A Christmas Prayer

My latest column in the Christian Courier is a prayer for Christmas.

Praise to you, O living Word, for you give the gift of our world. You are the creating one through whom ancient Laurentian mountains have their craggy existence. By your imaginative power, forests of black spruce, larch, and balsam grow along ridges of granite and gneiss. By your gracious creativity, lynx and porcupine make their fleet-footed or lumbering way through habitats long called home. “All, at a Word, has become this almost overwhelming loveliness” (Margaret Avison).

Praise to you, O living Word, who has been born, like us, in a rush of blood and water—vulnerable, with your mother, in your passage into this world. The love displayed in your birth is an accompanying love that risks pain and loss and cold and homelessness, even as you are warmly received into the arms of Mary. This young woman who has borne God, leads you into a beautiful and fearful world, teaching you the prayers of your people along the way. You have learned from her; you are yourself with her and the people to whom she belongs. You find yourself, and are yourself, in relation to the God who makes covenant with this people.

Praise to you, O living Word, for you are the showing forth of God’s glory. In your speaking, the magnificence of God is heard. In your face, the beauty of God is seen. In your living, the grandeur of God is made apparent. We had always expected God’s glory to be otherworldly, almost unimaginable, yet here you are in time and space. God’s grandeur in a bawling baby. Glory to God in the highest; Glory to God in an unremarkable Lord alongside us. Continue reading


a beautiful branch – wisdom for life

We have these amazing texts preserved and handed down to us in the prophet Isaiah. Beautiful texts that speak about the transformation of our world. Beautiful texts that remind us of what we are waiting for. We are waiting for God to come in judgment and grace to his people, a waiting that infuses every moment of our lives. Last week we explored one of these texts – one of these songs.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Ain’t gonna study war no more.

This is huge, world–transformative stuff. It’s about politics, and about the life of nations, and it’s about the possibilities for peace in the world – it’s about what happens when the kingdom of God comes in all its glory.

This week we get more of the same as we turn to Isaiah chapter 11. This week we read these astonishing words:

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together;
and a little child shall lead them.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain. Continue reading

my way or god’s way – a stark choice? #sermon #proverbs

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.

Proverbs-SeriesThis 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

how to deal wisely (love!) your neighbour #proverbs #sermonseries

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.Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 12.54.23 PM

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

wisdom calls out… #SermonSeries1 #proverbs

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. IMG_0341It 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