God spoke – and the dome of the sky was there in all its glorious blue.
God spoke – and moving, shifting, heaving waters came together in the sea.
God spoke – and the Baobab tree, wild grasses, flowering bushes were planted.
God spoke – and in the night’s sky there was the Orion nebula, Haley’s comet, red giants.
God spoke – massive blue whale in water, glorious flamingo on shoreline.
God spoke – cheetah speed on land, lumbering elephant in grassland, wild boar foraging in forest.
God spoke – a man, a woman – encounter, love, and mutuality.
We also speak. We speak a great many words each day. One study of found that college students in the U.S. speak on average around 15,000 words per day. Of course we aren’t college students and many of us don’t live in that kind of highly social context. Our world isn’t their world. But it is astonishing to recognize that many of us speak thousands of words a day. Continue reading →
So we are back to the Proverbs this morning – which means we are back to the nitty-gritty of life – we are back dealing with the everyday realities of our lives, and our relationships, and our character, and our work. And since are back to the things of daily life, the fact that we are dealing with anger this morning might not come as a surprise to us.
Every one of us here this morning has seen anger. Every one of our lives has been touched by anger – whether by our own anger or by the anger of others. In some cases the anger did damage to lives or feelings or relationships. In other cases, however, perhaps that anger was redemptive – it was perhaps an anger that pushed back against injustice and demanded fairness and goodness they were absent. Anger simply is a part of human life.
Anger simply is a part of life in a negative sense – in the sense that human beings in every moment wrestle with their own capacity for an anger that is destructive and harmful.
And anger simply is a part of life in a positive sense also – in the sense that there will always be instances of injustice and unfairness in the light of which women and men get angry. Continue reading →
The content of this sermon is based in part on Rebecca Konyndyk De Young’s Glittering Vices (Brazos, 2009).
I could feel envy eating me up – from the inside out.
I could feel envy getting hold of my life and my thoughts and my emotions.
But it seemed that there was little I could do to escape – there was little I could do to turn things around. Envy had a grip and it wasn’t letting go.
I have discovered that the Proverb gets it exactly right: “A tranquil heart is the life of the flesh; But envy is the rottenness of the bones.”
I have discovered that Chyrsostom was exactly right: “As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man.”
I’m not saying that I was just a victim in all of this. I know I’m responsible for my own actions. But for a time it was like I had became an observer of my own life. I could see what was happening. I could see where I was going. I could see what I was doing. And I could see the train wreck that lay down the track – a train wreck that would involve me and the person of whom I was envious. Continue reading →
When you read through the proverbs, you very quickly discover that many of them offer a choice between stark alternatives. Always a choice – an either/or, if you will:
either wise or foolish
either hard working or lazy
either righteous or wicked
either upright or devious.
Looking at these either/ors in the book of Proverbs reminds us of words we read in Deuteronomy chapter 30 – words of God through Moses:“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Again, a stark choice is set before us:
either life or death;
either curses or blessings.
This way of thinking about life and decisions may feel pretty heavy to us – and not only heavy. It will feel almost impossible for us human beings to apply this way of thinking to all of our decisions or actions. These either/ors are too stark for us. In the first place, if we thought about every decision and action as a choice between life and death, between light and dark, between wisdom and folly, we would probably be like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights – we’d be trapped and unable to move or make a decision. If every decision carried the weight of good and evil, light and dark, then with every little decision we would be wrestling with ourselves and the situation: “O my goodness, is this decision light or darkness – is this decision good or wicked – am I giving life or dealing in death?” If every decision we made carried that kind of weight, it would be a recipe for immobility and exhaustion on our part. Continue reading →
In 1952 the National Film Board produced a short film entitled Neighbours. The film went on to win the academy aware for best short film that year. This was partly based on its content, and partly based on the way the film was produced – with actors, but using a technique usually used with puppet animation. You can easily find the film on the NFB website (warning, the second half of the film is very violent). The first 4 minutes of the film are instructive for us. Two neighbours discover a beautiful flower growing on their mutual property line – and they together delight in it. But eventually they begin to fight over the flower – the first four minutes of the film are a brilliant introduction to the question of how we relate to our neighbours.
As becomes apparent, however, this is is an anti-war film. The film gets progressively more violent until the neighbours eventually kill each other’s families and each other over this beautiful flower. But the first four minutes film at least introduce us to the complexities of living alongside neighbours. It’s not always easy to relate to neighbours. We are not always sure how we should relate to our neighbours. And this film is particularly interesting in terms of the film it leaves its viewers with – at the end, words of Jesus are presented on the screen in a series of different languages:
Ama a tu prójimo.
Liebe deinen nächsten.
Amate il prosimo.
Aimez votre prochain.
Love your neighbour.
The question we are asking as we continue our series in the book of proverbs is the question of our neighbour – how to relate to our neighbour. What does it look like when we are wise in dealing with our neighbour? What does it look like when we are living well in relation to our neighbour? What do you do when a lovely flower pops up on the property line and you’d really like to transplant it to your own garden? As we consider these kinds of questions, the words of Jesus will remain in the backs of our minds – love your neighbour. Continue reading →
During our summer holiday this year, our family went camping for several days at Bon Echo Provincial Park in Ontario. We had a canoe-in site on Joe Perry Lake, one of several lakes in the park. And so we canoed in to our site and set up camp there for four days – we had our tent and our tarp and our camp stove and our food including, of course, a massive bag of marshmallows. But on one of our days at Bon Echo we canoed out and went over to the main area of the park, which is situated on Mazinaw Lake.
Mazinaw Lake is not a huge lake – average to small, I’d say. But the lake has a few remarkable, defining features. Its first remarkable feature is that it is the second-deepest lake in Southern Ontario, aside from the Great Lakes. It is an astonishingly deep lake for its relatively small size – 145 meters at its deepest point. It goes pretty much straight down on each side. A second defining feature of the lake is that along one kilometer of its shoreline there is a massive 100-meter cliff or escarpment – that part of the shoreline is known as Mazinaw Rock. Here’s a picture that gives a sense of the Rock – with Becky and the girls in the canoe.Now it’s true that if you have spent any time living in or near the Rocky Mountains of western Canada, this cliff may not strike you as impressive. But in the context of Ontario’s geography, it is a remarkable lake and Mazinaw Rock is a pretty amazing formation. Continue reading →