Monday, October 31, 2005

Waging Peace

From the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers). The Wage Peace Campaign (movie).

I'm Back!

Vacation was awesome! I saw lots of friends, ate my mom’s cooking, and drank many beers. And I only gained 3 pounds!

But it’s great to be back.

I often spend my vacation time thinking about my work; where the church needs to be going and who it has to be. I get thinking about my own role as pastor and what that looks like.

I picked up a book by Kim L. Beckmann called Prepare a Road; Preaching Vocation, Community Voice, Marketplace vision. Wow! Great stuff. This woman has the heart of a shepherd and the soul of a poet. She’s a preacher after this preacher’s own heart: gracious, earthy, joyous, and real. She finds God in the craziest places. On a logging truck. Channel surfing. In a Casino.

That’s part of my struggle in preaching; finding real life examples of God active and alive, examples I can point to. I’ve stopped telling stories of the superheroes of the faith. You won’t get any stories from me about Martin Luther King Jr, St. Francis of Assisi, or Oscar Romero. People seemingly so holy as to be irrelevant to ordinary Christians.

No, I’d rather tell stories of no-name Christians. People with dirt under their finger nails, mud on their shoes, and wine on their breath. People just like those listening to me.

People who don’t know they’re doing God’s work until someone tells them. Even then they’re not sure.

“Certainly there must be more to this God thing then delivering a casserole dish to the old man next door, whose wife died six years ago and he still can’t figure out the microwave,” they might say.

“Certainly, Jesus wants more from us than sitting in the corner with a new kid in Sunday school because she doesn’t know anyone in her class,” another might protest.

“Certainly, there’s more to this church thing than taping the church service for the shut-ins to listen to at home,” says yet other, shaking his head.

What about Paul and Silas turning the world upside down? What about the early Christians who were martyred for the faith? What about the saints of old whose lives breathed the message of Jesus?

To that I answer: virtuoso Christians aren’t the point. In fact, super-duper faithful Christians end up pointing to themselves rather than to the one they proclaim.

God wants US - frail, limited, petty, small, human beings - to do God’s work. God doesn’t want heroics. God wants simple faithfulness and gentle love for neighbour.

Anonymous Christians (to bastardize Karl Rahner’s excellent phrase) do God’s work without worrying how it will look. Their toil is its own reward. Their love – God’s love shining through them – is their message.

They’re often hard to spot because, on the surface, it doesn’t look like they’re doing anything special.

But if you look underneath you’ll see the kingdom of God active and alive.

That’s what I learned on my vacation.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

On Vacation!

I'm off to Ontario with the family for the rest of the month. I don't know how much blogging I'll get done while I'm there. But be sure to check back often ;)

Until then...!

Sermon: Pentecost 22 - Year A

...history tells us that church does its best work from the sidelines, far from the corridors of power, on the fringes.

In the late 1980's, it was the churches in East Germany that largely prevented the revolt against the Marxist-Leninist regimes from turning violent. The churches were among the only people in the country who had the moral credibility to stop the crowds because the churches were NOT part of the establishment. They had enough distance between them and the power brokers that people could look to them for guidance without worrying that they might be betrayed into government hands.

I think that’s a powerful lesson for us.

The political doctrine of the separation of church and state arises...(the rest here)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pulpit Pretensions

After reading Tom’s honest confession about his preaching, I got thinking about my own pulpit pretensions.

I have a love/hate relationship with preaching. I love the verbal/physical act of preaching. But it takes a lot out of me. I hate it when I have Sunday afternoon obligations. When I get home from church all I want to do is SLEEP.

But the worst part of preaching is Monday morning when I look at the bible readings for the coming week and – nothing. I have absolutely nothing to say about them. The readings frequently speak for themselves. Too often it feels like I’m stating the obvious. People aren’t stupid. They can read the lessons for themselves, and can usually figure out what the bible is trying to say. This is not rocket science.

Sometimes I panic. Other times I distract myself with other “more important” parts of ministry: meetings, worship planning, meetings, visitation, meetings, programming, and meetings. But I know that Sunday morning is coming. It always does. Whether or not I am ready.

I keep myself distracted because I’m afraid that I will stand up in front of the congregation, a group of people who assemble each week hungry for a word from God, and I’ll have to confess: “I’m empty. I have nothing to give you. The bread is stale and the wine’s gone sour. Let’s just sing some songs, say some prayers, and get outta here.”

It hasn’t happened yet. But I know that day is coming. It almost happened last Sunday.

It’s Thursday and I still don’t know what I’m preaching on this Sunday. Each week I’m terrified. I’m terrified I’ll have nothing to say. I’m terrified that I won’t be able to make God’s message of salvation credible or relevant. I’m terrified my words will fail and I will have sullied the Word that spoke all Creation into being.

To preach, to have the temerity to speak for God either requires great hubris or great humility – or both. You may ask how hubris and humility can co-exist. But they can. They MUST. My soul is a witch’s brew of mixed motivations. To preach you need an ego. It takes audacity to stand in front of people and say with conviction: These are the words of God!

But when I preach, I often fear my words are poison in the ears of the Almighty. It’s like I’m always on the edge of blasphemy and heresy, pushing the edges of polite discourse, wondering if I’m doing justice to God’s message of salvation.

So I ascend the pulpit with fear and trembling. But also cockiness and self-assuredness. I have worked hard. Each word has been deliberately placed. The rhythm of the phrases and the cadences of the sentences have been purposefully positioned to fit my pre-determined outline. My manuscript has been vetted, examined, scrutinized, and studied. I am prepared. I am ready to preach.

I take a deep breath, open my mouth, and hope for the best. Sometimes my words reach people in ways that only God alone can describe. Other days, my words fall to the floor, only to be trampled upon by my own dirty feet.

It is then that I need to remember that it’s not MY words that I proclaim. I have no personal message. The power of my sermons come - if they have any power at all - not from any facility with words that I think I may have, but from the Spirit that lives within my words. The Spirit that still broods over the waters breathing life and salvation into the whole creation. The Spirit that still descends from the clouds giving words that I couldn’t speak for myself. The Spirit that dares to proclaim God’s everlasting kingdom through an earthen vessel like me.

So I keep preaching. Even when my soul is in danger. Even when my words fail. Even when good news seems shallow and empty. I keep preaching because I still believe in God’s promises for a new creation.

Then I hide behind Jesus, clinging to the cross with both hands, clutching his message of the kingdom - the kingdom of peace, the kingdom of love, the kingdom of new and everlasting life.

And I open my mouth and announce: Good News! The Kingdom of God has arrived!

Y'know...For Kids!

Get them while their young, that's what I always say. Via Streak.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sick as a dog

My throat is on fire. My voice has dropped three octaves. My nose is running a marathon. Someone get me some Ny-Quill.

While all this is going on, I had an interview with a couple alderman about my coming on the Lethbridge Public Library board. I have to say, I wasn't at my best. I couldn't muster any enthusiasm, let alone smile at anyone, Y'know, I didn't play the game well.

Tonight, I just want to curl up in a ball on the floor, sipping hard, hallucinogenic medication, and moan southern gospel hymns in a guttural, hoarse, cry.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

No Sermon today

I wasn't happy enough with it to share it with the world.

Praying with the 700 Club

Too funny. But very appropriate. Via my brother.

Light Blogging

I know! I know! I've been shurking my blogging duties. Too much to do here at the church. I'm hoping to have a few posts ready for next week as I have much on my mind.

Until then...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Christianity Today's Leadership Journal Has a Blog

Check it out. Despite what I said in the past about CT, I have a soft spot in my heart for Leadership because they published an article of mine back in 2000.

Peter MacKay: Will he or won't he?

Rick Mercer weighs in.

A Conversation at the dinner table Sunday evening

Me (reading from a book in a mock deep voice): Our reading today is Mary's song called the magnificat...

My Wife: You're supposed to be reading the part of a Mexican priest, not some pompous ass clergy!

My Three Year Old Daughter
: But mom, Daddy IS a pompous ass...

Monday, October 03, 2005

What kind of elitist are you?

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks to daveberta

The End is the Beginning

It's official. Summer is now over and it's not coming back for a long, long time. Today it snowed. Hello winter.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sermon: Pentecost 20 - Year A

...then Jesus tells this story about the wicked tenants in the vineyard. Really, he’s invoking the prophet Isaiah. Everyone back then would have known the song of the vineyard which is today’s first reading. He’s turning it around on them. It’s like Jesus wanted to stick the knife as far into these learned scholars and powerful religious leaders as he could.

The landowner: God. The rotten tenants: The religious leaders and scholars who didn’t get what Jesus was all about. The vineyard: God’s people - Israel. The son: Jesus.

People were probably wondering how many ways can Jesus call these people “corrupt”? They are so crooked, Jesus says, that these wicked tenants, these scholars and leaders, will be destroyed when the landowner returns. (the whole thing here)