Monday, 9 April 2018

In the Christian community this season takes us further into the Easter and post-Easter experience.  This week Thomas was the gospel focus including his declaration that he wouldn't believe unless he personally saw Jesus' wounds.  When he does see and subsequently commits himself to the Christian way Jesus is said to observe:  "You believe because you see, blessed are those who believe but do not see."  As you will view or read in my message, this made me think about vocation.  How do we let the Christian story so permeate our lives that it informs our world view and our life in the world?  It makes me wonder how it works for those reading this blog.  In what way does faith inform your everyday thoughts, actions and relationships.  If some of you were willing to share, I would be interested in reading.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Good morning!  Easter Blessings to everyone.  It has been a busy couple of weeks as we moved from Palm Sunday through Holy Week to Good Friday and Easter.  This cycle always brings us face to face with the two central metaphors of the Christian story, namely death and resurrection.  In the 21st century we are called upon to rethink these terms in the same way in which we approached the "churchy" words in previous weeks.  In some ways 'explaining' the death and resurrection of Christ requires cautious effort as the mystical and historical significance of these events cannot easily be reduced to a modern interpretation.  There is something that will always remain holy mystery in this story.  I did attempt; however; to bring some modern interpretation to these events in recent sermons.  On Good Friday I sought to hold up the wisdom that can come to us when we encounter death.  Despite the ensuing grief and heartache that death brings, it does place life in perspective.  This was true for Jesus as well and it was interesting to note - borrowing an idea from Barbara Brown-Taylor - that Jesus died as he lived: forgiving, compassionate and trusting in the Love of God.  Easter Sunday presented an opportunity to consider the resurrection of hope in the midst of death-dealing situations.  Death is thought to be the ultimate weapon of forces of oppression yet resurrection suggests that the force of Love can push beyond death to continue to inspire hope and change.  If you have a chance to look at (or read) the sermons I would be interested in your response.  Happy Easter week!

Monday, 19 March 2018

Heaven - we all wonder about it.  Our creed tells us that "in life, in death, in life after death, we are not alone; God is with us."  I believe this absolutely but what does "life after death" mean.  In this week's sermon I reflected on heaven, weaving my personal journey from a belief in angels to worldly skepticism to Near Death Experiences, ultimately concluding upon hope.  Despite what Christian tradition promises, despite what NDExperiences suggest, we just can't know.  In the absence of knowledge I want to legitimate hope.  Why don't we hold on to our best hopes for heaven and then wait to be surprised!  What are your thoughts about heaven?  What do you hope for?  Looking for your comments.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Good morning!  After some worries that my sermon on sin might leave people in an untenable place of not believing it possible to both care for self AND care for neighbour I hope my ideas about salvation came as some light in the tunnel.  In this week's sermon we looked at the churchy words of salvation and atonement.  I took a pretty hard position suggesting that the traditional view of atonement - i.e. Jesus, through his death, paid the price for my sins - just doesn't make sense to me.  Some scholars suggest that a better view of atonement is breaking it down into the phrase of 
"at-one-ment".  I like the idea that through Jesus God was pursuing harmony (at-one-ment) in the world, but I still don't believe that God required Jesus' death. 

Jesus' absolute commitment to love resulted in him being put to death by those whose relentless self-interest knew no bounds.  Both his acts of and commitment to love inspire me and hold open a space where I might allow love to triumph over self-interest.  My salvation comes in those moments when I am drawn toward acts of love.  Although we long for love to universally inform human actions (futuristic eschatology); for now I have to believe I am "saved" in those moments when love captures my heart and informs my actions (realized eschatology).

Well this is a pretty "thick" discussion but I believe it is so essential if we are to understand the historic Christian message in our era.  I would very much appreciate hearing from some of you about whether salvation is still a relevant concept in your life.  Looking forward to it -
Brian

Monday, 5 March 2018

Have you ever had the experience where you think something is a good idea and then when you begin you ask "Why did I ever think of that?"  That was my experience as we started our four Sunday examination of "churchy" words.  On this first week we considered the concept of sin.  Thanks to David and Donna who initiated the reflection by sharing their ideas.  Although many people outside and inside the church think sin is no longer a relevant term, I found myself defending the concept as important.  There has been way too much "blaming" people for transgressing major and minor commandments.  Those who do the "blaming" are often no more morally righteous than anyone else (I'm reminded of Jesus' instruction to take the log out of one's own eye before criticizing the speck in the eye of someone else).  For me, the concept of sin invites us into self-reflection NOT self-blame and certainly not blaming someone else.  I concluded that my understanding of sin is:  "relentless self-interest to the exclusion of others."  It is this relentless self-interest that I must continue to wrestle with in my own life, especially in light of my desire to respond to God's invitation to love neighbour.  At the end of the sermon I worried that I may have left people in a self-blaming place and if that happened I apologize.  My intention is to encourage reflection upon the disparities between where we want to be as followers of Jesus and where relentless self-interest often takes us.  I would appreciate hearing your responses to my thoughts.  It's a tough topic and is best addressed with shared wisdom.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, 26 February 2018

I've returned!  After a couple of delightful weeks visiting family in Calgary, vacationing in Mexico and recovering from the flu in Saskatoon :) I have returned to ministry at St. Martin's.  While I was away I followed the trial of Gerald Stanley with many mixed emotions.  I identified with Mr. Stanley's fear in the face of potential intruders.  I grieved for the Bushie family whose experience of systemic racism seemed to be confirmed in the trial.  And I wrestled with how Jesus might speak into this tragedy, asking myself "what is a Christian's response" to these events.  I concluded I could not speak for all Christians, but reflected on my understanding of scripture to help me put those events into perspective.  The result was the sermon I offered this past Sunday.  This was a complex situation with many competing perspectives but I concluded that we need to continue to scrutinize our own lives and actions for remnants of racism and re-affirm Jesus insistence that the essence of life is about loving people and not protecting our stuff.  I would appreciate your thoughts on how your Christianity informs your views on the Stanley trial and the ongoing realities.  Please take a few moments to share your thoughts.

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?