Thursday, October 30, 2008

A REAL incentive

Those of you who know me know that I’ve been trying to lose this colossal tire around my middle. Well, to be honest, “try” may be a too strong a word. More like I'm wishing it away.

I guess I need more of an incentive. So, I figure I’d try a negative one. I’ll do something so awful, so contrary to my values if I don’t lose the weight/get back in shape by a certain date, that I'll hate myself for not having achieved my goal.

Therefore, I announce to you today that if I do not fit into my size 32 pants by noon on March 1st, 2009, I will donate $200 to the Conservative Party of Canada.

This should make the pounds melt away.

And, yes, before you ask, I do have a plan. And I’ll be offering updates along the way. The negative incentive is to keep my ears plugged to the siren call of beer and pizza.

I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: As per Harold's suggestion, I'll make that $201. Having my name listed publicly as having donated to the Conservative Party will help shed the redundant protoplasm.

UPDATE II: I've pushed the date to Easter, rather than an arbitrary beginning of March. I called Stephen Harpur and he's okay with the change.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

There's GOT to be a better way

I’m toying with NOT going to our conference convention this Saturday. Not just because I find them soul-crushingly boring, or because the drive is 3-4 hours each way, or even because my wife thinks I go to WAY too many meetings (which is true) and I see my kids WAY too little (which is also true).

I’m toying with not going to conference convention because I don’t think it really accomplishes anything. We meet because our constitution says we must. We look at reports, we drink coffee, we receive more reports, we gripe over whatever controversy of the day is diverting our attention, more reports, and we have communion. Then we go home.

I can’t help but wonder if Jesus’ died so that we might meet. I think we need a better way of doing God’s work than falling asleep through Robert’s Rules of Order. I often wonder if we’re TOO organized, and what God wants from us is a little bit of creative chaos.

After all, I can’t picture St. Paul at a board meeting, offering an amendment on the amendment to adopt all amendments. I can’t envision Augustine asking for a seconder after moving his report. I certainly can’t see Jesus calling for a quorum.

Paul would say, "Okay, you have your meeting, but I'm heading to the other side of the planet to start a bunch of churches." Augustine would chime in, "I don't have my report ready because I'm too busy renewing the church." And Jesus would ask, "When did I tell you to have corporate-style meetings in my name?"

I think church gathering should be celebrations of what God is doing among our people. They should be lively conversations sizzling with passion for the kingdom of God that is renewing the world all around us. Worship should be at the heart of our decision making, a reminder that the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, and enlightens” us, and moves us forward into God’s future.

If we’re not doing that then we aren’t being faithful stewards of God’s mysteries. We’re closing the door to future generations of Christians. We’re quenching the Spirit that is breaking into our lives and our world.

If the church won’t change how we make collective decisions then maybe it deserves to die. And maybe that’s a good thing. As the Christian story reminds us, it’s only after a death do we see resurrection.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Five Influences

Erin tagged me to list 5 people living or dead who have influenced me spiritually, so here it goes (off the top of my head and in no particular order)

1. Thomas Merton. I almost became a monk because of him. Or at least because of his writings. The Sign of Jonas and The Seven Storey Mountain still make their ways to my night stand every year or so.

2. Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall. I read his trilogy (also here and here) while on internship and they revolutionized the way I see God active and alive in the world.

3. Composer Arvo Part. The first time I heard his piece Sarah was ninety years old was the first time I truly worshipped.

4. The congregation of Zion Lutheran Church in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, where I interned. Their gentle patience taught me how to be a pastor.

I tag Mick, Sean, and Eric.

Happy Festival of St. Ignatius of Antioch!

Every year on this date I have an existential crisis. This year I wonder if it’s more manufactured than spontaneous. Maybe not manufactured but anticipated. I expect the cold sweats at midnight, the three a.m. confrontations with mortality, and rapid passing of the decades waking me when my 5:45 alarm blasts, and I meet them with gentle good despair.

Without existential anxiety, this day would lose its zing. Gloomy self-examination and melancholy reflection go hand-in-mitten with the Great Cosmic Stopwatch counting down the days until a funeral director sows my eyes shut.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Election hangover

Is ANYONE happy with the election results? The Libs got trounced. The Dippers didn’t make the breakthrough they were hoping for. The Bloc gained only one seat. The Greens were shut out completely. And the Cons fell short of a majority.

Parliament looks the same as it did six weeks ago. What did we accomplish?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thanksgiving Sermon

So what are you Thankful for?

That's the Question of the Day, isn't it? The question on everyone's lips.

I don't know about you but I always have trouble answering that question. It's not that I'm some sort of ungrateful lout, or that I think I deserve everything I have, or that in a quid pro quo world I think thankfulness is unnecessary.

It's just that there seems to be a “right” answer and a “wrong” answer to that question, a moral expectation every Thanksgiving. There are certain big ticket items that I'm obliged to be thankful for, and I'm supposed to walk right past the bargain bin, pretending its not there.

For example, I'm supposed to be thankful for family, good health, for this congregation and my relationship with God, and for living in a peaceful, democratic country. (Which I am!)

But I'm NOT supposed to be thankful for my fancy new iPod, for the price of gas coming back to earth, or for the Blue Jays missing the playoffs. To admit gratitude for such things would be...impolite. Even if the second list is just as honest as the first.

Expectations of proper gratitude as the leaves turn orange. At least that's what it feels like to me. And today's bible readings are no help.

Today's second reading drops us in the middle of an argument. Paul was trying to convince those stingy Corinthian Christians to pass the plate to help a struggling church in Jerusalem.

“My point is this, Paul says, “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

In other words, “Hey folks, find a crowbar and pry open your wallets when the plate comes your way. And don't feel bad about it either.”

It's easy to be moralistic about this passage, as if Paul was waving a finger in their faces.

And where would Thanksgiving Sunday be without the story of the Ten Lepers? Or maybe we should call it the “Nine Ingrates.”

We just heard it. Jesus heals ten lepers and only one of them comes back to thank him, disobeying Jesus' command to show himself to the priests. Moral of the story: Don't be like the nine who didn't thank Jesus. Be thankful. Jesus likes it when you are.

I don't know about you but I've had to endure too many Thanksgiving sermons on these passages, telling me that I should be more Thankful (capital T) for everything I have. Admonishing me to have an “attitude of gratitude.”

But these sermons always made me feel worse than when I came in because thankfulness isn't a feeling that I can easily control. Maybe its different for you. Maybe you see thankfulness as a choice. A state you can summon when you're feeling selfish. A self-correcting moral GPS unit that guides you through the back roads of proper attitudes.

Maybe I just don't have the discipline. Maybe I'm a selfish jerk who can't see past his own appetites. Maybe I need a...(whole thing here)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Leaders should speak out about this.

Unbelievable. My brother (a Liberal) used to live in this riding. But he doesn't drive. Each party leader should denounce this.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Election Litany

P: Holy God, as we deliberate as a nation during this national election, we pray for your wisdom to guide our decision. Grant us a vision for our country that is larger than our self interest, recognizing that we are all one people, joined together for the betterment of all.

P: For the right to vote and to make our voices heard,
C: We give you thanks, O God.

P: For the peaceful transition of power,
C: We give you thanks, O God.

P: For the rule of law which facilitates justice
C: We give you thanks, O God.

P: For peace, order, and good government
C: We give you thanks, O God.

P: For our freedoms which we too often take for granted
C: We give you thanks, O God.

P: Holy God your Word says that there is no governing authority except from you, so we pray that you will raise up leaders of compassion and wisdom
C: and grant your people strength to support those who speak for us

P: Grant our leaders a hunger for justice and righteousness
C: and our people strength to hold them accountable

P: May our leaders defend the rights of the poor
C: and may your people give freely to those in need

P: Help our leaders to be good stewards of your glorious creation
C: and assist your people to manage your abundance wisely.

P: All of this we pray through the One who makes all things new, Jesus Christ our Lord,
C: Amen


No one understood Beethoven like Karajan.

ps: When I was a musician we called this is "Egghead Overture." Not really funny, but hey, we sat at the back of the orchestra counting 400 bars before playing three notes, so we needed something to amuse ourselves with.