Saturday, April 30, 2005

Blair's election fortunes are bolstered by Britain's unpopular opposition

LONDON (AP) - He's loathed by sections of his own party, has been heckled by voters and accused of lying over the Iraq war.

Yet Prime Minister Tony Blair heads into the final days of Britain's election campaign leading the polls - partly thanks to alienated Labour party stalwarts who will hold their noses and vote for him anyway May 5

The rest here.

Could the same thing happen in Canada once folks in Ontario start hearing four words: Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

Friday, April 29, 2005

A great question.

If the Gospel of Christ turned out to be a fable, would you lose anything? Have you risked anything for your faith? Do you believe it so absolutely that if it wasn't true, you have much to lose?

Thanks, Ono, from your Newman blog.

An epiphany or a confession; I'm not sure which. Maybe both.

My wife and kids have been away for a week and I’ve already fallen back into my pre-marriage habits.

I haven’t eaten a well balanced meal since April 21. I’ve gone through a case of beer. I’ve watched far too much TV (and TV really sucks – except for the Simpsons, CSI, and Law and Order). And I lounge around the house in shorts and a T’shirt (this being Canada, the weather is still hovering around the freezing mark – that’s 0 degrees Celsius, 32 degrees Fahrenheit, for you Americans, still the only country on the planet still using the old imperial measuring system). That's how lazy I feel.

I had wonderful plans of working out. Finishing up the tofu in the fridge. Reading all those novels I don’t get to read because there are two small children exhausting my time at home.

So I’ve come to a conclusion: My wife is keeping me from being a total pig.

Canadian Anglicans won't bless same-sex unions for 2 years

WINDSOR, ONT. - Bishops from the Anglican Church of Canada have decided to place a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex unions for the next two years

The rest here.

A lesson for us Lutherans? Maybe we need more time for study, prayer, conversation, and discernment before we vote on the motion before the National Convention. Maybe.

Paul Martin booed at U2 concert; fans sign Bono's end-poverty petition to PM

VANCOUVER (CP) - Prime Minister Paul Martin was booed at a sold-out rock show by thousands who have sided with U2's Bono, a rock star who won't let Canada beg off the fight to end poverty.

The rest here.

It's clear the PM is in election mode. Check out this in today's Globe and Mail. If Martin wins the next election (May 18 is suspected as the "kill date"), the Liberals will be in power forever. Stephen Harper's political career will be over. And Alberta just may separate before Quebec.

Relatedly, I'm glad that U2 is using their influence for a greater cause than simply making music. I hope that the PM will listen to the voices of the younger generations and keep the promise he made to help end poverty.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Harper Declares War

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Wednesday he has made up his mind and will ask his caucus on Monday to vote in favour of a non-confidence motion against the minority Liberal government at the earliest opportunity.

Read the rest here.

The Conservatives may win a minority if an election were called, but the Bloc would be the biggest winner. Making Canada the biggest loser.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

This is what happens in a minority parliament

First this:

Liberals in Tentative Budget Deal with NDP

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's minority Liberal government reached an agreement in principle on Tuesday with the left-leaning New Democratic Party, which would see increased spending and reduced corporate tax cuts, an aide to Prime Minister Paul Martin said.

(the rest here)

Then this:

Martin says corporate tax cuts will go ahead - if Tories support them

OTTAWA (CP) - Prime Minister Paul Martin says he will push ahead with tax cuts for big corporations despite his budget deal with the NDP - provided the Conservatives support the move.

Of course, critics will spin this as a desperate attempt by the Liberals to keep hold of power. And they would right.

But still, this is how minority parliaments work. Democracy is messy. No one can accuse Paul Martin of governing as though he had a majority.

But my big question is: Can we afford both corporate tax cuts AND increased spending?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Vacation, of sorts. Part II

Yesterday, I had a Lord of the Rings marathon. I watched all three movies in succession. I drank beer. Ate chicken. And lost myself in the battle for Middle Earth. This is my idea of a vacation when I have no money.

After the movies, I lay in bed thinking about the broad Christian themes of the story. Frodo, the Hobbit, being among the smallest of all people, was chosen to destroy the One Ring and rescue Middle Earth from the evil Dark Lord. The sacrifices made for the common good.

LOTR does what a good narrative should do: challenge, inspire, ennoble.

What is our grand adventure as people of God? What is our great quest? To preach good news (Matthew 28). That’s the official answer. But what does that look like?

For me, the temptation is always toward empire building. My shadow looks like Bill Hybels or Rick Warren.

While I value much of the material they have written regarding church life, I also know that the gospel and culture cannot be so easily reconciled. The gospel always confronts and contradicts that which does not come from God.

The consumerist culture of western society does not come from God. Where the culture tells us that stuff will make us happy, the gospel asks us to “sell all you have and give to the poor.” Where the culture demands safety and security, the gospel tells us to “take up your cross and follow me.” Where the culture esteems the rugged individual, the gospel calls us to “meet together, to break bread and pray.”

I like what Scott Williams has written recently about his pastoral journey.

…early in the whole emergent thing i grabbed a phrase that has come to symbolize much of what i still believe today. i can't remember who said it but the term 'wounded healer' has stuck with me. it has given me freedom and hope. it may no longer be trendy but for me it was life. i began to realize that i was called to share out of vulnerability, not strength. it began to permeate every part of my life. i no longer had to pretend i had it all together. it allowed me to bring into play other important facets of my belief system. vulnerability, raw, real, imperfection, transparency. our church began to look more like a twelve step meeting than a church service. that had it's pitfalls too, but god started to move. (read the rest here. It’s well worth the effort)

The gospel asks us to shed the trappings of a world that values power and wealth and to embrace the vulnerability of the poor man from Nazareth; the vulnerability of compassion and love. Jesus had a way of looking into peoples’ hearts and souls that made them turn from their self-destructive and society crushing behaviours. Jesus could speak truth, love, and freedom because he lived it. He lived the Kingdom that he preached. Some theologians say he “was” the Kingdom (I still don’t know what that means). The Kingdom of life, healing, freedom, and salvation was his good news to a hurting and broken world. That was his message.

He needed no shopping mall churches. Nor any four point sermons on how to relieve stress. All he had, and all he gave to his disciples was the message of the gospel: that the kingdom of God, the kingdom of life and salvation, is present among us.

I still don’t know what the church will look like in the future. I have no grand vision, no great dream other than the simple message of the gospel.

Maybe that’s enough.

Monday, April 25, 2005

A Vacation, of sorts.

Apparently I’m supposed to be on vacation today. Yesterday was a vacation Sunday for me, so I preached in a neighbouring church where my wife serves as the unofficial interim pastor. Then I slept all afternoon. Drank beer. Watched a movie, the Simpsons, then went to watch TV at a local pub.

My wife and kids are visiting the in-laws in Edmonton. So I’m a bachelor again. The house is a mess. Pizza boxes and beer cans scattered around the house.

I hate vacations. I’m bored out of my tree. So I thought I’d catch up on my blogging.

Yesterday, this appeared in the local paper. Pulled from the Anglican Journal.


I’ve been trying to keep The Issue off the radar screen of the congregation until some time in June when I’ll talk about the motion on Same Sex Blessings (SSB) before our National Convention in late July. Even discussing about the motion will cause division in the congregation just as we are beginning the initial phases of a building program preceded by a capital campaign. Not to mention amalgamation talks with two other Lutheran churches in the Lethbridge area. One of which, has threatened to pull out of the ELCIC and join the Lutheran Church - Canada, if the National Convention passes the motion regarding SSB.

So, it feels like future plans hinge on the outcome of the Convention.

One of our bishops apparently conceded that the Church "will be smaller" after the convention, no matter what the outcome. Both sides are deeply entrenched. The debate has been framed as social justice vs biblical authority.

Many in my congregation, who believe that social justice arises from biblical authority, feel like they are given a false choice. Some are conservative on The Issue but are also caring and compassionate. They decry the hate-filled rhetoric being spit by some very conservative pastors. We also have some very liberal parishioners who are uncomfortable with the ease with which the word "homophobe" is being thrown around.

But I fear the rhetoric will heat up as the convention creeps closer. The biggest loser in this fight may be the gospel itself.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Pastoral Letter: May 2005

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote,

“Listening to music is a shattering experience, throwing the soul into an encounter with an aspect of reality to which the mind can never relate itself adequately…This shattering experience of music has been a challenge to my thinking on ultimate issues. I spend my life working with thoughts. And one problem that gives me no rest is: do these thoughts ever rise to the heights reached by authentic music?...Music leads to the threshold of repentance, of unbearable realization of our own vanity and frailty and of the terrible relevance of God. I would define myself as a person who has been smitten by music, as a person who has never recovered from the blows.”


For me, I am very aware of the power and limitations of words and the captivation of music. Some of my most poignant worship experiences haven’t been in church. They have been while sitting in the back of an orchestra with a trombone stuck to my face, blowing away in a Brahms symphony or Mozart’s Requiem.

In worship, especially when I preach, there’ve been times when I was overwhelmed by the inadequacy of my words and I approached the pulpit with much fear and trembling. Given the power of many of our hymns, I was almost ashamed or afraid to speak my little words after a particularly moving musical selection. Music boldly ascends to heights where mere words fear to tread.

But, in our day to day lives, words are what we are stuck with. We talk, chat, muse, reflect, gossip, instruct, inspire, bore, harangue, lecture, spiel, blather, and pontificate. These are the tools of everyday communication. Even given the limitations of language, there is something divine about the spoken word.

The bible says that God spoke creation into being. John’s gospel says that Jesus is the “Word made flesh.” So our words, however frail and limited, are vehicles of grace, sacraments of salvation, when speaking the good news that Jesus calls us to share with the world.

Jesus knows that words, with all their limitations, can heal, liberate, and save. They can also condemn, wound, and enslave.

Some folks have expressed concerns of some of the language that I’ve used in the pulpit. I welcome such concerns. It shows that language is dynamic. Even dangerous. We have a God who speaks hard poetry through the prophets; poetry that judges and poetry that redeems. We have a God who speaks life and creation with a single Word. We have a God who tells us stories of forgiveness before we even know we have sinned.

So, I’ll continue to grapple with language. Some days I will succeed. Some days I will fail,even offend. I ask your forgiveness ahead of time as I struggle to find words for what cannot be described; as I labour for language to illuminate the saving love of God revealed in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The day will come when music and words will converge and we will all sing the song of salvation together in the Kingdom of God.

Grace to you and peace,

Pastor Kevin

Paul Martin Pleads for his job

"I'm sorry, I didn't do it, I'm cleaning it up, let Gomery finish his work, I'll call an election within 30 days of the report being published, please please please please please don't call an election right now, I hung out here on Parliament Hill when I was a kid, let's get back to the real issues."

From Daimnation! via Kinsella.

I was hearing from Liberals over the last few days. All of them thought that Martin going on TV was a BAD idea. They were right. It was a terrible speech. Plus, he gave the opposition far too much time to prepare a pre-buttal. Now Gomery, election fever, and Paul Martin's speech will dominate the news, not their legislative agenda. And he effectively called an election, now NOTHING will get done on Parliament Hill.

Ladies and Gents, I give you Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Details Emerge of How Benedict Became Pope

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict acted to preserve the legacy of John Paul on Thursday as details emerged of how he swept to an overwhelming victory in a secret conclave.

The rest here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Canadian Catholics React to New Pope

Change the world, not the church: Canadian cardinals
CBC News

VATICAN CITY - The world needs to change, not the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, a Canadian cardinal said Wednesday in a spirited defence of the new Pope.

The rest here.

Little enthusiasm in Canadian press for conservative new pope

MONTREAL (AFP) - Canadian newspapers gave a largely lukewarm reception to the Roman Catholic Church's conservative new pope, Benedict XVI.

Under the headline "Benedict the Strict," the Globe and Mail newspaper branded the pontiff as "a German intellectual and hard-line opponent of same-sex marriage, contraception and an expanded role for women in the church."

The rest here.

Canadian Catholics react with dismay, joy, on choice of new conservative pope

(CP) - Susan Brundl is a Catholic German-Canadian - someone who might have been expected to greet Tuesday's announcement of a German pope with some celebration.

But the 40-year-old social worker from Toronto says she's deeply disappointed with the selection of the conservative Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as the man to succeed Pope John Paul.

The rest here.

Bishop Ray Schultz on the Pope's Election


Winnipeg, April 20, 2005 (ELCIC)- National Bishop Raymond Schultz of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) offers his congratulations to Benedict XVI upon his election to the office of Pope in the Roman Catholic Church:

I add my own prayers to his that God may use his office to bring about mercy and grace for all.

The former Cardinal Ratzinger has been a controversial figure in the world church, as much caricatured as actually known. He recounts his years in the Hitler youth as having taught him to be suspicious of seemingly-progressive secular movements, leading him to dedicate his senior leadership in the church to protecting orthodoxy. How much of that was his own drive and how much was the service of a dutiful servant to the Holy See remains to be seen.

He deplores the pluralism of the post-modern era and sees conformity to orthodox history as a way to keep the church integrated in a climate that enjoys dismantling institutions.

Those in the church who have waited long for greater openness to women, a married priesthood and a more receptive attitude toward other Christians and world religions are disappointed by this election.

Lutherans world wide are grateful for the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 and look forward to continued conversation and increased communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Lutheran Leaders Stress Christian Unity With Election Of New Pope

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- With Pope Benedict XVI's election, Christians should pray that God "may bless, strengthen and guide him as a heavy mantle of responsibility is now being put upon him," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and the Rev. Ishmael Noko, LWF general secretary, in a joint statement issued April 19.

Read the rest here.

EJ Dionne's Prophetic Words: Cardinal Ratzinger's Challenge

ROME -- The words broke like a thunderclap inside St. Peter's Basilica. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, addressing the world's cardinals just hours before they sequestered themselves Monday to choose the next leader of the world's 1 billion Catholics, decided to define this conclave.

From the Washington Post (reg.req'd). Read the whole article. Thanks, Carlos.

I had a troubling feeling that Ratzinger was going to be chosen. His friends say that he isn't the theological pitbull his enemies and some of the media make him out to be. Let's pray that his pontificate will point to a grander gospel than what his job as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith allowed him to proclaim.

The people need a gentle, caring shepherd. Not an Inquisitor.

It is my prayer, that Benedict XVI will be an instrument of the gospel of peace, life, and salvation, wherever hurting people need to hear good news.

Here is his official Vatican biography.

Habemus Papam: Joseph Ratzinger will be Pope Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany has been selected by the Roman Catholic church as the new pope.

Read the rest here.

Text of the speech delivered by Joseph Ratzinger, elected pope Tuesday, from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

``Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me - a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.

``The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.

``In the joy of the risen Lord, trusting in his permanent help, we go forward. The Lord will help us and Mary his very holy mother stands by us.''

Bells ring at Vatican, signalling the election of a pope

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The successor to John Paul has been elected, Vatican Radio announced Tuesday evening. Bells chimed at St. Peter's Basilica and flag-waving crowds in the square chanted: "Viva il Papa!" or "Long live the pope!"

The bells rang after a confusing smoke signal that Vatican Radio initially suggested was black but then declared was too difficult to call. White smoke is used to announce a pope's election to the world.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Detailed schedule for conclave announced

Vatican, Apr. 16 ( - Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the director of the Vatican press office, briefed reporters on April 16 about plans for the opening of the conclave on Monday, April 18.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 19

-7:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. EDT): Cardinals celebrate mass in the hotel chapel.

-9 a.m. (3 a.m. EDT): Cardinals gather in Sistine Chapel for two rounds of balloting if new pope not elected Monday.

-Noon (6 a.m. EDT): Approximate time of first smoke signal from Sistine Chapel. It will indicate whether a new pope has been chosen (white smoke) or no decision has been made (black smoke) in the morning session of balloting. The smoke is from the burning of the secret ballots after the two rounds of voting held each morning and afternoon.

-4 p.m. (10 a.m. EDT): Cardinals return to the Sistine Chapel for two rounds of afternoon balloting.

-7 p.m. (1 p.m. EDT): Approximate time of smoke signal after second round of voting.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Children's Sermon: Easter 4 - Year A

Max came home late from school on Monday afternoon. From the way he slammed the door and huffed past his mom, who was sitting at the kitchen table, it was clear that he was upset about something.

“What’s wrong, Max?” his mom called out.

But Max didn’t answer. She could hear him fumbling with his x-box. Whenever he played Wrestlemania she knew that he wanted to be left alone. So she went back to reading the newspaper at the kitchen table.

A few minutes later, Max’s sister Lisa came home.

“Have you seen Max?” asked Lisa.

“He’s in his room playing video games,” replied her mom, “Did anything happen at school today, Max looked upset when he came in.”

“Max was in a fight,” Lisa said. She didn’t want to tell on her brother, but she didn’t want to lie to her mom, either. “A couple boys were bugging him about something, but I don’t know what. So, after school they went behind the dumpster beside the 7-11 and started to fight.”

Her mom was shocked and angry that Max would get into a fight. She thought he knew better.

She knocked on Max’s door.

No answer.

She opened the door. Max had his headphones on. His mom opened the two sides covering the ears. Max jumped.

“Max, why didn’t you tell me you were in a fight today.”

Max rolled his eyes.

“Did your dad and I tell you that fighting is no way to solve your problems?”

Max just sat, his back hunched over.

“I expect better from you,” his mom scolded.

“Those boys were bugging me!” Max blurted out.

“Why were they bugging you?”

“They called me God-boy.”

“Why would they call you that?”

“They saw me coming out of church yesterday. Jamie kept on saying that I was a loser and a nerd because only losers and nerds go to church.” Max said angrily. “He said that it was silly to believe in God. So, I punched him.”

Max’s mom sat beside him. No sure what to say. She was angry that Max punched another boy, but she felt badly for him that another boy called him names for going to church.

“Why do we go to church?” Max asked.

“We go because we love God,” his mom replied.

“But how do we know God? We can’t see God. We don’t know what God looks like. How can we say we love God?” asked Max

“We know God because we know Jesus,” her mom explained. “Jesus came to show us who God is. Do you remember in Sunday’s bible reading? Jesus called himself “the gate” or “the door” to God. Jesus also called himself a “shepherd.” That’s true. Jesus leads us to God by showing us what God is like.”

“So, whatever Jesus is like, God is like,” said Max, “And God is like a shepherd to looks after sheep. And we’re sheep.”

“Yes,” said his mom. “Now, do you promise not to do any more fighting?”

“I promise,” said Max.

Then they said a prayer like this as we do now: Dear God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that he is the Shepherd who never stops looking after his sheep. Amen.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Uwe Siemon-Netto: Ignore History at Your Own Peril

Uwe Siemon-Netto is religious-affairs editor and senior writer for United Press International. His distinguished journalism career began with covering construction of the Berlin Wall in 1950 and included war reporting in Vietnam. He will soon leave his UPI position to pursue other journalistic opportunities or a teaching position. His columns on religion routinely indicate a strong appreciation for history—an admirable characteristic absent from many religion news writers. In this interview with
Christianity Today assistant editor Collin Hansen, Siemon-Netto discusses how historical awareness allows us to fulfill God's purpose for the church and discern the meaning of contemporary events.

Read the interview here.

The Next Pope?

From the National Catholic Reporter

Prognostication is a notoriously hazardous business, and the trash heaps of church history are littered with the carcasses of journalists who have tried to predict the next pope. Almost no one, for example, correctly anticipated that the archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyla, would emerge from the second conclave of 1978 as Pope John Paul II.

In that spirit, the intent here is not to "predict" who will become the next pope, which is a futile exercise. Instead, the aim is to identify cardinals whose backgrounds, accomplishments, and personalities guarantee they will at least get a serious look as possible papal material. Doing so will illustrate the criteria cardinals typically employ in trying to size up who among their peers might be able to step into the "Shoes of the Fisherman."

Will the next pope be one of these men? Perhaps. But all are certainly under consideration, and that by itself makes them worth a look.

Thanks, Ono.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

canada, revival and history...

If the church is to experience a true revival in Canada, it won't happen because church leaders want it to happen. It won't be generated by revival crusades and big name preachers. It won't be helped by more books and seminars. It won't have anything to do with large buildings.

Revival won't come from the top down this time around, because then it will only last as long as charismatic leaders continue to hype it along. And then it wouldn't be real revival anyway.

No, if Canada is going to experience revival it will come because we rediscover our love for God and His kingdom. It will come because we start to spend our money on the needs we see around us in real time. It will come because we cry out to the Lord with His compassion for His mercy on the world. It will come because we care more about His glory than our own success. It come in spite of the professionals and the fallen institution because the Lord of History invests His authority in amateurs.

Excerpted from Resonate via Bene Diction.

Yes, but that can be overstated. I don't see having a church building as a necessarily bad thing. Or books. or professional ministry. Or even seminars.

If Len's talking about the "Full Service Church" complete with workout facility, cafe, theatre seating, and skateboard park, then I agree. This sort of building/ministry does not necessarily serve the glory of God. It only panders to the consumerist culture that has taken over many churches.

But if Len's talking about serving those in need - true need - not just the selfish indulgences of the affluent, then I'm on board.

Here at Good Shepherd, we are in the midst of planning a building program and these sorts of questions are being asked. Our present facility is not meeting our needs. In fact, it's working against us. But a new building is very costly. Would a $3 million land + building glorify God by serving those who need to hear Good News? Can we cope with what we have or are we limited in growth?

We need to be practical, realistic, and faithful in our planning. Practical = a building that DOES something, not just look pretty. Realistic = a building that may cost big bucks up front but will pay dividends in service down the road. I'm not convinced by the "house churches are more pure" thinking because larger churches have resources that smaller group do not, and therefore can do more outreach and. Faithful = faithfulness to our gifts, our calling as disciples of Jesus and to the good news over which he made us stewards, and faithful to the vision of New Life and service that God calls us to live.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Final sponsorship report not needed before an election, suggests Harper

OTTAWA (CP) - Canadians don't need to wait until the final report from the sponsorship inquiry before deciding the fate of the Liberals, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper suggests.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has urged the Conservatives to hold off forcing an election until Justice John Gomery issues his final report on the sponsorship scandal, expected in late fall. Voters don't need to wait that long, Harper suggested Tuesday.

"Canadians don't need to form the kind of judgments Mr. Justice Gomery is going to form," he said.

"Justice Gomery has to make decisions about potential prosecutions, about criminality. Frankly, the standards of the electorate are a lot higher than that."

The rest of the story.

If Harper brings down the government before Gomery's final report, it will be political opportunism pure and simple on the part of the Conservatives, and voters (especially east of Manitoba) will be disgusted.

This tactic, I believe, will backfire, and the Liberals will be back with another minority, with the Bloc as the official opposition.

Let Gomery finish his job. Here's just one reason why.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Paul Martin's Damage Control

An Open Letter to Liberals from Prime Minister Paul Martin

April 11, 2005

Dear Liberal friend:

In recent days, testimony at the Gomery Commission has captured a great deal of public attention. It has also given rise to allegations about the Liberal Party itself and, by extension, all of us who are members. I felt it was important to write you on this subject and share my perspective and my pride in all of you as Liberals and activists.

As Leader and Prime Minister, I want party members everywhere to remember that it was this Liberal government that established the Gomery Commission – precisely in order to see that anyone who might have used the Liberal name to profit from national unity would be identified and punished. Similarly, if there are those who abused our party’s trust by using their position or their association with it, they have done a terrible disservice to the people of Canada and the members of our Party.

Like all Liberals and all Canadians, I'm offended by what I've heard in recent testimony. If even part of it turns out to be true, it is abhorrent to us all.

Read the rest here.

Give today's poll results, this sounds a little desperate. All the Conservatives have to do is ask, "Weren't you the Finance Minister when all this was going down?" and Stephen Harper moves into 24 Sussex Drive and Paul Martin will go down along side Joe Clark as the biggest electoral punchlines in Canadian history.

Canadian cardinal a papal candidate: report

VATICAN CITY - As cardinals at the Vatican make final preparations to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II, a U.S. publication says there's a possibility the next Roman Catholic leader could be a Canadian.

The National Catholic Reporter, described as an independent weekly newspaper, has put Quebec's Cardinal Marc Ouellet on a list of the 20 top candidates.


German Protestants pay tribute to Bonhoeffer

Bielefeld, Germany (ENI). German Protestants have remembered Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was executed 60 years ago for his role in the plot to kill the Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler. "Until the last moment he was not broken by what the Nazi power did to him, but kept his faith, his love and his hope," said Bavarian Lutheran Bishop Johannes Friedrich at the Flossenbuerg concentration camp in Bavaria, where Bonhoeffer, aged 39, was executed on 9 April 1945.

Liberals Facing Electoral Defeat: Poll

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Liberal government is heading for defeat at the hands of the Conservatives after more than 11 years in power, a dramatic new poll predicted on Monday.


Conservatives Give Liberals a Month

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's main opposition party is unlikely to let the minority Liberal government survive more than a month, senior Conservatives said on Monday.

Suddenly energized by a new poll that shows Liberal support in a freefall because of dramatic allegations of kickbacks from a federal spending program, the Conservatives are now looking at when, not whether, to pull the plug on the government.

"There's a window of three to four weeks," one Conservative strategist, who did not wish to be identified, told Reuters.


To see the consequences of this poll, click here. (Thanks Jordon)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Children's Message: Easter 3 - Year A

(This a collaboration of sorts with Richard Fairchild)

Today I’d like to tell you a story about a girl named Anne. Anne couldn't see very well - but the thing was, she didn't know it. No one knew it -not her mother or her father, her grandmother or grandfather - not even her brother or her friends knew that Anne couldn't see very well.

Anne thought that everything in the world had fuzzy edges – because that is the way things looked to her. She didn't know that other children could see further than her. She thought that everyone saw just what she saw. But as she got older her mother began to wonder why Anne always sat so close to the TV. Her grandfather noticed that when she held a book she held it really close to her face. When she began school her teacher noticed that Anne couldn't see the words on the blackboard very easily.

“C’mon, Anne,” said her dad, “we’re going to see the eye doctor.”

The doctor said, "Anne, you need glasses", and in a few short days she got a brand new pair of glasses.

She was a bit scared that the other kids would tease her because she had to wear glasses, but when she put them on -- WOW - the world looked different. Nothing had fuzzy edges. She could read a book even if she held it away from her face. She could see her mothers face clearly, even when she was way across the room.
It was great.

That Sunday at church Anne smiled as her eyes followed the bible readings as Mrs. Harris read them.

That night as Anne and her mom were getting reading for bed and to say their prayers her mom asked,

“How do the glasses feel?”

“Wonderful,” replied Anne, “I was especially glad to have them at church.”

“Why’s that?”

“I could read along with the people reading the bible, and I learned something about these glasses,” replied Anne.

“What did you learn?”

“That my glasses are a lot like Jesus.”

“How can glasses be like Jesus?” asked her mom, laughing.

“The story we read was about when Jesus died, his friends thought that he was gone forever. They didn't know what to do. They were very sad. They couldn't see things clearly because they were so mixed up and upset. Two of Jesus' friends were sadly walking back to their home in the village of Emmaus when another traveler joined them. They didn't recognize who it was, but they told him all about what had happened to Jesus and how sad they were. When it was evening they arrived at their home and invited the stranger to stay with them and have supper. When the traveler broke bread and blessed it, something happened. It was if they had put on my glasses. Suddenly they saw something clearly that they hadn't seen before even though they had been looking right at it most of the day. They realized that the stranger was really Jesus - alive and well, and with them. They ran back to Jerusalem to tell their friends.”

“Wow, Anne. I hadn’t thought about it that way before,” said her mom smiling.

Then they said a prayer like this as we do now,

Dear God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that he helps us see you more clearly. Amen.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sermon: Easter 3

(With a big help from Barbara Brown Taylor's Blessed Brokenness)

How would you recognize Jesus if he walked up to you? What would be the give away? Would you look for a halo over his head? How about long flowing robes, long hair framing his bearded cheeks? Would you look for the celestial light beaming on him wherever he went?

Would you see Jesus if he walked right up to you and started to chat?

Where would you best see Jesus?

Luke says somewhere between here and Emmaus. As one writer points out, “Luke is the only gospel writer who tells us what happened on that road, but everyone has walked it at one time or another. It’s the road you walk when your team has lost, your candidate has been defeated, your loved one has died – the long road back to the empty house, the piles of unopened mail, to life as usual, if life can ever be usual again.” (BBT p.20)

That’s where the disciples found themselves. Defeated. Distraught.

On that road to Emmaus they took the time to chew over where they went wrong. They re-hashed the trial, the execution, the solemn procession to the tomb. They played the “what if?” game. “What if they joined with the revolutionaries? What if they soft sold Jesus’ message? What if they stayed clear of Jerusalem? Maybe Jesus would not have died.

They joked cynically about the crazy talk the women shared of angels and an empty grave.

Real death. Rumoured resurrection.

They probably took their time getting home, because who knows when they would see each other again? For some of them, fishing nets were waiting. For others, who could say what they were going to do?

Behind them, a stranger appears and asks what they’re talking about. They stop and look at him. “Have you been hiding under a rock?” they ask, “Are you the only one in town who hasn’t heard what happened?”

They reminisce about how good and promising life with Jesus was, while the stranger listens. Jesus had energized them. “He did some crazy stuff and got away with it. Boy, you should have seen how he gave to some of those religious leaders. They certainly had it coming,” they said chuckling.

Their eyes softened. “He did everything right, everything he was supposed to do. He said he’d heal the sick and he did. He said he’d raise the dead and now Jairus’ little girl is growing like a weed. He said he’d make the blind see…remember the trick he did with the mud?”

They laughed together, them smiled sadly.

“But he also said he was going to die,” the stranger said not looking at anyone in particular.

The two were silent. Probably wondering how the stranger knew what he knew.

“Yeah, but we didn’t believe him. We thought he was just caught up in the moment. We didn’t think he was actually stupid enough to…” said one disciple, his voice trailing off.

“…to get himself killed?” asked the stranger.

“We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” they said to him, admitting their defeat. “We had hoped.” Hoped. Past tense. One of the saddest sounds a human being can make. “We believed the world would change. We believed the Kingdom of God was just around the corner. We believed that life with God would transform our small, struggling lives into the beauty of heaven. But we were wrong. He died. It’s over now. No more fairy tales. No more lies. It’s time to go home.”

That’s when the stranger explodes: “You idiots! If you read your bibles none of this would come as a surprise to you! It’s all right there: the Christ is not the one who wins the power struggle; he’s the one who loses it. The Christ is not the undefeated champion; he is the suffering servant, the broken one, who comes in glory with his wounds still fresh. The holes in his wrists and gashes in his feet are the proof he is who he says who he is – that’s how you will recognize him.

“This means that you do not have to scorn the painful parts of your lives anymore. You don’t have to see your defeats as failures anymore. You don’t have to fear your enemies anymore; you don’t even have to fear death. You can go into scariest places in the world with nothing but a first aid kit; because you, like him, are not fighters but physicians – wounded healers – whose credentials are your scars.”

The disciples look at each other, but avoid eye contact with the stranger.

“What’s he talking about? Who is this guy?” they ask themselves. “How does he know so much?”

As they arrive at their house, the stranger tries to leave. But they want to hear more.

“You look hungry; eat something with us,” they say to the stranger. And they go inside.

It’s not his house, but the stranger plays the host. He offers the blessing over the food, and then breaks the bread. As he serves the pieces of the broken loaf, his sleeves get pulled up, and the disciples see the stranger’s hands; punctured, wounded, once bleeding. They suddenly recognize the stranger as Jesus, and Jesus vanishes from their sight.

I think the disciples didn’t see Jesus because they weren’t expecting him. Their blindness was not a willful disregard for what Jesus was about as much as it was an anticipation of something more glorious than what Jesus was giving them. They wanted a political victory. Jesus gave them death. They wanted freedom for their people. Jesus gave them forgiveness. They wanted a powerful retreat from a dreadful existence. Jesus gave them service to the world.

“The blindness of the two disciples does not keep Jesus from coming to them,” says Barbara Brown Taylor, “He does not limit his post-resurrection appearances to those with full confidence in him. He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconnected. He comes to those who don’t know their bibles, who do not recognize him even when he is walking right beside them. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home, which makes this whole story a story about the blessedness of brokenness.

“Maybe that is only good news if you happen to be broken. If you are not, then I guess it would be better news to hear a story about how those who believe in God may skip right over the broken part and go straight to the wholeness part, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Jesus seems to prefer working with broken people, with broken dreams, in a broken world. If someone hands him a whole loaf, he will take it, bless it, break it, and give it, and he will do the same thing with his own flesh and blood, because that is the way of life God has shown him to show the rest of us: to take what we have been given, whether we like it or not, and to bless it – to say thank you for it – whether it is the sweet, satisfying bread of success or the tear-soaked bread of sorrow. To say thank you and to break it because that is the only way it can be shared, and to hand it around, not to eat it all by ourselves but to find someone to eat it with, so that the broken loaf may bring all of us broken ones together into one body, where we may recognize the risen Lord in our midst.”

May this be so among us. Amen.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Two Washington Post Pope Related Articles

Carter's Absence From Group Reignites Tensions With Bush

He was the only president ever to host a pope at the White House when John Paul II came to visit a quarter-century ago, and in many ways Jimmy Carter had a powerful spiritual and philosophical affinity for the Polish pontiff. But when the pope is buried at the Vatican this morning, three living U.S. presidents will be in attendance and Carter will not.

The reason has touched off a classic Washington imbroglio fueled by suspicion, animosity and distrust, one that has reopened a rift between the camps of the former president and the current one. When Carter was left off the delegation list assembled by President Bush's White House, Democrats assumed he was snubbed. The Bush team is angry at what it considers an unfair smear.

The whole article is here.

E. J. Dionne on The Cardinal Principles of Politics

Outsiders scoff at the claims we Roman Catholics make, that the Holy Spirit guides the cardinals who will be electing a new pope. To those skeptics, I would suggest that divine protection is the only rational explanation for how our magnificent but flawed church has survived all these years.

But I am fed up with those in the know who hide behind the Holy Spirit to avoid talking about the politics of this election. I'm not referring here to the honest modesty of people such as Washington's Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who would make a great pope. Modesty is called for here. If you think Washington punditry is bad, watch how flawed all the predictions on this papal election will be -- including my own.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Gomery partially lifts publication ban

Ottawa (CBC): Justice John Gomery has partially lifted a publication ban he issued on testimony of former ad exec Jean Brault, saying most of the testimony heard at the sponsorship inquiry last week would not interfere with Brault's right to a fair
trial on fraud charges.

Or is this just another way of sticking it to Chretien?

Let the histronics fly!

This showed up in my mailbox today:

The Assault on Clergy Has Begun
Supreme Court Tells PM - Parliament can not protect clergy

Dear Clergy and Leaders:

Religious freedom in Canada is seriously compromised and the assault on Clergy has begun. Today Bishop Fred Henry of Alberta is in the process of being prosecuted for expressing Biblical teachings to his flock. If the government will be so bold as to prosecute a Catholic Bishop it may certainly place you or myself on trial. We must act now to protect religious freedom and preserve the definition of marriage.

In January Bishop Fred Henry wrote a letter to his parishioners stating “Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to . . . curtail them in the interests of the common good,''. Two individuals filed complaints and now the Alberta Human Rights Commission is investigating the Bishop. The Bishop believes this is an attempt to “shut the churches out of this important debate on redefining marriage''.

This comes from the Canadian Family Action Coalition.

Two (2) count 'em, TWO people filed a human rights complaint against Bishop Henry. This constitutes an "assault" on clergy? Gimme a break...

Also, the government is not prosecuting Bishop Henry, as the letter suggests, the Alberta Human Rights Commission is investigating complaints against him. Two very different things. There is no "assault" here.

The writer continues:

The proposed law places Clergy and people of faith at great risk and offers no real protection. Bill C-38 puts forward a guise of protection for Clergy; however, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the Federal Parliament cannot implement any protection. On December 9th, 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada advised Prime Minister Martin that protecting Clergy from being forced to marry same sex couples is “ultra vires parliament”, beyond parliament’s jurisdiction. The Prime Minister knows that the proposed protection is not worth the paper it is written on.

Nonsense. I, as a pastor, am not compelled to perform any weddings. Could it be that the Supreme Court has "already ruled that Federal Parliament cannot implement any protection" because clergy are ALREADY protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

It's this kind of fear-mongering that is stifling good, honest, debate on this issue.

Some Christians experience any opposition as persecution. Some conservative Christians don't want a debate; they want to dictate. They want to impose biblical law on a society that is not under covenant with God. Covenant comes before law. Not the other way around.

Christian organizations like the Family Action Coalition preach law and not gospel. They sound the alarm of doom rather than announce the good news of the Kingdom of God.

I understand the conservative position. Many gentle, loving, and gracious people in my congregation are conservative on this issue. CFAC are not among these conservatives.

Jesus was gentle with sinners and harsh with self-righteous religious leaders. Something all of us in positions in church leadership need always bear in mind.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Potential Successors to Pope John Paul II, April 4, 2005 · "Tip O'Neill was correct," says Father Tom Reese, editor in chief of America, the Catholic weekly magazine. "All politics is local... even in the Catholic Church."

Reese suggests that instead of focusing on the possible papal candidates as a bookie would look at horses in the starting gate, try to think about the election from the point of view of the electors, the cardinals who cast the vote

From NPR.

Nicholas Kristof: The Pope and Hypocrisy

Kristof hits it out of the park again:

John Paul wanted world leaders to show compassion for suffering people like these girls [who were raped and discarded], not for dead popes. Mr. Bush and other world leaders flocking to Rome could truly honor the pope by meeting there to establish a protection force in Darfur.


If there is a lesson from the papacy of John Paul II, it is the power of moral force. The pope didn't command troops, but he deployed principles. And it's hypocritical of us to pretend to honor him by lowering our flags while simultaneously displaying an amoral indifference to genocide.

Read the rest here. (NY Times, reg req'd)

The Boston Globe offers this perspective on the "Pope of peace and Bush's war.

THE FAÇADE of respect did not hide President Bush's utter disdain for the pleas for peace from Pope John Paul II. In his press conference Monday to announce that he would attend John Paul's funeral, Bush was asked by a reporter: ''How do you think this pope has affected America's spiritual and political life? And how much weight did you give to his opposition to the Iraq war?"

The London Times asks: Will Vatican's powerbrokers play safe or vote for change?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"Are You Thinking What We're Thinking?"

British Tories need to fire their press person. Paul Wells weighs in. Michael Howard's viciously anti-immigration policy will hurt him greatly. Especially in a country with declining birth rates that will jeopardize the most fundamental social services within 20 years due to a depleted tax foundation.

Here's the Conservative Party's website. Check out the Tony Blair graphic.

Michael Howard's Conservatives are not your parents' Tories.

Tony Blair calls May 5 vote

LONDON (CBC) - In an effort to win a third consecutive term, British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday called a general election for May 5.

Read the rest here. Also here.

I'm surprised it took him so long. His numbers have been nosediving since he and George W Bush went to war with Iraq.

If I were a Briton, I would just hold my nose and vote Labour. Tory leader Michael Howard seems to be just another right wing nut. The Liberal Democrats under Charles Kennedy are not ready for prime time.

Blair used to be a dynamic leader. Full of energy and ideas. He was the UK's answer to Bill Clinton: a progressive thinker unshackled to traditional left/right orthodoxies. He was a Third Way leader. No one could pin him down.

Then came the lead up to the war in Iraq, and all of a sudden, Tony Blair became Captain America.

Now Labour's base is polarized. Many haven't forgiven Blair for going to war. But they can't see Howard as Prime Minister.

I think Blair will win, but maybe only a minority. This election may be his last.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Thomas Merton Reflection

Offered in memory of Pope John Paul II

I come into solitude to die and love. I come here to be created by the Spirit in Christ.

I am called here to grow. ‘Death’ is a critical point of growth, or transition to a new mode of being; to a maturity and fruitfulness that I do not know (they are in Christ and in His kingdom). The child in the womb does not know what will come after birth. He must be born in order to live. I am here to learn to face death as my birth.

December 1, 1965, V.333-34

From A Year with Thomas Merton, Daily Meditations from His Journals, selected and edited by Jonathan Montaldo (HarperSanFrancisco, A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2004), P 31.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Canadians pray as Pope John Paul's health turns for the worse

QUEBEC (CP) - From the bustling Toronto subway to contemplative Quebec cathedrals, Canadians prayed Friday as Pope John Paul neared death.

Colette Courrieu tossed aside her normal daily prayers at Basilique Notre-Dame in Quebec City to pray for the soul of a pontiff who defined the church for a quarter-century.

"I often disagreed with him because I thought he was too soft on the modernists," said Courrieu, a retiree who lives near the basilica.

"But today, I'll pray to the Virgin Mary because they say he was especially devoted to her. It's sad, but there is hope, because there is always hope in renewal.

Read the rest here.

Catholic New Services has indepth coverage.

Catholic World News offers their perspective.

I've have deep differences with the pope (contraception, female clergy, his attitude toward Liberation Theology, etc), but his pontificate has been marked with a deep faith. No one could accuse of him of waffling on issues. His was/is an intellectual ministry. He is the philosopher pope. He changed history. He used his throne to advance the cause of the gospel as he understood it.

Tonight, I'll pray for him and for my sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church.

For those who are interested, Time Magazine has published a primer on what happens after a pope dies.

Read it here.