Down by the Riverside – the rivers of creation

Within the second creation narrative of Genesis there is a moment of pause – a kind of aside. Within the second creation narrative we have first of all the formation of the earth creature, the man, from dust of the earth. Then we have the garden established by God with trees and fruit that provide nourishment; and there are the trees of knowledge of good and evil.

And after all of that is described there is a moment of pause – a kind of aside.

Before the narrative goes on to discuss the human vocation of stewardship, and before the warning not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and before the creation woman in completion of the human – there is a moment of pause – a kind of aside.

In that aside there is the sound of running water.

In that aside there is a large watershed where rainfall and melting snow run together to become a creek and then stream and then river.

In that aside there is a source of irrigation for fields and forests, animals and humans.

Here are the words of that aside in the second creation narrative: “A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”

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nothing else matters: being found in Christ

Have you ever gotten frustrated or angry? And in your frustration and anger, perhaps used strong language? Going a little further, have you ever expressed this anger or used strong language in a letter to someone? Today of course, we have to be careful when putting our anger in writing. An email sent in haste, a tweet that is posted too quickly – it can get you into trouble.

This morning we come to an intense parts of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In these few verses Paul uses language that is strong, he makes an argument that is provocative – he wears his emotions on his sleeve. In these verses it becomes clear just how much Paul cares about the life and faith of the Philippian Christians – and how engaged he is with questions of faith and identity.

To understand why the level of intensity goes up in Paul’s letter, we have to remember that wherever Paul has gone in his ministry – wherever he has gathered women and men in Christian community – he has been dogged by other preachers and teachers. Already in this series we’ve talked a bit about this. In his Roman imprisonment there were other evangelists taking their rivalry with Paul too far. They were undermining him and undermining his gospel on account of his suffering and imprisonment.

But in our passage for today we are talking about something different – something quite specific. In these few verses Paul is responding to other preachers who are referred to now as Judaizers. It is these specific teachers that have dogged Paul at every turn. It is these Judaizers that have constantly undermined Paul’s teaching in the congregations he has planted. Continue reading

incognito

On a cold Friday morning in January 2007, a man walked into the entrance area of a metro station in Washington D.C.  This man was wearing jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a baseball cap – average kind of guy. He positioned himself against a wall near a garbage can. The man had a case with him and after he had looked around, he opened the case and pulled out a violin. He then reached into his pocked, he pulled out a few coins, and he threw them into the now-empty violin case.

It’s a scene that plays itself out around the world, day after day, week after week. Buskers on street corners or bus stations or subway stops pull out their violins, their guitars, their accordions, or their saxophones – they throw a few coins into a hat or into their instrument case. And they play. For half an hour, for an hour, for a couple of ours – they will play. The instrument or the case with a few coins in it is an invitation to passersby to give something for the pleasure of being serenaded on their way to work or shopping or on their way home. Continue reading

Hospitality and Family

A sermon preached this past Sunday – which we marked as Christian Family Sunday.

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Have you ever been on the receiving end of hospitality?  Can you remember a moment when you were a stranger – yet you were welcomed without reserve by another? Perhaps given a meal to eat, a place to sleep, a space to make your own if only for a couple of days.  Perhaps you were put out of your house for some reason, perhaps you were traveling far from home, perhaps you were close to home but just needed the welcome embrace of another. Many of us here this morning, I’m sure, have at one time or another been on the receiving end of such a wonderful hospitality. 

A simple example. While I was attending Regent College in Vancouver I was part of a college community group that was invited to the island home and farm of a professor – for a weekend retreat. He was someone most of us hard barely gotten to know. But on that retreat we were given a place to unfurl our sleeping bags, we dined on fresh pacific salmon, we made and shared in home-made ice-cream together. For just a couple of days we were welcomed and made at home and given a place.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines hospitality as ‘the reception and entertainment of guests or strangers with liberality and goodwill.’  The reception and entertainment of guests or strangers with liberality and goodwill.  The Dictionary also describes a hospitable person as being ‘disposed to receive or welcome kindly, as being open and generous in disposition.’  Hospitality – welcoming others, inviting strangers in with liberality and good will, with a generosity of spirit.  Sharing our space, sharing our table, sharing our home, and sharing our lives with others. 

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Judgment

A sermon in a continuing series on the Apostles’ Creed.

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Judgment. Well – that’s quite a sermon title isn’t it?

 

It almost makes you feel you’re back in the nineteenth century, when hell-fire and brimstone were the order of the day in sermons. That title makes me think of what may be one of the most famous sermons ever preached, by the great America theologian and philosopher Jonathan Edwards. It was entitled Sinners in the hands of an angry God.

 

When I was thinking about this sermon, and about that title, I was also reminded of a billboard that stands in a field outside the town where my parents live. As you come to a particularly treacherous turn in a country road, there stands the sign – Prepare to meet thy God. The choice of location makes you think that some congregation posted it there almost hoping that a driver would come to that curve a little too fast and would see the sign just as they skidded off the road.

 

As we spend some time thinking about judgment this morning, I’d actually like to begin by pointing out that judgment is a part of everyday life for us as a society and as individuals.

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JESUS, CHRIST, LORD

A sermon preached this past Sunday, February 22nd – in a continuing series on the Apostles’ Creed. In the writing of this sermon I have made use of an essay by Richard Burridge in the book Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostles’ Creed.

 

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We come this morning to the second section of the Apostle’s Creed and to the heart of our Christian confession.

 

We confess: I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.

 

As we consider the heart of the Apostles’ Creed this morning; as we consider this statement of our fundamental trust in God; I’d like us to focus on the particularity that lies at heart of our confession. I’d like us to look at the particularity that defines us as Christians.

           

But first, what do I mean by this notion, this idea of particularity?

 

Well to explain the notion of particularity, we could begin by acknowledging that in Canadian society today there is tremendous interest in spirituality. There is a growing search for the deeper meaning of life. Men and women want to go beyond the mundane, beyond the everyday – which often seems meaningless. They want to reach beyond the superficiality of so much of human life in order to get hold of some deeper level of substance and significance. And the language that our culture applies to this search, to this desire for deeper meaning and significance, is the language of spirituality.

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