Christ Will Come Again, and Again, and Again – a sermon for Advent 1C – Luke 21:25-38, 34-36

Old SpiceChrist has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Outside the world is hurtling toward the Christmas; toward the celebration of the birth of a baby. While the world prepares for the birth, the church says, “wait”. Wait, keep watch, and beware, for the world is ending. While the church cries out:

“Signs will appear in the sun, the moon and the stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish, distraught at the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth.” the world sings: “You better watch out, you better not pout, you better not cry, Santa Clause is coming to town.” And all the while we declare the mystery of our faith, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

Somewhere between our deepest fear and our deepest longings we wait, the world prepares and we wait and watch, knowing all the while that, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” knowing that because the world will end, our hope lies in the knowledge that Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, will come again.

Advent, the very word means come; tis the season of coming. Advent is not about waiting; waiting for Christmas, or waiting for the birth of a baby; Advent is about coming, the coming of Christ. In the darkness of the end, we long for Christ to come. Yes, we will have to wait for Christmas to come; but Christmas will come as it always does. The point is not the waiting, the point is in the midst of darkness, in the trials and tribulations of the end, Christ will come; the point is Christ will come. In the midst of the darkness of the end, our deepest longings are stirred up, our longings for hope, for peace, for love and for joy.

All around us we can see the signs of the end; death is everywhere. Galaxies collide and stars die, and there is darkness, the end. Dreams die, and there is darkness, the end. Barriers go up, bullets fly, bombs explode, people die; there is darkness, the end. Words are spoken, promises broken, hopes are dashed; there is darkness, the end. The work dries up, the job ends, funds are exhausted, the bills pile up; there is darkness, the end. Illness overwhelms, shadows on x-rays frighten, scans scare, falls break us, dreams are dashed; there is darkness, the end. In the darkness of the end, we long for hope, for peace, for love, for joy.

I remember, when I was a kid; I was about thirteen, we’d just moved to the West Coast and I can still remember it as if it was yesterday. I set off on my bicycle in search of the perfect Christmas I was as moody and emotional as any thirteen year-old could be. I was lonely, because we’d moved around so much that my only close friend was my younger brother; and what thirteen year-old girl, wants to admit that her only real friend is her eleven year-old brother. My parents were worried sick about money. We’d moved, Dad’s job was unstable and Mom’s job barely paid anything. About the only good news in my life was that I was twelve and back in those days, at twelve you were considered old enough for babysitting and babysitting meant money. Every weekend, I would babysit. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe that at thirteen, I was actually left in charge of little children. I remember getting a couple of bucks for babysitting on Friday and Saturday night; and I do mean a couple of bucks, two dollars for two nights of babysitting.

IMG_1220I remember, calculating that by the time Christmas arrived, I should have $27 dollars saved up. Twenty-seven dollars should be just enough to buy presents for my Mom and Dad, my brother, my aunt and uncle, and my two little cousins. I still remember heading off on my bicycle, into the bustling metropolis of Ladner. Ladner was just a small fishing village back then. There were just three stores worth looking for Christmas presents in: Perry’s Department store proved to be far too expensive for my blood. So, I headed off to the 5 and 10 store. For those of you who don’t know what a five and ten store was, just think dollar store, only back then it was the 5 and dime and you could actually get stuff for five and ten cents. I spent hours in there trying to figure out the perfect gifts for my brother and my two little cousins. I left thinking that I could take care of their gifts with about five dollars. So it was off to the drug store to figure out what to get for my Mom and Dad and Aunt and Uncle. That took another couple of hours as I agonized over the various Old Spice gift sets. I could just about afford a 3-piece set for my Dad that included saving cream, after-shave and a soap-on-a-rope. Surely my uncle would be happy with a soap-on-a-rope. Then it was a Yardly gift set for my Mom, dusting powder, perfume and soap all for about six dollars; which would leave enough left over for a small bottle of perfume for my aunt. Continue reading

Home in the Love We Call God – a sermon for Jesus the Christ Sunday- Luke 15

prodigalRather than the recent church tradition of celebrating the Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday, on this the last Sunday of the church year, we chose to celebrate our complex relationship with Jesus the Christ. Our readings included the parables of the lost form Luke 15:1-32. 

Listen to the sermon here

Quest for the Cosmic Christ – a sermon

Cosmic Christ pastordawnLast year, we at Holy Cross began our quest for the Cosmic Christ on  the last Sunday of the Church calendar; traditionally the festival of Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. Our readings: John 1:1-6; Colossians 1:15-20; and Matthew 9:16-17. The sermon was the first in a series of sermons on our Quest for the Cosmic Christ which anticipates the season of Advent’s waiting and hoping for Christ to be born in us.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth onto an old cloak, because the patch will pull away from the cloak and the tear will get worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins—if they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out, and the skins will be ruined. No, they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:16-17

My one and only experience with old wineskins was not a pleasant one. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m not exactly sure that the offending wineskins were old when I encountered them. They were however old-fashioned. Indeed, I do believe that if Jesus tried to tell this story in the in this century instead of the first century, he would have cautioned us against putting new wine into old-fashioned wineskins. Few people use old-fashioned wineskins. The only time I’ve ever come across old-fashioned wineskins was about 35 years ago when I myself wasn’t so very old. I was backpacking around Europe on a very tight budget. In order to extend our stay we had to stretch every penny. So, from time to time we camped out. I remember one particular night, after securing our campsite and pitching our tent, we walked back into the nearest village. I don’t remember the name of the village, I only remember that we were somewhere north of Florence, Italy. After a cheap dinner in a local taverna, we were wandering back to our campsite, when one of us, I don’t remember who, decided that we needed some more wine. When you are travelling in Italy on the cheap, some wines are less expensive than bottled water. So, I’m sure my travelling companion was just trying to save us some money, when he came out of the shop and encouraged us all to go in and take advantage of the great deal he had just bought. For not much money he had purchased two wineskins full of what promised to be a charming little vintage. I do love a bargain, so in I went to purchase my first and my last old-fashioned wineskin full of a very decent little chianti. The rest of the way back to our campsite, we speculated over the source of the wineskin, but as to whether sheep, goats, or cattle had given up the ghost for these skins, I’ll never know. I do know that we consumed a great deal of wine over our campfire. Sometime during the early hours of the next morning, most of us ended up down by the riverside, tossing the contents of our own stomach. Later in the afternoon, convinced that we were dying, some of us managed to drag our sorry-selves to a nearby clinic where we discovered that we were not hung-over at all; we were in fact suffering from a type of poisoning. Apparently, if wineskins are not cured properly, bacteria that are normally generated in the stomach of the animal, whether it’s a goat, a sheep, or cattle, morphs into some kind of poison, which can in some cases be fatal. My friends and I got away with about four days of hugging a riverbank in a kind of agony that some would say we deserved for trusting old-fashioned wineskins; something the locals are loath to do. Continue reading

Preparing to Preach or Not to Preach on Reign of Christ Sunday

cosmic christI usually have the presence of mind to book my vacation or some sort of continuing education event that takes me far away from the pulpit on Reign of Christ Sunday. Formerly known as “Christ the King Sunday” an attempt to move beyond exclusively male imagery for Christ (in whom there is no east nor west, male nor female) some church-folk have attempted to change the name of this festival to Reign of Christ Sunday. But merely changing the title fails to get  beyond the struggles I have with this festival of the church year!!!!

Born in an age that was birthing fascist regimes, this particular festival of the church clings to it’s christian imperialist past. Instituted in 1925, by Pope Pius XI,  (you can read the full proclamation here) the festival was designed to remind the world that Christ is the King of the World. The irony of proclaiming Christ as “King” when the life of Jesus of Nazareth positively denies “kingliness” seems lost on the church. The appropriateness of asserting Christ over the religions of the world lacks the kind of humility embodied by Jesus of Nazareth. So, this year I am not prepared to celebrate Christ the King or the Reign of Christ Sunday. Last year, we took a leaf out of Matthew Fox’s book and crafted our worship around the theme of the Quest for the Cosmic Christ.

Cosmic ChristYears ago, long before I ventured to seminary, Matthew Fox’s book Original Blessing opened me to the wonders of Creation Spirituality. So, I eagerly worked my way through his book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. I confess that my first reading of Fox’s tome left me in the dust of my own lack of understanding of traditional Christology. But even back then, without the benefit of theological training, I sensed something of the MYSTERY that I had always trust Christ to BE. I have returned to Fox’s work many times over the years and over and over again I have discovered a WISDOM that moves me beyond the limitations of the historical Jesus toward a more holistic vision of Christ which like Fox I believe has the potential  to move us to a more wholistic relationship with Creation. I trust that the WISDOM of the Cosmic Christ can lead us into the Season of Advent so that we can be about the work of birthing the Cosmic Christ. (you can check out last year’s sermon on the Cosmic Christ hereThis year, we at Holy Cross will begin our quest for the Cosmic Christ by looking back to remember our treasured relationships with Jesus as we explore the relationship of Jesus, both our own personal Jesus and the historical Jesus, to our visions of the Cosmic Christ.

Wars and Rumours of Wars: The End is Near – a sermon for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost – Mark 13:1-8

Jean Jullien - Nov.13/15

Jean Jullien – Nov.13/15

Listen to the sermon here

Lest We Forget – A Peace Remembered

The young woman can still remember one particular Remembrance Day when her words and actions did nothing more than offend someone she loved very much. It was the one and only argument she ever had with her Grandmother and it happened over Remembrance Day. At the time, she was living in London. She remembers thinking that Londoners take Remembrance Day very seriously indeed. More so, she thought, than in her native Canada. She wondered if the blitz had something to do with it.

While most of the poppies people wore were red, she began to see white poppies appear on the lapels of more than just a few people.  She read in the newspaper that those who were committed to peace and believed that for the most part, Remembrance Day only serves to glorify war were donning white poppies.  You could pretty well draw a dividing line between the generations using the colors of poppies as your guide. Young people, who had never experienced war tended to wear white poppies, while those who were older and who had memories of war, tended to wear red poppies. In many homes poppies in and of themselves managed to start wars. 

The idealistic young woman was just twenty and her commitment to peace determined her choice. She was wearing a white poppy the day she traveled up to the Midlands to visit her Grandmother. It was the day before Remembrance Day when she arrived on her Grandmother’s doorstep. She’d forgotten all about the white poppy that adorned her lapel. She couldn’t help thinking that there was something odd about the reception she received from Grandmother. It wasn’t exactly what you would call warm. Her Grandmother was upset about something. But the young woman couldn’t quite figure out what, because her Grandmother appeared to be giving her the silent treatment. She just served dinner and listened quietly as the young woman chatted on about her week in London. Continue reading

Here We Stand, For We Can Do No Other – a sermon for Reformation Sunday

Simcoe Landing

Simcoe Landing

Listen to the sermon here

Watch the video that was shown in place of the traditional readings for Reformation: Thomas Berry and the Earth Community here

Gospel Text: John 8:31-36

The View from Job’s Dung-heap: Peering Beyond the Heavens Toward a Theory of Everything?

string theoryRuminating over this Sunday’s prescribed reading from Job 38, my mind harkens back to 2012, when I had the privilege of attending a series of lectures given by the great Phyllis Tickle who described the current reformation that the church is experiencing as part of a cultural phenomenon that happens about every 500 years, which she calls “The Great Emergence”. When asked what skills religious leaders will need to navigate the information age, Tickle insisted that the best advice we could give to anyone considering a religious vocation was that they should study physics. Inwardly I groaned, remembering my feeble attempts to come to grips with the most rudimentary theories of quantum physics. But I also nodded in agreement, knowing that so many of our religious narratives strive to make meaning of the cosmos as it was perceived by ancient minds. When our ancestors looked into the heavens they had no way of knowing the wonders of the cosmos that we are beginning to discover. While physicists can ignore theology, theologians who ignore physics will find themselves stuck atop Job’s dung-heap impotently shaking their fists at the Divine.  Perhaps Tickle is correct and the clerics of the future will out of necessity need to be physicists.  Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku speculates that the universe is “a symphony of strings” and the “mind of God would be cosmic music resonating through eleven dimensional hyper-space”.  If you have the courage to climb down from the dung-heap, take a look at Michio Kaku’s “The Universe in a Nutshell”. If the Divine bollocking that Job endured makes you wonder if ignorance might just be bliss, then take a peek at “Is God a Mathematician?” or “The Mind of God”. Who knows, maybe if a few more of us dare to dwell in the questions we might just come up with imaginative narratives to help us fathom what it means to be human. 

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

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

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

A Feminist, the Niqab, St. Francis and the Sultan: a sermon for the Commemoration of St. Francis

niqabThe Season of Creation ends today with the commemoration of St. Francis and the rhetoric of election season together with  the events chronicled in Paul Moses book “The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace” inspired this sermon.

The reading from St. Francis and the Scripture reading can be found here

Listen to the sermon here

Jesus Is the Memory of Our Future – a sermon for Creation 4B

GrandaThis long forgotten photograph of my Granda, William Anderson, moved my sermon beyond my miss-remembering as I attempt to respond to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s question: “Who is Christ actually for us today?” I first encountered the phrase “Jesus Is the Memory of Our Future” on a t-shirt from Holden Village. Readings for this the fourth Sunday of the Season of Creation included: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters from Prison (to Eberhart Bethge, 1944), Mark 12:28-34, Mark 16: 14-16 – click here to read texts

Listen to the sermon here

Encountering the Divinity Within Us – Mark 9:33-37


Then Jesus brought a little child into their midst and putting his arm around the child, said to the Twelve, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this for my sake welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the One who sent me.” Readings included Exodus 40:34-38, Mark 9:33-37 

Listen to the sermon here 

The Truth Will Set You Free: a Homecoming sermon


Homecoming after a splendid summer respite. Readings Proverbs 1:20-23; Ephesians 4:11-13 and John 8:30-32. I am indebted to Peter Rollins for his excellent insights into the need for church to be a place where we consult our suffering. I highly recommend the short video from which I have quoted which you can view here:  Peter Rollins video – Giving the Three Fingers. The story about the starfish on the beach is one I first heard many years ago. There is a version of the story in Marc Gellman’s book “And God Cried, Too: A Kid’s Book of Healing and Hope”

Listen to the sermon here


Spiritual AND Religious – a sermon for Pentecost 11B – John 6:35,41-51

Spiritual & Religious pastordawnListen to the sermon here

We Are the Bread of Heaven: a sermon on John 6:24-35 for Pentecost 10B

Hungry for?It is a holiday weekend here in Ontario. So, in the midst of our relaxed worship, I decided not to preach the sermon I had written and simply spoke briefly in response to the video animation which was shown after the reading of the Gospel John 6:24-35. You can watch the video: The Stonecutter here and listen to the recording of my comments here. The sermon which I prepared but did not preach is printed below. 

Following the video The Stonecutter (1960) Japanese Folklore  view here

Jesus said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” Food that endures for eternal life: WOW! Talk about satisfying. Who wouldn’t want some of that? Who isn’t hungry for food that does not perish but lasts for eternal life? No wonder the people cried out to Jesus. “Sir, give us some of that.” To which Jesus replied, “I AM it!” It’s clear that were not talking about ordinary food here. Jesus said to them, “I AM the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

But isn’t hunger and thirst the very stuff of life? Isn’t hunger, thirst, desire, longing, yearning, the very thing that drives us all? Don’t we all hunger for a better, fuller, more satisfying life? Don’t we all want to feed that emptiness that lies within? Aren’t we all looking for something?

If I were to try to tell that ancient Japanese fable in our modern Canadian context what might it sound like? You’re driving along in the car, widows open, listening to some tunes thinking hey look at me, I’ve got it pretty good, when all of a sudden a guy pulls up along side of you in a beautiful in a sleek e-type jag convertible, woe! If I could afford a car like that, just think about how great it would be to pull away from all the other traffic, the wind blowing through my hair, wouldn’t that be great. Well you save your pennies and you finally get the car of your dreams, and your driving along and you see this house, not just any house, but the most beautiful house in the neighbourhood, and you know there’s just got to be a pool in the backyard, and you wonder maybe, just maybe there’s a Jacuzzi in one of the dozen or so rooms and you know that if you could come home to a place like that, well then you’d be really happy. So you work hard and you scrimp and you save and one day, you get your hearts desire and you turn the key in the lock an all of a sudden your living in the house of your dreams. But there’s the pool to clean, and the gardens to maintain, and a lot of rooms that need dusting and you see that your neighbours have a pool boy, a gardener, and a housekeeper and you know if you could only afford to hire some help then you’d be happy. You know that with just a few more bucks in your bank account you’d be happy. So, you wish and you wish and one day you win the 649 and you have millions of dollars, several beautiful cars, lots of staff to keep everything ticking over, and no one to share it with. Continue reading

Jesus is the Human One: Just Look Beneath the Surface of the Text: a sermon on John 6:1-21 for Pentecost 9B

Fully HumanI am indebted to the work of Origen of Alexandria, John Dominic Crossan and Peter Rollins for providing a deeper understanding of the stories of Jesus’ Feeding of the Multitude and Walking on the Water. You can listen to the sermon here

Come Away With Me…Sanctuary for Refugees: a sermon for Pentecost 8B, Mark 6:30-34,53-56 and Ephesians 2:11-22

MerkelI chose to extract two readings from the lectionary to reflect upon sanctuary for refugees. Splitting the prescribed gospel text into the first and second readings and using the epistle text as the Gospel: Mark 6:30-34, Mark 6:53-56, Ephesians 2:11-22. The video which was shown during the sermon, along with the English translation, can be viewed here, listen to the sermon here

The Reign of God Is At Hand: Our Hands – a sermon for Pentecost 7B – Mark 6:14-29

John the Baptist's headThe beheading of John the Baptist is an unusual subject for a beautiful summer morning. However, from time to time the lectionary takes us where we are reluctant to go. Our readings included: Mark 1:1-11, Mark 1:14-15 and Mark 6:14-29

Listen to the sermon here