Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Faith for Good

Our daughters, Jocelyn and Emily, were at our place the other evening for supper and we chatted about a book we have all read, Emma Donoghue's award-winning Room. The story is told by a child, a boy who is the outcome of the rape of a young woman abducted as a teen and held captive in a secret room.

Later I called them into the TV room when Elizabeth Smart came on the news. She is the 23-year-old Utah woman who went through a similar experience for nine months when she was fourteen. She spoke in a courtroom to the man who had snatched her from her own home, and held her captive under the pretense that this was God's will. He raped her and psychologically brutalized, her but remarkably her faith sustained her through the experience (she is a Mormon.) In her statement she offered “Nine months of living with him and seeing him proclaim that he was God’s servant and called to do God’s work and everything he did to me and my family is something that I know that God would not tell somebody to do...”

Smart is determined that this event will not set the course of her life and that she won't allow the perpetrator to continue to have power over her. She is a remarkable young woman, and the story demonstrates the polar contrasts of faith. Like virtually everything else in life it can be employed for evil or for good, for harm or for strength.

Any thoughts?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pray as You, Go, Go, Go

If last year's image for Spring was the Garden of Eden, this year it is Noah's Ark. I don't want to gripe because I'm grateful that we haven't been subjected to floods, wildfires, and tornadoes. Just the same, the weather hasn't been conducive to outdoor activity.

We have been trying to sit out with a cup of coffee in the morning before work, and we have been listening to Pray as You Go, the meditation link which can be found on our St. Paul's website. When I asked if anyone visited that site a while ago there were no responses, so I surmise that few go there. We weren't either, but now as we listen through Ruth's iPhone (those things can do just about everything) there is a sense of entering into God's healing presence.

I am often aware of the frenetic pace of people's lives, including those seasons when I feel that I can hardly breathe myself. For some reason the change in our lifestyles which were intended to bring more leisure time and set us free have actually created a climate for slavery. We have more labour-saving devices, technology, three-day weekends than our parents' generation. So why do we feel that we are running to keep up with our own spirits?

Do you make time to let God into your daily activity? Is there any sense of rhythm to your faith life? Are you like me and tend to offer excuses masquerading as reasons for not attending to a relationship with God?

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Today we are in Montreal, Quebec, for the ordination service during which our son Isaac will become a United Church minister. We are proud of Ike, as we are proud of our two daughters, but I have remained reasonably calm. Two weeks ago he had his convocation, receiving his Masters of Divinity as a university degree prior to his ordination. He got the highest standing academically, as well as for the In Ministry year, along with several prizes. Last week he was interviewed about ministry by a Quebec radio station -- for an hour, in French. Still dad stays calm.

Then this last week I got emails from people in several congregations where I served and where Isaac grew up. Suddenly I was fighting back the tears. These church folk were part of our son's spiritual formation, as leaders in Sunday Schools and teen groups, as well as simply being wonderful role models. One from Sudbury recalled his baptism as an eight-year-old (we waited until he chose this sacrament.) He was baptised in a service filled with mystery on Easter Eve.

Isaac was originally allowed one person to lay on hands today, and after much soul-searching he chose his grandmother. She is thrilled and it was the right choice. Mom is unsteady on her pins so I will help her to the front. And when I get there I plan to pull a guerilla hand placement, sort of a rugby scrum move. What can they do, wash his head? Toss me out? Now he is allowed two people, and his mother will be the other official participant.

Thanks to the St. Paul's congregation for being so supportive as well. Isaac was never a member here, but has always felt welcome.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The CGI Version of the Bible

Mark Burnett rose to prominence with the show Survivor and I must resist the temptation to take his name in vain for launching the era of so-called reality programming. He must be held responsible for The Apprentice and more recently, The Voice. I find television to be a wasteland because of the glut of reality shows, but I know many love 'em.

Bet you can't guess Burnett's latest project. It is a ten-part series for the History channel on the bible, and there will be plenty of CGI (computer generated graphics) employed in telling the biblical stories he and his wife, Roma Downey, have chosen. The series plans to span Genesis to the Revelation of John.

How will they create suspense? Will Judas be voted out of the Upper Room? Donald Trump as part of the Final Judgement? I shudder at how they will treat the resurrection, but I suppose I shouldn't pre-judge. The bible does say, "judge not, lest you be judged."

What do you think about this? Is it helpful in an age when few pick up a bible in book form to have the stories dramatized on TV? After all, there have been many movies made about biblical stories, all of which seem to get shown at Easter whether they have anything to do with the resurrection or not. Would you be inclined to watch the series?

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Well, it is the end of an era. After 25 years on the air, Oprah is gone, long live Oprah. She has already reinvented herself on cable, but yesterday's teary goodbye marked the end of the Oprah Winfrey show.

During those years Winfrey did some truly remarkable things including promoting reading of literature, addressing health issues never before addressed on network television, and sharing the stories of remarkable individuals whose courage would touch even the stoniest and most cynical hearts. http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Memorable-Guests/7 She probably played a significant role in getting Barak Obama elected as president and she embodies the American "rags to riches" dream.

There were also moments of questionable medical advice, dangerous pop psychology, and obscene celebration of materialism. The Saturday Night Live send-up of an Oprah giveaway show is a classic.http://kaycaskey.blogspot.com/2007/11/oprahs-favorite-things-snl-parody.html

Some conservative Christians have viewed Oprah as akin to the anti-Christ, creating a quasi-religion of self-actualization. Actually, yesterday I heard the story of someone who was refused a transfer by the driver of a bus until the person asked What Would Oprah Do?, a variation of the What Would Jesus Do? catch phrase of a few years ago. The driver coughed up the transfer.

And there is a book, pictured above, which explores the phenomenon of Oprah, who began life as a Baptist but moved away from orthodox Christianity. Hey, you have to be impressed that 1.4 million people applied to be part of her congregation of 400 yesterday, as she delivered what one pundit called a cross between a valedictory address and a sermon.

Were you watching the final episodes of the show? Are you sad to see her go, or good riddance? Was/is Oprah a force for good or evil? Is she a New Age entertainer or carrying the torch for a modern spiritual approach? What's an Oprah?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Living, Loving in the Moment

About a thousand tornadoes have touched down in the United States so far this year. This exceeds the average number in a year. Scary. We were horrified to see the swath of destruction through Joplin, Missouri, as a tornado tore through that town of 50,000. More than 120 people died and 2,000 buildings were destroyed.

I don't know about you, but I was moved as I listened to the recording of a group of people who took refuge in a convenience store. We couldn't see them because the power was out, but we could hear them. Children cried in terror, someone called out to Jesus, a man told the others that he loved them. There was an intimacy to it all that got to me. http://www.salttvnetwork.com/articles/20110523/gut-wrenching-recording-inside-joplin-missouri-convenience-store-paints-harrowing-

It took me to the story of the Last Supper in John where Jesus offers assurance to his followers with his arrest and crucifixion looming large. We go about our daily activities assuming that we will be around forever, often taking one another for granted. It's not that we're "holding out," we just aren't focussed on the preciousness of life.

Was anyone else touched by hearing that convenience store recording? Do you think we get caught up in the everyday and forget to express love and support to those who are most important to us? What would you be saying, and who would you want to say it to in a situation of life and death?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It Was Worth a Try!

Some of you were in church a few months ago when I announced the banns for a young couple in our congregation. I told you that it was the first time I had done so in 31 years of ministry and then I explained to the gathered what was up. The prospective bride and groom are both church attenders, and neither had been married before, so I could announce on several occasions prior to their wedding what their intentions were and then they could receive a marriage license without cost from the provincial government.

I never told the congregation that it didn't work. Heaven knows I tried. I went to the municipal office and told the clerk what I wanted. It turned out that the banns were announced for her wedding, many moons before, but in all the years she had been doing the job no one had ever inquired. Eventually she directed me to the office of the marriage registrar in Thunder Bay. I was required to fill out a form which included my "secret code" marriage number and fax it to them. I did so many weeks before the wedding, but no license arrived. I finally reluctantly advised the couple to go and purchase one which they graciously did.The Monday morning after the wedding a fat package arrived with a whole bunch of the necessary forms, so I now have enough to marry the host of couples who will never ask for the banns.

I guess its a sign of the times that first-time couples who go to church are about as rare as the proverbial hens teeth. After I announced the banns the first Sunday a lot of people told me that this was how they got their license. Not today. And here was my shot at doing a couple a favour and the bureaucracy caused my plans to crash and burn.

Did you know this option existed? Were the banns read for your wedding? What is your take on why this doesn't happen anymore?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Table Talk

Two Friday evenings ago about a hundred people showed up at St. Paul's to be fed. The event was the monthly Gathering Place meal and our guest list is eclectic. Most of the people are living in group homes and boarding houses and don't have much money. For the most part they aren't starving, but they sure aren't living in luxury. I have watched some downright skinny guests polish off one substantial plate of food and then tuck into a second. They have double vision when it comes to dessert as well. The food is excellent.

Other people come because they might be eating alone otherwise, or they are weary at the end of the week and their family will benefit from a well-prepared meal. For all, the nourishment is social and spiritual as well as physical.

That evening reader Ian came and "tickled the ivories" with aplomb, and there was that warm buzz of conversation which makes this meal different. A first-time participant is a member of our ministerial who volunteers at what is more of a soup kitchen meal in Oshawa. This is an excellent ministry, but he commented later that there is a different spirit to what we do. At the Gathering Place the meal is served by the team, and everyone has crockery. The tables are nicely decorated and the table hosts encourage conversation. It's a challenge to tell "who's who," and that's the way we want it.

I was pleased and relieved to hear the comments, because our goal is to provide hospitality graciously and in Christ's name, without imposing a religious agenda.

Any thoughts or comments about this good readers? Remember that the next meal is June 10th at 5:00 pm and you are invited.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Young at Heart

Well, if you are reading this, Doomsday has apparently been postponed!

Last Sunday evening I was in the seniors' community called Wilmot Creek to lead worship, which unfortunately meant I missed the youth service at St. Paul's led by our teens and the Loaves and Fishes praise team.

The Wilmot gang is always welcoming and more than a quarter of the sixty worshippers were from the St. Paul's congregation. Some of them had been at St. P's in the morning. The message was different, but talk about "gluttons for punishment."

One of our Creekers (or is that Creakers?) wasn't there for a good reason. He was at St. Paul's for the youth service. I had reminded people in the morning that it wasn't exclusive, so he decided to go with the the young'uns looking, I'm told, dapper in his blue blazer and tie. Wonderful. Seven, seventy seven -- who's counting?

I find St. Paul's members as supportive of children and youth as anywhere I have served. People genuinely delight in their involvement and respond to them both playfully and seriously, if you get what I mean. This spirit of acceptance and inclusion is not only vital, it is the gospel. And just because we have parts that creak, it doesn't mean that we lose our sense of joy.


Friday, May 20, 2011


The Mission, Outreach, and Advocacy committee of Oshawa Presbytery, which I co-chair, is waiting for a response to a letter we wrote to the federal government in March. The good news is that we're not holding our breath for a response. The bad news is that the letter we wrote expressing concern about spending billions of dollars expanding correctional facilities in this country is one of three our presbytery sent without receiving acknowledgement.

Part of our concern is that it seemed before the election that a "tough on crime" agenda has been created despite the statistics indicating that violent crime and murder are decreasing in this country. We felt that as a Christian community we needed to call the government on this. We encouraged more effective crime prevention measures and restorative justice initiatives in situations where violence was not an aspect of the criminal act.

This week I got an email reminding me that the Global Peace Index will be released soon, an interesting project. It prompted my memory that in April there was a related release of the United States Peace Index. It stated that crime is declining in the States as well, although they are inviting a goal of becoming as peaceful as Canada. I quote:

Reductions in violence and crime to levels equal to Canada would yield an estimated $89 billion in direct savings, $272 billion in additional economic activity, and potentially create 2.7 million jobs.

We would never want to minimize the negative impact of violent crime, nor suggest that we do away with prisons. But isn't it interesting to see how our fears can be used to shape our perceptions of a problem?

What are your thoughts about this?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Men Behaving Badly

Marc Chagall

One of the most dramatic and gripping stories of the Old Testament is of King David's lust for Bathsheba and the chain of events which ensues. The chapters in 2 Samuel tell of his scheming to get into the sack with this married woman, her resulting pregnancy, and the orchestrated death of her husband in battle. It is one of God's prophets, Nathan, who dares to challenge David's abuse of power and expose the immorality of everything he has done. In the end David is contrite, as we read every year in Psalm 51, the psalm for Ash Wednesday.

Well, three thousand years later, nothing much has changed. This week we heard from a supposedly contrite Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose wife Maria Shriver has left him because he fathered a child with another woman thirteen years ago. One reporter offered that the Terminator became the Governator and has now been exposed as the Fornicator. Actually, Arnie has dodged accusations of being a groping, leering abuser of power for years.

Then there is the case of Dominique Strauss--Kahn, the now former French leader of the International Monetary Fund. He is currently in a New York prison, charged with the attempted rape of a hotel worker. Strauss--Kahn also has a rather sordid history of inappropriate sexual encounters.

Why do people, mostly men, do this when they are in power? It would seem that they have so much to lose, but it is as though they assume their positions put them above the law and disconnect whatever moral compasses they might have.

Yesterday there was an interesting CBC radio interview with the chaplain of the King Bay ministry in the financial district of Toronto. He has counselled those who have made messes of their lives because of inappropriate relationships and he feels that it is often the headiness of power, entitlement, with a dash of testosterone that leads men into these situations.

What is your reaction to all this? Are these stories just media prurience, or necessary cautionary tales about the abuse of power? What would happen if a Canadian politician was caught in a sex scandal?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


If it warms up this week we plan to spend some time in our kayaks on Saturday. We figure we should get going early, before the end of the world. A group in the United States is insisting that Saturday, May 21st, will be the day for a cataclysmic, global earthquake and we should all be prepared to meet our Maker.

The guy who seems to be behind all this is Robert Fitzpatrick, a retired New York City transit engineer, who is also the author of The Doomsday Code, a self-published book that purports to explain how the Bible reveals what will happen to people who have not been “saved” by God by May 21st. Fitzpatrick has used his life savings, $140,000, to put up billboards and ads warning people.

As wacky as all this sounds, both Judaism and Christianity have an apocalyptic bent to them. Reading the New Testament, it seems that the apostle Paul and other early Christians figured Jesus would return during their lifetimes, although they weren't big on doom and gloom.

Through the centuries there have been plenty of self-appointed Prophets of Doom, predicting the imminent destruction of the world and the return of Christ. The appointed day comes and goes, but that doesn't stop them or their successors from trying again. The fuss over the Left Behind novels seems to have toned down, but they sold millions of copies. For some reason there are a fair number of religious types who seem to get great satisfaction from the prospect of the end of days. Of course they almost always believe that they will be delivered from the destruction. Oddly the modern day prophets tend to be global warming deniers. Instead of committing themselves to healing the planet God has created as our earthly home they wait for Jesus to beam them up.

So, don't say I didn't warn you. As for us, we will have the kayaks ready and thank God for the beauty of the earth. Even if the earthquake comes, what a way to go!

Have you heard that you only have three days left? What is you response?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Just to fill you in, Blogger continues to give me fits! I am perplexed as to why some blog entries disappeared and reappeared last week. A number of comments evaporated, including my own, and I have no idea why. My apologies. I have written blogs and then had to rewrite them after they disappeared. So please hang in there!

Keep Talking?

The Glee Watcher in our household tells me that last week Curt, the gay member of the glee club, was elected Prom Queen at the high school. His election was meant to mock his orientation, but his partner encouraged him to wear the crown with pride, so to speak.Not all that long ago it would have been unimaginable to have this sort of story line on a TV show, particularly one set in a high school.

This is the International Day Against Homophobia http://www.homophobiaday.org/ so why not ask how we are doing in the church? This continues to be the subject of discussion and controversy around the world.

The United Church of Canada has made a series of official decisions since 1988 about gay, lesbian, transgendered leadership and marriage, but congregations do their own soul-searching. I visited a couple new to St. Paul's recently and they told me that they had been part of a thriving congregation to the west of Toronto. That all changed when they studied and voted on gay marriage. The congregation was split and many people left. The minister retired and his successor informed them a couple of years in that he is gay. More departures.

I should say that while I have come to a place of acceptance in all this, I have had many conversations with parishioners who are still opposed, and I don't consider them to be homophobic, at least not in some cases. They have prayerfully and humbly looked at scripture and come to different conclusions. I believe that as with families, there are times when we must "agree to disagree."

There is a worthwhile article in the latest Christian Century on the debate in the Anglican Church in the U.S. http://christiancentury.org/article/2011-04/same-sex-complementarity

Of course this isn't just an ongoing discussion in the church. There are many people who choose not to "out" themselves in their workplaces or their families because of concern that there will be backlash and strife.

Where are you in all this? Has your mind changed over time, or do you feel that society is making a mistake? Should we keep the discussion alive, or let it go?I encourage all of you, including those who are readers but stay "in the closet" to offer perspectives.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Trillium Therapy

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin yet Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

So said Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, as he spoke about anxiety.

Last week was crazy busy, the unpredictable reality of ministry. Early in the week there was a funeral, then visits to two hospitals, one to see the patient in the psych ward and the other with a man who was dying. So there was a second funeral, and an additional service at the nearby senior's community, and meetings, meetings, meetings. After worship yesterday I was inclined to crash, but we decided to go for a walk at Long Sault Conservation area instead. Sometimes the hardest part of a walk on an iffy day is getting out the door.

We wore the right gear and went to see the trilliums which come and go so quickly. Of course the various signs of Spring, including several colts on a farm close to the road, lifted our spirits. The natural world convinces me that God is good even in the midst of sadness and the pressures of work.

Do you share that experience? What signs are you seeing amidst the raindrops. Hey, our two rainbarrels are full!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Whole Person

It appears that yesterday's post about the recovery of the whooping cranes is gone, as is my reflection on the ten million dollar donation by Bell Canada to the fundraising for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health or CAMH. With that donation the total has gone over the hundred million dollar threshhold to 108 million. Impressive. Not only will help fund a new building in Toronto (pictured above,) it will help to expand services. It is encouraging that a major corporation has put its money where its mouth is.

On Tuesday I visited one of our seniors in the psychiatric unit of a hospital, someone who has a long history with bipolar illness. Except for our pastoral care person, Beth, no one else knows of this diagnosis because of the stigma. What a shame. Jesus spent much of his public ministry healing people, including those with mental health issues. We can lead the way in the church in addressing mental health and, more importantly, supporting those who are vulnerable.


What the...?

Hi folks,

Something has happened in Blogger that wiped out posts back to Wednesday, including both blog entries and comments. The message from Blogger is that they are working on the problem, so I will be cautious about posting until the smoke clears.

Thank you for your patience!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Getting it Right

We regularly hear of how humans trample over the landscape and waterscape, doing seemingly irreparable damage. We are told that species are disappearing at an alarming rate as a result of our thoughtlessness and greed. As Christians we often talk a good game about respect for God's Creation, but our habits and practices don't necessarily reflect what we say we believe.

So, it's good to be reminded of the successful efforts toward "tikkun olam," the Jewish concept of mending the world.

The whooping cranes, a species which was nearly extinct in the 1940's with only 16 individuals left, have returned to Canada this Spring relatively intact. They Winter in Louisiana and Texas and Summer in Alberta and Saskatchewan. There are now more than 500 birds and over 200 breeding pairs, but crane watchers were worried that the Gulf oil spill might affect them. Fortunately they escaped the effects of the spill and will get on with the serious work of raising families.

I often wonder at the costly and labour intensive efforts to rectify the ways in which we have screwed up. Why can't we "have a care" up front rather than frantically work to repair what we have broken? Is it just human nature? In the meantime we can be grateful for all those individuals and governments working to make things better.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Brothers in Christ

One of our seniors, a fine man, underwent surgery recently which kept him in hospital for a week and incapacitated him for a while when he came home. He was overwhelmed by the support he received from a number of our members, including meals provided by women. That's what we expect really. Women tend to be practical in their caregiving and support and congregations tend to thrive or fail on their efforts. At the risk of stereotyping, men will do stuff, but they often struggle with the vulnerability of others and shy away from emotional content.

Two men (at least two) have also been supportive of this senior citizen. One went to his home and installed the handrails necessary for the basics of getting up and down. I hear he stayed for a while afterward, listened, and chatted. It wasn't necessary to fulfill the task, but it was an act of kindness. It doesn't surprise me because the handyman is active in congregational life and lives out his Christian faith.

The other took the recovering patient out for lunch and again listened and chatted. He too is someone I find to be caring and concerned for others. It was good to hear about both of these quiet acts of kindness.

Since deciding to write this blog entry I discovered that another male member of St. Paul's had been quietly providing emotional support for a man whose funeral I did earlier this week. So maybe I've got this all wrong.

What are your thoughts about this? Do guys get a bad rap? Do we do enough to invited men to be part of the circle of caring in our congregations?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Style or Substance

Because you are reading this you know that I maintain a weblog which roams all over the map when it comes to issues related to faith and religion. I often wonder about the value of trying to convey something meaningful about various subjects in a matter of a few paragraphs.

So I was interested in the cover article for the most recent United Church Observer with the title Are Meaningful Relationship Possible 140 Characters At A Time? http://www.ucobserver.org/living/2011/05/social_media/ The article is really about the internet and meaningful relationships but it got me thinking.
I have been pondering whether Twitter (the 140 character reference) and Facebook are worth my effort as vehicles for communication as a pastor. They are both current trends, but we live in a time when we are bombarded with information and starved for substance, or so it seems to me. All three of our children are adults in their twenties. I value their opinions and they don't seem convinced that either would be of any great benefit despite the fact that all three are on Facebook. They actually lean toward Twitter between the two, as a possible mini-blog.

I am interested in your thoughts folks. Should I be tweeting away like a bird in Spring? Should we all be official Friends on Facebook? How could I ever "unfriend" anyone!

Monday, May 09, 2011

God Grant Me...

Media outlets around the world have been sharing the story of the Canadian woman, Rita Chretien, who survived seven weeks in the wilds of Nevada. You have heard the story: she and her husband were snooping around in the back country when things went terribly wrong. When their van got stuck on a logging road her husband Albert walked out for help. Except that he hasn't been seen since and she was alone in their vehicle, surviving on melted snow and trail mix.

Although Rita was near death when she was found, she is recovering. She has named love of family and a strong faith as sustaining forces during her desperate time. She read her bible and prayed.

A doctor and family members have described her survival as a miracle. I'm not sure that I would use that term given that her husband has almost certainly perished, and she went through a terrible ordeal. Yet I believe that she derived comfort and courage from the God who was already part of her daily life. I think of the abbreviated version of the Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Trumped Up

So President Obama released his long-form birth certificate and proved once and for all that he is "made in America." Except that the so-called "birthers" will think this has been faked as well. In fact there are many faked Obama birth certificates online. What a bizarre episode in U.S. history. The way I figure it, many Americans including, sadly, a fair number of conservative Christians can't come out and make blatantly racist comments about Obama, and don't want to be revealed as Islamaphobic, so this Trumped Up issue has taken wings. How could a quarter of the population, according to some polls, doubt the president's birthplace despite constant reassurances from officials in Hawaii and elsewhere that he was born there?

I find this deeply disturbing but I was entertained by President Obama's recent send-up of himself and Donald Trump at the Annual White House Correspondents dinner. The Donald has been questioning his president's birthplace, academic record and so much more. He has expressed shock that some consider him a racist. Really. After watching the video I felt much better.

Thoughts on this folks?

Friday, May 06, 2011

Light on the Corner

This little light of mine,

I'm gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Last evening our past and present board chairpersons attended an awards dinner on behalf of the congregation. We were honoured for community service, the many ways our members make a difference to the fabric of our local society.

Not long ago one of our teens, Amy, (yes, soloist Amy) received an award for community service through her school and there was acknowledgement of her involvement at St. Paul's.

I have certainly noticed through the years that many individuals who are active here are also contributors to various community causes. Their Christian faith issues in practical action beyond our doors. A couple of years ago I conducted the funeral for a wonderful St. Paul's senior and I discovered how involved she was in canvassing for organizations and supporting them as well.

The phrase "the light on the corner" is one we trot out from time to time to describe ourselves, perhaps too glibly. But I think these are examples of how that light, which is ultimately Christ's light, is demonstrated. At times I am concerned that younger members are less inclined toward this sort of community involvement, so it is good to hear about a teen who is honoured in this way. Each one of us can make our contribution to illuminating the shadows.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Spring Wildlife

After supper last night we went for a five kilometre saunter at Second Marsh that took us along the beach. We saw the aftermath of last week's windstorm with many tons of beach rocks pushed well up into the woods. The root systems of trees were exposed and a disturbing number were toppled. The power of wind and waves unlike anything we have seen there.

The turtles were still out sunning on a log and the deer had emerged for an evening browse. The large plush bunny was one of two, a rather bizarre and frankly creepy addition to the forest. I felt that this was a post-modern artistic statement, the crucifixion of Easter through the commercialization of Christianity's holiest day. Yup, I have definitely been doing this job too long!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

And Jesus Sang

The other day I read a short but very good article in the Christian Century by Barbara Taylor Brown called And Jesus Sang. She begins this way:

After all this time I thought I knew Jesus really well. Then just last week—preparing to preach at a congregational celebration of word and music—I discovered something unsettling about him. If my concordance is telling the truth, then he never played an instrument, never led his followers in song, never hummed a refrain or sang himself to sleep. After all these years, this is like learning that he never skipped a stone on water or warmed his hands at a fire. How is it possible to be fully human without ever making music?

She goes on to say that she eventually realized that the gospels do mention Jesus singing, as he leaves the Last Supper for Gethsemane.

Singing is such an important part of worship and the life of the Christian community and many of us learn scripture and faith itself through music.

This past Sunday night there was a lot of singing at St. Paul's. This annual event is often called the Choir Concert, but there was a rich variety of music which included all three music groups, as well as our kinda guest organist Patrick -- about 50 participants in all. There were solos and duets and combined choir pieces, greatly enjoyed by the gathered audience/congregation. Fourteen-year-old Amy delighted the crowd with her solo, ably accompanied by young Christopher, but everyone was appreciated.

What are your thoughts on music and worship? Is it vital or optional? Are you a "joyful noiser?"Were you there Sunday evening?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Morning After

The bible is full of monarchs, prophets, empires and even theocracies. But no democracies. In fact, its a challenge to conjure up truly democratic instances in scripture. After the resurrection the disciples chose a replacement for Judas (Acts 1) but it feels a bit more like a lottery than an election.

We uphold the democratic process though, remembering Winston Churchill's observation that it is the worst system except for all the rest. It is a privilege to be able to elect our leaders.

What to say about last night? Well, we now have a ruling party with a clear majority, which is important after the past few years of muddling along. I give credit to the Conservatives for sticking to their campaign plan and none to the Liberals for failing to offer an alternative. Kudos to NDP leader Jack Layton for convincing a lot of Canadians that his feistiness can translate into an effective opposition. For years it has rankled that the Bloc got some of my taxpayer's dollars to support their separatist agenda ("sovereigntist" is just a euphemism as far as I'm concerned.) Their resounding defeat means that this will come to an end because they didn't win the requisite number of seats. And Elizabeth May will be able to bring her intelligence and determination to the House of Commons. Winning her seat marks the first time a Green candidate has won in a federal election in North America.

The issues of integrity and contempt for parliament seemed lost in this election, along with other important issues such as the environment. We'll just have to wait and see.

Thoughts folks?

Monday, May 02, 2011

An Eye for an Eye

Nearly a decade ago, after the events of 911, a friend who is a long-distance trucker came back from the States and advised me not to travel there in the near future. He figured that with my height and facial features some nut would mistake me for Osama Bin Laden and shoot me dead.

I have been to the U.S. several times since then and no one has taken any pot shots. But Bin Laden remained at large. Speculation was that he was living in a cave, or had succumbed to illness. Well, no, he was living in a mansion in a military city not that far from Pakistan's capital. With allies such as these, who needs enemies.

The Americans killed Bin Laden yesterday and he has already been buried at sea, so we're told. An evil and violent man came to a violent end. It's hard to imagine anyone in the West regretting his death. My initial reaction was "thank God." Americans celebrated in the streets, including firefighters in New York City who had lost comrades in the 911 attacks.

Still, it was interesting to hear the reactions of family members of Canadians who died in the Twin Towers attack. One said that she was relieved that he was dead, although her father was not an "eye for an eye" person. The other offered that she gained no satisfaction from the death of one person as retribution for the death of her daughter. The "eye for eye" comment was a direct quote from scripture.

In the Old Testament the principle of an "eye for an eye" was put forward as a way to limit escalating tribal violence. Revenge or restititution needed to be limited to equal compensation or justice. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus challenged this, saying "you have heard it said, an eye for an eye," then went on to encourage his listeners to turn the other cheek.

Is it possible to apply either of these precepts in the dealings between nations? Jesus taught it, but do we actually believe it? Should we ever thank God for the death of another human being?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Living Waters

Yesterday was our 35th wedding anniversary, so we celebrated by doing what we have done so many times through the years -- we went for a paddle. In the early years it was always in a canoe. Now we have kayaks as well, and so we drove to the Black River in the southwest of Prince Edward County which winds for several kilometres through the countryside from somewhere above the village of Millford to Lake Ontario. The photo above was taken with Ruth's phone.

You may not have heard of the Black River and we hadn't either before last year. It is one of thousands of unassuming waterways across this country. As we made our way upstream on a beautiful afternoon we enjoyed the wildlife of Spring. A pileated woodpecker pounded out the resonant "budda budda" of its excavation work on a dead tree. We were able to spot this crow-size woodpecker and drift in close to watch it at work. The chorus frogs were singing to beat the band amidst the reeds. We watched two crows harrass a pair of hawks who must have invaded their territory. Kingfishers chattered alongside us as we paddled, and we interrupted the sunning of the painted turtles, which plopped into the water as we drew close.

Even on this small, out-of-the-way river water translates into life, abundant and varied.

Today we recognized Earth Sunday as essentially Water Sunday, exploring the spiritual and practical realities of water. None of us can live without fresh water, yet we often take it for grant and even abuse it. We were reminded that Jesus described himself as living water. In fact, all religions recognize the sacred quality of water.

What is your relationship with water? Do you have favourite water places? Have you learned to have greater respect for water as a resource?