161113 – Autumnology

Yr C ~ Reign of Christ Sunday ~ Colossians 1:11-20

Let me start by saying something that may be very controversial for you but I think it will really help. It’s about how we view and read the bible. I’d like you to try to hold this paradox as you contemplate passages of scripture like today’s. Everything in the bible is important and absolutely true for the writer, but it may not be true to your experience, and therefore not very helpful, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still true.autumnology

Here’s an example. Some might say that the world is a very dangerous place. I might answer, no it isn’t. I’ve never really felt in danger nor has my life or safety ever really been threatened. Therefore, it is false to say the world is a very dangerous place. Meanwhile, someone who lives in Syria, or in certain parts of Africa, or in any number of other very dangerous places in the world would rightly say I was crazy and every day is life-threatening. Both views are absolutely true, even while they speak to totally different perceptions of the world.

If you can hold that paradox of two opposite things being true at the same time, if you can get beyond the idea that it’s black or white, that if you think this way then that other way can’t be true, if you can transcend that dualistic, either/or lens, then you will have a much better chance of understanding the bible in really helpful and meaningful ways.

For some of you, today’s reading was like hearing angels whisper into your ear as glorious music was playing and your heart was bursting with joy as the words resonated to the very depth of your being.

For others of you, today’s reading may have been like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard and made you scrunch up your face and squirm uncomfortably in your chair.

Colossians 1:11-20

1:11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully
1:12 giving thanks to [God], who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
1:13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,
1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
1:16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him.
1:17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
1:18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
1:20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

So, are you revelling, or squirming?
How you answer that question may help you to understand if you are a person with a high Christology or a low Christology.
Let me explain.

Christology is theological interpretation of the nature, person, and deeds of Christ. It’s about how you look at Jesus.
What does it mean to say he’s fully human and fully divine?
What does it mean to say that he embodies the fullness of God?
What does it mean when he is described as performing miracles or healings? read on

161106 – Conflicted

Yr C ~ Remembrance ~ Luke 6:20-31

I know what you want. You want me to do that thing where I take the text and dive into the language of it and draw out a deeper meaning than the plain words alone offer. You want me to take those words of Jesus, where he says to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you, and adapt them and tell you what they really mean.conflicted

But I can’t do that for you today – because they mean exactly what you think they mean. The problem isn’t that they’re hard to understand – the problem is that we understand all too well. And the big problem is that with that understanding comes the realization that we’re just not doing it.

Jesus begins by telling us who’s blessed and who’s woe’d.

Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, and excluded and put down.
Woe to those who are rich, satisfied, laughing, and thought well of.

It’s pretty obvious that these blessings and woes would appeal to people on the margins and down on their luck, and the blessings and woes would challenge or offend people who are doing ok for themselves.
Which group are you in? Probably doing pretty good.
How does that make you feel?
Apparently we can expect lots of woes around here!

But I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you that I think the clearest and most helpful way to see this is that the problem with the woes group isn’t that they are doing ok it’s that they think they’ve achieved it all by their own doing.
It’s that they are pretty content with the world and think they can manage pretty much on their own – after all, they’re already rich, satisfied, laughing, and well thought of.

That’s the difference with the blessed who are poor, hungry, weeping, and excluded and put down. This group knows they can’t manage things on their own because life has pretty much overwhelmed them and they can’t fix it.

Listen carefully.
They aren’t blessed because Jesus is a masochist and God likes suffering people.
They’re blessed because they are more likely to be God-reliant than self-reliant.

Blessed are you who are God-reliant, for you will know God.
Woe to you who are too self-reliant, for you’re on your own.

And then Jesus says “let’s put this into action and see what happens.” read on

161030 – Met-a-noy-ah

Yr C ~ Pentecost 24 ~ Luke 19:1-10

The story of Zacchaeus is one of my absolute favourites in the bible because it challenges a very popular but problematic theological view in what I think is a very helpful way. But before I get to that I’d like to walk us through the story and lift up some things that I think are really important. The story is actually completely bonkers with all sorts of tidbits that are designed to bake your brain.met-a-noy-ah

Most of us here probably have fairly traditional sounding names that may have a deep meaning but generally we just hear it as a name. But names in Hebrew are more directly related to actual attributes of a person. They had names like “laughter” (Isaac) or “earth/ground” (Adam). So, if you spoke Hebrew and you heard the name Zacchaeus you would hear “pure and innocent” – well, actually you’d hear Zakkay in Hebrew – Zacchaeus is the Greek version, but the point stands. So right off the top we have a story about a no-good-dirty-rotten tax collector – the chief tax collector at that, suggesting he’s probably even worse than usual – whose name means pure and innocent. You just know the story is gonna be weird!

Then we learn that he is short in stature so he can’t see through the crowd and has to run ahead and climb a tree to get a view of Jesus passing through. But the word translated as short here is the same word used elsewhere to speak of children. So, is it about stature or status? Well, this rich tax man who is an innocent child can’t see so like a child he runs and climbs a tree. Except that a mature Jewish man wouldn’t be caught dead running and climbing trees! It would have been utterly undignified and humiliating.
So the story has us perplexed again. The chief tax collector acting like a kid.

And the word for his wanting to see Jesus is better translated as striving to see – and “see” should have air-quotes on it to suggest that it’s not just a visual seeing but that he’s passionately, desperately, enthusiastically yearning to “see”, to understand, to encounter Jesus – which is exactly what every one of us is supposed to be about.
He wasn’t up a tree to get a better selfie for his Facebook page – he was up there to seek out the one who teaches us how to live in God’s presence.

Zacchaeus’ presence in the tree catches Jesus’ attention and Jesus looks up and addresses him by name. Is that a parlour trick? How did Jesus know this guy’s name? Is it a sign that Jesus knows everything?
Maybe it’s just as simple as Jesus looking up into this strangers eyes and seeing his heart and describing what he sees: pure and innocent – Zakkay.

Moved by this encounter – and I mean that Jesus is moved by it! – Jesus pretty much invites himself for dinner! (Oh, and by the way, I’ll be bringing my dozen or so friends too!) So Zacchaeus scrambles down (again, undignified) and he “was happy to welcome Jesus” – but the Greek word is actually not just happy but rejoiced, which means to delight in God’s grace. Zacchaeus, upon having an encounter with Jesus whom he so passionately sought, rejoices and delights in God’s undeserved favour (that’s what grace is).

It’s an astounding story! No-good-dirty-rotten chief tax collectors are not supposed to do any of this stuff – not seek Jesus, not climb trees, not be undignified, not be called pure and innocent, and certainly not receive God’s grace. But this one did! It’s scandalous! read on

161023 – The Great I Do

Yr C ~ Pentecost 23 ~ Luke 18:9-14

Today we get to wrestle with one of Jesus’ blatantly obvious parables that isn’t obvious at all. That’s what makes it a parable! I like to call parables ‘thought bombs’ because as you contend with them at some point it’s going to make your brain explode with a fresh new revelation about your faith. This parable does not disappoint, but on the surface it appears to be simple.great-i-do

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (Luke 18:10)

Instantly Jesus’ audience would be predisposed to believe that the Pharisee will be the hero and the tax collector the villain. (Now for us, Pharisees were often on the wrong end of Jesus’ teachings and argued with him constantly, but they were very, very well respected in that time.)

Pharisees were the ones who lived according to the letter of the Jewish Law and made it their life’s work to be holy and righteous, and tax collectors were no-good-dirty-rotten-scoundrels who cheated people by overcharging them for their taxes and got rich doing so.

By the end of the parable the tax collector ends up the hero and the Pharisee the villain. That’s a fascinating reversal but that’s not the thought bomb! Let’s look at what they did.

Luke 18:11-13 – The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

The surface interpretation correctly sees that the Pharisee’s problem was ego and vanity – that even though he was doing the right spiritual, churchy things he seemed to be doing them for the wrong reasons. And the tax collector humbled himself so he was rewarded.
That’s good as far as it goes, but there’s so much more here! read on

161009 – A Habitude of Gratitude

Yr C ~ Canadian Thanksgiving ~ Philippians 4:4-9

As many of you know I love making up new words. When I was trying to figure out how to make a clever message title for Thanksgiving I was playing with the word gratitude, but I didn’t want to use the familiar “attitude of gratitude” line. Plus I wanted to underline from the Philippians reading that the spiritual life requires an ongoing effort on our part so I came up with the word habitude! Awesome new word, right?! Except it isn’t! It’s an actual English word! I’d never heard it before but it’s a real word! It’s so great; I wonder why this word didn’t catch on?habitude-gratitude

Your habitude is your customary way of behaving or acting. It’s the usual activities in your day. It’s your ongoing practice of something. You’re in the habit of doing it. It’s a regular thing you incorporate into your life. A habitude is not just an inkling or a thought about something, it’s the actual doing of it.

Your attitude is your orientation, or outlook – it’s your way of viewing or approaching a situation. It’s how you tend to feel toward something.
A habitude is an expected action – expected because that’s what the person usually does. It’s what you tend to do about something.

Your spiritual attitude might be just fine – you might think good thoughts, and have a solid theological lens to look at the world through, and be generally positive and hopeful in your faith, but if your spiritual habitude isn’t rocking your faith can’t grow.
So how’s your habitude?
What would a good habitude look like?
Let’s ask the apostle Paul.

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was written while he was in prison – a reminder to us that in their time claiming to be a follower of the Way and daring to speak out loud about it had serious consequences. So from prison Paul reaches out to the Philippians and reminds them to rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice!”

How often are we supposed to rejoice? Always! Without ceasing.
Does that mean we’re supposed to be perpetually happy? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. No one is happy all the time. Life doesn’t work like that.

But then, it doesn’t say to be happy all the time, it says to rejoice all the time, and even more importantly it says to rejoice ‘in the Lord’.

Rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice because you are in communion with the Holy Mystery we call God. Rejoice because at your core you are one with the Sacred. Rejoice because you’re blessed and loved and you are not alone – rejoice regardless of your circumstances. Joy isn’t a feeling, it’s an orientation. Happiness is an attitude; rejoicing is a habitude! read on

161002 – Stand Up for Me (Creation 4)

Yr C ~ Creation 4 ~ Genesis 1:24-31a

If you’re a person who has always had trouble reconciling Genesis chapter 1 with how you understand the world “really” works scientifically, I’d like to suggest to you that you may have been reading it with the wrong lens.

The creation story in Genesis was never, ever intended to be an actual explanation of how things began. At the time it was written such explanations were utterly beyond the writers’ intention or comprehension – and if you think you actually understand it all even now you’re kidding yourself. The origins of the universe and our planet remain in many ways a profound mystery. We know a lot of scientific facts and theories, but it should be humbling to us that every couple of decades new facts and theories come along that blow the current ones out of the water.

But Genesis never pretended to be about facts and theories – that was something that we tried to lay on it over the past few hundred years because we decided that if you can’t rationally and factually explain something it wasn’t true. Thankfully, that concept has come to be seen as ridiculous lately and even in science they are much more at home with mystery, wonder, and nuance.

Simply put, Genesis doesn’t care one bit HOW the world began – it is solely concerned with communicating the theological assertion that however it may have scientifically happened that the Holy Mystery we have named God was and is fundamentally and inextricably at the centre of it. And more than that, they’re saying that not only is God at the very centre of it all but also that God is indistinguishable from it all.

The language of Genesis 1 is absolutely clear about this but we’ve tended to misread it. I don’t have time to go through the whole chapter today but I will point out a couple of key things and you can go back on your own and read through it a few times to see if it rings true for you.

Rather than the facts of creation Genesis wants to have you feel the rhythm of creativity.
I’ve said many times before that one of my favourite ways to describe God is as the fundamental vibration at the heart of the universe – a vibration, a wave, maybe even like music.
As I sing a note for you what you are actually hearing is a sound wave created by the vibration in my throat. (demonstration). I vibrated, a sound happened, and you all saw that it was good!

That’s the rhythm of creativity: God said > And it was so > And God saw that it was good. When Genesis says that God “spoke” it’s saying that a vibration happened – that’s what happens when you speak. A vibration happened.
Isn’t that exactly how science thinks the universe began?
Isn’t that what science says is at the very heart of all matter and energy in the universe?
God spoke (there is a fundamental vibration), and it was so, and it was good. read on

160925 – Walk Lightly On Me (Creation 3)

Yr C ~ Creation 3 ~ Genesis 13:1-11

A large family moves into a new neighbourhood and starts to live their lives. But this large family has so many people, so many possessions, so much stuff, that they find themselves feeling crowded and start to get on each other’s nerves. So the patriarch of the family says to his kin, “Rather than fight let’s spread out. Look out the window. You can have whatever house in the neighbourhood you want, including this one. You pick what you want and I’ll take what’s left.”feet-walk-lightly-environment1

So the younger man lights up like a kid at Christmas and says he wants the nicest house in the neighbourhood – 4000 square feet, professional landscaping, every upgrade you can imagine, the works. The patriarch says ok and they go their separate ways, and all seems to be fine.

But what you may not know is the rest of the story. The younger man took the nicest house but he didn’t realize it was in a sketchier part of the neighbourhood. Eventually he ran into a lot of trouble (pardon the pun) and it cost him everything, including his wife who was once a pillar of the community but now was just a pillar. His short-sighted desire for choosing what was shiny instead of what was deep, and for having the most and the best “right now” and for his own gain ended up blinding him to what’s really important.

The patriarch, on the other hand, lived happily ever after (mostly), because he was content to be grateful for what he was given and to make choices for the sake of his family and his progeny rather than his own immediate gain. He had a deeper appreciation for the land he was on, that it was a gift, and that there was more to life than stuff. He slowly and reverently walked around every part of his property, savouring the experience and being grateful.

What I want to know is how did the writers of the book of Genesis know so much about life here in the 21st century? The characters of Lot and Abram are archetypes for how humanity works on a fundamental level. They are exploring some of the same existential challenges we are.
You get to read this story, ponder it, and decide for yourself: Would you rather be a Lot or an Abram?

Lot chooses for the benefit of himself. Abram chooses for the benefit of others.
Lot sees with selfish eyes. Abram sees with reverent eyes.
Lot says “me, me, me.” Abram says “we, we, we.”

But more than just a morality tale about the dangers of selfishness and materialism this story invites us to go deeper.
It is not the materialism per se that is the problem here.
It’s not that coveting more and more as a human character flaw is the ultimate sin.
It’s what this character flaw leads us to.

It’s about how we act in the world based on this character flaw.
It’s about what impact on the world our choices and actions have. read on

160918 – Seek My Wisdom (Creation 2)

Yr C ~ Creation 2 ~ Mark 9:2-8

Have you ever had a mountain-top spiritual experience? I hope so! They’re those times that you can feel every single part of your body tingle with an overwhelming sense that you are in the presence of something holy, something sacred, something More.
It might take the form of a vision of Jesus, or a dazzling light, or a powerful sense of warmth and peace, or a million other possible forms. The common factor is the uncommon factor of really deeply feeling that your experience of God in that moment is the most real and true thing you’ve ever experienced.seek-my-wisdom

I’m sure that Jesus had many of those experiences of God’s Presence. Heck, that may well have been his constant state of being for all I know.
The most famous mountain-top experience of Jesus is called the transfiguration. I find it fascinating that Jesus’ transfiguration is all about blinding light and dazzling white clarity – but then moments later three of his disciples have their own mountain-top experience and it is marked not by clarity but by being enveloped by a cloud.
The Presence of God in a cloud represents both the fog of confusion and the profound sense of being surrounded and enfolded and permeated by this holiness. That pretty much sounds like my experience of God – part utter confusion and part utter bliss!

But the purpose of our discussion today is not just to encourage you to seek out mountain-top experiences for how good they make you feel, it’s to encourage you to do what the disciples were encouraged to do while they were in that terrible-beautiful cloud – to listen. It’s not just the spiritual moment that’s important (and, to be sure, those moments are vitally important) it’s the listening that goes on within those moments.

Jesus is transfigured and the figures of Moses and Elijah appear – representing the Law and the Prophets, or in other words all the spiritual wisdom of Israel – and what does Jesus do? Verse 4 says he was talking with them – dialogue, conversation, give and take, talking and listening.
The purpose of the mountain-top is deep communion with God’s Presence AND to receive God’s wisdom.

When it’s the disciples’ turn to be immersed in God’s Presence they too experience communion with God AND they receive a fantastic bit of wisdom: they’re told to listen to Jesus (Mark 9:7). Don’t just go to the mountain – listen for the wisdom.

Now, why did this scene not take place in a house, or on the road?
Why is it on a mountain top?
Why do we have that phrase “a mountain-top experience?”
What’s so special about mountains?

read on

160911 – Enjoy My Songs (Creation 1)

Creation 1 ~ Psalm 57:7-11 (et al)

Celebrating the Season of Creation is gaining steam in our churches and for good reason. A functional reason is that it gives us a nice thematic focus that breaks up the very long church season called Pentecost. But more than that it reminds us that while digging into the bible is our primary mode of engagement for theological wisdom and grounding it is not our only source.

One of the key concepts of Christianity is incarnation, but it’s so much more than just the unique way that God was present in Jesus. Incarnation, deep incarnation, means that the Spirit of God isn’t just “out there and far away” but is also embedded in and flowing through everything and everyone we encounter. The Season of Creation gives us a chance to be poetic and metaphorical and really enjoy the sacredness of this world where we live and move and have our being.enjoy-my-songs

Today our poetic theme is music! We imagine Creation saying to us “Enjoy my songs!” The bible is chock full of examples of God’s people enjoying God’s songs.

Exodus 15:20 – Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing

Luke 15:25 – Now, his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

Ephesians 5:19–20 – Be filled with the Spirit as you sing psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God.

Isaiah 55:12 – For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

And in all sorts of psalms like these verses from Psalm 98 – Sing a new song unto God, who has done such marvellous things…Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. (Psalm 98:1, 4-6).

And our focus scripture today, Psalm 57:7-11 – My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make melody. Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn. I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.

Many of you have heard me say this before: I think music just may be the ultimate metaphor for God. Music, like God, is a concept and a reality at the same time. It’s knowable and yet mysterious. It manifests itself in myriad ways and no single expression comes close to capturing the totality of it. You can try to block it or drown it out but you cannot escape its presence. It’s both utterly complex and warmly pleasing and accessible at the same time. It has the ability to communicate simultaneously on an emotional, physical and intellectual level. And the experience of hearing music (and God) is completely unique to each person and yet also common to each. read on

160904 – Wonder-Full

Yr A – Pentecost 16 – Psalm 139

I love the psalms. I love that they’re filled with amazing poetry that gushes about the love of God and how a life of faith in God, and letting God know you is the means to a meaningful, rich life. I also love that the psalms are filled with some really nasty stuff too.wonder-full

You know, the way we typically do it, it would seem that if you just go to church and put your money in the plate and listen to the nice preacher preach about how much God loves us then everything should be ok – but then we go out into the world and we see that everything isn’t ok. Church is often too soft and pretty and nice. Life is much more earthy and ambivalent and complicated.

The lectionary suggests for today Psalm 139 vv.1-6, then vv.13-18. Ever wonder what they left out and why? What goes on in those missing verses? Why would the lectionary pick and choose bits for you to hear? Why not present the entire passage and see what happens?
Sometimes it’s because those verses are particularly nasty, or complicated, or might take us on an unhelpful tangent, but what’s more likely the case is that most of us preacher-types are too chicken to take on the hard issues in the missing bits. I’d rather wrestle than skip, so let’s look at this beautiful, challenging Psalm – in its entirety.

Verse 1 – “O Lord you have searched me and known me” – how does that make you feel? It makes me feel Good – because there’s safety there, and there’s a warmth and a depth to the connection being described. God knows when we rise up and sit down, knows our thoughts, knows our path, and is acquainted with all our ways – heck, even before we put a word on our tongue God knows it completely.
How does God do that? How can God know all that about me, about you, about all of us at the same time? Well, it’s just too wonderful for us to understand.

But is it wonderful? read on

160828 – Longing for Listening

Yr C ~ Pentecost 15 ~ Psalm 81

Psalms are really interesting pieces of writing. They speak passionately of our relationship with God, usually expressing praise, but often expressing the real struggle of faith with all its ups and downs. Psalms can be joyous and uplifting one moment and downright nasty and uncomfortable the next. They are certainly not for the faint of heart. And they’re constantly changing “voice” from the psalmist speaking to God speaking to someone else speaking, and often with no warning or indication so you have to kind of figure it out yourself.longing-for-listening

Ultimately, the voice of the psalmist is the voice of the preacher, the prophet, the historian, the liturgist, the disciple, and the Lord all rolled into one. This week and next we’re going to look at a couple of psalms. Next week’s is very well known. This one, not so much. But after today I hope you’ll know it better. It’s Psalm 81.

1 Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.
2 Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day.
4 For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
5a He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt.

First, I’ll remind you that the literal meaning of worship is “to ascribe worth” or in other words it’s “worth-ship.” Worship, worth-ship, is not grovelling, it’s acknowledging high value. And this worship is our obligation/commandment – a decree. Does that make you feel coerced? It shouldn’t.
Think of it in the same ways that you are obligated or decreed to love your partner, or to love a friend. An obligation to love isn’t a burden, it’s a life-giving gift.
So yes, we are obliged to worship, to declare our highest value, to love God. Here’s why… read on

160814 – One-Anothering

Topical Sermon ~ Romans 8:14-28

You simply cannot turn on a television set, pick up a newspaper, or surf the interwebs without being bombarded with stories of a world seemingly gone mad. Perhaps it has ever been thus, and it just feels worse because it’s happening now and we’re aware of it. But it seems to me that there’s something different. What I think is different is that we’re finally reaping what we’ve been sowing in earnest for the past hundred years or so.one-anothering-pray-sm

In response, scripture offers us passages like Romans 8. It reminds us that we are not alone and, in fact, we are nothing less than the children of God. It recognizes that we experience sufferings (which I understand to mean anytime we are not in control), and it acknowledges that creation itself, the world, has been groaning and seems out of control.

Into this unhappy and unsettled state of affairs Romans 8 offers a single, powerful word – hope. It implores us to trust in it and to wait for it with patience, and to pray. It rightly admits that we’re not really sure how to pray for it, but promises that the Spirit will pray for us and with us “with sighs too deep for words” and in the end “all things work together for good for those who love God.”

That sounds great, but if we jump there directly we’ll have done a disservice to our reality. Yes, as children of God we know that all things will work together for our good in the end, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Today, in the here and now, we are probably feeling more of the “out of control” part than the “all is well” part.
So let’s name our reality. Let’s start with the groaning!

We could go on for hours analyzing and debating what the problem with the world is today, but for me it can all be summed up in one word – othering. Drill down into any issue troubling our world and at its core you will find one group othering another group.

Othering is the act of dehumanizing or delegitimizing a person or group for the purpose of elevating or gaining an advantage of some sort for yourself or your group.
If “they” are the problem then “we” aren’t.
It’s “their” fault.
“They” are the source of “our” worries.
It’s us and them thinking.
And the scary part is that othering is so insidious that logic and facts can’t seem to penetrate it very easily. read on

160807 – Deirdre

Deirdre was our travelling companion and was a wonderful help to us on our recent trip to Ireland. She had quite a personality, but not much of an accent. It was kind of funny listening to her try to pronounce the names of places and roads in “the Irish,” but she probably did better than we did. deirdre
(As an aside, we met a young woman in a store with a nametag that said this: Caoimhe. We asked her how to pronounce her name. She said: Kweeva! So, Deirdre can be forgiven for mangling some place names.)

Deirdre had a penchant for the downtown area of every place we went. She loved them! You couldn’t say it was a shopping addiction, but she could not seem to avoid the downtowns! And I don’t think she was in a hurry or anything but she always seemed to want to take the most direct route somewhere, no matter how dodgy the road might be. In Ireland we constantly encountered roads like this. ireland-road-fast1Notice the speed limit!!!

But the thing that made Deirdre such a wonderful travelling companion was that she never seemed to get flustered when things went awry. Most of the time she just encouraged us to stay on the route we were on, but when we took a wrong turn she just quietly shook her head and with no frustration whatsoever simply said, “Recalculating!”

Yes, Deirdre was the name we gave our GPS. We thought about calling her Caoimhe (Kweeva) but honestly neither one of us could ever remember how to pronounce it so we picked Deirdre instead. “Follow the course of the road” was not only her favourite thing to say, it also became something of a mantra for our whole journey. We would select what we wanted to see, tell Deirdre where that was, and she’d figure out how to get us there. All we had to do was “follow the course of the road.”

I didn’t want to abandon the weekly “Noticings” emails we recently started sending out so I sent a couple of notes from our vacation. You may have read the one about the labyrinth at a place called Glendalough. I’d like to say some more about that. read on

160710 – Fred Said

Yr C ~ Pentecost 8 ~ Luke 10:25-37

We all know this story. Maybe too well! You’ve probably heard lots of different sermons on this text.
A popular approach is to cast the injured person as a homeless person and challenge us not to pass by on the other side but to help them. fred-said
Another good approach is to focus on the extravagant care and generosity that the Samaritan offers, and contrast that with the lack of compassion shown by the two religious people who should’ve known (and done) better.

And just about everyone makes the point of how Samaritans were pretty much the enemy in Jesus’ time and that even saying the word ‘Samaritan’ would’ve gotten a gasp – let alone making him the hero of the parable which would’ve baked their brains.

I’m going to focus on the question the lawyer asks that has captivated Christians ever since it was first uttered:
Who is my neighbour? And just like Jesus I’m not going to answer it directly.

The lawyer is asking Jesus about how to inherit eternal life. We’ve talked before about how eternal life is not a reward for being good when you die, it’s a gift for every moment of your living right now!
Eternal life is a life that has at its centre the character of God.
It’s a life filled with “God-ness.”
Eternal life isn’t something that starts when this physical life ends – it’s a spiritual life that starts as soon as you hear Jesus’ voice, or sense and savour the Presence of God. This blessed, abundant life is what the seeker desires.

Like a good teacher always does, Jesus makes the seeker answer their own question. “What do the scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” The lawyer gives the best possible answer. The way to have a life filled with God is to love: “love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself.”

Want eternal, abundant life? Love God, love people (and love one another too). Love, love, love.

Jesus says, “Good answer! DO THIS and you will live!”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Good answer. You get the prize.”
He says DO THIS and you will be living what you ask for. read on

160703 – Torchlight

Yr C ~ Pentecost 7 ~ Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

“Go – create community – meet needs – and proclaim the kingdom of God.” That’s it. That’s the program Jesus gave to his followers. He sent them out in pairs without supplies, without a guidebook, and without any visible means of support and told them to create community, meet needs, and proclaim God’s kingdom. torchlight-candle

There were 70 of them. It wasn’t just his inner circle – it wasn’t just the 12 – but 70. It seemed like the core 12 duh-sciples barely had a clue as to what was going on with Jesus and here are 70 more being sent out on a mission trip.
When Jesus calls, he doesn’t just call a select few, he calls us all.
The number 70 here is significant. It symbolized the number of known nations in the world in their time – so sending 70 apostles symbolized sending God’s message of presence, forgiveness, and love to the whole world.

And now, nearly 2000 years later, we find ourselves in a remarkably similar situation. You’d think that with Christianity being around for so long that the whole world would know all about it by now.
But do they?
I mean, yeah, they’ve probably heard of Christianity, is it an accurate perception that they have? If a person’s only experience of church is from a brief stint in Sunday school when they were little or from any TV ministry do they have any real sense of what it is to be a person of faith? How could they?

And so we look at today’s text and we find that while the 70 were sent out into a pre-Christian world we are being called and sent out to a post-Christian world. And in some ways, the post-Christian world is more difficult to navigate because not only are we faced with people who may not believe our proclamation but we’re also faced with people who may be predisposed to outright dismiss us before we even get started. The days where everybody went to church are long gone – which means that Jesus’ command to “Go – create community – meet needs – and proclaim the kingdom of God” is more important and more relevant now than it has been for generations. read on

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