Only in Canada Eh? – Canayjuns, Injuns, Paula Deen, the N-Word, and Racism – a sermon for Canada Sunday

children's futureI am indebted to Father Jim O’Shea for his article in the Huffpost and to Robert LoveLace for his parable about Chickens which appeared in The Rabble.

Listen to the sermon here

In God There Is A Welcome!!! Happy Pride!!!

pride canadaAs Pride Week celebrations continue and I search for words to help us express our celebrations of Canada Day during today’s worship service, I came across this prayer written by Kittredge Cherry and Patrick Cheng.

Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: Heaven and Earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.

Red is for life, the root of spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, you are our Root. Free us from shame, and grant us the grace of healthy pride so we can follow our own inner light. With the red stripe in the rainbow, we give thanks that God created us just the way we are.

Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation, and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us.

Yellow is for self-esteem, the core of spirit. Out Christ, you are our Core. Free us from closets of secrecy, and give us the guts and grace to come out. With the yellow stripe in the rainbow, build our confidence.

Green is for love, the heart of spirit. Transgressive Outlaw Christ, you are our Heart, breaking rules out of love. In a world obsessed with purity, you touch the sick and eat with outcasts. Free us from conformity, and grant us the grace of deviance. With the green stripe in the rainbow, fill our hearts with untamed compassion for all beings.

Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice, speaking out against all forms of oppression. Free us from apathy, and grant us the grace of activism. With the blue stripe in the rainbow, motivate us to call for justice.

Violet is for vision, the wisdom of spirit. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining the universe. Free us from isolation, and grant us the grace of interdependence. With the violet stripe in the rainbow, connect us with others and with the whole creation.

Rainbow colours come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories, and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.

Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on Earth. In the rainbow space we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders, and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colours of the world! Amen.

Below is a version of a favourite hymn “For All the Children” composed by David Lohman and sung by a gathering of Catholics in Minnesota last summer. Since then our neighbours to the south have made some good progress toward equality. We here in Canada can take pride in our nation’s equal marriage laws, but more work needs to be done to accomplish full equality.  

The Stories We Tell Children???

jesus sunbeam“Thine is the glory risen concrete son!” When she was just a little girl these were the words she heard the adults in her life singing about the baby Jesus. Not having any idea what concrete was, she just sang these words assuming that they said all that needed to be said about the character of the little baby whose arrival meant presents for everyone.

On this long weekend, memories of childhood celebrations remind me that the stories we tell our children are not always heard exactly as we intend. When I was a little girl, I remember enthusiastically singing “God Save the Queen” and wondering exactly where “reignoverus” was and why we wanted to send the nice lady, who wore such pretty hats, there. It was a particularly mortifying disappointment to discover that what I was meant to be singing on behalf of the nice lady was to “send her victorious long to reign over us” as I implored God to save her. To this day, I cannot sing Her Majesty’s anthem without chuckling as I muse about what has now become the mythical land of reignoverus. While chuckling is a rather pleasant residue, I can’t help wondering what dangerous, frightening or perhaps scarring residues will remain as a result of the stories we currently tell our children. 

I have often been cajoled, bribed, guilted or shamed into including children’s sermons/talks/times during Sunday morning worship services. While I understand the impulse to find ways to include children in worship, I have never been convinced that stories told during these moments accomplish anything more than the placation the guilt we feel for our unreasonable expectations. The best we can hope for our good intentions is that in the years to come they will provide a few chuckles as the children we once corralled at the front of our sanctuaries look back bemused at our efforts to include them in worship.

Dave Allen, an Irish comedian whose television program I was not allowed to watch when I was a child, but whose humour I learned to enjoy as a teen-ager, provides a window into a world we would do well to remember. 

A Way to Understand the Resurrection – Richard Holloway

Peter Callesen's Papercut Resurrection

Peter Callesen’s Papercut Resurrection

Richard Holloway, the former Primate of the Scottish Episcopal Church, interprets the story of the resurrection not as an historical tale, but as our own story. Holloway has written of his longing for a humbled and broken church. His own humility and brokenness shines through this video as Holloway embodies his own longing.

Canada Sunday???

canada doveAs millions of Canadians make their finial preparations for the Canada Day Long Weekend, the church prepares to celebrate the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost or Ordinary 13 with scripture readings that will challenge even the best of homileticians to make the connections to the activities of most Canadians.

This particular homiletician has decided to abandon the Revised Common Lectionary in favour of Canada Sunday. Granted I had to make the feast day up, but I do so in the name of relevance; for surely, preachers ought to have something important to say about Canada!!

So, the sanctuary will be adorned in red, for no other colour will suffice for this feast day. The readings will begin with verses from Deuteronomy about the Promised Land. Psalm 72, from whence came Canada’s official motto “A Mari usque ad Mare” – “From Sea to Sea” Psalm 72:8 – “God shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth”. The first official use of this motto came in 1906 when it was engraved on the head of the mace of the Legislative Assembly of the new Province of Saskatchewan. The wording of the motto came to the attention of Sir Joseph Pope, then Under Secretary of State, who was impressed with its meaning. He later proposed it as motto for the new design of the coat of arms, which was approved by Order in Council on April 21, 1921 and by Royal Proclamation on November 21, 1921.

The gospel text eluded me until I chanced upon the Revised Common Lectionary’s suggestion for our cousins to the south’s celebration of Independence Day, Matthew 5:43-48. Our Hymn of the Day includes words written by Shirley Erena Murray that were inspired by Dietrich Boenhoeffer. We will be singing it to the tune Londonderry Air (thats Danny Boy) but you can see Per Harling’s music here.peace canada

I suspect this homiletician will have something to say about Canada’s once proud history as Peace Keepers as she cries out for a renewed sense of justice when it comes to our actions in the world???

Here’s a pdf of our Worship Bulletin (designed to be printed on double-sided legal paper and folded into a booklet)

Happy Canada Weekend!!!

Faith and Doubt: “a whisper will be heard” – Richard Holloway

hollowayI have just completed reading Richard Holloway’s “Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt”.  As someone who struggles to stay in the institutional church, I can hear the whispers of which this former Primate of the Scottish Episcopal Church writes. leaving alexandria

After a lifetime in the church, Holloway continues to respond to whispers, “The thing that keeps me religious is the possibility that there might be an ultimate purpose to the universe and it might, as certain rumours suggest in sacred texts, be unconditional love. And it seems to me to live as if that might be the case is not a bad way go be going; especially if it makes us kind to one another.” 

Richard Holloway’s vision of the church he longs for is a vision I too long for. As he ponders the question “Am I still a Christian?” Holloway insists,  “God has always been elusive in me. He’s always felt like an absence that felt like a presence. I was tantalized by God, that resonant absence again. The God that I was being told about, the God who was punishing my gay friends, the God who denounced me was cruel I and I couldn’t be part of that. And yet I am still tugged by the longing that had gotten me into this, the possibility of transcendence, that there is meaning and that the meaning might be a great pity, not a cruelty, but an absolute compassion, an absolute unconditional love, a love like the father of the prodigal in Luke’s great parable who runs to meet his broken son and doesn’t condemn and doesn’t even wait  for the confession before embracing him, and bringing him home. There is that God. That’s the God of Jesus….So I’m kind of in and yet out of the Christian Church. I want it to continue. But I want it humbled. I don’t want it cruel and bullying. I want it modest and serving. I want it to feel broken like the broken Jesus and not trying to sort people into very precise understandings of humanity. I want it to accept the totality of broken humanity. Most of us are broken in one way or another and we struggle with our own meaning, with our own integrity, and our own sinfulness. And the thing I found in Jesus and the thing you can still find in some churches is an understanding of that. ‘Come onto me all ye who travail and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’   So, I’m back. But I can’t proclaim. I can’t evangelize. I can’t say what this is the truth. I don’t know what the absolute truth is. But I still catch a glimpse of the tiny figure of Jesus on a distant seashore kindling a fire, a fire of compassion and kindness. And I’ve become increasingly allergic to religious certainties. They seem to me only to crucify people…”

For those of us who remain and for those who have joined the church alumni, Holloway’s story is a compelling whisper that speaks with the very compassion for which he and we long for. He may no longer be a bishop in the institution, but he remains a shepherd to those who long to catch a glimpse of the tiny figure of Jesus who continues to call the religious out from under the tables that clutter our temples.

The Doubt Essential to Faith – Lesley Hazleton

CoexistI have featured Lesley Hazleton on this blog before. Hazleton’s insights into faith come from her unique perspective as an agnostic Jew whose fascination with Islam has produced two biographies of the Prophet Mohammad.

In her latest TED talk (June 23/13) Hazleton looks to the doubts experienced by the Prophet Mohammad to explore the relationship between faith and doubt, calling for a new appreciation of doubt as pivotal in the struggle to end the fundamentalism of all religions. It is well worth a listen!!!

A New Harmony: Re-Imagining St. Paul’s Vision of Oneness

interfaceThinking about this Sunday’s epistle reading, Galatians 3:23-29 and wondering how we might  re-imagine  the Apostle Paul’s insistence that in Christ “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Might it be that those of us who follow the way of Jesus need to consider subtracting our language about “Jesus Christ” as the source of our ONENESS in the One In Whom All Life Is Rooted? Can we begin to re-imagine language for what we mean by “Christ”? What can we learn from sisters and brothers who follow a different way to ONENESS?A New Harmony

John Philip Newell’s recent book, “New Harmony: The Spirit, The Earth, and The Human Soul” provides an Eastern perspective from which I’m looking anew at the Galatians reading. You can hear Newell reading from the chapter “Every Bush Is Burning” in which I trust preachers and seekers alike will find much to contemplate. Enjoy!

Demons or Baggage: Stop and Listen – a sermon for Pentecost 5C: Luke 8:26-39

voice withinBobby wasn’t like any other 10-year-old boy. Bobby had the face of an angel but the temperament of a devil. Bobby was a beautiful child. His blond hair and blue eyes together with his alabaster skin, pointed toward his Scandinavian heritage.  At first sight, Bobby appeared to be the kind of child that any congregation would be proud to count as a member. But, Bobby’s physical appearance was deceiving and Bobby’s presence in church was not welcome. Bobby didn’t go down to Sunday school classes with the other children.  The Sunday school teachers had tried to include Bobby, but after several parents threatened to withdraw their children, they asked Bobby’s parents not to send Bobby anymore. So Bobby stayed in the sanctuary with the adults. Most of the adult members tried to tolerate Bobby’s presence but for some, Bobby’s presence was simply unnerving. Bobby is autistic. Sitting and behaving in church was impossible for him. As long as we were singing hymns, Bobby was happy.  He would catch the rhythms of the music and rock back and forth and sing. He never sang the same words as the rest of the congregation.  But it was clear from his movements and the sounds that emanated from his lips that Bobby was singing. The trouble was that Bobby never stopped singing when we did. When his parents would attempt to put an end to Bobby’s song, he would flail about and sometime throw himself on the floor.

Now there are some churches where flailing about and throwing one’s self to the floor would be interpreted as a sign that the Holy Spirit was at work. But in this little Lutheran church, the reaction of the worshippers to Bobby’s outbursts made it clear that they feared that Bobby was possessed by spirits of the evil variety. Oh, they would never have come out and said that Bobby was possessed by demons, they just acted as if he were. Bobby’s favorite part of the service was communion.  I think that he enjoyed the opportunity to walk up to the front of the church and kneel at the altar.  When the Pastor would place a communion wafer in his hands, Bobby would giggle with glee.  Bobby never ate the communion wafer; he would just hold it up to the light and smile. The communion wine was another thing altogether. Sometimes Bobby’s mother would try to help him drink from the common cup.  Sometimes Bobby would dunk his wafer into the intinction cup and slop wine everywhere.  At other times Bobby would be so preoccupied with his wafer that he just let the cup pass him by. On a good day Bobby’s behavior only made people uncomfortable. On a bad day, Bobby’s behavior embarrassed some, offended others, and sometimes outraged many.

I remember being summoned to an extra-ordinary council meeting. The meeting had been called to deal with the complaints and concerns of several long time members of the congregation that had decided that Bobby’s presence could now longer be tolerated at worship. The people who were complaining were not bad people.  They were fine upstanding members of the congregation who found themselves unable to deal with Bobby’s presence in their midst. During the meeting we agonized over what to do.  Continue reading

Open Hands – Pentecost 4C Sermon

open handsI am indebted to Dr. Martha Ellen Stortz for the metaphor of open hands.

Listen to the sermon here

In the Sweet By and By, I’ll Fly Away!

Metaphor - pastordawnThird Sunday after Pentecost

June 9, 2013 – Readings: 1 Kings 17:17-24 and Luke 7:11-17

Listen to the sermon here

“Isness is God” – Meister Eckhart

Isness IS God Eckhart Fox Pastor Dawn

Back in the 19th century, Rudolf Otto described the Holy One that we encounter as: “mysterium, tremendum et fascinans.” “Mysterium” captures the indescribable nature of the Holy. “Tremendum” …we get our word tremble from this; and in the presence of the Holy we tremble because the Holy is so far beyond our abilities to cope with. And yet we are “facinans,” fascinated to the point where we long to return over and over again into the presence of the Holy. Sadly, the image of God that has been created for us by religion can’t possibly contain all that the Holy IS.  images

In his book  “Insurrection” Peter Rollins insists that, for a multitude of reasons we are all too willing to settle for what Bonheoffer called the God of Religion. For Bonheoffer, the Church approached God as a “deus ex machina.” God was merely an idea clumsily dropped into our world in order to fulfill a task. God was introduced into the world on our terms in order to resolve a problem rather than expressing a lived reality. The result is a God who simply justifies our beliefs and helps us sleep comfortable at night. God is brought into the picture only when we face a problem of some kind that doesn’t lend itself to solution by other means. This “deus ex machina” falls far short of the God we meet in the Thin Places of our lives; those places or events in which we encounter the Divine. Only by letting go of the god we have created for ourselves can we begin to describe the encounter with the ONE who IS. 


Butterfly Effect: Small But Not Insignificant!

butterfly effectReturning to work after a week’s vacation and I am inundated by a slew of emails urging me to do something/anything about this or that disaster/dilemma/outrage. Do the authors of these electronic pleas really believe that I can make a difference? Will anyone really notice if I delete a week’s worth of urgent requests for my attention? Will anything really change if I lend my attention to one or two of the more compelling pleas? Paralyzed by the enormity of need, I fixed myself a cup of coffee and went outside to think. I was joined by a butterfly; a red admiral to be precise. Remembering that the ancient Greeks called butterflies “psyche” which was also their word for “soul”, I could help wondering how far this brief little life would take this little soul. Had she travelled here from South America? How far north would she go? I used to have a little six-year-old friend who called them “flutter-bys” and his backwards utterances of delight at their presence brought a smile to my lips that came to me from a time long ago. My reverie was interrupted by what I gather an entomologist would call a “rabble” as more and more butterflies fluttered by. It was then that I remembered the “butterfly effect”. 

It seems that back in the sixties there was this mathematician named Edward Lorenz who worked at MIT as a meteorologist. Lorenz was trying to use complicated mathematical formulas to develop models to predict the weather. During the course of his research, Lorenz discovered that his precise mathematical formulas could not process the weather data in a rational way. No matter how many times he ran his models, he could not predict the weather. Apparently, small differences along the way could have huge implications down the road. Lorenz coined the phrase:  “Butterfly Effect” to describe the phenomena that he was observing in his laboratory. Nowadays, quantum physicists use the same term in chaos theory to describe what happens when a small change in one place in a system can result in large difference to a later state.  Apparently, when a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil it can create a storm in Central Park. The mere flapping of a butterfly wing has a ripple effect that multiplies over time and changes weather patterns thousand of miles away.

Small though our responses may appear when compared to the colossal need in the world, they are not in and of themselves insignificant! Remembering the Christian use of butterflies as a symbol of resurrection, I returned to my office to give those electronic pleas my utmost attention.

Jonah: I love a big fish story!!!

jonahI 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!