Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sleepless in Belleville

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Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray to Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.


I don't sleep. At least I don't sleep long, or well. It's rare for me to achieve six consecutive hours of shut-eye, and all too often I'm roaming the house rather than fretting in my bed while my partner Ruth is in full restoration mode. I've watched some really interesting documentaries in the wee hours, and I'm always right up to speed on sports.

Part of my somnambulance is age, I'm sure, while some is the stress of work. I'm always thinking ahead, which is both gift and curse. I am also less resilient when it comes to silly and nasty people. Most congregations I've served have a handful of meanies, but they tend to "punch above their weight." I think I used to handle the petty nonsense of ministry better, but now it literally keeps me up at night. I probably have poor "sleep hygiene." which is a strange phrase. Maybe if I start brushing my eyelids...

I also pray in the darkness but I appear to have flunked out of Nocturnal Prayer 101. The irony is that I pray more at night yet too often experience God's presence less.

This is a long-winded preamble to a little piece entitled The Theology of Sleep which arrived in my email inbox recently.
  I was surprised to find that the Bible has much to say about what John Ballie called the theology of sleep. Sleep is a gift from God: "I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for You alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety." (Psalm 4:8)
 
It is an act of trust: I am reminded when I go to sleep that the world is in God's hands, not mine. The world will get along very well even though I am not awake to try to control things. At the appropriate time, my eyes will open and I will receive the gift of wakefulness once again.

"I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me." (Psalm 3:5)

--
John Ortberg in “The Life You've Always Wanted” 

I suppose that I could find these observations discouraging, but I won't. As I move into retirement I may find new things to be anxious about, but I plan to do a lot of letting go and trusting that the world is in God's embrace. I will continue to try to make a difference as a follower of Jesus, but I'll try to trust and sleep on it as well.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
His Love to guard me through the night,
And wake me in the morning's light.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Positive Change in World Religions

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Yesterday our Syrian sponsorship group heard that a Mothers Day gathering for the women was a big hit. There are six moms amongst our 23 family members and they were as animated and open as the women who offered the event has ever seen them. Wonderful. Now, what about Fathers Day? The challenge is that this celebration falls during Ramadan. This means no food and a less than celebratory atmosphere. Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. It is a time of increased prayer and charitable deeds.

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I heard Ziyaad Mia interviewed on CBC radio yesterday about the Give 30 campaign he began in 2012 to give Muslims and others of good will the opportunity to be systematically generous during Ramadan. This morning I received an email from him which included this:

I am inviting you to join Give 30, a grassroots movement against hunger and for positive change that's inspired by Ramadan.  The 2017 campaign launched recently and runs until September 5 (Ramadan is May 27 - June 24).

Once again we are reminded that all of the major religions of the world encourage generosity and compassion as part of authentic faith.

Thoughts?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hey, you...pay attention!

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“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
 
― Mary Oliver

Hey...yes, you...over here! Please pay attention to this blog entry. The Christian Century magazine did a cover article recently on poet Mary Oliver called An Invitation to Wonder.
We have a number of  Mary Oliver's volumes of poetry and have been intrigued that in her later years Oliver has included more overt Christian imagery, although it is subtle. What we have always appreciated is her awareness of the world around her.

The author of the article, Debra Dean Murphy, observes:"a mystic of the created order, Oliver listens to moths, trees. and other nonhuman neighbors."  As someone who has revelled in mystical experiences in creation I like this description.

I appreciate that Oliver invites us to "pay attention," a phrase in each of the poems I've included here. In this time of generally accepted distraction and inattention it is often when we put away our devices and walk in the world, beautiful and fierce that we enter into the presence of God.

As I read the article Murphy makes reference to Robin Wall Kimmerer, a plant ecologist and I was intrigued. So, instead of reading on I pulled out my smart phone and made the dumb move of googling Kimmerer. Then I was off on the "snakes and ladders" search for...what was I searching for?
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                                                                             Iris in Galilee

Jesus invited us to look to the birds of the air and to consider the lilies of the fields (Matthew 6) to give us a perspective on worry and anxiety. I have walked amidst irises on a hillside in Galilee, so we can include them in our gaze as part of a spiritual practice of attentiveness.

Comments?

“Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.”

--- Mary Oliver


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Climate Clock is...Ticking?

2017 Tick Night

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation.  Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate;  and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. 4For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”
Genesis 7:1-4

I receive Twitter and email info about upcoming events from Quinte Conservation. The seminars cover a range of subjects and I have a sense that they are doing their job well. I can't bring myself to attend next week's Tick Smart event, just the same, even though I know that ticks are a real and present danger. When we lived in Nova Scotia both of us ended up with ticks on our bodies and we weren't thrilled, to say the least. We weren't aware of illnesses such as Lyme Disease at the time, and that was probably a good thing.

When we talk about the effects of Climate Change we tend to think of catastrophic weather events and melting glaciers. Yet migrating, disease-bearing insects such as ticks are a threat as well. Those of us who are Canuck baby boomers hadn't heard much about ticks until twenty years ago. Now we are warned, justifiably, that they are everywhere. A group of hikers in Manitoba this past weekend figured they removed at least 400 of them during and after a hike. That is unimaginably gross.

Were there ticks on Noah's Ark? I don't see any mention of insects. Okay the story of the ark in Genesis is likely a myth rather than factual, yet life on God's Earth is about the intricate balance amongst the passengers on this planetary vessel. It's good to learn about being "tick smart," and even better to learn how to "live with respect in Creation."

Has anyone developed a nervous tic(k) reading this? What are your thoughts about a planet that is out of kilter?

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

You Shall Love the Alien as Yourself


The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

                                             Leviticus 19:34(NRSV)

Many Canadians have been aghast at the chaotic first months of the Trump administration which has managed to undermine the dignity and moral authority of the presidency with lightning speed. It's a challenge to know where to start, given the gaffes, the disrespect for checks and balances, and the dismantling of environmental protection.

Add in ICE, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is becoming the strong arm tactical force to institute the phobic approach to those who are living in the country without proper documentation. Although they are being arrested for living in the States illegally, many have been there for decades, running successful businesses, paying taxes, and raising families.

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There are faith communities which are responding, at least 800, which are providing sanctuary to those who fear deportation. The program Sixty Minutes did a thoughtful exploration of this movement on the weekend, and while I caught only the final few minutes, it was worthwhile. There was an interview with a Methodist minister describing his convictions and here is a portion of the transcript:

Philadelphia's Arch Street Methodist Church was built by Abraham Lincoln's favorite minister. 
Rev. Robin Hynicka: We are a sanctuary church.
And a 155 years later, Reverend Robin Hynicka is on the same chapter and verse.
Rev. Robin Hynicka: My baptismal covenant, there's a vow that's taken either on my behalf when I was baptized as a child or as an adult, that I would take the power and the freedom that God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they show themselves.
Scott Pelley: Well, in your view what is this, evil, injustice, or oppression?
Rev. Robin Hynicka: It's injustice and oppression, all of which is evil. Yeah, when a human being's human rights are denied, when they can't stay with their family, when they can't work, when they can't participate in the community in which they have deep roots, all of those apply.

He's talking about Javier Flores Garcia who has lived in the church basement for six months. He came from Mexico, illegally in 1997. He's a landscaper with a decade-old DUI on his record. His other offense is crossing the border repeatedly. A judge ordered him deported but he moved here rather than leave his three children who were born citizens.

Javier Flores Garcia: I think you have to keep fighting and I'm doing this for my kids. And I would do it again if it became necessary.  
Rev. Robin Hynicka: We're taking a leap of faith, right, in many respects, because we don't know what's going to happen.

There have been sanctuary congregations in Canada through the years. A new couple at Bridge St. came from a congregation in Winnipeg which was home for several months to a family from Pakistan who feared for their lives if they were deported. They were eventually allowed to stay.

I'm a law-abiding person, yet there are times when the rule of law is not the moral law of God. Deciding what to do in those circumstances isn't always straightforward. Listening and discerning and acting to the God of justice is a higher calling.

Can you imagine your congregation providing sanctuary, if necessary?

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Deserted Island & 38 Million Visitors

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Many of us became aware of a tiny island in the South Pacific ocean we would never have heard about if it weren't for a human-made obscenity. There are no people living on Henderson Island, a coral atoll, because it is so remote Yet marine scientists have declared Henderson to have the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world, with 99.8% of the pollution plastic.

The nearly 18 tonnes of plastic piling up on an island that is otherwise mostly untouched by humans are a 3-D parable of the catastrophic extent of marine plastic pollution. That is about 35,000 pounds, for those of you who are still imperial dinosaurs. Somehow the scientists have come up with the figure of 38 million pieces in total. Crabs now make their homes in this junk, 
One of many hundreds of crabs that now make their homes out of plastic debris washed up on Henderson Island in the Pitcairn island group. This particular item is an Avon cosmetics jar.
There is plastic everywhere in the world it seems and, even a remote chunk of coral in the largest ocean on the planet is covered in this garbage. We're told that by 2050 plastic will outweigh fish in our depleted oceans and that fish samples reveal micro-plastics, including the beads in our body wash and other products. We are drowning in the stuff, which has only been around since 1907. The use of plastics really picked up steam after WWII and now it's difficult to buy anything that isn't made of it or wrapped in it -- sometimes several times.

In scripture we are described as clay molded by the hands of the Divine Potter. No injected polyurethane or polystyrene in the bible. I wonder if we need a theology of plastic, or to develop liturgies repenting of our addiction to it. If we really do care for the world God created we must figure out a way toward simplicity and alternatives to our destructive practices.

Comments?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

God vs Mammon?

The historic church has stood at 21 Trinity Square since 1847.

A downtown church is suing the Eaton Centre and not surprisingly this recently announced legal action is in the news. The Anglican Diocese and the Church of the Holy Trinity is taking the cathedral of retail to court over structural damage the congregation says is caused by delivery trucks rumbling through two tunnels beneath their structure. Holy Trinity decided to stay put decades ago as properties where purchased all around them for the Eaton Centre. The Eaton Centre has been cautioned about the effects of the underground truck traffic in the past, and now the church wants the owners to pick up the tab for the $2,000,000 in repairs.

The congregation has maintained a strong social justice ministry for more than a century and chose to continue its ministries in that location rather than "take the money and run." In years past the neighbourhood around the church was a slum occupied by struggling Irish immigrants. The church built public housing and in recent years has sponsored more than a hundred refugees. The congregation has a ministry to the homeless and maintains a homeless memorial, to remember the names of those who have died on the streets in Canada. Here is their logo and how they describe their ministries:

loving justice in the heart of the city
Repairing the cracks has included putting 50-foot screws into the bedrock beneath the corner of the church where the cracks are.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Problem of Pain & the Opioid Crisis

The provincial government and the regulatory body that governs physicians have lately tried to reduce the imprudent prescribing of opioids such as oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl. (Graeme Roy/THE CANADIAN PRESS)


When I heard about the results of a report on prescription opioid use in Ontario, just one province in Canada, I couldn't comprehend the figures for a moment. I went online to get more information and this is what I found:

TORONTO, ON – May 17, 2017 - People in Ontario filled more than 9 million prescriptions for opioids in 2015/16, up by nearly 450,000 prescriptions from three years earlier, and the opioids being prescribed have shifted toward stronger types like hydromorphone and away from weaker opioids like codeine, a new report has found. 

According to 9 Million Opioid Prescriptions, a report by Health Quality Ontario, nearly two million people in Ontario fill prescriptions for opioids every year -- translating into one in every seven Ontarians, or 14% of the province’s population.
 


One out of seven Ontarians? Is this not gobsmacking? The researchers aren't speculating about illegal opioid use here. These are prescriptions filled by physicians to alleviate pain, although we know that a significant number  prescriptions are used to satisfy addictions or for illegal resale.

Of course there are many people in chronic pain for whom opioids are life-changers. We'd probably agree that they should not suffer.  Yet we have to wonder why the use of opioids is on the rise when we know the danger they pose. It seems to me that there a lot of us are a mess, physically, and drugs have become the solution. I have to wonder if our inattention to our physical and spiritual wellbeing in a fast-paced society has led to a pharmaceutical fix which is dangerous, costly, and masks root causes. Who is paying attention to those who are suffering? What other solutions are there?

I'm curious to know what your reaction has been to this report. Do you find this as unsettling as I do?

Friday, May 19, 2017

'Reconciliation in its best form'

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We are very aware in our United Church of Canada that relationships with First Nations peoples need to be mended in this country. Governments and churches must provide leadership in this regard, but it is remarkable when an individual takes the steps to do so.

The CBC radio program As It Happens shared the story of Kenneth Linde, an 86-year-old retired rancher donated half his land to a B.C. First Nation. For Linde it was  not so much a gift as an act of reconciliation, says Esk'etemc Chief Charlene Belleau. "When he talked with me, I thought, you know, this is reconciliation in its best form," Belleau told As It Happens host Carol Off. "He's not just talking about reconciliation; he's actually doing something about it."

According to the accompanying piece, Linde bought 260 hectares of land on the east side of the Fraser River near Alkali Lake, B.C., in 1961 and worked on it for decades.His family owns the nearby sawmill that employed many members of the Indigenous community, Belleau said, and he has long been a friend and trusted neighbour to the Indigenous community.

Belleau said that when she spoke with Linde he observed, "When I bought the land ... I paid for it. Every year since I bought the land, I've paid my taxes so I could continue to use it. But I've always, always known it's your land. I would like to give it back to you."

 She goes on to say "Our ancestors, years ago, knew that our people would go through a hard time with other people — that they would take our land, that they would put us in residential schools, that they would put us in foster homes, they would incarcerate us, that we would go through very difficult times. So the Creator gave them a song and a ceremony to heal from that. So when we had this big day with Kenneth Linde on Monday and we did our declaration of title and rights, it's our children asking us to let go of everything that's happened to us in the past, to be able to be forgiving, to be stronger for what we've been through and to be able to move on into the future. Our children led the way on Monday. And it was, it was — I can't even express it, it was so, so beautiful."

This is a beautiful story of reconciliation. May there be many more.






Thursday, May 18, 2017

Champing?

‘Champing’ at All Saints, Aldwincle, Northamptonshire, beds made up on the floor, sunlight streaming through the windows.

Have you heard of "glamping?" It is a newfangled term for a recent trend, a mash-up of glamorous camping. Rather than sleeping on the ground in a tent with mosquitoes hovering nearby "glampers" have much more upscale digs in yurts and luxury treehouses and other cool structures like the one we saw in Fundy National Park last year (below.) Some would suggest this isn't camping at all, but, hey, glamp away.

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The latest British trend is "champing," which has nothing to do with horses and bits. It is church camping, in sanctuaries which have been decommissioned or deconsecrated. There is more and more vacant church real estate, some of which gets repurposed for other causes. Why not include camping experiences in the mix?

You can see a champsite above, in a lovely old church, one of seven now used for this purpose. More than 600 people paid for the privilege last year and champing is so popular that twelve churches will be on offer in 2017.

When I was at St. Paul's church in Bowmanville the youth group attended the Maundy Thursday service, then slept over in the sanctuary and sleepily took part in the Good Friday service. These young people had no idea that they were trendsetters, but they were obviously ahead of their time.

Would camping in a historic church appeal to you? Is this a creative "sign of the times" or a sad commentary on the state of old-line church buildings?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

God's place and God's grace

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We will probably pull the plug on cable TV this summer, after much consideration. Will I miss Jeopardy? Of course -- Alex is Canadian! Yes, I may go through withdrawal during football season. And there are PBS and CBC shows which I find very worthwhile which I will miss, although most are available online now.

I was channel-surfing on Sunday and came upon a program called Saving Place, Saving Grace. It's about Holy Cross Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. After WWII Holy Cross saw an influx of those yearning for a spiritual life which led them to monasticism. Many were in their late teens or early twenties and the community grew to more than sixty brothers. Now the abbey is on the decline in terms of numbers, with about a dozen aging monks, the youngest in his late fifties.Image result for saving place saving grace pbs doc

Still, they are committed to being a witness in the world, welcoming visitors seeking solitude and peace, regardless of their faith convictions. They have also entered into a remarkable reformation of their home by embracing an intense sustainability initiative both in their daily life and in stewardship of the land around them. They are working with various partners to make this happen, and the documentary was inspiring.

There are a growing number of Roman Catholic monastic communities, both convents and monasteries, which are addressing Creation Care with purpose and conviction. It is impressive and to be applauded. Saving Place, Saving Grace is available to watch online and I would encourage you to take a look.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Spiritual Power of Creativity

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Along the way I've blogged about the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and the tour de force paintings by Michelangelo Buanarotti. Even though Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor he took on this monumental project which he undertook without a plan. The ceiling depicts dozens of biblical figures and stories, including the iconic creation image of a bearded God conveying the divine spark to Adam, the mythical first human. I just read a big think article about speculation that Michelangelo concealed images around and beneath these various figures, including an anatomically accurate brain behind God in that creation image. Outlined this way it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see it...sorry... This isn't as far-fetched as you might imagine. Michelangelo was a student of anatomy, doing dissections of cadavers at a time when this was considered a desecration of the human body.

Image result for Behind the figure of God, the clouds form a brain. Neurosurgery. May 2010.

This is an excerpt from the big think piece:

At age 33, Michelangelo Buonarotti began the project. It was 1508. He finished in 1512. It wasn’t easy. He painted mostly standing up,not on his back as rumored. Craning his neck for long hours caused him terrible headaches, spasms, and muscle cramps. A mold bloom made him scrap the first draft. He scraped the whole ceiling and started over. The great master even had to create a system of scaffolding and platforms to allow him to complete the work.

The highlighting is mine because it chucked me upside the head. Michelangelo had to erase the first draft of what is one of the great accomplishments of fine art and the depiction of the biblical narrative. What if he had abandoned the project in frustration? Or what if his church sponsors had decided to choose a less ambitious form of decoration?

This is more than an example of "if at first you don't succeed..." It speaks to the power of creativity, God's and ours, which is a profound form of spiritual expression.

Comments?

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Single Mothers

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When our children were young I would head off to the church early every Sunday morning and later Ruth, my wife, would arrive with our three children in time for worship. From time to time she would remind me that on Sunday's she was a single parent, and getting out the door could be exasperating. She admitted that the 45 minutes after the kids departed the service after Children's Time was golden, not necessarily because of the sermon or anthem, but because for a brief time she got to be an adult in the company of adults.

Of course we went home as a family. We shared responsibilities and made decisions as a couple and parenting was still a challenge. Often when I'm taking the bus to work I see the single mother's wrestling strollers on board and I wonder about their lives. It is seldom-recognized responsibility which must be overwhelming at times.

On this Christian Family Sunday and Mother's Day I'll share with you a sonnet by British priest and teacher Malcolm Guite. It honours those single moms who don't often receive recognition and praise:

At last, in spite of all, a recognition,
For those who loved and laboured for so long,
Who brought us, through that labour, to fruition
To flourish in the place where we belong.
A thanks to those who stayed and did the raising,
Who buckled down and did the work of two,
Whom governments have mocked instead of praising,
Who hid their heart-break and still struggled through,
The single mothers forced onto the edge
Whose work the world has overlooked, neglected,
Invisible to wealth and privilege,
But in whose lives the kingdom is reflected.
Now into Christ our mother church we bring them,
Who shares with them the birth-pangs of His Kingdom.

Blessing on all parents today, and all households where love is modelled and Christ is present.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spitting in the Face of the Creator


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If you don't know the name of Bill McKibben it sure isn't because I haven't told you about him. Over the years I've written several blog entries about McKibben, one of America's leading climate change activists and a thought-provoking writer of books and articles for more than 30 years.

In a recent interview he is prompted to talk about his Christian faith. I knew that he had been a Sunday School teacher along the way, and that he wrote a book about the biblical book of Job. I hadn't been aware that his family lived in Canada for five years and he attended a United Church Sunday School as a child. So that's where it all went wrong!

McKibben admits that the Sunday School classes he taught involved a lot of hiking and they celebrated the Feast of St. Francis with pet blessing, even though they were Methodists. In the Salt Lake Tribune interview he answers a number of faith related questions



Q • When you speak at climate marches or political rallies we don’t hear this Bible talk much. Since some of those best-versed in the Bible are among those most skeptical of climate change, why not talk this way more often?


A • I do when it’s with people who can hear it. I like talking to these audiences. Not long ago I went to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for several lectures. I enjoyed it and it went well. I try to do that sort of thing when I can. But for many Americans, even those who spend time in church, it’s not always that useful to be referencing Job. Even a fair number of American Christians probably aren’t all that well versed in the Bible.


Q • Do you think if we were more biblically literate as a society we would be better caretakers of the planet?


A • Maybe, but I don’t know. I haven’t noticed any great correlation. I’m afraid if you look around, it’s often people who are least likely to be engaged with the church or a synagogue or a mosque who are often standing up for creation. And a lot of people have tried to use the Bible to figure out rationalization for doing what we’re doing to heat up the planet, kill of species and whatever else.


Q • You have occasionally been likened to a prophet, the bearer of a message about the fate of the Earth. Do you think of yourself as one in any way?


A • I am not a prophet. I have never vouchsafed any particular message from the Lord. I do my best to read the signs of the times, and in our day and age it often means listening hard to what scientists have to tell us.
Despite his denial of prophetic credentials his insistence that we pay attention to those signs is a faithfulness which reminds me of the biblical prophets. He says that humans have become big enough to spit in God's face -- and we are. Now it's up to us to decide how high the waves will go and how many storms we'll endure.
I'm glad McKibben is out there, even if he makes us uncomfortable. I hope we pay attention.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Limits of Forgiveness?

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This week disgraced Senator Don Meredith resigned from the senate. This was only after a lengthy inquiry costing Canadian taxpayers more than half a million dollars and the conclusion from the investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee that he should be removed, should he choose not to leave voluntarily. 

 Meredith admitted to a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl who came to Canada alone to further her education. He was clearly a sexual predator, yet he claimed that his vilification by the media was racism, as he is a person of colour. It would appear that Meredith refused to quit until he saw that he might lose a $24,000 a year pension after only six years of work.

The whole situation is sordid, and made worse by the fact that Meredith is or was a Pentecostal pastor. I can only imagine what he had preached about moral behaviour through the years before engaging in a relationship which was wrong in every imaginable way. Earlier this year Meredith publicly apologized and sought forgiveness: “This is a moral failing on my part. As a human being, I made a grave error in judgment, in my interactions. For that I am deeply sorry.” He did this with his wife at his side, an unfairness to a spouse we have witnessed all too often through the years

While Meredith's family may have genuinely forgiven him, and I trust that God will as well. Everyone makes mistakes and God's grace is expansive. Still, seeking forgiveness in this way is not a free pass to avoid the consequences of one's actions. We have no idea what efforts have been made to make amends with the vulnerable young woman whose trust he betrayed. Her life has been changed forever.  It's good that he's gone, but a travesty that he resisted for so long.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Organ Transplants & the Glory of God

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Next week we will have a guest organist at the console of the Cassavant Freres pipe organ at Bridge St. United Church. Matthieu Latreille, one of the organists across the street at St. Thomas Anglican church will offer a "thank you" recital. He has been preparing for concerts on our musical instrument, taking advantage of the four manuals and four thousand pipes of our refurbished organ. It really is an impressive instrument which suits the magnificent space of our sanctuary well.

The truth is though, many churches which have big organs are in the downtowns of cities and have dwindling congregations. Some of those churches are selling their properties to developers who don't want the musical instruments and all the space they take. But who wants a pipe organ in these days of praise bands and digital keyboards? The answer is, no one.



I saw an article recently about an 112-year-old pipe organ in the sanctuary of a now-closed church which needs a new home (pictured above). It is in good condition and valued at half a million dollars and is being offered for free. The problem is that this wonderful musical instrument is not unique and it would cost ten to thirty thousand dollars to remove it from the church where it currently resides.  About 450 other organs are available across the USA, and demand is slight, according to Executive Director John Bishop of the Boston-based Organ Clearing House, which helps save high-quality pipe organs from abandonment or destruction. If I have 450 organs listed and I can place twenty a year, I’m doing very well,” Bishop said. I've joked through the years about Moe's New-to-You Pipe Organs, but it actually exists!

Times change, and we are reminded again that our faith is about following Jesus, not our cherished bricks and mortar, nor our "holy hardware." It's hard to imagine, though, the demise of these wonderful instruments whose sonic grandeur give us a taste of the glory and holiness of God.

Come to the recital next Tuesday -- it really will be good. And offer your comments about our changing times.


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Bridge St UC organ console.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Supernatural Election Day



Green Leader Andrew Weaver & David Suzuki

The Liberal Party in British Columbia is hoping that the baggage of any longstanding party in power is not so weighty that they can't be re-elected today. Everyone assumes that it will be a close election with the reigning Liberals and the NDP duking it out. Surprisingly, the Green Party is making a good showing in the polls, although who can know how that will translate to the polling booth.

BC is "supernaturally" beautiful (remember the tourism slogan from years back?) and resource rich This means that more and more British Columbians are concerned about resource extraction, which provides jobs and prosperity, and the ecological integrity of the wild places of the province.

Green parties around the world have become much more sophisticated in their platforms, realizing that balancing economic strength and environmental issues is essential to moving beyond being an earnest Birkenstock curiosity at the fringe of politics. First Nations, ranchers, trappers, and ecotourism operators, are voters as well, and they have deep concerns about rampant development which doesn't respect the land.

The Vancouver Sun newspaper offers this assessment of Green Party possibilities:

In just four years, the B.C. Greens have emerged from relative obscurity and nagging criticism as a one-issue party to become a legitimate political force with a comprehensive election platform. They have the party’s smart, likable and hard-working leader Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head to thank for that, as evidenced by his credible performance in Wednesday’s televised leaders’ debate. He scored second in an instant poll, behind the NDP’s John Horgan and just ahead of Liberal Christy Clark.
The Greens are brashly putting themselves forward as a party to govern, adopting the slogan “Change you can count on” — a virtual knockoff of Barack Obama’s “Change we can believe in”, which was used successfully during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Political observers suggest the Green party should set its sights on a modest increase in legislative seats.

Image result for supernatural british columbia

Caring for the Earth does have a supernatural aspect as well, for people of faith, and at least one United Church minister, Greg Powell, is a solid Green candidate.

We can all pay attention to what is happening on the Left Coast today as a matter of provincial politics and of God's call to responsible stewardship of the planet.. And no, I'm  not considering entering the political arena in retirement.

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