Optimism vs. Hope, in a Pandemic

My latest in the Christian Courier.


Where would you put yourself on the optimism/pessimism spectrum? I suppose I land just slightly on the optimistic side, though with serious bouts of pessimism thrown in now and again. Among my friends there is at least one eternal pessimist (with an astonishing capacity to see the worst in every situation) and a few who seem born entirely to optimism (forever confident things will be just fine).

Perhaps we all slide along the continuum, depending on circumstances, but our optimism quotient also seems a fairly fixed personality trait. You occupy some place on this spectrum and there’s not much you can do to change that. Maybe it’s pessimistic of me to say that!

But let’s make this a little more concrete by asking about our present pandemic moment. Are you optimistic we have finally flattened the curve? Are you confident there will soon be effective treatments for COVID-19? That we might see a vaccine within the year? Get back to something approaching normal life in the next two years? Continue reading


of maple leaves and chickadees

There is something so strange about the turning of the leaves each Autumn. From the perspective of our culture and our lives, there is something almost shocking about the leaves turning from green to yellow and orange and red.

It happens every Autumn, of course. As the temperatures begin to drop during the day, and the temperatures begin to drop over night, the production of chlorophyll slows down in the leaves. As the production of chlorophyll slows, the deeper colours of the leaves are slowly unmasked, and some new colours are created. The hills of our city and the parks of our city and the streets of our city become a canvas alive with fire and light. For just a few short weeks our world takes on new and remarkable character – we observe a beauty we could hardly have imagined just a few short weeks ago.

But why would I say that this changing of the leaves is strange? And why would I say that the turning of the leaves to yellow and orange and red is almost shocking from the perspective of our culture? Continue reading

the Spirit of the future – sermon 2/5

Let me begin with a question this morning. When you think about the future, what do you imagine? When you think about the future, what do you feel or think or imagine? We could answer this question in terms of our own immediate future – in terms of what’s going to happen in my and your life in the next 5 to 10 years – what do I feel or think or imagine in terms of my own future. But this morning I’m inviting us to think more widely about the future – to think in terms of the future of our society.

Let’s think about Canada 100 years from now, in the year 2114. If you were to think about what Canadian society might look like in a hundred years, what do you imagine. On Canada day, July 1st, 2114, what will Canadian society look like?

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 2.43.42 PMMaybe we can help ourselves think about this by doing so in terms of a question you might be asked for a poll, for a sondage. You might get a phone call at home, and be asked a series of questions – and one of the questions might be something like this. Are things in Canada getting: Much worse, worse, better, or much better? What would you say?  When you think about the future, what do you imagine? Continue reading

What have we done, Kensington Church? #renewal #change# #future

This summer will mark 5 years of ministry for me at Knox Crescent Kensington and First Presbyterian Church. And over the past weeks I have been taking a tally of some of the changes the congregation has been through over the past 7-8 years.

(My family worshipped here before I was called as minister, so I was able to see all of it initiated and implemented.)

Through this period of time, the congregation has made amazing strides. In the 3 years before my time there was interim leadership from the Reverends Allen Aicken and Rod Ferguson (with the Reverends Glynis Williams and Kate Jordan as Interim Moderators) . In the mix during that time were also the (now Rev.) Stephen Jenvey, the Rev. Lynne Donovan, and the Rev. Angus McGillivray.

So here’s a partial tally of what we’ve done as we have worked to be faithful to Christ and to his call upon our life together. And we know that behind each and every one of these changes there was work and prayer, and that there were challenges and doubts: Continue reading

david – last words

Well, we come finally to the conclusion of our series on the life of David. Over the past number of weeks we’ve looked at some of the key events in his life and have begun to understand the significance of David in the narrative of the Old Testament. There have been some spectacular failures in his life. Nevertheless, with David we are at a high point in the history of God’s people. Under David there is unprecedented unity for God’s people – there is unprecedented security and prosperity. Even more, as someone after God’s own heart, David embodies the genuine faith of God’s.

So David’s story has prominence in the Old Testament because he represents a golden age in the history of God’s people. But there is another reason that David’s story is told – David also represents the hope of God’s people for the future. The story of David is told time and again, repeated from generation to generation, because God’s people are waiting for a new David, a Son of David in whom a new and decisive high point will arrive for God’s people. Continue reading