Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans Mayor: Katrina May Have Killed Thousands

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Hurricane Katrina probably killed thousands of people in New Orleans, the mayor said Wednesday an estimate that, if accurate, would make the storm the nation's deadliest natural disaster since at least the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. "We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water," and other people dead in attics, Mayor Ray Nagin said. Asked how many, he said: "Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands."

Christ forsaken
Have mercy on all who are forsaken
Christ afraid
Have mercy on all who are afraid
Christ grieving
Have mercy on all who are in grief
Christ slain
Have mercy on all who have died. Amen.

Donations to the Lutheran disaster fund can be made here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pentecost 15 - Year A

“Grab your electric chair and follow me.”

How’s that for an invitation?

“Here’s some rope, make a noose out of it, throw it around your neck, and walk behind me.”

Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? It didn’t make sense to the disciples either.
(the rest here)

Friday, August 26, 2005

From the ground up

NB: This appears in my church's newsletter as my monthly pastoral letter to the congregation.

Lately, I’ve been having “writer’s block” when preparing my sermons. So, instead of banging my head against my computer, I’d go for a walk, or visit the hospital, or meet someone for coffee. Just to get my mind off the stress of having NOTHING to say about the bible passages; knowing that Sunday is coming whether I’m prepared or not!

Without fail, I meet someone along the way who tells me a story about their life that illumines the bible passage I’m wrestling with, and it’s like I’ve taken off my sunglasses – I see scripture very differently. Whether it’s someone who hasn’t been to church in years, a person who’s been diagnosed with a difficult illness or stranger at the hospital who stops me and asks me to pray for a sick parent, I feel like the bible is intersecting with life in ways that my feeble brain cannot conceive.

I feel like my ministry is becoming closer to the ground – slower – and less calculated.

I’m at ground level because I’m walking more often. You may have noticed that my belly is protruding over my belt. Too many goodies and too little exercise. So I leave the car at home and I make my way around town under my own steam. Leaving just a little less exhaust.

Being at ground level makes me feel more visible and vulnerable. I’ve found that’s it’s not always safe down here. There are a lot of people down here. Forgotten people. Invisible people.

People stop me on the street and want to talk. I’m glad to. Some just want to unload. Some want to tell me a dirty joke – just to get a rise out the guy with a dog collar. Other times, people lock eye contact with me, and I know they want to share something with me - a deep hurt, a secret wound, and unfulfilled longing – but don’t want to me to make the first move.

I’ve been re-learning that the gospel is always ground level. I’ve been driving past stories of pain and healing, sin and forgiveness, life and death, and been missing out where God silently and gently working.

So, if during the week, you need to find me, look down to the ground. And maybe you can find your way down there as well. Maybe together we can learn how to be messengers of good news from the ground up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What month is this?

Apparently, it’s still August. But from the cold and the rain we’ve been having it feels more like late October. People around here hate it when I say this but: I love this weather!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sermon: Pentecost 14 - Year A

“Can you believe it? Some folks actually think you’re John the Baptist with his head re-attached!”

The group laughs.

“This will blow your mind, Jesus; others are saying you’re Elijah, or Jeremiah, or Isaiah, or Amos or Micah, that you’ve miraculously popped out from the bible.” says someone else says.

They laugh again to each other.

“But who do YOU say I am?” Jesus asks.


The disciples weren’t expecting the question to be turned around on them. They shifted their eyes back and forth, each hoping the teacher would call on someone else.

Finally, Simon Peter...
(the rest here)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Okay...last quiz, I promise (unless I find a really cool one)

You scored as Fideist. You are a fideist! You love to read Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Luther, and Karl Barth. Knowing God is a personal thing, so you believe that the best case for Christianity is made on a subjective level.



Reformed/Presuppositional Apologist






Classical Apologist


What kind of apologist are you?
created with

Friday, August 19, 2005

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Five Years Down...

Today is my wife’s and my 5 year anniversary. Wow. Five years. Where did the time go? (or, as I ask my wife, “Five years down, how many more?” – she tires of that particular joke).

I visited with a couple yesterday who have been married 45 years. Now THAT is an achievement.

Last night we had a gospel singer perform at our church. He travels full time with his wife and two young children. His wife handles the money and his kids sing with him. It’s his name on the marquee but this ministry is definitely a family effort. They perform for free and live off the offerings and the CDs they sell.

I watched as they set up and tore down their equipment, wondering if their relationship would be different because they spend so much time together. Would they seem closer than other families? More distant? Would they snipe if one was moving too slowly? Have they learned to sleep despite dad's snoring? Have they told each other all their jokes? Have they gotten bored with each other? Or have they deepened their relationship because of their forced intimacy?

I used to work with my wife in a shared ministry in Halifax, and - wow – there were days when both our marriage and our ministry hung together by slimmest fibre of the slimmest thread. That lasted 3 years. So instead of working together we decided that we’d rather be married. So I accepted my present call.

These folks have been on the road together 5½ years. Together. All day. Everyday. 24/7/365. The mind boggles.

It’s not that I don’t love my wife and kids. Words can’t begin to describe the lengths I would go to protect my family from harm, or just to keep our relationship strong. It’s just that we’ve recognized what we need to do to stay together. Working together is something that we are to avoid. At all costs.

But there are days when I forget how much she’s given up to make this move to Lethbridge. She stays home with the kids. Not an easy job by any standard. She’s put her career ambitions on hold. Which is quite the sacrifice, considering she’s the brains of our outfit. She is five times the preacher I am. She’s has her Governor General bronze and gold medal awards hanging humbly on our basement wall. She’s a published author of a scholarly article and sermon. She has a killer resume, and worked ‘till her hands were raw to get it that way.

She was supposed to be a doctor. But she chose ministry instead. Then she chose me. Then she chose motherhood.

Choices. That’s what relationships are all about. Especially marriage. That’s something I’ve learned the hard way. The church calls marriage a “covenant,” mirroring the covenant that God has with us through our baptism. But this comparison breaks down quickly. God chooses the covenant. We don’t choose God. In fact, if we choose anything, it’s to be as far away from God as earthly possible.

But in the marriage covenant we choose each other; two people deciding that they will be faithful to each other. No matter what. At least that the promise.

As a pastor, I sometimes wish the wedding vows that people write weren’t so darn sappy. Marriage has little or nothing to do with romance and everything to do with hard work. I wish someone would write a vow that sounds something like this:

I, Tarzan, take you, Jane, to be my wife, even when you put garden shears in my hand before I’ve taken my jacket off upon getting home from work; even when you hide my beer because, you say, I’m getting too fat; even when you get pissy when I want to watch the Flames instead of discussing colour options for the kitchen; even if sex is less frequent than Christmas. In other words, I’m in this for the long haul.

I, Jane, take you, Tarzan, to be my husband, even when you come home late stinking like cheap beer and $2 cigars; even when you forget to pick up your skid-marked underwear; even when you can’t be bothered to cut the grass for two weeks and cows are starting to graze on it; even when you feed the kids potato chips and root beer for breakfast; even when you want to watch hockey instead helping me make household decisions. In other words, you aren’t getting rid of me so easily.

Now that would be a more realistic beginning to marriage. Yes, marriage is work. Love is a choice, not a feeling. But I think the choices we make is like a midwife that helps give birth to intimacy. Intimacy is not fuzzy feelings. But a deep attachment to an Other. Intimacy is faithfulness when the fuzzy feelings have long since gone south.

So, today I re-affirm my choice – our choice – to be faithful. Even when we are burning with so much anger that we can’t stand the sight of each other, I will be faithful. Even when everything inside of me screams to turn left and head out of the city, I will turn right and head straight home. Even when we've forgotten how to talk to one another, and the silence is killing us, I will learn a new language with which to speak once again and new ears with which to listen.

I make that choice.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brother Roger murdered...

Brother Roger, founder of the Taize community was murdered on Tuesday while saying evening prayers. He was a bridge builder among Christians, and was deeply respected by all people of faith. Taize’s influence in the Christian community is immeasurable. He will be deeply missed.

Let us never forget that this simple desire for God is already the beginning of faith. - Brother Roger of Taize.

Revised: Here and Here are other news stories regarding Frere Roger's death.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Thomas Merton prayer

“…Grant us prudence in proportion to our power,
Wisdom in proportion to our science,
Humaneness in proportion to our wealth and might.
And bless our earnest will to help all races and peoples to travel, in friendship with us,
Along the road to justice, liberty and lasting peace:
But grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily your ways,
That we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of your designs
And that the very storm of power now raging on this earth
Reveals your hidden will and your inscrutable decision.
Grant us to see your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm,
O God of holiness, merciful to men:
Grant us to seek peace where it is truly found!

In your will, O God, is our peace!


Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Sunday Thought...

Gas prices are crazy. But if I hear one more SUV driving, engine-idling, air-conditioner blasting, yuppie whine about the price of fuel, I’m going to get medieval on his...

Sermon: Pentecost 13 - Year A

You may remember last November when both Sophie and Naomi went to the emergency within 5 hours of each other. They were both running high fevers and couldn’t keep liquids down.

But with Sophie, a small purplish-red rash appeared on her belly. We called the health hotline and the nurse said to take her in to emergency right away. So, at 11:30 pm, I loaded Sophie into the car with her pajamas on under her warm winter jacket, and she brought Winnie-the-Pooh along for comfort.

A doctor came in and examined Sophie, who was in no mood to be poked.

“Yup, the rash looks raised,” the doctor said. “I’d better get someone else to look at this as well.”

A few minutes later, the doctor appeared at the door accompanied by another doctor. They rubbed Sophie’s rash, muttered doctor-speak back and forth, they sounded so solemn and serious. Finally one of them said, “There’s someone else that should look at this. The fever and the rash could be an indication of serious illness. We’ll need to get some blood from her.”

Words every parent dreads. All at once I had visions of hospital beds, huge needles, and little tiny coffins.

What made matters immediately worse...
(the rest here)

Friday, August 12, 2005

These crazy quizzes...! But at least I'm the right type for my job...

Like Greg, I too took issue with the wording of some of the questions. But here's how I ended up:

Rank Item Percent
1: Lutheran (100%)
2: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (89%)
3: Eastern Orthodox (89%)
4: Presbyterian/Reformed (75%)
5: Roman Catholic (66%)
6: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (64%)
7: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (64%)
8: Congregational/United Church of Christ (61%)
9: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (57%)
10: Seventh-Day Adventist (53%)
11: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (51%)
12: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (50%)
13: Church of Christ/Campbellite (46%)

How did end up? Check it out here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The fires have been put out...

...I hope.

I'm hopeful for the future. At least for our church. The rest of the world is a different story.

Pakistan is testing cruise missiles with nuclear capability. Lovely. We all know how rational Pakistan and India can be when things get a little testy.

Tonight, I’m hiding under my bed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wednesday Ramblings

It's been a very tiring week so far. It was the good kind of tired, when after a long, productive day, when everything runs smoothly, you're firing on all cylinders, and all is right with the world.

Then little fires appeared. Small, annoying fires. Not enough to pull the alarm and call for help, but small enough to sidetrack me away from the work I’d rather be doing.

Lately, I’ve been working on family and children’s ministry; trying to get things moving for the fall and beyond. There is A LOT of good stuff out there. The trick is sifting through it all to find what is usable and relevant.

I’m looking at a Christian Ed program based on Montessori methods. Interesting stuff. We’ll see where that goes.

I’m also working on a Faith at Home program with a couple other folks. It’s going to be a big part of our “Building the Future” program. The long and short of it is: our congregation needs a new facility, but not just a new building; we need a mission strategy. The Faith at Home stuff is just one small part of our whole plan.

But first, I need to find that fire extinguisher.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Children's Message: Pentecost 12 - Year A

“Hey, Max,” Alex shouted from across the river, “Betcha can’t swing across the water without falling in!”

“Betcha I can!” Max shouted back climbing the tree and grabbing the rope that was hanging from a drooping branch over the river.

Max steadied himself on the branch and looked down at the rushing water under his feet.

“Boy, I didn’t realize it...
(ful text here)

Mystical Communion? Me?

Apparently this quiz was based on church models of Cardinal Avery Dulles.

You scored as Sacrament model. Your model of the church is Sacrament. The church is the effective sign of the revelation that is the person of Jesus Christ. Christians are transformed by Christ and then become a beacon of Christ wherever they go. This model has a remarkable capacity for integrating other models of the church.

Mystical Communion Model


Sacrament model


Herald Model


Servant Model


Institutional Model


What is your model of the church? [Dulles]
created with

Thanks to Greg.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sermon: Pentecost 12 - Year A

Faith is looking out upon a planet swallowed up in war and greed and chaos, but still saying, I will trust God’s promises for peace. I will live the new creation that God wants for the world.

When doubt enters into the equation it is either something we keep well hidden in the back of our closet for fear that someone more pious might find out and raise their eyebrows in our direction. Or doubt is something that paraded as a public virtue; the sign of an active mind.

I think doubt is neither something to be proud of nor something to be ashamed of. Doubt is part of our human makeup. However, doubt does make faith more compelling. One writer suggests that doubt makes faith “heroic;” the greater the doubt the more heroic the faith. I don’t know if that’s true but it certainly sounds good.

Sometimes we live our faith whether we know it or not. Like Peter running out into the lake without really thinking about what he’s doing, sometimes faith the result of a lack of foresight, or it’s just plain ignorance. We don’t know we’ve stepped out of the boat until our shoes fill up with water.
(the rest here)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Stephen Harper: Prince Charming of the BBQ Circut- or not?

This is just silly.

Personally, I couldn't care less if the Prime Minister is Mr. Personality. I care if he/she is competent and has a compelling vision for the country. Harper should be selling his policies instead of flipping burgers.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ten Thousand and Counting

Last night I had my 10 000th visitor. Today I had a small celebration. Yay. I'll have another celebration at 25 000. I like round numbers.

All that aside: I’ve decided I’m taking off the gloves. It feels like my ministry is stalled and I’m kicking into gear. Hold on to your hats.

I’ll keep you informed. Pray for me. It's going to be a helluva ride.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Kevin Little on Separation of Church and State

I think deeper questions are at stake: Should politics and religion mix? Or should religion be relegated to the realm of the merely personal, where the individual soul, concerned only with the inner life of human beings in their personal relationship to God, like a spare tire in the trunk where we don't think about it until we need it?

Is the church to be judged by how useful it is as a supporting institution and do clergy belong to professions where we help people along in daily living — but do not upset the status quo?
(full text here)

Full Disclosure: Kevin Little is a friend of mine and I worked on his campaign when he ran for the federal Liberals in Halifax during the 2000 election.

He raises some good questions. Should religion and politics mix? Desmond Tutu once noted that those who say that religion and politics shouldn’t mix haven’t read the bible very closely.

The bible oozes politics. But not in the way being advocated by some. Jesus wasn’t partisan. He didn’t campaign for the Zealots or raise fund for the Scribes. But he did support a public faith. To Jesus, faith was something you DID, not just something you believed. Being a follower of Jesus meant getting your hands dirty, not just praying in darkened cathedrals by the glow of candles, and breathing in incense. Faith is personal, but never private.

But Jesus wasn’t about Hard Power. He didn’t believe that the kingdom of God could be legislated. Jesus didn’t think that God’s realm would magically arrive if enough Christian politicians were elected.

Jesus’ politics were about compassion, forgiveness, and self-giving love. Jesus’ politics was about looking after those who could not look after themselves; welcoming those who couldn’t participate in mainstream society; forgiving those who, by any definition, were beyond rehabilitation.

By any standard, Jesus’ politics were pretty screwed up. He shunned worldly power. He revealed God’s power by dying on the cross and rising again three days later, showing the world that God is first and foremost committed to Life.

Maybe that’s where our politics should begin.

Real Live Preacher has a new home...

...check it out. Very cool