For those of you preaching on the text from Genesis 32:3-31:
You may not be able to tell from looking at me. But let me assure you that you are looking at someone who used to be a champion wrestler. Believe it or not, my wrestling skills actually helped me rise to the level of a world champion wrestler. Well, perhaps I should qualify that statement. When I was an amateur wrestler, I was a world-class champion wrestler. But like so many athletes, when my status changed from amateur to professional, I lost my championship status and although I still qualify as a professional wrestler, and I like to see myself as a champion, I’m no longer what you would call world-class.
Like many professional wrestlers my career began when I was but a child. Growing up I had a very clear advantage as I developed my wrestling skills. You see having a brother who was just 18 months younger than me meant that I had ample opportunities to hone my wrestling skills. My brother and I were always at it. I’ve got to say that even though we shared the same weight class for most of our childhood, when it came to world class wrestling holds, I had him beat. I had this wicked arm-hold sleeper, and that together with my full Nelson followed by a knee-arm press, was guaranteed to have my brother screaming uncle and agreeing to be my obedient servant until in no time at all. For years I reigned as the champion of our little world! I was unbeatable. My brother didn’t stand a chance. My reign as world champion would have continued if it weren’t for the abrupt ending of my amateur status.
One morning when I was about 13 and my brother was 9 and a half, we were going at it, and to his credit my bother had me in an ingenious hold. Somehow, he’d managed to secure me with what we professional wrestlers call an arm bar. That’s where you’re opponent wrenches your arm behind your back and applies just enough pressure to cause pain, but not enough to break anything. But just when Alan was approaching the point of no return, I managed with a feat of superhuman strength to rise up, twist around and swing for all I was worth and connect with what I though must be my brothers chest. I expected that such a thrust would have released my arm from Alan’s iron grip. But he still had me. I was about to hit him again, when for no apparent reason Alan released me from his grip. In an instant I wiggled free, spun around and connected with what I figured would be a fatal blow. Just before my blow connected with it’s victim, I realized that I was doomed.
It has been a very long time since I read a novel categorized as “young adult” or “teen” fiction. But when a fourteen-year-old goes out of his way to recommend a novel to his pastor, I pay attention. I was delighted to discover that The Fault In Our Stars portrays young people living with big questions without resorting to easy answers. Indeed, the characters in John Green’s account of living with cancer, refuse to accept easy answers and learn to live with the ambiguity of life’s deepest mysteries even as they cope with the realities of impending death. This is a splendid read for all ages, especially for those of us who have long since left the coping strategies of the varieties of Christianity that are trapped within the limitations of a three tiered universe. Green brilliantly captures the gallows humour of those who must endure the efforts of care-givers while steadfastly refusing to “buy into the cancer-book genre.” Green’s time as a chaplain in a children’s hospital shows as does his ability to live in the questions. Following the success of the book, which debuted at #1 on the New York Best Seller list, has opened at #1 at the box-office. But, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this book which will make you laugh, cry, cheer, and think!! I have not yet experienced the movie for fear that it will interfere with my appreciation of the characters who live on in my imagination. Enjoy the first chapter, read by John Green.
Filmed July 14, 2014 at Chautauqua, Sister Joan Chittister explores, as only she can, “the role of the public intellectual (that’s you) in a society crammed with talking points, canned news, and Maddison Avenue politics and politicians.” This lecture is a MUST-VIEW for anyone who engages in public discourse in order to move us beyond intellectual slavery to institutions and tradition!!! Enjoy!!!
Jack concludes his five day lecture series by explaining the Crucifixion in the fourth Gospel. (filmed June 27, 2014) Our friends at College Street United Church in Toronto will be hosting Jack April 17-18, 2015. I shall post more details when they are available.
On this Canada Day, my wife and I begin our drive across this great land. Each time I make the trip from the east to the west, I am struck by the vastness of this land we call home. This year I take with me the deep impressions left upon my heart by our Synod’s Convention where we explored the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work to come to terms with our nation’s shameful history. I know that I shall travel this land with hope-filled eyes, trusting that the work we have begun will open us to the work of reconciliation with our First Nations sisters and brothers. As we celebrate this land, let us remember those whose welcome of our ancestors came at such great cost. Let us find ways to walk together into our future open to the possibilities of reconciliation. Happy Canada Day EVERYONE!
Here’s a re-posting of a sermon preached last Canada Day which explores some of the work that lies before us:
I 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