Monday, January 26, 2009

Sermon: Epiphany 3 - Year B

NB: With help from Charles Talbert (Reading Corinthians) and the preaching notes from the latest Currents in Theology and Mission.

“Brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short...” Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth, “...For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7: 29 & 31b)

I don't know about you but when I hear talk like that I want to change the channel or flip the page. For me, it conjures up images of nuclear threats, wars on the other side of the world taking the lives of local men and women, financial meltdowns, continents being squeezed by poverty and drought, and ice caps melting into the Arctic Ocean. And TV preachers cheering from the sidelines as life on this planet grinds to an apocalyptic halt. It's not a pretty picture. It's not meant to be.

“But I want you to be free from anxiety,” Paul continues. Yeah, right! He talks about the imminent end of the world as we know it, and we're supposed to be OKAY with it? We're supposed to go on smiling as the planet self-destructs? We're supposed to greet death with open hearts and wider arms?

At first blush that seems to be what Paul is talking about. And it wouldn't be out of line with what others have said. In fact, that might have been what the Christians in Corinth were expecting to hear.

Paul was worried that these...(whole thing here)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Preacher President

I’m not expecting, nor would I want Obama to be a preacher/pastor president. I don’t think that faith, in itself, qualifies or disqualifies someone from public office. But Obama has a way of speaking that has deep roots in the African-American preaching tradition, painting a picture of a promised tomorrow in tones that can only come from a lifetime of struggle, and an inheritance of hope.

I think most people who heard Obama’s speech walked a little taller, spoke more gently to adversaries, and were flush with a fresh sense of possibility for their lives and the world. And Obama did that with “mere” words. Just like any good preacher.

Tomorrow, those feelings may fade. We may go back to harsh factional fighting, partisan bickering, and rank self-interest. Obama will no doubt disappoint in some areas.

But today we have a hope for the future we didn’t have yesterday.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sermon: Epiphany 2 - Year B

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (v. 19)

No, actually we don’t.

Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Corinth, and they didn’t know what he was talking about. We’ve had this letter in our hands for 2000 years and we’re no closer to understanding what Paul was saying than the Corinthian Christians were.

Whether our problem is mis-use of sexual relationships, care for the poor and hungry, or failing to keep our bodies healthy, carrying around all this redundant protoplasm from eating to satisfy hungers other than bodily needs, Paul smacks us right between the peepers:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?”

I don’t think we know how to talk about our bodies. I think many of us are completely disengaged from them, seeing them as vehicles to carry our brains around in, only acknowledging them when it needs something: food, something to drink, a trip down the hall, first door on your left.

And so, we get caught up in the rules of proper behaviour. We want to know what’s expected of us so that we can meet those demands. We want principles to follow, laws to guide us, steps to take, to achieve the ends that are expected of us.

Think about how Christians talk about our bodies. We’re big on rules and expectations.

People often get the impression that the church has one big “NO!” to say about sexuality, for example, that our primary focus is on limiting peoples’ pleasure, keeping it carefully confined, under wraps, behind a veil of Do’s and Don’t’s - well mainly Don’ts. And if you listen to any group of pastors chat, you’d think that sexuality was the ONLY thing we have to talk about.

What people could be hearing from us is the blessing that sexuality is; the act of...(whole thing here)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back to school

As many of you know, I’ve gone back to school. I’ve started working on a Master of Arts Integrated Studies (MAIS) at Athabasca University. I’m hoping to have duel focus: Work, Organization, and Leadership and Community Studies. Should be fun.

I like the online learning environment, especially the forum/chat room format where we (students) discuss questions posed by the professor. It’s kinda like the usenet groups of 2000 years ago, minus the flame wars (so far).

I was drawn to the MAIS degree because of the integrated approach. My goals for the MAIS degree are:

1. To reflect deeply on community building and global change from a leadership perspective, drawing from a variety of disciplines, then

2. to bring this learning back to my parish context in order for the congregation to think more actively and act more thoughtfully on their call to be change agents in community.

Consequently, I see the MAIS degree as an opportunity for me to participate in a vigorous conversation with a variety of voices (both remembered and living), a conversation that that I hope will threaten and challenge, as well as encourage and equip me, personally and professionally, to be an mediator of positive change in my parish and the broader community.

At least that’s the plan.

I chose a secular degree (rather than a D.Min or some such thing) because I think, too often, Christians live in an intellectual bubble, assuming that what we know is all we need to know. Too many Christians suspend critical thought, especially about ourselves and our faith, opting instead for a comfortable groupthink that reinforces what we already believe, without asking important questions. Questions about how we know who or what God is, how we read the bible, how our biblical and theological traditions affect the way we relate to the world (if at all), how do we understand the bible as authoritative.

Secular thinkers aren’t afraid of those questions. Well, many Christians aren’t either. As followers of Jesus, I think we need to rummage around among the cultural/political/social assumptions that make up our faith tradition, tossing out that which is harmful, and lifting up that which gives life.

That’s also what I hope to do.

Here's Brahms' Academic Festival Overture to celebrate my new beginning:

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus 1936-2009

Lutheran pastor turned Roman Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus died this morning. While I’m on the other end of the theological and political spectrum from him, his was an active theological mind. I would read his offerings on the intersection of politics and faith when I was looking for reasoned alternative opinion (or sometimes, not so reasoned, such as his Christian defense of preemptive war and the torture of so-called “enemy combatants”).

He saw his move from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism as a natural one, in that he believed that the Lutheran Confessions are catholic at their core. While such a perspective can be debated, I certainly don’t doubt his sincerity, and admire his willingness to follow his conscience even though it caused him considerable personal and professional injury.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Weight and See

Folks have been asking if I’m going to be handing over my hard earned bank notes to Canada’s new governing party.

So here’s an update:

My weight plan is in full swing. I haven’t lost as much as I was hoping (Christmas can be a hard time to shed any redundant protoplasm), but I’m back on track, and will win the bet I have with myself. Definitely.

I’ve been eating this stuff. It doesn’t taste all that great but it helps me get the nutrients I need in a handy dandy format. I do notice that I think more clearly when I drink it. The energy bars taste like moldy moose ca-ca (or as I imagine such things to taste like) and sits in my belly like a hunk of molten lead.

Also, my wife and kids gave me a manly grey yoga mat and yoga weight loss DVD for Christmas. The New Age stuff that gets thrown into this makes me roll my eyes, but I’m tired and sore after 40 minutes of this.

Soon I’ll be back in my old pants, and my boyish figure will once again grace the sanctuary chancel. Just wait and see.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

nastyboy tagged me with the job meme thingy. Here are the jobs I've had (that I can think of)

Farm Worker
Delivered flyers
Paper carrier
Cart boy/painter/ salesperson/truck driver/deliver guy/pretty much anything that needed to be done at Beaver Lumber
Telemarketer (for three hours)
Trombone player
Director of Brass and Winds at Ontario Mennonite Music Camp
Credit salesperson (people will actually PAY for credit - on top of interest. I made good money on it. Four weeks of this paid my rent, beer, and half my tuition)
Clothing Salesperson (at Northern Elements)
Pastoral Intern
Receptionist at Window and Door store
Stocked shelves at Dalhousie University Bookstore

And I'm sure some other stuff that I can't think of.

UPDATE: I forgot Research Assistant, tree planter, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Warming up

I’m back from Edmonton. Vacation over. The thing about coming back to work on a Saturday means there’s a sermon to be written for the Sunday. So why am I blogging?

Good question.

I guess I need to warm up my fingers. The physical act of sermon writing requires me to be in a different emotional/intellectual space, a space blogging helps me move into.

So consider yourselves bystanders - spectators - to the homiletical process. Grab some popcorn and a beer and settle in, and watch the trained monkey do his thing.