a trumpet call to a new life: Come, O God of wind and flame: fill the earth with righteousness; teach us all to sing your name, may our lives your love confess. Sing out, earth and skies! Sing of the God who loves you! Raise your joyful cries! Dance to the life around you!4 There is nothing cute about Zacchaeus. He challenges our very existence.

Here’s the real point of this historical story.

When we experience salvation, it’s not just our eternal lives that are affected: it is also our daily living. We prove the reality of salvation by living it out in our day-to-day actions. According to Jesus, Zacchaeus and the Old Testament prophets, those actions must reflect God’s justice and righteousness. God’s nature is to be made visible in what we say and do—and God is justice, righteousness and universal love. And we must say that, if that justice,

righteousness and universal love are missing from our lives, than our own salvation must be questioned. That’s what Zacchaeus teaches us.

Of course, it might help if we could figure out what that might look like in our lives. Zacchaeus split his wealth with the poor and paid back four times what he had stolen from tax payers. But none of us are tax collectors who are defrauding tax payers. So what will justice, righteousness and love look like in our lives?

These qualities absolutely and categorically deny us all prejudice, racism, bigotry, sexism and the like. You can disagree with what any individual or group actually does, but you have no freedom to dismiss that group based on aspects such as race, theological assumptions, gender, sexual orientation or so on. A patronizing and superior attitude is denied the Christian, for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our salvation denies us all those “-isms” that elevate one group over another.

Justice and righteousness also demand that we actively campaign against oppression and violence in all their forms. While no individual may combat all forms, every individual must stand up against oppression in whatever form it confronts them. Violence against women, economic injustice, and systemic bias inside our own justice system come to mind.

God loves all people equally and with the same passion. His love establishes a fundamental equality amongst us all and it is out of that equalizing love that his justice and righteousness flow. Having been made in the image of God and having been saved through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, that love, justice and righteousness are to be seen in the context of our daily lives. Our salvation is demonstrated and proven in our just and righteous living.

Zacchaeus may have been a “wee little man” who needed some help to see Jesus. But once we have read his history, our own stories are challenged and transformed into tools for God’s justice and righteousness here on earth.


-Signs of our greatness-
Date: November 6, 2016 (celebration of All Saints’ Day) 1. Texts: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Ps. 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: service and servanthood as signs of greatness. 4. Aim: challenge, encourage. 5. Proposition: “If the Church is to be great, its disciples must be the world’s servants.”


Thank God it’s almost over—the U.S. presidential election, I mean. North America has been bombarded by a bombastic flow of barbaric outbursts, all aimed at “making America great.” This great status will be achieved by division, power politics and racist actions. The United States will become great by wielding its economic and military power, by bullying the world, especially Mexicans and Muslims. A large proportion of U.S. citizens think that such is the sure path to national greatness.

To which Jesus says, “Woe to you.” ‘But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. ‘Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. ‘Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. ‘Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.1 It seems to me that Jesus had a very different sense of what makes one great.

But Jesus called [the disciples] to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’2

-Signs of our greatness-
This doesn’t sound like the U.S. election.

Neither does this: 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.3 Again, no resonance in the U.S. election for this.

According to Jesus, “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted,”4 which is exactly what we heard a couple of weeks ago in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. And it was repeated in Mark’s Gospel, “[Jesus] sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’”5

It really is undeniably clear: every disciple on the planet is to have a different—a radically different—understanding of greatness.

Greatness, according to Jesus, is shown in love, in sacrifice and in humble service.

Love, of course, does not mean a sentimental attachment to others. Love means Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.6

-Signs of our greatness-
Love means ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.7

All this necessarily means that we choose to love others and that this choice is reflected in our words and actions. Love is only love when it is expressed in how we live and move and have our being. The disciples of Jesus love others and demonstrate that love in humble service. That is the measure of our greatness.

This is absolutely contrary to the way that a certain candidate in the U.S. election understands greatness. Christ himself will assess our greatness by how we measure up to his standards, not to the standards of the world.

With this we have now uncovered the path towards the Church’s greatness. Our Church and our parishes will only achieve greatness as we serve the world in faith, love and sacrifice. Our proclamation will only be authentic as it reflects Christ’s standards and expectations—which will be to reject the bullying tactics of the world. Christ will make us great, as we serve in humility and sacrifice. The greater works which Jesus promised will be our own as we love and serve in his name and according to his will.8

There are some practical implications in this for every parish in our diocese.

First of all, this truth challenges us to not only know the gospel but to realign our lives according to it. We actually have to reject the standards and ways of the world in order to more fully embody the will of God. Of course, the likely outcome of this is that the world—including our

may well pressure and even persecute us. As we realign our lives according to Christ, we will have to brave the condemnation of society.

Second, we have to look for and even create opportunities to sacrificially serve the world. Gone are the days when we could simply focus on our own survival or on those who have habitually attended our services. Our communities will only learn to take the gospel seriously when they see it seriously reflected in our ministries. So the gospel that we took efforts to embody in the first place above must become the model and pattern for our service to the world in our second step.

Thirdly, it has become time to recognize that the Church is not a charity. The Church is not one volunteer organization amongst many in our communities. The Church is not one recipient amongst many of those who receive our leftover time and money. The Church is the instrument of Christ and the channel of God’s salvation. The Church is the body of Christ and the family of God. It holds a preeminence over other groups and organizations. The Church is the means which God has chosen to act out his mission and the world’s salvation. The Church is to receive not what is left over at the end of the month, but the first fruits of our time, our abilities and our resources.

All this sounds so unlike the U.S. presidential election. All this sounds so unlike human politics in any country. This sounds like Jesus at work. This sounds like Jesus at work in and through us. This sounds like the love of God transforming his world so that all may experience the reconciliation which is God’s mission in the world. Which, of course, sounds exactly like what the Church is to be about.


friends and neighbours—




Date:  April 6, 2014 (Lent 5)

The Venerable Canon Terry Leer,
Archdeacon for Mission Development

1.  Texts:  Ezekiel 37:1-14; Ps. 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45.
2.  Subject:  abundant living.
3.  Topic:  achieving the promise of Jesus.  
4.  Aim:  guide, direct.
5.  Proposition:  “Jesus promised us abundant life and here’s how we will experience it.”


Therefore, prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God:  I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

When [Jesus] had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”  The dead man came out…

 Oh, how surely each of us wishes for such.  Whether we’re thinking of our own loved ones who have died or we’re thinking about our Church that seems perhaps to be on the edge of death, how we would pray for such—that God himself would put sinews and flesh on our dry bones!  That God himself would call us out of the darkness and isolation of the tomb to new life resembling the resurrection!  

 For individual resurrection we must wait until the end of time.  That has been made clear.  But the prophecy to Israel took place in real time and the promise was directed to them in their circumstances.  In fact, the nation went on to experience the fulfillment of the prophecy.  So it just may be that this word of the Lord has something to say to us in our time now.  

 This word is a wondrously hope-filled vision.  It speaks of new life where there was only the long-dead.  It speaks of God’s intervention in the lives of the long-exiled people of Israel—a nation to be re-formed.  It is a wondrously hope-filled vision.

 It has continued to be a wondrously hope-filled vision for the Church in the almost two thousand years of our history.  Preacher after preacher has spoken passionately about the reform promised by God in this vision.  God himself will restore us!  God himself will both re-form and reform us!  This is our glorious hope.  

 It is indeed our hope even now—and maybe especially now.  God will, by his own power, reshape the Church and redirect us.  He will re-create us and set us on our feet, at the beginning of a new journey along the path which God himself will set for us.  It is our hope.  Many congregations are praying for just such a thing today.  Hear the word of the Lord.  

 But this is where it began to get a little uncomfortable for me.  

 First of all, the word of the Lord made the nation confront its spiritual dehydration.  They were told directly that they were cut off and dried up.  Like the zucchini vines or the tops of your potatoes at the end of the season, the nation was cut off from their spiritual roots and left to dry up.  If this prophecy is aimed at us, we are then confronted with our own spiritual dehydration.  That’s essential to the experience of Lent and it is universal amongst God’s people.  As uncomfortable as it is for me to say this, the word of the Lord from Ezekiel forces us to look at our own spiritual health.  

 Make yourselves as comfortable as you can, so that you won’t be distracted from our process.  You may close your eyes if you wish.  You may kneel if that will help.  Set up the spiritual space around you so that you may hear the word of the Lord.

 In what way is your spiritual life dry and brittle?  In what way does it lack strength, vigor and flesh?  Think, if you can, of just one way in which you find your relationship with Jesus lacking.  In what one way has your spiritual life been reduced to dry bones?  [Wait.]

 I’d like to hazard a guess:  I suspect that most of us will say that our relationship with God is pressure-filled and lacks a sense of the joy of the Lord.  We’ve run out of time and energy but still feel pushed to accomplish things for God and his Church.  We feel we’re never quite measuring up, no matter how hard we work and we certainly don’t see much success.  We just keep working and working, and a vague fog of desperation hovers around the edges of our vision.  

 Does anyone else want to share their experience of a dry bone circumstance?  [Wait.]

 So, hear the word of the Lord.  He never intended that we should work ourselves to the bone.  Faith is not supposed to be a life-consuming burden.  Jesus’ intent for our life is abundance.  His goal for us is genuine and abundant living.  He summons us out of that darkened state with its vague dis-ease of desperation.  He calls us out of the tomb of despair and into the light of abundant life he promised.  

 This is good news.  This is gospel.  Please relax in the privilege God has done you.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit he has adopted you as his children.  This is not the same as being given a long list of duties that have to be done before you can have your allowance.  God gives you the entirety of his love and proves it in Jesus.  In response you love in turn—love God with all that you are and love others as if they were your own flesh and blood.  There is no pressure to achieve.  There is no demand to save.  We do not earn God’s love and approval through our ministries.  We simply are loved and so love in return.  

 It is out of and because of that love that we minister.  That’s why we do whatever it is we do, because God first loved us and we love one another.  That’s why the bones are given sinew, flesh and new life—so that they may carry out the will of God.  That will is to be loved in abundance and to love abundantly.  

 So now relax in this gospel.  You don’t have to save the Church or others.  You don’t even have to save yourself.  All that is up to God to do.  All you have to do is enjoy the abundant love and life of God.  

 And there are signs that you are living this abundant life.  St. Paul put them this way:
By contrast the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
These are the marks that you are experiencing the abundant life of Jesus.  Should they go missing, you can begin looking for the ways in which you have taken back the desperation of days gone by.  

 This is exciting!  We have the word of the Lord.  God summons the dry bones of our spiritual lives and clothes them with the sinews and flesh of his love.  We are constructed to be loved by him and to love in turn.  That’s his intent for us and the result of it is the abundant life in Jesus.  We even have symptoms of this love, so that we will know when we are living the abundant life.  

 There is more, of course.  I could outline how to carry out that love in word and deed.  I could even give you specific markers of success in carrying out that love.  But I’m beginning to think that may be too much for today.  What do you think?  Does anyone want to ask any questions?  [Wait.]

 We’ve looked at the health of our spiritual lives.  We’ve heard God speak his prophecy of abundant life to us and we have been reclothed in the love of God.  That’s God’s intent for us.  He summons us from death to life, from darkness to light.  This is our gospel and God’s truth.  That’s a lot for one morning—but praise God that we can do all this for him.



-Consequences of Christian discipleship-
Date: November 13, 2016 (Pentecost 26) 1. Texts: Isaiah 65:12-25; Canticle 3, BAS, p. 76; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: the consequences of the changed life of a disciple. 4. Aim: educate, support. 5. Proposition: “We disciples are promised a changed life—and that promise carries its own consequences.”


There is an old Christian chorus that reads like this: A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another As I have loved you, That you love one another As I have loved you.1 I’m sure we’ve all sung it in some church, somewhere.

But it seems as if, in light of today’s reading from Isaiah, we might create a new chorus. A new creation I give unto you, That you live in my Spirit, In love, joy and grace, That you share daily my love, A life lived in faith.

You see, God’s intent is that we should live a new life—yes, following his new commandment—but that it is our experience of the love of God that both creates our new life and creates the foundation from which we can follow his new commandment.

Isaiah’s experience of this was pretty clear: God was creating a new Jerusalem. God was reforming his people. The old way of being the Chosen People was being replaced with a new way.

-Consequences of Christian discipleship-

This new creation was a gift from God. God was in the process of refashioning his people. He was the source and impetus of recreation. The Jews had only to receive and appropriate this new creation. They were not responsible to design, fashion or provide energy into it. They had to receive it and to live it out.

St. Paul reflected this understanding when he wrote to the Corinthians: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”2 Paul was even willing to set aside the old legal requirements of Judaism in favour of this understanding: “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!”3 God’s intent in the world is to grant everyone a new creation of his own making whereby we are refashioned in the image of Christ himself.

Our new chorus shares that same theology. A new creation I give unto you, That you live in my Spirit, In love, joy and grace, That you share daily my love, A life lived in faith. God is the source of our new creation. We neither have to design nor formulate it. We have only to receive what he is giving us, this new creation.

This new creation is fashioned in the image of Jesus. That is, as disciples of Christ we follow him as our master and we imitate his life. We take what he said and did as the template for our daily lives.

According to our new chorus, this first of all means that we have to live in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Many Anglicans today do not have a clear understanding of the Spirit. He’s become for many a kind of junior partner in the religious firm of God and Son Incorporated. For most people, the Spirit runs around as a kind of junior cheerleader, pumping up the employees and putting a public face on the religion. That’s not accurate.

The Holy Spirit is not junior to God the Father: he is God the Holy Spirit, not some mere angel of God or merely some emanation from God. He is fully divine, fully eternal and fully God. His work in us and through the Church is of the same origin and authority as the creation of the universe. In fact, the Church is the creation of the Spirit (Acts 1-2) and the Spirit remains the power behind, in and through all disciples of Jesus.

It is through this reality of God that we will experience our new creation. As we allow the Holy Spirit access to our hearts, minds and lives, he renews us and recreates us. It is our experience of the love, joy and grace of God through the Spirit that both recreates us and is the sign of our recreation.

This new life in the Spirit is glorious. We are fulfilled and made complete according to God’s plan and by his grace. Because of the Spirit we reflect the life of Christ. We are his hands, feet and body in the world. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture and the ministers of his gospel of love.

However, it is not enough to just be recreated in the Spirit. We also have to behave as recreated by the Spirit. We can’t just receive the gifts of the Spirit. We also have to use them. The love, joy and grace of God must be made visible in our words and actions.

After all, that’s what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus. The disciple not only learns the content of the master but also mimics the master. We live in our context as Jesus lived in his. We speak in our context as Christ spoke in his. The life and love of Christ are made visible and audible through us. What we have to do is work out what this will look and sound like in our lives.

-Consequences of Christian discipleship-
First of all, we have to understand that, in the life of Christ, to love is to sacrifice one’s life for the life of the beloved. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”4 We are to love others as Christ loved us—that is, by sacrificing what we hold dear for the sake of the beloved. As Christ sacrificed his life on the cross, so are we to sacrifice for the sake of the other. We both demonstrate and prove the love of God as we love others in his fashion.

Second, we are to proclaim the gospel in all that we say and do.5 Discipleship is to be equated with lifestyle. We teach by doing. We make new disciples—as per the Great Commission—by living out the teachings and life of Jesus. We become the learner’s manual for new disciples. We speak and prove the gospel by acting out of the sacrificing love of Christ.

Lastly—at least for today—such sacrificing love expressed in word and deed is to be shared with everyone we meet. We do not have the luxury of loving only those who love us in turn. Jesus said, ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.6 The standard for our love is the perfection of God and we are obligated to love everyone, even those people with whom we disagree, even those people we don’t like.

Whew! Look at where our reading from Isaiah led us. We have moved from where we might have been in the past to a new creation with a future

designed by God, a future of love, joy and grace. Our future as Christ’s disciples will be formed and guided by the sacrificial love of God as proven in Jesus. That’s what our new commandment, our new creation and our new chorus have laid out before us. A new creation I give unto you, That you live in my Spirit, In love, joy and grace, That you share daily my love, A life lived in faith.