Listen to the sermon here
Listen to the sermon here
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
I 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
I 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 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
Over and over again, I hear from colleagues who find it difficult to use prescribed baptismal liturgies. In my own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal was published in the 21st century (2006). But the liturgical rite for Holy Baptism still prescribes the use of questions which contain images that harken back to medieval times. We have long since given up teaching our members to personify evil in the form of the devil. But the authors of our new liturgical texts insist that we continue to ask parents and sponsors to “renounce the devil an all the forces that defy God”; locking participants into some sort of cosmic battle in hich both evil and indeed God are personified in ways that most 21st century folks find archaic. As a confessional church, creeds continue to include proclamations of a virgin birth; an obstacle that seems laughable to people who have had the benefit of New Testament scholarship. Clergy who preside at baptisms are expected to hold our noses, while participants suspend reality and still the church continues to bemoan the fact that few and few parents bring their children to our fonts. In an effort to work with parents and sponsors to create baptismal rites that allow for the possibility that the Spirit is alive and well and working in, with, through, and beyond our feeble attempts to celebrate the miracle of new life, I have over the years tinkered with the rite of baptism. We have for several years now celebrated the rite of baptism using the liturgy which is provided here as an inspiration for others to tinker with the rite.
click here for a pdf of our 21st Century Baptismal Liturgy
In April, I had the privilege of travelling to Belfast to attend Peter Rollins’ Festival of Light where he gathered together some of the thinkers who have influenced his thinking. In his book The Divine Magician the fruit of this influence provides an expression of radical theology which has the power to ignite what Pete calls “pyrotheology”. Here are a few short videos which are designed to fan the flames. Enjoy!
The opportunity to baptize my lovely granddaughter brought with it the task of preparing a sermon on the sacrament of baptism. So, I diligently prepared a carefully thought out sermon for the occasion. Standing in the pulpit after reading the Gospel text from Matthew 19:13-15, the sight of all seven grandchildren challenging the abilities of their parents and grandparents to maintain order and decorum gave me pause. Fortunately our pulpit at Holy Cross is on wheels, so I quickly pushed it aside and reached into my missal for a folder I had placed there so that during the announcements I could draw the attention of our members to some very good news about the success of a child of the congregation. The folder contained a story which I proceeded to tell in place of my carefully prepared sermon. You can listen to the story here. I am indebted to the author, Travis Dermott for providing the good news on this very happy occasion. As promised, the text of the carefully and lovingly prepared, undelivered sermon is provided below.
Listen to the story here
When someone places a newborn human in your arms, it opens you to MORE. Humans have a strange relationship to MORE. Most of us spend our entire lives longing for more, looking for more, hungering for more, desiring more, striving for more, waiting for more, searching for more. Holding a newborn in your arms opens us to the power of MORE. I’m not talking about the more that the world so often gets caught up in seeking, more stuff, more money, more things, more wealth, more land, more resources, more power, more sex, more popularity, more gadgets, more food, more, more, more, more, for me and mine, more. I’m talking about the MORE with a capital M. MORE. The kind of MORE a newborn baby lying in your arms opens us to is the kind of MORE that poets, storytellers, artists, musicians, and messiah’s have been trying to capture for centuries. Holding a newborn in your arms opens us to this MORE because the reality of this new little being connects us to some Beyond ourselves.
Cradling a newborn you can’t help but wonder and marvel at the miracle of life itself. Gently rocking a newborn in your arms opens you to the powers of the cosmos coming together for billions and billions of years to create life. Gazing down at a newborn softly breathing in your arms fills your heart with emotions so powerful that in just an instant you can fall in love. Adoring a newborn in your arms transforms you out of the confines of the ordinary and mundane and into the reaches of time itself as you search for signs of ancestors long gone in tiny features that draw us into futures as yet unknown. And just when you think your heart is going to explode from the shear magnificence of the miracle in your arms, suddenly the newborn in your arms opens up the power of their new little lungs and you can’t help but be stunned by this tiny little creature’s ability to turn your world upside down. Continue reading
In addition to being Fathers’ Day, today was National Aboriginal Day, the beginning of Pride Week celebrations, and yesterday was International Refugee Day. All of these events were overshadowed by the tragic events in Charleston on Wednesday. The Gospel text from the Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus stilling the storm and calming the waters. Our worship begin with the singing of what has become known as the African American anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. Listen to the sermon here
Pastor Tom Doherty & Terry Hutchings shared their experiences at the Kairos events which preceded the Truth & Reconciliation Commissions delivery of their report. Our readings included Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Mark 4:26-34. The hymn sung after the sermon, “As One” with words by Gretta Vosper to the familiar Huron Carol – UNE JEUNE PUCELL
The video is a bit choppy at the beginning but settles down in a few moments.
The gospel reading prescribed for this coming Sunday (Mark 3:20-35) paints a daunting picture of the perceptions of the people of Jesus’ hometown. The folks who knew Jesus, including his family worried that he might just be “out of his mind.” This is indeed a contrast to the ways in which Jesus is typically portrayed. This is a dangerous Jesus who ran the risk of being perceived as deranged. In his book “The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus” Robin Meyers captures some of this danger when he points to Mary Oliver’s poem “Maybe” in which Jesus’ “melancholy madness” is seen by his fellows as more dangerous than a storm. Safely ensconced in our imaginations, Jesus is rarely allowed to threaten the status quo to which we cling for dear life. Are we prepared for the stormy waters that would be stirred up should we take Jesus at his word? Maybe…
Try to remember the summer of 69. Pierre Trudeau had only been in office for a year. Richard Nixon was in the White House. The Vietnam was raging. Chappaquiddick and the Manson Murders dominated the news that summer. Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. The Beatles’ Album Abbey Road was number one. Sesame Street debuted on Public television while the Brady Bunch debuted in prime time to compete with I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched. In that last beautiful summer of the 60’s, 350,000 young people flocked to a farm in upstate New York for the three-day musical extravaganza that was Woodstock.
My family moved to Vancouver that summer and I turned twelve; too young to be a flower child of the sixties, but old enough to become a fan of the music of the sixties. Not many of us knew about Woodstock while it was happening. But when we found out, many of us wished we’d been there. Over the years millions of people have claimed that they were at Woodstock, despite the fact that the site could barely manage to accommodate the 350,000 thousand who did attend. News didn’t travel so quickly in those days. Woodstock may have captured the imaginations of millions but that was almost a year after the event when record albums began to hit the shelves.
Back then one of my prized possessions was my small transistor radio, which I held up to my ear so that I could listen to all my favorite tunes. The quality of the sound was abysmal. So, if you liked a song you heard you just had to rush out and buy a 45, for less than a dollar. I remember lining up to buy a copy of the number 1 tune that summer: Sugar Sugar by the Archies. But if you really liked a singer or a group, then you would have to save your money so that you could plunk down $5.00 for an LP, shot for Long Playing Album. That summer I spent weeks saving my baby-sitting money, about .25 cents an hour so that I could get my very own copy of The Fifth Dimension’s latest album, The Age of Aquarius. I was dancing and singing, “Let the Sunshine” and dreaming of becoming a teenager. Back then it took a whole year for the music from Woodstock to begin to seep into the culture. And so it was long after the summer of 69, that I got my very own copy of the quintessential album of the Woodstock generation: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Déjà vu. I wore that album out. Our House, is a very, very, fine house! Teach your children well! Helpless, helpless, he…lpless! And then there was the best song on that album. Joni Mitchell may have written the song called Woodstock, but it took Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to make it timeless.
I must have listened to that song a thousand times trying to learn the lyrics, but try as I might a line from the chorus eluded me. I just couldn’t figure out what they were saying. Do you remember the chorus? We are stardust, we are golden, We are ???? what was the next line? We are stardust, we are….something, something, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. We are stardust, we are golden… We are ….billion year old carbon, And we got to get ourselves back to the garden. Well, then can I walk beside you?
When I finally figured out the lyrics, I was no wiser, I was lost…I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what they were on about. But it sounded good!!! So, I kept playing and I kept singing.
Over the years, I’ve hummed and sung along, trusting that we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. And longing for a simpler time, when I was young and still believed that Adam and Eve had once frolicked blissfully in the pristine garden of Eden, and if we could only recapture the innocence of that garden all would be right with the world. I remember as a teenager, hearing sermons about Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, as the start of it all. Something went terribly wrong; if only Eve hadn’t have listened to that snake and if only Adam hadn’t listened to Eve, then evil wouldn’t have entered creation and we’d all be able to frolic in the garden with God. If only we could get ourselves back to the garden, Jesus would not have to suffer and die for us: “For we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved God with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. And so for the sake of your Son , Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in our will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.” Week after week, year after year, Sunday after Sunday, I grew to understand that I along with all of humanity am in bondage to sin and we cannot free ourselves. Because Adam and Eve fell from grace, the stain of that original sin marks me as inherently sinful. Continue reading
Listen to the sermon here
A month ago, I journeyed back to the city where I lived when I was but a child to attend Peter Rollins’ Tricks of the Light Festival. There I was privileged to explore radical theology with about fifty fellow tricksters from around the world. It was an amazing experience which took me into the realm of the Great Beyond. This merry band was collected together by glimpses of magic each of us has garnered from Pete Rollins’ work. Together we encouraged, challenged, comforted and inspired one another to step beyond ourselves, our ideas, our carefully constructed realities, so that we might see visions of the Perhaps that lives in, with, through, and beyond us all. For three amazing days and four rollicking nights we let loose our trickster-selves on the city of Belfast.
Fellow trickster, Laura Landry created the video below which captures the flavour of our experiences together. Iain Archer, who preformed a private concert on the closing night of the festival, provides the musical backdrop and you will see glimpses of the amazing tricksters who spoke at the festival including: John Caputo, Kester Brewin, Barry Taylor, Gladys Ganiel, the God-father of Punk – Terry Hooley, and the man himself – Peter Rollins. A big thank-you to Belfast’s own fearless, intrepid, trickster Adam Turkington not only for keeping Pete from leading us all astray, but for ensuring that each and every one of us enjoyed so many of the sights, sounds, pleasures, and magic of Belfast!
As for Pete, the instigator of this grand adventure, when he’s not inspiring tricksters in the flesh, he’s doing so with his work. Check out his latest book The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith. But be warned: Pete’s work will inspire you to more than a few tricks of your own!!! As for me, I am forever changed, transformed by the tricks of the light Pete magically creates!!!
When I was just a kid, I had what can best be described as an adolescent crush on a teacher. Looking back on it now, I’d have to say that I fell head over heels in love with my teacher. It was the kind of love that only a 13 year-old girl could have; so intense and all consuming. I came to believe that this teacher was the wisest, kindest, most interesting person in all the world. This teacher knew more than anyone else, especially my parents. This teacher was cooler, funnier, more daring and definitely more in tune with my life than anyone I had ever met. I was convinced that if I could only be just like this teacher would mean that I too would be cooler, funnier, more daring and definitely more in tune with life. So, like most adolescent girls who are suffering from a crush I became obsessed with this teacher. I was young and I was in love, and like most thirteen year-old’s the I was convinced that the world revolved around me, so I set about pursuing my passion. This teacher taught English, so naturally, I decided that when I grew up I too would teach English. This teacher loved poetry, so I too became passionate about poetry.
One day this teacher announced that we could gain extra-credit if we wanted to enter a local poetry writing contest; and even though I was pretty sure that year I’d be getting a mark that would be somewhat better than an A, I began to write poetry. I was very serious about my poetry writing. I carried a pad of paper with me everywhere I went, and I began to ruminate about my life. I don’t remember any of those early attempts to wax poetical, but I do remember that each and every one of those poems was about me; me and my life, me and my unrequited love, me and my passion, me and the horrible way that no one paid much attention to me. Me, Me, Me, Me, it was all about me.
As the time drew near for us to submit our poetry to the competition, my teacher announced that there would be a special class after school, so that those of us who were planning to enter the competition could get some feedback on our efforts. So, by the end of the week, I would have to choose one of my great works for feedback. I spent hours pouring over one poem in particular. Tinkering with the words, trying to get things just right. I was so very proud of the final draft. I’d carefully copied it out on to a crisp piece of foolscap. Arranged the letters in the middle of the page so that they looked just so. I could hardly wait for school to be over so that I could rush to see what comments my beloved teacher had placed in the margin. There were barely a handful of us who stayed after school.
Looking back on that scene, we were a nerdy little crew. I was positively breathless as my teacher handed my offering back to me. To this day, I can’t remember a single line of my great work, but I can tell you word for ward what was scribbled in red in the margin of the ever so white foolscap. “A little self-involved, try looking outward.” I was devastated. How could anyone be so cruel? I’d poured my heart out only to have it stomped on by the indifference of truth. Continue reading
I am indebted to Jim Kast-Keat, a pioneering preacher who inspired me to open this sermon with the video below. I am also indebted to Bishop John Shelby Spong for teaching me more that I can articulate with words. His excellent book The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic opened the Gospel According to John in ways that have helped me to see aspects of the Divine to which I was once blind. Much of the sermon consists of extensive quotes from chapter 9 of Jack’s book.
Readings: John Chapter 2 and John 3:1-17
Watch the video below carefully before reading or listening to the sermon the sermon below.
Listen to the sermon:
So, before tackling the story of Nicodemus, I want to toss two balls into the congregation. The first ball I want to toss over here to this side of the congregation represents something all too familiar, biblical literalism. We know all too well that this particular ball has been distracting the church and most of the western world for the past few centuries. The second ball I want to toss over here to this side of the congregation represents historical biblical criticism. This particular ball is newer. It’s only been seriously tossed about for the past couple of centuries, but it is a really serious contender for our attention. But these balls have acquired a rather rhythmic bounce that tends to mesmerize us. Add to that these other balls the balls of church doctrine and theological dogma and before you know it we are so distracted that we forget what game we were trying to play in the first place as we try to keep up with the various passes made by players that have taken on a professional edge that leaves us watching from the sidelines unable to focus one of them.
None of these balls commanded the attention of the early Christians. They simply weren’t interested in taking the scriptures literally, nor were they particularly interested in the historicity of the scriptures. As for doctrine and dogma, well they were left to the professionals who only came to town on those unpleasant occasions when the league needed to ensure that it’s franchises continued to rake in enough money to keep the game on a sure footing. The scriptures, like all sacred writings, were about so much more than words scribbled on a scroll. The scriptures, like all scared writings, are about the mysteries of life. But these balls have been served up for us to play with and literalism and concerns about historical accuracy have done a magnificent job of distracting us from what really matters in these texts. Our fascination with the details of the fight-patterns of the balls that are tossed around whenever the stories in these texts play through our lives, have caused us to miss so many moon-dancing bears over the years.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love tossing these balls around and over the years I’ve learned to play ball with the best of them. But when a moon-walking bear dances onto the court, at the very least, we ought to notice the bear’s moves because the only way we’re going to learn to dance with these bears is by paying attention. Continue reading
Meister Eckhart’s fervent plea: “I pray God, rid me of God” becomes a sort of mantra for me whenever the task of contemplating the Trinity rolls around on the liturgical calendar. Once again, I have failed to have the foresight to book my holidays so as to avoid the task of preaching on this festival of the church, so I find myself plumbing previous sermons in search of a way through the quagmire of doctrines which threaten to overcome even the most dedicated of preachers. I offer them here to my fellow preachers as my way of saying, “I pray God, rid me of God!!!” Shalom
click on the sermon title