We had such an amazing trip… such an amazing part of the world. It’s God’s country.
I don’t even remember what part of the world the person who recently told me this was talking about. The Okanagan Valley, maybe? Vancouver Island? Hawaii? It was somewhere lush and green and fertile, no doubt, somewhere where the temperatures are usually pleasant, where the breezes are welcome, where there are hills and valleys and mountains, somewhere where there is plenty of natural beauty to spare, where it doesn’t have to be forcibly wrenched out of the plain, the mundane, the not-so-obvious. It was somewhere without dust and wind and mile upon mile of flat, featureless land. It was somewhere with more green than brown, more warm than cold. It was somewhere else. 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’ve spent the last two days in Montreal attending the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s Québec National Event. This is one of seven national events held across Canada to provide a space for listening and truth-telling about the history of residential schools in our country. Events have already been held in Halifax, Winnipeg, Inuvik, and Saskatoon, and there will be future events in Edmonton and Vancouver. It has been a sobering few days. So many stories of abuse, neglect, and prejudice. So many stories of families torn apart, of addiction and violence and dysfunctional relationships. It was a hard, but good day of listening. Read more
I am a theological schizophrenic.
Some days, I am an incorrigible rationalist. I like reading philosophy and theology. I like rational arguments and logic and consistency. I like highly charged debate about abstract and arcane concepts. I am drawn toward topics that have very little “practical” value. Thinking rightly about God’s nature and God’s purposes is very important to me. I like to be right. Read more
Jesus said, I have come that they may have life,
and have it abundantly.
Whoever follows me
will never walk in darkness
but will have the light of life.
Every morning this week, these words from John’s gospel have framed the morning prayers in the prayer-book I use. They are good and hopeful words with which to greet a new day. They are appropriate post-Easter words. As is the case throughout John’s gospel, there is this wonderful contrast between the light and the life of Christ and the darkness and death we see all around us. Jesus’ words are true and good and full of strength and hope
And then I walk out the front door… Read more
The denomination in which I serve—Mennonite Church Canada—is currently asking its congregations to engage in a lengthy and challenging process of facing challenging difficult ethical issues of our day (issues around human sexuality, religious pluralism, pacifism, environmental concerns, etc.) head on and discerning together what the Spirit seems to be saying to us regarding how we are to respond as followers of Jesus. The “Being a Faithful Church” process is an attempt to put hands and feet to our theology. Mennonites affirm, among other things, the importance of community, the priesthood of all believers, the inappropriateness of hierarchical power structures and modes of relating to one another, and freedom of the Spirit to lead us into deeper and truer understandings of Scripture. The “Being a Faithful Church” process is an (ambitious!) opportunity for churches to demonstrate that we actually we believe what we say we do. Read more
A busy Christmas Eve is complete. Bundling up with the kids for skating on the pond, a lovely candlelight service at church, a delightful evening full of games and goodies with family, friends, the kids safely tucked into bed, the last presents put under the tree… And now, all is silent as I sit beside the Christmas tree, staring out into the bone chilling early morning darkness, processing a full day indeed. Read more
I had to take a short road trip today so, armed with coffee and an iPod well-stocked with podcasts and sermons, I ventured out on a brisk December prairie morning. Given its close proximity to the shootings in Connecticut on Friday, I knew that last Sunday many pastors and preachers would have been wrestling with issues around the problem of evil and suffering. I was curious to hear how others approached it—both from a homiletical as well as a theological perspective. Read more
Today was a rare Sunday morning for me in that I was not responsible for the sermon. We have many gifted preachers in our small congregation (I am so glad for this!) and we try to use them as often as we can. So, today I was able to participate in worship in a way that felt different than usual. There were still a few public duties—I read the gospel text from Luke, I led the congregational prayer—but mostly it was a day for receiving rather giving. It was a very good morning. Read more
Last night as bedtime approached, my daughter was sitting at the kitchen counter casually thumbing through one of those Bibles that has a “Where to Find Help When…” indexes in the front. It’s quite a resource. Whatever your problem—“Sleeplessness” or “Difficulty in Witnessing,” “Tempted to Envy” or “Choosing a Career”—there are 3-5 verses conveniently listed to address it. The Bible as self-help manual, apparently. Or something like that. It’s an approach to Scripture that irritates me, in many ways, and breaks any number of exegetical/hermeneutical principles along the way, but I suppose these things must occasionally do some good. I guess. Read more
Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at the University of Lethbridge by Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor who made headlines around the world in 2009 for refusing to respond with hatred and anger after losing three daughters and a niece to an Israeli bomb during the Gaza War. The title of his book—I Shall Not Hate—speaks to an astonishingly determined, courageous, and compassionate response to a truly unspeakable horror, as does the Daughters for Life foundation for the education of girls from the Middle East that he has set up in memory of his daughters. A remarkable story, and a remarkable man. Read more
Every Tuesday morning, a group of older gentlemen—anywhere from 5-15 guys, some from our church, others from another local Mennonite church—gather for coffee and conversation at the coffee shop across the street. The topics vary. Politics, history, current events (yesterday’s wildfires near Lethbridge, for example!), family, and, yes, church—any or all of these and more could find their way into the discussion on a typical Tuesday. Read more
It is not at all uncommon for me, as a pastor, to encounter some variation of the question, “So, what’s the deal with all the different denominations in Christianity? Why can’t you all agree on anything?!” Read more
Like most of the rest of the world, I spent part of yesterday watching the closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics (yes, I realize that I was critical of these kinds of spectacles in a post I wrote a few weeks ago. I also admitted that I was a hypocrite, right?). Last night’s ceremony was, as expected, a spectacle for the ages.
Every morning on my way to work I drive past the local prison. It is a surprisingly picturesque facility—lots of big trees for shade and well-manicured green grass, a nice lake beside it with all kinds of birds, a baseball diamond and basketball courts visible from the road. Nonetheless, the barbed wire and the chain fence around the perimeter leave little doubt about the purpose of this place. The jail on the side of the road has been a regular source of interest for my kids ever since we moved back to Alberta. They often ask if the inmates are allowed to read or watch TV, or about what kind of food they get to eat, or how often they get to play outside. A few weeks ago we happened to drive by while a baseball game was going on. The kids were very pleased. Read more
A few weeks ago, someone who has been worshiping at a Mennonite church for nearly a year, and who had no prior exposure to or experience with Mennonites, remarked to me that, while they had deeply appreciated their time with the community, it seemed to them that Mennonites were basically people who did lots of good stuff and liked to do things together. It is a common enough sentiment. Many expressions of Anabaptist faith can come to seem like little more than an ethical system designed to produce Christ-like behaviour and character with little, if any attention, paid to the indwelling presence of Christ and the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Read 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