Monday, March 31, 2008

Sermon - Easter 2

“Isn’t this whole peace thing just some left-wing nonsense?” one of my colleagues blasted at the presenter, a Mennonite theologian talking about the biblical understanding of peace.

“It seems that every time I hear someone talk about peace, it’s coming from some anti-American left wing hippie who hates rich people, who has doesn’t understand how the world actually works.”

I have to admit, I was both angry at his comments and embarrassed by his rudeness. But at the same time, isn’t that the cartoon the media presents in the news? Peace is a youthful ideal, but not terribly realistic. Especially in this age of global terror.

And so, we change the meaning of peace, At least the way we say the bible talks about it. When we think about the way peace is used in the bible we often think that peace means “peacefulness of heart” or “peace in our relationship with God.”

And while that’s true, that’s...(the whole thing here)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

2nd Sunday in Easter

2nd Sunday in Easter

I sit in darkness
late at night
the kids are asleep
quiet now
--after a day of fun
oblivious to the adult world
--as we have made it
of war and hate
and children very much like themselves
loved very much like themselves
without enough
--of their share
--to survive
I want to venture out
To help in this world
--of too much
----and not enough
but I often find myself
here in the darkness
of my own walls
--into this sanctuary
--of my
------awareness fear
comes a voice
of disturbing comfort
that seeks to destroy
------------my little kingdom
-------of what
-----------------------anyway walls
I am heralded again
from that voice of life
----(be with you)
I long to
--but wish not
in the midst of your world
and because of it
as the words still ring
------in my mind
I remember the one who came
To make all things new
And I long
--for that contact
that would take me by the hand
and lead me
--down the path of what will be
lead me
----(as the Father sent me)
somehow to show
--that Christ lives
show it to others
------and myself
Help me Lord to do thy will
----(I send you)

- Pastor Dan

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Overheard at church this morning.

Me: Didn’t the Easter Bunny come to your house today?

Young Boy: No, the Easter Bunny had to go to church today, too.

Sermon: Easter Sunday

Series: Living the Resurrection: Fruit of the Spirit: JOY

The women went to the tomb while it was still dark. That threatening time when Jesus performed his most notorious wonders. They’re in the dark, both literally and figuratively. We the listener might know what’s about to happen, but all they know is that they saw their friend and Lord horribly murdered. And they were simply going to take care of the body.

But you know the story. They found the tomb empty. Jesus stood alive in front of them.

Fear turned to joy. Grief softened to amazement. Terror melted into gladness. That’s what happened one Sunday morning.

They definitely did not see it coming. They had watched Jesus die. They put him in his grave. They said their good-byes and cried their tears, probably wondering if this guy had swindled them, conned them into thinking he was something he wasn’t.

But that morning, while it was still dark, they learned something new about God.

They learned that...(the whole thing here)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Maundy Thursday Sermon

Tonight, I would like to tell you a story. You may remember it from three years ago. It’s adapted from a novel by Graham Greene by Rebekah and myself.

It’s a Lenten story – a Maundy Thursday story. A story set in violent, war-weary Spain of 60 years ago, a story of a Roman Catholic priest and his atheist friend.

It happened this way (p.15). Father Quixote had told his housekeeper he should...(whole thing here)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Of Clean Colons and Gravelly Psalms

Had a colonoscopy today. So I’ve been purging over the last couple days. Not fun. Too much time in the bathroom. Call it a good Lenten/Holy Week discipline. (They found nothing. Which, in a sense is good. But the doctor still doesn't know what my problem is. So he's asked for more tests. Argh.)

But tonight, I summoned the strength from somewhere to preach and lead Maundy Thursday worship.

For me, the highlight of our Maundy Thursday service is when one of our 90-something women reads Psalm 22 as we strip the altar. It’s a mini-tradition around here to have this particular woman read that particular psalm. And every year we wonder if this will be the last time she’ll be up there, with her gravelly voice weighted down by a life time of hard work.

She’s lived this psalm. Which makes it all the more powerful.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Obama's speech

An excellent speech. Obama tackles race and his relationship with Jeremiah Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ.

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

How Obama's faith informs his politics is profoundly healthy. The values of justice, compassion, reconciliation, and healing inform his policy priorities.

I think Obama is providing the kind of moral leadership we need. While I can only observe from the sidelines, and a comparison between him and Canadian politicians is unfair as we don't expect our leaders to shape our culture the way Americans seem to demand, I think he offers a compelling vision for his country.

And we can learn from watching our neighbours.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lenten Quote of the Day

[The message of the cross] declares that when Christ, by whom the world was made, enters the world, the world will not receive him...Human existence denies its own deepest and most essential nature. That is tragic. But when that fact is understood, when men cease to make the standards of a sinful existence the norms of life but accept its true norm, even though they fail to obey it, their very contribution opens the eyes of faith. This is Godly sorrow that worketh repentance. Out of this despair hope is born. The hope is simply this: that the contradictions of human existence, which man cannot surmount, are swallowed up in the life of God Himself. The God of Christian faith is not only creator but redeemer. He does not allow existence to end tragically. He snatched victory from defeat. He is Himself defeated in History but He is also victorious in that defeat.

- Reinhold Niebuhr, Beyond Tragedy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Creativity should be as important as literacy"


Sir Ken Robinson's challenge to education. Real application for churches. Or for anyone interested in helping our children grow into their God-given potentials.


I don't know if this is a joke. Which in itself is a problem, showing how the Church's has been wallowing in secular marketing over the past 25 years or so.

To me, much of what churches do to attract un-churched, non churched, pre-churched, folks is more about the church itself and less about God's message for the world.

I hate to say it, but I think the most effective religious advertising comes from the Mormons. Their ads teach folks how to be better parents, to more effectively relate to their spouses, etc, give something to folks. It's about what they can give rather than what people can do for the church.

Personally, I think the best for of "marketing" the church can do is the basic work of the church: sharing good news, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, working for peace, etc.

This strategy may not win any marketing awards. But that's not what we're trying to accomplish, is it?


Friday, March 14, 2008

Embracing Chaos

“We may not be interested in chaos but chaos is interested in us.”—Robert Cooper, The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-first Century

Often I worry that we’ve been playing it too safe as churches. One thing that’s jazzing me up about my church aggressively thinking about buying a new building is that we’ll be doing something that scares us. Pushes us. Makes us think strategically and creatively.

Long time members have told me that Good Shepherd is due for a challenge. That we haven’t had one in a long while. We need something to step up to.

I think this new building is just what we need. I think God threw this down at our feet and said, “Okay. Now what are you going to do? You can either stay where you are and coast. OR you can re-think everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – you think you know about church, and make a God-sized imprint in your community.”

I think God is reversing Genesis. I think God is bring chaos out of order. Chaos creates. Chaos energizes. Chaos innovates.

This is no time for playing it safe. North American churches are declining. Yet people are hungry for God.

After the first century, I think this is the most exciting time to be the church. Let’s embrace the chaos and see what we can create together – with God.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Guest Blogger: Kevin Little on Wedding Sermons

I remember reaching a tipping point at a wedding where I was the officiant, held at in the Chateau Laurier. After more than 150 weddings I could no longer ignore the lavish display of wealth and pure sentimentalism. It was then that I decided to read Luke 14:15-24, to preach about Jesus’ creed that when one held a banquet and some refused to come to “go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame…and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.”

I asked the couple “so how many invited guests today are no-shows?” There was nervous laughter. And I continued “so I guess we ought to follow Jesus out into the streets, after all there are two homeless shelters not far from here.”

After 13 years of hearing the Song of Solomon and Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians chapter 13 I decided to add Luke 14, and have continued to do so at every wedding since.

I say this because I believe that marriage is not only about the love the couple have for each other, for their families or even for their friends. The scriptures are pretty clear that finding God’s love is as difficult and as easy as finding one’s neighbour. And thus I encourage the couple to seek out their neighbours, especially those on the margins.

I know there are those in our mainline church who would strongly disagree with my approach on the grounds that I am being needlessly offensive or imposing my own agenda on a sacred ceremony. But let’s be honest, who is imposing whose agenda on whom? When a Christian covenant is hi-jacked by materialism, sentimentalism, and narcissism how can a strong dose of Matthew 22:34-40 be all that bad? If the greatest law is really “love your neighbour as you love yourself” how is it anything but faithful to add some saltiness to our otherwise bland diet of spiritual rites of passage?

Further, contrary to what you might expect I frequently get asked by guests to preside at their weddings. People are intrigued that the preacher at a wedding actually has something interesting to say. In polite society the church’s sensitivity can often be confused for tacit approval of the status quo. Preachers would do well to realize that there is a deep spiritual hunger out there, to live for something “greater than our self-interest”.

I spend quality time with the couple, get to know them, and name their gifts in the context of covenant. And in a short wedding sermon, I reflect on how these gifts, combined with God’s spirit of covenant love, can find expression in shared values of volunteerism, activism, and the pursuit of social justice.

It’s amazing how a rite, often performed amongst the most secular of audiences and expectations, can yield such a powerful Gospel witness to the couple, to their families and to their friends.