Mondays are usually pretty quiet for me, and I’m especially appreciative of this one after a very busy weekend. Lots of activity usually means lots to reflect upon when the pace slows down—at least for me. A few mostly unrelated thoughts, then, for a Monday morning…
This weekend was our biannual church retreat which took us to a nice little retreat centre tucked away in the Rocky Mountains an hour and a half or so away. We spent our time reflecting on themes of “re-creation” as well as, more importantly, enjoying time together in creation and in community. I particularly enjoyed chasing my kids around a ski hill on Saturday afternoon. It was a perfect day—not too cold, no wind, and a virtually empty hill. The contrast between my son and daughter could not have been more stark—the former independently careening around the hill always on the verge of losing control, the latter a model of caution and restraint. Ah, yes… risk and restraint. Both are necessary in this life. But which one and when and where and why? These are the questions…
One of our sessions on Saturday focused on wonder and awe. For me, it is difficult not to experience these things in the mountains. Particularly beautiful was the Sunday sunrise, as you can see in the photo above taken by one of our church members. Simply spectacular. A visual confirmation of the words from Psalm 8 we had read earlier in the weekend:
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
9 LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
On Sunday evening, it was off to an ecumenical service hosted by a Presbyterian church in our city. The service was an invitation to reflect upon what unites us as Christians, rather than the many things we focus on/invent to divide ourselves. Anglican, United, Baptist, Lutheran, Salvation Army, Roman Catholic, Mennonite—each was represented, and probably others too, albeit in rather meagre numbers. It was my first experience participating in this kind of service and I felt a mixture of deep appreciation at what the service represented, and sadness that it was enjoyed by so few. A big, beautiful sanctuary, filled with well-crafted and meaningful words, prayers, and hymns, with only a handful of souls there to participate.
I was particularly struck by the excellent sermon delivered by a local campus chaplain. She reflected upon the changing realities for the church in a post-Christendom era through the lens of three texts from Scripture. The reading from John’s gospel (John 12:23-26) talked about a kernel of wheat needing to die to produce new life. The OT reading, Habakkuk 3:17-19, spoke of rejoicing even when the fig tree does not bud, when the crops fail, when there are no sheep or cattle in the stalls—when signs of life are, in other words, mostly absent. The text from 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 proclaimed that life ultimately triumphs over death. Each of these seemed very fitting and hopeful themes, as a few dozen saints celebrated oneness in Christ in a mostly empty sanctuary on a Sunday evening.