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

Hezbollah, Hamas, and Harper

I’ m at an Internet cafĂ© in Edmonton checking my email. 168 unread messages. Not bad for vacation email

I’m reading about Stephen Harper’s super-duper pro-Israel stance against Hezbollah and Hamas with growing alarm. Harper’s suggestion that Israel’s response is “measured” is appalling.

Before I go any further, let me say that I’m not an anti-Israel leftie. I believe that Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorists. What they are doing in Lebanon is not mere defense against Muslim extremists, but an attack on anyone who happens to be underneath Israeli bombs. They can't keep dropping bombs willy-nilly and continue to expect western support. Israel is a super-power in the area and need to behave as such.

Someday, both sides will have to learn what peace looks like. For everyone’s sake.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

On Vacation

I know, I know. Ten days in Mexico then two weeks of vacation. It's a hard life but someone's gotta live it. I don't know if I'll get much blogging done while I'm away. But check back often just in case...

Home from Mexico

I didn’t have culture shock when I arrived home like I was told I might. At least not in any big way. I hesitated before brushing my teeth with tap water, and bristled when my wife put ice cubes in my drinking water. But other than that, I think I was too tired to be uncomfortable with being back in Alberta.

But I did find the cleanliness and orderliness of Lethbridge both comforting and jarring. Mexican life, especially in the cities, seemed to be controlled chaos. Life is lived louder in Mexico. Buildings are bigger and more ornate. Cars are noisier and move at terrifying speeds. Street vendors, bustling farmers and artisan markets, even break dancers and political rallies, gave a cultural dynamic that is sorely missing in our part of Canada.

People take their faith very seriously. People worship regularly. Devotion runs deep. Prayer is everywhere.

Lethbridge, by comparison, seems, well, boring. But maybe a good kind of boring. What makes Mexico exciting is perhaps what makes Canada boring.

We don’t have the terrible economic disparities that Mexico has, at least in terms of numbers.

We can drink our tap water.

Our taxes aren’t being siphoned off to politicians’ bank accounts. Or at least not at the alarming rate as in Mexico, where such activity is dismissed as business as usual.

But I wonder if hardship brings faith, and faith brings hope. I know in my own life, I feel closest to God when my personal life is falling apart. When things are going well, my sinful, human arrogance takes over and God seems like a distant hassle.

But when I’m at my lowest, God seems to join me in the pit. Maybe it’s like that at a grander scale with entire peoples suffer hardship and despair, that their life together is infused with God’s unexpected grace, and faith and hope become more real than the water they drink.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Off to Mexico City...soon!

We're off to Mexico City after lunch, so this might be the last post.

This morning we did a final reflection and wrap-up. I was delighted by how deeply our young people were affected by this Mexico experience and how they were passionate about bringing their new found knowledge and experience to their lives in Alberta.

The staff here was wonderful in helping us integrate and process what happened over the past week and a half.

This has been a very valuable trip. One that should be repeated for our young people as they try to engage the world's suffering, joys, and challenges with their tremendous faithfulness.

We closed with Holy Communion using a tortilla and local wine. Many folks here associate the tortilla, the basis of the Mexican diet, with daily eucharist. We talked together about how God is asking us to be a healing, compassionate, community. The bible reading was about how the disciples healed people and shared good news with them, walking two-by-two carrying nothing but a walking stick and the power of God. I read a passage from a book about the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the type of temple or home she wants Juan Diego and the bishop to build:

The Mother of God wants a home where all will be welcomed, where all who come receive her recognition, love, and affection. Here, everyone will be heard; all will be free to speak in their own way. Her very eyes show that she recognizes the presence of the one who comes to her. Her very gaze lets those who are looking at her know she is ready and willing to listen to them. She is not cold, distant, and haughty, but tender, close, and friendly. She does not want her children threatened, she wants them protected. She does not want them humbled and dehumanized; she wants them self-confident and joyful.

Her house is to become what every church should be: a center of recognition, listening, love, compassion, healing, and protection. This will not be a center of rules and regulations, but of flowers and songs. It will not be a sad church, but a festive one wherein the joy of God will uplift the downtrodden of the earth. The humanizing and liberating beauty of the divine experience will draw people into it freely and joyfully. Here everyone will be someone special, experiencing their inner dignity, infinite worth, and personal mission of building the temple of the new and truly egalitarian society. This is what every church should be. So her temple is to be a model of what every Christian temple should be, a model, that few, even today, emulate.

This passage encapsulates what we learned and who we feel God is asking us to be. may God give us strength and mercy to live as people of compassion, joy, and healing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Our Last Night in Cuernavaca

Today was pretty low-key. We spent a big part of the day at a water park, which was originally farmland , and the folks who owned it turned it into a co-operative business. The sun was hot, the water was cold, the perfect combination.

Later, we went to a bible study at a Base Christian Community, a small group of eight people who have been meeting together for 15 years. We looked at the passages from last Sunday´s bible readings and reflected upon what it means to be a ¨prophet¨ in today’s world. One fellow read from martyred El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero where he said that ¨the people had been a prophet¨ to him. A fascinating concept endowed with great humility.

This evening a group of us went back to the artisan’s market in downtown Cuernavaca. I bought the obligatory t´shirt.

Tomorrow we head back to Mexico City where we are staying at the Hotel Canada, very close to the zocalo. Apparently there is a protest being organized by supporters of AMLO, the possibly defeated presidential candidate. On Monday 250 000 people packed the zocalo and we hear it was pretty tense. Who knows what tomorrow will be like. We´´ll see. It should be interesting!

Back In Cuernavaca

(From the Mexico Trip Blog)

By far, the home stays were the highlight of the trip. I was deeply moved by the peoples´ experience, their culture, their rituals, and their customs.

Sunday morning we took a trip through the woods to visit a site sacred to indigenous people, and then he led us through an ancient religious ritual. It was a profoundly affecting experience. I was struck by how similar the indigenous spirituality and many rituals are to traditional Christianity. Which made the story of the conquest that much more tragic as the missionaries destroyed many temples and denounced their faith as pagan.

Life, death, resurrection, even the cross was present prior to the Spanish arriving. Rod and I were reflecting upon how different Mexican history might have been if the Spanish missionaries were able to use existing indigenous images, rather than destroying ancient beliefs.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

We Arrived in Mexico!

We finally arrived Monday afternoon after an unscheduled overnight stay in L.A. There was a problem with the plane in Seattle, which meant that we missed our connection in Los Angeles. It was all part of our adventure.

We stayed in Mexico City Monday and Tuesday nights with a group of nuns calling themselves The Guadalupe Missionaries of Christ the King, Order of St. Benedict. Quite a mouthful! But they we very kind and generous. Plus, the food was fantastic! Traditional Mexican fare.

We visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe a couple times, as well as the Museum of Anthropology. Fascinating stuff. The basilica is quite an experience. On thing that struck me most was the deep faith of many of the people.

The sisters shared the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, then we went back to the Basilica with fresh eyes. Then, Lisanne from the centre took us through and exercise on the power we have and the power we don’t here in Mexico. A powerful exercise.

Today we went to the palace downtown to see the murals and the localo. There was a protest by the supporters of Lopez Obrador, who belaieve Sunday’s election was a fraud. For those who haven’t heard, a winner hasn’t yet been declared. There’s less than one half of one percent between the two presidential contenders. An electoral mess.

We arrived in Cuernavaca just before dinner. We had our orientation, and then we just hung out in the sultry night air.

The sisters asked Sarah Speakman to read this poem during this morning’s worship. We all thought we’d like to share it with folks at home.


To always maintain ears
To hear the cry of pain of others
And their request for help
Is solidarity…

To always maintain an alter gaze
And eyes spread out over the sea
Looking for some shipwrecked person in danger…
is solidarity.

To be the voice of the humble,
To discover injustice and evil,
To denounce the unjust and the evil doer…
is solidarity.

To let yourself be carried away
By a message full of hope, love, and peace,
Including shaking a brother’s [or sister’s] hand…
is solidarity.

To become yourself the messenger
of a sincere and fraternal embrace that one people sends to another…is solidarity.

To share the dangers in the struggle
to live in justice and liberty,
risking in love and even your life…
is solidarity.

To be devoted to love
is the greatest proof of friendship;

Leonidas Proano, retired bishop of Riobamba, Ecuador, died at 78 on Aug. 31, 1988.

We’ll be posting regularly now that we have internet access.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Off to Mexico...!

We're heading out in less than an hour. I don't know how much I'll be able to blog while I'm down there, but be sure to check back often.

Also, check out our church's Mexico trip blog! Bookmark it and pop in occassionally to see how we're doing!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 4 - Year B

...I think I know why Jesus was like a man on a mission when he heard a little girl from the local synagogue was sick and dying at home. And why he dropped everything and ran to find her.

Along the way, a woman who’d been bleeding for 12 years – 12 years! – grabs his cloak, hoping, believing, praying, that she could be healed without any attention being drawn to her. After all, if anyone knew her condition, she could get in a lot of trouble. She wasn’t supposed to be in public, let alone touch any one. The bible was crystal clear. Women with her condition were “unclean.” Those she touched were then “unclean.” And if she was caught making others unclean, there would be consequences. Terrible consequences. The book of Leviticus was unambiguous.

So, she reached through the crowd and touched his cloak. Good News: she’s healed. Bad news: Jesus stopped cold. She knew that he knew that she touched him. Now, she was in big, BIG trouble.

“WHO. TOUCHED. ME!?” Jesus roars.

Silence. All eyes descended on this newly healed, terrified woman, cowering at Jesus’ feet.

She hoped that her death would be quick and painless. But they would probably bury her to the waist, and then throw rocks at her until she was dead. Her fear gripped her so hard she could barely breathe.

Here was a great teacher who knew the bible inside and out, so he knew that she broke God’s law.

But instead...
(the whole thing here)

The True North Strong and Free

In a recent article in Consensus Journal, Canadian theologian Stephen Farris suggested that the reason why Canadians are obsessed with our national identity is because we have no grand, historical narrative.

We have historical moments (War of 1812, 1837 Rebellion, the CPR, Confederation, Repatriation of the Constitution) but no story, personalities (MacDonald, Laurier, Mackenzie King, Trudeau) but no heroes.

In contrast, our American friends have stories of the Mayflower, the revolution, the civil war, and civil rights. They have political heroes: Washington, Lincoln, FDR, JFK.

Theirs’ is a success story, a triumph of good over evil. Ours is a history of slow, methodical development. Our revolutions are “Quiet.” Our successes muted.

Just compare national mottoes:

Americans: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Canadians: Peace, Order, and Good Government.

Doesn’t exactly stir the blood, does it?

It’s easy to identify ourselves as how “not-American” we are (or in the last century, how “not-British”), but what do we have that binds us together as a country? A unifying force that says “This is Canada”?

Is it universal health care? Parliamentary Democracy? Hockey Night in Canada? The fist-fights between the federal government and the provinces. The fact that our cereal boxes have English AND French on them? Peacekeeping? Western alienation v eastern arrogance? Our fixation on national identity?

Is it all of this? Is there more? Do these parts make up something greater than their sum?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Personally, I’m glad that we have no overblown personalities, people who’s presence fill the country. We have no cult of personality. That saves us from believing our own mythologies. Our national narrative is more complex than the battle between good and evil.

Yet, still there’s more to who we are. Something as yet undefined.

Maybe it means that we are still a young country and have a lot of growing to do.

But today, I’ll celebrate living in this marvelous country – the “true north strong and free,” – by eating hotdogs in the park, watching fireworks, and saying a prayer for our Canadian soldiers, giving thanks for their sacrifices and asking for their protection. Then offering a prayer for peace and reconciliation among bitter enemies everywhere, so that our world may live.

Maybe they – our Canadian forces - are what Canada is all about.

Happy Birthday, Canada.

Purpose Driven Country

Here's a column by my friend Kevin (the "other pastor Kevin") at Eastminster United Church in Toronto.

“I just don’t get you”, she told me. Her eyes were narrowed into a look of annoyance and confusion. And she was right. It is a look I am getting used to. At one time I could easily be understood, here was a man who wanted to be liked by everyone, all the time. But more recently I am being transformed into something else. Something other.

I’ve tried to explain this in sermons but the words elude me. There is a difference between inspiration and transformation. The former is great, it moves us to do and be more. But there is no change. We remain as we are, just more so. Transformation is a gateway to something new, a new way of looking at the world.

And I sense I am not alone in this hunger for transformation. While most others I know are not consumed by popularity, it is obvious our affluent country is focused on the drug of consumption. Why the obsession with SUV’s, flat-screen TV’s, spas, Home Depot renovations? Because someone told us that is what we are, what we must have. The Bible says, “for where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” I think William Willimon got it right when he said our culture suffers from “affluenza”.

And yet the more we have the less satisfied we are. Upon climbing the mountain of our possessions we then become obsessed with protecting what we’ve got.

The transformation I feel occurring within me has everything to do with a search for a purpose driven life. And I am not alone, witness the astounding success of Rick Warren’s books by the same name. No, whether it is relationships, work, or recreation, I find myself looking for the end game, the purpose behind these experiences. What is it all about, why are we spending time doing this?

When I ask this question, why are we doing this, I usually get “because it is expected of us” or “because it will feel great” or “because I care about him/her” or “it will lead to something even better for me down the road.” Rarely do I hear the existential reply “because it advances the Kingdom (Reign) of God”. No wonder people don’t get me.

When I was growing up in Halifax the military was everywhere. In an economically depressed area they were a dependable source of employment for thousands of able-bodied women and men. But when governments of all stripes were forced to make priorities the military were an easy place to cut. And because we lived next to a superpower there hardly seemed the need to spend a lot of money on military hardware, the Americans would do that for us!

But something began to change. The “peacekeeping” work performed by Canadian women and men in uniform began to transform the military from a job-creation institution into a peace-making institution. I began to sit up and take notice. And then I read Romeo Dallaire’s book “Shake Hands with the Devil.” Not only were our Armed Forces keeping the peace now we were creating peace by chasing down the aggressors in documented cases of genocide and protecting the victims. The search for meaning had drawn me into a new and surprising place!

I began this column by disclosing that some don’t get me, that I was transformed from popularity junkie to purpose-driven existentialist. It has affected the way I carry out my ordered ministry. No longer will I assume the yoke of Christ to serve a social club or be addicted to warm fuzzies from an adoring congregation. The ministry itself has to be about something bigger than me or them or us, it has to lead to a new vision, one where we assume our rightful place as sisters and brothers of those we hardly know, like the people of Sudan.

All of this has led me to consider a vocation I never ever imagined. The military. After repeated requests by recruiters to consider becoming a Reserve Chaplain in the Canadian Forces I have signed on the dotted line. I will be a Padre.

Starting in September I will be pastor by day and reservist by night. I would even consider being deployed to a political hotspot like Afghanistan, Haiti or the Sudan if I could convince my congregation and family to let me go. In each case the Canadian Forces would be present by invitation, by the intention of enforcing a difficult peace, to protect the victims of genocide. And in each case more than enough purpose to satisfy my hunger for a meaningful life.

On this Canada Day as we reflect on what makes us unique as a nation I ask you to consider what larger purpose we serve. Who are we and why do we exist? And more personally, who are you and what purpose do you serve? As a follower of Jesus, who taught us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves I look for signs of meaning in my relationship to the other, particularly the other as refugee, the mentally ill, those in poverty, the same people Jesus named as his neighbour.

And for this reason and this reason alone the Canadian Forces “get me”, in more ways than one.