Sunday, April 30, 2006

Slumming for Jesus

I’m here in St. Louis. My hotel room is more opulent than I’m used to. A single night’s stay costs as much as my bi-weekly mortgage payment. And I'm here six nights.

The plane ride sucked. They showed Access Hollywood on the TV and there was no radio to listen to. Plus they seated me near the back. I guess someone has to sit there, but I would rather it be someone other than me.

I went for a walk to check out the neighbourhood. I must have looked as out of place as Bill Clinton at a Promise Keepers rally because in the course of my 20 minute jaunt, a woman on her front porch stared at me as if I was Paul Bernardo on a day pass, a car full of young men slowed down as they passed and one of them pointed at me, then a car full of women drove by and one of them yelled, “I love to f*ck bald men!” as I rubbed my hairless scalp.

I picked up my training manual, and I wish I’d pumped up my biceps before coming because the box must weigh 50 pounds!

There's a tornado warning for St. Louis and other parts of Missouri, as well as areas of Illinois. The clouds are greyish black.

Right now I’m watching the Colorado-Dallas game. It’s in overtime. But I have to go to dinner soon. From what I remember, the food at these things is fantastic.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Meet me in St. Louis

I’m off to a training conference in St. Louis this weekend. It should be a great time. I’m hoping this program will help bring renewed vigor to our small group ministry.

Things at Good Shepherd are exciting! We hired an AWESOME Director of Youth and Family Ministry. We’re expecting great things from her.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Letting a country grieve

I support Canada's presence in Afghanistan, which is why I don't support this.

Canadians are not children, we don't have to be protected from images of death. If the Prime Minister is not allowing the media to photograph soldiers' caskets for political reasons, then shame on him.

There is most likely going to be more Canadian bodies coming from Aghanistan and the Middle East, so we, who are sending our sons and daughters, are going to need to know the cost, especially when it is so high.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Vatican reconsiders condom ban

From Yahoo! News:

The Roman Catholic Church might ease its longstanding opposition to the use of condoms to prevent AIDS, a senior church official says

In comments published Sunday by la Repubblica, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan said Pope Benedict had asked him to study the issue. Barragan heads up the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.
"This is a very difficult and delicate subject that requires prudence," said Barragan, according to a Reuters report.

Good news, indeed. When church dogma clashes with human pain, people suffer. Yes, abstinence is the surest way of protecting one’s self from HIV/AIDS, but we live in a fallen world where people behave in fallen ways. That’s why the commitment to life must include contraception.

Sermon: Easter 2 - Year B

...Life is too messy with mixed motivations to draw easy distinctions between faith and fear. Death is too unknown to ask that fear be bled dry from its approaching arrival. Maybe faith and fear are two sides of the same coin. Kissing cousins. Or enemies who can’t live without each other.

The women at the tomb were seized with fear and Thomas doubted because they were being confronted with things they couldn’t possibly understand. Are we any different?

(read the whole thing here)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Easter Gift

I received a phone call around 8:00 last Saturday evening. It was a member of the church. F will not last the night. Can you please come?

I put my work clothes on and headed for his place; a bright, comfortable, room in a new assisted living centre. When I go there I always feel like I’m being embraced by warm, loving arms. It’s a peaceful place, even when it’s not, if you know what I mean.

When I arrived at his room, three family members were holding a vigil around his bed. I called out his name, interrupting his laboured breathing, and reminded him who I was, since I had visited him only a couple of times. But it was clear he remembered me. He didn’t say anything. He closed his eyes and continued the arduous task of filling with oxygen what was left of his lungs.

I said some prayers, laid on hands and anointed him with oil. The family and I said the Lord’s Prayer together, and I noticed that F was moving his lips along with ours. His eyes were clenched shut, as if to drain the meaning out of each word. He may have muttered a prayer now and again through his life, but this time he meant every word.

I gave the final blessing and commended him to Almighty God. I took his hand, made the sign of the cross on his palms, and said, “Good-bye, F. Go with God.” He gave my fingers a little squeeze.

He died an hour later. It was Holy Saturday as the day was winding down and people were making preparations for Easter morning. Hams were unthawing, chocolate eggs were being hidden, and alarm clocks were being set so that Christians could meet their risen saviour just as the sun was peeking over the eastern horizon.

But F was already there. He had a head start.

I usually feel a tremendous ache at the death of someone I know and to whom I’ve have been ministering. This time I didn’t. At least not as much. I wonder if it was because he died on the threshold of Easter, as the promises of resurrection surrounded me, or if it’s because I realized that maybe I really do believe. I believe that God is real, God’s promises are true, that God is about life, joy, freedom, forgiveness, and salvation.

F’s death made Easter real for me. It was his parting gift. A gift that will not grow stale or crusty with time. It may fade, like a photograph that’s been hidden, locked away in a trunk upstairs in the attic. But the picture remains, the faces do not change even if the paper yellows with age or even if it isn’t looked at.

At least that’s my hope. Thank you, F. I'll see you later.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Day of Resurrection (Easter) Sermon

What epitaph do you write on an empty tomb? Do you still write letters of condolence? Do you still bring a casserole? This was unfamiliar territory. People didn’t know what to do. What is proper protocol in these circumstances?

After reading Mark’s gospel, everything seems up in the air. Nothing is resolved. Jesus doesn’t even show up. All the women at the tomb find is a young man dressed in white and they trust that he is telling them the truth. It’s like a whole section has been lopped off. A page has been torn out. The story doesn’t feel like it’s finished...(read the rest here)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday Sermon

...despite all appearances, Jesus did not suffer alone. God suffered with him and in him. In Jesus, God was killing the enemy from within. God was killing death. When Jesus closed his eyes and gave up his ghost, this was no defeat. This was no mockery. This was a triumph. This was a victory...(the rest here)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Christ Among the Partisans

An op-ed by Garry Wills in the NY Times (reg req'd). Excellent reading. Lots to think about.

Via Jordon.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Jesus: The Cover-up

Bishop P directed me to CBC's The Current this morning where they discussed a booked that claims the crucifixion was an elaborate hoax. I listened for about 3 minutues before I turned it off and decided to finish my sermon instead.

I've encountered these folks before. John Shelby Spong and Tom Harpur being chief among them. Agenda-driven ideologues offering "masterworks of paranoid pseudohistory." They are to the left, what the nutty, "Intelligent Design" folks are to the right.

But Laura Miller critiques the book better than I ever could.

Thanks, also, to the Green Knight.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pamela Anderson's Breasts

Just checking to see if Kinsella's thesis is correct;)

UPDATE: as off this morning, there has only been one person visiting this blog because of this post's title. The person was looking for "breasts," not neccesarily Pamela Anderson's breasts, just...breasts. Apparently anyone's will do.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

No excuses...

...for poor blogging, except to say that I'm busy, busy, busy. I didn't post last week's sermon because I wasn't very happy with it. It was about suffering, and I felt I dug myself into a theological hole that I couldn't climb out of, at least not with any integrity.

Jesus suffered. So did God when Jesus did. Does that - somehow - make our suffering any easier? Should it? Or am I expecting God to keep promises Jesus never made?

But right now, my two kids are asking to play games on Kid's CBC. Should be a fun diversion.