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.