scars – a poem

A poem referencing the Gospel lectionary passage for this coming Sunday. John 20:19-31.

Scars

Running blind ‘round a corner,
Robber to a cop in hot pursuit,
Forehead meets half-opened door;
Pain, dizziness, trickle of blood.

Childhood memory is borne in the body,
Fibrous tissues heralding past pain,
Scar as locus of life’s hurt and healing.

Boyhood hands whittle a branch,
Releasing bark, sharpening to a point.
“Always away from you,” momentarily forgotten,
Jackknife jumps, slices skin, hits bone.  Continue reading

Advertisements

faith: what’s evidence got to do with it?

A sermon, whose basic themes are informed by a short essay by the philosopher/theologian Jean-Luc Marion on the question of faith and evidence.

____________________

What is faith?

What does it mean to have faith?

How would we describe the experience of faith?

In our culture a very common way of thinking about religious faith is in terms of evidence – or, more specifically, in terms of a lack of evidence. From this point of view, if you believe something is true even without any evidence for it – that’s faith. If you believe something is true even though it can’t be proven and can’t be demonstrated, then that’s faith. In our culture it is very common to think this way – to think that faith just means believing something when there’s no evidence for what you believe. Since there’s no evidence, you’ve got to take it on faith.

So, simple examples:

There’s no scientific evidence that God exists but you believe it – that’s faith.

There’s no evidence prayer works, but you believe it does – that’s faith.

There’s no evidence Jesus rose from the dead, but you think he did – that’s faith.

There are other ways of thinking about faith in our culture, but this is quite a common way. And not only is faith commonly thought of in this way, but in our culture, we should perhaps add, a negative judgment is often attached to this kind of faith. In many corners of our culture, if you believe something without evidence; if you believe something to be true that can’t proven by observation and testing, then you’re considered naïve and foolish – even irresponsible. You shouldn’t take anything on faith. Continue reading

I Believe – I Trust

The first sermon in a series on the Apostles’ Creed.  Here, in part, I have taken up the question of trust as it is explored by Wolfhart Pannenberg in his The Apostles’ Creed: In the light of today’s questions.

 

______________________

 

This past week Tuesday saw the death of the America writer John Updike. It is perhaps fitting, then, that we begin this morning with a reading from part of one of his short stories – it is entitled Trust Me.

 

When Harold was three or four years old, his father and mother took him to a swimming pool. This was strange, for his family rarely went places, except to the movie house two blocks from their house. Harold had no memory of ever seeing his parents in bathing suits again, after this unhappy day. What he did remember was this:

            His father, nearly naked, was in the pool, treading water. Harold was standing shivering on the wet tile edge, suspended above the abysmal odor of chlorine, hypnotized by the bright, lapping agitation of this great volume of unnaturally blue-green water. His mother, in a black bathing suit that made her flesh appear very white, was off in a corner of his mind. His father was asking him to jump. “C’mon, Harold, jump,” he was saying, in his mild, encouraging voice. “It’ll be all right, Jump right into my hands.” The words echoed in the flat acoustics of the water and tile and sunlight, heightening Harold’s sense of exposure, his awareness of his own white skin. His father seemed eerily stable and calm in the water, and the child idly wondered, as he jumped, what the man was standing on.

            Then the blue-green water was all around him, dense and churning, and when he tried to take a breath a fist was shoved in his throat. He saw his own bubbles rising in front of his face, a multitude of them, rising as he sank; he sank it seemed for a very long time, until something located him in the darkening element and seized him by the arm.

            He was in the air again, on his father’s shoulder, still fighting for breath. They were out of the pool. His mother swiftly came up to the two of them and, with a deftness remarkable in one so angry, slapped his father on the face, loudly, next to Harold’s ear. The slap seemed to resonate all over the pool area, and to be heard by all the other bathers… His sense of public embarrassment amid sparkling nakedness…survived his recovery of breath. His mother’s anger seemed directed at him as much as at his father. His feet were on grass. Standing wrapped in a towel near his mother’s knees while the last burning fragments of water were coughed from his lungs, Harold felt eternally disgraced.

            He never knew what had happened; by the time he asked, so many years had passed that his father had forgotten. “Wasn’t that a crying shame,” the old man said, with his mild mixture of mournfulness and comedy. “Sink or swim, and you sank.” Perhaps Harold had leaped a moment before it was expected, or had proved unexpectedly heavy, and had thus slipped through his father’s grasp. Unaccountably, all through his growing up he continued to trust his father; it was his mother he distrusted, her swift sure-handed anger.

  Continue reading

Creed and Community

A sermon preached today in advance of a sermon series on the Apostles’ Creed – to begin next week.

_________________________________

Community.

 

It’s a word you can’t escape today, isn’t it, both in the church and in wider society.

 

Everywhere you turn – whether in the world of politics, in the media, in the educational system, in the church, on billboards, in documentaries – the word is everywhere.

 

There are community organizers. There is the Polish community, the Black community, the farming community. There are community centres. There are community organizations. There are gated communities. There are community newspapers.

 

Everywhere we turn, it seems, we are confronted with the idea of community – everywhere we turn we are confronted with the desire for community.

 

We don’t have the time for an in-depth exploration of this explosion of interest in community – this explosion of desire for the experience of community. There seems little doubt, however, that this interest in community is rooted partly in the realization that the individualism of our culture hasn’t lead to human fulfillment – to some degree we in the west have come to realize that our identity and fulfillment is found in networks of relations. Of course old ways of living and thinking die hard, but to some extent we have realized that we cannot fulfill ourselves, cannot care for the world, cannot fulfill the human, without building meaningful communities.

 

Another general comment as we begin. It seems to me that this emphasis on community – this desire for community – also reflects its absence from our lives. We talk about community a great deal, and we try to build communities, because we do not experience it. This isn’t to say that the reality and experience of community life is completely absent from our lives, but it seems that whenever a subject preoccupies us, and whenever we reach out for something, it’s usually because we don’t possess it in the way we would like.

 

This longing is not absent from those who belong to the Church. We, as much as anyone, understand that our personal identity and fulfillment is found only in communal relationships. We too reach out for a deeper experience of community life because there is something of an absence of community life in our day to day existence, and in the church.

Continue reading