Thursday, April 30, 2020

Dream, Dream, Dream

Marc Chagall (Russia, 1887-France, 1985). The Dream of Jacob ...

The Dream of Jacob -- Marc Chagall

When we do our morning "how was your night?"  check-in each day we invariably agree that the dreams were constant, yet we can't remember what they were about, for the most part. We are both aware of our dreams (some people aren't) but during the pandemic they have really ramped up for both of us. 

Lo and behold, this is a common pandemic thing, Google the subject and you'll discover that lots of major news sources have published pieces on the whys and wherefores of dreaming during a time of uncertainty and anxiety. I heard a Queen's University professor of psychology  speaking about what's up with the dreams on CBC radio recently. 

Why not interview some theologians and scriptural scholars as well?  Dreams figure prominently in the bible, and often they mark significant shifts in circumstances and perception for individuals and peoples as God breaks into the consciousness of the dreamer. Joseph was a go-to dream guy in Egypt and rose to power and prominence as a result. Jacob fled for his life, only to find a new purpose through his dreams. These dreams are not only vivid, they invite the dreamer into a trans-rational which is real, and life-changing.Often it's unclear whether what is unfolding is a dream, or a trance, or a vision. 

In the New Testament Joseph, the father of Jesus, is instructed to take Mary as his wife in one dream, to flee to Egypt in another, then eventually return to Israel in yet another. In the book of Acts the disciple Peter claims that in a new age of the Risen Christ young people will dream dreams. Later Peter enters into a trance while praying (Acts 10) where he see "unclean" creatures descending from heaven and as a result he changes his perception of who may receive the Good News of Jesus, the Christ.                                                                                  Peter's vision of a sheet with animals Domenico Fetti (1619)                                                                                                                                                 
 Do our dreams actually mean something? Could God be speaking to us through our dreams? While the notion of a mystical dream state appeals to me I've never had a dream that I felt altered my life's path. I could have used some dreamy direction at certain key moments, but I'll never say never!

What's happening for you these days? Are you dreaming more, and are you remembering those dreams? Perhaps the Everly Brothers have an answer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Religious Freedom Always Matters

Howdy, Modi! from the audience: How Narendra Modi, Donald Trump ...

Howdy Modi event in Houston

This morning we arrived early at a conservation area for what ended up being an 5.5 kilometre ramble along several interconnecting trails. We were all alone for most of the walk but near the conclusion we encountered two mothers with children at different spots. The kids were quite young but we heard the moms gently remind them to stay well back as we passed, even as we were doing the same. Ruth commented that this physical distancing is now taking on the status of "look both ways before you cross the street," a lesson taught to children by responsible parents. 

That early start is one reason I didn't get to my blog-writing until now. Another reason is that The Plague seems to dominate every aspect of life these days, for obvious reasons. When a deadly virus rolls into town it makes sense to pay attention, warn everybody, and figure out how to get it to move on. Someday that won't be necessary, but for now it's what we must do.

There are other stories of importance, just the same, and a lot of them have to do with issues of faith, including religious freedom, a subject I've returned to many times.

A recently released report by the Pew Research Center published on the basis of a decade of research indicates that government interference in religious expression is on the rise in many countries, as well as growing social hostilities,  have reached a record high in the world. At the same time another report from the US governmental commission states that religious freedom in India under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken "a drastic turn downward." Christians and Muslims have been affected by recently enacted restrictive laws 

Despite this evidence, at a rally in Houston last Fall which drew 50,000 President Trump called Modi "one of America's greatest, most devoted, and most loyal friends" and said he was doing "a truly exceptional job for India and all the Indian people."  Of course many of Trump's supporters are conservative Christians who claim they admire him because of his commitment to religious freedom. God only knows what they mean by that. 

The Pew report also notes that Saudi Arabia is one of a number of countries where religious repression is on the rise. Our Canadian government is allowing the export of military equipment to Saudi Arabia, an act of hypocrisy when it is clear that the regime constantly violates human and religious rights. 

I hope we all hold freedom of expression for Christians and other people of faith in our concerns and prayers, even as we are making our way through the crisis of COVID-19. Despite the pandemic we continue to have the privilege of being able to practice our faith without reprisal, even as we choose not to gather for the well-being of everyone. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Domestic Violence in Uncertain Times

Home isn't a safe space for victims of domestic violence - Comment ...

As the grim news about the massacre in Nova Scotia unfolded two Sundays ago Ruth and I discussed our suspicion that domestic violence was the trigger for what had unfolded. Ruth worked as a counsellor for a women's shelter for a decade and was well aware of the danger her clients experienced in relationships and how those women often feared for not only their own safety but for others in the circle of family and friends. 

Sadly, It turned out that we were correct, It is extraordinary that his partner survived the night, although she experienced physical harm and psychological trauma which will last a lifetime. 

We've since heard that despite seeming like a pleasant guy to most who encountered him, a few witnessed his temper. No one could have predicted the ruthlessness of the killer as his rampage spread out across the province. An FBI profiler speculated that he may have been a "grievance collector" someone who harbours slights and grudges over time.Ruth saw how women and children suffered when the partner and parent took out their anger about life on them and would return to what might be considered minor grievances to punish them. 

We can pray that there will never be another mass killing of this magnitude in Canada, or anywhere for that matter. The reality is that shelters and help lines are noting a sharp uptick in the number of women seeking support during the COVID-19 crisis. When people are sequestered together in the midst of uncertainty and perhaps unemployment the possibility of violence increases. To make matters worse, the moments when the abused can reach out for help shrink dramatically. 

I'm not sure what we who are Christians can go in the midst of this increased threat to the safety of women in abusive relationships. When Ruth was involved in this work she had clients who were part of communities of faith, including a number through the years from our own congregation. They often found refuge and strength in attending worship, something which can't happen now. Perhaps we remember that this is real and we can ask God to maintain the hope of those who are desperate and frightened. We can also pray for those who are doing their best to provide support to those in distress in the midst of the pandemic which affects their safety as well. 

Since I wrote this blog entry this morning I've heard that the United Nations is drawing attention to another pandemic of domestic violence. Chilling. 

Some Groundling thoughts about corvids -- crows and ravens -- in a time of COVID.

Monday, April 27, 2020

We Are Stronger Together

Canadian Collab: Lean on Me | 101.5 The Wolf

I had no intention of watching the multi-media platform special featuring prominent Canadian musical artists and other luminaries which aired last evening. They were raising money for food banks across the country, an excellent cause at any time. It was interesting to see how many of the stars from my youth are looking as old and ragged as I am. I have to say that Burton Cummings of Guess Who fame looked like Hitler's chubby cousin. The curious vanity with the hair colour makes him look both sinister and sad. I really enjoyed most of the younger performers and the version of the recently deceased Bill Withers' Lean on Me was good. 

Watch] Canadian Artists Release 'Lean On Me' In Support Of ...

The two major takeaways for me? Firstly, that many of the participants across generations were exhorting us to make the personal sacrifice of distancing from others for the greater good. It really called on the best of what it means to be Canadian and Christian. Those of us who are Christians should appreciate that the powerful story of God-with-us in Jesus, the Christ, affirms that God gave sacrificially and lovingly, so we can as well. Of course that wasn't said by anyone -- God forbid, even though it was a Sunday

Secondly, people are hungry in our wealthy nation and they were before COVID-19 exacerbated the problem. I appreciated what Ryan Reynolds said about the importance of supporting those who are food insecure,and the need to create an equitable, caring society where food banks aren't necessary. This too resonates with the Judeo/Christian ethos.

I thought the show wrapped up nicely with a brief message from Prime Minister Trudeau and then...Drake? What the hell? (excuse me) Is he Canada's new high priest? What he said was okay, but it really seemed repetitive and unnecessary. Ah well, international stardom has its perks. 

Did you watch and listen last night? Were you exhorted, uplifted, and motivated to generosity? 

Flipboard: Watch Geddy Lee, Bryan Adams Join All-Star 'Lean On Me ...

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Unstuck in Emmaus

Georges Rouault - The Appearance on the Road to Emmaus | Road to ...

The Appearance on the Road to Emmaus -- Georges Rouault

It's Sunday, isn't it? We last worshipped with our congregation on March 15th and following that service the decision was made to suspend gathering until Palm Sunday on April 5th. We wish!When will we be allowed to come together as faith communities again, and who feel confident to attend, a least initially? 

Week by week pastors and priests have been figuring out how to celebrate God's presence from a socially responsible distance. For the most part they are doing an impressive job, often choosing different formats than replicating a church service within an empty sanctuary. They've even figured out how to offer spiritual communion/Lord's Supper/eucharist without being in physical communion. 

I love many of the scripture readings for the Easter Season of 50 days and I see that it is the Road to Emmaus story found only in Luke. A couple of bewildered followers of Jesus (male and female, perhaps, husband and wife?) encounter the resurrected Christ as they walk back to the village of Emmaus on resurrection day. I can't imagine they were six feet apart. They are still enveloped in loss and mourning, but Jesus unfolds a story of hope grounded in scripture as they walk together, and he is revealed to them when they stop to break bread together. It's wonderful after Jesus disappears they say "were not our hearts burning within us", as though they had an inkling all along. 

Emmaus by Rowan and Irene LeCompte

Rowan LeCompte (American, 1925–2014) and Irene Matz LeCompte (American, 1926–1970), Third Station of the Resurrection: The Walk to Emmaus (detail), 1970. Mosaic, Resurrection Chapel, National Cathedral, Washington, DC. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones

I'm hoping that this hugely disruptive and disquieting time in which we're living will reveal things which are murky at the moment because we aren't quite sure how to put one foot in front of the other. Will this strange, un-Eastery Easter season break some of our familiar but unhelpful habits of  "doing church" which can be more about hanging on than living abundantly? Will we notice what has happened to air and water in the midst of a global sabbath and expand our horizons to celebrate Creator and Creation? Who knows? 

I went back to sermons I've preached through the years on this Luke 24 passage and found this quote in one of them from Christian Century writer Steve Pankey way back in 2011:

Lots of things get us hung up. 
Hopes dashed, budgets trimmed, taxes raised, life altered. 
We get stuck when there isn't enough. 
We get stuck when the power of evil gets the edge over the light, 
but if Easter teaches us one thing, it is that light always wins. 
In word and sacrament, in the exposition of scripture and the breaking of bread, 
God's glory is revealed again and again and again, 
helping us to get unstuck again and again and again.


Caravaggio : Supper at Emmaus 1601 Canvas Gallery Wrapped image 0

Supper at Emmaus -- Caravaggio

I know we all need to be responsibly physically distanced from others during these strange days of quarantine, but there is something to be said for encountering Jesus, the Risen Christ, outside and on the move. Today's Groundling blog

Saturday, April 25, 2020

In Praise of Dr. Theresa Tam

Dr. Theresa Tam foresaw her job would mean 'harnessing the efforts ...

Dr. Theresa Tam

How is Canada doing in response to the coranavirus threat which has affected provinces and territories from sea to sea to sea? As with so many other countries we've been making it up as we go along. We've realized that there are significant shortfalls in terms of equipment for those who are on the front lines of response in hospitals. Nearly half the deaths have been in long-term care facilities for the elderly, exposing how little value we place on our elders and those who support them. We probably didn't take the threat seriously enough when news of COVID-19 emerged from China and, as always, that nation was secretive. 

Still, I have been impressed by the response of elected leaders, provincially and federally. And there are civil servants entrusted with the health of Canadians who have worked tirelessly to establish protocols and keep us informed. I've kept an eye on statistics from around the world and Canada has fewer deaths per million than the United States, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy.. Germany has been praised for its strategy to address COVID-19 but even that nation has a higher death rate per million. 

It seems that the majority of the point people as health officials here in Canada are women, including Dr. Theresa Tam. Tam was born in Hong Kong, raised in Britain, and studied there before becoming a Canadian. Nonetheless she has been criticized heavily by the right-wing fringe in this country, most of whom would barely know which end of a thermometer to use. 

One of them is a leadership candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada, Member of Parliament Derek Sloan. Last week Sloan issued statements condemning Dr. Sloan and essentially accusing her of being an agent of the Chinese regime. His comments are vile, racist, and probably misogynist. According to an article by John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail today "The married father of three is running on a platform that would question abortion rights, reduce immigration, roll back protections for transgender Canadians and withdraw Canada from the Paris accord on fighting climate change." How does someone like this even have the opportunity to run for the leadership of a political party that was once credible in this country? 

What truly infuriates me about Sloan is that he claims to be a Christian. Last year he offered this in an interview for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, of which he is a part:

“I thought that God was leading me, and that God had placed me in the riding at an opportune time...“I have been keeping my eyes open for God’s leading in my life." 

The outgoing leader of the Regressive Conservatives, Andrew Scheer, has failed to condemn Sloan's remarks, although other Conservatives have. Sloan's competitors for the leadership have been silent as well, which demonstrates a disturbing level of cowardice, unless, of course, they agree with him. Shame on Scheer and those who seek to replace him.

I will mention here that I have worked with Seventh-Day Adventist pastors whom I've admired despite theological differences. I hope Sloan's comments aren't interpreted as an official stance of the denomination. 

I am grateful for Dr. Tam and all who are responding under tremendous pressure to an unprecedented threat. Whatever mistakes they have made  are insignificant in comparison to their selfless public service. We can pray that they find the stamina and wisdom to continue their difficult and essential tasks in the days ahead. God lead them. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Our Search for Meaning

Man's Search For Meaning : Viktor E. Frankl : 9781846041242

Two Sundays ago the CBC radio program, The Sunday Edition, re-broadcast a lengthy exploration of  Victor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl  and his family were among the millions taken to extermination camps by the Nazis during the Second World War. His parents, his wife, and his brother perished and only a sister survived. Frankl, a therapist,  wrote the book about his experience and his philosophy of life in ten days and  it was first published anonymously in 1946. It was largely unknown until the late 1950's when it was translated into English in the United States under his name. It became a bestseller with million copies in print in many languages. 

Host Michael Enright was reading Man's Search for Meaning on Toronto public transit when he realized that a woman across from him was also reading it, in the same older edition. It turned out that she is a cancer survivor and the book spoke to her. During the hour on The Sunday Edition a leader from a First Nations community was interviewed, and others who had found the book helpful. 

Frankl was convinced that to live is to suffer to some degree, but we can find meaning in our suffering. We can seek to find a purpose even in the harshest of circumstances, although no one can tell another what that purpose should be. Frankl quoted Nietzsche who said "he who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."

The program touched on the fact that while the book is not religious, Frankl was an observant Jew through the rest of his life (he died in 1997 at the age of 92.) His means of survival in the camps were questioned by some, and others despised him because he refused to condemn all Germans as perpetrators of the atrocities. 

Of course this documentary from 2016 was re-broadcast because we are all attempting to find meaning in the midst of a pandemic which has created a pall over our lives as individuals and massively disrupted societies around the world. I would encourage you to listen to the doc. I've found my 1961 copy of the book and may read it -- I think it belonged to my father. 

We can all pray for meaning and purpose in each day, for ourselves and others.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Season of Fasting

Ramadan 2020: Fasting hours around the world | | Al Jazeera

Many of us who are Christians felt a sense of existential, spiritual dislocation when we couldn't gather for worship through Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter Sunday this year. We all got it that not coming together was a loving expression of Christian faith, but it wasn't easy. It left me feeling hollow even though I felt our pastor (son Isaac) offered meaningful alternatives online. 

Many Jews expressed similar bewilderment about not being able to come together for seder meals during Passover. The oldest members of families couldn't recall a year when Pesach was not observed communally, not even during WW2. 

Now Muslims are about to enter Ramadan, a period of contemplative fasting which includes breaking the fast at the end of the day, with others. In many mosques hundreds gather at sunset for prayer and a meal. This is deeply meaningful for Muslims and a right of passage as well. A few years ago we were at the local mosque for a meal not long before Ramadan. We sat with a delightful teen from the community who was quietly proud of the fact that the previous year he had faithfully observed the full regimen of the fast for the first time since its not required for children. 


                                                 A Ramadan meal

In a way we'e all entered into a period of intense fasting from the familiar, regardless of religious background, or no religion at all, because of the threat of COVID-1. Of course fasting, whether it is Lent or Ramadan is not meant as a punishment but in order to heighten our awareness through abstinence or redirected priorities. 

There isn't much I like about this pandemic with the anxiety and fear in produces and the required distancing from family and our faith community. I do hope these weeks and months will cause us to reconsider what really matters for us. Could this be a call to simplicity which changes our daily routines and our care for the planet? Will we ask the hard questions about how we care for the most vulnerable in our societies? Can we climb off the runaway freight train of consumerism and economic growth? God only knows.  

The cherry trees of High Park will blossom, even if humans aren't there. Today's Groundling blog

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day and the Trees

See the incredible “church forests” of Ethiopia

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you;

    the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
 ask the plants of the earth,[a] and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
 Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
 In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of every human being.

                            Job 12:7-10 (NRSV)

What to write about on this, the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day? How about trees? 

Emergence magazine published an excellent essay about the Church Forests of Ethiopia by Fred Bahnson earlier this year and there was much food for thought. I was captivated  by the reality of thousands of oases of trees sustained by Christian communities in a country largely denuded of forest over the past century. The Church Forests have a church building at the centre but these unique, bio-diverse woodlands don't just surround the structures, they are considered to be sacred in and of themselves.

Bahnson writes of watching an elderly woman entering the forest of her church and first crossing herself, then bowing reverently, and lastly wafting the essence of the trees and plants toward herself. I was so taken by this description that I suggested to Ruth, my wife, that we begin doing something similar when we go on walks or cycles or paddles. This curious, not-very-Protestant, practice seemed awkward at first, maybe even a bit goofy. Now it has become a habit, one which is both comforting and spiritually awakening as we enter the "holy of holies" of a woods or forest. We've done so even in encountering urban trees, including at the large cemetery in town where we cycle and walk from time to time. 

Acer saccharum | Environment and Society

Maple forest in Fall, Ontario

We aren't worshipping the trees, I hasten to add. We are recognizing them as gifts of the Creator, indispensable companions on this journey of life which we should never take for granted. It's not an exaggeration to say that they are vital to our well-being in body, mind and spirit, and should never be taken for granted. Then again, we live in the midst of incredibly complex bio-systems which must be sustained so they we can live and our planet can flourish. 

Perhaps you can have some pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast and ponder how you'll sneak in your own little ritual when you're out for a walk amidst the budding trees. You won't literally hear them thanking you, but I'm convinced they'e grateful. Why not give it a whirl on this auspicious Earth Day? 

Read Bahnson's essay and watch the accompanying film here:

I've also written about the Christian connection with the founding of Earth Day in my Groundling blog today

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Here's what we know about the victims of the Nova Scotia mass ...

Some of the victims of Canada's worst mass shooting

We lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for several years, where I served a historic congregation in the downtown. We lived in the heart of the city but we rambled around the province, including along the north shore of Cobequid Bay where there are many lovely little communities. We've returned to the province a number of times and stopped in off the highway near the community of Enfield to fuel up. Ordinary places, home to regular peoples going about their lives.

These areas were the scenes of multiple crimes on Sunday as an arsonist and gunman disguised as a Mountie and driving a fake RCMP cruiser rampaged through communities on a killing spree. At least 23 people died, most of them random victims, some killed in the act of going to the aid of others. Police are investigating at 16 crime scenes and have cautioned that there may be more victims. 

Image preview

This is almost incomprehensible, and as the days progress we'll learn more, but it will never be enough to explain what would possess a person described as a friendly neighbour and successful business person with no real criminal record would perpetrate such evil.

I use the words "possess" and "evil" because if they fit any situation it is this one. Supposedly the killer was a "police enthusiast" a horrible description given that he killed an RCMP officer and used his disguise to take victims off guard. We don't speak of possession by evil much in our secular society anymore, and seldom in mainline Christian circles. Yet this terrible string of crimes fits anyone's notion of evil, and the term "diabolical" comes to mind. I'll admit that I despise those who manipulate others by using the devil to scare and manipulate others. But there's been nothing in my lifetime which convinces me that evil doesn't exist or that some people don't enter intentionally into the darkness, whether individually or collectively.

My heart breaks for the police officer who died in the line of duty, and her family. I can't imagine the final moments for the others who died, a number of whom were out for a Sunday morning stroll in these days of COVID-19 isolation. 

God, be with all who have experienced loss, including family, friends, and neighbours. Help them and all of us was we attempt to find our way as a society. We are not allowed to gather for funeral services or vigils these days, so our individuals prayers for those who are suffering  is even more important.


Monday, April 20, 2020

Notre Dame Cathedral a Year Later

Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals

When famed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was in flames in a year ago,the author Ken Follett did interviews through the night speculating about where the fire might have begun and the potential for total destruction. Follett wrote a factual book about Notre Dame having previously created a fictional trology based on the construction of a cathedral in medieval England. That series was set with the backdrop of plague times, curiously enough. Pillars of the Earth was entertaining but I was frustrated by the unrelenting negative portrayal of religion in that era. 

I wrote about the service of worship which took place in the battered sanctuary of Notre Dame on Good Friday. The handful of clerics wore white hard hats as a reminder of the restoration work.  The April 15th anniversary of the fire last week was marked by the tolling of one of the bells which was in the tower not affected by fire. People flocked to the area around the cathedral to record the bell on their phones. 

The Notre Dame Cathedral holds small Good Friday service amid ...

There has been controversy over the billions of euros committed to the reconstruction of this 800-year-old edifice and the work has been halted by the coronavirus. Despite the ambivalence I feel there is a symbolic power to the image of an enduring place of worship rising from the ashes. I still feel that it would be a tragedy if Notre Dame was not restored.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of church structures, as well as mosques and synagogues and temples, are closed around the world because of COVID-19. While they are physically intact, many of those congregations are uncertain about their future. 

We can pray that the day will come that Christ's people will be able to come together once again in gatherings large and small. Perhaps life in community will never be the same again, and we need to be prepared to think the unthinkable. What will abide is the living Christ, resurrected, always with us. 


Read about the Interfaith Earth Day celebration at the National Cathedral in Washington DC yesterday. My Groundling blog

Bells Toll as France Focuses on Repairing Notre Dame | Voice of ...

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Yes, It's Earth Sunday

                                         Ruth communing with a huge pine tree

Happy Earth Sunday! This Wednesday is Earth Day and over the years an increasing number of Christian congregations have dedicated the Sunday closest to April 22nd as a celebration of creation and God, the Creator. This appreciation of creation is not Creationism, the scientifically unsupported notion of a young Earth and a literal six-day creation. Our celebration is a recognition of the abundance and diversity of life which God has brought into being and we are called to respect and cherish. 

Yesterday we visited the 900-acre very rural farm of long-time friends. The house and barns are still well maintained but no one lives there and we were alone on the property in. There is a mix of fields and woods, running to the Mississippi River (Canadian version) with a long cascade called Ragged Chutes. 

It was the best sort of isolation, although we didn't feel alone with deer and grouse and wild turkeys making appearances, towering maples and pines around us. The roar of the river was almost mesmerizing, and it too seemed to be a living entity.  It made me think of  the late Thomas Berry's comment that  "The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, Not [a collection] of objects to be used."

                                              Ragged Chutes

We walked and sat for a couple of hours and gave thanks to God for the beauty around us, something we do virtually every time we venture out for a walk, or paddle or cycle. We've come to realize that this intention, which we do with a brief ritual each time, is a helpful and important exercise in gratitude and humility. 

This Earth Sunday isn't quite what Trenton United, our congregation, had in mind for this year. After Lent/Holy Week/Easter Sunday Rev. Isaac would have taken a well-deserved rest and I was scheduled to lead worship on the theme. Instead we cycled along the Bay of Quinte before the rain and appreciated the signs of Spring.
Thanks be to the God who chose to be present to us as the Groundling, Jesus, while we acknowledge that every day is Earth Day. 

Oh yes, on yet another walk this past week Ruth coaxed me to do an improv stand-up reflection which she filmed with her phone. I found a passage from Isaiah and shared some thoughts It's on the Trenton United twitter feed now and only 3 minutes.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Week Since Good Friday?


Can it really be only a week since Good Friday? The days all seem to just glom into one another but Holy Week, including Maundy Thursday and Good Friday seem to be just a speck in the rear view mirror now.

Maundy Thursday would have been a solemn commemoration of the Last Supper in many congregations if they'd been permitted to gather. I have to chuckle at some of the clever re-enactments and imaginings of this sacramental meal which is central to our Christian faith.

I suppose the one at the top could come under the category of "gallow's humour" given that it is medical workers in full gear. They are certainly on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis and so many are living out Jesus' words: "greater love has no one than to lay down their life for a friend."

And for all of us who are trying to stay connected through social media and other virtual means the one below pretty much sums it up. 

Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 on Twitter: "Zoom the Last Supper. 😀#HappyEaster… "

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Covid Commandments?

What are the COVID-19 commandments for Christians? Even United Church might turn to the bible for answers.

How about two of the Ten Commandments in Exodus:

You shall not murder. 
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long on the soil that the Lord your God has given you. 

Then there is the portion of Jesus' response to a religious leader about the greatest commandment. He begins by telling him to love God and goes on to say "love your neighbour as you love yourself." 

I figure these three just about cover the massive challenges of the pandemic we are facing. Loving my neighbour means I accept that we act collectively in the best interests of all, particularly the vulnerable. I stay away from others and observe stringent health protocols because being selfish or lax could kill others. We see that the elderly are the most susceptible to the coronavirus, so we must protect them. 

A few days ago a British Columbia Member of Parliament, Marc Dalton, tweeted his disgusting opinion that "most" COVID deaths are among the elderly in care homes, and they aren't going to live long anyway, so we need to accept their demise and get the economy rolling ago. This has been voiced by politicians in the United States as well, and it infuriates me.Dalton quickly took the tweet down because he is not only a jerk, he's a coward. He's also wrong about the grim statistics, with just less than half of the deaths being people over the age of 65. 

I did a little online sleuthing and discovered that Dalton is no stranger to controversy thanks to homophobic comments and the contention that child proverty didn't exist in the province. 

I also saw that Dalton has served as an elder in his Mennonite congregation, which suggests that the ethical, moral, and spiritual bar for this role is incredibly low in this congregation. The term "elder" is ironic in this situation, wouldn't you agree?

 I suggest that some serious bible study is in order for Dalton, and some genuine repentance. Christians need to act as...Christians in the midst of this crisis, and it sure helps if those in leadership have a moral compass. All of us need the regular reminders of who we follow and what that means for our own choices and behaviour.

God be with the elders of our society, their families, and all who provide them with care in such demanding and perilous circumstances. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Passover, Then and Now

The remnants of the "Passover Letter" written in the fifth century B.C.E.

The essential Jewish commemoration of liberation from slavery which is known as Pesach, or Passover, is drawing to a close for 2020. Jews were forced to be inventive this year because in most places they could not physically gather for the seder meal which includes working through the Haggadah, the very specific order of events which goes back millennia.

While we know this is all related to the chapters of the book of Exodus which tell the dramatic story, the details for the meal developed over the course of time. Did Moses and Miriam and Aaron insist the nomadic Israelites observe their miraculous deliverance during the years in the wilderness? Was the ritual markedly different in its earliest stages? Was it a combination of observances blended together, as some scholars contend? 

Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family

There is a lengthy article in Haaretz with the title 2,400-year-old ‘Passover Letter’ Shows Evolution of Jewish Ritual: A letter from a high official in Jerusalem to the Jewish garrison on Elephantine in fifth century B.C.E. Egypt is the oldest known ex-biblical account of the Pesach ritual.

It explores how the content of this letter is the earliest evidence outside the bible of a ritual which is Passover. Although the ceremony is not as detailed as is found in the Haggadah used today, it has the essential elements. It explains: 

In 1912, William R. Arnold of the Andover Theological Seminary wrote in the Journal of Biblical Literature: “It is perfectly clear that we have here a letter of instruction to the Jewish community at Elephantine, with directions for the punctilious observance of a feast … from the 15th to the 21st day of Nisan … which requires abstinence from labor,” combining the Passover and feast of unleavened bread – matza.

This is an intriguing reminder that our cherished rituals are both timeless and products of their moment in time.Jewish Passover endures, and should be respected by Christians as an important observance of a living religion. 

Christians do celebrate a sacrament which we call communion, the eucharist, the Last Supper which is grounded in Jesus' poignant celebration of Pesach with his followers the night before his crucifixion. When Jesus intimates that he is the sacrificed lamb, and the unleavened bread represents his broken body they must have been confused, shaken, by what he was saying. 

Christ's disciples today celebrate this solemn and celebratory meal, sometimes with maddening insistence on the "correct' detail and who will preside. In the best of times we allow Christ to draw us to the table for a meal which nourishes and sustains. 

Find out about a Passover Haggadah and the Promise of the Land in today's Groundling blog

A Triclinium Passover 2012 (With images) | Last supper, Lords ...

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Easter Has Just Begun

Jean-Marie Pirot (1926-2018)
Ev'ry morning is Easter morning
From now on
Ev'ry day's resurrection day
The past is over and gone
Verse 1
Good-bye guilt good-bye fear
Good riddance
Hello Lord hello sun
I am one of the Easter people
My new life has begun Chorus
Verse 2
Daily news is so bad
It seems the Good News
Seldom gets heard
Get it straight from the Easter people
God's in charge spread the word  Chorus

Avery and Marsh
Our 4 1/2-year-old grandson asked his pastor pa if Easter is 12 days, like Christmas -- would only a PK would have a clue about this? When he found out that Easter is a season 50 days long it blew his inquisitive mind. He may figure that seven weeks of Easter treats await him. 

Even in congregations which follow the Christian year Easter tends to be the big, noisy event and then...whatever. I wonder, though, if this isn't the year to be more intentional than ever to uphold the Easter promise that death, with all its pain and uncertainty, does not have the final word. The season of resurrection speaks to me not only of the glorious Good News of the empty tomb but of life beyond fear (even though fear is real) because the Christ of love is with us. 

This year the season of Easter concludes at the end of May, with the celebration of Pentecost, the birth of the church. It may be that long before places of worship are open to the faithful again (I hope not), so let's find the ways to be Easter people along the way. We may not want to sing this chirpy Avery and Marsh tune which was a favourite of our kids years ago, but joy is still an option and a choice. 

Verse 3
Yesterday I was bored and lonely
But today look and see
I belong to the Easter people
Life's exciting to me
Ev'ry morning is Easter morning
Ev'ry morning is Easter morning
Ev'ry morning is Easter morning
From now on

Is experiencing Spring illegal in 2020? Today's Groundling blog