Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mexico Trip

On Sunday, right after worship, I’m heading to Mexico with a bunch of young people from the church and two other leaders. We’re calling it a “mission” trip but we aren’t “doing mission work” in the traditional, let’s-go-to-a-poorer-country-and-build-a-house sort of way.

We’re heading to Mexico to experience the joys and challenges of the Mexican people, to learn what life is like for them, and to reflect upon the political, sociological, economic, and religious issues that they deal with.

The program is through the Center for Global Education, and the bulk of our time will be spent in Cuernavaca, with stays in Mexico City, and home stays in an aboriginal community in Amatlan.

To prepare, we’ve been meeting as a group semi-regularly to learn a bit of Spanish (Hola), read about Mexico’s social/political/economic/religious climate, learn about various ways to “do” mission, and just to get to know each other and bond as a group. For me, that has been the best part.

We’ve set up a blog to document out trip. Check it out as we will hopefully be updating it fairly regularly.

Should be exciting! Please pray for us!

Monday, June 26, 2006

The weather report said it was going to be 28C outside. So I lathered goopy sunblock all over my body - I hate getting sunburned – to play in our church’s annual street hockey tournament. (“A hockey tournament in June?” you ask. Yes. A street hockey tournament in June).

It turns out I missed a spot while lathering the sunblock goop – my neck.

Now I look like a REAL Albertan ;)

Friday, June 23, 2006

People Suck

Yesterday afternoon, someone pulled out one of our three Nanking Cherry trees. Right out the flower bed half-a-metre from the sidewalk in front of our house, and threw the carcass in the alleyway.

Boy, was my wife pissed.

We’ve had people steal things from our front lawn, pick flowers from our flowerbed, and every so often we find evidence of people trying to break into our garage. Somehow, that’s less infuriating than someone yanking out an innocent tree and chucking it in the alley for us to find.

To add insult to injury, a half-hour after my wife re-planted the tree, someone let their dog crap – a huge turd - right on top of where she planted.

People suck.

Of course, this doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of world affairs, but it’s the little things that annoy. Plus, now I have to live with an irate wife who couldn’t help but take personally this incursion on our property.

UPDATE: I asked our four year old what I should do if I caught the person that made mommy upset.

"Ask them to stop being so mean," she said.

"You don't want me to beat them up? I'd really like to beat them up," I replied.

"NO! Just ask them to stop," she said.

Kids.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I guess its better to be safe than sorry...

Apparently some sisters in Scotland are afraid of being impregnanted by the Holy Spirit and have taken out insurance just in case one of them bears the Messiah's second coming, and they can't financially support little Jesus.
The company, which is based in Braintree, specialises in accident and unemployment insurance.

Mr Burgess said: "The people were concerned about having sufficient funds if they immaculately conceived. It was for caring and bringing up the Christ. "We sometimes get weird requests and this is the weirdest we have had."

via Andrew.

Why does this bother me?

I’m trying to figure out why the controversies surrounding the election of the female Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church USA bothers me so much. After all, it’s happening in a church of which I am not a part. So why should I care?

Is it because I see it as misogyny in religious garments?

Perhaps. But I’ve seen this many times before.

Is it because some self-proclaimed-and-appointed defenders of orthodoxy feel they have carte blanche to behave as unlovingly as they want just as long as they believe the right things?

Yes, but what else is new?

Is it because I see some of the same dynamics in my own church?

I think I’m getting warmer.

Is it because I have two young girls at home and worry that their gifts, skills, and talents will be scorned because they are female, and that they’ll spend their lives fighting battles that make the heart of God break into a million little pieces?

Bingo!

Whoever said that the personal is the political was on to something.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ECUSA has a new bishop

The Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) elected their first ever female Presiding Bishop. The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 52, bishop of Nevada, was elected from a slate of seven nominees, on the fifth ballot June 18. And already, some within the church have decided they don’t want her as their bishop so they’re looking for “alternative episcopal oversight.”

The bishop of the Forth-Worth Diocese in Texas compared her election to the election of a gay bishop in 2003, and the push for same-sex blessings within that denomination. So, according to him, being gay and being female is the same sinful thing.

While I’m loathe to stick my ecclesiastical nose where it doesn’t belong, I blog about this because I wonder if there are folks within my own denomination who would sympathize with this Texan bishop. At a recent clergy meeting, one of my colleagues said, referring to our own episcopal elections, that he couldn’t serve under a woman bishop, and bemoaned the “feminization” of the church.

My wife is an ordained pastor, and there are days when she’s hanging on to the church by her finger nails. She grew up in a church where women couldn’t even vote in church elections. Where women’s only role was to bake goodies, clean altar linen, and crank out good Lutheran boys. She is one of the strongest preachers and gifted leaders I know.

The presence of women within church leadership is going to change the flavour and culture of our churches. That may push us to be more creative in how we proclaim the gospel, which I think is a good thing.

We have many, many strong woman leaders in our churches. We would be poorer for having lost them.

Furthermore, the apostle Paul would like to weigh in:

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28)

UPDATED: for grammar and sentence structure.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 2 - Year B

Some folks probably heard Paul’s message and sniggered at such spiritual naïveté. It sounded good, if not thoroughly whimsical. They expected preachers to say stuff like that. That’s what we get paid to do. But sometimes when our lives rub up against some things that preachers say, the friction is in danger of starting a grassfire in our souls.

No doubt, someone in the back row of the Corinthian church heard Paul’s words not as good news, but as the weirdest...
(read the rest here)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sunshine and Rain

It finally stopped raining. 168 mm of rain fell since Monday here in Lethbridge, and has formed a small pool of unwanted moisture in my basement. But it’s nothing like last year – yet. I’m told that we’re supposed to get more rain next week.

I guess this is good for the farmers, and what’s good for the farmers is usually good for the rest of us. If those who grow our food think that this moisture’s a good thing, then I can live with little puddles finding their way into my basement.

But I’m glad to see the sunshine. The grey dullness has left me without much energy. Sermon writing has been like pulling nose hairs. I’ve been short with people I’m supposed to care for. Last night I threw a hissy-fit because the pizza I was cooking dropped upside down in the oven.

I used the f-word. I punched the wall. And my kids ran for cover.

This is not like me.

Right now I’m heading home to walk in this beautiful sunshine and the burly south Alberta wind. Then I’ll take another shot at cooking that pizza.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Unity

I’m back from our synod convention convention where we elected a new bishop.

The convention started out tense. There weren't the exuberant reunions that we often see when we arrive at these things. Things were tense. Ugly tense. As one pastor put it, “People [were] holding their cards close to their chest.”

It only took three ballots before a winner was announced. No surprises. He was expected to win. But I thought there’d be more deliberations, speeches, and/or questions from and for the top candidates.

I’m pleased with our new bishop. He’ll do an excellent job. He’s smart, compassionate, and moderate. He knows the workings of the church, and has a keen sense of the gospel.

I was nominated for a position on synod council, the governing board of our synod. I was surprised by how disappointed I was that I lost. The pastor who was elected will do a fine job on the council, but I guess I had more invested in the outcome than I expected.

But, of course, the best parts of these things is after the convention work is done, and we slip to the pub or to someone’s room for a libation or two (or three), and to solve the problems of the church and the world.

I have a love/hate relationship with church conventions. I love them because this is the only time the whole church family gathers and makes important decisions. I hate them because too often the decision making process can be fraught with acrimony.

Our church family is incredibly diverse. Almost painfully so. While many say that there is strength in diversity, too often our differences cause more pain than bring strength. I fear for our future unity.

Some hardline members of the church’s right wing suggest openly that their fellow clergy have lost their salvation and are destined for the fires of hell. Some on the far left of the church, who so often preach compassion and mercy toward neighbour and enemy, speak uncompassionately and unmercifully toward those who disagree with their support of the blessing of same-sex unions.

Maybe what I’m saying is that we are human. The only difference between us and the rest of the world is that Jesus has called us to be lights for the world. Jesus has called us to be united in faith and purpose. This unity is not to be taken lightly or dismissed as a frill, something that would be nice.

But I believe that Christian unity is more important than church doctrine. In fact, unity should be among our core doctrines. Jesus called us into community, not just with those with whom we agree. But with everyone he calls his disciples. I can imagine what Simon the Zealot had to say to Matthew the Tax Collector, the revolutionary and the collaborator.

But maybe that’s the witness that Jesus wants us to offer to the world, a world where division defines people, where people know more about what they’re against rather than what they’re for, where differences are met with hostility, the church can stand and say, “Even though we will disagree about same-sex blessings, even if we can’t figure out just how we are going to interpret the bible, even though we drive each other crazy and and the poison of our anger flows through to our bones, we will still be one church, because baptism trumps everything the world throws at us.

NB: UPDATED for grammar and spelling. Look for more similar updates.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Confirmation

We had the most memorable confirmation service ever, this past weekend. One of the confirmands, who doesn’t like being in the spotlight, was reading her faith statement paper, a requirement for all our confirmands, and started breathing in quick, short breaths. Two sentences away from finishing, she turned around and vomited on the floor behind the pulpit.

I share this, not to embarrass the courageous young woman who decided she was going to read her paper rather than give in to fear, but because she had the best faith statement paper I’ve ever heard. And I’ve read a lot of really good faith statement papers.

Every year I dread this part of confirmation. I don’t know why, because every year I’m absolutely blown away but the depth of thought of these little 500 word treatises.

It makes me realize, “My goodness, these kids ARE listening. I better watch what I say.”

Most of these kids, when they start the two year process, can barely distinguish between the Old Testament and the New. Many of them have a “works” theology, meaning that they believe they need to “go to church and be a good person” in order to get to heaven.

That’s when I give them the one and only exam question (and the answer) they ever get from me.

Question: What do you have to do to get God to love and accept you?
Answer: Nothing. You don’t have to do a thing. God has already taken care of that in Jesus.

And after two years of classes, service projects, worship notes, faith mentoring, etc, they approach the altar, and say with confidence and conviction, “I believe in God the Father Almighty…”

When they were babies, their parents made promises for them. Now, they get to answer those same questions for themselves.

Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:
to live among God’s faithful people,
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?


And they answer boldly, yet humbly: I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.

And not only that, they know what this means in every aspect of their lives. They know that relationships require forgiveness and wounded classmates need healing. They know that parents and siblings need patience and strength. They know that their lives matter; they matter to God, to their church, and to the world.

So whether they vomit on the floor, mumble so no one understand them, or trip over their words, I hope they feel safe with the embrace of the church around them, and the hands of a loving God underneath them. Because the world needs what they have: strength, faith, and commitment.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Da Vinci Racial Code

Postmodern Negro writes:

I saw the DaVinci Code last night. Intriguing story. I now see why so many Christians are upset about the movie. It does challenge basic beliefs of particular Christian traditions (e.g. Divinity of Christ). Throughout the months I have heard numerous critiques and reviews of the movie or at least the ideas being presented in the movie. However, what I am struck by is the relative silence regarding the religious aesthetic and particular racial inference of Jesus and his descendants in the movie. One of the main issues I have with those who take issue with this particular movie is the silence on the racial dynamics and aesthetics of the movie. As it turns out Jesus' descendants are white Europeans. No surprise there! Racial Constantinianism is a mutha!

Read the whole thing here.

Again, via Greg.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hey, good lookin'



This is me preaching at the installation of our Director of Youth and Family Ministry. Just in case you were wondering what I look like. Ignore the shine off the top of my head.

Thanks to Rob for the pic.