Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What's the Pay Off? (Part One)

Put any two clergy in a room and if they don’t start yapping about homosexuality they’ll whip out their Day Planners and fire the gun to begin the ecclesiastical pissing match.

Who’s busier? Who prayed at the most hospital beds? Who stood at the most gravesites? Who endured the longest, most pointless meeting?

That’s what clergy talk about when we get together. Sad, isn’t it? It's no wonder so many clergy are taking early retirement, gobbling down Paxil, or hitting the bottle.

My bishop has mounted a jihad against clergy burnout. He’s loosing too many clergy to other, “less stressful,” jobs. One pastor retired to sell Audis. One young pastor walked away from his parish to take an MBA. Yet another hung up his collar to tinker with muscle cars all day. Some are just grabbing their pension and running.

Clergy are leaving. Like rats on the Lusitania.

Bishop Ron is worried that if the trend continues there won’t be any pastors left to serve our churches. Especially in the rural areas. After all, there are 33 churches without pastors here in Alberta. Something needs to be done.

Part of his solution is that pastors need to take better care of themselves. Clergy need to take our day off. Take ALL our vacation. Eat right and exercise. We need to remember the Sabbath.

Problem solved , right?


I had a colleague back in Ontario who so internalized this advice that he wouldn’t respond to an emergency on his day off. “Sorry about the car accident, but it’s my day off. Grandpa will still be dead tomorrow morning, right?”

Is that what Jesus meant when he asked up to keep the Sabbath holy?

I don’t think that the issue is too many suppers away from home. I think the clergy are suffering a crisis of meaning. Many of us don’t know what we’re doing, or why.

We think that if we’re busy, then we’re needed. And if we’re needed, then we’re important. If we’re important, then our work matters to the world.

So, with deference to Bishop Ron’s injunction against clergy burn out, I think we need to look deeper at who we are and what we do we a church. We don’t have the culture’s respect like we once did.

It’s been noted that clergy don’t have the social status that they once had. Nor are we the most educated people in our parish – or town – like we were just 30 – 40 years ago.

So that might help root out those who are doing “the Lord’s work” for their own egos. But where does that leave the rest of us? Those who are labouring in God’s vineyard until
our hands are raw and faces scorched from the wind?

Bishop Mike from the east said that pastors are those who keep the embers burning, stoking the fire, feeding it occasionally. I like that. Sort of. But I’d like to chase a more challenging goal than keeping the light from blowing out. I want to see it grow.

Sometimes I wonder if we read about Jeff Immelt walking on organizational water, Steve Jobs “putting a dent in the universe,” or Gary Doer winning his third straight majority, we wonder what our payoff is.

Conversions to Jesus? Transformed lives? The opportunity to play dress-up each week?

How do we quantify our efforts?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sermon: Pentecost 13 - Year C

So when preacher Jesus should have stuck to his script and distributed the pretty God-words they came to hear, Jesus had the temerity to heal someone.

“Hey there Jesus, that looks a lot like work to me,” the synagogue leader, probably the council president (sorry Herman) said, “You’ve got six days to do that healing the sick and raising the dead stuff. Today is for worship.”

The synagogue leader lays it on thick. How ‘bout it, Jesus? Do you pray enough? How much bible do you read everyday? How is your quiet time with God? You should know better. Is God that unimportant in your life?”

How would you have answered this synagogue leader? What do you do to hedge away some time or place to devote yourself to God? How do you honour the Sabbath?

And while we spit and sputter some kind of answer, Jesus is already on top of it, answering for us: “You hypocrite! Don’t you care for the people and creatures in your life that you love and depend on? Don’t you care for them even on the Sabbath?

The odd thing here is...(whole thing here)

Monday, August 20, 2007


The leaves on the trees outside my house are starting to turn colour. Already. It seems to be getting earlier every year.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sermon: Pentecost 12 - Year C

...what consequences do you bear as a Christian? What does your life proclaim?

Is the church a place where we sit up straight, hands on our laps, listen politely, and do what we’re told?

Or is the church a place where we are set on fire?

When I toured the new Christian radio station here in Lethbridge the station manager proudly promised that this station would be safe to listen to, in-offensive to anyone who might stumble upon their number on the dial.

“Is that what Christianity’s come down to?” I thought to myself. “Safe and inoffensive? Does that mean that we won’t hear readings like the one from today’s gospel? Or will they be glossed over with a Disneyfied version of our faith?” (the whole thing here)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Which Church Father are You?

You’re Origen!

You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

via St. Melito of Sardis

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where the times goes...

It was four years ago today that I came out to Lethbridge from Halifax to interview at Good Shepherd.

Four years. Let me gnaw on that for a while.

Being the Answer to Our Own Prayers

O Lord, give us a mind that is humble, quiet, peaceable, patient and charitable, and a taste of your Holy Spirit in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.

O Lord, give us a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, a love of you.

Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation and all dullness in prayer.

Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you, your grace, and your tender compassion toward us.

Give us, good Lord, the grace to work for the things we pray for.

St Thomas More, 1478-1535, Patron Saint of Lawyers


Mick "I've lost 60 pounds this summer" Macintyre has a blog...

...check it out.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sermon: Pentecost 11 - Year C

Maybe God is saying that if our goals aren’t making us collectively fill our pants than we aren’t risking enough, trusting enough, pushing our faith to the limit....(the whole thing here)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Another quote of the day

‘Most theologians devote their lives to answering questions most people aren't asking'
C. S. Lewis



Good Advice for Pastors by Tom Peters

Liberation Management, pages 612–614 by Tom Peters

The Pursuit of Luck

Innovation is a low-odds business—and luck sure helps. (It’s jolly well helped me!) If you believe that success does owe a lot to luck, and that luck in turn owes a lot to getting in the way of unexpected opportunities, you need not throw up your hands in despair. There are strategies you can pursue to get a little nuttiness into your life, and perhaps, then, egg on good luck. (By contrast, if you believe that orderly plans and getting up an hour earlier are the answer, then by all means arise before the rooster and start planning.)

Want to get lucky? Try following these 50 (!) strategies:

1. At-bats. More times at the plate, more hits.

2. Try it. Cut the baloney and get on with something.

3. Ready. Fire. Aim. (Instead of Ready. Aim. Aim. Aim. ...)

4. “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”—G.K. Chesterton. You’ve gotta start somewhere.
5. Read odd stuff. Look anywhere for ideas.

6. Visit odd places. Want to “see” speed? Visit CNN.

7. Make odd friends.

8. Hire odd people. Boring folks, boring ideas.

9. Cultivate odd hobbies. Raise orchids. Race yaks.

10. Work with odd partners.

11. Ask dumb questions. “How come computer commands all come from keyboards?”
Somebody asked that one first; hence, the mouse.

12. Empower. The more folks feel they’re running their own show, the more at-bats, etc.

13. Train without limits. Pick up the tab for training unrelated to work—keep everyone engaged, period.

14. Don’t back away from passion. “Dispassionate innovator” is an oxymoron.

15. Pursue failure. Failure is success’s only launching pad. (The bigger the goof, the better!)

16. Take anti-NIH pills. Don’t let “not invented here” keep you from ripping off nifty ideas.

17. Constantly reorganize. Mix, match, try different combinations to shake things up.

18. Listen to everyone. Ideas come from anywhere.

19. Don’t listen to anyone. Trust your inner ear.

20. Get fired. If you’re not pushing hard enough to get fired, you’re not pushing hard enough.(More than once is okay.)

21. Nurture intuition. If you can find an interesting market idea that came from a rational plan, I’ll eat all my hats. (I have quite a collection.)

22. Don’t hang out with “all the rest.” Forget the same tired trade association meetings, talking with the same tired people about the same tired things.

23. Decentralize. At-bats are proportional to the amount of decentralization.

24. Decentralize again.

25. Smash all functional barriers. Unfettered contact among people from different disciplines is magic.

26. Destroy hierarchies.

27. Open the books. Make everyone a “businessperson,” with access to all the financials.

28. Start an information deluge. The more real-time, unedited information people close to the action have, the more that “neat stuff” happens.

29. Take sabbaticals.

30. “Repot” yourself every 10 years. (This was the advice of former Stanford Business School dean Arjay Miller—meaning change careers each decade.)

31. Spend 50 percent of your time with “outsiders.” Distributors and vendors will give you more ideas in five minutes than another five-hour committee meeting.

32. Spend 50 percent of your “outsider” time with wacko outsiders.

33. Pursue alternative rhythms. Spend a year on a farm, six months working in a factory or burger shop.

34. Spread confusion in your wake. Keep people off balance, don’t let the ruts get deeper than they already are.

35. Disorganize. Bureaucracy takes care of itself. The boss should be “chief dis-organizer,” Quad/Graphics CEO Harry Quadracci told us.

36. “Dis-equilibrate ... Create instability, even chaos.” Good advice to “real leaders” from Professor Warren Bennis.

37. Stir curiosity. Igniting youthful, dormant curiosity in followers is the lead dog’s top task, according to Sony chairman Akio Morita.

38. Start a Corporate Traitors’ Hall of Fame. “Renegades” are not enough. You need people who despise what you stand for.

39. Give out “Culture Scud Awards.” Your best friend is the person who attacks your corporate culture head-on. Wish her well.

40. Vary your pattern. Eat a different breakfast cereal. Take a different route to work.

41. Take off your coat.

42. Take off your tie.

43. Roll up your sleeves.

44. Take off your shoes.

45. Get out of your office. Tell me, honestly, the last time something inspiring or clever happened at that big table in your office?!

46. Get rid of your office.

47. Spend a workday each week at home.

48. Nurture peripheral vision. The interesting “stuff” usually is going on beyond the margins of the professional’s ever-narrowing line of sight.

49. Don’t “help.” Let the people who work for you slip, trip, fall—and grow and learn on their own.

50. Avoid moderation in all things. “Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess,”
according to Edwin Land, Polaroid’s founder. Now write down the opposite of each of the 50. Which set comes closer to your profile?*
In short, loosen up!

* This list was stimulated by a friend who attended a several-day seminar I conducted in early 1991. The group, I thought, was vigorous. Her comment on the last day: “Are all those people

It shook me and got me wondering about the narrowness of my own vision.

Quote of the Day

Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes. - Oscar Wilde

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sermon: Pentecost 10 - Year C

“Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!” shouts the teacher. A little cynical, don’t you think? He might as well say, “life’ tough…then you die.” Not exactly a hopeful message, is it?

This teacher is quite the whiner, isn’t he? He says that he worked hard his whole life to help his people grow deeper in wisdom, only to see them through it all away. Why even bother? He seems to be saying.

Maybe you teachers, on your bad days, in the congregation can relate. You work your fingers raw trying to get into the hearts and minds of our young people only to see them waste their time and talents on PlayStation and third rate underground punk bands. Or their parents’ ambitions for their children were decidedly smaller than the talent you saw blossoming inside them. Despite your best efforts, some folks just didn’t get it.

I wonder if Paul worried about the same thing in the second reading. He had his knickers in a knot about something in this passage. But then again, when WASN’T Paul angry about one thing or another? Is that what Paul does best?
When I was in seminary, it was hip to hate Paul. They said he hated women, he was too full of himself, he was homophobic. Some folks thought they had better theology than the first apostle to the gentiles.

I never really understood the animosity toward the guy who articulated the whole “grace through faith” thing, but if you can’t be sanctimonious in seminary, when can you be sanctimonious?

It was passages like this one in today’s second that got peoples’ shorts in a bunch. Here is Paul at his rhetorical best, or some might say worst. He trots out the biggies, the sins that that some thought were the worst of the worst. He seemed to hate everything that gave life flavour, anything that made for a good movie. If it was fun, Paul was against it. It’s like he wanted us to be pure disembodied souls instead of real, live, flesh and blood human beings.

Fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed? Put to death whatever is earthly? Wrath for the disobedient? For those trying to condemn Paul, there’s a lot to work with here.

And they wouldn’t be alone. You don’t need to know the bible to be uncomfortable with this passage...(the whole thing here)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Battle with the belly

My on-going battle with my belly has reached a climax. This is it. I AM going to be fit and trim like I was 10 years ago and in seminary. On October 17 (my birthday) at 6:30 am I will be down to size 32 pants.

Over the next few weeks I'll be updating my progress Kirsty Alley style (but you won't see me in a bikini on Oprah - probably) just so I can keep some semblance of accountability with my readers - all 3 of you.

There. I’ve made it known to the whole world. Hold me to it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Murdered Korean Hostages Made Their Own Trouble...

...or so says Peter Worthington.

Talk about blaming the victim. Worthington's heartlessness is made even more appalling by dismissing the work that this Korean Christians were doing and the message they were proclaiming.

He assesses, from his privileged perch 8000 miles away, these Christians’ “martyr complex” and compares them to suicide bombers. He blithely suggests that these Christians are not Jesuits and the Taliban are not Iroquois, and does so without backing up his argument as to why this situation is different.

He goes on to say:

“Christian groups should be discouraged from dabbling in regions where their religious faith is not appreciated, and where others are required to risk their lives to save them when inevitably they are kidnapped, to be used as political bargaining chips.”

Now he’s starting to sound like a good, ol’ fashioned liberal, the kind he often rails against. Keep faith private. Let the real power of the world deal with evil.

But at its heart, his argument is that Christians don’t belong in the hellish places of the world. But isn’t that exactly were Jesus asked his followers to go? Isn’t that were Jesus himself went?

Or does Worthington see Christianity as merely a self-help tool, comfort when times get tough, a little moral guidance for the kiddies, but need to get out of the way when the “real” work of building a new world needs to be done?

Or does he feel convicted by the witness of these Christians, showing him the shallowness of most western Christianity, so he dismisses them as dangerous, uniformed, idealists?

I know I’m convicted by the actions of these Korean Christians: building schools and hospitals, bearing witness to an alternative reality that Jesus called the Kingdom of God.

We can learn from what they have to teach us.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

St Brendan's Prayer

Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries, the soft comforts of home? Shall I turn my back on my native land, and turn my face towards the sea?

Shall I put myself wholly at your mercy, without silver, without a horse, without fame, without honour? Shall I throw myself wholly upon You, without sword and shield, without food and drink, without a bed to lie on? Shall I say farewell to my beautiful land, placing myself under Your yoke?

Shall I pour out my heart to You, confessing my manifold sins and begging forgiveness, tears streaming down my cheeks? Shall I leave the prints of my knees on the sandy beach, a record of my final prayer in my native land?

Shall I then suffer every kind of wound that the sea can inflict? Shall I take my tiny boat across the wide sparkling ocean? O King of the Glorious Heaven, shall I go of my own choice upon the sea?

O Christ, will You help me on the wild waves?