Monday, June 28, 2010

Energy and Renewal

I have more energy these days. A LOT more energy. And because I have more energy, I’m more productive (I finished the first draft of my sermon this morning) I wish I could point to one reason why this is, but there are many factors.

But the bottom line is: this what I can do when I’m not depressed.

As many of you know I separated from my wife last November. And I knew I was emotionally depleted, but I figured that a few days in the gym per week and my daily green smoothie would help.

It didn’t. Around the beginning of Lent I fell into a deep depression. The worst of my life. I worked minimal hours, just getting the basics done. Then I’d spend a lot of time in bed. I’d spend time with the girls, but would sit them in front of the TV. I stopped reading. I couldn’t concentrate. Life sucked.

One day around Easter I stayed in bed until 3:25 pm. The only reason I got dressed was because I had to pick my daughter up from school and obviously couldn’t abandon her. That’s when I realized I needed help. So I made an appointment with a counsellor.

He was awesome. He recommended the book Feeling Good by David Burns, and it opened my eyes to what I was experiencing and have me the tools to facilitate my healing. After two months (or so) of hard work I found that my energy had returned and I could see the world differently. My sense of self gained strength and could see new possibilities for the future.

I’ve since returned to the gym and started a healthy eating program. Some parishioners and friends have offered incentives (I’m REALLY looking forward to losing the first 10 pounds!) and so I feel like my life is finally coming back together. It feels like I’m creating my life rather than reacting to life as it’s happening to me. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have some semblance of control.

Ministry has become a joy again. I feel like my old - but renewed - self.

That’s why I can write two sermons in one morning. But I’m sure the green smoothies play a part.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sermon: Pentecost 5C

NB: Had a wee bit 'o help from Willimon's Pulpit Resource

When we're trying to recruit new people into our church, how do we do it? What tactics do we use?

Do we say that we're a friendly, welcoming, bunch? Do we go out of our way to make sure that each new person who comes through our doors shakes at least three hands before making their way to the sanctuary?

Do we make sure that a newcomer finds an easily accessible seat? Do we assemble a bulletin that's easy to follow? Do we see to it that new people are invited downstairs for coffee and fellowship? Do we place in their hands a jar of dried soup mix (do we still do this?)?

Do we emphasize on how caring we are? Do we project ourselves as a place of healing? A family of believers where all are invited to the table? A community of loving Christians dedicated to making people feel valued and included?

I think the answer to all these questions is an unqualified "Yes!"

And you're probably wondering why I brought this up? After all, isn't that what we're supposed to do? Aren't we expected to be friendly, welcoming, and loving, by the very fact that we're Christians?


What would happen if we took Jesus' lead in (whole thing here)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sermon: Pentecost 4C

Lutherans LOVE good theology. And by "good theology" I mean a way of talking about God and God's activity in the world that is deeply influenced by the political and social battles of the 16th century. Good theology is what defines Lutherans. It's unique to us.

Anglicans are defined by a certain, prescribed, worship. Lex orandi/lex credendi or "the law of prayer is the law of belief." Anglicans know what they believe when they pray it. It's what binds them together.

The Roman Catholic Church has the pope as a unifying figure, for better or for worse. No matter where you are in the world, no matter what your theological beliefs, no matter what style of worship draws you in, it's the pope - "the vicar of Christ on earth" - who stands at the centre of your faith.

Lutherans don't have it so easy. As Lutherans, we say that it's the doctrine of justification by grace through faith that brings us together. Justification by faith: the notion that we sinful human beings are brought into a right relationship with God not through any actions or inactions on our part, but because we are declared innocent and clean because of Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection to new and everlasting life. We are saved by grace through faith, and not by works of the law. That is Lutheranism's central, defining, idea.

The problem then lies when we..(whole thing here)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sermon: Pentecost 3C

You know, pastor, " he said. "There are a lot of PEOPLE in our churches but there aren't very many CHRISTIANS."

"I beg your pardon," I replied.

"There are too many people who go to church but don't live by God's law, they live just like everyone else. They're fake Christians," he said.

"Is that right?" I replied, turning my chair to indicate that this was a conversation I no interest in being a part of. But he didn't take the hint.

"Yeah, too many people think they're Christians but they really aren't. There's no repentance. No outward evidence that they they believe in God. There's too much immorality. Too many concessions to the secular world. They don't believe in the Truth of the bible."


"Really?" I replied, hoping my monosyllabic answers might discourage him. But it seemed to do the opposite. He was just getting started.

"People think that they can sin and still be part of Christ's church. The bible is clear, God HATES sin. God demands obedience from us, not disobedience."

"But didn't Jesus die for our sins?" I asked.

"Jesus may have died for our sins but that doesn't mean we can still go on sinning and expect to go to heaven," he replied.

"So, we can stop sinning if we just put our minds to it?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "God gave us free will so we can choose to sin or not to sin."

"If God has given us the freedom to sin or not to sin then why did Jesus have to die for our sins, why didn't he just tell us to strengthen our wills to live in obedience?"

And from there it was on. He had pushed my last button.

This was a...(whole thing here)

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Turtle Awards

(NB: Cross-posted at the Alberta Synod Convention Blog

“For a turtle to move forward it must stick it's neck out.” 

The Turtle Awards, are to be given to churches who take risks. 

Fine words. But I wonder how true they are. I need to ask, how far will churches be allowed to stick their necks out before being chopped off by the institutional church.

I get a little suspicious when church leaders encourage churches to foster innovation, mainly because it's been my experience that the institution is built to protect itself rather than to grow. In fact, institutions are designed to NOT change. Status quo is rewarded. Inventiveness is allowed - but only so far. We can do some re-modelling, renovate a room or two, but tearing down and re-building is not usually an institutional option.

If we're being asked to "stick our heads out" I think we may do so at our own peril. Not because it's not needed (taking risks is an imperative!), but because I'm not entirely sure the institution knows it's asking. 

Those who know me, know that I have a visceral dislike of institutional church. Mainly because the institutional church often works to keep it's machinery going, rather than moving forward in Jesus' mission. Institutional church is often more interested in efficiency rather than creativity. Good order instead of Spirit-driven chaos.

Or MAYBE, God is leading our church institution to model what they want from the grassroots. Asking churches to stick their necks out releases control because they don't know what's going to happen. Maybe that's their plan. Maybe it's an unacknowledged benefit. Perhaps God is using the (*gasp*) institutional church for Jesus' mission, dying to our prideful efficiency, and rising to claim and celebrate God's great and promised future.

Whatever the motivation, I'm glad it's there. I hope it stimulates some creative chaos, pushing our limits, challenging our cozy status quo. May God shake us up, pull the rug out from underneath our feet, and move us to an uncomfortable - but exciting - future