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Sunday Bulletin

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ABOUT THE READINGS                                   4th SUNDAY OF LENT, 22 March 2020

As we continue our readings through Lent, we start this Sunday (March 22) with a reading from the First Book of Samuel.  At the demand of the people, and with ‘reluctant’ agreement from the Holy One, Samuel was led to anoint the war-leader, Saul, as king over Israel.  Whether it was pride or over-enthusiasm, Saul did not follow directions he’d been given by Gd.  The result was that Gd withdrew Gd’s favor from Saul, who eventually fell to the Philistines.  Today we hear the Holy One speak to Samuel who is grieving Saul’s fall from grace, and sends him to anoint David, youngest son of a farmer in Bethlehem.  Samuel would be committing an act of sedition if he just showed up and anointed the man Gd would show him, so the subterfuge of going to Bethlehem to make a sacrifice is used.  At this time there was no Temple and no city of Jerusalem, and sacrifices were made at local shrines.  The son of. Jesse are brought before Samuel and all seem to have valuable qualities.  But Gd chooses the youngest one, David.  Age, birth order, family status, and even admirable qualities are not what Gd looks at to make this choice, Samuel is told that the Holy One looks on the heart, the place of innermost will and action.  Good words to reflect on during a period like Lent.

Psalm 23, The ‘Shepherd Psalm,’ is our response to this reading, words ascribed to young David who is remembered as a singer as well as a king.  The psalm shows us the right attitude of a heart that trusts in Gd.  We are not used to praying in declarative sentences, but practices from Buddhism and other traditions would invite us to pray the psalm as an act of intention, committing ourselves into Gd’s hands with words of trust and hope.

The Letter to the Ephesians is one of the ‘disputed letters’ of Paul, that is, some scholars believe it comes from a disciple of Paul building on recognizable themes from Paul’s own writing and revealing several different perspectives about the church and even about Jesus.  Interestingly, a large portion of Ephesians shows up in Colossians as well (also ‘disputed’).  There are strong arguments on both sides. We note in these letters that Jesus is shown in terms of the Cosmic Saviour and the Church is now the place and means of reconciliation with Gd.  This reflects an early development of catholic (ie universal) theology about the importance of the Church in Gd’s action on behalf of the world.  In fact, both Christ and Church are revealed with a much more universal scope than earlier thought.  Today’s passage quotes from an unknown hymn with clear connections to Easter.

Another long reading from John is the Gospel.  In the ancient world, as in many places today (developed and developing) health concerns and disabilities were thought to be the result of Gd judging that person to be sinful.  If a baby is born blind, the sin would be attributed to the parents or, indeed, the entire family/clan.  What Jesus says flies in the face of this standard theology.  Not only is the man’s blindness not because of someone’s sin, it is an occasion for Gd to do marvelous things.  Blindness also becomes a metaphor for deeper, spiritual blindness, far worse for the soul than physical blindness.  The pool the man is waiting at is associated with healing.  The stirring of the waters indicated a moment when the Healing Presence was there, but the man is unable to beat out others to the waters.  Now the Healing Presence is before him in Jesus.  As with other healing stories, his obedience to the directions he is given results in gaining sight. 

But the Story goes gets bigger:  the healing has been done on the Sabbath, and, strictly speaking, violates the commandment.  Is healing work or is healing something else?  Sabbath is all about resting together in the grace of the Holy One.  Healing restores people to community as well as to health.  Does grace cease to happen because it is the Sabbath day?  The parents are quizzed and get themselves off the hook.  The man who received sight is quizzed and reveals more insight than the teachers of the Law and the most stringent followers of the Law.

He is driven out, but driven out of what? Perhaps the what doesn’t matter because the congregation to which John’s Gospel is addressed had experienced being ‘driven out’ themselves – driven out of the safety of the Jewish “quarter” of the cities making them vulnerable to persecution by Roman authorities.  They see can themselves in this story: once blinded by the assumptions made about the Law, in Christ they have received sight and insight, true healing and grace.  Like the man, they worship the Holy Presence they know in Jesus.  They heard Jesus and trusted him.  For those watching Jesus as this story unfolded but not understanding, they may see, but they have no sight.


22 March 2020                     The 4th Sunday in Lent

People who know me know I enjoy reading fantasy novels written for young adults and ‘young readers.’  Many years ago I was introduced to the Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander.  Welsh mythology provides the cauldron from which the stories unfold about Taran, a boy who dreams of becoming a warrior, as he grows up.  Throughout his wanderings Taran meets a wide variety of wonderful people.  In one of his journeys he comes into a valley where there is a small but well-kept home to which is attached a sturdy but empty corral. Taran meets the man of the house who brings invites him in for supper and a place to sleep.  They arrive and the man happily introduces Taran to his wife and children, announcing they have another person for dinner that night.  The wife looks at the one egg she had for her family’s meal, then sets the children to finding this and that, takes out the stale loaf of bread and in no time has created a large frittata to feed everyone.  

Taran asks about the empty corral and his host says it is for the flock.  What flock? Inquires Taran, and is told there is no flock yet, but when they have one there is a strong corral to keep them in.  Wandering through the valley with the householder at his side, they come across a herd of sheep without anyone taking care of him, and they separate, Taran to continue his journey and the householder to take home the new flock.  What struck Taran about the householder and his family was their vastly different way of looking at things.  Where Taran saw limitations they saw opportunities.  What Taran thought were unrealistic expectations made them able to “seize the day” when what they were hoping for came by.  In the future this way of looking at things will be an important part of how Taran faces a terrible challenge.

I think of this story when I read about Jesus healing the blind man.  As long as the man was living within the confines of what everyone ‘knew’ about the pool – that the healing properties were only in the water when it was stirred, and the time to get in limited, so neither being able to see the water moving and then having to stumble blindly to the pool when others are reacting meant the blind man had not been able to be healed.  Gd’s power to save is not restricted by the limitations of the pool.  Jesus is known for his works of healing, and yet those in the story do not see, they are as blind as the blind man.  

The sighted people gathered around the pool do not see a blind man they might bring into the pool beside them.  They, too, are blind.

The Pharisees, who yearn for the security and comfort of Gd’s approval and practice an ‘extra-strict’ obedience to the Law, do not recognize Jesus as the one who fulfills all that the Law would teach them – they are also blind. 

Blindness afflicts us in more ways than one.  Do we choose our blindness?  The blind man and his parents did not choose his blindness, neither by sinning, the recognized seed of all illness at that time, nor are they the innocent victims of the sins of their ancestors, also a reason given for illness and disaster.  

The Pharisees were yearning for the guiding light of Gd’s Torah – as the Law is so often described in the Scriptures.  They were seekers but were unable to see what was in front of them because their eyes were shut – glued to specific understandings and ways of expecting Gd to act.

Even the disciples, who are the first to ask whose sin had been the reason for the man’s blindness, who have been at Jesus’ side as he has healed others – they too cannot see except what they have been taught or socialized to see: A man is blind because someone sinned – himself, his parents, their parents, an uncle, cousins. . . sin from any member of the ‘clan’ could result in dire consequences on others.

Jesus doesn’t see it that way.  “This man is an opportunity for us to see the glory of Gd!”

This story is full of insight; the blind man is the one who truly sees and shows is clearly in his response to Jesus at the end of the story.  He was blind and now has sight, he was also spiritually blind and now sees clearly the presence of the Holy One in Jesus.

If it were ‘Lent as usual’ for us, I would explore these ideas about light and sight and insight and why it is good for us to make time to be thoughtful of them on this journey to Easter.

But this is not “Lent as usual.”  This is the Lent in which a pandemic closed the houses of worship to their communities and neighbourhoods.  This is the Lent where seeking fellowship is discouraged and even opportunities to put our faith into action in sandwich lines and community meals are being closed down in some places.  

But in some places they have become the ‘staging ground’ for continuing care for the hungry but by municipal staff instead of volunteers.  In some places they have found a way to continue to hand out meals without violating the social distancing norm.

Another element of this “not Lent as usual” are the emotions running high – anxiety and fear on the one hand, denial and selfishness on the other.  We’re not talking about guilt or spiritual growth, we’re talking survival and a ‘new normal’ as a result of this pandemic.

We who trust Jesus’ witness to Gd’s love for us have as many reasons for anxiety and fear as others, but we do not need to give in to them.  We believe that Gd is present to all of us – and somewhere in the midst of all this Gd is acting to open our eyes, to turn limitations into possibilities, to bring something new out of what is over and gone.  

“Let your light shine”:  make these “We” statements a litany and creed this week.

“You are salt for the earth”:  salt is shaken out to do its business, a metaphor for being disbursed, scattered.  We may be operating out of the limited spaces of our homes, but we are connected in webs that unfold well beyond us:  stay connected with friends, family, church family, work, school and others, make it a commitment to be more attentive during this time.

It is likely we will not be celebrating Easter together and that seems strangest of all.  We can only wonder and wait with expectation for what new ways life will spring forth from cold tombs and desolate places.  We can live the words of this ancient funeral hymn, “yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

The Kontakion (starts and ends with “Give rest to your servant with your saints, O Gd. . .”)

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St. Alban’s Anglican Church

Pray • Love • Remember
7260 St. Alban’s Road Richmond B.C. V6Y 2K3 Phone: 604-278-2770 Fax: 604-278-3384
e-mail address: web Site:

                         Sunday Services 8:30am & 10:00 am

St. Alban’s Anglican Church is an  inclusive community of disciples of Jesus Christ serving God in the heart of Richmond through worship, ministry and outreach. There has been a parish of St. Alban’s in Richmond since 1893. Since 1953 people have met here on this site to worship God and witness to Christ’s love for the world. We are strengthened and enriched by the diversity of our community. It is a place of caring, service and outreach, and a place that welcomes all. After the 10:00 am Service: Please join us in the Parish Hall for Coffee and Tea.

If you are worshiping with us today for the first time…and are interested in learning more about us, or becoming a member, please fill out a visitor’s form in the pew, or speak with one of the greeters following the service.

Vestry 2020

Pre-Vestry Form will take place on Feb. 9th, 2020 at 11:30 am in the Hall Lounge. This is your opportunity to look at the proposed 2020 Budget before Vestry and ask questions. Vestry books will be distributed.