Tuesday, January 3, 2012

He Shall be Called ”Immanuel”…God With Us

What does it mean to have “God with us”…Jesus with us?  The theological word is “incarnate” which simply means to be in the midst of or among.  This isn’t a God who is absent or a kind of watchmaker who wound the world up and left it to its own inadequate defenses.  This is God who is in an intimate and everlasting relationship with his creation.  What that means on a practical level is that this Jesus whose birth we celebrated on Christmas morning, will never leave us…is always concerned about us, and constantly ready and waiting to lift us up from the holes into which you and I in our broken humanness unwittingly and even intentionally fall.  When you are in the greatest need, Jesus…through the hands and hearts of those who hear his voice…will always find a way to physically, emotionally and spiritually pour out his blessing, his grace and mercy upon you…regardless of where you are.  All you have to do is ask.

We saw this incarnational outpouring of activity a couple of weeks ago as the whole Squamish community, in response to Jesus calling, came together to give 400 needy families a Christmas blessing.  This is what happens when we listen and respond.  It sets this community of Squamish apart from many others in BC, because it shows waht happens when we respond to the Lord's calling together.  

However…it also begs the question.  If we can do” it” in December…that is, address the homelessness, the  hunger, the poverty that is growing exponentially in our midst…should we not also be doing it in February, or April or August?  Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me…whatever you did not to for the least of these, you did not do for me.”   Jesus is among us and calling to us 365 days of the year, not just at Christmas!  Will you answer?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Exception to the Rule

In the 17th chapter of Luke’s gospel are five exception stories which, when taken together, demonstrate clearly that the actual kingdom of God is much, much different from our human expectations or assumptions.  I find it somewhat disconcerting that the church today…in many of its manifestations, thinks and acts in much the same mode as the Pharisees and teachers of the Law did in Jesus time.  We presumptuously declare a vision of the kingdom that stands in direct opposition to what Jesus said it would be, all the while behaving as if it is truly “the word of the Lord! 
1.    We are immediately and incessantly motivated to condemn wrong done to us or to the church, allowing little or no avenue for restoration.  Whereas, Jesus in Luke 17:1-3 states that the kingdom model not only presents an opportunity for redemption, but also a progression from sin into righteousness through the repeated application of forgiveness…”seventy times seven.” 

2.    The church today is continually looking for more spiritual power… wrongly believing that “more” will make it better able to speak to the broken and fallen around them.  Jesus declares that his servants have been given sufficient for all that calls for us to do. (17:5-6) That which we view from a worldly perspective as tiny and insufficient, is in reality abundance which requires only obedience and courage to manifest great things. 

3.    The worldly perspective of entitlement for service is a systemic infection in today’s religious institutions. However, Jesus clearly teaches that faithful service is its own reward (17:7-10) Just to be given the opportunity to serve is a great privilege. 

4.    Many in this world, even “church” people, will not recognize either the great blessing that they have received or acknowledge the source. (17:11-19) Only one in ten will exalt Jesus for restoration…and this will likely be the one who was outcast to begin with! 
5.    We desire a sign. We want to know when the “kingdom” or the last days will come.  We are obsessed with the final solution, the end of things…heaven, when the kingdom is actually being made manifest right before us today.  Now is the time to pay attention. (17:21) Jesus saw the craving for this end-times knowledge as an attempt to “preserve life” through human control. However, it will only result in death (17:33) 
Such is the way of the church….and the scary part is that we have institutionalized these responses, even made many of them part of our sacred structures. Alan Hirsch, in The Forgotten Ways (p.51) submits that, “We have so divinized this mode of church through the centuries of theologizing about it, that we have actually confused it with the kingdom of God.”   Isn’t it time for us to become the exception to the rule, the set apart rather than the one who have wrongly “always done it that way?”

Saturday, August 6, 2011

August Update & Prayer Letter

Greetings in the name of Jesus to our friends and fellow workers for the Kingdom!

          We give thanks to the Lord for all the prayer and financial support that we have received from so many over these last 18 months.  I know that I shouldn’t be surprised, but am constantly amazed at the ways that God’s grace, mercy and abundant provision are poured out upon us as we remain faithful to his calling.

          This past spring season of prayer, discernment and investigation of alternative income sources was a little rough emotionally for us, but spiritually productive.  As some of you are aware, I laid myself off from MVM at the end of February.  I began a “seniors” employment course and was also working to upgrade my security certification with an eye to returning to the secular workforce…at least part time as a “tent-maker”.  I was actually offered a job, but it would have been mostly night security work.  In the end, in consultation with my prayer partners and family we decided that while it might make us more comfortable financially, the ministry would end up suffering… defeating the whole purpose we have been called to Squamish in the first place. 

          In the midst of the struggle, however, and while I was on EI, MVM received a significant grant from one of our major supporters which has allowed for me to go back on ¾ salary ($3000/mo.) as of July 1st. This should give us sufficient funds to get us through to the end of the year.  Once again, the Lord has provided sovereignly in an amazing way for our needs.   

          It has become inherently clear to me that what we had planned when we moved to Squamish, that is to “plant church” in the classical model, was not what God intended for us at all.   We believed that we should be able to raise a self-supporting congregation within 12-18 months and would then be looking at starting a second work in Whistler in year two.  It sounded and looked great on paper, but I can see now that it was mostly born out of my need to be a successful church planter rather than a faithful servant.  I should have been listening better when the other Squamish pastors told me that the greatest need was with the homeless and street.  God was speaking through them!

          Well, I am listening now.  In the last six weeks Elsie Quick and Evelyn Leeburn from Partners in Hope Vancouver have been travelling up to Squamish once or twice a week to help Mark & I work the street and establish relationships with the staff, residents and clients of the local shelter.  It is a phenomenal thing when after struggling with your own agenda for so long and failing… you finally step into God’s will and purpose.  The frustration of the last 18 months is being replaced with joy, peace and excitement, as we are able to assist, pray with and for, and be Christ to those who God has determined and set aside as our community.

          Two weeks ago we held a BBQ at MVM and invited all those we had been caring for, speaking and praying with…51 showed up.  We had a wonderful time of fellowship and were able to have significant conversations and prayer with a few. Some of those have started to worship with us on Sundays and others who we would have least expected have offered to help us in the ministry even as they are still struggling with their own lives.  Last Saturday we were honoured to do a memorial for a dear besieged soul who had gone to be with the Lord the previous weekend.   These are small beginnings, but God is building His church and we believe that Mountain Valley “Mission” is starting to fulfill its intended calling and purpose.

          We are planning a drug and alcohol recovery program starting in September, one-on-one prayer counselling and continue to offer the food co-op as a vehicle for our clients to move into independence and self-sufficiency for provision for their daily needs.   

          I intend using the Halter/Smay Tangible Kingdom Primer this fall as a discipleship tool with our leadership as a way to make the “…for the sake of others” label that we have adopted for our ministry real, and to help them see other potential areas in their neighbourhoods where they can be “incarnate” in this way.  Halter and Smay’s book was the most challenging of my spring reads and has served to help me focus my prayer and spiritual attention on the “main thing” once again.

          We have simplified Sunday liturgy and teaching (also in a Halter/Smay model) in order to make it more accessible to the people Jesus has put us amongst.  The response from both the present and new people is quite positive, but we know that we need to remain pliable and responsive to the work of the Spirit and the needs of His people.  This is a work in progress and we would value your prayers as we seek to create relevant, but still Anglican worship that can speak into the hearts and minds of our community.  You might be able to tell that we are “pumped” and very excited about the next season. 

          Mountain Valley is a mission, as Bishop Chuck Murphy says, “nothing more and nothing less.”  This Squamish manifestation looks a lot different from many other church-planting models that we Anglicans have become used to in the last few years.  I have accepted the “missionary” moniker and all that it entails, including the need for deputation in order to support what we are being called to do here.   So, I am asking for your help…both prayer and financial.   We need to begin raising the 2012 income and are looking for 100 people @ $50/mo. who would be willing to include us in their mission giving.  Larger gifts will be gratefully accepted and all donations over $20 will be receipted. We are a registered Canadian charity and able to issue income tax receipts.

Please ask the Lord to show you how you would be able to help out….and then tell us what you receive from the Lord as you pray for us.  We can be contacted by phone at 604-567-7400 or at barclay@mountainvalleymission.ca.   Your discernment will help us to continue to walk in God’s will and timing.  If you do have the ability & calling to support our ministry financially, please address your offerings to Mountain Valley Mission, Box 1231, Squamish BC  V8B 0A8. 

Thank you for your friendship, sponsorship, your prayer and faithful ministry to us.

Your servants in Christ,
The Rev. Barclay & Mary Mayo

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fear or Contentment: You Choose

Mt.24:1-2 (Msg) Jesus then left the Temple. As he walked away, his disciples pointed out how very impressive the Temple architecture was. Jesus said, "You're not impressed by all this sheer size, are you? The truth of the matter is that there's not a stone in that building that is not going to end up in a pile of rubble."  
Did you get that?   Jesus said…not one stone upon another. It occurred to me that he wasn’t just talking about the Temple in Jerusalem.  His words are actually a commentary on every building on everything that is constructed by the hands of man…..even if it has been done to God’s glory.   Nothing that we experience or see around us today is eternal. It will all be dismantled….and therefore, none of it has any eternal significance…..only temporary context.  

Jesus also said, Mat.6:19-21 (ESV) Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Much of the fear we carry in our hearts about poverty…about being poor, is based on an incorrect view of our place in God’s plan for His creation.  When we get to be thinking that this is all there is….even though from a Christian perspective that isn’t biblically sustainable to believe those things, we end up buying into the “I have to create it….I have to make it happen” model.  And when we find that we can’t do it….or when it breaks down….just as it eventually will….fear takes over.
Fear and anxiety come when we turn our eyes away from what God is doing and look at the world around us through the lenses of faithlessness to see what man can do with his own broken heart & hands.  And because we are broken and imperfect, because what we build with our own hands and our own sinful hearts…separated from what God might be doing in and through us is flawed, we experience imperfection, failure and ultimately fear.   Instead, we are called to keep our eyes on Christ and all of our needs will be met. Matthew 6:33 (NLT) Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  Like everything else in life…it is a choice.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grace and Works...Works and Grace

Herein is one of the greatest of struggles in our society today.  To be sure, it is not a new problem, or Paul wouldn't have been writing about it 2000 years ago. But, it just seems that as our world slips more and more into a secularist mindset, that the drive is always to "achieve your dreams" or "be the best you can be"....with that same philosophy also taking over much of contemporary church life.  We hear Paul's teaching about salvation by grace through faith alone, and might even assent to it verbally...but does it become the foundation of our relationship with Jesus?  I think not.  It is almost as if we are living a schizophrenic or kind of bipolar existence with two separate persona...one which wants with all that we are to believe in the freely given grace and mercy of the Father and His great love for us...and another that is unsure and needs to strive to be good so that we can earn His favour.  

We are not helped at all by either of the extremes so prevalent in the church today.  On the one hand are the liberals who utterly reject the Law, deliberately setting aside the standards that God calls believers to and promoting a kind of cheap grace bereft of any moral obligations.  On the other are the moralists, modern day Pharisees, who are so rule bound that grace is given mere lip service in the drive to be pure and Holy before Him.  In the middle are those who are torn asunder by their desire to be a part of the world into which they have been born and yet reborn to the one into which they have been called.  Around them stand a confused majority wondering both what the church actually believes and why they would ever want to be a part of it.   And we wonder why our churches are empty!

We are weak...alleluia! "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly...God show His love for us that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.  There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 5:6; 8:1; 3:23) "I will put my law within them and will write it on their hearts and they will be my people" Jeremiah31:33 "do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until it is accomplished " Matthew 5:17-18

We don't need the extremes, they are destructive, both in society and the church. What we need, what the world needs is Jesus who is the personification and totality of the grace, mercy and law of God.   It is only when we are focused completely on Him and remain in Him that we are empowered to be righteous and holy before God.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Can Flesh do To Me?

What can flesh do to me?  The short answer is nothing! In Psalm 56, the writer is asking a rhetorical question, but it is a good one for us to ponder. We often get so focused on the trials and tribulations that daily surround us, that we loose sight of the reality of God's love, protection and provision. God knows when and how we are hurting.(verse 8) He stands before our enemies and turns them away. (9) Ultimately, God delivers us from death (13) Therefore, "What can man do to me?" The answer is nothing!  Why? Because God is for me. (9) 

There is the promise, how then do we access it? The Psalmist has an answer for that too. "When I am afraid, I put my trust in You." (3) For, God is trustworthy. (3,4, 11) And here is the response to God's great love for us. We, "praise His word." (4,10) We are confident in His presence and therefore fearless. (11) We give God thanks (12), and we deliberately "walk in the light". This is the purpose and focus of Gods great love for us.

God's word is so rich in promise for our daily lives...a great, largely untapped resource.  Bishop Silas has found that less that 10% of committed church people have a daily time in God's word. You can help another find this fount of encouragement by reading with them. This is what "walking in the light" really means.