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

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A New Call to Worship? #DoubtIsTheNewBlack

It appears that “doubt is the new black.” Or, that uncertainty is “in.’  This is so particularly in Christian circles.

This sentiment is everywhere on the web these days – in blog posts, in Facebook postings, in tweets, and also on the more established Christian publishing sites. Doubt has displaced dogma. We are supposed to be wary of those who are certain of their faith. We are supposed to be suspicious of those who claim to know the truth. We are all supposed to bask in the glorious uncertainty of everything, because there’s nothing more annoying (or dangerous for that matter – be very afraid!) than someone who presumes to express confidence in faith.

We are all just muddling through. Don’t you dare presume or suggest otherwise!

Now it seems to me that there is something profoundly disingenuous in many of these writings that celebrate doubt. In many instances this celebration of uncertainty seems to be nothing but a trojan horse, under guise of which writers simply want to establish a new dogmatism. It’s not that they doubt. It’s that they want YOU to doubt what THEY want you to doubt. So doubt is only celebrated to the extent that it might help to change your mind – mostly to abandon traditional elements of faith. Continue reading

who is thomas? it’s complicated #sermon #identity

Thomas is at the centre of things this morning.

His name is there in the text – plainly in black and white.

But who is this Thomas? Who is this one whose name appears so starkly in the text?

thomas

Perhaps he is not so clearly defined as we might like him to be. Even if we have his name in black and white, perhaps Thomas cannot be pinned down as THIS or THAT.

In general we like to pin people down. We like to define them. We like to be able to say it clearly and simply: he is THIS or she is THAT. So is it any surprise that we try to do the same with Thomas. Defining him clearly and precisely. Continue reading

let him kiss me – doubt and distance

Doubt corresponds with distance. To feel in our hearts and minds and bodies that God is removed from us, is perhaps equal to an experience of doubt.

On the other hand, faith corresponds with closeness. To feel in our hearts and minds and bodies that God is close to us, is perhaps to be in a place of faith and hope and joy.

If this is so, then the Song of Songs can be read (in a metaphorical reading of the text) as an experience of, and reaching toward, intimacy with God – an experience of, and reaching toward, faith. The opening words of the Song represent such an experience and reaching: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” Here doubt and distance would be displaced. Continue reading

Letter to Jesus

A sermon preached at the induction of the Rev. Greg Davidson into pastoral ministry in the congregation of Briarwood Presbyterian Church. References to Kierkegaard are from his Practice in Christianity.

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An open letter to Jesus.

 

February 8th, 2009

 

Dear Jesus,

 

It’s me again – no doubt you’re more than familiar with my handwriting by now. I only hope that it hasn’t gotten to the point that you groan in discovering yet another missive from yours truly as you thumb through the morning mail. And yes Jesus, I know, I don’t have to write to you – my ancestors in the faith did well to teach me that I can speak with you directly (the temple curtain is torn in two – gone are the priestly vestments). But somehow it’s easier for me to put things in writing, to put pen to paper in sorting through my thoughts, in sorting out questions of faith. No doubt this predilection for the pen and paper also comes from my ancestors in faith. I beg your patience, then, Jesus, as I once again spill out my thoughts and frustrations and questions to you.

 

This week I was thinking about those early days of ministry – of your ministry – when John the baptizer was still in prison. I sometimes wonder whether it frustrated you that the holy man clothed in camel-hair didn’t know that you were the one for whom he prepared the way – he’d heard about what you were doing, but still wasn’t sure you were the chosen one. But that’s a question for another day.

  Continue reading

Sermon: Doubt and Dogma (2)

A sermon preached in anticipation of a sermon series on the Apostles’ Creed. A few themes from this sermon are borrowed from Timothy Keller’s book, The Reason for God. (Sermon date: January 18, 2009)

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As we continue to prepare for a sermon series on the Apostles Creed, we turn from thinking about doubt last week to thinking about dogma this morning. And as we do so the first thing to notice is that our society’s perspective on doubt and dogma, are two side of the same coin.

 

       If, as we said last week, doubt is in fashion,            then dogma is very much out of                                                                                                   fashion.

       If doubt is considered sophisticated,                       then dogma is considered simplistic,                                                                                                       naive.

       If doubt is thought to be responsible                       then dogma is thought to be the height of irresponsibility.

 

 

In this vein we find Christopher Hitchens, the hyper-sceptic, the evangelical atheist, saying:

“To choose dogma over doubt is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.”

 

For Christopher Hitchens, doubt is a nice bottle of California Pinot Noir,

                      while dogma is a juice pitcher full of 

                                           coloured sugar water.

 

Doubt and dogma are but two sides of the same coin. Our society’s doubtful attitude toward religion goes hand in hand with a refusal of religious dogma.

 

This week we take up the question of dogma for the same reason that we took up the question of doubt last week. We do so because the attitudes and perspectives of those who live around us have an impact on us. We don’t live in a bubble, sealed off from Canadian society. We are part of that society. We can’t expect ourselves to be immune from questions or criticism or different ways of thinking.

 

When it comes to the specific question of dogma, our society often sends the message that those who hold to religious dogma are out of fashion, are naive, or are even irresponsible. And in hearing this we very quickly begin to think that we are out of fashion, that we are naïve, that we are irresponsible. As we stand to speak the words of the Apostles’ Creed on a Sunday morning we may even feel that we are going contrary to what is acceptable.

Continue reading

Sermon: Doubt and Dogma (1)

A sermon preached in anticipation of a sermon series on the Apostles’ Creed.

Sunday 11 January 2009

 

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Today in Canada, as people think about the claims of religion,

Doubt is very much in fashion. 

Today in Canada, as people think about traditional Christian claims about Jesus,

Doubt is considered the sophisticated option.

Today in Canada, as people think about the beliefs handed down from generation to generation in the church,

Doubt is thought to be the most responsible position.

 

The fact is that we in western culture live with more than three hundred years of philosophical thought, of literary output, and of historical scholarship – much of which pushes toward doubt, which elevates doubt, which calls into question the things that Christians have confessed and believed for hundreds of years. Otherwise put, we live in a sceptical society – at least, a society that is sceptical about religious claims.

 

This doubt find expression in such books as those recently published by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins – their titles are God is not great and The God Delusion. Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, of course, are products of their time. They are products of these more than three hundred years in which doubt first gained credence and credibility and in which doubt finally leapt to the front of the class. Today in western societies, doubt about Christianity is fashionable. Doubt is thought to be sophisticated. Doubt is seen as the only logical option for modern people.

 

In view of this great tradition of doubt, and in view of this general scepticism about Christian belief, is there any surprise that many of us wrestle with doubts. Let’s face it – many of us struggle with doubts and questions as we think about our Christian faith. We are described as a people of faith, but we often live with the reality of doubt. No less a figure than Mother Theresa, it has recently been revealed, struggled with decades of doubt and darkness – for so long she was without any sense of God’s presence with and for her. And in some respects, at least, doubt is our experience.

Continue reading