Monday, 29 January 2018

Well it's cold this morning but I felt a little 'hot' this week as I discussed the relevance of Oprah Winfrey in the Spiritual Conversation Groups.  After Oprah's inspiring speech at the Golden Globes it caused me to wonder if she was on the side of God's justice.  At that point I assumed her spirituality was secular in nature, although upon investigation, I discovered that she was raised, and still considers herself, a Christian.  Conversation within the groups varied with some appreciating Oprah, some viewing her with skepticism, and others bringing a feminist/political critique to her persona.  I was curious as to how to view a "secular priestess" (which seems to be her cultural persona) in light of my strong Christian roots.  I was led to explore a small piece of scripture in which Jesus states, "Those who are not against us, are for us."  My own conclusion is that Oprah is both a media cult figure with a ridiculous financial worth and someone interested in the well-being of others.  I believe Jesus statement applies, "If she is not against us, she is probably for us" in so much as she challenges sexual exploitation and promotes self-affirming messages.  I hope that some of you might share your views, both on Oprah and also on how your Christian life is influenced by Jesus' statement quoted above.  It would be great to have a lively blog discussion this week.  Will you join in?

Monday, 22 January 2018

Greetings everyone!  It has been great to have a reprieve from some of those cold days and to enjoy the best winter has to offer.  In yesterday's sermon I considered a couple of challenging passages.  One from the book of Jonah and the other from a letter of Paul to the early church.  In both passages "Warnings" were issued.  This, combined with the recent false warning issued in Hawaii, caused me  to reflect upon how one responds to warnings in our own lives.  There are many different responses which we considered in the sermon.  The passages suggest that three characteristics might help us in the midst of warnings - to act with hope; to pursue love and to persevere.  How do you approach warning signs?  What is the role of your faith when confronted with a crisis?  I'm looking forward to the conversation.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Yesterday's scripture reading reminded of Jesus' call to the disciples to come and follow.  I was intrigued by Jesus' comment that if we follow him we will see amazing things.  I'm sure if we would have literally followed him we would have seen amazing things such as his charismatic personality, his interesting interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures, his compassion and his courage in confronting oppressive powers.  In the 21st century we have only the report of past events and a mystical connection with his spirit.  It made me wonder why I still want to follow Jesus and believe in a God-power.  My musings made me realize three things that I attribute to the God-power of which Jesus spoke.  The first is the marvel of creation itself which I portrayed through an interesting YouTube video. The wonders of the universe make me conclude that there is a divine intelligence that I call the God-power.  The second marvel that draws me to faith is when people step out of self-interest to passionately care for others.  Mother Theresa and Jean Vanier are grand examples of this but here and there we see ordinary people also acting to support and encourage others ahead of their own interests.  They are walking in the steps of Jesus.  Finally I was intrigued by those moments of existential aloneness when we are confronted by a struggle or just the realization of our smallness in the universe.  In those moments I am drawn to looking toward a greater purpose and an eternal companion.  What is it that causes you to be a disciple of Jesus?  How do you explain faith and spirituality?  If you were to tell another person about your spirituality, what would you say?  I look forward to your responses!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Happy New Year to those who read this blog.  Sorry I did not post last week.  It was a short week and I was called into "Grandpa" duty for a half day as well so time went by very quickly.

Yesterday the liturgical churches of the world acknowledged the baptism of Jesus in worship.  This passage provoked a lot of reflection on my part about the practice of (sacrament of) baptism.  For my 40+ years since ordination I have been baptizing people with the greatest number by far being babies.  The fact that baptisms seemed to be more about a celebration of birth rather than entry into the Christian life caused me to wonder if, like the Mennonites, we should have a thanksgiving event for infants and save baptism for that time in a person's life when they are turning more intentionally toward a life of faith.  In chatting with members of the spiritual conversation groups it appeared that trans-formative moments or "baptism by the spirit" (to use the language of yesterday's scripture) occurred at various points in one's life journey.  Transitions into adulthood, the beginning of parenthood, or life challenges all seemed to contribute to a more intentional engagement with the faith.  What do you think?  What role has baptism played in your life?  When did you or do you feel most engaged by your faith?  I look forward to your comments.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Church and Culture

Yesterday's service concluded our exploration of characters from the Christmas story with a focus on the wise men/magi.  These three travelers were star gazers from Persia who through a combination of astrology and Jewish legend seemed to find their way to the stable.  They represented for me those who come from outside of the Christian community and caused me to think about those in the wider Canadian culture.  We acknowledged that the current culture is increasingly secular, most of whom are neither intrigued nor reactive to the life of church and faith - they are simply indifferent.  We noted that there are a few in our culture, represented by the threatening King Herod, who want to challenge anything Christian and that, in a variety of places around the world, Christians face significant persecution.  The Magi represent the curious and the seekers who show up at our door.  As I explored with folks within the congregation about what draws them to faith and church two answers appeared.  Many are seeking a meaningful community to be a part of and the church has provided a warm welcome.  The other response pointed to the mystical - a sense of something holy, something intuitive, something emotional - that still calls to the human heart.  Church and faith respond to that innate human need.  What draws you to church and faith?  Or perhaps, what keeps you away?  I look forward to your responses.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Well, it's Monday morning and two weeks from today will be Christmas.  Yesterday we continued our look at characters from the Christmas story.  The lesser known  character of Zechariah was chosen because in hearing good news he was struck "mute".  The idea of being made "mute" resonated with me when I considered all the grief, worries and hardships that seem to get pushed under the rug at Christmas time.  Christmas is a time for hope and joy to be sure, but something about the modern Christmas seems to mitigate against people acknowledging their struggles.  Our service was deeply enriched by the words of Dianne Young, a local writer and a member of our church, who spoke about learning the language of grief after her husband's death.  It was a very important message and it is contained in the video from Sunday and elsewhere on the website.  Together we acknowledged that the God of love is different than the idea that God intervenes with good and bad in our lives.  Recognizing God as the Source of Love allows us to see God incarnated amidst our joys and griefs as a gentle tear, a good memory or the hug of a friend.  With these resources we are able to live in the midst of both the celebrations and struggles of the season.  What supports you in the more difficult moments of Christmas?  How do you understand God's presence in those times?  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Yesterday was the second Sunday in which we examined characters from the Christmas story.  It seemed early in the season to be speaking about Mary, but since the focus was on hectic lives Mary stood out as one whose life must have surely been hectic.  Her strong commitment to align herself with God's way gave some insight for our own hectic lives. First was her attitude, which was to see the blessing amidst the busyness.  Attitude can certainly shape life's experience.  It is interesting to note that the Buddha observed that one source of suffering was an endless longing for things to be different.  If we can accept reality but shape our attitude to bring hope out of chaos than we will have transformed the chaos.  The other perspective I discerned was the need to have purpose in life.  Too often we drift through life.  Even the busiest of people can simply be caught up in the flow without being intentional about their choices and activities.  Being clear about one's purpose may be another way to bring order to hectic lives.  I suggested that Jesus had defined a broad purpose - namely to love God, neighbour and self.  While I think this maxim is foundational for Christians, we still have to discern how to implement it in our specific life situations.  I am curious to know if you find life hectic ... and more so at this time of year.  What are your strategies for surviving?  How do you shape your attitude?  Do you have a clear sense of purpose in your life that guides you?  I'd love to hear your response.