Bishop Munib Younan receives the Civis Mundi Award for Global Citizenship

Civis Mundi evening

Waterloo Lutheran Seminary’s inaugural Civis Mundi award was presented to Bishop Munib Younan (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land) on the evening of October 22; a day when Canadians were reeling from the tragic events in Ottawa which saw a deranged man brutally murder Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and burst into the halls of our parliament threatening the lives of those who toil at he very heart of our democracy. Bishop Younan’s words are especially poignant as we continue to struggle to maintain inclusivity and celebrate our diversity as a nation. click on the photo below to watch the video – Bishop Younan’s speech begins at the 23 min mark

civis mundi


Reformation Postings: Luther, Spong, Fox, and Holy Cross – a Reformation Sunday Sermon

95This Reformation Sunday sermon looks at postings from Martin Luther, John Shelby Spong, Matthew Fox and Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket in the hope of string up the Spirit for Reformation today!  The written manuscript is a facsimile of the sermon that was preached on Reformation Sunday 2013, which you can listen to here

Semper Reformanda – Always Reforming: On October 31st 1522, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the cathedral in Wittenburg and the church has been Semper Reformanda – ing ever since.

Luther’s 95 Theses famously itemized the wrongs and the abuses of the church of his day and insisted that change was long overdue. Luther’s list included many theses opposed to the churches selling of indulgences:

41 Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42 Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43 Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

But even though Luther railed against the church’s selling of indulgences, he did approve of using threats of hell.

4  Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

5  And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace

Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Cathedral, and the newfangled invention of the Printing Press ensured that his protests were reproduced for all of Europe to read. Just before the turn of the last century, in 1998 to be exact, the Right Reverend John Shelby Spong, the Bishop of Newark published his own protestations. Bishop Spong, looked around at the state of the church and decided that it was time for a new reformation. Using the newfangled invention of our time, Jack posted his Twelve Theses with these words:

“Martin Luther ignited the Reformation of the 16th century by nailing to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 the 95 Theses that he wished to debate. I will publish this challenge to Christianity in The Voice. I will post my theses on the Internet and send copies with invitations to debate them to the recognized Christian leaders of the world. My theses are far smaller in number than were those of Martin Luther, but they are far more threatening theologically. Continue reading

Reformation Sunday Resources

semper reformanda

Preparing for Reformation Sunday? Some of these posts might be useful:

Enough with “A Mighty Fortress” Already! Sing a New Song!

95 Theses for the Twenty-first Century

Freedom from What?  All this Reforming is Wearing Me Out!

What Darwin Never Knew

A Reformation Day Nailing to the Internet – John Shelby Spong

A Prayer for Reformation – Thomas Berry


Glimpses of God’s Backside – Exodus 33:12-23

glimpseYAHWEH said to Moses: “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

Memories, stories, imaginings, myths, wonderings, and glimpses are the stuff of truth. Even though I was only a child, I have very vivid memories of my very first trip on an airplane. We lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland and we were moving to Canada. I was terrified and fascinated all at the same time. I don’t know where I heard them first, but words like “frozen,” “north,” “wolves,” “igloos”, and “Eskimos” filled my imagination. I have a vague memory of being told that there wouldn’t be any Eskimos where we were going.

I remember the excitement and the fear about flying up in the sky, higher than the clouds. We’d be so high that we’d be able to look down at the clouds. I just couldn’t wait. I was going up, up into heaven. Visions of angels sitting on clouds, maybe, just maybe I’d catch a glimpse of Jesus playing with all the little children. I never dreamed that I’d see God. God would be clothed in a cloud and if God peaked out I’d hide. I didn’t want to see God. God was way too scary. I wanted to stay well clear of God. God was a scary guy, so scary that you’d probably drop down dead if you saw God. Maybe I shouldn’t look down on the clouds, just incase I caught a glimpse of God, because then I’d never make it back down from heaven. And then, I’d never get to see the Eskimos that I just knew were waiting for me down in Canada!

It wasn’t easy being up there in the sky for the very first time. I couldn’t take my eyes off that little porthole. Even though I knew somewhere deep down inside that I wasn’t really looking out at heaven, I just couldn’t help wondering what was really out there. I remember thinking that maybe just maybe there were angels dancing on those clouds, invisible angels, cause I knew that you became invisible when you died. God was pretty much invisible most of the time.      Continue reading

Today We Celebrate the Life and Witness of St. Teresa of Avila

An excerpt from “Love Poems From God” by Daniel Ladinsky,

(Penguin Compass, London: 2002)

(1515-1582)  “Teresa was born in Avila, a beautiful high mountain village of Spain.  She was one of thirteen children, three girls and ten boys, in a wealthy family.  The Spain in which Teresa grew up was permeated with 700 years of Arabian culture; the eradication of Arab power was followed by one of Spain’s darkest periods, the insanity of the Inquisitions, which, in the fourteenth century, along with other grievous deeds, forced mass conversions of Jews to Christianity.”

“Teresa was her father’s favourite child, and the most spirited.  Her mother died during childbirth when Teresa was thirteen, after which she had little supervision.  It is believed she had a lover at the age of fifteen, which caused her father to send her to a convent boarding school, only to see her return home two years later because of poor health.  When she was twenty-one, Teresa ran away from home to join a convent.  At that time many convents were more like hotels for women, allowing them a great deal more independence than they would be allowed at home, though after two years at the convent Teresa had a near-death experience that changed her life.  A spiritual awakening began in which she cultivated a system of meditation that sought quieting the mind to such an extent that God could then be heard speaking.  Over the next twenty years she experienced many mystical states but not until she was fifty did she begin the most far-reaching aspects of her life’s work.” Continue reading

Brussels Sprouts, Ebola, and Thanksgiving – a sermon

Brussels SproutsCanadian Thanksgiving celebrations invite us to remember not just our blessings, but the Source of All that IS.  Readings for this Sunday can be found here. Our contemporary reflection was the video “A Good Day” featuring Brother David Steindl-Rast (below)

Listen to the sermon here:

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

thanksgiving canada

Your Mom and Dad were right when they taught you that “thank-you” is a magic word. Science now confirms what we learned at our parents’ knees all those years ago.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Big Bang, Darwin, and Evolutionary Images of Divinity

Benediction LightIn the words of our ancestors as they grappled to tell the story of the Divine Mystery we call God, it is written. “Then God spoke all these words, and said, “I AM YAHWEH who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Do not worship any gods except me! Do not make for yourselves any carved mage or likeness of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters of the earth, and do not bow down to them or serve them! For I, YAHWEH, am a jealous God.” (Exodus 20:1-5)

Joan Chittister, a Roman Catholic nun and brilliant theologian, tells a story about a little girl named Katie who was a second-grader in one of the schools of Chittister’s community. One Friday during art class as the teacher roamed the aisles checking progress, she stopped at Katie’s desk and asked, “Well, Katie, what are you drawing?” “I am drawing a picture of God,” Katie said proudly. “Katie,” the teacher answered, “you can’t draw a picture of God. Nobody knows what God looks like.” Katie said, “They will when I’m finished.”

I never was much good at drawing, but like little Katie I to have tried my hand at creating an image of God. For me my image making really took off when I wasn’t much older than little Katie. I must have been about nine or ten years old when my dreams came true one Christmas morning and I became the proud owner of a microscope. At the time I was convinced that my microscope was the most sophisticated tool ever designed. It came in it’s own wooden box and I distinctly remember the metal clasp on that box had a small clasped that was designed to allow a pad lock to slip through so that the box could be safely secured from less sophisticated explorers like my little brother from opening it to reveal the splendor of a tool that could turn its owner into a scientist. Along with my microscope came a box of small glass slides, an eyedropper and a sample jar. My father explained to me that we could go to a local pond to collect our samples. Dad assured me that a small jar of pond-water would contain enough samples to keep me busy for days. Dad was absolutely correct and I spent many an afternoon squinting into my microscope, painstakingly adjusting the focus so that I could get just the right magnification to see the wonders of a miniature world of creatures I had never before even dreamed existed. I was an explorer of pond scum. I was a scientist, enthralled by the tiny little world, wondering in amazement a splendor of creation. I marveled at the tiny creatures that swam franticly in and out of my view. I sometimes pretended that I was their Queen and who with godlike powers could scoop them up out of their native pond home and deliver them to my royal laboratory and command them to dance for me. And dance they would, providing hours and hours of entertainment for me and in return I lavished such care and attention on their little world. Sadly, for reasons beyond my control, their little lives always came to an end after just a few days as the pond water became even too rancid for my little subjects. But I was a benevolent monarch and rather than flush their little worlds down the toilet, I would always travel back to the pond from which they came and with great dignity and more than a little ceremony dump the foul smelling evidence of their watery demise back into the waters of their birth. I remember thinking that God too must be just as dignified when He, back then it was definitely He, attended our funerals, for God had been watching over us in much the same way as I watched my little creatures. Continue reading

Who IS God? – Not One, Not Two – a sermon for Thanksgiving Sunday

Thankyou autumnA sermon for Thanksgiving inspired by Garrison Keillor and Joan Chittister; two of the best storytellers I know.

Let me tell you a classic Thanksgiving story created by the brilliant Garrison Keillor, which takes place on the outskirts of Lake Wobegon, where “All the women are smart. The men are good looking. And the children are above average.”

“It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” Keillor’s old home town. “There was a holiday this last week and the return of the exiles. The exiles who come back to their home. Children who’d grown up and moved away and had families, and learned how to complicate their lives in all sorts of new and interesting ways. They come back every year to a little town so much the same it’s hard to look at it and not believe you’re still twelve years old and that’s just how some of the returning children behaved too, when they came back.

A lot of them drive up from the cities with their families and they make a last stop at the Cross Roads Lounge, about ten miles down the road, as they come up over the rise and down into town, the last drags are taken on a lot of last cigarettes, and the first of a lot of breath mints are popped into their mouths and the last warnings are issued to their children, the grandchildren, in the back seat, not to talk about you know what, in front of grandpa and grandma, and remember that at grandpa and grandma’s house before we eat grandpa bows his head and we’re all supposed to be quiet that’s called asking the blessing or saying grace and grandpa is talking to God. So you remember to be quiet then and close your eyes and don’t say a word.

One of the Olsen boys was giving this speech to his children coming into town on Wednesday. He explained all of the rules and was surprised to hear a little voice pipe up from the backseat. And his daughter said, “Who is God daddy?”

He said, “Jesus Christ! What am I gonna do now?” “Two blocks from home! It’s a little late to get this kid shined up for the parents so she looks Lutheran you know.”
Continue reading

Teach Us to Pray – a recording of our second class

Below you will find a recording of our second class. The video of the Keynote presentation includes the Youtube video featuring Marcus Borg that was shown during the class together with an audio recording of the class (the audio is stilted in places but if you wait but a moment it will sync with the presentation). Or, below the video you will find an audio recording of the class.

The third class in this series is on Sunday Oct. 19 and will be posted on Oct. 21

Audio recording of the class:


Reckless Generosity – a Sermon for Thanksgiving

Gratitude Generosity

When I was a kid, the adults in my life were very fond of telling me how grateful I ought to be because things were so much harder back when they were kids. I’m sure most of us can remember being told by our elders just how tough times were when they were back in the day. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and just about every adult I knew must have grown up poor. Why if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say,  “When I was a kid we were so poor that…..” well I’d have a whole lot of nickels.

Today, when I hear the words, “We were so poor that…”  I brace myself for an outrageous claim like…. We were so poor that we couldn’t afford Kraft Dinner. Kraft Dinner, you were lucky, we were so poor that we couldn’t afford dinner,  all we had was a cup of cold tea without milk or sugar. Cup of Tea, we were so poor that we only had filthy cracked teacups. Filthy cracked teacups, that’s nothing we were so poor that we couldn’t afford teacups, we used to have to drink our tea out of a rolled up newspaper.  That’s nothing we were so poor that all we could we couldn’t afford newspapers so we had to suck our tea from a damp cloth.

Someone always chimes in with, “Well we might have been poor, but you know we were happy in those days. That’s right money can’t buy happiness. We used to live in a tiny house, with holes in the roof.  “House?  You were the lucky ones we were so poor that we had to live in one room, all 126 of us, with no furniture.  Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of falling!  Ha!  You were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in a corridor! Ohhh we were so poor we used to dream of living in a corridor! A corridor would have been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We were woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!!!   Rubbish tip, you were lucky, we were so poor that we lived in a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarp, but it was a palace to us…especially after we were evicted from our hole in the ground and we had to go live in a lake. Lake, you were lucky to have a lake, there were a 160 of us living in a small cardboard box in the middle of the road. Cardboard, we were so poor we lived for three months in a brown paper back in a septic tank.  We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down in the mines for 14 hours a day, week in week out.  We had to get up out of that cardboard box at three o’clock in the morning and lick the road clean with our tongues.    In case you didn’t recognize it, that was my interpretation of a classic Monty Python sketch, simply called the “We were so poor sketch”. (watch the video below) Continue reading

The Saint and the Sultan Daring to Dance in the Midst of a March: a sermon for St. Francis Sunday

Saint Francis & Sultan

The Season of Creation ends today with the commemoration of St. Francis and this sermon is inspired by the events chronicled in Paul Moses book “The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace”  The reading from St. Francis and the Scripture reading can be found here 

You can listen to the sermon below or click here for the link

Teach Us to Pray – a recording of our first class

Below you will find a recording of our first class.  The video of the Keynote presentation includes the Youtube videos by John Shelby Spong and Fred Plumer that were shown during the class together with an audio recording of the class (the audio is stilted in places but if you wait but a moment it will sync with the presentation). Or, below the video you will find an audio recording of the class.

Unedited audio recording of the class.


God IS a River: a sermon for River Sunday

river flow2Today is the Fourth Sunday of the Season of Creation which celebrates River Sunday Our Readings included Ezekiel 47:6-12 and John 7:37-39 and a Contemporary Reflection in the form of a video recording of God IS a River by Peter Mayer.  You can find the texts here 

Lister to the sermon here or click here

Here’s the  video was played between the

reading of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospel 

Six Marks of a True Religion – Brian McLaren

religion defineBrian McLaren briefly describes the work of religion which harkens back to both the etymology and the “literal” definition of the word itself. Proving once again that, the more-than-literal meaning of the word religion points to a broader understanding. Recorded last month at Greenbelt. Enjoy!

Challenging Social, Political, and Religious Oppression – Peter Rollins

thedivinemagicianI just got my hands on an advance proof of Pete’s new book, “The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith”.  This newly released video will have to tide me over until I can clear a space to read without interruption. Pete previewed some of this work when he visited us at Holy Cross. So, I for one am looking forward to the magic! Meantime, enjoy, An Evening with Peter Rollins from the Transgressions Tour, Live from the West End Wine Bar in Chapel Hill.

Gracie’s Grace IS Beyond Our Best Theologies: a sermon for Pentecost 16A – Matthew 21:23-32

Gracie pastorDawnAbout a dozen years ago, I traveled to Vancouver to attend an educational conference for Lutheran Mission Pastors. Most of the conference was spent inside a stuffy meeting room. But one afternoon about forty of us were loaded onto a school bus and we traveled down to the east-side of Vancouver to spend some time with Pastor Brian Heinrich, who ran the Lutheran Urban Ministry Society. I doubt that many of you have ever or will ever visit the downtown east side of Vancouver. Lutheran Urban Ministry was located near the corner of Main and Hastings in one of the poorest areas in all of Canada. It was the sort of place where forty Lutheran pastors stuck out like a sore thumb. At the time the downtown east-side was one of the roughest neighborhoods in Canada. This was before Olympic developers gentrified the neighbourhood.

As we arrived, I noticed the discomfort that was written all over the faces of my fellow clergy. Although I’d travelled to the eastside many times and even lived for a few months in a cheap apartment on the edge of the eastside, my journeys in the eastside were usually quick, with as few stops as I could manage, so that I could avoid the unpleasant sights and sounds that you encounter in places were poverty literally fills the air. Knowing that we were scheduled to spend the day in the eastside made me long for the mountaintops that I could see stretching up to the sky across the river. I could feel the same discomfort that was written on the faces of my colleagues take hold of my own face.

On the steps of the church, a young man was shooting up. In the alley next to the church, very young men and women were offering their bodies for sale. Inside the church we were greeted by several of Pastor Brian’s parishioners. Before we could get inside the sanctuary, a very smelly man extended a filthy hand in friendship. When I took his hand he grinned at me with his two remaining teeth and told me his name was David and that I should make myself at home. Eventually, Pastor Brian introduced us to about a half a dozen of his parishioners. All of them wore their poverty with a welcoming smile. Because the sight of forty Lutheran Pastors being guided around the neighborhood on a tour might have shaken up the local inhabitants, we were divided up into small groups and assigned guides. That’s how I met a woman, for the purposes of this sermon I’ll call, Gracie. Continue reading

What Did You Do When There Was Still Time? – Wilderness Sunday Sermon

Climate MarchOn this the third Sunday of the Season of Creation, we turn our attention to the Wilderness on the very day when ten’s of thousands of people will be taking to the street to demand that the governments of the world focus their attention on the plight of our planet. On the eve of the United Nations Climate Summit, organizers of The People’s Climate March are hopeful that upwards of 100,000 people will turn out to march through midtown Manhattan to demand that world leaders agree on significant and substantial initiatives to move the world toward a path that will limit global warming.

The readings for the third Sunday in the Season of Creation can be found here

Listen to the sermon here or click here


Climate Summit 2014On Monday the United Nations will host Climate Summit 2014: Catalyzing Action. Tomorrow to kick off a week of climate events, The People’s Climate March will take place in Manhattan. Organizers hope to draw 100,000 marchers to participate in “the largest climate march in history.” Those of us who can’t join the march in Manhattan have work to do in our own communities. Tomorrow, many churches will continue their celebration of the Season of Creation with an emphasis on “The Wilderness.” Let our celebrations contribute to the “Catalyzing Action!” Disruption – a film by Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott is a documentary that outlines the dangers of failing to act.