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Holy Disruptions – A Sermon for an Installation

Gospel: Luke 4:14-21

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. (Read the whole passage)

 *This sermon was written by The Rev. Courtenay Reedman Parker on the occasion of The Rev. Erik Parker’s Installation to a serve a new congregation.*

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Today is a day of celebration for Sherwood Park Lutheran Church, for Pastor Erik, and for the wider church as we mark the beginning of a new ministry. Today, as Pastor Erik is installed, the warranty comes off. He’s yours. You’re his. And this ministry that you have been called to officially begins. And so we gather with excitement for this new beginning, as Pastor Erik joins the ministry of Sherwood Park which is richly and deeply rooted. And with this new beginning is the anticipation for how God will work through you, and use your gifts together to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in this time and place.

As Sherwood Park started the new calendar year with a new pastor, and Pastor Erik with a new call, the church begins the year with the festival of Epiphany, when the magi visit Jesus, bringing gifts, but also signalling the start of something new. In Jesus, God reveals not only who God is, but how God will be in relationship to all humankind. It’s kind of a big deal. So these weeks that make up the season after the Epiphany continue to share stories of the ways in which Jesus… God is revealed to us. Stories of the magi following the star to find the newborn king, of Jesus being named and claimed God’s Beloved Child through baptism on the banks of the Jordan River, of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, and today returning to his hometown to publicly name and claim his identity through the words of the prophet Isaiah. 

These ancient stories offer us, just like their original hearers, a vision of hopeful anticipation for who Jesus, God, is, and what the world will look like under God’s rule. So too, as a new ministry begins there is also hopeful anticipation for this new thing… this new person you have called to be your pastor, and for Pastor Erik, hopeful anticipation for this new community of Sherwood Park he has been called to serve, and the ways God will be revealed in and through you, the ways God will shape and form you for ministry together. For our family, Pastor Erik, myself, Oscar, and Maeve, there is excited anticipation for this new beginning, for new relationships, to deepen connections with some of you who we already know, and to join you all in living out God’s mission for the world.

Today we hear the first part of Luke’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Word about him is spreading. He’s trending… he’s gone viral… people are talking about what he’s doing and saying, and they are praising him – they’re liking what they see and hear – What a great text for an installation… Then Jesus returns home to Nazareth, and as he has done so many times before, goes to worship in the synagogue. But this time is different. This time, he stands up to read, he proclaims the words of Isaiah, and after says to the congregation, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus is revealing himself to this congregation, to his people. He is telling them who is is and what he’s come to do: 

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

  because he has anointed me

   to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

  and recovery of sight to the blind,

   to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This is good news, especially if you are poor, if you are captive, blind, or oppressed. But… it’s not as good for the non-poor. Because what Jesus is announcing is the disruption of everything the people have known. A reversal of roles. The poor are released from their debt, the blind are given sight, the oppressed are now free. Which then also means the wealthy will likely need to share some of that wealth, and those with sight will see things in a new way – in ways that those of us with sight have overlooked, or not even noticed. Freedom for all means a redistribution of our roles… our power… our status. Well, when you put it that way Jesus, it doesn’t sound all that great for those of us who will have to change… to share… to examine the way we do things, and the ways in which we live together in this new reality.

This text, which begins with the people praising Jesus, concludes with the hometown crowd “filled with rage… drive Jesus out of town to the edge of a cliff” –  maybe a good thing this part of the story wasn’t included today… not the best ending… 

This isn’t to suggest Pastor Erik is Jesus  – believe me, he is many things, but he’s not Jesus. And not even Jesus could keep people pleased for long. 

But isn’t that just it? Aren’t we all for the new things God… Jesus… is up to when we are the beneficiaries? When the new thing, the change, the disruption is initiated by us?  When we are the change agents, when God’s plans also coincide with our plans things work well. It’s easy. But if we have learned anything as people of faith, it’s that rarely do God’s plans align perfectly with ours. 

Because God, Jesus, is disruptive! 

The Holy Spirit stirs us from our comfortable places and reveals God through new ideas, places, and people that on our own we likely would never have discovered. But being stirred up, is disruptive. And disruption often causes discomfort. 

Jesus’ declaration in the synagogue of who he is isn’t as flashy as the magi traveling from far off lands, or a booming voice coming down from heaven, or the miracle of turning water into wine. But make no mistake, Jesus’ announcement to the congregation at Nazareth that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, that he is the anointed is the greatest disruption yet. New life for all. Salvation for all. Freedom and forgiveness for all. This new thing that Jesus is called to do isn’t dependent on us, but what Jesus is doing in and through us.

God has called Pastor Erik to this congregation. And God has called you to Pastor Erik. Because Pastor Erik has gifts to share with you, and you have gifts to share with him. Together, you will use your gifts and skills to build up the ministry of this congregation and the wider church. To hear God’s Word. To preach and teach the good news. To administer and receive the sacraments. To serve together in the day to day ministry of the congregation. 

And maybe (hopefully) it hasn’t happened yet that disruption and discomfort has stirred in this place. But it will. Jesus… God is doing a new thing in and through you and so disruption and discomfort is unavoidable.

The good news, is you’re not alone in your discomfort. When Paul writes to the community in Corinth, he uses the metaphor of the body to describe the interconnectedness of the church, and those of us who are a part of it. Paul writes, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”. That’s right, we’re in this together, even when it’s uncomfortable. But what this suggests more deeply, is that we’re in this together. Our joys. Our sorrows. Our strengths. Our weaknesses. They are all ours together. It is not a situation of one member, or one part of the body or congregation being better, stronger, more faithful, or knowledgeable than another. All of our struggles and all of our successes are together. Paul continues, “if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.”

We need one another. We cannot do this ministry God calls us to do on our own. The Body of Christ is at its strongest when it is working together. When individuals’ gifts are recognized and lifted up, used to the glory of God for the whole church – which extends beyond Sherwood Park, even beyond the MNO Synod or ELCIC, that extends to all the baptized, all over the world. 

Through our baptism, we are connected to one another in and through Jesus Christ. Which also means Jesus, God, is right with us, at the very heart of all that we do, in the good times, the bad times, the disruptive and the in-between times. God is disrupting us in order that a new thing can begin. God names and claims Jesus as the one who will bring new life. Forgiveness. Salvation. Freedom from sin and death for all. 

And so we as family, friends, as congregation, and as the wider church gather today to mark the beginning os this new thing. That this ministry is connected to something bigger than Pastor Erik, bigger than any one ministry of Sherwood Park or the congregation itself, but to the much larger Body of Christ to which we are all called to and connected to, and sent out into the world to name and proclaim God’s love to the world. AMEN. 

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What have we done…

IMG_4927And now a break from regularly scheduled programming, for some personal news.

Two years ago in May of 2014, Courtenay and I welcomed our son Oscar into the world (you can read that story here). He emerged into the world only to step on our dreams and free time, and we couldn’t love him more for it.

Last October, Courtenay and I discovered that we would be welcoming another child into the world. But with less free time and fewer dreams to crush, our next child would be a joy to rival her older brother!

IMG_4928Well, on Wednesday morning, July 6th, 2016, Courtenay and I welcomed Maeve Dorothy Pearl Reedman Parker into the world. She was born by C-section at 10am sharp. She was 9lbs, 3 ounces and 21 inches long. Thankfully we opted for the surgical delivery before 48 hours of labour and our OB/GYN said we made the right choice.

Maeve (pronounced Mayv) is happy and healthy. She is a hungry little baby and only this morning, almost 48 hours after being born, she finally finding some time to sleep after eating non-stop.

IMG_4939Oscar is very happy to spend time with “Baby Maeve” any chance he can get. He would sit in her lap if we let him!

Courtenay is an amazing mother, and I am blessed to have her and now two beautiful, amazing children.

 



For Unto Us a Child is Born… No Seriously, We Had a Baby. 

Many of you, family, friends, colleagues, parishioners, blog readers know that Courtenay and I were expecting our first child on April 22nd.  And many of you know that the due date came and went.

Well, on Tuesday, April 29th, Courtenay and I went for a routine fetal assessment. She was a week over due, and we were going to talk about induction with our Doctor.

However, the ultra sound revealed that the there was not much amniotic fluid around the baby, which could be a problem if it is not due to broken or ruptured waters. And if the water was broken, that meant it was time for a baby to be born.

So we were admitted to a hospital that was not the one we planned to birth at, and we didn’t have any of the things, like baby bag and hospital bag full of stuff that we planned to bring to the hospital for labour and delivery.

So despite our unpreparedness and surprise at being told the baby was going to be born soon,  Tuesday at 1:30pm we were beginning the long process to induction. Wednesday morning, Courtenay began feeling contractions and by 4:30pm the rest of her waters had broken.

Throughout the evening, Courtenay laboured like a professional. The nurses and doctors were so impressed, they continually thought she had an epidural because she was managing her pain so well. Around midnight (36 hours after we had come to hospital), Courtenay was told to push. Our nurse and doctor said she was an amazing pusher.

However, after an hour and twenty minutes of pushing, the baby just wasn’t co-operating. The baby just wasn’t in a good position to leave mom’s womb. All along the way, the baby showed perfect signs of health, according to the staff. This  was a pretty normal, non-invasive labour for a High Risk unit up until this point.

Erik waiting for the c-section to begin.
Erik waiting for the c-section to begin.

So after the pushing, the doctors wanted to let Courtenay and baby take a break to see if things could get into a better position for birth. But by 5:30AM, things were not progressing.

The doctor offered to let us wait to see if things changed, but recommended a Cesarian Section.

By 6:10AM Surgery had begun.

And at 6:17AM, on May 1st, 2014 our baby boy was born.

Oscar Kenneth David Reedman Parker

Oscar being assessed.
Oscar being assessed.

8 pounds 9 ounces. 22 inches long. Huge flipper feet like his dad, and strawberry blonde hair like his maternal grandfather.

He is a beautiful baby.

Courtenay meet Oscar for the first time.
Courtenay meets Oscar for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it was not the birthing experience we had hoped for, it was the result we wanted –  a healthy mom and healthy baby.

Erik gest to hold Oscar first.
Erik gest to hold Oscar first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To all our family, friends, parishioners, colleagues, and blog readers, we are excited to share this news. We know many of you hoped to  receive updates and news along the way, especially these past few days around the birth. It was a busy time for us and concrete hospital walls don’t make for good cell phone reception. In addition, there were stretches where Courtenay and I didn’t feel like we were in the loop either. Never the less, the pregnancy, labour and delivery are complete, and now we are looking forward to getting to know Oscar. There will be more here about our experience and the baby, so stay tuned for more. But for now, one more photo – with eyes open.

Our baby boy, Oscar!
Our baby boy, Oscar!

 

Want to offer congrats, share in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter: Erik= @ParkerErik and Courtenay = @ReedmanParker