From the Bishop: Thanksgiving

an excerpt from article, How’s your fig tree?
published in the October Edition of the Rupert’s Land News
written by The Right Reverend Donald  Phillips, Bishop of Rupert’s land 

The Power of Thanksgiving

At the time we celebrate Harvest Thanksgiving in our Churches, even if we’re university students, chartered accountants, sales clerks, teachers, stay-at-home parents or politicians, we can bring a pumpkin, a jar of preserves, some corn stalks or a few pounds of potatoes to decorate our worship space, and still l  see ourselves, symbolically, thanking God for our lives and for all of the people and things in our lives for which we feel blessed.

But what do we do when we have hardship?

But what do we do when we have hardship?
What does the person who has recently lost their job do?  What about those who have just lost a parent or spouse, or even one of their children? What happens when one looks at their life and sees mostly difficulties, worries, and threatening circumstances for which they, definitely, are not thankful?

In the Old Testament there is a small piece of writing attributed to the prophet Habakkuk which addresses the dark and threatening times for the people of Israel and Judah in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. After it describes the perilous existence of the people it closes with these words, “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”  What is this speaker claiming? It seems totally absurd! They are strongly asserting that even if there is no evidence of things for which to give thanks, they will resolutely continue to offer thanksgiving to God – the source of their life.

Is this a kind of fundamental denial – a self-imposed blindness toward reality in the hopes that this kind of attitude might serve as a “painkiller” to help them cope? Or, as some people of faith actually claim, are they holding on to a faint hope that if they just thank the Supreme Being vigorously enough that One will intervene and bring some changes to the fortunes of their lives – turn their situation around for the better?

They refuse to be discouraged by what they are experiencing,
God’s providence will ultimately prevail –
regardless of their present circumstances.

I don’t believe this is what the prophet is proclaiming.  Instead, the speaker of these words is reaching into the depths of their loving knowledge, trust and faith in the God who loves and saves them.  And with that trusting faith, they are able to look under, over and beyond their present circumstances and realize that ultimately they belong to God and that this world does too. Even in their present hardship, God is present and giving them life. They refuse to be discouraged by what they are experiencing, and in their resolute insistence on the goodness of God, they are asserting that God and God’s providence will ultimately prevail – regardless of their present circumstances.

Therein lies the power of thanksgiving.  This is the spiritual life we are to be cultivating whether or not our “fig trees” have done well!

From The Bishop: Have Life!

The below exerpt is taken from the Bishop’s article
in the May edition of the Rupert’s Land News.

It is the Risen Christ whose Spirit gathers us together as children of God and empowers us to “have life” – the ability to live in the presence of God and receive all that we were created to enjoy and share.

In the last verse of Chapter 20 of John’s Gospel, the author, referring to the details of Jesus’ life that he’s presented, writes, “These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

Clearly, the expectation is that as one reads, ponders and “processes” the contents of the Gospel, one will accept the reality of Jesus as the Anointed One of God. By integrating that reality into one’s self and identifying with Jesus, a person will have a particular kind of life – obviously different, or more, than merely biological life.

A week ago we celebrated The Day of Resurrection or Easter Sunday. For the next several weeks we continue to celebrate the season of Easter and remind our selves about what Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and continuing presence really mean for us. But sometimes I worry that the central character of it all isn’t “on stage” in our lives!

The whole point of the two gatherings of Jesus’ disciples, as described in Chapter 20 of John’s Gospel, is to come together in order to experience the presence of the Risen Christ! It is the Risen Christ whose Spirit gathers us together as children of God and empowers us to “have life” – the ability to live in the presence of God and receive all that we were created to enjoy and share.

Just as the Risen Jesus took care to greet each one of his disciples so that they could receive the reality of his resurrection, so now he offers himself to each one of us. Don’t just believe about the new life – live it!

For more articles from The Right Reverend Donald Phillips, Bishop of Rupert’s Land, check the Rupert’s Land News Archives.

From the Bishop: Focusing on the needs in our Diocese

Are we being called to minister to the needs of our Diocese?

This coming Sunday, we are reading from a passage in Isaiah. In his address to the 2010 diocesan synod, Bishop Donald Phillips uses this passage to introduce three important ministry needs here in Rupert’s Land:

“In the middle section of Isaiah, the author speaks on several occasions of One who is sent from God who, through his service, will save Israel. Matthew, in his Gospel, makes the connection between Jesus and this Servant of God and, quoting Isaiah, says of Jesus, “He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick until he brings justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20). I want to highlight some of the fragile organisms in our midst – so that we are careful to give them the nurture and care they urgently need.”

The bishop then specifies three of these “fragile organisms” that desperately need our immediate attention.

At this time of transition, we not only need to look at the needs of our own church, but that of the greater Anglican community that we are a part of. To know more about the specific needs in our diocese, read the full address from the Bishop.

From the Bishop: The Five Marks of Mission

Bishop Donald PhillipsIn preparation for the meetings to help the parish of St. John discern the next part of our ministry and mission, let us reflect on the words of our Bishop, Donald Phillips, taken from the bishop’s address to the 2010 diocesan synod:

The five Marks of Mission are common to the whole Anglican Communion. We’ve re-oriented ourselves to the fact that God is the one who has the mission, and that God has called us together as Church in order to participate in that mission. We are confident that when we are engaged in the Marks of Mission, we are truly engaged in God’s mission.

Here are the five marks:

  1. Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  2. Teach, baptize and nurture new believers
  3. Respond to human need by loving service
  4. Seek to transform the unjust structures of society
  5. Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

These are the marks that should guide and govern our conversations about vitality and viability. How can we be structured and resourced in a way that enables every Anglican to participate in meaningful and life-giving ways in these five marks?

These are the marks that should guide and govern our Common Ministry and Mission and the structures that support it.