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Posts from the ‘Jesus’ Category

Three Times

So we have arrived at the Thursday before the Friday before the Sunday that changed the world. One of this morning’s readings in the prayer-book I use was the scene where Jesus is sentenced to death in the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Luke. It is, of course, a sad scene. The light of the world is handed over to the greedy and murderous hands of an angry mob. The Son of God gives himself away to those who don’t know what they are doing. Read more

The Resurrection of Jesus (Gil Dueck)

I read the following words this morning on a Christian publication’s Facebook feed:

Easter is a notorious time for skeptics to launch attacks on Christianity. Christians should be ready to respond to skeptical arguments.

I confess that the way this is worded makes my skin crawl. “Calling all Christians, the skeptics are coming!  Easter is nearly upon us, and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and defend the resurrection!”  I’m sure Jesus would be so pleased.  

Having (grouchily) said that, I have always taken the words of 1 Peter 3:15-16 very seriously: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  We tend to major on the “always be prepared” part and minor on the “with gentleness and respect” part, but that’s probably another blog post for another time.

At any rate, because Easter is a time where these questions tend to come up, and because the resurrection is the reason for the hope that I have, and NOT because I think Christians should be arming themselves for fiery combat with the skeptical hordes at the gate, I submit to you the following piece on the resurrection that was written by my brother Gil a few years back.  It is important, in these lightly informed and noisy times, to at least make sure we know what we’re talking about when we defend or attack the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read more

You Don’t Know What It’s Like

One day, three conversations.

1. I’m at a function where my job is to give a short devotional and prayer before the meal.  Pastor-y stuff.  You know.  I’m trying to be witty, disarming, light.  I make some throwaway comment about how I know we’re all hungry and that the soup smells good, but please won’t you just spare 5 minutes or so for the presence to descend?  I do my thing.  Appreciative smiles, all around.  Let’s eat.  I wander around the room, hungry for praise, when a woman approaches me.  I smile warmly, preparing myself for the inevitable, “oh, thank you for your words” and “that was so wonderful” or some other appropriately appreciative expression of gratitude.  But she isn’t smiling.  “You shouldn’t have said that, you know!”  I look blankly at her.  “Um, what?”  “About being hungry.  We’re not hungry.  None of us has ever been hungry.  Certainly not you.  You shouldn’t have said that.”  I’m waiting for her to say, “ah, just kidding!” or “but other than that, your words were, of course, quite brilliant.”  I’m waiting for the conversation to make the obligatory turn.  Doesn’t she know this isn’t how it goes?  Doesn’t she know about the appreciative remarks and that grateful smiles?  Hasn’t she read the script?!  But there is no turn.  And she still isn’t smiling.  “Um, well, I’m sorry,” I mumble unimpressively.  “My husband was a prisoner of war,” she says, face unmoving.  “He knew about hunger.  But you don’t know what it’s like.  You should be careful about what you say.” Read more

One Body, For All the Wrong

I sometimes think of strange things on the way to work.  Today is April 8, 2014.  Yesterday it was 20 degrees Celsius here in southern Alberta.  This morning it is snowing.  This seemed somehow wrong to me as I was driving down the highway this morning.  Yesterday the window was open.  Today the defrost is on and there is snow on the hood of my car.  Yes, this is very wrong indeed.

As I was pondering the deep and mysterious wrongness of southern Alberta weather patterns, I began to wonder about other wrong things in our world.  I began to wonder about how many things are said, each day, in our communities, cities, nations, and world, that are wrong.  How many factual errors?  How much sloppy and inaccurate reporting?  How many people pronouncing upon things they know little about?  How much of noisy chatter in Internet-land is simply misinformed and incorrect?  How are we able to wade through all this wrongness and still function?   Read more

All That Life Threatens to Steal

I read an article this week about the death of handwriting and how a whole generation of kids will grow up with bad to nonexistent penmanship skills due to the proliferation of technological devices that they master before their tenth birthday.  I read another one about how we retain far more of what we write when use pen and paper rather than laptop and tablets.  And then I read yet another article about how wireless technology was giving us cancer and generally rotting our brains.  Feeling appropriately despondent about the state of our wired and technologically dependent world, I said to myself, “very well then, pen to paper it is.”  My handwriting, as you will see, is truly abysmal (I’m old enough that I can’t even blame the Internet for my inadequacies), but hopefully it is legible nonetheless.  Believe it or not, this is the result of me writing extra slowly.

I wrote the following reflection sitting in a dumpy coffee shop with an old notebook after visiting a dear saint walking through the fog and sadness of the valley of the shadow. Read more

Broken Along the Way

I had planned to be in Edmonton today for the seventh and final national event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, but a combination of an unexpectedly clogged schedule and yet another batch of bad weather in the winter that refuses to die means that I am, instead, watching the events on my laptop on this snowy spring morning.  The opening ceremonies are taking place right now—the prayers, the speeches, the parade of dignitaries across the stage.  It’s all very good, but the audio’s not great, so my mind is drifting.

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A Gift is for Giving

This past weekend, we were privileged to have Cheryl Bear from the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation community in northern British Columbia as a special guest here in Lethbridge at both our Mennonite Church Alberta Annual Assembly on Friday and Saturday, and at our morning worship service on Sunday.  The timing of the event was significant here in Alberta, as the Truth and Reconciliation’s final national event will be taking place in Edmonton this week (Mar 27-30).  Cheryl is gifted musician and storyteller, and it was delightful to both hear from and get to know her over these short few days.

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Love Finds Us

Lent is a time when we talk often about “wilderness experiences”—about times when things are hard, when God seems absent, when we seem disoriented or stressed or lonely or bored or anxious or whatever.  “The wilderness” becomes a kind of placeholder for an experience or set of experiences that happen to us.  A season we must endure or grow through, a challenge we must rise to, a test we must pass, a necessary part of the journey of faith.

I think this is mostly an appropriate way to use wilderness language.  Mostly.  Read more

Hope is a Condition of Your Soul

Fear.  Of nothingness.  Of dying.  Of failure.  Of change.  It is of different degrees, but it all comes from one source, which is the isolated self, the self willfully held apart from God.  There are three ways you can deal with this fear.  You can simply refuse to acknowledge it, dulling your concerns with alcohol or entertainment or exercise or even a sort of virtuous busyness, adding your own energies to the white noise of anxiety that this culture we have created seems to use as fuel.  This is despair, but it is a quiet despair, and bearable for many years.  By the time that great grinding wheel of the world rolls over you for good, you will be too eroded to notice. 

Or, if you are strong in the way that the world is strong, you can strap yourself into life and give yourself over to a kind of furious resistance that may very well carry you through your travails, may bring you great success and seem to the world triumphant, perhaps even heroic.  But if it is merely your will that you are asserting, then you will develop a carapace around your soul, the soul that God is trying to refine, and one day you will return to dust inside that shell that you have made.

There is another way.  It is the way of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleading for release from his fate, abandoned by God.  It is something you cannot learn as a kind of lessons simply from reading the text.  Christ teaches by example, true, but he lives with us, lives in us, through imagination and experience.  It is through all these trials in our own lives, these fears however small, that we come close to Christ, if we can learn to say, with him, “not my will, Lord, but yours.”  This is in no way resignation, for Christ still had to act.  We all have to act, whether it’s against the fears of our daily life or against the fear that life itself is in danger of being destroyed.  And when we act in the will of God, we express hope in its purest and most powerful form, for hope, as Václav Havel has said, is a condition of your soul, not a response to the circumstances in which you find yourself.  Hope is what Christ had in the garden, though he had no reason for it in terms of events, and hope is what he has right now, in the garden of our own griefs.

— Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

Safe at the Foot of the Fuzzy Cross

Lord teach us to pray (Luke 11:1).

Like the disciples, I often have no idea how to pray.  I don’t know what to ask for, I don’t know how long to keep asking, I don’t know if I am doing it right, I don’t know how it all really works.  That doesn’t sound very pastoral, I know.  What can I say?  I suppose I am, at least, in decent (or at least populous) company when I say that prayer is often very hard for me. Read more

The Receptionist and the Messenger

There are times when it feels like to be a pastor is to be the receptionist at a walk-in clinic where the doctor is never in.  The sick and the wounded, the weary and confused, the angry and exhausted—in they stumble, speaking of bodies that are breaking down, of loved ones who are dying, of relationships that stagger under the weight of too many cumulative breaks and fissures to possibly think of mending, of doubts born of too much suffering and silence.  In they come, assuming that the receptionist has some kind of special access to the doctor, to the healing they want and need. Read more

On Being Perfect

There was an hour to kill between appointments last night, so my daughter and I went to grab something to eat.  It had been a day—not particularly good, not particularly bad, just, I don’t know, acceptably mediocre—and we were both a little tired.  We sat mostly in silence, munching on our sandwiches, me thinking about the evening meeting ahead, she thinking… well, what was she thinking.  She stared absently past me, for the most part.  Neither of us seemed much in the mood for conversation.

“Does it ever make you sad that people have to eat alone?”  Read more

“I Am What Comes After Deserving”

 The news is bad today.  But then the news is so very often bad.

Where to begin?  Violent conflicts in the Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic, and so many others grind wearily on, with all the predictable innocent pain and suffering that drags along in the wake of tired, old, struggles for power.  A volcanic eruption in Indonesia displaces more than 100 000 people.  There is political unrest in Egypt and Venezuela.  There are the places that we need only name to know that there is bad news: Afghanistan.  Iraq.  North Korea.  Iran.  Haiti.  And all of this bad news takes place while our eyes are mostly fixed upon a very expensive extravaganza for the rich  at a resort on the Black Sea.

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Our Father

“We do not know how to pray” (Romans 8:26).  The whole uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth lies in this: that he knows how to pray, because he knows to whom he is speaking.  His greatest miracle was not healing or walking on water or driving out devils, but teaching his followers to say our Father.

—   Benjamin Myers, Salvation in My Pocket

—— 

This afternoon I did a bit of an inventory of recent encounters with the Lord’s Prayer.  Read more

You Were Born to Be Loved

I’ve written here before about delightful “holy moments” that I have experienced in the church I serve (see here and here, for example).  These are often moments when something unexpected happens, something that spills out of our careful containers of planning and order, something that points simply, poignantly, and powerfully to the hope of the gospel in a way that no eloquent sermon or finely crafted liturgy ever could.  I love these moments. Even when I don’t notice them.  Read more

2013 in Review (And a Thank You!)

So, 2013 is drawing to a close, which means it’s time to take a peek in the rearview mirror and reflect a bit on the year that has nearly passed.  In the blogging world, this means—what else?!—highlighting the most read posts on this blog over the past 365 days or so.  It’s an imperfect tool of evaluation, obviously—a cursory count of clicks and page views hardly provides an accurate assessment of meaningful or substantive engagement—but I suppose it give some sense of the themes that drew people here over the year.   Whenever I look at statistical summaries on this blog, I find myself scratching my head.  That was my most-read post?!  I don’t even like that one!  Why didn’t ____ make the list? Posts that I am convinced are the best thing the internet has seen since, well, two hours or so ago languish in obscurity while others that I dashed off in twenty minutes generate more traffic than I would ever have expected.   I suppose such is the nature of blogging. Read more

On Rushing Ahead in the Story

A few years ago, when I was taking my first steps in my present role as pastor, a church member timidly approached me sometime around mid-December with a question: “I know it’s Advent, and Advent is about waiting, but would you be OK if we sang some Christmas carols during the Sundays before December 25?”  The question was probably more pragmatic than theological.  Our church doesn’t have a Christmas day service, and the Sunday between Christmas and New Years is usually among the most lightly attended of the year.  There simply weren’t as many opportunities to sing these dearly loved songs as some people would like!

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The Offense of Christmas

It’s a strange thing that, as followers of Jesus, we are dwellers in a story.

Religion is often conceived and described as ideology or a philosophy or an ethical system that provides answers to deep questions about the meaning of life and the nature of salvation.  But as Christians, we are not given a generic, universal set of principles or techniques or transcendent truths or ethical absolutes by which to live.

We are, rather, thrust into a story—and a grubby, disheveled story, at that. Read more