Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Vacation Time!

I'm in the office wrapping up some loose ends and will be soon off for a couple days.

I wish everyone who reads or stumbles upon this blog a Merry Christmas, and peaceful and joyful new year!

Smell ya in 2007!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sermon: Christmas Day

Where are you in the story? That’s a hard question when you think about it. I know that I don’t have a clue where I fit in to this story.

I don’t see myself as one of those shepherds, that’s for sure. I don’t like staying up late at night. I’m not all that outdoorsy, and if I saw a choir of angels singing in the sky I might be more inclined to think it was bad shrimp rather than a divine announcement.

I don’t think I’m one of the Magi – or three wise men. I’m no star gazer. I don’t look to the sky to find out what’s going on in the world. I get my news from the Internet. I dabble in RESPs for my kids, not in gold; frankincense irritates my sinuses; and I prefer myrrh to be locked away at the funeral home instead of nestling in my backpack.

I’m certainly not Mary. It would be physically impossible for me to play her role. But then again, it was for her as well. And while I’m told I look good in blue, my bald head and beard might just make the story a little too creepy.

So, perhaps I’m a sheep, just like I was in a Sunday School play a thousand and one years ago. It could be my job to add scenery, atmosphere, mood. Instead of woolly garments I wear fancy robes to add an environment of sacredness to our Christmas celebrations. But then I realize that you’d be here even if I wasn’t. Plus my vanity won’t allow me to see myself as mere background in God’s saving story.

So maybe I’m a Roman – Caesar even. Strong enough to conquer the world and proclaim myself as God. I love that image of myself! Who wouldn’t? There are days when my head won’t fit inside my hat; but Rebekah has a way of deflating my over-indulged ego.

Maybe I’m the guy that Luke was...(read the whole thing here)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Sermon 2006

What would you do if you had to clean up the mess we human beings have made? How would you deal with war, violence, anger, corruption? How would you deal with fear of the future, destroyed relationships, or ravaging diseases? How would you deal with terrorism, fanaticism, or fundamentalism?

Would you send in the tanks? Would you break out the big guns? Would you launch the missiles?

Would you stage a protest demanding the government adopt your agenda? Would you picket outside of Wal-Mart insisting they take on your faith language? Would you rally the troops, get out the vote; make sure your voice is heard?

Would you send a...(read whole thing here)

Sermon: Advent 4 - Year C

...I’m sure that Joseph didn’t plan to be step-dad to the Almighty. He probably had his own career plans. He may have had his goals mapped out how he was going to build his carpentry business into the biggest in all Nazareth. However the future looked to him, I’m sure that being a surrogate father figure to God’s own Son wasn’t part of his five-year plan.

But isn’t that they way life works out most of the time? Our best laid plans get interrupted by life’s plans for us: sudden illness and surprise babies, the break down of relationships and the presentation of new opportunities. Dreams diminished and hope renewed.

Maybe. At least some of the time.

Sometimes life doesn’t give us happy endings. Often, there is no satisfactory resolution at the end of some of our stories. The spot on the lung spreads to the bones, the divorce papers arrive in the mail, or the flowers delivered to the church are for a funeral instead of a wedding.

But it would be nice to know how it all works out beforehand, wouldn’t it? It would be nice to plan for things like that. It would be easier to go through life with a navigation map so we’d...(the whole thing here)

Friday, December 15, 2006

What the Hell Happened to Christianity!?

CNN asks Jay Bakker:

So when did the focus of Christianity shift from the unconditional love and acceptance preached by Christ to the hate and condemnation spewed forth by certain groups today? Some say it was during the rise of Conservative Christianity in the early 1980s with political action groups like the Moral Majority. Others say it goes way back to the 300s, when Rome's Christian Emperor Constantine initiated a set of laws limiting the rights of Roman non-Christians. Regardless of the origin, one thing is crystal clear: It's not what Jesus stood for.

His parables and lessons were focused on love and forgiveness, a message of "come as you are, not as you should be." The bulk of his time was spent preaching about helping the poor and those who are unable to help themselves. At the very least, Christians should be counted on to lend a helping hand to the poor and others in need. (article here)

Bakker does a great job in challenging the fundamentalism of his youth, and the values that ultimately ripped his family apart. But I was left wondering if he protests too much.

Maybe in the politically charged American church he needs to be louded, and even more in your face than he would if he were in, say, Toronto or Calgary, to heck, even Lethbridge. Canadian Christians, for the most part, simply don't carry the same political baggage as some of our American friends.

But I LOVE the fact that he's trying a new way to be the church, to let Jesus' teachings guide his ministry as he ministers in one of the toughest mission fields in the world.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Just When I'd Given Up on Pop Music

An Advent Thought

“We are all meant to be mothers of God,” wrote Meister Eckhart, a medieval mystic and theologian. “What is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.” (quoted in Barbara Brown Taylor’s Mother’s of God)


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blow 'em away in the name of the Lord!

NEW YORK (AP) - Targeted largely at conservative Christians, it's a violent video game with a difference: Combatants on one side pause for prayer, and their favoured interjection is "Praise the Lord."

Critics say "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" glorifies religious violence against non-Christians...(whole thing here)

I'm speechless.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I was wondering why my pants fit looser.

It's because the tofu I eat is shrinking my nether regions and turning me gay. Or so say this guy. Yup, Tofu is a devil's food that shrinks the penis and turns men into homosexuals.

I eat tofu. Have eaten it for years. Yet I still find my wife hot. Go figure.

Also see here.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sermon: Advent 2 - Year C

Advent has been compared to the anticipation of a child’s birth. But I know from experience that such a wait is not all joy and hope, it’s also fear and trembling. Will the child be healthy? If she’s not, will I be able to deal with the challenges she will face? Will I be a good parent? What will the world be like that she will inherit? Or even more fundamentally, will she like me?

There are two sides to the Advent story. The first is, yes, a saviour is coming, and that’s good news. The flip side is that we need a saviour in the first place, and that’s the bad news.

I think that’s what the prophet Malachi was trying to get at. He sounds angry in today’s passage, doesn’t he? You almost need to dodge the fire spitting from his mouth. It’s the kind of stuff you expect an old time prophet to say. And you can certainly hear where John the Baptist drew his inspiration from.

It was the same old story with the prophet preaching the same old message. God’s people have broken their agreement with the Almighty. They’ve done awful things to each other. They’ve forgotten their God.

So, there’s a sobering side to this season of getting ready. In just two weeks we will....(The whole thing here)

Monday, December 04, 2006


The other day I was parked in front of the Office Depot, when some jerk in a half-ton pulled in front of the store and parked in not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Handicapped parking spots. He parked right on top of where all four parking spots met. It’s worth noting that this “person” didn’t have a handicapped parking sticker on his truck.

Maybe it’s me, or have people gotten more selfish and lazy?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sermon: Advent 1 - Year C

When you hear the word “gospel” what pops into your head?

In my final year of seminary we were asked to define the word “gospel” in one sentence, for our respective theses. Being little too full of both myself and Jurgen Moltmann’s major theological writings, I made 8 revisions. But when I thought I finally had it down in perfect theological prose, my thesis advisor, usually a cross between a teddy bear and Santa Claus, pulled out his red marker, scratched out my wonderful words, and bellowed, “Make is simpler!”

The assignment was harder then you might think. After all, the word “gospel” has become to mean anything that people want it to mean. It’s become...(read the whole thing here)

Mercer on Dion

Rick Mercer sums up the Liberal Leadership Convention:

At the end of the day though, watching Dion on stage, I couldn’t help but be amazed at his physical presence. The Liberals went into this convention with a host of choices. They could have gone with a battle-tested politician, a former athlete, a world famous academic or a food bank founder from the West; at the end of the day they choose the nerd.

That’s pretty Canadian.


Monday, November 27, 2006

NT Wright podcast

How many times have you heard an internationally recognized New Testament scholar sing a Bob Dylan tune?

On top of that, there is some excellent theology going on here. You gotta check it out.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sermon: Reign of Christ the King - Year B

It’s no wonder Pilate could ignore him. It’s no wonder why we find it easier to follow Caesar’s view of the world rather than God’s.

It’s easier to buy expensive technological equipment to be “relevant” rather than engaging real, insufferably human, flesh-and-blood people.

It’s easier to demand that Hollywood tell our story rather than go face-to-face with someone who might reject us.

It’s easier to cozy up to power, demanding that the government adopt our agenda, rather than to do the real work of the church: loving unlovable people, and bringing Jesus’ message of new life and salvation to a broken, hurting, and sin-stained world.

But who ever said that...(whole thing here)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A mega-church downsizes...

...by sending a nasty letter.

WINSTON-SALEM — Julie and Bob Clark were stunned to receive a letter from their church in July asking them to "participate in the life of the church" — or worship elsewhere.

"They basically called us freeloaders," says Julie.
"We were freeloaders," says Bob.

In a trend that may signal rough times for wallflower Christians, bellwether mega-church Faith Community of Winston-Salem has asked "non-participating members" to stop attending.

"No more Mr. Nice Church," says the executive pastor, newly hired from Cingular Wireless. "Bigger is not always better. Providing free services indefinitely to complacent Christians is not our mission."

"Freeloading" Christians were straining the church's nursery and facility resources and harming the church's ability to reach the lost, says the pastor.

"When your bottom line is saving souls, you get
impatient with people who interfere with that goal," he says.

Faith Community sent polite but firm letters to families who attend church services and "freebie events" but never volunteer, never tithe and do not belong to a small group or other ministry. The church estimates that of its 8,000 regular attendees, only half have volunteered in the past 3 years, and a third have never given to the church.

"Before now, we made people feel comfortable and welcome, and tried to coax them to give a little something in return," says a staff member. "That's changed. We're done being the community nanny."
Surprisingly, the move to dis-invite people has drawn positive response from men in the community who like the idea of an in-your-face church.

"I thought, 'A church that doesn't allow wussies — that rocks,'" says Bob Clark, who admires the church more since they told him to get lost.

He and Julie are now tithing and volunteering. "We've taken our place in church life," he says. •


via Chapel Chatter

UPDATE: it turns out that the news source of this is a parody. Too funny because it is too plausible.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 24 - Year B

So, what do you think this gospel reading means? This past week at our pastors’ bible study we couldn’t decipher what Jesus was talking about. It’s like he was talking in code. That he wanted to warn his disciples of something but couldn’t quite get the words straight. So he defaulted to poetry hoping that these 12 guys might have the imagination to unlock the mystery of what can only been seen with divine eyes.

The passage says that they were on a mount opposite the Temple (capital “T”). Back in Jesus’ time the Temple was one of the most impressive sights you could lay our eyes on. Torn down twice since King Solomon first built it, the second re-building began shortly before the Shepherds saw the angel in the sky and the wise men found their way to Bethlehem. But it wasn’t finished until the Mary found the empty tomb.

You had to see the Temple to believe it. The stories didn’t do it justice. It had a perimeter circumference of almost a kilometre. Its 5 ton marble walls stood 150 feet high. 40-foot-high white marble columns greeted visitors as they arrived brandishing their sacrifices. Two of the doors stood 45 feet high; one was cast in Corinthian bronze. It’s no wonder they called it the “Beautiful Gate.”

I could go on but you get the idea. The temple was huge. It wasn’t coming down any time soon. That’s why Jesus sounded like he dipped into the ritual wines a little too often when he said that the temple was going to be destroyed and re-built in three days.

But still, religious wing-nuts were a shekel a dozen back then. But when you’re talking about the temple, people take you seriously no matter how crazy they think you are. Just as you don’t joke about having...(The whole thing here)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Christians. Can't live with 'em, can't...?

I have what I call “bad church days.” Days when I come within a nose hair of finding another job. Days when I get so frustrated with church life that I just want to walk away.

I had one of those days this past week.

But it’s certainly not because of my parish. Comic Book Guy should have a t’shirt made about my church saying “Best Congregation Ever.”

These folks bend over sideways to help me with my ministry. They pay me more than the recommended guidelines. I get in trouble when I work too many hours. They’re creative. They’re willing to try almost anything. The little squabbles we have (how we receive communion, chairs verses pews, etc) are tiny compared to the knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out, see you in hell, holy fist-fights that other churches have. I tell folks that Good Shepherd is the best kept secret in town.

So, it’s not my church. It’s my denomination.

I went to a meeting a few weeks ago. An angry, joyless meeting. It’s like some folks aren’t happy unless they’re righteously irate. It seems like their mission in life is to stamp out heresy rather than to proclaim good news, to complain about what the church is “doing wrong,” to make sure the church stays on the narrow path. It’s as if they love orthodox theology more than they love people.

It’s not to say that doctrine isn’t important. It is. But the way I read the gospels leads me to believe that Jesus was more interested in loving people than correcting their theology with a hammer.

It must have been absolutely galling for folks to hear a Samaritan – someone who bastardized the faith – being portrayed as a model of faithful living over a priest and Levite, those good, God-fearing church folks.

It must have been jarring for Jesus to point to a Roman officer, the enemy, the oppressor, the guy who worshipped Caesar instead of the God of Israel, being pointed to as more faithful than anyone among God’s chosen people. Especially when this Roman officer showed no sign of changing his life and following Jesus.

It must have been the last straw for folks when Jesus chose a friggin’ Tax Collector as one of his inner-circle. These guys were the worst of the worst. They collected money for the Roman oppressors, skimming some off the top. They had money. And they had enemies. Their own people saw them as traitorous. Their Roman bosses treated them like tools. They deserved a horse-whipping, not forgiveness, let alone to be loved.

But Jesus loved them. All of them. Did they change? Correct their theology? Become good church folks? Some did. Some didn’t. Didn’t matter. Jesus loved then anyway. Loved them enough to die for them.

And make no mistake. Jesus got angry sometimes. Really angry. It was usually directed know-it-all clergy and other church-types.

My tribe, Lutherans, we “Ortho-dogs” as one colleague put it, might re-learn something when we return to the scriptures. We might learn that theology is not something that dropped from the sky but has been the result of faithful Christians gathering together to figure out just what God wants from us.

We might learn that Jesus put people ahead of being theologically correct. We might learn that people are more able to receive God’s message of love and salvation if we haven’t beaten them up first.

Maybe Jesus was on to something when he said that the greatest commandment was “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and the second greatest commandment being “to love our neighbour as ourselves.”

What would our churches look like if that was our starting point? What would our world look like if we really believed it was true?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A conversation overheard at my house

Me (to our two-year-old, while opening a pistachio nut): I shouldn’t be eating these. Pistachios make daddy fat.

Our Two-year-old: But daddy, you’re already fat.


Unfortunately it’s true. I’ve become more corpulent over the last year, despite my best efforts. Well, maybe because my best efforts included more chicken wings and beer than I care to admit.

However, I’ve consulted with a nutritionist who put me on a “plan” to make better “food choices.” The goal is to fit back into my size 34 pants by Christmas, size 32 by Lent.

My flabby belly is telling me that I’ve taken more than my fair share of food. To me, it feels downright sinful to have packed on a dozen or two extra pounds when roughly 30 000 children die PER DAY of malnutrition and related diseases.

I’ll keep you updated.

Canadian Blog Awards - 2006

Voting is now open. If feel inclined to vote for my humble blog, that would be mighty neighbourly. (note: I'm listed under "Best Religious Blog)

But there are many worthy blogs on the list. My faves are Jordon Cooper's and Scott Williams' blogs.

Then again, I haven't had time to peruse the rest of the other nominees.

Friday, November 10, 2006

quit whining

we have so much and appreciate it so little.

i am shocked by how shallow i am.
how quick i complain.
how hard-done-by i can feel.
how easy it is to feel sorry for myself.

from scott.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

US Mid-term Elections

It’s Election Day in the USA, and I’m stocking up on munchies and beer to listen to the returns until I hear those magic words: The Democrats have re-taken Congress.

If the Dems do take both the House and Senate, it will be because of Republican scandals and the War in Iraq, not because they’re offering anything more compelling, a stark policy contrast or inspiring vision for the country.

When the Democrats win back Congress it will be because they are not Republicans. If I were an American GOP supporter, I’d be one of these guys.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Two More Martyrs

More from Brian Rude.

Dear friends:

Greetings in the spirit of Hebrews 12:1-3

Yesterday, Saturday, at about 5 p.m., two pastors of the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod, Francisco Carrillo (described and pictured in Esprit, Summer 2001, pp. 17 & 18) and his wife Jesús, were assassinated outside their church in Jayaque, department of Sonsonate, after worship. It appears to be a case of extortion related to church-funded projects. The all-night wake begins this afternoon, in the church in Jayaque, and the burial will be tomorrow, Monday, at 3 p.m. I expect to participate throughout. Their son Wilbur is a student pastor serving a parish in rural San Vicente. He lives in Jayaque with his family.

All three pastors incarnate the best of the Salvadoran Lutheran
Church, in terms of dedication, service and capability. I accompanied them throughout 2001, in their rebuilding after the earthquakes of Jan and Feb., and again for several days while hosting the displaced of Jayaque and area after Hurricane Stan struck in Oct. 2005. I was the beneficiary through such experiences. Their deaths are a tremendous loss to their family, congregation and community, as well as to the national church.

Please pray for the family, the congregation and community, and for this entire church and nation.

Brian Rude

2 de Noviembre -- Día de los Difuntos

This is an email from Pastor Brian Rude, our missionary to El Salvador. Shared with Brian's permission.

2 de Noviembre -- Día de los Difuntos

Day of the Deceased. As if El Salvador needs such a day. Every day in El Salvador seems to be the Day of the Dead. But a special day for everyone to commemorate their deceased? No doubt it is therapeutic, healing--spiritually, emotionally, socially. So everyone heads to the cemeteries on this day. The cemeteries are already over-crowded with the dead--the beaten, the bullet-ridden, the diseased . . . and the occasional "anciano" or "anciana" who has filled out his or her days, approximating fulfillment of God's promise for an abundant life. On this day, these "Camposantos" (Holy Grounds, cemeteries, graveyards) become yet more over-crowded, with the living, with the survivors, with the not-yet-murdered, with those who have not yet succumbed to one of many easily-curable, yet mortal-considering-the-circumstances diseases.

The settings are not always so therapeutic. Yesterday I drove by (below) the embankment of a cemetery which had collapsed onto this road below during a severe rainstorm a year ago. Skulls and bones had littered the roadway, a mystery and a delight to the many children living in the neighbourhood, a horror to the families of those scattered relatives, and a pain in numerous parts of the anatomy to the municipal graveyard-maintainers. Now, a year later, draped black plastic keeps more corpses from sliding down on to that road, covering commuters in a surprise "Day of the Deceased" encounter from above.

Death is never far removed from anyone living in El Salvador. At 12 murders per day (55 per 100,000 per year), almost anyone can expect to be affected at any moment. While in Canada in September, reading one of the daily Salvadoran newspapers on the Internet, I learned of the murder of a man (the names were reported that day only because there was an unusually high number of 18 murders) with the same name, of the same age, and from the same town as a good student / friend / colleague of mine throughout my 18 years in El Salvador. I didn't get any responses to my e-mails of enquiry. I did see this friend at church, quite alive, a couple weeks ago, unaware of the death of his "tocayo" (someone with the same name). The outcome was not such a relief in the case of an almost-housemate, a good friend of our household, who enriched our social and cultural lives, always with a classic movie in hand, an intriguing outing in mind or a wise and learned contribution to the discussion. An engineer with a successful career, he was murdered in what seems to have been a car / card / cellphone robbery in early September. Lutheran Bishop Gomez' nephew was murdered about 3 weeks ago, apparently in a car robbery, while resisting allowing the robbers access to his home and family. His 10-year-old son was allowed to escape, after witnessing the murder of his father. Last Sunday, another housemate was celebrating his graduation from law school at a dinner-party for almost 200 family members, friends and neighbours. The joy of this celebration was shattered by news received as we were leaving the party just after midnight. We learned of the murder of one of the invitees who had not attended, a friend and neighbour to most of those in attendance, just a block from the home of the graduate. While I often avoid parties, aware that they too often erupt into life-threatening scenarios, in this case this young man might still be alive if he had attended the party.

As distressing as the deaths themselves, are some of the reactions to these murders. In some cases the person is said to have been "pleitista" (argumentative) . . . as if that justifies or rationalizes murder. Or someone had just purchased a new car . . . so perhaps was asking for it, like a rape victim having provoked the rapist with the clothing she was wearing. Or: "he was such a good person . . . sure didn't deserve to be killed in such a brutal manner." As if there are those who do, in fact, deserve to be killed in such a way. The fatalism, the resignation, are most distressing. It is as if God willed these tragedies, or as if wayward human beings brought them on themselves. What will it take to re-sensitize an entire nation, an entire culture, to transform a culture of death into a culture of life?

Resistance and protest are only now beginning to manifest themselves. Ironically, it is the US Ambassador who has sparked some of this reaction over the past couple weeks. Of course, part of his strategy--which seems like an attempt to "Guantanamize" El Salvador, by throwing the remaining 12,000 gang members into prisons--hardly seems like an appropriate, wise, or even legal reaction to the crisis. Doubling the number of inmates in already seriously over-crowded prisons would be a recipe for further tragedy. Or is that what is desired? And isn't there some detail in modern law which requires a trial and a sentence before locking the masses up perpetually? There are still some in El Salvador who appreciate and want to protect the civilized advances of recent centuries (millenia), resisting such a retreat to the age of the Bushmen. And do such national leaders assume that the streets would thus be forever rid of all such "terrorist" elements, as if the contributing factors would be thrown behind bars along with the supposed malcreants, as if there were no youth or children--younger brothers, even sons--waiting to take their places, or even make the current predicament seem calm and controlled by comparison?

Then there's the nagging doubt about who really are the culprits, the "terrorists", as they're so readily labelled today. Who is really doing the killing, for starters? "Gang-related" crime statistics vary dramatically (between 75% and 15%), depending on whether you're listening to the President of the Republic, or reading the forensic lab reports. And there are no witnesses in El Salvador. Anyone with any instinct for survival keeps their eyes, their ears and their mouth shut . . . which seriously limits the already deficient investigative capacities of police and prosecuting attorneys. A witness protection plan has been discussed over the past year or more, but it's not likely that anyone would entrust his or her life--or the lives of their family--to such a plan, if ever it were put into place. The government's response to the US Ambassador's push for speedy resolution to the crisis, joined soon after by the business sector, was yet another law, against "organized crime", after being assured from all sides that their many new and improved laws have done nothing but exacerbate the crisis, and that existing laws are more than adequate, if there only existed the political will to address the roots of the crisis, and the real issues, which are numerous and complex--a challenge which will require the involvement of all sectors of society, a piece of wisdom which this self-proclaimed "government with human sense" resists viscerally.

The government's definition of "terrorist", for example, is hardly the one understood by the masses. Mothers blocking traffic, demanding drinking water for their babies, aren't necessarily understood by the public to be terrorists, though the president's new anti-terrorist law defines them as such. Those mothers might define as "terrorist" a government functionary who stole $100 million from the national water systerm, thus depriving their babies of drinking water, and ultimately of health and life. Yet said functionary is now--still--comfortably sheltered in Paris (France, that is, not Ontario), where, reportedly, he recently received a courtesy visit from El Salvador's anti-terrorist President, on his way to the Vatican.

We, and many others, continue to respond as we are able, the government's closed-ear, closed-door policies notwithstanding, hopeful that El Salvador's rates of violence and death will fall in line with global norms, someday soon. We continue to believe that every day of the year is "El Día de Los/as Vivos/as", the Day of the Living.

Paz y Vida,
Brian Rude
ELCIC Pastor / Missionary living and sharing life in El Salvador

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sermon: All Saints' - Year B

Aristotle complained that the act of writing diminished memory. He was concerned that once we write something down we don’t have to remember it anymore.

For folks like me, this sounds more like a godsend than a curse. Shopping lists. Phone numbers. Short reminder messages. All these things on little scraps of paper are, for me, as important to my getting along in the world as a telephone or toilet paper.

So maybe, I’m the living example that proves that Aristotle was right. We don’t need to tax our grey matter because we have pens and paper, or styluses and Blackberrys, to remember things for us.

But Aristotle worried that, even in writing down the most trivial lists, something is lost, a way of thinking, remembering, and relating – even a way of life - was given away.

Communications theorists say that this marked the transition from the Oral culture to the Literate culture. But in that transition, a link to the past was broken, a human connection marked by the simple act of one person telling another person a story.

Our Anglican and Roman Catholic friends say that the line through history that connects us with Jesus is bishops, because every bishop has had hands laid on them by other bishops, back through the centuries to the times of the apostles, even back to Peter himself. They call this “apostolic succession.”

But I wonder if God also works in less churchy ways. I wonder if the line that connects us from today back to Jesus’ time is...(the whole thing here)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ted Haggard

No doubt, some foes of conservative evangelicals will squeal with delight over the scandal surrounding Ted Haggard, and his alleged tryst with a male prostitute. The hypocrisy is too craven if the standard bearer for traditional family values, and one of the most influential evangelical leaders is a closeted gay man. I look at Haggard’s situation with sadness because we have one two scenarios being played out here:

1.Haggard is guilty is charged. And this is not what the world needs, another fallen high-profile preacher. But more than that, his church, his marriage and family, and countless others who have been impacted by his ministry will be affected by this. That is not a cause to celebrate. If he’s guilty, he’s hurt many innocent by-standers.


2. Haggard is NOT guilty. And what we have is someone smearing a high profile person for his own political agenda, ruining someone’s reputation, and possibly his marriage. If this is the case, then progressive people need to come down on this sort of behaviour. Hard. If Haggard is innocent then it should be more difficult to ruin a guy's career.

Either way, Haggard, his church and his other ministries, as well as the male prostitute need our prayers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Colder than a witch's...

I think last night was the coldest Halloween I’ve ever experienced. -15C. I was glad my wife went out with the girls instead of me. I wouldn’t have lasted more than a half hour. She took the kids out for two hours longer than I would have.

I was warming my tootsies inside, cozily reading a book. The doorbell rang only a handful of times, leaving a bucket full of Skittles resting comfortably on our front hall mantle.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; my wife is made of better stuff than me. She deserves the leftover Skittles.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Reformation Sermon

So, who was it? Who was it that told you that you weren’t good enough? Everyone has a story.

It begins early.

Maybe it was your brother who said that girls couldn’t play hockey.

Maybe it was a classmate who called you “dumb” because you couldn’t master your multiplication tables.

Maybe it was your parents who examined your straight “A” report card and asked why you didn’t get an A+.

Maybe it was a boss who said that folks like you were a dime a dozen and therefore weren’t worth a raise.

Maybe it was your spouse who called you “stupid” in order to feel superior.

Maybe it was a fire-breathing preacher who waved a condemning finger in your face for every little sin.

Maybe it was your God who threatened you with eternal hell-fire for having simple human weakness.

I know you’re not alone. Everyone has a story.

The father of our Lutheran faith, Martin Luther, told a similar tale. He lived in terror of God’s judgment. The church at his time placed impossible demands on people, and those who failed to meet those demands were threatened with the fires of Hell. And Luther was earnestly faithful enough to try to meet all the obligations that were placed on him.

But he feared for his soul.

The litany of requirements was relentless. Prayer every morning, noon, and night. Fifty laps around the rosary. Kiss the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary. Stare at some saint’s old bones. Hand over your paycheques to the church to spring Uncle Hans from purgatory. And maybe – just maybe – you could fend off the wrath of the Almighty.

But Luther couldn’t do it all. And if anyone had the gumption to pull all this off it was good ‘ol Martin Luther.

But try as he might, he failed, again and again and again. And every time he fell short, he looked to the heavens and his eyes filled with terror.

And he came to the point that he lashed out saying he HATED God. He hated God for...(read the whole thing here)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Coren is wrong

First, Michael Coren said "we" (whoever that is, since Canada doesn't have nukes) should nuke Iran. Now he says that he sympathizes with Michael J. Fox, but Fox is still 'wrong.'

"Once again, entirely understandable. Yet wrong. He is no longer objective and thus no longer reliable. We listen to him not because he is an expert but because he is a victim. Emotion becomes more significant than truth."

I don’t know about you, but a I think having a debilitating illness is a very credible reason for supporting stem cell research. Granted, Coren is no Rush Limbaugh, but, yikes, when can't you support controversial research if not when your life is a stake? Objectivity be damned.

He cries more tears over 'prospective' lives than those that have actually been lost.


A Number 2?

A new take on the body of Christ image. via.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Willimon's Blog

Methodist bishop and former Duke University Chapel Dean, and one of the best preachers on the planet, Will Willimon, has a blog. I'm a big fan. His book that he wrote with Stanley Hauerwas Resident Aliens deeply influenced how I do ministry.

Check it out. Here’s a taste. Thanks to Jordon for point this out.


1. In measuring the effectiveness, the maintenance congregation asks, "How many pastoral visits are being made? The mission congregation asks, "How many disciples are being made?"

2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance congregation says, "If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we won't do it." The mission congregation says, "If this will help us reach someone on the outside, we will take the risk and do it."

3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a maintenance congregation ask, "How will this affect me?" The majority of members in the mission congregation ask, "Will this increase our ability to reach those outside?"

4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance congregation says, "We have to be faithful to our past." The mission congregation says, "We have to be faithful to our future."

5. The pastor in the maintenance congregation says to the newcomer, "I'd like to introduce you to some of our members." In the mission congregation the members say, "We'd like to introduce you to our pastor."

6. When confronted with a legitimate pastoral concern, the pastor in the maintenance congregation asks, "How can I meet this need?" The pastor in the mission congregation asks, "How can this need be met?"

7. The maintenance congregation seeks to avoid conflict at any cost (but rarely succeeds). The mission congregation understands that conflict is the price of progress, and is willing to pay the price. It understands that it cannot take everyone with it. This causes some grief, but it does not keep it from doing what needs to be done.

8. The leadership style in the maintenance congregation is primarily managerial, where leaders try to keep everything in order and running smoothly. The leadership style in a mission congregation is primarily transformational, casting a vision of what can be, and marching off the map in order to bring the vision into reality.

9. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and committees. The mission congregation is concerned with the culture, with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick. It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to the Gospel.

10. When thinking about growth, the maintenance congregations asks, "How many Lutherans live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?" The mission congregation asks, "How many unchurched people live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?"

11. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks, "How can we get these people to support our congregation?" The mission congregation asks, "How can the Church support these people?"

12. The maintenance congregation thinks about how to save their congregation. The mission congregation thinks about how to reach the world.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My baby's growing up

Five years ago today, I became a dad.

I thought I knew what love was when I saw the beautiful Barbara P across the classroom in grade one.

I thought I knew what love was when I first picked up a trombone and blasted away.

I thought I knew what love was when the bishop placed a stole around my neck and introduced me to my first parish.

I thought I knew what love was when I placed the ring on my wife’s finger and promised to be faithful to her until I die.

Then I held my first child, a minute old, and true learning began. The learning hasn’t stopped. It grows. Eternally.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 20 - Year B

If these guys were around 2000 years ago (and they were) then Jesus’ disciples would have drank up their message like cheap Molson’s at Happy Hour. These preachers would have received a hearty “Amen!” from Jesus’ disciples. At least that would be your conclusion if you listen in on their argument in today’s gospel. James and John are fighting they way brothers often do. “Who’s going to sit at Jesus’ right hand, the seat of power, when the Kingdom of God comes in it fullness?”

“Who is going to be the Grand Pooh-bah in the presence of the Almighty?”

A little presumptuous, don’t you think? That’s how Jesus heard it. James and John hadn’t a clue what they were asking.

When the other disciples caught wind of what these two were up to they were understandably miffed. And given Jesus’ little sermon to them, I think they were angry because they were left out of the running. They wanted a piece of the action themselves. Why should James and John get all the good stuff?

It’s easy to look down at the disciples for being so
...(read the whole thing here)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sting says today's rock is a bore

I'll say. I stopped listening to pop music radio while driving (I’ve since moved to audio books) because the quality of today’s music sucks so badly. It’s as if pop music writers are part of a growing cohort of illiterates. And the music makes me nostalgic for the blandness of the 1990’s.

Like Sting, I’m also partial to medieval music. In fact, when I was studying music, my two concentrations were New Music and Medieval music. I figured I’d bookend the Western canon. After all, who needs another Brahms specialist?

Also, a sacred beauty illumines much of that early music. Maybe even a naiveté that merely assumed God was present and alive among them. At least that’s how I heard it – and still hear it.

Maybe I’m more nostalgic for 1595 than for 1995.

article here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 19 - Year B

This bible reading, this text from Mark’s gospel, chafes and burns like sandpaper. It shows our discipleship as nothing but dirty rags.

“Turn the other cheek,” Jesus says somewhere else, and we remember the time when we angrily swore at the guy who stole our parking spot.

“Love your neighbour as yourself,” Jesus commands, and we remember when we crossed the street to avoid the homeless person coming our way.

“Go sell all you have and give it to the poor,” we overhear Jesus tell that rich, young, man. And we hope those words are meant only for him, because we don’t want Jesus to ask the same thing of us.

“It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Ouch! What was personal for the young man all of sudden became uncomfortably universal.

It is so uncomfortable that we soften the story. We talk about how...
(the whole thing here)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your life be filled with joy. And may you be a blessing to everyone you meet.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 18 - Year B

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery. End of story,” Jesus says.

Maybe there was too much starch in his shorts. Maybe he was reacting to the charges that he’s being too wishy-washy. Maybe he just needed a little more fibre in his diet. But there it is. He said what he said. No commentary needed.

I know what some of you might be thinking, because I’ve thought it too: What do you know about it, Jesus? You’re single. You never had to fight about who takes out the garbage or who picks the kids up at school, about who cuts the grass or who cooks the meals. You’ve never been ditched for a boys’ drunken night out, and you’ve never received the silent treatment during playoffs.

You’ve never found lipstick on the collar, or strange hotel receipts that fell out of her purse.

You’ve never looked across the dinner table and wondered who this stranger is you’ve been living with for too many years.

Jesus, all of us either are people who are divorced and remarried. Or know and love folks who are in their second or even third marriages. What about them? They’re trying to make their relationships work. Are you calling them adulterers?

Would you tell a woman who gets smacked around by her husband to stay where she is, to stay committed to her wedding vows, even if her husband has not? Or if she finds the courage to escape an abusive marriage, are you saying that she can’t find another relationship, another partner, one who will treat her with the dignity and respect she deserves? Are you condemning her to a life of loneliness because of the actions of her abusive husband?

If so, then that’s quite the statement, Jesus.

But Jesus says what he says. There’s no wiggle room. Jesus couldn’t be any plainer.

That’s when Jesus’...
(the whole thing here)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A powerful witness

I wonder if I could do the same, in that circumstance:

(CNN) -- A grieving grandfather told young relatives not to hate the gunman who killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse massacre, a pastor said on Wednesday.

"As we were standing next to the body of this 13-year-old girl, the grandfather was tutoring the young boys, he was making a point, just saying to the family, 'We must not think evil of this man,' " the Rev. Robert Schenck told CNN.

"It was one of the most touching things I have seen in 25 years of Christian ministry."

Read the whole article here. Via Streak.

I'm guessing that forgiveness will have to be a daily choice for them, not a one time deal. Sometimes Christian don't let themselves feel their grief because they feel obligated to forgive those who have hurt them.

But still, these folks are trying to live out Jesus' costly demands of discipleship, being living contradictions to the powers of violence and death, showing the world that there can be another way live: the way of God's reconciling love. It's quite a witness.

A good reminder

via maggi.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Saheli's New Blog

Saheli, a frequent and insightful commentor to this blog has moved her blog site. Check it out. Bookmark it. Live it. Love it.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Last summer, while traveling east on the Yellowhead coming into Edmonton, a transport truck decided to change lanes. The problem was, I was passing him at the time, and he wanted the lane I was driving in. A pounded the horn to get the driver’s attention. But he kept on coming. Right before our car was to be smacked, I jumped lanes – without checking my blind spot.

Thankfully, the car in the far left lane noticed what happening and gave me room to slide in.

The experience left me shaking. I keep seeing “what might have happened” being replayed over and over again. I don’t know what kind of damage being sideswiped by and 18-wheeler does to a Honda Accord, but I’m guessing my oldest daughter and my wife would not have walked away from it. Not without a miracle.

When I envision the Nightmare Scenario, where a car accident takes a life, or a spot on the x-ray shows a life-threatening illness, the life I fear most losing is not my own, but my children’s.

A few nights ago my oldest (almost 5) sat opposite me at the table and started talking about elephants. My thoughts cut back to that 18-wheeler and how close I came to losing her. I became angry. Not at the driver in particular (but my wife tried to write down his license number to report him) but at the lack of control I have over life and death. Try as I might, I cannot fully protect my children from pain and death. There will be a day when I will say good-bye, by either their deaths or mine. That when we close our eyes in death, we will not open them again. Relationship ended.

That worries. And makes me angry.

Some might say that I lack faith. That I should cling to the resurrection for the assurance that relationships don’t end with the grave.

And I do find comfort in Jesus’ promise of new life, where “God will wipe every tear from our eyes.”

I find comfort. But I don’t find peace.

I think back to the funeral I presided over back in August, where a family said good-bye to a 23 year old man (or boy). They are living the nightmare scenario. I watch them in awe as they show remarkable strength, strength that comes from the deep love that they have for each other, the love they’ve received from their son and brother, and the love they’ve been given by their church family – and their God.

They’ve been comforted. But they’ve been given no peace.

When my oldest yammered on about elephants that day at the kitchen table, I thought my heart was going to burst. Burst from gratitude that this child – this act of grace, a gift I did nothing to deserve – is in my life. And burst from the joy that she and her little sister give me.

Even when they make me crazy.

2006 Canadian Blog Awards

Apparently I’ve been nominated for “Best Religious Blog” for the 2006 Canadian Blog Awards. I don’t know by whom, but it’s fun to be nominated nonetheless.

To check out who has been nominated thus far, or if you want to nominate a blog, check here.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Welcoming Church

From Kevin Little in today's Toronto Star:

The United Church of Canada has embarked on an expensive campaign called Emerging Spirit to attract 30- to 45-year-olds. Some grumble that this money would be better spent on social justice work or hiring additional staff, but I disagree. The fact is, our land of affluence, greed and narcissism needs to hear the radical "good news" of Jesus (See Matthew 25 and 28).

The United, Anglican and Presbyterian churches have watched their dominant position on the spiritual landscape fade to the margins. While a few formerly mainline Christians have found their way into friendlier, more dynamic evangelical churches and the soberly certain fundamentalist churches, most now just stay home and embrace libertarianism.

Why aren't more 30- to 45-year-olds going to conservative and fundamentalist churches? So-called Bible-believing churches are hardly that. They select carefully what they like from the Bible and downplay what makes them uncomfortable. They are thrilled to quote Paul on sexuality and gender roles but less keen to discuss Jesus' thoughts on wealth. Success theology pastors like Joel Osteen are not likely to remind Christians what Jesus told the rich young ruler to do: sell all you have and give it to poor.

Meanwhile, the yuppies who left the mainline churches in the '60s are finding affluenza leaves them feeling unfulfilled. They have a deep hunger for meaning and purpose in their lives.

We in the target demographic have never being challenged to sacrifice for a cause bigger than our self-interest. Let's be clear that this age group is interested in spirituality, not religion, and it's easy to see why. To attract my generation, the churches must make every effort to free themselves of patriarchy, racism and homophobia. And amen to that.

But with the focus on "welcoming," when does the sincere effort to be hospitable morph into a naked attempt to ape the culture of the day? If we assume the 30- to 45-year-olds are roaming from church to church trying out the sermon, the Sunday School, the activities, at what point do we as Christians stop saying anything that might offend and focus exclusively on the privileged middle-class?

While it is true the church must do more to reach out to those who hunger for God but are allergic to religion, it is also true that deep spiritual yearning can only be satisfied by a message that actually has something to say to the culture.

I can hear the Christian right nodding their heads and saying "Amen, brother!" But aren't these folks even more guilty of letting the culture distort the Gospel? Conservatives and fundamentalists are more in love with 1950s America than they are with the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

What I long to see within my denomination is outreach to newcomers and the marginalized. Both resonate strongly with the Jesus in the Gospels and the early church of Luke-Acts. In addition, I think we mainliners have more to learn from our Anabaptist sisters/brothers in Christ than the ultra-successful evangelical worship centres in the suburbs.

I can hear my liberal progressive pals tapping their Birkenstocks to that tune. But wait. What Anabaptists do that we mainliners have thus far refused to do, is to be unabashedly focused on Jesus. I believe this allows them to be far more radical and effective as alternative communities than any of our mainline churches. If you want to see Jesus alive and liberating in the world, look no further than the Mennonite Central Committee.

I often hear my colleagues and the churches they serve buying into the idea that what my generation needs is more affirmation, less stress, less talk of sin, guilt, and judgment. But they're wrong. If we want to open someone's heart to his neighbour, we must first remove the idol that prevents that connection from taking place. We must name the addiction that drives us to distraction but can never satisfy: endless self-obsession and materialism.

Instead of asking the congregation to stand up and give themselves a hug (I was a witness to this one vacation Sunday), we should ask them to reach into their wallets and examine their credit card receipts. As it says in Matthew 6:21 "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." And we need more connections to the lives of people on the margins, here in Canada and around the world (Matthew 25).

Our churches can share the positive message that within their walls is a different community, where the homeless and the CEO kneel to receive the Sacraments together, where the mentally challenged and the workaholic hand out bulletins together, where the convicted criminal who has done her time and the president of the United Church Women can count the collection together. It is a church where success is not measured by attendance or how happy we feel when we leave. Instead it is a place where we learn to love our neighbour as God loved us, as we love ourselves.

We must be more welcoming. And we must have something to say.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 16 - Year B

“O, get out of here, kid! You’re getting in the way! People are trying to hear the preacher!” Simon snapped as he kicked young Joseph where the sun isn’t supposed to shine.

Joseph ran and hid behind a row of baskets usually filled with bread, but empty from lunch. His two friends were already waiting for him there.

“What were you doing out there?” Joseph’s friend Maria asked. “You could have gotten in BIG trouble, and taken US with you!”

“Shut up,” said Joseph, looking at his dusty toes.

“What’s that’s guy saying, anyway?” asked Jake, Joseph’s other friend hiding behind the baskets.

“I don’t know, I can’t hear when you’re talking so loudly,” Maria said, craning her neck to see over the baskets without being detected.

“Who cares, anyway? Let’s get outta here and find some food, I’m starving,” said Jake.

“Let’s wait ‘till everyone leaves,” said Joseph, “Then, hopefully, no one will see us.”

Remembering what happened to Benjamin, they decided to stay put. Their eyes grew dark as they summoned up that night when they heard Benjamin scream as his father reached for the knife. They remembered watching Benjamin’s dad dig the grave while his mother looked straight ahead into nothingness. They watched Benjamin’s father’s eyes, vacant of remorse or regret -or even anger – when his son died.

Benjamin got sick. He couldn’t work yet still had that great big mouth to feed. So he had to go. Simple as that.

Joseph, Maria, and Jake watched as Benjamin drew his last, blood bathed breath.

They had told each other this story countless times, not with words, but with their eyes. Benjamin’s death haunted their dreams and their waking eyes, because they knew that - at any moment – it could happen to them.

Each had their own story. Joseph’s dad was killed after the uprising when Caesar’s army murdered 50 men in retribution. Maria’s dad drank wine each night until he passed out, leaving her and her brother to wander the city looking for food. Jake’s dad treated him the way he was treated by his Roman boss: with hard words and an even harder fist.
Their moms weren’t treated any better than they were. Heaven help them if they couldn’t have children.

Survival was their world. Joseph, Jake, and Maria knew each day brought them closer to safety, the magic age of 13 when they were finally adults, finally receiving protection under the law. But before then, anything could happen to them. And it did. Think of Benjamin.

It’s hard to call people evil when it was just the way it was. Nobody taught them any differently. There was only so much food to go around. If you couldn’t work, nobody could take care of you. If you got into trouble they wouldn’t think twice about the harshest punishment.

Maria yelped as the baskets that were keeping them hidden suddenly disappeared. Looking up, Joseph’s eyes bore into preacher’s henchmen’s, whose furrowed brows reminded him of Benjamin’s dad’s. All angry men reminded him of that man because they could all do the same thing.

Jake tried to run. But a hand grabbed his collar and yanked him toward the crowd. He looked up, and there was the preacher standing in front of him. His eyes blazing.

Jake looked at the preacher’s hands. Hard, crackled skin. No blood under his fingernails.

The preacher knelt down, looked deeply into Jake’s red eyes before lifting the boy’s trembling body on to his lap as he sat down on a tree stump.

“Those who welcome this little child, welcomes me,” he said. “And not only that, whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

The disciples gasped. So did everyone else within earshot.

The preacher certainly wasn’t making it easy to be his follower.

First he says that a terrible death waits for anyone who becomes his follower. And he says that this is a GOOD thing!

If that’s not bad enough, he then has the temerity to say that they need to welcome children as they welcome him.

“Give me a break, preacher. That just isn’t practical,” a voice from the back said. “Children are tools.

“Also, they probably won’t live past age five so why would I want to get attached to them?” another blurted from the middle of the crowd.

“When an ox gets lame and can no longer plow the fields, we get rid of it. If a horse breaks its leg, it gets disposed of. If a child gets sick…”

The preacher brushed the hair away from Jake’s forehead, and again, looked deeply into his eyes. And without looking away from Jake, he said, “Whoever wants to be first, must be the servant of all.”

Jake’s eyes grew large. He leapt off of the preacher’s lap and ran away. Joseph and Maria quickly followed behind.

They ran to the outskirts of the city where they knew they were safe.

“What just happened there!?” Joseph asked, in between breaths.

“I dunno,” said Maria. “What do you think, Jake? Jake?”

Jake was quiet. He sat staring at his dusty toes.

“I’ve never heard preaching like that before,” Joseph said. “It’s like I heard them with my soul instead of my ears. I remember being at the synagogue and hearing the rabbi read from the scriptures, and thinking that’s what God must sound like. But today, I don’t think I heard what God sounds like. I think I heard God actually speak.”

“It’s weird, isn’t it?” said Maria, “Usually we get beaten to an inch of our lives when we sneak around and listen to the adults talk. But this guy wanted us to be there. He said that when big folks welcomed us – US – it was like welcoming him.”

“And also, he said that who wanted to be important – or big or great-, had to become like a servant - a slave. That doesn’t make any sense? Aren’t the biggest and brightest people the ones who are supposed to have servants and slaves? How is that supposed to work?”

“Maybe being great and being his follower are very different things, or at least the way we usually think of what it means to be great,” Jake wondered out loud. “When he put me on his lap, he looked at me the way no one else has in my entire life. He looked at me like I was worth something, like I was worth more than the fields that I plow or the fish that I catch. I’ve never been looked at like that before. No one has ever looked so deeply into my eyes. It was like he looked into my heart. And when he did that, everything bad about me seemed to disappear. No more shame. No more dirtiness. No more feelings of worthlessness. When I looked back in to his eyes I felt no fear. Only love.”

A tear ran down Jake’s cheek.

“If someone with a dirty old cloak, scraggly beard, and dusty shoes can make me feel loved and if he can make the world feel like that, than he really is great, despite what anyone else might say or do. And he makes me feel like we all can be just like him. Imagine that, a world where everyone loves each other and serves each other instead of fighting with one another.”

Joseph and Maria smiled at each other and at Jake.

“So, maybe greatness depends on how much we love, rather than how much we have,” said Jake. “Maybe that’s what that preacher was saying.”

As Jake turned around his heart jumped when he saw his dad hunched down with his arms stretched out. Jake stood still for a moment. Then reached for his father’s arms.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Joke

How do you drive a Unitarian family out of town?

Burn a question mark on their lawn.

via SoMA

Friday, September 15, 2006

Stupid Church People

A cool blog I recently encountered has this:

As we reached my house and it was time to say goodbye the most amazing thing happened. The pastor and his wife gave me an invitation that I couldn't refuse.

No... they didn't invite me to come to their church.

No... they didn't invite me to join them for a small group meeting.

No... they didn't invite me to join hands with them and pray for my life.

No... they didn't do anything vaguely resembling what a "good" pastor might do.

No... what they did was extraordinarily human-like.

They invited me (and my kids) to their home to hang out and watch TV with their family.

And guess what? I said I would... and then we shook hands and hugged goodbye.

Simple. Easy. Effective. Relevant.


Stupid Church People

Who's to blame?

Who is to blame for the Montreal shootings?

That’s the question that many people are asking this week.

For me, the answer’s obvious: Kimveer Gill is to blame.

Not “goth culture” not media violence, and not “loose” gun laws. As someone suggested to me this week, do we turn our schools into barricades? Do we ban violent video games? Do we destroy all guns?

Would that have stopped Gill from shooting innocent people?

I doubt it.

But we do like to play the blame game. Am I a “goth”? No. Do I think the video game based on the Columbine shootings is morally reprehensible? Definitely. Do I think tougher gun laws keep guns away from those who are set on acquiring them? No, but neither do I think gun ownership is a basic human right.

I don’t think there should be a political face on this tragedy. When these sorts of events happen we need to pray for all involved: the victims and their families, the shooter’s families, and for those who struggle in the dark, fighting their demons of hate.

First rabbis ordained in Germany since Second World War

Daniel Alter, 47, of Germany; Thomas Cucera, 35, of the Czech Republic; and 38-year-old Malcolm Matitiani of South Africa were officially named rabbis Thursday during a ceremony in Dresden's synagogue, which was rebuilt after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

No rabbis have been ordained in Germany since the Nazis destroyed the College of Jewish Studies in Berlin in 1942, midway through Second World War.

Read it here.

As it has been said by people wiser than me: the best way to counter anti-semitism is for Jews to live as faithful Jews.

This is good news, indeed.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My second blog-o-versary!

Here's what was my first post on this blog. I can't believe its been 2 years. It feels like I've always been doing this!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jesus is better than beer and sex

For those of us ego-maniacs, here's a Flikr for preachers.


Why are young adults not finding their faith in their parents church?

These families share something in common: their young adult kids are not easily finding their places in the church of their parents. The problem is widespread. I have been in two groups of pastors lately where someone asked how many of our post-high-school kids were actively involved in the church. No pastor in either group had a majority of his kids involved in the church; most had no kids actively involved

Read the whole thing here.

Separated at Birth?

Thanks to Confessing Evangelical via Ship of Fools.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Water's Edge

Here's a new blog by a buddy of mine. Check it out. Bookmark it. Do whatever you want to do with it.

Here's an except:

After seeing Al Gore’s Doomsday Scenario I’ve been hording canned beans and bottled water. I’ve been riding my bike and shooting deadly glares at SUV drivers.

Is Kyoto the way to help bring the earth back to normal temperatures? Maybe. But it’s better than doing nothing. Or denying that there is a problem.

(the whole article here)

The Bible

I’ve been reading – actually listening to (I picked up the audiobook) – Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian where he outlines, in story form, our culture’s shift from Modernity to Post-Modernity.

He makes some compelling arguments. But I couldn’t help by think to myself as I listened, “Been there. Done that.”

Much of what McLaren describes as “postmodern” is actually good, orthodox, historic Protestantism.

For example, take the bible. McLaren suggests that Christians have been reading the bible like a textbook (which is true for many), a systematic outlay of good, godly, moral behaviour, and as a formula for finding salvation.

But the historic (aka “mainline”) churches have never read the bible that way. As I was taught in seminary: the bible doesn’t give us information about God. It proclaims God’s activity in the world. Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus, it announces Jesus as saviour. The bible preaches Christ.

I guess I don’t have the same Modernist baggage that many of my evangelical friends have. My brand of Lutheranism has never – for the most part, there are exceptions to every rule – fallen victim to fundamentalism. We’ve never said that the bible is inerrant or infallible. At least not in the way that many evangelicals say it is.

My father-in-law, a New Testament scholar, said that the bible isn’t historically, or factually infallible. But the bible is doctrinally infallible. I still don’t know what that means, especially since there are many differing doctrines within scripture. Which is why we have so many differing denomination, or even factions within churches.

Martin Luther said that the bible is like a “wax nose” that can be twisted in any way a person wants. There’s great wisdom in that. We all have, as, again, Luther puts, it, a “canon within a canon.” Everyone sees some passages as more important than others. Lutheran theology places Paul’s letters, specifically the doctrine of justification, as the key to interpreting scripture.

Mennonites, on the other hand, emphasize the ethical demands of the Sermon on the Mount as the centerpiece of their faith.

For Calvinists, it's Paul’s doctrine of election.

I would contend that NO ONE reads the bible literally. Some passages, yes. But most, they do not. For example, I’ll bet someone a month’s salary that most North American Christians own two coats, despite the CLEAR teaching of scripture.

That’s why it sticks in my craw when some folks condemn others for ignoring biblical teaching, when everyone has passages that they deem more authoritative than others.
I think the bible asks us to open up our imagination to God’s workings in the world. The bible is weird little stories, rugged poetry, moral aphorisms, personal correspondence. It is not for the faint of heart, for it can burn you with its heat.

Do I read the bible literally? No. I take the bible much more seriously than that. I read it not as newspaper accounts, or moral instruction, or even for spiritual enlightenment. I read the bible to find Christ - crucified, risen, and ascended – and in him I find newness of life, today and into eternity.

That’s why I read the bible.

A day to remember

We sent out oldest child off to kindergarten today. It went a lot easier than I expected.

But I think I need to re-stock my Kleenex stash.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Children's Sermon: Pentecost 13 - Year B - "Reggie"

“C’mon Reggie time for dinner! Go wash your hands, please,” shouted his dad over the din of the TV.

“When this show is over!” said Reggie.

“No, now, please,” said his dad.

Reggie sighed then turned off the TV. He pushed his Reggie-sized stool into the bathroom and placed it in front of the sink. He climbed on top of the stool and stretched out his arms to reach the taps.

A few minutes later he was ready to sit at the table.

He sat down next to his brother, Steve.

“Where’s mom?” Reggie asked.

“She should be home soon, she had to pick up some paint on the way home from work,” said his dad.

As if one cue, the door opened and their mom came in carrying three buckets of Banana Cream paint that she was going use on their bedroom.

“Just in time mommy! We’re already at the table to eat!” shouted Reggie.

“Mmmm…smells yummy! I’ll be right there!” his mom shouted back.

After putting down the paint and hanging up her coat, she came to the table and sat down.

“Okay,” she said, “let’s pray.”

“But you didn’t wash your hands, mommy!” shouted Reggie.

“I know, dear. I was in a hurry,” replied his mom.

“But that’s the rule. We have to wash our hands before we pray!”

“I know, but it will take too long, and don’t you want to eat? I’ll wash them after we pray.”

“No, you have to wash them BEFORE we pray,” said Reggie. “That’s the rule.”

“Reggie, I know that’s the rule, but we don’t have rules for the sake of rules. Your dad and I said that hands were to be washed before we pray so we don’t have a lot of running around before dinner.”

Reggie stared at his mom. His eyebrows scrunched.

“Remember in Sunday’s bible reading, where some of the religious leaders were giving Jesus a hard time for not washing his hands?”

“Yeah,” said Reggie. “They were mad because they were supposed to wash before eating, to get all the dirt and junk off their hands.”

“Well, the religious leaders didn’t really care about how clean the disciples were, like I know you were. They only cared that people followed the rules. And when people didn’t do what they thought was right, they got really mad.”

“So we only obey rules when we feel like it?” Steve asked with a twinkle in his eye.

Their mom laughed.

“Not quite,” she said. “It means that rules are there to help us, not to hurt us. But it also means that being a Christian is not a bunch of ‘do’s and don’ts’. Being a Christian is about being loved by God, even when we sometimes break the rules. Now, after we pray, I’ll go wash my hands, okay?”

“Okay,” said Reggie.

Then they said a pray like this as we do now: Dear God, thank you that you love us even when we break the rules. Amen.

Sermon: Pentecost 13 - Year B

“Be doers of the word and not merely hearers…”

Many Lutherans don’t like the letter of James. In fact, Martin Luther once said that the letter of James was made of straw, only good to help light his fire.

Inflammatory language about scripture, don’t you think? Wanting to rip out a whole book from the bible to use for kindling doesn’t quite have the reverence we attach to the reading and study – let alone, the application - of scripture.

As one who has been trained in the Lutheran theological method, I always need to reach for the Tums when I...(the rest here)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Who do you think are the top ten most powerful women in the world throughout history?

Other than my wife, and my two daughters being the runners-up, here are some answers from many Yahoo Readers

1) The Virgin Mary
2) Mother Teresa
4)Jennie Wade
5)Queen Elizabeth
6)Queen Victoria
8)Susan B. Anthony
9)Ann Frank
10)Rosa Parks

and here are a couple extra:
11) Helen Keller
13)Sojourner Truth
14)Harriet Tubman
15)Clara Barton

Who do you think should make the list?

For a bigger list, see here.

Here's a list of Forbes
' most powerful living women.

Michael Coren: "I think we should nuke Iran"

I guess Jesus was only kidding about that peacemaker stuff. C'mon, Jesus that hippie-dippie crap about loving your enemies won't fly in this post-911 world!
It is surely obvious now to anybody with even a basic understanding of history, politics and the nature of fascism that something revolutionary has to be done within months -- if not weeks -- if we are to preserve world peace.

snip. Here's how it ends:
The usual suspects will complain. The post-Christian churches, the Marxists, the fellow travelers and fifth columnists. But then, the same sort of people moaned and condemned in 1938. They were clearly wrong then. They would be just as wrong now.

Call me post-Christian then, if by "Christian" he means shedding some of Christ's most basic teachings, let alone any sense of humanity.

Holy Act of Congress, Batman


Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Question

Does the bible make promises that God doesn’t intend to keep?

That was my question on Monday evening as I read psalm 121 for a group of mourners who were visiting the site where a young man from the congregation was killed while crossing at the crosswalk. It was a psalm designated by our prayer book as appropriate for times of tragedy:

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; the Lord will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Nice message, eh? Comforting. This psalm is supposed to soothe the sorrowing heart, to give hope to those who suffer. But I couldn’t help but wonder why those promises didn’t apply to the young man who perished while walking home with his brother. Is God really our shield? Does God really keep our feet from being moved? Or do these promises apply to some and not to others? I'm not being sarcastic. I really want to know.

When I read this psalm to the crowd, the vibe I was getting back was: this means nothing to us. These are pretty words but they didn’t stop our friend, son, and brother from getting killed.

This is not an isolated case. One children’s gospel song finishes with the words: My God keeps me safe.

“Really?” I thought to myself upon hearing it. Does God really keep children safe? Does God keep Lebanese children from being blown up by Israeli bombs? Does God keep African children safe, the ones whose parents have died of AIDS and are abandoned to a lonely, painful death? Walking through the pediatric ward at the hospital, I wondered how a 5-year-old in the final stages of cancer hears that song.

So what does God promise? And does God always keep biblical promises? Or should we lower our expectations?

That’s my question for today.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who really lost?

Kinsella wrote:

August 16, 2006 - Like most Israelis, I don't think either side "won" the war. So, did anyone lose it?

Let's put it this way: Hezbollah wanted to continue to kill people with impunity. It won't get to do that, now.

Israel wanted to stop Hezbollah from firing hundreds of rockets at its citizens. And, like any nation, it wanted a safer and more secure future.

It got both. Soon, thousands upon thousands of UN soldiers will be stationed between Hezbollah and Israel. If Hezbollah (or Iran, or Syria) re-commences the firing of rockets, it will be attacking the international community, and not just Israel. The military counter-response will therefore come from the international community and Israel. Even Gilles Duceppe will be required to denounce Hezbollah, then.

Since 9/11, the world has become Israel, although a lot of the world doesn't fully know that, yet. The deployment of international soldiers to southern Lebanon will hasten the world's education, I think.

Unlike the wars of old, nobody "wins" the new wars. But I can tell you who lost this particular war - and it wasn't Israel.

I think the real losers in this fight were not the Hezbollah, but rather the hundreds of innocent children and other by-standers who were killed while Israel was defending itself.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 10 - Year B

“Are you a Catholic priest?”

“No, I’m a Lutheran pastor,” I replied.

“Here, I think you need this,” he said, handing me a pamphlet, before quickly walking away.

I looked down and saw the title. “The Gift” and it told the story of a Catholic priest who“journeyed from darkness to light by reading the scriptures." It was Anti-Catholic religious bigotry.

It turned out this guy was worried that I didn’t have the “personal relationship with Jesus” that was required, I didn’t say the sinner’s prayer, I didn’t use the words that he thought I should. He was worried for my eternal destiny. Yet he couldn’t stop to tell me in person.

This was hit-and-run evangelism.

I would have found the experience funny if it weren’t so offensive. He was suggesting that Catholics and Lutherans weren’t Christians and were therefore condemned to eternal hell-fire, he was dismissing of traditional sacramental theology that has be taught in churches for two millennia, and rigorously defended the King James Bible as the only authentic word of God saying that any other translation was from the devil.

What really got my shorts in a bunch was the fact that this guy didn’t really care about me. I found his tactic – giving me a tract and running away – personally insulting. He didn’t know my name. He didn’t know what I believed. He didn’t know anything about me. He didn’t share good news with me. He threw his “good news” in my face then disappeared.

Contrast this with a friend I had in university. A long time ago, when I was in my third year undergrad I lived with a group of guys in a huge house in downtown Waterloo. We jokingly called the place “The Den of Iniquity” because of all the pizza boxes, weeks-old food, and dirty clothes strewn throughout the house. The place hadn’t seen the business end of a vacuum cleaner in years. One night, however, a housemate made the name a reality.

He met a woman in a bar one night and brought her home with him. He took her to his room and fed her rum and marijuana. When she passed out an hour later he sexually assaulted her, and then was going to drop her outside the door, on to the street, without her clothes or purse.

Me and another housemate intervened and…(read the whole thing here)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Harper Out of Context

If this is for real, this sucks. No, this transcends mere sucking. This is appalling. I am a vigorous defender of the marketplace of ideas, but this marketplace can only work when people engage the process with integrity.

Kudos to Stephen Taylor and the Blogging Tories for pointing this out. The only problem I have with this is the gratuitous CBC bashing at the end. Let the piece speak for itself

However, if the CBC has a bias against the Tories, it seems that Sun Media has a bias against anyone left of the conservatives. I’d find the outrage from Conservative supporters much more compelling if they cleaned up their own houses as well.

Thanks to Todd for pointing this out in the comments in the post below.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quote of the Day - Aug 2, 2006

"Most liberal people who are social conscious try to get middle class people to help the poor --and generally rely on great doses of guilt and massive amounts of information to make people realize that something is wrong," she explains. "It sort of works, but not for long. So most social action tends to be rather grim and guilty. What I'm trying to do is say there is a profound link between being grateful and doing justice, and a fundamental conversion of the way you see the world and other people."

Mary Jo Leddy. Read the whole article here.

It's so true it hurts.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gibson and the Jews

“The Jews are the cause of war!” So ranted St. Mel of the Passion.

So it looks like Mel Gibson is a wee bit of an anti-Semite.

Two years ago, the venerable old Christianity Today canonized Gibson as the new face of Christianity, citing his Old Catholic beliefs which informed his Passion of the Christ. So I thought it would be interesting to see what they had to say about Mel’s alcohol inspired anti-Jewish outburst.

Nothing. It wasn’t even on their radar screen.

However, it looks like ABC has decided to NOT to air his - ahem - Holocaust miniseries.

I usually couldn’t give a rat's behind about celebrity lives. But I was amazed by how many Christians saw him as a saviour of the church through the Passion movie (a movie which, btw, I found deeply moving and profoundly devotional, so it’s not as if I’m a knee-jerk liberal bent on destroying anything conservative).

It’s like some Christians are always looking for the new hero, the next big thing. And many of those folks see the world in black and white, good and bad, evil and virtuous. They either praise or condemn. And when someone like Mel falls, they remain silent, not knowing how to respond.

I don’t relish seeing folks get humiliated. I’ve said some pretty dumb stuff after indulging a touch too much of that glorious hop and barley creation. If I were Mel, I wouldn’t just apologize, I’d publicly repent. How about donating $50 000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center (my spell check corrected the word "Wiesenthal." How cool is that?)? Visiting a local synagogue? Meeting with Jewish community leaders?

We all do stupid things and we all hurt each other. We all have our prejudices. That’s why it’s important to pray for folk like Gibson as well as ourselves, that our hearts may be transformed to see the world as God sees it, a world both sinful and beautiful - a world worth dying for.

UPDATE: It took a while, but Christianity Today has a section on their weblog on the "Mel-tdown."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What Super Hero are You?

Your results:
You are Iron Man

Iron Man
The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Inventor. Businessman. Genius.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

UPDATE: It seems I forgot to give credit where it is due. Thanks to Lex Luthor (aka Green Lantern)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Things Are Heating Up

I spent yesterday with a friend and colleague here in Edmonton. Very cool. We visited the university where he serves as chaplain, toured around the city, cruised bookstores, drank coffee and beer, while talking about everything under the sun. I don’t often get days like this.

It’s hot here today, going up to 34C. It’s getting even hotter in our Church. The Eastern Synod in Assembly has passed a resolution allowing for the blessing of committed same-sex unions. The national church council is meeting in September to determine the legality of this move in light of decisions made by our 2005 National Convention.

Some folks are going to meet this decision with profound disappointment – or hostility. Others will embrace it as a welcoming expression toward gays and lesbians.

But I wonder if this is the beginning of the end for our denomination. This decision was a line drawn in the sand for some on both ends of the political and theological spectrum. What might happen, I wonder, that if there is a split, that liberal and moderates within the ELCIC will partner with those of like mind within the Anglican Church, since it is the moderates and liberals who are most enthusiastic about our relationship with our Anglican sisters and brothers.

I don’t know what our more conservative friends will do. Join the Lutheran Church-Canada? The Word Alone Network in the ELCA? Form their own network of churches? I don’t know.

I fear that a split is coming. I can feel it. The gulf between the two camps is too great to be bridged. Maybe a split – or schism- is what needs to happen. Maybe it will be like a pressure value being released.

May God grant us wisdom and mercy to weather this storm faithfully.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Which Action Hero Are You?

via William Wallace, er, I mean Scott.
You scored as Neo, the "One". Neo is the computer hacker-turned-Messiah of the Matrix. He leads a small group of human rebels against the technology that controls them. Neo doubts his ability to lead but doesn't want to disappoint his friends. His goal is for a world where all men know the Truth and are free from the bonds of the Matrix.

Neo, the "One"


Indiana Jones


The Amazing Spider-Man


The Terminator


James Bond, Agent 007


Lara Croft


William Wallace




El Zorro


Batman, the Dark Knight


Captain Jack Sparrow


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com