Dear friends in Christ,
It’s good to be back. The Turtle family had a wonderful July together. The girls baseball teams rose through the ranks (in the playoffs now) and they experienced their first week at overnight summer camp. If you have young people in your life I cannot recommend Pioneer Camp Ontario highly enough. A wonderful Christian camp just outside of Port Sydney. We also got some camping in as a family at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. On top of that there were lots of trips to the beach and a few rounds of golf for yours truly.
One of my favourite things about being on holidays is the chance to visit and worship with other churches. This July we worshipped with some of our Anglican brothers and sisters at St George’s Fair Valley and St Thomas’s Shanty Bay. Both lovely churches and congregations. We even spent some time with the baptists at First Baptist Church in Barrie.
But it’s always good to come home. For me August marks a return to the familiar rhythms of parish ministry that I miss while away but it also marks the anniversary of my ministry in the parish which began on August 1, 2017. And so, naturally, it’s a time when I reflect on our ministry here together and the sort of parish I envision us being and becoming.
It also happens that my first Sunday back from summer holidays is usually the feast of the Transfiguration which falls on August 6 but which we always commemorate on the following Sunday as well. Transfiguration was the very first Sunday I ever preached in this parish. It may be for these reasons that Transfiguration has become one of my favourite days on the church calendar.
OK, maybe I’m getting a little bit nostalgic here but this isn’t just nostalgia. I think these things are related, the Transfiguration, my (our!) anniversary in the parish, and the vision I’ve always had for our life together.
You see, the Transfiguration is about Jesus but it’s for us. It describes an event in the Gospels when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray and was transfigured before their eyes: “and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light,” as the King James puts it. And Moses and Elijah were there and a “bright cloud” descended on them and a voice from heaven spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” It’s as if for a moment the veil of flesh was pulled back from their eyes and the disciples saw the beauty and glory of Jesus and the reality of who he is was confirmed. And this was a transformative experience for them. Having come to know Jesus in this way their lives were changed forever.
And here’s the thing. That’s not just a nice inspiring story from a long long time ago. Jesus still does this today and it’s precisely what he wants to do for you and I. In the Collect on Sunday we’ll pray asking God to “mercifully grant unto us such a vision of [Christ’s] divine majesty, that we, being purified and strengthened by thy grace, may be transformed into his likeness from glory to glory.” That’s what the Christian life is all about, seeing the beauty of Christ and being changed by that vision. That’s who Jesus is and that’s what he wants to do for you, and for this parish.
And so my vision for this parish has always been about trying to keep us close to Jesus. Working to cultivate a love of scripture which is God’s word and the primary way we come to know Christ and grow in faith, a love of the liturgy, especially the Book of Common Prayer, which is essentially scripture (the Bible) arranged so that we can pray it, and a love of the Eucharist which is the sharing of God’s life and love with us in a tangible way. In short, my hope is that this parish is a place where, over time, “true penitent heart(s) and living faith” can grow as we come to know the risen and living Jesus more and more.
In this parish you won’t find a church with dozens of programs to help you be the best version of yourself, or the largest youth ministry in the county, or a rock band and laser lights on Sunday morning. But what I hope you will find is a congregation committed to God’s word, a place where people of all ages can worship and grow together, sermons that help us hear what Jesus is saying, and most of all a place where we meet Jesus himself, the risen and living one, and are changed by what we see.
That’s what the Transfiguration is all about, and I hope that’s what we’re all about too.
God bless you church. See you Sunday.