If 2006 was a year of preparation, 2007 will be a year of action. Good Shepherd saw many changes 2006. We bought new chairs to make our worship less uncomfortably carcinogenic, we’ve launched the ChristCare Series small group ministry, and most importantly, we’ve welcomed the Moores into our church family as Cathy accepted the position as our Director of Youth and Family Ministry.
So, positive changes are happening all around us. Good Shepherd is a forward looking congregation for the future that places love for God and neighbour at the heart of its faith life. Creative Fingers, the Bridge Club, the youth activities and every other Good Shepherd ministry is built around this fundamental truth: that we can’t be effective followers of Jesus without each other.
So, if there is one word to encapsulate my ministry priorities for 2007 it is this: relationships. I believe that God is asking us to building stronger, deeper relationships with each other, with the community, and with God...(read the whole thing here)
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Turns out the hotel we’re staying in has free high-speed internet. So I’m able to blog.
Last night’s event was excellent. Better than I expected. Sometimes these big conferences are filled to overflowing with Christian triumphalism (one of the tag line of this event was: “Come as a group, leave as a force” – yuck). But last night’s presenters were humble and real. Not the flashy, showy, sort of thing one expects from “celebrity Christians.”
Today I’m going to three sessions by Bill Easum who’s speaking on Leadership. I’ve got a few books of his on my shelf so I’m looking forward to what he has to say.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Be good while I'm gone.
Here's a snippet from this week's sermon that I won't be preaching (someone else has generously offered to step in and read it for me):
...you might have thought that Jesus would have used a different strategy. I guess he was sick the day in seminary where they taught would-be preachers how to outline an argument. He forgot that you need to save your more inflammatory rhetoric after telling a joke, softening up the listeners with a heartwarming story or inspiring poem.
Not with Jesus. First day in the pulpit, first sermon, he jabs them right between the eyes with Isaiah followed by a right hook from First Kings. And the congregation goes down for the count.
When they get back up on their feet, they try to throw him off a cliff. And with that, Luke says that Jesus “went on his way.”
I guess his work was done. If his job was to leave a group of unsuspecting church folks frothing at the mouth, then, I say, “Mission Accomplished!”
But if the crowd was so angry, who could blame them? Listen to what he said, and you may remember this from last week when we heard the first part of this story:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Fine. Good. Great, even.
from the bible is what we expect preachers to do. It was wonderful to see little Jesus, Joseph and Mary’s boy take his faith seriously. They remembered him when he delivered papers, letting him off the hook when their morning news arrived after their coffee had perked. Reading
They had heard that he was making a name for himself in the city, playing the small venues, building an audience. So, they were all smiles when he walked to the front of the sanctuary and started reading the bible.
But then he sat down in the preacher’s chair. That’s when the trouble began.
It was quiet. When he was sure that he had everyone’s attention, Jesus pronounced...(the whole thing here)
Thursday, January 25, 2007
The first rule of innovation is to give people permission to fail. God knows we need a group of out on the edge, entrepreneurial church leaders who are prepared to have a go. Of course they will make mistakes; of course they will create some ideas which won’t work; little they do will be perfect. But let’s get behind them rather than greet them and their outrageous plans with an unhealthy cynicism.
More helpful ministry advice from a C of E Bishop.
I coined the phrase, ’spiritual well-being in good order’ - about the theme of the Clergy Conference. One of my correspondents inconveniently but reasonably wants to know what I meant. I think that what we were exploring was not just the disciplines of the interior devotional life - although that is foundational. Where we were heading was towards exploration of the nature of ministry and the personal and spiritual demands which it makes - that for the most part we don’t have professional skills or cut-outs to work with - rather it’s ‘nothing in my hand I bring …’ How do we deal with our fear? How do we deal with other people’s anger - and our own? How do we connect at the deepest level with people but, at the same time, maintain the space which makes ministry possible? The answer to all of those question is, for me, inextricably linked to our spiritual and emotional well-being.
Very helpful perspective from an Anglican Bishop.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Today, I’m supposed to preach about Christian unity. To be honest, I haven’t a clue where to begin. I haven’t had a whole of confidence over the whole Christian unity thing over the last little while. To me, it too often seems to be one sided. Only voice speaks, only one interpretation of the gospel is expressed. It seemed that there was only one way to “do” Christian Unity.
But it wasn’t always that way.
When I was in
and was Conference Dean, I was invited to go to all sorts of inter-church, inter-faith, and ecumenical gatherings as the token Lutheran. Some gatherings were wonderful. I had the opportunity to connect with some brilliant, compassionate, and wise church leaders, folks who shepherded me as I took on a greater leadership role within my faith community. Halifax
Other gatherings were not so great. From one group of church leaders, I was made fun of for believing certain core doctrines, or scorned for not having the same pastoral priorities as them. And the message was clear: if I wanted to partner with them, if we to do common mission activities, then I and my denomination had better shape up.
Maybe the...(whole thing here)
Friday, January 19, 2007
Had another funeral today. There are some funerals that are tragic beyond measure, other times you can’t tell if we should grieve the loss or celebrate the life. Today’s was one of those. M was one of our many 90-something-year-0lds who eyes still flicker with wisdom and strength, even while their bodies are starting to shut down.
One thing you could say about M is that she was a survivor. I don’t know how many times she wrestled death to ground and won. Since I’ve been here in
I think she gripped on to life with both hands because she worked so hard for everything she had and wasn’t going to let it be taken away from her.
She died the way we all hope to. She went to sleep and didn’t wake up the next morning. So, maybe it wasn’t death sneaking up, taking her while she wasn’t looking. Maybe her death was God’s final gift to her, after having to work so hard for everything she had. God let her just slip away. Gently. She closed her eyes in death and opened them again in the presence of God, where there is no more pain, no more tears, and no more sorrow.
Maybe that’s the message that God has for each of us, that faith is a gift. That God wants to be a sanctuary for us, a resting place for life’s long journey. That our calloused hands and muddy boots may make us strong, God’s gentle hand of salvation reaches out to us, and guides us home.
That is certainly true for M. May it be true for us as well.
In Praise of Theology
Growing up we spent our summers with the Isaac family and Phil Isaac, or Uncle Phil as my sister and I called him, spent hours teaching us to appreciate the natural realm. He would teach us how to identify plants, and interpret tracks. He taught us how to recognize developing weather patterns and how to make clam chowder from the clams we discovered at our favourite beach. When a spring storm pealed back a layer of limestone rock Uncle Phil identified the various fossils in the rock and told us that we were the first eyes to see these creatures as they had no eyes. For a kid who had grown up on stories of people living off the land Uncle Phil was the perfect adult. He was also the Associate Dean of Science at the University of Manitoba and a plant physiologist. When I went to university I wanted to be like him, combining the academic study of nature with the naturalist’s love of the outdoors.
Then I discovered theology. In my first year at the University of Winnipeg I took Introduction to the Bible with Carl Ridd. I still remember the paper I wrote on the Abrahamic covenant for Carl’s class. It was due at the beginning of December and I handed it in at the beginning of March. For months I had been immersed in a hundred years of interpretation of the book of Genesis. I had learned about source criticism and textual manuscripts and Biblical archaeology. It was fascinating to follow debates about how to interpret a particular verse and to see them in the bigger context of debates over how to approach Genesis. Needless to say, my science courses suffered and the following year I returned to university as a religious studies major.
In my second year I took “Western Thought in the Making: Christian Bases” from Ken Hamilton. My first paper was on...(read the whole thing here)
After finishing the book I kept asking myself the age old questions: at what point do we incarnate Christianity's host culture, and at what point do we challenge it to retain Christian distinctiveness?
My book review is here.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
I know some folks don’t like this story because they’re suspicious of the miracle part of Jesus’ ministry. They say it’s a fanciful diversion from the weightier issues of justice and compassion. Plus, they can’t wrap their scientific heads around things that can’t be explained rationally.
Others don’t like this story because they’re so cautious and restrained. If Jesus can change water into wine, what else can Jesus do? If Jesus is still doing what the bible says he did, then what does that mean for my comfortable, cautious existence? Might Jesus ask us to look more broadly at what God wants us to do as a church family?
I don’t know about you, but that’s what scares me about this passage. What scares me is that God thinks I can do more than I think I can do. God thinks I’m more gifted that I believe I really am. God thinks that we, as God’s people, can be more faithful, compassionate, and loving, that we believe is possible. God thinks we are limited only by God’s power...(read the whole thing here)
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling really hopeful about the New Year. In December I was felt weighed down by something, but am not entirely sure what it was. One member of the church suggested it was grief. After all, last year at that time I had three funerals. Two of which were of well-loved members. Those things take a toll.
But when I woke up on January 1, the heaviness was gone. I started planning for this coming year and began to feel optimistic about my life, the church, the world – everything.
I’m not sure if it’s wishful thinking, or a sharpened realization of what God is doing in the world, but I feel like 2007 is going to be a watershed year in my life.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
Most CCM makes me gag. Part of it is because I’m a music snob. I prefer Haydn to Hillsong. Rachmaninov to Matt Redman.
Also, Kimball hits on something here:
…all the different Christian pop songs seem to basically have the same lyrics over and over and over again. Mostly about Jesus dying on the cross. I fully and absolutely believe the substitutionary atonement is at the heart of the gospel. But the Bible is filled with so many things, not just all verses on the atonement. I wish there were more lyrics in songs that sang about other things about Jesus and the Kingdom and following Him.
While I DON’T believe that the substitutionary atonement is the heart of the gospel (substitutionary atonement is just ONE way of talking about how Jesus’ death and resurrection gives us salvation, but that’s a whole other shrimp to boil). Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God arriving among them, not his own death and resurrection as good news. That was Paul.
Also, like Kimball, I find the lyrics waaaaayyy too shallow. I know some folks are going to jump on the “some people need a simple message to understand the gospel” truck. But there’s a difference between being simple and simplistic. These love songs to Jesus leave out the cost of following him.
Where I find God in music, it’s usually in folks like Arvo Part, Canadian composer Christos Hatzis, and many other little known composers who work their fingers to the bone to create an experience of their faith that honours the depth of our tradition.
That’s just where I am.
UPDATE: The Wittenburg Door makes my point for me:
For many years, one of the most popular party games in the U.S. has been Mad Libs, a fast-paced exercise where participants must insert common words into a series of pre-set phrases. Have you ever wished there was a Christian version of Mad Libs for your next religious get together? Now there is! Here's a sample:
How many songs can you write?
O (Title) of my (Noun)
(Title), when I (Verb) your (Noun)
Something in my (Body Part) just (Verb)
And I can't (Verb) anymore
When I'm in the (Noun)
I know your (Body Part/Noun) (Verb) me
And I know I'm gonna (Blank) (Title) (Period of Time)
(Title), You're so (Adjective)
(Title), You're so (Adjective)
(Title), You're more (Adjective) than anything I've ever (Verb) before
And I'm gonna (Verb) You (Period of Time)
I'm gonna (Verb) You (Period of Time)
Because you're (Adjective), you're so (Adjective)
I wish I had the words to say
That I'm (Reaction) by Your (Divine Attribute)
I'm (Reaction) by Your (Divine Attribute)
I can't (Verb) that You would (Verb) for (Title)
And even if the (Noun) can't (Verb)
And I can't (Verb) Your (Body Part)
I'll still (Verb) You with all my (Body Part/Noun) for (Period of Time)
(Verb) with all my (Body Part/Noun) for (Period of Time)....
see, hear, feel, touch, taste, realize, acknowledge, praise, comfort, run, hold, forgive, live, accept, die, shout, sing, dance, tell, bleed, cry, call, stand, believe, trust, say, take, abandon, forsake, wash, live, dwell, find, rejoice, proclaim, walk, clothe, smile, tremble
hands, feet, face, eyes, heart, spirit, lips, ears, wounds, tongue
wind, nails, cross, hill, mountain, valley, stream, sea, river, lightning, tree, stone, grass, bird, field, child, shelter, throne, angels, world, storm, thunder, tears, temple, sake, might, power, above, deaf, dumb, shadow, presence, sins, grief
I, You, Your, His, Lord, God, we, Savior, Redeemer, Messiah, Lamb, Lion, King, Shepherd, Keeper, Alpha, Omega, Beginning, End
Period of Time
always, now, forever, tonight, tomorrow, yesterday, never, thousand
amazing, wonderful, bigger, mighty, righteous, holy, clean, powerful, loving, merciful, full of grace, kind, caring, good, worthy, just, incredible, small, weak, alone, tired, angry, peaceful
Saturday, January 06, 2007
O God of all creation, we thank you for this night. The stars call to the northern lights, and the winter moon whispers to the snow-filled clouds. All the world is hushed awaiting the birth of peace and joy and salvation. As the great white bear traverses arctic expanses, cross the interstellar reaches to touch all that lives; as the blue jay calls from frost covered branch, call out your message of liberation and of deep community; as the beluga spouts warm breath into the perishing cold of winter night, breathe your Spirit into this place and these hearts, that Christ might be glorified in our worship and in our lives. Amen.
Thanks to Alan C for emailing this to me.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Other than my utter moral repugnance toward capital punishment, the fact that the execution was on the internet and people were discussing it as if it were just another home movie crossed the line from mishandled justice to rank voyeurism.
And I stand as guilty as anyone. No one forced me to click on it. No one glued me to a chair and forced my eyelids open a la Clockwork Orange.
It was my morbid fascination with death.
But given the fact that most people I know have seen the video, I know I’m not alone.
Death is now a spectator sport.