Thursday, March 31, 2005

"Michael Schiavo has been chained to a drooling shitbag for 15 years"

Or so wrote one blogger.

I wasn't going to blog about the Terri Schiavo controversy because I don't think we can know all the facts behind the case. At least not enough to make an informed opinion.

But as Ms. Schiavo passed away today, the politics surrounding her death have been devoid of serious ethical reflection. So I share some discussion with you today.

Mary Johnson, a disabled rights activist, someone with a vested interest in the outcome of the legal ramifications of the Schaivo issue says this,

The Republicans, to my way of thinking, are likely guilty of everything we say about them. I even agree with Michael Schiavo that Tom DeLay is a "little slithering snake." But to simply yell about the Republicans, to turn this into yet another skirmish in the right-to-life, right-to-die culture wars is to miss entirely the bigger issue.

The danger faced by "incapacitated" or non-communicative persons -- people who have been declared "incompetent" and their legal rights assigned to a "guardian" -- has been worrying disability rights activists for years. It is not about the "right to life" -- it is about equal protection of the law. Over a dozen national disability groups have repeatedly urged Constitutional review of cases like Schiavo's . It doesn't happen. If it had happened with Schiavo, we wouldn't be at this sorry pass.

Now Sen. Tom Harkin (D.-IA), a man with impeccable liberal credentials, is proposing such a law. Not for Terri Schiavo, but for the rest of us.

"In a case like this, where someone is incapacitated and their life support can be taken away, it seems to me that it is appropriate -- where there is a dispute, as there is in this case -- that a federal court come in, like we do in habeas corpus situations, and review it." Harkin told reporters he was hopeful that Congress would address such legislation sometime soon.


(read the whole thing here)

Clearly, this issue is not about Ms. Schiavo as much as it has to do with Republicans shoring up their Right-to-life base.

Which begs the question, as EJ Dionne, does:

What does it mean to be pro-life?

The label is thrown around in American politics so blithely that you'd imagine it refers to some workaday issue such as a tax bill or a trade agreement. Might the one good thing to come out of the rancid politics surrounding the Terri Schiavo case be a serious discussion of the meaning of that term?


Dionne goes on to say,

What does it mean to be pro-life? As far as I can tell, most of those who would keep Schiavo alive favor the death penalty. Most favored allowing the assault weapons ban to expire and oppose other forms of gun control. The president makes an excellent point when he says we "ought to err on the side of life." It's a shame how rarely that principle is put into practice.


The Religious Right can stammer all they want about a "culture of life," but when the rubber hits the road, they pick and choose their battles willy-nilly.

Perhaps the biggest loser was Ms.Schiavo herself, when the political circus that emerged as her life was being taken from her, denied her the dignity that should come from those seeking to live out the "culture of life."

Where Faith Thrives...

...conservative Christians in the U.S. should take heed. Christianity is thriving where it faces obstacles, like repression in China or suspicion of evangelicals in parts of Latin America and Africa. In those countries where religion enjoys privileges - Britain, Italy, Ireland, Spain or Iran - that establishment support seems to have stifled faith.

That's worth remembering in the debates about school prayers or public displays of the Ten Commandments: faith doesn't need any special leg up. Look at where religion is most vibrant today, talk to those who walk five hours to services, and the obvious conclusion is that what nurtures faith is not special privileges but rather adversity.


Read the rest here.
(NY Times, registration required)

Another great column by Nicholas Kristof. (Thanks to Jordan Cooper)

I've been deeply troubled, as of late, by many well-meaning Christians who believe that, because Jesus is the way of salvation, this means that Christians should have special priviledges (i.e., school prayer, Ten Commandments, the so-called "biblical perspective" on marriage, immigration for Christians only, etc).

As Kristof rightly points out, Christianity flourishes went it is under attack. I mean a REAL attack. North American Christianity is NOT under attack. Despite the best efforts of some right wing Christians to be manufacture an identity of victimhood. We can still worship freely. We can teach our children according to our own beliefs. We don't cower in basements to receive Holy Communion, terrified of a knock at the door.

Jesus told his followers to "rejoice and be glad when you are reviled and persecuted in my name." Jesus didn't say "be outraged at such insolence toward God's people!" And Jesus certainly didn't say, "Wage war against unbelievers. Fight for a Christian culture. Be culture warriors!"

Jesus said to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us.

Loving our enemies. Living good news. That's what makes faith thrive. Not by waging war against the culture.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

More from Ralph's World: "William Lyon Mackenzie King was a pervert"

William Lyon Mackenzie King was not the pervert that Alberta Premier Ralph Klein seems to think he was, a historian insisted yesterday.

During a speech last Thursday at Harvard University, Klein remarked his event was sponsored by an endowment fund named after King.

“The reason I sort of chuckled at being compared to Mackenzie King is that he was touted as being somewhat of a pervert,” Klein said.


Read the rest here.

Mackenzie King was many things: prick, dictator, thug. But a pervert?

Ralph just makes it too easy. Thanks to CalgaryGrit.

Pope being fed by a tube

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope John Paul is getting nutrition from a tube in his nose, the Vatican said Wednesday, shortly after the frail pontiff appeared at his window in St. Peter's Square and managed only a rasp when he tried to speak.

Read the rest here.

I wonder if some conservative Christians will sieze upon this, adding fuel to the Schaivo fire.

While I may have my differences with John Paul II, I pray for him a peaceful and holy death.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Why Jews don't see Easter the way Christians do

About a month before Easter this year, I received a poignant letter from a prominent Seattle-area evangelical Christian businessman, a passionate activist for Israel. He wrote to invite me for a kosher meal at his home — and to discuss Jesus.

He did not, he promised, intend to evangelize me, a believing Jew. Rather, as a leader in the growing movement of Christians and Jews allying on behalf of the Jewish state, he was puzzled about what we Jews believe about the Christian savior. He was, he said, "ashamed that I never engaged my friends in what is the most important aspect of their lives, their faith, simply because some Christians — not Jews — told me to never ask these questions of my Jewish friends, or risk deeply offending them."


Read the rest here.

Thomas Merton on Resurrection

But now the power of Easter has burst upon us with the resurrection of Christ. Now we find in ourselves a strength which is not our own, and which is freely given to us whenever we need it, raising us above the Law, giving us a new law which is hidden in Christ: the law of His merciful love for us. Now we no longer strive to be good because we have to, because it is a duty, but because our joy is to please Him who has given all His love to us! Now our life is full of meaning!

… To understand Easter and live it, we must renounce our dread of newness and of freedom!


From: Seasons of Celebration by Thomas Merton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1986), Pages 145-46.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sermon: Day of Resurrection

If the resurrection happened, if both Marys, and the disciples, and the whole lot of them were telling the truth - that Jesus our friend and brother lives – then death has no permanent power over us.

While we do suffer and die, death will not be able to hold us – for God has chosen a path of life and freedom for Jesus, and through Jesus, for the whole world.

In other words, death will not have the last word.

The Iraq war will not be the last world. The AIDS crisis the Africa will not be the last word. The atrocities in Sudan will not have the last word.

Your cancer will not have the last word. Your failed marriage will not have the last word. Your grief will not have the last word. That bottle will not have the last word.

Jesus’ resurrection will have the last word.

How do we grasp the truth of that?

One small child asked another, “Aren’t you afraid to walk through the cemetery on your way home?”

“No,” the other replied, “I simply cross it to get home.”

Death is like that. You can still be afraid – and we are all often afraid – but death and the grave is not the final destination for us. Home is.

The 2 Marys knew all about this. These two women, along with the other women who followed Jesus were the only of his disciples not to scatter when Jesus was arrested. They stayed with him through the flogging. They watched in a horrified stupor as Jesus was nailed to the cross. They hung their heads in grief when Jesus hung his in death. They washed his body. They placed it in the tomb.

They saw through tear-stained eyes that God does not make the crucifixion disappear. The resurrection is not simply a show of God’s power and wonder and majesty. They saw that Jesus wasn’t simply raised with an earthquake, bright lights, with a burst of the halleluiah chorus, to wow us with God’s ultimate cosmic power. God wasn’t looking for the Oscar for best special effects.

Instead, Jesus was raised without anyone watching. The 2 Mary’s didn’t see it. The big news isn’t the special effects, the awesome power of God. The big news is that the tomb was empty. Probably the most subtle miracle in the bible.

Crucifixion – suffering – isn’t explained away, done away with – instead it’s left there to trouble us. Jesus rose from the dead but his wounds didn’t disappear.

We given instead the gift of hope – yes, there will be death, but there will be new life. Why not the big gift right here, right now, the one where God deletes it from the human experience? I don’t know. We’re not told.

But life cannot be found in a grave yard, and there is no life in an empty tomb. Like the 2 Mary’s at the tomb, we do not need to walk through the cemeteries looking for life – instead we can find Life all around us.

What does this look like, Life all around us?

Well, it doesn’t mean that all is sweetness and light, but there is a sweetness to life, and a gentle beauty and hope that is present and always coming to birth.

***

Her art is full of astonishingly joyful scenes, brightly coloured, of her life and the people around her; scenes of life on the water, farm life, of oxen, of child playing beside the railroad tracks, a drive in the country. Her artwork has excellent compositional form and line, despite her crippled up body and scrunched up hands due to a bout with polio as a child. She lived in a tiny one-room house – about the size of my office - with no electricity or running water. She was poor, even by fishing village standards.

Yet, despite these difficulties, Nova Scotian folk artist Maude Lewis graced the world with the gift of her art. Her pieces are burst with the joy of life: “just to be alive is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”

They hadn’t said a civil word to each other in weeks. Each grunt, each snore, the way she picked at her food, the way he didn’t really take her needs seriously, all pointed in one direction: divorce. Early one evening after a typically tense and silent dinner, she was doing the dishes and he was taking out the trash. They caught a glance of each other in the corners of their eyes, smiled, and asked each other what happened to the fulfilling, joy-drenched relationship they once shared. They put the kids to bed and stayed up all night talking, for the first time in months if not years, and over a glass of wine, they shared the concerns of their hearts, their pains, their frustrations, with an honesty that hadn’t been felt since before they were married. They prayed. They cried. Little by little a new relationship sprouted. They knew the future was going to be hard work, but now they were ready to fight for their marriage. Their crucifixion had not disappeared, but together, their marriage found New Life.

She survived, terribly scarred, but her brothers did not. You probably know her picture more than her name. Phan Thi Kim Phuc is the woman whose picture came to represent the horrors of the Vietnam war: a 9 year old victim running naked through the streets, her clothes burned off by napalm.

Vietnam veteran pilot John Plummer had been part of the bombing raid on the village of Trang Bang in 1972. He since became a Methodist minister, but the horrors of what he did during the war did not leave him.

In 1997, Kim Phuc was asked to speak at the Vietnam Memorial on Veteran’s Day. Unaware that John Plummer was in the crowd, Kim spoke and said that if she met the pilot who bombed their village she would tell him that she forgave him; for they could not change the past, but they hoped they could work together to build the future.

Hesitatingly, John Plummer approached her after her speech. He writes about their meeting, “She saw my grief, my pain, and my sorrow. She held out her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ over and over again. At the same time she was saying, ‘It’s all right, it’s all right; I forgive, I forgive.”

Eventually, they spent more time together, and as a Christian herself, she invited Plummer to join with her in a joint ministry.

Their reconciliation didn’t make Kim’s crucifixion disappear – but Life was present.

We are given a resurrection hope. We are a resurrection people. Not just a people who believe in the resurrection, but a resurrection people.

In the words of poet Denise Levertov:

We have only begun to love the earth.
We have only begun to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
So much is in bud. How can desire fail?
We have only just begun to imagine justice and mercy,
Only begun to envision how it might be to live as siblings with beast and flower,
Not as oppressors…There is too much broken that must be mended,
Too much hurt we have done to each other that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know the power that is in us if we would join our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must complete its gesture,
So much is in bud.


That’s the gift of Easter – life in the bud and the promise that it will bloom to the full. Jesus’ resurrection gives us back to ourselves: claimed by God’s love, promised new and everlasting life, blessed with forgiveness, we are given back to the world and to each other, free from death, free from fear. We have been re-born as a resurrection people. That is our news – our good news – so today we rejoice, because Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A great new blog

My friend Sara has started a blog. Check it out!

Here's a clip:

If God is with us, and we can risk living from a place of self-love, then maybe we can risk living a life of love for others. Live a life that sees injustice as God sees it and risk doing something to make at least a little bit of the world better. We do so not with only our own trembling hands, or to gain our salvation, but with the power of God working alongside of us as we re-build and re-create God’s vision of manna and mercy for all, right here, right now, wherever we are. Heaven isn’t lightyears away, it exists wherever love and grace and acceptance and life are allowed to rule.

Great stuff! Thanks, Sara for sharing your creative energies with the world!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Maundy Thursday Sermon

“It helps now and then to step back and take a long
view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water the seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”

So wrote Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador who, 25 years ago tonight, having just said Jesus’ words of institution at Holy Communion, “This is my body which is given up for you…This is my blood which is shed for you,” was felled by an assassin’s bullet.

At his funeral Mass, government death squads firebombed and machine-gunned mourners. Just another massacre in that beleaguered country.

Oscar Arnulfo Romero is now an important figure--a symbol of commitment, self-sacrifice and hope--not just in El Salvador, but throughout Latin America and the world.
What many admire most is Romero’s personal transformation from his beginnings as a strict, conservative priest and friend of the wealthy elite.

Early on when he was Auxiliary Bishop, Romero accused supporters of new theological currents prioritizing pastoral work with the poor of being Marxists and poisoning the minds of youth.

In 1975, after the National Guard murdered six campesinos in TrĂ©s Calles, Romero—now a Bishop—refused calls that he publicly denounce the massacre, choosing instead to send a private letter to then-President Molina. Romero also did not want to believe reports that rich landowners of coffee and cotton plantations in his diocese were paying workers less than the legal minimum wage, itself a pitiful sum.

Yet Romero agreed to go out and visit the plantations to see for himself if what his priests were telling him was true. The reality of exploitation and suffering he came to know from that visit--and subsequent ones--were to change him forever.

Oscar Romero became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, the candidate of choice of the rich, who opposed the more progressive Bishop Rivera y Damas, widely favoured by the people in the pew. But less than one month after he was installed, Romero was deeply moved and angered by the murder of his friend Father Rutilio Grande, who had supported efforts by the poor farmers or campesinos in his parish to form organizations to defend their rights.

Romero advised the Salvadoran President he would no longer attend any government functions until those responsible for the killing were identified and brought to justice. It was an ultimatum to which he would hold for the next three years until he was assassinated. Romero had changed. He had begun to raise his voice for the gospel
.
That voice got stronger as the toll of priests, catechists, labour activists and campesino organizers butchered by the death squads rose. Romero publicly denounced the repression but he went much further than that, denouncing as well the hugely unequal distribution of wealth and power in El Salvador that lay at the heart of the violence. "The cause of all our unrest is the oligarchy, that small nucleus of families who don’t care about the hunger of the people, but only think of their own need for abundant cheap labour to harvest and export their crops," Archbishop Romero told a journalist in a February 1980 interview.

"Salvadoran and foreign-owned industries base their ability to compete in international markets on starvation wages," the Archbishop stated categorically. "This explains their complete opposition to any type of reforms or to trade union organizations that strive to improve the living conditions of grass roots sectors."
Of course, the usual accusations were made: “Romero’s a communist. He’s a Soviet spy. He’s an enemy of free enterprise. Stick to religion, Father. Don’t meddle in things you no nothing about.”

Easily dismissed. Turn him into a partisan political hack. Accuse him of disturbing the peace. If he gets too uppity, get rid of him.

Sound familiar?

I tell you Romero’s story, not just because today is the 25th anniversary of his death, or because he was murdered while celebrating Holy Communion, but because his life so vibrantly resonated with the life of Jesus. His life shouted good news. His ministry nourished the people he was called to serve and still provides hope for millions of people around the world.

Romero walked the hard road of salvation.

Despite his admirer’s best efforts, Romero shunned sainthood. He would not be dismissed so easily. Romero trembled at the thought of being murdered. He longed for the days when tragedies and atrocities failed to touch him within the cloister of his book-lined study. He hungered and hurt for a country mired in despair.

In other words, he was deeply human. But touched by God to bear witness to the kingdom of God that was present among them but just outside of their grasp. His life pointed to a different world; a world where peace and forgiveness was as natural as breathing, a world where love and compassion overwhelmed greed and violence. A world where Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God could be powerfully alive. “Put down those guns. Stop the repression. Believe the good news.”

“As a Christian,” he once wrote, “I don’t believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadorian people. I am not boasting, I say this with great humility…My hope is that my blood will be like a seed of liberty.”

When Jesus gathered with his friends that night, they remembered liberation. They remembered how a disgraced, murdering prince-turned-shepherd named Moses, led God’s people to freedom with nothing in his hands but a crook and the power of God. Jesus and his friends said prayers. They told the ancient stories. They wondered how that event so many years ago could make a difference in their lives.

That’s when Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it, and passed it around saying, “This is my body given for you, for your freedom.” Jesus then took the cup, blessed it and gave it to his friends saying, “This is my blood, poured out for your liberation, when you drink it, drink it in remembrance of me.”

Do this in remembrance of me…remember me by living my message. Remember me by being good news. Remember me showing the world the kingdom of God is alive among.

As one wise writer puts it, “If the wafers are going stale for you, be the bread yourself. Break yourself open and nourish the world.

“If the communion table seems cheap and tacky, become a table yourself. Be a resting place for the weary.

“If you feel there are no more angels, pick up the phone and spread your own [glad] tidings.

“Gather your bread. Set your table. Shout your good news.

“Do these things in remembrance of HIM.”

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Oscar Romero: A Prophet of a Future Not His Own

It helps now and then to step back and take a long
view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water the seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”


Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador who, 25 years ago today, having just said Jesus’ words of institution at Holy Communion, “This is my body which is given up for you…This is my blood which is shed for you,” was felled by an assassin's bullet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More Evidence of Christianity Today's Hard Right Turn

Christianity Today, until George W Bush's re-election last year, was a moderate evangelical voice. I used to really like the magazine. As long as the topic wasn't baptism or free will I could pretty much get on side with much of what was published. Heck, I even published an article in Leadership Journal, their sister publication.

Then, today I found this in my email box.

This week, the eyes of the world are turned toward the family and fate of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman whose feeding tube was recently removed. As Congress intervenes and right-to-life groups lobby in D.C., many are calling this the next great rallying point for Christian conservatives seeking to build a culture of life. For more information and a variety of opinions about the ethical implications of the Terri Schiavo case, visit our special section. There you'll find information to help you create an informed opinion and pray more effectively

You need to check out the special section highlighted to explore their "variety of opinions."

I'm no journalism expert, but when I saw "variety of opinions" I expected a diversity of views on such an ethically complex issue. What does it mean to live? Does the basics of life mean simply to have a beating heart? Does "quality" of life factor in? Why? Why not? If so, how do we define "quality?"

I thought there might be new details of the case. New evidence other than what we've already seen a thousand times on CNN. Truthfully, I know very little about this case other than the pictures on TV (which, who knows when they were taken?) and listening to the heated political rhetoric coming from the US Congress and White House. I went looking for more information than was readily available to me. Surely, Christianity Today, the Grand Old Publication, could help out?

But no.

Instead, I was treated to a "variety of perspectives" from people who agree with one another. They've defined the parametres of the debate so closely that any moral ambiguity expunged under the dogmatic "culture of life" language. But where was the "culture of life" stuff during the lead up to the Iraq war? The Abu Ghib controversy? The bankrupcy bill? George W Bush's record on capital punishment?

For added pleasure, I was given a "Related Topics" section at the end with an article that asks this disturbing question: "Can God Reach the Mentally Disabled?
Are mentally challenged adults whose intellectual age is probably that of a 1-year-old sheltered under God's salvation?"

Is there a Christian alive who is so perplexed by whether or not mentally challenged people are "sheltered under God's salvation" that they need to trot out Lewis Smeades to ease their fears? This sounds like decision theology run amok. "If you can't 'choose Jesus' then you can't be saved." Salvation by choice, not by faith. The question itself assumes terrible theology. Neo-pelagianism, pure and simple.

Where now, is the voice of the moderate evangelical? Where can us orthodox mainliners find common ground with our evangelical sisters and brothers?

I'm afraid that the rise of the Religious Right and the ascension of George W Bush as the so-called "Christian president" has emboldened the much of the evangelical community to a degree where they may gain the whole world yet forfeit their souls.

Anglican bishops in Scotland say gays not barred from priesthood

More grist for the mill...

London (ENI). Leaders of the Scottish Episcopal Church have added fuel to a controversy dividing their Anglican Communion worldwide by declaring for the first time that in their church practising homosexuals are not barred from becoming priests. They also criticised the leaders of the 78-million communion for seeking to isolate Anglican churches in North America following the consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States and the introduction of a blessing for same-sex couples in a part of Canada.

I'm guessing that new alliances will form and an alternate Anglican Communion will emerge, with the North American, South African, and Scottish churches playing a prominent role.

But that's just a guess.

However, I wonder, if in the event of a split within the ELCA and/or ELCIC a broader Lutheran/Anglican partnership will form. Not that I'm anxious to be part of such an arrangement, but given our latest agreements and shared ministries, it seems very likely that these relationships could easily grow into a more organic union.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Rowan Williams' Easter Message

An Easter Message to the Anglican Communion from the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams

The document that came from the recent meeting of Anglican Primates in Northern Ireland has been read and discussed very widely. But one paragraph has barely been mentioned by any commentator, inside the Church or outside. The Primates repeated and underlined their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals defined by the United Nations - including the hope to reduce poverty and hunger by a half before 2015. They also renewed their commitments in respect of HIV/AIDS education and prevention, noting too the need for similar work to get rapidly underway in dealing with the spiralling threats of TB and malaria.

It should not need saying, but it must be said: our Christian faith is a faith in the rising of Jesus Christ from the tomb in his glorified body; and so it is about leading lives that take the life of the body seriously. The words for 'salvation' and 'health' cannot be distinguished in most languages, and this should remind us that faith in Christ has to be bound up with care for suffering bodies as well as suffering souls.

Only Christ can make us whole in every aspect of our lives. But we can show the world something of the nature of that comprehensive hope in Christ as we put our energies to work for healing. First we have to begin to learn what it is for each one of us to receive healing: quietly and thankfully, we must let our wounds be exposed to the physician and allow his life to 'sink into' our lives. And then we must act as if we believed we had truly received authority to heal - in all sorts of different ways.

One of the least known features of the life of the Anglican Church over the last twenty years has been the dramatic revival of the ministry of healing as a routine part of the life of thousands of congregations. But it is the same hope for healing that is shown when we also look at how we can put our resources at the disposal of programmes to combat disease and poverty.

This is not an additional extra - the boring bit of a message in which all the excitement is generated by church politics. It should really shock us that a document like the Primates' communique has been read as if it were only intended to be about our internal struggles. It means that we have not been heard to speak about the Resurrection. This Easter, let us, as Paul tells us in Colossians 3, try to live as if we had truly been raised with Christ - clothed 'with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience' and showing all these things in our priorities for action to heal suffering bodies.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

As a proverbial pooch...

Naomi, our youngest, has a nasty flu. Sophia, our oldest has a dreadful cold. Soon, they will swap ailments. In the meantime, I have what Naomi has. When I'm finished with the flu, Sophie will share her cold.

My body aches. My stomach is on fire. My head is pounding.

This morning's two services just about ended me.

Have mercy upon me now and at the hour of my death...

Ugh.

A centrist Conservative Party. Hmmm. We'll see. The PC wing of the party has prevailed, but the Alliance wing is probably wondering why they had a reform movement to begin with.

To many voters, this may look like the CPC will unload core values just for a grab at power. They need to shed themselves of Stephen Harper. He's too much Alliance for voters east of Manitoba. If Bernard Lord were leader, however, the CPC might have a shot at a majority.

But we'll see.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Anne Lamott quote

"You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

Thanks, Streak.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Alliance swamp may put chill in Conservative party marriage: Peter MacKay

Boy, you couldn't see this coming a mile away...

MONTREAL (CP) - An angry deputy leader of the federal Conservatives said the newly merged party is in real jeopardy and expressed reservations about having helped to unite the right.

Read the rest here.

I should have taken bets on how long this party would last.

The fight that's happening today among the CPC is the 80's style boxing matches over who's brand of right wing ideology will prevail and define conservatism in Canada.

I don't envy Harper's postition. Any move to the centre and he'll suffer the wrath of the party's radical wing. Any move father to the right will alienate the former PC's and voters east of Manitoba, not to mention that a moderate Conservative Party would look a whole lot like the governing Liberals. To me this doesn't sound like much of a choice.

I don't know about you, but given that choice, I'd rather go with the devil I know.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Words: Translated from the Gaelic by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander, 1889.
Music: "St. Patrick" Charles Villiers Stanford, 1902

Link

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Anti-Semitism on the rise in Canada. Some blame Mel's Movie

A "chilling" new audit by a Jewish group says a record number of anti-Semitic incidents were reported in Canada last year.

Read the rest here.

B'nai Brith Canada's League for Human Rights released a report Tuesday citing 857 incidents across the country. That's the highest number since the organization began tracking such incidents 22 years ago. And it's up 47 per cent from 2003.

The number of anti-Jewish incidents in Canada jumped around the time Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ, an advocacy group said Tuesday.

That surge in the spring of last year also coincided with increased tension in the Middle East but at least some of the harassment can be attributed to the controversial film, the head of B'nai Brith Canada says.


Read the rest here.

I watched The Passion of the Christ and I found it very moving. Yes, there were bits that made me very uncomfortable in how they portrayed Jews. But I don't think the film made converts to the anti-semitic cause. It probably gave fodder to anti-semitic sentiments all ready out there.

But Mel's movie was no worse than what we hear from pulpits on Good Friday, or when the Pharisees are portrayed as power-hungry politicians, or when the Jews are presented in sermons as enemies of the new covenant, hung-up on law rather than gospel, forgetting that Jesus was a torah-keeping Jew.

Lutheran theology teaches that all sinners crucified Christ. Not the Jews, specifically. We're all on the hook. No one is exempt.

So today, I condemn violence against my Jewish sisters and brothers, and will say a prayer for those who feel they need to act violently against God's Chosen People.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I Have Links!

Check them out! I feel so silly not being able to figure them out sooner!

Enjoy!

A New Template

I've switched over to this template because

1. It's easier to read.
2. I've figured out how to add links on (which I'll work on later).
3. I like the look of it.

Stan Grenz 1950-2005

Stan Grenz was probably THE premier evangelical scholar of our time. He broke the modernism that strangled evangelical theology giving post-modernism room to breathe.

Brian McLaren has written a moving tribute to his friend and mentor.

Next Wave has re-posted an interview with Grenz.

"I am the resurrection and the life," says our Lord.

Monday, March 14, 2005

As a delgate to our Nat'l Convention, you'll understand why I'm seriously thinking of taking the advice of St. Gregory Nazianzen,

I am determined to avoid every assembly of bishops. I have never seen a single instance in which a synod did any good. Strife and ambition dominate them to an incredible degree. From councils and synods I will keep myself at a distance, for I have experienced that most of them, to speak with moderation, are not worth much. I will not sit in the seat of synods, while geese and cranes confusedly wrangle.
From the Toronto Star (reg required). Peter Mikelic is a Lutheran pastor in Toronto.

Given its secular cultural conditioning, the Church is always in jeopardy of losing its spiritual direction and prophetic voice. The current conflicts over the vast gamut of human sexuality, homosexual rights, and new meanings of marriage for same-gendered persons, has Christians praying that these divisive issues will only temporarily wedge and weaken, but ultimately season and strengthen the Church.

The intensity of the debate over these and other related questions not only reflects an enduring homophobia, but an appalling disdain for the church as a human institution with all its frailties and liabilities. I mean, the Church dissipates and almost destroys itself over issues of human sexuality, as it once did over the equality and ordination of women, the acceptance of blacks, slaves and Gentiles into the church, the rotation and roundness of the earth, and the like. The Church argues over sexuality as if divine dogma and century-old positions were the sole determinants in a seemingly pre-determined outcome.

As in the past, today’s struggle is less over the unfathomable mystery of who and what God is, than over the inability of the Church to genuinely listen and change in order to meet human need and alleviate suffering. For many denominations, human sexuality is not simply a matter of faithfulness to biblical teaching, but primarily one of scriptural interpretation and compassionate application.

There has been much attention to how the world-wide Anglican Communion, especially here in Canada and United States, has wrestled with same-sex issues over the last few years. Given the action of two diocese, New Westminster, B.C., to bless a same-sex union and New Jersey to elect a gay bishop, that a recent gathering of the global Anglican Communion in Northern Ireland requested the Anglican Church in Canada and The Episcopal Church (U.S.A.) to voluntarily withdraw from participating for a time from the church’s highest international bodies.

Meanwhile, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the largest denomination of Lutherans in this country with some 182,500 members, has also been debating these issues.

In fact, at last week’s (March 2-5) meeting in Winnipeg, the National Church Council of the ELCIC voted unanimously to bring the following recommendation to its National Convention this summer: “to allow pastors to perform blessings for same-sex couples who want to make [their union] a life-long commitment to one another in the presence of God and their community of faith.” Authorization to perform such blessings (following a “civil marriage”) would be based upon what’s called the “local option,” in which the consent of the pastor, a two-thirds majority agreement by the congregation and consultation with a synodical bishop would be required.

That there will be controversy and conflict ahead for the lay and clergy delegates at their July 21-24 Assembly in Winnipeg may be an understatement. While the “local option” is a compromise—an accomodation for those on both sides of the issue—the ELCIC also faces the shrinking of resources, which leaves some questioning the church’s ability to remain viable in its present structure.

It may be that delegates vote to defer the recommendation for more study, as Canadian Anglicans did last year, or they may bite the bullet in its defeat or acceptance and then face the consequences. But whatever the decision, the Church must always be subject to God’s Truth. This means that the Church needs to be much more modest in the claims it raises on God’s behalf, equally reticent in the declarations it makes when it speaks for God, but especially reserved in the judgements the church imposes upon others in God’s name—particularly if those others are different in sexual identity and behaviour.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Children's Message: Lent 5 - Year A

Anna’s dog Max couldn’t lift his head to eat. His eyes drooped and his tongue was grey. Anna dropped a piece of bacon in front of Max’s nose. Max opened his eyes, sniffed the bacon, and went back to sleep.

“I guess we have to take him to the vet,” said Anna’s mom. Anna gave Max a hug and rubbed behind his ears. Max licked her nose which made Anna smile.

Anna’s dad picked up Max, supporting his hind quarters, and gently placed Max on his blanket in the backseat of the car. The same blanket that Max slept on when dad took Max hunting.

“Stay here with your mom,” said her dad. “We’ll be back soon.”

Anna watched the car back out of the garage and drive down the street.

About an hour later her dad arrived home. Max wasn’t with him. Her dad’s eyes were very red.

“Where’s Max?” asked Anna.

Anna’s dad looked at her mom, not knowing what to say. Anna’s mom sat Anna down.

“Anna, Max was very old and very sick,” explained her mom. “He was in a lot of pain.”

Anna stared at them, not liking where this conversation was going.

“Do you remember when Grandpa got sick?” asked her mom.

“Yes,” replied Anna.

“Max was sick like grandpa.” Anna’s dad continued.

Anna’s eyes grew large. A tear trickled down her cheek.

“Max is in heaven!?” Anna asked, barely able to talk because her throat was suddenly sore; the kind of soreness you get when you’re really sad.

Anna tried to say more but her words were caught in her throat. She ran to her bedroom and slammed the door behind her. With her head buried in her pillow, Anna cried harder than she ever believed she could cry.

Anna’s parents knocked on her bedroom door.

“Go away!” shouted Anna, her voice breaking through the sobs.

A few minutes later, her older brother Eric appeared at her bedroom door. Anna looked up at him and said,

“I guess you think I’m a real suck.”

As Eric stepped closer, she saw tear streaks on his cheeks.

“Why would I think that?” Eric asked. “Max was a great dog. I remember when you were born; Max parked himself in front of your crib and didn’t move for two days. He growled at Uncle Roger when you cried while he held you.”

“He growled?” asked Anna, smiling softly.

“Yeah. Remember when Max jumped on the table before supper and ran away with the roast beef and dad chased him all over house, and then he hid under the stairs and ate it?”

“That was funny,” said Anna, her eyes looking up at the ceiling. Her face changed. She was sad again. Anna blew her nose and began to cry.

“Remember at Sunday school when the teacher told us about Jesus crying when his friend Lazarus died?”

“Yes.”

“I think Jesus cried because he loved his friend so much. I think we cry because we love. Sometimes we think we are weak when we cry. But I think it takes a lot of strength. It takes strength to love. So it takes strength to cry.”

Anna didn’t know if she was weak or if she was strong. She just knew that she hurt inside. She missed Max. So she and Eric said a prayer thanking God for Max. They finished their prayer with words like this as we pray now,

Dear God, thank you for giving us the strength to love. Amen.

"Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

Ian MacKenzie has pictures of yesterday's funeral for the four RCMP officers who were killed in the tragedy in Mayerthorpe.

I didn't hear the whole service, but I heard Rev. Don Schiemann's eulogy for his son Peter. Powerful. He gave a clear proclamation of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. He found just the right words.

"Const. Peter Schiemann, my son, I carried out your wish this afternoon," he said.

"Peter, we will see you in heaven, but we can hardly wait."

Heartbreaking.

Ralph Klein plays politics with a tragedy.

"This fellow Roszko had a weapon," Klein said Wednesday when reporters asked him about the gun registry. "Whether it was registered or not, it didn't prevent him from using it in an illegal and tragic manner."

He said he hopes the senseless deaths will bring back the debate over whether the billion-dollar federal gun registry is worthwhile.


So says Ralph Klein.

That's like saying we shouldn't have laws against stealing because people are going to steal anyway and it costs to much to enforce them.

If Klein says the problem behind the Gun Registry is the cost, I buy that. Even many Liberals are saying that the cost is getting out of control. But Klein is saying that "It doesn't always work, so it's a bad idea. Bad guys still get guns." Find me a law that does what Klein wants the Gun Registry to do.

Klein is just shoring up his right wing base and using these four young men as political fodder.

Mr. Premier, don't play politics on the day when four families bury their sons and brothers. It dishonours their memory and the important work they did for the common good.

Today is a day for grieving. Not for politiking.

Amy Sullivan on Jim Wallis

Politics and religion are both best served when religious leaders and communities maintain their prophetic independence. The role set by the Hebrew prophets, Wallis's most oft-mentioned models, is a critically important one. "Who will uphold the dignity of economic and political outcasts? Who will question the self-righteousness of nations and their leaders? Who will not allow God's name to be used simply to justify ourselves, instead of calling us to accountability?" Indeed, it's hard to speak truth to power when your fondest wish is to rub shoulders with power at the negotiating table or cocktail parties. What's more, history, including just the past few decades, is replete with examples of how a too-close relationship between the worlds of religion and politics can bring out the worst of both.

Read the rest here.
Thanks to Carlos at Jesus Politics.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Lenten Politics

[Lenten] fasting is also needed in politics - a fasting that allows those who hold power to purify their intentions and their individual or national egoisms. A fasting that allows leaders to see and understand not only that they are mandated to serve and save but also that all human beings, in all nations, are also created and loved by God.

- Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah

From Sojourners.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Man sets himself on fire outside Ontario legislature

TORONTO - A man set himself on fire during a standoff with police outside the Ontario legislature, as hundreds of farmers held a protest nearby.

Read the rest here.

Lutheran Delegates will vote on Same Sex Blessings

NEWS RELEASE
From National Church Council of the ELCIC

LUTHERAN DELEGATES WILL VOTE ON SAME SEX BLESSINGS

Winnipeg, March 9, 2005 (ELCIC)-The Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Canada (ELCIC) National Convention being held in Winnipeg this summer from July 21-24 will be considering a three-part resolution that will allow local congregations to decide if they will authorize the blessing of same sex relationships.

The National Church Council (NCC) of the ELCIC has been asked to provide guidance for the pastoral practice of its synods,
congregations, and pastors on this issue that has been a part of public discourse for some time. After careful study of all points of view, the NCC will forward a resolution to the national convention that recognizes:

The need for a clear process for congregations to follow in order to conduct same sex blessings;
- The right of each congregation to make its own decision on the issue;
- The right of clergy to participate along with their congregations or calling agencies in making the decision to perform such
blessings;
- The inadequacy of current guiding documents on issues of
homosexuality in light of developing theological, pastoral and sociological scholarship; and
- That a new rite for such blessings will need to be developed.

"The NCC has acknowledged the diversity of opinion within
our church on this contentious issue," said ELCIC National Bishop Raymond L. Schultz.

"The range of responses regarding this matter within the ELCIC mirrors Canadian public opinion. This resolution captures that
spirit by providing a clear question for delegates that offers a process that will allow congregations to decide on their own whether or not to bless same sex relationships."

The NCC conducted an extensive study of important issues
surrounding a local option for same sex blessings seeking the guidance of theologians, pastors and lay leaders through essays which are also available to the public on the ELCIC website

Myers-Briggs and Prayer Preferences PLUS Blogs I read

Courtesy of Steve Bogner's Catholicism, Spirituality, and Holiness blog.

I really enjoy Steve's blog. He has a gracious and gentle approach to faith, combining a critical eye with a loving heart. Something that is lacking in many blogs.

Check him out.

Other blogs I read regularly:

Jordon Cooper : From Saskatoon. Always good for interesting articles pulled from a variety of sources.

The Parish : A witty, provocative, sometimes profane, always throughful engagement with the faith.

Maggi Dawn : Church of England, post-modern, emerging church type. Wonderful writer. Combines orthodoxy with graciousness.

Father Jake Stops the World : from the liberal Anglican tradition. Deeply compassionate and thoughtful posts.

Warren Kinsella : The man behind Jean Chretien's war room. Snarky and smart. Liberal attack dog.

Jesus Politics : articles on issues related to Christianity and politics pulled from various sources. The comments are the most engaging and entertaining. A wide variety of Christian and political perspectives visit this site.

Streak's Blog : A liberal perspective. Definately.

The Grace Pages : "A rest-stop for fellow pilgrims. A former charismatic-evangelical talks about life, faith, theology, Scripture and the God of grace."

Real Live Preacher : Wonderful stories. Earthy theology.

Saheli* Political and social commentary from a liberal journalist.

CalgaryGrit : Believe it or not, not all Liberals in Alberta have been driven out. One of them even has a good blog.

Monte Solberg : Hey, you gotta know what the other side is thinking, right?

That's about it for now. I have more but will post them at a later date. Check these folks out!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Eugene Petersen: "I think relevance is a crock..."

I think relevance is a crock. I don't think people care a whole lot about what kind of music you have or how you shape the service. They want a place where God is taken seriously, where they're taken seriously, where there is no manipulation of their emotions or their consumer needs.

Why did we get captured by this advertising, publicity mindset? I think it's destroying our church.


Read the rest here.

Canadian Citizenship Test: Could you pass?

It was harder than I thought it would be. And I was born here!

Punishing Success, Rewarding failure

"This denomination," writes William Willimon, speaking of the United Methodist Church, "has a way of rewarding its failures and punishing its successes. That's what I heard veteran church observor Lyle Schaller say to a group of us clergy.

"The clergy-dominated system tends to promote and empower its failures - those incompetent or at at least ineffective pastors who just get by, who never rock the boat, and who never cause problems for those in power - and tends to disempower its successful clergy."

I'm not sure what Willimon means by "promote" or even "success" or "failure." But I think his point is a good one.

"Just let one of our pastors serve a church with great effect - a dramatic rise in giving, large growth in new members and listen to how the rest of us will respond," Willimon explains.

"'He has such a large ego,' they will say. 'He has built an empire around himself.' Anything to explain what the new life that seems to be breaking out there is really not so wonderful after all."

"The system is threatened by new life," said Schaller. "It robs the rest of us of our alibis for poor leadership, it causes us to question our excuses for our ineffectiveness. Effectiveness is a threat in any declining organization."

That same could be said of most mainline churches. But I don't see this as readily here in Alberta than I did in the Eastern Synod.

"Church is not a numbers game," I would hear. "A church that is growing must be compromising the gospel."

"I'm not going to play that evangelical game," another would say.

This is a convenient theology for many pastors who've seen their congregation rapidly decline on their watch.

I see many of these same dynamic at work in the political arena. "We aren't supposed to win," one NDP operative told me. "We're the conscience of the House."

Or

"The Liberals and Conservatives play dirty to win. We're just not going to play that game."

These are the stories we tell ourselves to relieve the pressure of not meeting our ministry or political goals.

Monday, March 07, 2005

"It's Fun to Shoot People..." says soldier. "Indeed...!' responds Lutheran theologian

Sightings 3/7/05

Fun for Christian Soldiers?
-- Martin E. Marty

"It's fun to shoot some people." "You got guys who ... ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them." Speaking out was Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis of the U.S. Marine Corps. Chastened by his superior and inspiring reactions such as "How terrible! How insensitive!" Lieutenant General Mattis found a defender in the conservative Christian magazine World (February 26, 2005). Columnist Gene Edward Veith derides those who were shocked by the lieutenant general's call to have fun shooting and killing. Veith reminds readers that "there is a pleasure in battle .... Excitement, exhilaration, and a fierce joy ... go along with combat." Some soldiers testify to this pleasure; others offer different reports.

Dr. Veith wants readers to appraise Mattis's call to killing-fun "from a Christian point of view." The question: "Should a Christian soldier take pleasure in killing people?" His answer: war-making is precisely the work of killing people, and "there is nothing wrong with enjoying one's work."

Those who are not fully convinced might ask some questions, samples of which follow:

If a Christian believes that humans are made in the image of God, should it be "a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them"?

World Wars I and II, and many other wars, had Christian fighting Christian, sometimes because they were drafted to do so against their will. If a Christian believes that another Christian is a child of God, should it be a "hell of a lot of fun to shoot" and kill him?

If a Christian is an evangelical -- like those to whom World magazine is directed -- and he must kill someone who is as yet unevangelized, thus cutting short his potential for salvation, should it be a "hell of a lot of fun" to shoot him?

If a Christian is a grandson, son, father, husband, brother who knows that survivors of his killed counterpart will suffer all their lives because of his necessary act of killing, should it still be a "hell of a lot of fun" to shoot him?

If a Christian is to pay special attention to the weak, and he decides that someone "ain't got no manhood left anyway," should he do Darwin's work and eliminate the unworthy, taking a "hell of a lot of fun" in doing it?

Can the unconvinced -- and I don't mean just the "What Would Jesus Do"-types -- at least ask how finding it a "hell of a lot of fun to shoot" those who "ain't got no manhood" squares in any way with "love your enemies"?

Veith, a fellow Lutheran, cites Luther to the effect that while soldiers can abuse their license to kill (I wonder if having a "hell of a lot of fun" is doing just that) and should never fight in an unjust war, soldiers can fight "in good conscience," be "confident" and "untroubled," and go "forward with joy." He translates this into a defense of Mattis. Should he?

I have spent much time with chaplains of the Christian genus and Lutheran species, and agree with them that some people are called to the military and will have to kill. Every one of these chaplains has argued that this should be done as a tragic necessity, with consciences shaped by repentance. Is having a "hell of a lot of fun" killing compatible with this?


Martin Marty's Website can be found here.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Seamless garment of life

This from the BeliefNet Archives. Wallis, a leading figure in the so-called "religious left," a term he dislikes. In his book The Soul of Politics, Wallis argues that the old political categories of left and right are no longer relevant.

This article is a classic example. There are many on the so-called political left who don't believe in abortion on demand.

Many Democrats fail to comprehend how fundamental the conviction on "the sacredness of human life" is for millions of Christians, especially Catholics and evangelicals, including those who are strongly committed on other issues of justice and peace and those who wouldn’t criminalize abortion even as they oppose it. Liberal political correctness, which includes a rigid litmus test of being "pro-choice," really breaks down here. And the conventional liberal political wisdom that people who are conservative on abortion are conservative on everything else is just wrong. Christians who are economic populists, peacemaking internationalists, and committed feminists can also be "pro-life." The roots of this conviction are deeply biblical and, for many, consistent with a commitment to nonviolence as a gospel way of life.

Hillary Clinton is a great example; a Democrat who has been reminding her party of the value of human life:

...the work of the Clinton Administration and so many others saw the rate of abortion consistently fall in the 1990's. The abortion rate fell by one-fourth between 1990 and 1995, the steepest decline since Roe was decided in 1973. The rate fell another 11 percent between 1994 and 2000, from about 24 to 21 abortions for every 1,000 women of childbearing age.

But unfortunately, in the last few years, while we are engaged in an ideological debate instead of one that uses facts and evidence and commonsense, the rate of abortion is on the rise in some states. In the three years since President Bush took office, 8 states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6% average increase), and four saw a decrease (4.3% average), so we have a lot of work still ahead of us.


(Read the rest of her speech here)

The strength of Hillary's speech lies in the respect she's shown for the Republican position without compromising her core values, and for her challenge to her own party to establish a culture of life.

The Village Voice has a great article on Hillary's speech.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Sermon: Lent 4 - Year A

(With help from Willimon's Pulpit Resource)

Methodist Bishop William Willimon tells a story about a pastor-theologian friend of his whose furnace broke down. Someone came in to fix it and gave it a clean bill of health. But it was not in good order as things turned out.

One Saturday night in January, this fellow said he awoke early and tried to get out of bed. But he couldn’t get fully awake. He thought he was simply tired from the night before, so he went back to sleep. He awoke later, and in a stupor, looked at the alarm clock. It was almost noon! He tried to get up out of bed. His head was throbbing, and he couldn’t move. He couldn’t get up. So he fell back to bed.

At that moment he saw a small child, a little girl, cute, dressed in white.

“How did you get in here?” he heard himself ask. “What is a child doing in my house?”

The little girl gestured toward him, pointing him toward the door. She said something to him like “You must get up and get out, or you will never get out.”

He struggled out of bed at her urging, crawled through the bedroom door and out of the house, collapsing on the front steps. The child was gone.

Heating experts were called. The house was full of carbon monoxide.

Now, as I said, the fellow is a pastor and theologian. He is not given to flights of fancy. He told Willimon, “I think that ‘child’ in my room was an angel. I think God sent her to me to warn me.”

Willimon was skeptical. But he kept his skepticism to himself. He told his friend to be careful to whom he told his story!

“All I know is,” his friend said, “a few more minutes and I’d have been dead.”

I share Willimon’s skepticism. Obvious questions arise: Entire families have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, why would God single out this one man for protection? If God can save a pastor from dying a peaceful, sleepy but premature death, then why couldn’t God stop four bullets directed at four young RCMP officers who were serving the common good? Why would God rescue some and not others?

Also, the angel angle. Biblically, angel appearances were met with fear and trembling. Cute little girls don’t usually strike terror into the heart. Popular religion is rife with angels. But do they really point to God or have they become an object of worship in themselves? Do angels still appear?

But while others endure tragedies that have scarred them, this man escaped death. And he has an incredible story to tell.

I’m sure folks who knew the blind man had the same questions after he was healed.
Jesus meets this blind man who has been blind from birth. With some spit and dust Jesus heals him. Praise be to God! A man who was blind can now see.

But not so fast. A controversy breaks out. Was this man really healed? How was he healed? If Jesus healed him, what does that say about Jesus?

Fortunately, a bunch of pastors appear on the scene to help sort things out, religiously speaking.

“Who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” they ask. Like lots of religious people, they want to place blame. They want to talk about sin. They want to beat this guy with a theological stick.

Jesus doesn’t play that game. He just heals the man.

The neighbours can’t believe it. Isn’t this the same blind man who once had to beg to survive?

The pastors alert the bishop who strikes a committee to investigate.

“All I know,” the man tells the committee, “is that this man put stuff on my eyes and now I can see.”

Though the man is standing right in front of them, the committee can’t reach a conclusion. They subpoena the man’s parents.

“Is this your son?” they ask.

“It looks like our son, but we don’t want to get into any trouble. We have no idea how he got his sight back. If you want to know ask him,” his parents reply.

They call Jesus back in and say, “This Jesus doesn’t have a medical license. He’s not on the clergy roster. He shouldn’t be playing around with things he knows nothing about.”

The bewildered and annoyed formerly blind man says, “I don’t know a lot about all that big theological stuff. I don’t have a lot of fancy words. The only thing I know is that a few days ago I was blind and now I can see. If you want to know how all this works ask Jesus.”

****

It’s not that I don’t value theology. A quick glance at my library will tell you how much I appreciate theological discourse. But I’ve learned to see the line between theology and faith. Theology is important. But some of the most unloving people I’ve met have been most rabid theological pit-bulls.

Lutherans are famous for this. Lutherans love correct doctrine. Often at the expense of people.

In my first year doctrine class at seminary, I was a real jerk. There was nothing I loved more than jumping on my classmates for any theological error.

At one class, a woman presented a paper that I thought was just terrible. So I did my best to make sure she knew why I thought her paper was terrible.

She broke down and cried. The class turned and glared at me. I began to sweat. Even more than usual. I hadn’t noticed that she was wearing black that day or that she was off to a funeral of a close friend who had recently died. Her paper was a theological discourse on grief born out of her friend’s death.

Ouch.

Paul’s words taunted me, “If you understand all mysteries and have all knowledge but have not love, you are nothing.”

Looking back I wonder if the best theological response I could have given was to wrap my arms around her and give her room to cry.

Sure, her paper was awful. But I think that Jesus was more interested in her wounded heart than her incorrect doctrine.

Author Brennan Manning tells the story of a recent convert to Jesus who was approached by an unbelieving friend.

“So you have been converted to Christ?”
“Yes.”
“Then you must know a great deal about him. Tell me, what country was he born in?”
“I don’t know.”
“What was his age when he died?”
“I don’t know.”
“How many sermons did he preach?”
“I don’t know.”
“You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be converted to Christ.”
“You’re right. I’m ashamed at how little I know about him. But this much I know: Three years ago I was a drunkard. I was in debt. My family was falling to pieces; they dreaded the sight of me. But now I’ve given up drink. We are out of debt. Ours is a happy home. My children eagerly await my return home each evening. All this Christ has done for me. This much I know of Christ.”

Despite all the books on my shelf. Even though I have the accumulated wisdom of the saints at my finger tips. I still don’t know how all this works. I don’t know why some people get healed and others don’t.

I just know that some people have extraordinary stories to tell. Whether it’s an angel rescuing someone from a carbon monoxide filled house, a drunk whose life was put back together, or a blind man receiving sight, God leaves tracks, clues for us to find. But when we piece them together we still don’t get the whole picture. God is God. We are not.

Is that good news? Maybe not for those who need God wrapped up in a tight little box.

But for those of us who would rather be saved then be correct; for those of us who rather be healed than brilliant; those of us who rather be loving rather than clever; maybe it’s all the news we need. Amen.

Lutheran leader in Holy Land urges treaty to end Middle East Violence

Jerusalem (ENI). The head of the Lutheran church in the
Holy Land has urged Israel and the Palestinians to skip interim peace negotiations and work at finalising a treaty that would give Palestinians an independent state of their own. "Now is the
time to negotiate an end game for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to implement it quickly," said Bishop Munib Younan, the
leader of the 3000-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan & the Holy Land.


While this may seem hopelessly naive, Bishop Younan has been a tireless worker for peace between Palestinians and Israelis for many, many years.

Being a Palestinian Christian he is able to negotiate between the two factions because he doesn't have as large a theological stake. But Bishop Younan has often remarked that many evangelical Christians are no help in achieving peace in the Middle East.

But of course, peace in the Holy Land is not the objective for many conservative evangelicals. Armaggeddon is.

Harper on not politicizing the RCMP tragedy

For once I agree with Stephen Harper.

From today's Globe and Mail,

“It is too early to make links between this tragic event and public policy, he said.

"Yesterday's deaths are, of course, a painful reminder that law enforcement is a dangerous business, that these people put their lives on the line every single day so that Canadians can live in a high degree of security and safety," Mr. Harper told a press conference in Ottawa on Friday.

While the Tories do not support the federal Liberal bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, Mr. Harper said, he called it dangerous to relate Thursday's shooting to changing Canada's laws.
(read the rest here). See also here.

But I’m wondering why folks immediately jumped on marijuana as the cause of these murders. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned anything about guns?

But still, this is a terrible tragedy and should not be used for political fodder.

Read the RCMP statement here.

Prime Minister Martin's response (I couldn't link to it):

“It is with great sorrow that I have learned of the tragic deaths of four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers today in Rochfort Bridge, Alberta.

The Deputy Prime Minister has spoken with the Commissioner of the RCMP and is following the situation closely.

Canadians are shocked by this brutality, and join me in condemning the violent acts that brought about these deaths.

This terrible event is a reminder of the sacrifice and bravery of the men and women who serve in our national police force, and of the dangerous circumstances which they often confront, in order to make Canada a safer place.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to express my condolences to the families of the officers who were killed as they carried out their duty in enforcing the law and protecting the public.

At this moment of difficulty and loss, you are in our thoughts and prayers.”

"No Missile Defense? Then Screw You!"

Is it a coincidence that the Americans decided to keep the border closed to Canadian cattle just one week after Canadians rejected involvement in the Missile Defense Program?

U.S. Ambassador Paul Celluci says the two aren't related. But can he understand why Canadians find that hard to believe?

For an American perspective the Washington Post has a good piece.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

4 Mounties killed at marijuana site

This is so tragic. Marijuana is not worth killing for.

Children's Message: Lent 4 - Year A

I was warned NOT to post my sermons/children's messages until after Sunday. Just so no one will steal and appropriate it for themselves. I don't care. If you can use it, use it. Just don't put your name on it.

I'll post my Sunday sermon tomorrow.

I was given this sermon format by Roland McGregor. Here's his site.

A Story About Jack


“Jack,” his mom said, “guess who coming today?”

“Who?” asked Jack.

“Grandma is coming, we’re going to pick her up at the bus station this evening, would you like to come along?” asked Jack’s mom.

Jack’s face brightened. “Yay! Grandma’s coming! I’m going to bring something special for her when we see her.”

Jack locked himself in his room and pulled out his crayons and pad of multi-coloured paper. He drew a circle, but the shape looked too much like an egg. So he ripped the page out from the pad and threw it in the recycling bin.

He drew another circle, but still it was the wrong shape. He tore out the page a tossed it away.

Jack’s older sister Suzy knocked on his door.

“Jack, mom’s ready to go soon. You need put your jacket on.”

Jack was quiet. He sat at his table colouring.

“Jack, did you hear me?”

“Just a minute,” Jack shouted impatiently.

Suzy jiggled the handle to Jack’s room. The door was locked.

“Jack, let’s go!” Suzy shouted, “Or mom’s going to leave without you.”

“In a minute. I’m almost done.” Jack shouted back.

Suzy tried the handle one more time.

“That’s it, we’re leaving. Dad’s in his workshop.”

Suzy and her mom closed the front door behind them. Jack ripped the page from the pad and hurled it in the recycle bin and turned to a fresh page.

Jack didn’t notice the sun set. His dad brought him a hot dog.

“Why don’t you take a break, son” handing him the plate.

“I want to get this just right,” replied Jack not looking up at his dad or his food.

“Your mom called and grandma’s bus is late, why don’t you get into your pajamas so she can tuck you in when she arrives,” said his dad.

“Soon,” Jack replied, still not looking up.

It was dark outside and Jack felt a hand on his shoulder. He jumped. Jack didn’t realize he’d been sleeping at his table.

“Jack, dear. Why don’t you let me tuck you in,” said Grandma.

“Grandma!” said Jack sleepily, then looked down at the picture he had drawn for her.

“I wanted to draw you something special for when you arrived,” Jack sobbed.

“This is a beautiful picture, Jack” Grandma said. “It looks just like me and buster” (Buster was grandma’s cat). “But why is there an ‘X’ through the picture?”

“Because I drew your face the wrong shape.” Jack replied. “I was going to throw it away and start all over.”

Grandma looked at the recycle bin. There were at least 10 drawings of her and Buster, crumpled up and thrown away.

“These are all wonderful drawings, Jack. Why did you throw them away?”

“It doesn’t look just like you. I didn’t get your face just right. Buster’s colour is the wrong red. I wanted to give you something that was just right.”

“Anything that comes from you will be ‘just right.’ It doesn’t have to be perfect. Did you go to church this morning?”

“Yes.”

“Then you probably heard the story of Jesus healing the blind man. Some of the religious leaders thought that the man was blind because either he or his parents made God angry and that God punished them by making the man blind.”

“Does God really do that?” asked Jack, his eyes opened wide.

“Some people believed God punished people for their parents’ sins. But Jesus didn’t believe that. Jesus knew that God was more interested in the love that’s in our hearts than how perfect we can be.

“So, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to take all these pictures from the recycle bin and put them in my bedroom and on my fridge and anywhere else I can find a place. That way I can always remember the love that’s in your heart.”

Jack said, “I’d like that.”

Then they said a prayer like this as we do now: Dear God, thank you that we don’t have to be perfect for you to love us. Amen.”

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hey There! Watch Your Language!

[11] And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.

1 Kings 16:11 kjv

Thanks to Ono.

Mel Gibson buys an island, just like Jesus would do.

Check this out.

Maybe it's just me, but given the near sainthood status evangelical churches have given this guy, buying an island seems a little on the "conspicious consumption" side for someone who confesses to be a follower of the poor man from Nazareth. I guess if you say the right words, make the right movie, and are conservative on the political spectrum you can ignore those pesky little bible verses where Jesus warns his disciples about the perils of wealth.

Not that I'm any different. I'm not poor. In the grand scheme of world affairs I live with an embarassment of riches. I own my house. I have a job I love. My kids lack for nothing.

To me, Mel's recent purchase and the silence from the church reveals our complicity in the consumerist culture of the western world.

Troubling.