Sunday, October 28, 2007
Several hours after my visit on Friday he began to fail and they knew the end was coming. She called another minister friend who lived nearby to come and say a prayer.
I am still thinking about our afternoon prayer and how when I bowed my head and closed my eyes she asked me to look up. Her husband had lifted up his hand for me to hold while we asked for God's loving embrace and I hadn't noticed. Of course I took it as we prayed. I trust that Christ has taken his hand now and taken him to his eternal promise.
Please pray for his wife and two young daughters.
I'll be back to blogging in a while.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
We prayed at the conclusion of the visit -- I couldn't leave without praying --but I still felt rather helpless. As I drove home I realized that a number of colleagues have gone through challenging stuff lately. Diagnoses of cancer and stress leave and more. Challenging and real life stuff -- clergy aren't spared what everyone else faces.
The gym helped and so did the St. Paul's Halloween party planned by Rev. Cathy. Roughly fifty children and young people remembering the saints and showing off their costumes. They were adorable. It was good to see their happiness in the midst of pain.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
While admitting that the state department mishandled the situation it was an anaemic response with no admission of responsibility and no apology. So Arar continues to be on a no-fly list to the United States and he fears flying anywhere else in the world as a result. Where is the justice?
If you recall, she was at the pinnacle of her skills when rammed by another rowing shell. Even though she was told that she might someday row again recreationally and walk with a limp this wasn't enough for her. She managed to recover for the Olympics in only ten weeks and somehow captured a bronze medal.
I appreciated what Silken had to say about imagination. She encouraged us to believe in the power of imagination to propel us toward our goals. Of course her personal journey included countless hours of gruelling work-outs and boring repetition but she began with the dream of being an Olympic athlete.
One of our readings for this week says "your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions." This passage from Joel is quoted by the disciple Peter on the day of Pentecost as he invites people to become followers of Christ.
We need to be as imaginative and "dreamy" and Spirit-filled as we can be in a time when many churches seem to be puttering along without enough air in their tires. Another of the passages this week is a reminder to run the race and keep the faith. I hope we have it in us.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
God is with us, we are not alone.
Thanks be to God
United Church Statement of Faith
This morning our younger daughter got word that the father of one of her closest friends had died through the night. An active and robust man, probably in his late forties, he suffered a stroke on Saturday. It was so massive that he never had a chance for recovery and his family is devastated by his loss.
From time to time through the years I have been called upon to respond pastorally to those who have experienced sudden and untimely deaths. The worst may have been a family who lost a young child who died because his throat swelled shut as an allergic reaction. His mother responded to his calls in the night and calmed him down and back to sleep. When she went to him in the morning he was gone.
What can we say? These are the times when life seems so unfair and we are left wondering where God has been. I have no real answers other than my sometimes shaky conviction that God never abandons or foresakes us.
I keep coming back to the prayer which I often use in funeral and memorial services which includes the words "since we have been but a hair's breadth from death since birth, teach us how breathlessly close we are to life in all its fullness."
Monday, October 22, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
A penny for your thoughts? How about 500 billion pennies? Prime Minister Harper's throne speech held out the prospect of another cent knocked off the GST that we all feel is excessive.
I would be glad if all of the goods and services tax disappeared, except that I want the services it provides. Each cent reduced from the GST results in about 5 billion dollars in lost revenue for the federal government.
Five billion would go a long away toward addressing child poverty and affordable housing or a national day care system. How about a few billion toward refurbished infrastructure? I have begrudgingly become accustomed to that penny and so I'm fine if it stays and does some good in this country, especially for those who could use the help.
I'm proud of Canada and the social safety net we have created, even though there are some gaping holes. Mr. Harper is a Christian so surely he understands.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Answer: A good start!
This is an old and mean-spirited joke, but sometimes I wonder if we should substitute the word lawyers with clergy. We don't always get along and we aren't the best witness as we accentuate our differences rather than celebrating that we are all grafted onto the vine who is Christ.
I am a member of the Bowmanville ministerial which has about fifteen members. We are unusual in that many communities have different ministerials for those of conservative and liberal persuasions. Our group has clergy from the Salvation Army, as well as Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, Baptist, Anglican churches. Although the two United Church congregations have a different theological flavour, both are represented. It means that we don't always see eye to eye and there have been times when I wondered whether it is worth attending.
Today encouraged me. We ate together, visited together, worked together. We agreed that we would hold an ecumenical service celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January. And that we would adopt a Celebrating Creation Care weekend close to Earth Day in April. Becoming one in Christ is a challenge for congregations, including their pastors and priests but we have recognized the importance of following Christ's lead.
Isn't that cause for celebration?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
2Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
4yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
The Dunlop telescope in Richmond Hill doesn't work any more even though it is the largest optical telescope in Canada. It's not the telescope's fault. The city of Toronto has grown out around the 180 acre location and the light pollution has rendered it ineffective, So the property, now worth 75 to 100 million dollars, may be sold.
Every summer we try to spend time somewhere that the night sky "declares the glory of God." This year it was the Saguenay region and Killarney Park in Northern Ontario.
Looking up at the night sky makes us feel ridiculously small and we love it.
Later this month I will be travelling to New Mexico for a course. The state is one of the best places in North America to view the stars. I can hardly wait.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Burmese activist leaders are being rounded up day by day. At least one has died in custody and others are missing. When journalists have visited Buddhist monasteries they are virtually empty, except for children.
The oppressive regime has also gathered up thousands of monks and either put them in prison or forced them to leave the country. The media tend to move on to the next crisis, but we need to pray that countries that uphold freedom will continue to ask difficult questions and pressure the junta to release prisoners.
Here is an article from the BBC news service that may be illuminating. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7041203.stm
I met many St. Paul's folk on the street and we stopped and chatted. So did just about everyone else. People were introducing puppies and showing off babies and even though it was a blustery day there was a positive community atmosphere.
Isn't this what happens when people walk and talk? Usually King Street is so busy with vehicle traffic it is a life-threatening experience trying to get from one side of the road to the other. For all the supposed concern about supporting downtown businesses this is not a pedestrian-friendly community.
Last week an international conference was held in Toronto called Walk 21 http://www.toronto.ca/walk21/ . The sessions looked at the ways in which urban environments can be more conducive to those on foot. We have become such a "car culture" that we are losing the simple pleasure of walking about our communities. Maybe this day in October should be Amblefest as well as Applefest.
Jesus did most of his travelling on foot and some of the most important conversations in the gospels resulted from encounters while walking. If it was good enough for Jesus...
Friday, October 12, 2007
For the second time in the 21st century the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to an environmentalist. Wangari Maathai, the African activist, won in 2004 for her remarkable "regreening" work. Once again we are reminded that shalom is not just about relationships between human beings.
This year's recipients are former US vice-president Al Gore and the United Nations committee on climate change. Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth captured the world's attention and motivated individuals and governments to work toward making peace with our battered planetary home. Bravo.
I am sorry that the Canadian nominee, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, did not share or win the prize. This 53-year-old Inuit climate change activist has brought attention to the rapidly changing environment in the North. Originally she was co-nominated for the prize with Gore, and she is certainly deserving.
Jesus called us to be peace-makers and he embodies the deepest meaning of peace or shalom. As his followers we can laud the example of those who are making peace with the planet and do our part for positive change.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
My good wife has let me know that the turnip on our Thanksgiving table was also local and the cranberries were Ontario grown. I must admit that her knowledge is first-hand, while mine is second or third hand!
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Children returned to the sanctuary on Sunday so they could participate in communion. At least some of them did. The "three/fours" and the Kinderkids don't get around very quickly so they stay in their classes. It seem exclusive on the inclusive day called World-Wide Communion to leave out these little ones and their teachers. We have talked about it before, but I can only be in one place at a time.
Solution! Rev. Cathy, our new staff person, left after we consecrated the elements, taking a chalice and paten with her. All the youngest children and their teachers, as well as the folk in the nursery received communion. Cathy commented that the children were very open and reverent. Even though some would argue that they are too young to "get it" they got it.
In all the aspects of congregational life we hoped for with Cathy's arrival, I don't recall this being on the list. I'm glad she raised it and it came to fruition.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Mr. Hampton vented his frustration that substantive issues are being ignored, including the gap between rich and poor. Recent reports have reiterated that children who live in poverty fall behind because of poor nutrition. We know that there is little in the way of new affordable housing in the province and the existing housing in Toronto is in desperately poor repair.
I'm still not sure where my vote will go, but I'm glad one party leader challenged us to "get real." I'm not sure that the electorate was paying much attention. Then again, the biblical prophets weren't welcomed with open arms either.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Ruth observed that this small area of green is home to many holy activities. Last Sunday we blessed pets and at Christmas time humans and animals also gather for the Living Nativity.
During the summer we hold a "lunch on the lawn" for the Clarington Connection group, always so grateful for our hospitality.
In August the children of Vacation Bible School extend their activities onto this lawn and the Sunday School has planted flowers around the border as a reminder of the relationship with God the Creator.
A dedicated group of volunteers tends flowers and cuts grass all through the summer. The annual plant exchange allows members to share the abundance of their gardens.
We take our "meet and greet" time after worship to this spot through the warmer months.
Three weeks ago a couple who had just been married in the sanctuary greeted their guests under the tree which stands in the centre.
Quietly impressive, don't you think? We are Christ's church in so many ways without being within the bricks and mortar which are really only the shell of any church family. Ruth is right. Our green oasis is a holy place.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
This morning I opened my devotional resource and found the instruction to turn to Hebrews, chapter 11: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the convicton of things not seen. Indeed, by faith, our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible." vs 1-3
My faith and our faith will be lived out in tangible ways in the go-go of daily existence. Still, it's important to keep in mind that we are part of that "not visible" world.
I trust that Christ will be with all of through the mundane and glorious events of this day.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
What if there were thousands of refugees arriving every day of the year? That is what is happening in the Middle East as Iraqis flee the violence in their country. Two million have been displaced internally and another two million have left the country. In 2006 one million entered Syria and many more are in Jordan. The photo to the left shows an Iraqi family on the move through the desert. So far the US has allowed an underwhelming 500 of these refugees into their country.
Today there was an article in the Globe and Mail by three authors, including former cabinet minister Flora MacDonald, challenging Canada to receive Iraqi refugees. They point out that it wasn't all that long ago that our country responded to a humanitarian crisis and resettled 50,000 Vietnamese across Canada. As St. Paul's and hundreds of other churches are aware, Christian congregations made a huge difference in this effort.
We can't forget that Jesus was a refugee. According to one of the gospels his family fled from the wrath of Herod and hid out in Egypt. Knowing that the Christ was a displaced person, do we need to expand our notion of hospitality?
Monday, October 01, 2007
Work is an odd entity in our lives. We do grouse and complain about our work at times and we speak of the grind. Yet when we don't have employment, even the jobs that are drudgery, we can feel bereft, without purpose. I spoke with another member of the congregation who is trying not to be too anxious about being unemployed at the moment. Confident in her skills and with a history of steady work, she is rather overwhelmed by her undesired at-home status and the mounting bills.