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Life of the Party

When we think of the kingdom of God come near, we often think of Jesus’ acts of healing and deliverance and justice for the oppressed. We think of the deaf hearing, the mute speaking, the lame walking, the dead rising. We think of the powerful and the arrogant being brought down low and the lowly being raised up. When we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teaching, we’re used to Jesus arriving on the scene to declare that God’s kingdom is about all that is wrong in the world beginning to be made right.

We’re perhaps not as used to the kingdom of God being the announcement of party! Read more

Found in Translation

trans·la·tion

noun: the process of translating words or text from one language into another; the conversion of something from one form or medium into another.

Over the past few days, our local sponsorship group has begun the process of helping our new Syrian friends take their first steps in Canada. We welcomed them to our city on a brutally cold and foggy Friday afternoon. Several times as I was driving them from the airport to the home we had prepared for them, I wondered what must have going through their minds as they looked out on the frosty white scenes that greeted them. Have they dropped us off at the North Pole?! Read more

Common Bonds

The relationship between Muslims and Christians has been in the news a lot lately, whether because of the Syrian refugee crisis or the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino or, more recently in the Christian world, the theological controversy generated by a Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins’ comments about Muslims and Christians worshiping the “same God” (and her being subsequently placed on administrative leave). There are no shortage of polarizing opinions out there and no lack of enthusiasm in sharing them. Read more

2015 in Review

Another year draws to a close and so it’s time for one of those year-end posts that everyone loves so much (I assume, at least—for what else could account for their prevalence out there in the blogosphere?! Surely not the pretentiousness of bloggers!). As I surveyed this year’s top five, I observed a few trends: 1) Readers seem to like posts with long clunky titles (it also helps if the word “five” makes an appearance); 2) Being sarcastic and mildly confrontational seem to help; and 3) Scratching around at the things that we find most threatening—whether it’s the nature of faith or the future of the church or assumptions about our own identities and about our obligation to those we see as “other” and frightening— seems to quite reliably stir the proverbial pot.

So, I shall dutifully soldier into 2016 in search of ever longer titles and more saracsm-drenched posts about the things that we find most unsettling.  Or not.  At any rate, here are the top five posts of 2015 along with a brief description of each. Read more

The Thing That Matters Most

Last summer, on a sticky, oppressively hot Wednesday afternoon in New York City, I lost my fourteen year-old son. My son isn’t easy to lose—he’s 6’5 and nearly 200 pounds—so this will probably require a bit of a story. Read more

Child, Why Have You Treated Us Like This?

Child, why have you treated us like this?

The exasperated question falls from Mary’s lips after discovering Jesus in the temple after they had spent the past three days looking for him.  And once the relief at finding Jesus sets in, Mary’s thoughts turn to rebuke.

How could you be so thoughtless?! How could you not think of us?!

Child, why have you treated us like this? Read more

Approach the Manger

I posted this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s God is in the Manger last year around this time.  I may just make this an annual tradition. I have need, at any rate, to relocate myself each year amongst the “questionable figures” who “cannot get their fill of this miracle and want to live entirely by the mercy of God.” Read more

In God’s Company

I consumed two pieces of media before breakfast today. I was unable to sleep and stumbled downstairs ridiculously early for a day off with the kids on Christmas holidays. I plugged in the Christmas tree, made a pot of coffee, and settled into the wonderful pre-dawn stillness of the darkest day of the year. Read more

Remember Me

Sometimes, when I find it hard to pray, when faith, hope, and love are threatening to dry up, I zero in on a handful of desperate pleas from a handful of desperate people who come across Jesus in the gospels. A hated tax collector in the temple, for example. Have mercy on me, a sinner. A thoroughly befuddled Peter after Jesus had spoken strange words about “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood.” Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. A leper on a hillside. If you are willing, you can make me clean. A blind beggar on the road to Jericho. I want to see. Read more

Real People Do Really Bad Things

The internet is a very interesting laboratory within which to observe the human animal. This is particularly true when bad things happen in our world. This is particularly true when it comes to really, really bad things—cataclysmic things that shake us to the core.  Like a series of coordinated attacks in the city of Paris on a pleasant fall evening or a murderous rampage at a California Christmas party. When these bad things happen, a familiar move is often made, particularly online. People flood on to social media and make statements like: Real ____ would never do that! Read more

Frightening Light

The “rising sun” came unexpectedly and unobtrusively upon those living in darkness. It was a very small light in a very ordinary place. A baby. Of all things. A baby boy. Which didn’t seem very impressive or bright or hopeful.

But the light shone. And the darkness was very displeased. Read more

Like a Human Being

On the way in to work today, I listened to a radio interview with Anas Al Abdullah, a Syrian refugee who had recently arrived in Toronto. It was wonderful to hear about what the experience had been like for him during his first week in Canada. It was heartbreaking to hear about what he had endured. It was moving to hear about the longing he felt for family members who will be arriving in Canada shortly. It was inspiring to hear about the sponsorship group in Toronto and the ways in which they had prepared for Anas’s arrival and how they had walked with him during his first days in this strange new land.

And, of course, it was impossible to hear Anas’s story without thinking of our own situation here in Lethbridge, without looking ahead, imagining, dreaming, hoping. Read more

Who Can Endure the Day of His Coming?

Among the lectionary readings for this, the second week of Advent, is Malachi 3:1-4. I don’t think this text will find its way into my sermon this week, but it’s been finding its way into my mind this afternoon. The prophet speaks of a messenger who will come to the people of Israel—people who had been hungry for a word from God to vindicate and bless his people.  The assumption seems to be that this coming is anticipated with joy and eager expectation.

But when the messenger comes, there’s an awkward and unpleasant surprise. Read more

“I’m a Person with No Address”

I was sitting in a hospital room this morning with a dear old saint whose last few years have involved being shuffled from home to home, to the hospital and back again, and whose next destination is unclear. At one point, this person looked at me with a mixture of sadness, resignation, and nearly defeated longing and said, “I’m a person with no address.” Read more

Still There

Each year around this time, I look out my office window on a wintry late afternoon and morosely note to myself how early it is getting dark these days. This is one of the delights of living in the northern hemisphere at this time of year. Sixteen hours of frigid darkness a day.  Hooray. Read more

1995

A lot of interesting things happened in 1995.

  • Forrest Gump won Academy Award for best picture.  Run Forrest, run!
  • The New Jersey Devils swept the heavily favoured Detroit Red Wings to win their first Stanley Cup. I don’t think anyone watched as this was quite likely the dullest period in hockey history.
  • 168 people were killed and 680 wounded in the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • Quebec separatists narrowly lost a referendum for a mandate to negotiate independence from Canada.
  • The Dalai Lama proclaimed 6-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. Apparently the poor kid was later kidnapped by the Chinese and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
  • There was a really bad flood in southern Alberta. Apparently it caused $100 million in damage. I remember seeing tractors in the field with water over the wheel wells.
  • Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest.
  • eBay was founded. Shopping with computers. Hooray.
  • Srebrenica and Rwanda happened.  And the world still convulses with hatred and violence.
  • Microsoft released Windows 95. From what I understand, things pretty much went downhill from there.
  • O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of double murder for the deaths of former wife Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.  Justice prevails again.
  • The Republic of Texas group claimed to have formed a provisional government in Texas.  And they didn’t even need a wall!
  • Groups like TLC and Boyz II Men were topping the Billboard charts. Apparently. I wouldn’t know as I was listening to Pearl Jam and Metallica.
  • The first-ever full length computer animated feature film, Toy Story, was released by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures.  To infinity and beyond!

Many of these things I don’t remember very well. And it’s not just because I was a mostly inattentive and culturally clueless twenty year old, true as that undoubtedly was. My mind was on other things in 1995.

Read more

I’m Biased (And So Are You)

Confirmation bias: the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities 

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I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that the past few weeks have afforded you a few opportunities to observe humans behaving badly on the Internet. Maybe even more than a few. The Syrian refugee crisis has polarized people—particularly Christian people, sadly—in a way that few issues that I can recall have. Ever since, “the post” and the many unpleasant responses it generated, I have a rapidly expanding email folder full of often very kind messages from people around the world that often begin with something like, “I’ve been so discouraged lately by the things I’ve been reading about the refugee crisis online…” Read more

If I’ve Told You Once, I’ve Told You a Thousand Times

You must not judge what I know by what I find words for.

— John Ames (in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead)

Given the heavy themes of recent posts, it occurred to me that perhaps we could use some lighter fare around here. I could, at any rate. And what better way to accomplish this goal than to compose a self-indulgent and nakedly hubristic piece to celebrate the one thousandth post in the history of this blog? In the (quite likely) event that this prospect does not set your heart alight with anticipation, you are welcome to click away now. Read more