Empire of Faith: A Brief History of Islam

Jesus & ISISAt Holy Cross, our adult education class has been involved in a conversation about Jesus’ teachings about non-violent resistance and loving our enemies and how or what impact those teachings have on our response to ISIS. During our conversations, many participants have expressed concern about our lack of knowledge about Islam. Without an understanding of the history, traditions, teachings and practices of Islam it is difficult to comprehend just how far violent jihadists deviate from the Islamic faith.  I loved history when I was in school, but I do not recall ever learning anything about the history of Islam. Over the years, I have been blessed with friends and associates who have helped me to realize just how much I have to learn about the faith of my neighbours. My love of history continues to serve me well as I explore the wonders of Islam. I realize that many people just don’t have the time or inclination to put in the hours it takes to gain a working knowledge of Islam. However, we do owe it to our neighbours to gain an inkling of their traditions.  So, as a way to begin to understand the history of Islam, I suggest watching the excellent PBS documentary series, Empire of Faith. Our conversation continue Sunday Oct 26 at 9:15am

What Is the Purpose of My Life? – Sister Joan Chittister

sage-ing“What do you do?” not “What is your job?”  Pushing us to move beyond limiting our understanding of who we are. At 78, Sister Joan Chittister continues to be an inspiration to those of us who seek to know the purpose of our creation. To those of us who are nearing or have reached retirement, Sister Joan insists that there is so much for us to do in the world. “If you want to know if your work on earth is done, if you are still alive it is not done!” There is vital work that needs doing and you have the wisdom and skills necessary to be vital. Recorded on October 12, 2014 at Christ Church Charlotte’s Faith Forum. 

Resources for All Saints’ Sunday

all saints sunday

Preparing for All Saints’ Sunday? These posts may be helpful.

Telling Our Stories of the Saints in Our Lives

All Saints – Giving Thanks for the Divine in One-another


Jesus and ISIS – adult education class

This past Sunday, while studying the prayer attributed to Jesus, various questions arose about “forgiving those who trespass against us” which led to a conversation about loving our neighbours. One question in particular: “How can we love ISIS?” revealed how many of us are wrestling with the question of violence. As a class we decided to change the Adult Education schedule so that we might spend more time talking together about questions arising as a result of Canada’s involvement in the current struggle with ISIS. None of us could have imagined the tragic events of this week. As we struggle to come to terms with the violence which has been perpetrated in Canada, the loss of innocent victims, and the loss of innocence our nation is grappling with, it seems even more important for us to gather as a community to think, pray, respond, and support one another.

So, this Sunday our Adult Education class began to consider questions concerning the challenging teachings of Jesus and our responses to violence, especially in regard to the struggle against ISIS. Below is an audio recording of the conversation and a copy of the Keynote presentation used during the class. Our conversation continues next Sunday Nov. 2nd. 

Wrestling with God: a Confirmation sermon – Genesis 32

wrestlingIn addition to celebrating Reformation Sunday it was also Confirmation Sunday as two young men Affirmed their faith. Listen to the sermon below or click here


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