Marcus Borg Blessed Us With His Wisdom and He Will Continue to Inspire Us to Be a Blessing

RNS-BORG-OBITNews of Marcus Borg’s death has caused thanksgiving to well up in so many of us who where touched by his generous way of imparting wisdom. Marcus Borg was blessed with a gentle touch which allowed him to challenge us to move beyond our long held beliefs so that we might see the One in whom we dwell as the One who comes to unique expression in each of us. I have been richly blessed by his scholarship. His ability to make his readers and listeners feel as though he was articulating our thoughts, doubts, questions, and insights was matched by his ability to push us beyond the limits we set for ourselves so that we too could challenge the status quo which plagues religious traditions. I am a better pastor, teacher, preacher, and human as a result of Dr. Borg’s skillful expressions of his passion for delving into the riches of our shared christianity and the gentle, generous way in which he challenged us all to think anew about the wisdom of the ages. Marcus Borg was blessed with gifts which he used to bless others. May it be said of us that we use the blessings he bestowed on so many of us to be a blessing to others. Well done Marcus. Thank-you Marcus. Shalom Marcus. Shalom. 

Jonah: I love a big fish story!!!

jonahThe first reading prescribed for this coming Sunday is from the first chapter of the book of Jonah; a great big fish story! I believe that I was all of ten years old when I first read Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”  I loved each and every mesmerizing page of it and I’ve been a fan of big fish stories ever since. I didn’t actually read the Book of Jonah until I was in my twenties and it took me many more years to appreciate it too as a splendid big fish story. This short film written by Jack Thorne and directed by Kibwe Tavares revisits the Jonah story with prophetic urgency and reminds me that though we may never go back to the way things were, we can dream of how things may be, so that we might never have to long so desperately to return. Enjoy this feast for the eyes! 

Prayer – Epiphany Sermon Series – #3: Corporate Prayer???

PrayerSermon series pastorDawnThree years ago, I reluctantly gave in to requests to preach on the subject of prayer and I devoted my sermons during the season of Epiphany to the subject of prayer. I have been asked to re-post those sermons. In the course of three years, my theology has continued to evolve. However, I have resisted the temptation to edit the sermons and so the manuscripts are what they are, an exploration of sorts. Here’s the Third sermon in the series. I shall repost the seven sermons in the series over the course of the Season of Epiphany.

Prayer #3 – Corporate Prayer,  preached on Epiphany 3B, 2012 – listen to the sermon here

Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; excerpts from St Thomas Aquinas’ God’s Nature, Mark 1:14-20 – Our worship began with the singing of the old song, I Come to the Garden Alone.

Before we set forth on the third sermon in this series, let’s take a brief look at where we have been. We began looking at what happens when we give up the image of God as a grand-puppeteer in the sky to whom we pray to. We moved beyond the notion that prayer is about us talking and God listening. We looked at a model of prayer that begins with us shutting up and listening, for the voice of God, which in Hebrew is called the Bat Cole, or daughter of a sound. Listening for the still, small voice of God, begs the question: “If I happen to hear this daughter of a sound, how do I know that it is God that’s doing the talking?” This question led us to look at the two streams of thought concerning the nature of God that flow through the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The first way of looking at God, sees God as a super natural deity; a kind of person writ large, a super hero God capable of interfering and altering the course of human affairs. The second way of understanding God, is just as ancient, and just as biblical, has the fancy theological name “panentheism” which in the words of the Apostle Paul, sees God as “the ONE in whom we, live and move and have our being. Panentheism simply put means, everything is in God and God is in everything; the universe, all of creation is in God, and God permeates all of creation.

When it comes to prayer, we’ve all been trained to see God as a kind of super-hero-santa character who exists to respond to our prayers with either a yea or a nay, and if the answer is yea, then all is well, and if the answer is nay, then this super-hero-santa God is either responding negatively to our request because we haven’t prayed it properly, or this all-knowing supreme being is saying no for our own good, or this super-human-god is simply trying to teach us something. Sadly, for so many people in our day and age, unanswered prayers, especially those unanswered prayers about unmerited suffering, have lead so many of our contemporaries to conclude that this super-hero-stanta God is little more than a creation of our own making and therefore does not exist and so apart from those times when they are so desperate because there’s nothing left to try, they have for the most part given up on prayer.

The popularity of the super-hero God rises and falls upon the responses or lack of a response to our prayers. Panentheism takes us beyond worshipping the image of God that we have created and opens us to the reality of the force that lies at the very heart of creation; a force that lives and breathes in, with, and through us. When we move beyond seeing God as a super-person, to understanding God as that which permeates all that is, we are compelled to open ourselves to a power beyond our ability to name. In the presence of such a deity our prayers can seem hubris at best, ridiculously childlike, or even useless and so we are all too often reduced to a silence born out of frustration rather than intention. But however, we arrive at the silence, it is out of the silence that God comes to us and we hear the Bat Cole, the daughter of a sound, the still small voice of God. So we’ve come full circle and we can’t help but ask, how do we know that the sound we here is God?

As we struggle for an answer to this question, I’m going to try to take us on a journey that I hope will help us learn some of the skills we will need to test the voice of God. It’s a long journey, so we won’t get there with this sermon. After today we will spend four more Sundays on the subject of prayer; four more Sundays in which we will delve deeply into what it means for us as individuals to pray to a God that we understand to be the one in whom we live and breath and have our being. But before we tackle the subject of individual prayer, we’re going to look at corporate prayer.

What are we doing when we pray together? If we are in God and God is in us, what does it mean to get together as a community to pray? How do we pray? What do we expect, if anything to happen? Today we will look at corporate prayer, next Sunday we’ll delve into praying as individuals, then after a couple of Sundays we’ll include an exploration of the Lord’s prayer. Which will take us to the last Sunday of Epiphany, when we’ll arrive at the mountain-top for transfiguration and we’ll wander around the thin places before heading off into the wilderness for Lent, where even Jesus needed all his skill to determine which of the voices he was hearing was actually the voice of God.

Now for some of you beginning by exploring corporate prayer seem counter-intuitive. Most of us are more interested in your own individual prayer life than we are in the prayer-life we share as a community. But I am convinced that if we begin by looking at how our prayer-life together has changed as we’ve opened ourselves to seeing God as the One who permeates all of creation. When you think about it, our prayer-life begins when we are children with a form of corporate prayer, when an adult in our life teaches us to pray. Usually, we are taught to begin by asking God to bless, Mommy and Daddy, grandma and grandpa, our sisters and brothers, our aunts and uncles and whoever else we loved. Sometimes we’d pray for the boys and girls who were less fortunate than we are. Some of us were taught the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Some of us were taught that horror of horrors: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take.” I don’t think I understood what I was asking in that particular prayer, because if I did, I’d never have let my parents leave the room, because I don’t ever remember wanting God to appear in my room to take me away. Continue reading

Let Freedom Ring Through You!

Martin Luther King2

Today as our neighbours to the south celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. King, I offer this sermon (John 1:29-42) preached last year at Holy Cross when our worship service celebrated the life and witness of Dr. King. You can listen to the audio which  includes the Acclamation, sermon and a stirring rendition of the Hymn Lift Every Voice and Sing:

Listen to the sermon below or click here:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

During the struggle to open the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada to the full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, there were some very dark days. As many of you know, during my first years in ministry, it was not a struggle that I did not want any part of.  I was for all intents and purposes living in the closet, even if it was the most transparent of closets, the walls of that closet made it very clear to me that my job would be at risk if I spoke publicly about who I am. So, in the early years, I was determined to keep my mouth shut about my own sexuality and fight the good fight from the relative safety of the background. Then by virtue of my office, I was asked to speak publicly at a forum being held by York region, mental health professionals who were gathering resources to support GLBT youth. The organizers of the forum knew that many young people suffered as a result of their family’s involvement in churches that propagated hatred toward gays and lesbians and they wanted me to speak directly to these issues so that mental health professionals might be equipped to begin to counter some of the religious propaganda that was damaging so many young people.

A few days after I spoke at this public forum a note was hand delivered to the mailbox at the parsonage. The note contained two quotes from the book of Leviticus: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind it is abomination” and “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

I was shaken by the quotes and even more shaken by the fact that they were hand delivered to my home. I tried to shake off my fear by telling myself that the note represented the ravings of a fool. But when I shared the note with members of the church council, I was reminded that in my world these words represented Bible quotes but in the real world they actually constituted a death threat. Continue reading

Prayer – Epiphany Sermon Series – 2: Pray to a Super-natural Deity or a Panentheistic God?

PrayerSermon series pastorDawnThree years ago, I reluctantly gave in to requests to preach on the subject of prayer and I devoted my sermons during the season of Epiphany to the subject of prayer. I have been asked to re-post those sermons. In the course of three years, my theology has continued to evolve. However, I have resisted the temptation to edit the sermons and so the manuscripts are what they are, an exploration of sorts. Here’s the Second sermon in the series. I shall repost the seven sermons in the series over the course of the Season of Epiphany.

Prayer #2 – Pray to a Super-natural Deity or a Panentheistic God? preached on Epiphany 2B, 2012 – listen to the sermon here

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, The Flowing Light of the Godhead by Mechthild of Magdeburg, John 1:43-51 – Our worship began with the singing of the old song, I Come to the Garden Alone.

Last week we began a sermon series on prayer. We are spending the season of Epiphany exploring what it prayer is like after you give up the idea that God is some grand-puppeteer in the sky. We spent some time exploring the description of the Voice of God that we find in the Hebrew Scriptures. In ancient Hebrew the Voice of God is described as the Bat Cole. Which translates literally as the daughter of a sound. Our English bibles translate the Bat Cole, the daughter of a sound as the Still Small Voice of God. It is sometimes translated as “the thinnest silence.” I asked you to spend sometime during the week, listening to the Bat Cole that emanates from deep inside of you. Today, I want to talk about what it means to listen.

What does it mean to listen to the voice of God? What does the voice of God sound like? How do you know that the voice you are hearing is God? What are you supposed to do if you think you hear the voice of God? I’ve been thinking about these questions all week long and I’ve got to say that these questions have driven me more than a little crazy. Earlier in the week, a colleague sent me a recording of televangelist Pat Robertson talking about his latest message from God. It seems that God has told Pat Robertson exactly who the next president of the United States is going to be. God has also, rather conveniently told Robertson not to talk about it. So, Pat’s not saying who it will be. But he is saying that God has told him that the current president; that would be Barak Obama, “holds a radical view of the future of the United States that is at odds with the majority” so the nation should expect chaos and paralysis.”

It strikes me as all too convenient that God just happens to hold the same views as Pat Robertson, so I’m not about to listen to the voice that he hears. But then, how do I know that the voice that I hear is God and not just me impersonating God? To hear Pat Robertson tell it, he hears a clear voice and has no doubt that it is God doing the talking. I on the other hand have never heard a clear voice. In fact I’m pretty sure that if I stood up here and told you all that God spoke to me in a clear voice, you’d begin to wonder about my sanity. I mean hearing voices is a clear signal that something has gone terribly wrong and we have all sorts of medication for that. So, if hearing voices is symptomatic of mental illness, then why in the world would we bother listening for the voice of God?

Before we can even begin to understand what the so much of the Christian tradition means when they talk about listening to the voice of God, we need to take a step back and look at what we mean when we say the word god. Throughout the Jewish and Christian traditions you can trace two very distinct ways of understanding and talking about God. The first and most familiar way of understanding God is as a supernatural being. God is described as a sort of person, a supernatural person. The term supernatural describes it all, super means beyond the natural. God is understood as a being beyond the capabilities of most beings. God is personified; given the characteristics of a person; only it is as if God has the powers of a super-hero; someone far greater than we can even imagine. Continue reading

Prayer – Epiphany Sermon Series – 1: Daughter of a Sound

PrayerSermon series pastorDawnThree years ago, I reluctantly gave in to requests to preach on the subject of prayer and I devoted my sermons during the season of Epiphany to the subject of prayer.  I have been asked to re-post those sermons. In the course of three years, my theology has continued to evolve. However, I have resisted the temptation to edit the sermons and so the manuscripts are what they are, an exploration of sorts. Here’s the first. I shall repost the seven sermons in the series over the course of the Season of Epiphany.

Prayer #1 – Bath Qol – The Daughter of a Sound – preached on Baptism of Jesus Sunday 2012

Mark 1:4-11

And so John the Baptizer appeared in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to John and were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. John was clothed in camels’ hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and he ate nothing but grasshoppers and wild honey.

In the course of his preaching, John said, ‘One more powerful than I is to come after me. I am not fit to stoop and untie his sandal strips. I have baptized you with water, but the One to come will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. It was then that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan River by John. Immediately upon coming out of the water, Jesus saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Then a voice came from the heavens: “You are my Beloved, my Own. On you my favor rests.”

I began the sermon by asking the congregation to sing a cappella from memory the familiar hymn: I Come to the Garden.

I come to the garden alone,

while the dew is still on the Roses;

And the voice I hear,

falling on my ear the Son of God discloses.

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,

and he tells me I am his own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

Non other has ever known.

He speaks and the sound of his voice

Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;

And the melody that he gave to me

Within my heart is ringing,

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,

and he tells me I am his own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

Non other has ever known.

I’d stay in the garden with him,

Though the night around me be falling;

But he bids me go;

Through the voice of woe

His voice to me is calling.

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,

and he tells me I am his own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

Non other has ever known.

The season of Epiphany begins and ends with stories of Jesus’ hearing the voice of God. In this morning’s story of Jesus’ baptism, Jesus hears the voice of God as a dove descends from the clouds. On the last Sunday of Epiphany, we will hear the story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountaintop when the voice of God is heard speaking from out of a cloud. Both times the voice will say essentially the same thing: “This is my beloved”

The word Epiphany is a Greek word which means “manifestation or revelation” of the divine. Over the years, the word epiphany has been used to describe those “a ha” moments in which something quite obvious is revealed. The phrase, “I saw the light” springs to mind whenever I think of the word Epiphany. I’d like to say that I associate that particular phrase with the word epiphany because, in the season of Epiphany is the season when plunged into the darkness of winter the church celebrates light. But the truth is the word epiphany makes me think of cartoons I watched as a child, when a light bulb would appear over the head of a character when the cartoon character had a bright idea. When that light-bulbs appear in cartoons, it’s a sure sign that the character is headed for trouble, because bright ideas often get us into trouble. So, you’d think I would have known better when, earlier this week a light-bulb went off and I had a bright idea that during the season of epiphany I should begin a sermon series on the subject of prayer. I mean, what better season than the season of epiphany to tackle a subject that people have been asking me to address for months now.

Ever since we set off on this grand journey of re-thinking our theology, trying to understand Christianity in the 21st century, the issue of prayer has been lurking in the background, almost haunting us. As we’ve explored ancient and mystic, understandings of the reality that we call God our cherished notions of God as a grand puppeteer in the sky who intervenes from above to change the course of history, have been challenged. As we’ve come to understand God as more than our images of God could ever even begin to capture, we have explored the possibility that God is more immediately present in with and through us. As we begin to see God’s work in the world grounded in the world, there are moments when I really miss that grand puppeteer in the sky.

It is certainly easier to talk about prayer if your talking about appealing to an other-worldly creature to fulfill your longing for a divine parent to solve all our problems. Because seriously folks, when you give up the idol that we’ve created of a god who controls all things from up in heaven, a god who listens to our prayers and then decides what is and isn’t good for us, and answers those prayers according to some grand plan he devised eons ago, in which all we are required to do is believe that whatever happens its God’s will, and we shouldn’t question but simply believe because in the end all will be revealed, well when you give up that particular image of God, the question that haunts me, and judging by the questions and comments I’ve heard from a good many of you is,

Who or what do we pray to know?
Should we pray, and how should we pray?
And more importantly who or what will answer those prayers?

Continue reading

Innocent Victims???

Paris unity pastorDawnIn light of this events of this past week, I have been hearing the phrase “innocent victims” over and over again and these words have summoned up the memory of a song that now haunts my thoughts with the question: “Are My Hands Clean?”

Various news reports delivered over various mediums have declared particular victims of recent violent atrocities to be innocent. It is true that none of the Parisian victims of the violent jehadists deserved to be targeted, held hostage, or killed! But, I wonder about our desire to label certain victims as “innocent” whenever violence shakes our world.

Yes the perpetrators of the violence are guilty! But who among us is completely innocent? There are some who have worked diligently to love their neighbours as they love themselves. There may even be some among the Parisian victims who loved their enemies. But who among us can claim that we have not failed miserably to love our enemies? 

Nothing can justify the acts of violence perpetrated by those who seek to inflict terror. Yet, we appear to feel justified as we continue to enjoy the benefits of a society whose systemic injustice engenders the very frustrations which breed the hostilities which leave so many of the victims of our privilege  believing that violence is the only answer. 

Can we, who have and continue to benefit from the world’s power imbalances, open ourselves to the possibility that we are part of the problem? Can our efforts to end the violence begin with confession as we endeavour to love our enemies. I’m not suggesting that our love be anything other than the fierce love which has the power to change the world. Fierce love is costly and difficult, requiring the kind of wisdom that creates justice. Justice will no doubt have an impact upon our lifestyles and our power. Do we have the courage to see that our hands a far from clean and begin to offer tangible proof of our desire to love our neighbours and our enemies?

As one who endeavours to follow the teachings of Jesus, I find myself praying that this cup be taken from me. The task is too daunting. The way is to difficult. And yet… the alternative is to become my enemy and take up violence to preserve my lifestyle, my privilege, my power, my world. May the ONE who is LOVE, live and breath in me so that I might have the courage to love.

Recognizing the Sacred: the Baptism of Jesus, Mark 1:4-11

baptism 33

Listen to the sermon here

A Progressive Christian Wades into the Waters of Baptism

baptism 33A sermon for the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus  Mark 1:4-11 

Listen to the sermon here

Wading into the waters of baptism is no simple matter for a progressive Christian. Once you leave the myth of perfection in some distant garden back there in the mists of time, reject the notion of humanity’s fall from grace as a result of original sin, and give up worshipping the sadistic image of a god who demands a blood sacrifice, it’s difficult to navigate the waters of baptism without spouting notions that the institutional church condemns as heresy. But today is the day when the church celebrates the baptism of Jesus and the stories about the baptism of Jesus that have been handed down to us by our ancestors suggest that on this day of all days, we should have the courage to follow Jesus into the river of life even if it does challenge some of our long held assumptions about what it means to be a child of God.

I venture into these troubled waters as someone who treasures the sacrament of baptism. Long before I ever entertained the idea that I might one day respond to the call to become a baptizer, I became a lover of this particular sacrament of the church. I am now, and I have always been one of those people who find it almost impossible not to shed a tear or two at baptisms. The beauty of all that hope and expectation all wrapped up in the guise of a tiny little human has a way of generating in me a watery contribution as my tears join the sprinkling to wet the babies head. When the baptized is an adult my tears flow even more bountifully. Let’s face it folks these days the reality is that infant baptisms are rare enough. Adult baptisms, especially in mainline churches are so rare that the nostalgia alone is enough to send us into spasms of uncontrollable weeping for seer joy at the thought that it is even remotely possible that someone has been able to see beyond the church’s doctrine long enough to embrace the amazing possibilities of the sacrament to provide any benefit in this the twenty-first century.

When we look back to the stories told in the synoptic gospels about the baptism of Jesus we are sometimes so distracted by the opening of the heavens, the descent of the dove and the voice of God declaring Jesus to be the beloved, that we miss an important detail of the way in which the early followers of the Way chose to tell the story of Jesus public coming out party. New Testament scholars remind us that the stories told by the writers of the gospels were written at the end of the first century; a time when it would have been clear to all those who had ears to hear, that by going down to the river Jordan to be baptized by John would have stirred up the political and religious waters. John the Baptist was a revolutionary who made no bones about the fact that the religious authorities and the political rulers were leading the people down the wrong path. John’s shouting in the wilderness was his way of warning the people to repent; to literally turn around and follow a different path. John was doing far more than ranting when he condemned the religious authorities as a brood of vipers; he was calling on the people to reject the teachings of the authorities. John’s insistence on repentance was a call to revolution, a revolution designed to overthrow  the status quo. John was out there in the wilderness because it wasn’t safe for him to spout his own particular brand of incendiary fire and brimstone rhetoric within earshot of the authorities. By going down to the River Jordon and submitting to John’s baptism of repentance Jesus was choosing to identify himself with a political revolutionary.

That the writers of the gospels chose to tell there story in ways that see the God of Israel give Jesus a shout out, and the very spirit of God descending like a dove onto the shoulders of Jesus, turns John’s baptism of repentance into a kind of passing of the torch from one revolutionary to the next. Yet, despite the gospel-writers having cast Jesus into the role of revolutionary torchbearer none of the gospel writers shows Jesus following the ways of his predecessor John. There is no record of Jesus calling people to repent nor is there any record of Jesus ever having baptized anyone. All we have is Jesus “Great Commission” which if New Testament scholars are to be believed, Jesus probably never even said, “go therefore and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Yes, it’s true, most preachers, dare I say modern-day baptizers, learned in seminary that rather than being an instruction given by Jesus the Great Commission was actually added to the story by the early followers of Jesus. But I digress, the point I’d like to emphasize about Jesus’ trip down to the waters of the Jordan, is that by choosing to publicly submit to John’s baptism, Jesus was making an important statement about his own public ministry. For just like John, Jesus intended to challenge the religious and political authorities. Continue reading

Bat Qol – The Daughter of a Sound: Hearing the Word Utter Our Name

Preparing to Preach on Jesus’ Baptism

BAT QOL pastordawnEach year, I begin my preparations for preaching on the Baptism of Jesus with this video in which  Heather Murray Elkins tells her story, “The Secret of Our Baptism.” Elkins opens us to a new way of hearing the Bat Col, the Daughter of a Sound, the Voice of the Divine, the Word, who speaks in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. Mark 1:4-11

Wisdom Seeks Wisdom – an Epiphany sermon for the Second Sunday of Christmas – Matthew 2:1-12

Thomas 70 pastordawn

The readings included John 1:1-9; the Gospel of Thomas 70, and Matthew 2:1-12

You can listen to the sermon here



James Carroll – Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age

Christ ActuallyI have just completed reading James Carroll’s latest book “Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age” for the second time. I know that I will read it many more times as I continue my own work of articulating an understanding of Jesus for the 21 century. Carroll’s way of exploring Christianity has always been enlightening and refreshing because he has the courage to question the tradition from the vantage point of someone who has lived the tradition with passion. Carroll is former Roman Catholic priest who now serves as Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University and is a columnist for The Boston Globe, whose books include:  “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews,” “American Requiem: God My Father,” and the “War That Came Between Us, Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War,” “Toward a New Catholic Church: The Promise of Reform,” as well as eleven novels. 

Carroll’s critique of Christianity is infused with a sense of responsibility for the ways in which our anti-Jewish texts have misremembered the story of Jesus. His exploration of first century history points to the profound influence of the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.  upon the way in which the gospel-storytellers crafted their accounts of Jesus for their late first century communities.  Insisting that we must measure everything we say about Jesus now against Jesus’ Jewishness, Carroll asks a compelling question: “What if the so-called divinity of Jesus lays bare not so much the mystery of God as it does the majesty of what it means to be human?”  Carroll sees that the divinity of Jesus in some way suggests the Divinity in which we all participate. Carroll’s work is a must read for those of us who are working to articulate a 21st century Christology!

The video below was recorded at First Parish in Cambridge on Wednesday, December 10, 2014

As Epiphany Approaches, Consider How Evolution is Shedding New Light on Our Lives – Joan Chittister

sad EckhartThanks to science and all we have learned about creation, we are beginning to develop new images of the ultimate reality we call God. New images of God challenge the patriarchal misogyny of religious traditions. When it comes to re-imagining the faith, Sister Joan Chittister paints a picture of God as One Who Summons from among us – Emmanuel. The Summoning One calls and encourages us toward a world of equals. “Evolution is shedding new light on our lives.”

A Blessing for the New Year (John O’Donohue)

The art of blessing is often neglected. The birth of a New Year calls forth the desire in us to bestow a blessing upon those we love. Several years ago, John O”Donohue, one of my favorite Irish poet’s created a New Year’s blessing for his mother entitled Beannacht-for Josie. It is a blessing of superior quality. And so, on this New Year’s Eve, may you all receive this beannacht with my added blessing for a peace-filled New Year in which the God in whom all of creation is held, might find full expression in your miraculous life! 

Beannacht John O'Donohue pastorDawn.pages

Matthew’s Nativity Story Wrapped in Exodus: John Shelby Spong

For those who are preparing to preach on Matthew 1:1-12 this coming Sunday, Jack Spong provides an important view of the context.

Epiphany Sermons


You are the Light of the World here

The Journey of the Magi never happened and yet it is always happening. here 

Don’t Forget the Mystery of Our Faith here


Don’t Forget the Mystery of Our Faith – an Epiphany sermon

Thomas 70 pastordawnA sermon preached on the Second Sunday after Christmas – the readings for this sermon include: John 1:1-9, The Gospel of Thomas 70; Matthew 2:1-12. You can listen to the sermon here

Two cars were waiting at a stoplight.  The light turned green, but the man didn’t notice it.  A woman in the car behind him was watching traffic pass around them. The woman began pounding on her steering wheel and yelling at the man to move.  The man didn’t move. The woman started to go ballistic inside her car; she ranted and raved at the man, pounding on her steering wheel. The light turned yellow. The woman began to blow her car horn; she flipped off the man, and screamed curses at him. The man, hearing the commotion, looked up, saw the yellow light and accelerated through the intersection just as the light turned red. The woman was beside herself, screaming in frustration because she missed her chance to get through the intersection. As she is still in mid-rant she hears a tap on her window and looks up into the barrel of a gun held by a very serious looking policeman. The policeman tells her to shut off her car while keeping both hands in sight.  She complies, speechless at what is happening. After she shuts off the engine, the policeman orders her to exit her car with her hands up.  She gets out of the car and he orders her to turn and place her hands on her car. She turns, places her hands on the car roof and quickly is cuffed and hustled into the patrol car.  She is too bewildered by the chain of events to ask any questions and is driven to the police station where she is fingerprinted, photographed, searched, booked, and placed in a cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approaches the cell and opens the door for her.  She is escorted back to the booking desk where the original officer is waiting with her personal effects.  He hands her the bag containing her things, and says, “I’m really sorry for this mistake.  But you see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping that guy off, and cussing a blue streak at the car in front of you, and then I noticed the  “What Would Jesus Do” and “Follow Me to Sunday School” bumper stickers, and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally I assumed that you had stolen the car.”

We can scoff at this, but I must tell you that one of the things I had to learn when I first began to wear a clergy collar was that I could no longer give people the finger when I was driving. If you give people the finger when you are driving, it’s not you giving that person the finger but the whole of Christian Church; people will use your outburst to condemn the hypocrisy of the entire church.

During Advent we used a question from Meister Eckhart not once but twice during each of our worship services: “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to Christ twenty centuries ago and I don’t give birth to Christ in my person and my culture and my times?” And now, in this the last day of Christmas, I find myself wondering what it actually means for Christ to be born in me or in you. Continue reading

The Journey of the Magi never happened and yet it is always happening.

Epiphany-Wise+WomenAn Epiphany Sermon, preached in 2008. I had just read “The First Christmas” by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. Our congregation played host to Dom Crossan a month before I wrote this sermon. So, Dom’s insights run through this effort. But the heart of this sermon beats as the result of a sermon preached by Bruce Sanguin a self-proclaimed evolutionary christian who is a United Church Minister (Canadian Memorial Church, Vancouver). I had the privilege of meeting this modern mystic while on sabbatical this summer and his compelling way of unlocking the scriptures using the wealth of the christian tradition together with the insights of modern science and psychology borders upon the poetic. This sermon was anchored by Sanguin’s words (Epiphany 2007). Sermons are a “live” event. So, this manuscript is an approximation of what was actually preached.   

Just five days before Christmas (2008), The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Doctor Rowan Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion started a firestorm.  During a BBC interview, His Grace was quoted to say that the story of the “three wise men is a legend”. The Archbishop was also heard to say that he remained unconvinced that there was indeed a star that led the legendary trio to the birth place of the Christ Child.

If that wasn’t enough to send folks off the deep-end, it has been revealed that the Presiding Bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church The Most Reverend Doctor Katherine Jefferts Schori, who just happens to be the first woman elected primate in Anglican history, has fanned the flames of the fire-storm by sending out what has been judged by some to be an incendiary Christmas card.

I downloaded a copy of the offensive card, so that you could see for yourself. HerEpiphany-Wise+Women Grace’s choice of card has offended the good deacons of Ft Worth Texas who claim that their Primate’s actions defy explanation. As you can see the wise folks depicted on this image look a lot like women. Can you imagine the nerve of the first woman primate! How could she be so bold as to select such an offensive image? Leave it to straight talking Texans to set things straight: for despite the audacity of the Primate, the Texans have pledged to “stand for the traditional expression of the Faith.” Continue reading

Do You See What I See?

baby in a tree

Do you see the baby?

Some of us have followed the star, we have journeyed to Bethlehem and we have seen the ONE who comes into the world as a child. Now what? Do we see the needs of the child? Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and be about the work of ushering in the Reign of Justice that this child, any child needs in order to live in peace? I wonder? 

I still hear the echoes of Rachel’s voice weeping unconsolable in Ramah; weeping for the lost children of every town where violence, greed, madness or neglect robs the child of those things that belong to children: playful laughter, safe homes, warmth, nourishment, learning, embraces, peace….a future. 

Mystic, poet, philosopher, and theologian Howard Thurman’s poem “The Work of Christmas” comes to me as a challenge for the days, months and year ahead:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

The Herods of this world have had their way for far too long. Let the slaughter of innocents end. We have seen the child and we know the wonders of a star-lit peace-filled night. So, let the work of Christmas begin with all of us seeking justice and making peace so that children everywhere can grow in LOVE. Shalom!

Incarnation Changes Everything – a sermon for the first Sunday after Christmas – Luke 2:8-20

God In US pastorDawnI have tried to locate the source of the parable told in this sermon about the encounter between the little boy and the old woman. But despite the many authors who claim it as their own, I suspect that its origins go back farther than I have been able to trace. The Readings for this first Sunday after Christmas offer us the parable of the Presentation of in the Temple: Psalm 42:1-3, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:8-20

You can listen to the sermon here