This morning’s Bible reading was a bit of an unexpected one. Hosea 14. I suspect I am not alone in saying that I don’t tend to spend a lot of time in Hosea for devotional reading. It’s a fascinating book and a remarkable story about the fidelity of God to his people, but Hosea, like most of the minor prophets is a bit off the beaten path. At least for me. It’s like that interesting little town that you drove through once upon a time but haven’t visited in quite a while. Read more
Posts from the ‘Forgiveness’ Category
As far as I can recall, the last few weeks have contained my first ever interviews. This sounds quite a bit more impressive than it is or was. One was forty-five minutes in a Tim Hortons coffee shop discussing my time in Colombia last year with a local reporter who is preparing a small booklet as part of an upcoming relief sale put on by Mennonite Central Committee. The other was ten minutes or so in front of a camera in Montreal as part of a feature about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being put together by Mennonite Church Canada. We’re not really talking a big stage here. But still, kind of interesting experiences. Read more
It’s intriguing to me how frequently our morning worship services will contain a pleasant surprise of some kind, whether an unplanned correlation between a song and a prayer or a testimony that just fits with this or that aspect of the sermon or some other thing. It’s remarkable how frequently the Spirit of God seems to be working in similar ways and prompting similar ideas in the hearts and minds of people in our community. Read more
One last post about my experience at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Quebec National Event this past week. As I’ve reflected on the flight home yesterday and throughout today, few questions/topics of a bit more philosophical nature keep recurring. I don’t necessarily claim to have the answers to these questions, but I would welcome dialogue about them here. I think they are important matters to discuss as Canadians of all kinds try to work toward a more just and equitable future. Read more
A story from day three of the Québec Truth and Reconciliation Commission…
It was nearing the end of a long day of listening and I was looking for a place near the back of the hall to sit quietly for the last session of the day. Near the back of the room, I was somewhat surprised to see a flip chart stand with a drawing on it sitting in the middle of the aisle. I was even more surprised to see a young aboriginal man wildly gesticulating beside it as he was speaking in a very animated fashion to a young woman with a notepad. I edged closer to get a better look (and maybe a listen). The closer I got, the more obvious it was that this young man was very angry indeed. Read more
I spent the morning after the triumph of life over death reading about the triumph of death over life.
Well, that sounds a little more dramatic than it actually was. What I was in fact reading was a fairly ordinary little book by David Webster called Dispirited: How Contemporary Spirituality Makes Us Stupid, Selfish and Unhappy. It’s hard to imagine a book with a subtitle that catchy being almost a complete waste of time, but it was. I was really looking forward to reading Dispirited after hearing an interview with Webster on the radio (he made some intriguing comments about contemporary spirituality and how it perpetuates selfishness, individualism, consumerism, etc.), but the book turned out to be a rather poorly written, sloppily edited collection of loosely connected rants against the increasing prominence of the (admittedly irritating) “I’m spiritual but not religious” claim. Read more
Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return.
These words have been spoken in churches around the world this Ash Wednesday and will be spoken later today in our own church. These words are a call to ponder our mortality, to examine our souls and repent for our sins, to begin the slow march to the cross of Christ and to the new life of resurrection on the other side. Read more
The world of social media has been all abuzz today with Mike Huckabee’s weekend response to the “Where was God in Connecticut?” question. Huckabee’s “answer” is as familiar as the question to which it responds, and has been somberly rehearsed by American evangelical types frequently over the past few decades when it comes to these kinds of tragedies. You know it well, don’t you? It goes something like this: “Well, why should we expect God to show up when we have spent the last fifty years systematically removing him from our [insert public institution—usually schools].” Simply put: “Where was God? Well, we kicked him out!” Read more
I spent a good chunk of this week at a denominational pastors retreat in the Alberta foothills just north of Calgary. One of the things we did during our worship times each day was spend some time “dwelling in the Word.” The specific text we focused on each session was Luke 7:36-50, the story where Jesus is anointed by a “sinful woman” at the home of Simon the Pharisee. It’s a scandalous story—a woman of ill repute showing up a bunch of religious elites, crashing their party with her sensuous, inappropriate display of penitence, love, and devotion. Even more scandalously, Jesus praises her as an example to emulate, claims to forgive her sin, and sends her away in peace. One can only imagine what must have been going on in the minds of the esteemed, religious host and his respectable dinner guests! Read more
Just over three years ago, I threw up a post about a conversation with my son about the word “amen” and whether the “men” part of the word meant that God was only interested in men and not women. It was a rather quick post about the nature of the words we use, how our relationship to them changes over time, and what these words communicate about our views on gender. I didn’t think much of the post at the time. There are some posts on this blog that I spend a fair amount of time writing, but this was not one of them. It was an interesting conversation with my son, a few reflections of my own, and not much more.
Today is National Aboriginal Day here in Canada. It is a day which, since 1996, has been set aside to learn about and honour the diverse cultural heritage of Canada’s First Nations, to recognize their ongoing contribution to Canada, and (hopefully) to remember that there remains much work to do in addressing the many problems that remain from Canada’s mistreatment (past and present) of its first peoples. Southern Alberta has a significant aboriginal population, with the Blood and Peigan tribes to the east and the south and the Siksika to the north, all three of which, along with the South Peigan in Montana, are part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. It is a region of Canada blessed with a rich and diverse aboriginal heritage. Read more
My son has always been a bit of a hoarder. Ever since he could walk, he would collect things while we were out and about—sticks, rocks, discarded toys, little pieces of plastic, empty cans… whatever. Going for a walk with him was always an adventure because you never knew what you would come home with (and would subsequently spend the rest of the week picking up around the house or finding underneath his pillow!). To this day, his room is a cluttered mess of “treasures” that he has discovered whilst walking to and fro about town.
What does this have to do with me? These were the decidedly impious words that kept rattling around my cranium as I drove around town running errands after a local Good Friday service this morning. It had been a meaningful service—beautiful music, considerable time spent hearing Scripture, a dramatic portrayal of Jesus’ betrayal, “trial,” and crucifixion—but for some reason, the events we remembered this morning seemed light years away from my own life and experience.
“Jesus Doesn’t Want You to Love Him For What You Can Get Out of Him” (and Other Pious-Sounding Non-Starters)
Monday is my Sabbath and one of the things I usually do at some point in the day is walk the dog and listen to a sermon on my iPod. I listen to sermons from friends of mine at other churches or more “famous” preachers whose sermons are available via podcast. I look forward to these walks and these sermons. It’s nice to listen instead of speak, and I almost invariably come back from my walks having received something good for the day and the week ahead.
Part of last weekend was spent in Calgary at a provincial gathering of Mennonite churches and organizations where our time together was focused upon the theme of “Delighting in Scripture.” It’s a very pious sounding theme, isn’t it? Good Christians are supposed to love the Bible, aren’t they? It sounds like something we should all be doing all of the time. It calls to mind impressions I had in my childhood that if you were a follower of Jesus, you couldn’t wait to read your Bible and eagerly did so whenever the opportunity presented itself.
I led my first ever Ash Wednesday service today. Actually, scratch that. I participated in my first Ash Wednesday service today. My Mennonite Brethren background was decidedly low church and we didn’t really observe Lent or Advent or the Christian year in general. It was Christmas and Easter and that was about it. Everything else was high-church or “liturgical” (as if we weren’t!) or some other negative or, at least, unnecessary practice. And even though in recent years many churches in the Anabaptist tradition have moved toward embracing the Christian calendar, I still had never actually attended an Ash Wednesday service.