The past weeks have been difficult and stressful for many of us, or perhaps all of us. It’s no exaggeration to say there have been sleepless nights, worries in the day, challenges in family life, and a kind of fogginess about where life is going. This is on top of the very real suffering that some of us have experienced or witnessed in relation to COVID-19.
In the midst of all of this, we can perhaps also acknowledge that there have been moments of grace and joy—when we have discovered something of God’s goodness, creativity, and grace. We have discovered this in one another and in the world around us. Not unlike in other seasons of our lives, moments of struggle and of grace are often set in tension alongside each other. (Continues below pictures…)
One of the ways in which I have experienced the grace and providential love of God in these days, has been through birds in our back yard. The pandemic season has happened to overlap, in the past few weeks, with the spring migration of all types of birds. In cool mornings on our back porch I have found a gracious reprieve from the anxiety and stress of the day. With their beautiful, feathered fluttering these birds have descended with God’s grace into my daily life and that of my family (though three teenagers are not always as excited about birds as their dad is!). Continue reading
Advent Psalm (126)
Weary and sleepless,
caught off guard by
racing pulse, panic, vertigo;
rare reprieve to breathe,
Heading for home,
down old Highway 6 through tears,
Aberfoyle, Puslinch, Clappison’s Corners,
steering south on automatic pilot,
college kid’s stick-shift Jetta.
Over Skyway Bridge,
past belching steelwork ugliness,
along escarpment’s familiar lines;
angled off-ramp deceleration
toward welcoming place. Continue reading
Over the past number of days, the Prime Minister of Turkey has faced something of a crisis. A protest that began in Istanbul over plans to demolish a city park, has developed into a more widespread protest against his authoritarian tendencies. There is concern among some in that secular country that Prime Minister Erdogan wants to turn Turkey into a religious, Islamic state.
And one of the things that has secularists in Turkey up in arms is a law recently passed that puts significant restrictions on the advertising and sale of alcohol. Many in Istanbul have protested, or expressed their opposition to these restrictions on alcohol. Within much of Islam, of course, alcohol is forbidden – but alcohol sales are legal in Turkey and there are many restaurants and bars serving alcohol in Istanbul.
In the face of these protests, and in the face of this opposition, the Prime Minister has waged a rhetorical war. Appealing to religious and political conservatives, Erdogan recently said that anyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic. As far as he’s concerned – or at least as far as his rhetoric is concerned – there’s no such thing as a moderate or acceptable level of alcohol consumption – if you drink any alcohol at all, you will necessarily drink too much alcohol. Continue reading
This is a day of lasts. Not a day of firsts, but of lasts. Today is our last Sunday looking at Paul’s letter to the Philippians. And today is also the last Sunday of the church year. Each year we close out the liturgical calendar, we end the church year with the celebration of the Reign of Christ. Next week a new church year will begin with Advent as we anticipate the birth of Christ and the coming of Christ. But today we close out this past year with a reminder and a celebration of the reign of Christ – the kingship of Christ in our lives, in our church, and in our world.
And what better way to celebrate the reign of Christ – what better way to celebrate the rule of Christ in our lives – than with these three beautiful words: Joy, Gentleness, and Peace. These words aren’t arbitrarily chosen of course. They come from the final passage we are looking at in Philippians. So in a way, Paul is closing out this year for us – he does so with these beautiful words.
First, joy. Paul writes to the Philippian Christians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice.” Continue reading
What does gratitude look like?
How should gratitude be expressed in our lives?
For most of us, one of the earliest things we were taught by our parents was to say “Thank you.”
When someone paid you a compliment: “Did you say thank you?”
When someone was giving you a gift: “Remember to say thank you.”
And of course there was always also the right posture in gratitude: “You’ve got to look at her when you say thank you. ”
From those earliest days of learning to say thank you, there have been so many instances when gratitude has made sense to each us – so many times when we have expressed our thankfulness to others.
But as we have grown up – as we have put some distance between our childhood selves and our mature selves – the question of thankfulness has also gotten more complicated. I’m sure we’ll all agree. I’m sure that all of us can think of situations where thankfulness wasn’t at all straightforward. Continue reading
My sermon from this past Sunday – the first in a series in the book of James.
This morning we begin a series of sermons in the book of James – a relatively short letter that comes just after the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. The book of James, as we’ll see, gets down very quickly to the nitty-gritty of the Christian life – how to behave; what’s worth putting your energy into; what our relationships should look like. James gets down very quickly to the basics of Christian life and action. In many ways we may find this refreshing. We don’t always want intellectual discussions about theology. We don’t always want conversations about realities that seem to hover 15 feet off the ground – never touching down in the world where we live. So already in terms of the big picture of James maybe we are encouraged. Sounds like someone we want to hear from.
But of course we have to get into the details of what James says. As we do so, the going gets tough, pretty quickly. In fact, listening to James is a lot like listening to the Old Testament prophets. Listening to James is a lot like listening to Jesus. The fact that James sounds a lot like Jesus probably shouldn’t come as a surprise since the James who wrote this letter was probably none other than Jesus’ own half-brother. Just as in the case of the prophets and of Jesus, in listening to James there may well be moments when we respond by saying – come on you can’t really mean that.
A sermon in my continuing series on the Apostles’ Creed.
Departure scenes almost always feel heavy and sad, don’t they? You can easily picture it in your mind. A man and woman embrace at the airport, one obviously flying to some far-flung place. There are tears. There is sorrow on each face. There is one long last look over the shoulder as the departing person passes through the security gate. Departure terminals aren’t the most joyful places to spend time. The one who is left behind often goes with hunched shoulders out the door and into – well, it almost has to be rain, doesn’t it.
As we continue our series on the Apostles’ Creed today, another departure scene is set before our eyes. It is the departure of Jesus from his disciples and, indeed, from our world. The New Testament tells us that Jesus stayed with his disciples forty days after his resurrection – and then came his ascension to glory. In a sense, of course, we are getting ahead of ourselves since the church year sets aside May 21st of 2009 for the celebration of the Ascension. But since we are making our way through the Apostles’ Creed, we arrive at the Ascension a little earlier than usual.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended to the dead. On the third rose again, he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father.