Monday, November 20, 2006

 

Buzzing in a new place!

Holybuzz is in a new location with its own domain and really great graphics!

See you @ www.holybuzz.ca.

Kevin

Monday, June 26, 2006

 
It was a great Sunday at SMK yesterday! In the morning, all our music was chosen by Bill and Diana and their family as part of our summer music series "These Are A Few Of My Favourite Hymns" (with apologies to Oscar and Hammerstein). Also, we introduced Maria Olsson of the Swedish Lutheran Church. She will be with us for the coming year.

At noon, everybody piled down to Locarno Beach for a picnic. On the way there I stopped by Joe and Jill's to pick up one of the fresh rainbow trout they caught on fly rods last week in the Cariboo region of BC. Instead of taking it home to put in the frig, I brought it to the picnic and grilled it over hot charcoal. What a treat!

It was about as hot as it ever gets in Vancouver - over 30 degrees Celsius. What a perfect day for fellowship at the beach with games for the kids and conversation among the adults.

Last night was an ordination service at Christ Church Cathedral downtown. All in all, a full and satisfying day.

Monday, June 19, 2006

 

Tarnished Tale of Tolerance

"There will be peace on earth when there is peace among the world religions." Hans Kung

The story of conflict among religious people is old and woeful. In the contemporary world we see conflict between Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land, between Christians and Muslims in Sudan, and among Christians themselves in North America. In 1 Samuel 6, is an example of it from the ancient world.

At first, the story seems to be one in which God won the respect of an alien people. The Philistines, wary of the divine power symbolized by the Ark, returned it to the Israelites at Beth-shemesh. Seemingly, a good turn of events for the people of Israel. But then the story goes in an unexpected direction. No sooner did the Israelites have the Ark back than they began to fight among themselves. Deciding it was a holy potato too hot to handle, the people of Beth-shemesh gladly relinquished the Ark to their neighbours at Kiriath-jearim. All for the sake of expedience. So much for retaining the respect of the Philistines!

Mitra Sen, Canadian teacher, filmmaker, and creator of the Peace Tree said: "Let us embrace the beauty of every culture and faith to create peace in our world." The Church’s historical record of religious tolerance is a tarnished one. But is it beyond imagination to think that, for the sake of peace, Christians can hold in reverence the beliefs of others, while still remaining faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ?


Friday, June 16, 2006

 

Okay, okay

Hi my name is Kevin. I'm a recovering Blogger. That's for you, MW!

This week, Ivan and Maria Olsson arrived in Vancouver from Sweden. They are here for a year while Ivan does research at UBC. He specializes in Brown Trout migration. Here's a question for you; if migrating is dangerous - you know, rapids, big fish, exhaustion, etc. - why do they bother? Why not just stay in a cozy brook and raise a happy litter of troutlets? Apparently, part of his research addresses this question of why fish migrate. I'll keep you posted.

Maria is a pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Church. She is responsible for the Barnes Katedral - that is, the "Children's Church" - in Karlstad. In contrast to many Swedish parishes, hers is "getting a little bit crowded" with as many as 350 in attendance! Maria is going to be somewhat involved at SMK in the coming year. Being a new mom with a three month old baby is going to keep her pretty occupied but, even as she shares ideas from her own experience, what a God-given blessing she will be to the kid's program at SMK!

This Sunday - serendipitously -will be a unique Sunday for us. We'll be worshipping at 9:15 in the gym, and modelling the Montessori-based Godly Play experience that children in our Sunday School program have been enjoying for the past year. Fun, and praise-filled!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

 

Back on track

Going from Synod to the Keys of the Kingdom conference, to the visit of Richard Bower, left me with little time for blogging or many other things I normally do! I even had to skip my Spanish class last week for lack of prep time (now that's serious!).

Many people in Vancouver are grieving the death of Madeleine Austin on the weekend. She touched the lives of many people through her involvement at St. George's School and also at West Point Grey Academy, where Diane teaches. We're feeling sad for her husband Clive and for their children Felicity, Patrick and Fiona.

There will be a memorial service for Madeleine at SMK on June 21 at 4:00 p.m.

Thanks be to God for a loving woman's life well-lived.

Friday, June 09, 2006

 

Cristosal

Richard Bower, the executive director of the Cristosal Foundation, is here from Vermont this weekend. He's preaching at SMK on Sunday morning and then meeting with the El Salvador support group on Sunday afternoon. We're also expecting the Consul General of El Salvador who is headquartered in Vancouver to be with us.

 

The power of symbols

When the Philistines took the captured Ark of the Covenant to Ashdod, and placed it next to their god Dagon, perhaps they thought it would be merely a public curiosity (1 Samuel 5).

The power of symbols is often underestimated. Certainly that was the case for the “Baggage Handler,” a nude statue that appeared in the centre of a traffic circle in Penticton, British Columbia last November. Surrounded by colourful suitcases representing emotional baggage, the artwork was promptly removed from the town of Penticton in the wake of its controversy.

For the Philistines, the consequence of installing the Ark next to their god Dagon was more than they had counted on. The figure of Dagon was toppled, the people of Ashdod fell ill, and soon no one wanted the Ark anywhere in Philistine territory. The significance of the Ark had become apparent. It was a symbol of the power of Israel’s god.

Perhaps we too need to be reminded of the power of the symbols of our faith. For example, when we read from the Bible, do we take to heart the ancient and life-giving significance of its words? When we receive the bread and the cup of new life in Christ, do we pause to reflect on how they represent the sacrificial love of Jesus, and what the eucharist means in our own life?

Christian symbols are more than the hardware of our faith. Like the Ark, they signify the power of God. The power to topple our allegiance to false gods.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

Courageous whistleblowers

At every point in history, God has put people on the earth with courage to shine a spotlight of truth into the darkest recesses of the human heart. The Old Testament prophet Micah was one of these people. A Biblical whistleblower. He observed that those in places of power too willingly misuse their position for personal gain. So, in the Lord’s name, he stood up for the defenseless ones when corrupt leaders exploited them.

People like Micah often pay a price for their courage. Take Jeffrey Wigand for instance. A former employee of Brown & Williamson Tobacco, he revealed publicly that executives of tobacco companies in the United States not only knew that cigarettes were addictive, but also that they added ingredients to make them more potent. Subsequently Wigand was harassed and received anonymous death threats. He now teaches high school.

People like Micah and Wigand are examples of moral courage. They remind us that every human life is precious and interwoven, and that we must conduct ourselves with moral courage for the very sake of our humanity. We need each other. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:1). To exploit others is a terrible thing. To turn one’s back on a situation of exploitation is to be complicit in the evil.

Followers of Jesus are challenged to live up to the examples God has given us. What does it mean personally to be a person of moral courage? In your life and mine, what price is paid for the sake of truth?


Monday, June 05, 2006

 

Make poverty history

Today, I became part of an unprecedented global call to action to end poverty: Make Poverty History. Click here to visit the site and sign on.

Right now, there is active campaigning in over 50 countries around the three core demands: More and Better Aid, Make Trade Fair, and Cancel the Debt. In Canada, we're also campaigning to End Child Poverty in Canada.

You've just got to be a part of this campaign. There is no time to lose. It doesn't matter who or where you are, your voice is critical to the success of this campaign. This is a rare chance to join me and thousands of others across the planet to once and for all make poverty history.

What you can do right now:

"If everyone who wants to see an end to poverty, hunger and suffering speaks out, then the noise will be deafening. Politicians will have to listen."
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu


 

Jesus shows up

Jesus shows up. Isn’t this a central theme in the gospels?

On an evening three days after Jesus’ crucifixion, when the disciples were cowering behind locked doors, Jesus showed up and said, “Peace be with you.” Jesus wanted them to experience a deep peace, surpassing anything they’d ever experienced. But, according to John’s gospel, having said it once, Jesus said it again, “Peace be with you.”

Why twice? Maybe Jesus had to repeat himself because mistrust and fearfulness were so deeply engrained in the disciples that they couldn’t shake it off easily. Sound familiar? Currents of doubt run deep within us. If Christ walked into the place where you are right now, would you believe it was Jesus? Would you accept him at his word, or would you demand to see more proof?

Jesus does show up, on the pages of the Bible and in our daily lives. He walks into hospital rooms in the guise of a compassionate nurse. He shows up in prisons looking like a visitor from a local church. He comes to the door of homes and stores and offices and archives looking for all the world like a postal carrier, while bringing messages of love and encouragement and support.

Can we see past the surface to recognize Jesus making his presence felt in unexpected ways? Jesus shows up and offers the gift of peace.


 

Keys of the Kingdom

Attended a conference last week called "Keys of the Kingdom." The speaker was Kennon Callahan. He was talking about what makes a church thrive.

Dr. Callaham was a big influence on my ministry years ago. He wrote a booked called Twelve Keys to an Effective Church that made a big difference to my way of thinking about how to "do" church. Something he said last week that really stuck with me had to do with church size. He commented on mega-churches by saying they offer "stadium" worship. But most people aren't looking for an experience of "stadium" when they gather to worship God. They're looking for belonging and family. Callahan remarked that you don't find a Starbucks that seats 500 people. You find 500 Starbucks! Interesting.

I hope we can get a group of 5-6 people together to talk about the possibility of starting a Saturday service at SMK either in the fall or in January. It would be great, I think, if we could offer something for young families with kids who are wrapped up in soccer and baseball on Sunday mornings.

Monday, May 29, 2006

 

When we feel betrayed

I finished off the "One Love, One Heart" series at SMK yesterday. Congratulations to Aoi who won the T-shirt. Can you believe Aoi actually set her alarm to get up early in order to be at SMK for 8:00 a.m. just to be sure she'd win it! She's a big Bob Marley fan. In fact, she's off to Jamaica on Friday for two weeks of volunteer work there. Keep her in your prayers.

My message was based on John 17, and Jesus' words, "Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth." I talked about the experience of betrayal, Jesus' experience of it, and his desire that his disciples be prepared to face it.

It’s important not to give in to the insidious power of betrayal. Not to become mistrustful. After all, once our capacity to trust has been destroyed, our ability to form healthy relationships is impaired, too. Whether it’s with God, or our spouse, or a colleague, or among nations and corporations, trust forms the basis of healthy cooperation.

People will often look to their own self interests. The only sin is selfishness, and we're lured into selfish behaviour so easily. We need to be “sanctified in the truth” so that we can discern what is honorable, so that we can distinguish truth from a lie, and so our capacity to trust is not undermined. Sanctified in the truth we can continue to serve others' best interests, look for the best in others, and bring grace to graceless places.

Bob Marley – whose experience was shaped by life in the developing world – asked a lyrical question about the limits of grace. As he reflected on the phenomenon of slander and smears, he posed this query in verse: “Let them all pass all their dirty remarks / There is one question I’d really love to ask / Is there a place for the hopeless sinner / Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?”

Good question, don’t you think? Bob asks, is there a place in heaven for the ones who hurt others for the satisfaction of their own selfish interests? Or to make this question more personal, is there room in heaven for me? For you?

To be sanctified in the truth is to invoke the power of God to help face the betrayal of trust. To be sanctified in the truth is to embrace a continued hope, faith, and reliance on the power of God, coupled with the willingness to face reality for what it is. To be sanctified in the truth is to experience the determination to pick ourselves up, and seek ways to apply grace to what has put us down.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

 

*Whew* Meeting adjourned!

Just home from Diocesan Synod. Okay, a correction and a little humble pie. First, I guess I was wrong about the chickpool to Synod. Turns out Elizabeth was right and I was (I admit it, and you've got it admit, it takes a pretty big man to admit it...) wrong. There were three women in the Audi and three men in the Mazda. Of course, we could have all fit in the Mazda to help save the earth, fending off greenhouse gas and demonstrating our commitment to going green, but I guess a ride in a nice Audi with leather interior beats out a Mazda... and noble principle.

Not that I'm bitter! Not about being wrong about the chickpool OR about not having won any prizes at Synod. This is the humble pie part. Not that I'm competitive or anything. And it wasn't like the childish desire for extra points made me decide we should bring our OWN blue box for recycling at our Synod table. I'm just environmentally responsible. Really. I am. It's just that I really wanted a prize.

Anyway, Synod was quiet. Controversial resolutions got referred to Diocesan Council. Our youth delegate from SMK got elected to Diocesan Council. I got elected to General Synod. Six-year-old Matthew made his speech about recycling. Sallie McFague talked very compellingly about the fact that we humans need other species on the planet, but no other species really needs us. That we're all connected, and that it's important to conduct ourselves with the awareness of our interconnectedness. That dominion of the earth should not be confused with domination of it. All in all, good discussions. And it's adjourned. Whew.

Tomorrow morning is part four of "One Love, One Heart." We're expecting a visitor. Stephanie, who can come at 9:15 'cause her tee-off time isn't 'til 3:00. Green pastures in the morning, and green fees in the afternoon!

Friday, May 26, 2006

 

Going Green

Today is Day One of annual Synod. Representatives from Anglican parishes around the Lower Mainland will convene at Capilano College today and tomorrow. Synod is our decision-making body and, although the meetings are long, there's a certain excitement when everybody comes together in a spirit of Christian purpose.

This year, Synod is going green! The theme is "And God Created... ." Representatives are urged to walk, bike, take public transit, or carpool to North Vancouver both days. And there are prizes! (BTW, I am totally amazed by how pumped one person at SMK is feeling about the possibility that she might win that Bob Marley T-shirt at the conclusion of my "One Love, One Heart" series this Sunday!)

Anyway, the delegates from SMK are vanpooling to Synod. Contrary to what Elizabeth would like us all to think, it's not a "chick van." There will, in fact, be a few Y chromosomes in the van... not least, the driver!

We're gonna win a PRIZE! And everybody from other churches will be GREEN with envy!

Yeah! Go green!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

 

Viva El Salvador

We had the first gathering of the El Salvador support group at SMK last night. Most of the adults from SMK who've been to El Salvador in the past couple of years were at the meeting. What made it especially great was that Rosa Elena Moreno, the newly appointed Consul General of El Salvador, who works here in Vancouver, was with us. She's very keen to support the work of this support group. Also, we enjoyed the presence of Jeffrey Moore, the honorary consul of El Salvador, who lives here in Vancouver. Jeffrey's great uncle, Walter Soundy, established a Foundation in El Salvador to benefit the neediest people in the departamente (state) of La Libertad. Jeffrey has been an unstinting advocate for the people of El Salvador.

It was a very positive session as we talked about how SMK can continue to support the work of the Iglesia Anglicana in El Salvador. Thanks to everybody who came out!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

 

Evoke

The new SMK website should be up and running in a few weeks. One feature of the site will be an online daily Biblical reflection called "Evoke." It'll be based on the ecumenical daily lectionary, and there will be the potential to subscribe as well as to log on.

I'm going to write the first few months worth of 150 word reflections, and I'm planning to invite a couple of friends in other places than Vancouver to write three-month cycles, too.

What I'd especially like to do is to gather a group of interested local people to take turns writing reflections. The group could get together physically once every month or so to pray together and encourage one another in their writing.

If we had a group of 10 people responsible for a 90 day period, well, you can do the math, it would be nine reflections written by each person during that period. It would probably be anonymous, except, perhaps, to introduce the members of the group collectively. What do you think of that idea? Do you think you might be interested? Let me know!

 

The Tale of Queen Victoria and the Smelt

It's been the Victoria Day Weekend in Canada. In some parts of the country it's what people call the May Two-Four. Not because Queen Victoria's birthday was May 24, but because it's the weekend lots of Canadian youth go camping and take a Two-Four (24 bottle case) of beer with them!

None of that around here, I'm afraid.

Sunday morning at SMK nobody needed to feel their personal space was being crowded in the pews. Our music staff was on Vancouver Island for an annual conference, our youth ministry director was the keynote speaker at a Presbyterian youth conference in northern British Columbia, and the children's program was a video of "The Miracles of Jesus."

What was interesting about Sunday for me is that, yet again, we had another family in church who have recently arrived in Canada from Mainland China. It seems week-by-week that more and more Asian families are finding their way into SMK. Many of them became Christians in China, and they bring a unique cultural perspective to the faith. Our challenge as a church is to find ways to respond effectively, especially as newcomers' language skills are developing.

Next fall, we'll be offering simultaneous interpretation from English to Mandarin during the 9:15 service, and English as a Second Language (ESL) Bible classes on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. It might be good for us to be thinking about some other mid-week small group that can be offered that will help with mutual cultural integration.

We've had a friend - David - visiting from Ontario since Friday. He is from the village of Lion's Head in Ontario, a place almost as picturesque as its name. David was a parishioner while I served the church there from 1987 to 1991. He heads home tomorrow.

Yesterday, we made a run to Deep Cove where some type of smelt - maybe oolicans - were teeming in the harbour. That was cool to see. Then a lunch of sushi. No connection between the smelt and the sushi! Then over to Lynn Canyon to see the spring run-off from the mountains roaring through the spectacular gorge there. Then to Commercial Drive to pick up provisions for a spaghetti and meatball dinner last night.

While we were on Commercial, we bumped into Spice Lucks, the realtor who sold us our home when we first came to Vancouver nine years ago. She has been travelling in Thailand for most of the past year. Interesting to hear about the spiritual awakening she has had. She was in Thailand at the time of the Tsunami, and this motivated her to return to Asia. She has a deep and profound urge to contribute to genuine harmony in the world. I pray she'll find the fulfillment she seeks, and that her actions and attitude will bear fruit. We are all connected, so it's not her work alone. We all play a part.

It's going to be a full week with the lead-up to our annual diocesan synod. I'm the chair of a committee responsible for a sizeable presentation on Friday, and also for distributing sample packages of print resources available for use by local churches during autumn financial pledge appeals.

Friday, May 19, 2006

 

Spiritual Purpose

Just had lunch with a great friend. He came to Christ after a men's weekend on Saltspring Island a few years back. As we stood on the deck of a BC Ferry, with a group of men standing around him, we prayed that his life would be filled with the light and love of Christ. Then, after 'Amen' and a bunch of hugs, we threatened to throw him over the rail as a form of immediate baptism!

Everybody's life has its ups-and-downs. Right now, my friend's life is on an "up." He's reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. It's amazing to me how many churches and lives have been changed by this book!

Last summer, I carried a copy of TPDL from El Salvador to Sweden, through Europe and on to Jerusalem. Never did read it, actually, but it sure looks well-thumbed now!

Listen. There may be a few folks around SMK who'd like to explore this book. If you'd be interested in being part of a group to do this, shoot me an email. If you think it's something you'd prefer to do online, starting in September, let me know.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

 

The Tipping Point

Sorry, friends! Tried yesterday to post to holybuzz, but something went wrong with the system. Dead air in the blogosphere!

I've been reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. It's a great read for anybody interested in the how and why of the contagious spread of some ideas, or fashions, or whatever. Gladwell says that when an idea, for instance, becomes contagious it "tips" and takes on a life of it's own. It can be like a positive epidemic.

I spend a lot of time thinking about why some communities of faith grow, while others don't. It's something I pray about. Especially with regard to SMK. As followers of Jesus, we'd do well to listen to the insights in The Tipping Point. About the power of word of mouth. About the people who have a particular knack for making things "tip." When there are great and God-glorifying things happening in our churches, we serve God by telling the stories of ministry, how they build God's reign, and how they make us feel.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

 

Spirit Bears

The streets of Vancouver are filled with seven foot tall bears! Spirit Bears in the City is a celebration of public art that benefits children and brings together business, the arts and tourism. Companies and individuals have sponsored these white, fibreglass sculptures. They've been transformed by B.C. artists into public art for display on city streets this summer. They fund programs to help children with physical and mental disabilities, and raise public awareness of the Kermode or Spirit Bear, which is found only in British Columbia's northern forests and is widely recognized for its unique white colouring.

A First Nations legend says that Raven, the Creator, went among the black bears and turned every tenth bear white to serve as a reminder of a time when the Earth's great glaciers covered the landscape.

God's creation serves to point our attention toward the God who created and loves us. God desires not only that we worship God, but that we be agents of harmony. "All this is from God," said St. Paul, "Who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation
(2 Cor. 5:18). The reconciliation God yearns for, and that will mark the reality of God's reign, extends even beyond humans. The Bible says, "The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox" (Isaiah 11:7).

Could it be that these symbols on the streets of Vancouver will remind us of God's purpose for the world?

Monday, May 15, 2006

 

Through a glass, darkly

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Fairy tales, ancient myths, even the Bible use the device of a mirror to shine light on hypocrisy and to help us see ourselves more clearly. But it’s not enough just to take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror. We also need to remember what we’ve seen there.

It’s about living life with integrity. Every day. Integrity is measured not just by a high ethical standard, but also by our compassion. St. Paul knew it isn’t easy: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” We suffer a conflict between our will and our actions. It’s a frustrating part of the quest for wholeness.

I ask myself:

Of course, a life lived with integrity is much more complex than this. It has to do with allowing God to order our inner world so that our thoughts and feelings and desires, and the activities that stem from these, are consistent with the gospel of purity and compassion. And, speaking of compassion, we need to have compassion for ourselves when our lives do not conform to the gospel. Growing into a life of integrity is a gradual thing.

There’s a wonderful painting by Michelangelo Caravaggio that depicts Mary Magdalene peering into a clouded looking-glass. You’ll remember that Mary Magdalene has traditionally been portrayed as a woman who turned from prostitution to follow Jesus. In Caravaggio’s painting, Mary is shown to be beautiful and serene. Her skin is smooth and her eyes are clear. She’s come a long way from the streets. But still, her face doesn’t show in the darkened mirror. Her reflection is obscured. She can’t see in herself what Jesus has helped her become.

Carvaggio captured the essence of seeking a life of integrity. We need to look into the mirror and remember what we’ve seen there. Also, we must be gentle with ourselves when we can’t see clearly how much good God has done in our lives already. God sees in us the finished product, even when we can’t. In God’s eyes, we are beloved children, created in God’s image. We mustn’t beat up on ourselves because we’re not perfect. God’s power is at work within us, helping us to become the people God has created us to be.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly.” That’s what St. Paul said to the Corinthians in that passage we often hear at weddings. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as I am fully known.”


Saturday, May 13, 2006

 

Little 'Raspberry'

I just got off the phone with my niece, Hilary. She and Mark got married two years ago, and I had the joy of officiating their wedding in London, Ontario.

Now, the exciting news: they're going to have a baby! Due on December 25. Just like the Baby Jesus!

Obviously, at this point in the game, the child in the womb is pretty tiny. About the size of a raspberry. So, for now, that's the name... "Little Raspberry."

Do you think my mother is excited? Do you think, for the sake of freshness, I could be called "Super Uncle" instead of great uncle?

Praise God
, and congratulations, Hilary and Mark!

Friday, May 12, 2006

 

Bienvenidos!

Fusion Latina is a choir of Latin Americans, mostly Venezuelans, who rehearse at SMK on Tuesday evenings. The choir is directed by Fabiana Katz, an Argentinian woman of Sephardic heritage. Fabiana is a friend and a very talented musician.

This week, a representative - Tomas Salcedo Albert - of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is visiting Vancouver from Ottawa. Fusion Latina presented an exclusive concert for him at SMK, to which I was invited. Have you ever sat in a church that can accommodate 650 people for a concert with an audience of two, plus a few family members of the choristers? What an honour! Now I know what royalty feels like when Elton John performs in the family room at Buckingham Palace!

What made me feel especially good was to discover how well my Spanish studies are paying off. I was able to extend an articulate welcome to Sr. Albert in his own language. Well, I thought it was articulate, anyway.

Over the past year or so, I've gotten a bit acquainted with some of the singers in Fusion Latina. It's been a subtle form of evangelism - hospitality really - that makes people feel comfortable. I think of the circumstances that make a person decide to leave his or her homeland, and in one way or another they must have experienced some agonizing. "Welcome the stranger," Jesus said. Sometimes, living the faith as a follower of Jesus is about nothing more complex than that! Being hospitable.

By the way, the concert was really great!

 

Know yourself

We had a great discussion last night with a group of people at SMK who are brilliantly talented in the field of communications, marketing, public relations, and strategic planning. Most of the folks around the table have been involved at SMK for only a few years, although a few of us with longer memories took part, too.

Paul Borthistle was with us to remind us of the story about the sentry who stopped an old rabbi as the rabbi approached a government headquarters building.

The sentry asked the rabbi, "Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going?"

The rabbi said, "My gosh? How much do they pay you to ask those questions? I'll pay you twice as much to come to my synagogue, and pose the same questions to the congregation each week!"

It's important that we know ourselves. That we reflect deeply, individually and within communities of faith, on the questions concerning our identity and purpose.

I am very excited. And I thank God for this group of people. God will lead us to wonderful places as a result of this and future conversations. May we be open to the Holy Spirit's guidance.

 

Chic Jesus

Here's a picture of Laura Gilroy with Carly (in leather). Carly is a website designer.

John and Laura Gilroy arrived in Vancouver from England about a year ago. Yesterday, I went to their party at the Architectural Institute of British Columbia for the opening of John and Laura's show of stained glass art. They are master stained glass painters and they now have a studio called Gilroy Stained Glass here in Vancouver.

I thought it was really cool to see very contemporary stained glass displayed alongside very traditional examples of the kind of restoration work John and Laura were doing in England before coming to Canada. It felt even more this way because of the kind of Eurobeat music playing while urbane young architects swilled wine and noshed on typically west coast canapes. The art of the traditional church hit the mainstream.

There was freshness about the whole thing that I found really appealing. The traditional depiction of Jesus seated in glory in a Te Deum window had a classic beauty that was highlighted by the track lighting, and bare concrete, and other sparse elements of the gallery. If Jesus could have spoken from the window, I wonder if he'd have said he was glad to get out of the church and into the world!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

 

Machuca

My Spanish teacher loaned me a great film that I watched last night. It's called Machuca, and it was featured at the Vancouver Film Festival last fall. The story is set in Chile in 1973, and it's the story of the friendship between the privileged Gonzalo Infante and the underprivileged Pedro Machuca at an exclusive school for boys in Santiago. It unfolds agains the backdrop of the overthrow of Allende's socialist government by Pinochet.

I was really struck by the portrayal of the priest who is the headmaster of St. Patrick's English School. He takes the progressive but dangerous decision to permit boys from the barrio to enroll at the school. Tension arises in the school and in the streets and eventually the priest is removed.

There is a scene in the film when the priest interrupts an assembly being conducted in the chapel by his successor. He walks up to the aumbry, consumes every host of reserved sacrament, blows out the Presence lamp, and declares, "This is no longer a sanctified space." Then he departs. One by one the boys stand and respectfully say, "Adios Padre" (shades of Dead Poets Society).

There may be a variety of opinions whether the removal of reserved sacrament results in a space no longer being sanctified, but I was moved by the conviction of the priest. I understood him to be saying that where there is no love, compassion or equality, God is absent.

The writer of the epistle of John said, " And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him
(1 Jn 4:16). And as the Taize chant puts it, "Where charity and love are, God is."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

 

Walking and talking

Just back from an early morning walk with Diane. Sometimes, like today, I stroll up to her school with her. It's a good chance to catch up with the little thoughts running through each of our minds.

On the way home I stopped to pick up a coffee in a cardboard cup. It came from one of my favourite Canadian coffee shops (not that it's actually owned by Canadians any more, but what is?). This firm offers coffee that comes in sizes that conform to the adjectives we learned in school, like "small, medium, large." Of course there are other bits of Canadian dialect. For instance, at this place, when you ask for a "regular" coffee, it means it comes with one cream and one sugar, as opposed to asking for a "double double" and then you get two of each. It may not offer anything so stylish as a grande, low-fat, no-foam, half-caf' latte, but the affordable price means the clerk (that's normal-speak for "barista") doesn't check your credit rating at the till before passing the cup across the counter to you!

Anyway, while I was picking up my small black coffee, I met a Canadian soldier. He was in his fifties and wearing fatigues, so I'm guessing he was an officer involved in maneuvers. The coffe shop was just around the corner from the Jericho Garrison. I said to him, "Well, I guess having a Tim Horton's nearby is just one of the advantages of not being in Kandahar." He told me that the well-publicized lobbying by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan has had the result that there will, indeed, be a Tim Horton's at the base there shortly (short-ly as opposed to Vente-ly).

There's something nice about chatting with people from different walks of life. Just to strike up a friendly conversation with that guy felt like a good way to start the day. In the city, so often, we don't speak to strangers. But if we truly believe we are connected - that I need that soldier just as much as he needs me the priest - then we will engage one another for the sake of the human community.

This Sunday, I'll be preaching part three of my "One Love, One Heart" series. The topic will be "One Love, One Heart: When you feel alone." I think I'll promote the "good morning to you" campaign. How tough would it be for followers of Jesus to make more of an effort simply to say good morning to the people we meet on the street? They may be feeling alone.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

 

Paschal Mystery

When I was three years old, I made my preaching debut. It was Easter Sunday, and I lived with my parents and sister in a rented duplex in the small city of Woodstock, Ontario.

That morning, when I woke up, I opened my window, leaned out, and shouted at the top of my lungs, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Jesus is alive!!"

Of course, at age three, I didn't have the faintest idea of what I was proclaiming. I was barely born, let alone reborn. All I knew is that I felt good on Easter Day, and it had something to do with Jesus.

I've learned a bit since then, but I'm not sure I know much more. What I've learned is that resurrection is less about a historical event than about a lived experience. That God gives life when I expect death, light when I expect darkness, love when I expect fear, liberty when I expect confinement. What I don't know is how to fully stay in the experience of life, and light, and love, and liberty. It feels, sometimes, like grasping at floating soap bubbles. Just when I've grasped what I've been trying to hold, it's not there any more and I have to try again.

It's called "paschal mystery" (to quote the theologians and philosophers who get paid whopping salaries to invent meaningful terms). In effect, the pattern of Jesus' life, passion, death, and resurrection is the metaphor that is meant to inform my experience. Paschal mystery, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer described it, is when I - that is my "self" - get out of the way. Then, there is more room in the world for God. But, as long as I keep taking up more and more room, I push God out of the world, onto a cross.

I've learned this. I'm aware of what it's called. I preach it. But I'm a long way from knowing paschal mystery.

I can put it into words, but I can't dance it yet.



Monday, May 08, 2006

 

A Day Off on the high seas

A perfect spring day. After visiting the dentist this morning, I dropped by Starbucks for a couple cappucinos, then over to Scott and Laura's with them. Laura was there, and since I had a free day, we decided to head over to Lonsdale Quay on the seabus.

Here's a shot of Vivian on the seabus.

The seabus has got to be one of the best deals on the west coast. We picked up the city bus near Scott and Laura's house, then downtown to Waterfront Station. For a two zone fare, you get the bus ride, then the fifteen minute crossing of the Vancouver Harbour to North Vancouver - $3.25!

When we got there we strolled around the market at the Quay. Quiet on a
Monday, but a good destination with a two year old and a three month old.

We checked out the various stalls, then stopped for falafels at a Middle Eastern place. Everything seemed to be "George's specialty," and I'm sure it was George himself behind the counter making sure everything they served met his exacting standards.

The last time I had a falafel was last September at the open air stand in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. This one was pretty good, but a heck of a lot more expensive than Jerusalem!

Here's a view of North Vancouver, departing Lonsdale Quay on the way back to the Waterfront Centre downtown.

The big find of the day was a Bob Marley T-shirt I found at the market. Maybe I'll offer a prize to the first person present for all four parts of the "One Love, One Heart" preaching series who can also remember what all four parts were called. (Consolation prize: my sister's Caribbean recipe for rum punch!).

It's days like today that remind me how important relationships are. Just taking time to be with friends. Helping share the load of child care, or whatever. Just being there for one another. After all, God did put us on this earth to support and care for each other.
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Sunday, May 07, 2006

 

Sunday Thoughts

This morning I presented the second of four parts in my "One Love, One Heart" preaching series at SMK. It's amazing how, at times, my thoughts can come together so quickly as I prepare for preaching, and other times it's such a laborious process. This time -thanks be to God - was quick. So quick, in fact, that I wondered when I went to bed last night if it was going to sound pretty bad when I heard myself speaking this morning.

Judging by the feedback I received, it was what people needed to hear. I talked about "One Love, One Heart: When We Are Afraid." I hope people really heard the message, especially that the Bible repeats the imperative "Do not be afraid" 365 times in the Old and New Testaments. I saw a few people in tears during the sermon - not that people crying is the best measurement of a sermon's effectiveness. Sometimes their hearts are touched by the message, but it's also possible they're moved to tears by sheer boredom. From one of MY sermons??!! Nahhh.

I think the text of this morning's message will be posted on the SMK website tomorrow or Tuesday.

Today was also the confirmation service for nine kids from SMK. What a great group they are! I really enjoyed the weekend I had with them on Bowen Island two weeks ago, and it was nice sitting with the group during the service this afternoon and hearing some of them belting out the songs. The confirmation was at 3:00 p.m. at St. Philip's in Dunbar.

Tonight Diane and I went for dinner with the Euper family. Victoria was confirmed today, and her younger brother, Douglas, is going to be in the class next year. I'm really looking forward to the online method we're proposing to use starting in October. Check it out here.

Anyway, it was really nice to be with Victoria and her family. She's a nice girl, and her family is terrific. It's actually too bad that so many kids do not have the experience of a stable family like Victoria and her brothers. But this is a family where you can see that the kids feel loved by their parents, and they have good connections with their grandparents, and also with some adult friends who care for them in really positive ways. It makes such a diffference!

Well, time to call it a day. First thing on tomorrow morning's agenda is a visit to the dentist. My favourite.





Saturday, May 06, 2006

 

Satellite view of SMK

I was just checking out Google Earth and zoomed in on St. Mary's Kerrisdale. Here's an enhanced satellite image of the building looking south (St. Mary's Mews with the beige roof on the left). If you click on the image it will enlarge slightly.

What'll they think of next?

Hey, who's that guy breaking into my car?!
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Moral Courage

Last August Diane and I attended the funeral of Brother Roger, the founder of the Taizé Community in France. Can you imagine that this contemplative man in his 90s could have been stabbed to death in front of 2,500 youth during prayer in the church at Taizé? The ultimate price.

Brother Roger was a person of enormous moral courage. During World War Two, he sheltered Jews at Taizé fleeing Nazi persecution. In the following years, he offered food from his own table to those who asked for it. As the world’s youth began to discover Taizé he greeted them with the message of God’s unconditional love. And in the church there, Brother Roger welcomed anyone – anyone – Christian or not, to receive the Sacrament. At his funeral, a Roman Catholic Cardinal presided at the Eucharist and, again, the Sacrament was freely shared. At the opening words of the service, every one of the more than 10,000 people there leaned forward as two of Brother Roger’s intimate convictions were shared – that God is united to every human being without exception, and that kind-heartedness is a force able to transform the world because, through it, God is at work.

Respectfully, Brother Roger disregarded dogma and embraced the faith of Jesus. For that, he is revered as a spiritual leader of tremendous moral courage.

So there I was at Taizé, sitting on the ground in a rain-soaked gravel parking lot, weeping for gratitude at the example of a life fully lived. And the truth God wanted me to have, finally, saturated my heart. That I must live morally, courageously, and with polite disregard for anything that stands in the way of God’s peace, God’s love, and God’s universal truth.

To be a person of deep and genuine faith, moral courage means wrestling religious dogma into submission, and unmasking it as a false God. That’s hard because it means challenging what is generally accepted. And most people prefer established error to novel truth.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

 

One Love, One Heart

This coming Sunday I'll be continuing my "One Love, One Heart" preaching series inspired by the king of Reggae. Right now I'm listening to his album "Africa Unite."

Bob Marley was born in Nine Miles, Saint Ann in Jamaica on February 6, 1945. During the racial tension of the 60’s, Marley faced questions about his own racial identity with a white English father and a black mother. At the time he reflected, “I don’t have prejudice against myself… Me don’t dip on the black man’s side nor the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white.” Bob Marley’s father died of a heart attack at age 60 when Marley was only ten years old. His musical sense, his passion for the unity of the human race, and his spirituality were shaped to a large extent by the experiences of childhood and by mentors who recognized his talent and took him under their wing.

By the 70’s Marley had made Reggae music popular outside Jamaica, and he was famous not only as a musician but also for his social activism. In 1976, he did a free concert called Smile Jamaica in order to lessen tension between two warring political groups. Two days before the concert Marley received minor injuries in what is believed to have been a politically motivated shooting. In spite of his injuries he performed the concert.

Marley carried on with his activism and his successful music career for another 15 years, but died of cancer at age 36 on May 11, 1981 (25 years ago next week). Since his early death, Marley’s music and reputation have grown to nearly mythic status. He has received awards from the United Nations, the Jamaican government, and a star on the sidewalk in Hollywood. In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Time Magazine chose Bob Marley & the Wailers’ album “Exodus” as the greatest album of the 20t century.

Bob Marley had people who, right from the start gave him the encouragement he needed to rise above, and harness, the experiences of a difficult childhood.

When we're doubtful, or fearful, or feel alone or betrayed we need reassurance from the right source. But we can't just think of ourselves as somebody needing reassurance. Think of the power God has given us to reassure. There are people in our lives who need the love and support that can come only from our heart.

So, give love. Give heart. Give thanks and praise to the Lord, and we will feel all right.


 

Thoughts on Blogging

So, it's been a couple weeks now. Posting a few thoughts at holybuzz has been a great experience. What's best has been the interaction it's brought from with friends all over the world: China, Australia, USA, Sweden, Canada, El Salvador, England. Some in the form of posted comments. Some by way of direct email messages.

What is coolest (coolest?) is the network of conversations that begin. It feels liberating to tap into the keyboard a few thoughts about life and spirituality and God, and then fling them off into cyberspace. Then, a while later, to hear somebody say, "Hey, I've been thinking about that too."

I'm really a lud when it comes to computers, but I'm enjoying learning more. I'm really looking forward to SMK's new website getting off the ground. I got some draft layouts yesterday from our designer at West Coast Web, and it's going to be b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! Couple more weeks and we'll be launched.

Off to a wedding rehearsal now. The marriage is on Saturday. Keep Andrew and Lisa in your prayers. They're a great pair, and good for one another. A few Sundays ago they were sitting up in the balcony at SMK, making funny faces at me! So, this is how you make friends with the person joining you in holy wedlock, is it?

Hmmm, what'll I do on Saturday...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

 

Bread of Life

This morning a group of us gathered in the little chapel at SMK. We worshiped God. Celebrated the Eucharist. Prayed for healing with laying on of hands and anointing with oil. And we read from John's gospel. "Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" John 6:35.

This whole thing about Jesus being bread. Obviously a
metaphor. Nourishing. Satisfying.

I told the group about a November night when
my dad was a kid and his mother set out bread dough to rise near the wood stove at the farm in Walter's Falls. Early in the morning, when she got out of bed to punch down the dough, she discovered that the fire in the stove had gone out during the night. The kitchen was cold and there was nothing but a lump of cold hard dough in the bottom of the bowl.

My grandmother asked my dad to
get rid of the dough before my grandfather found out the dough had been wasted. So my dad took the dough and buried it in the vegetable garden. Compost?

Winter came and went. In the spring
the sun began to warm the dark garden soil. To everybody's surprise, there appeared what looked like a massive mushroom growing there! The yeast was not dead!

It's another metaphor. I often think about that story from Dad's youth.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

 

The present subjunctive makes me tense


I've had a productive morning doing some writing for a publication on stewardship that will be distributed throughout the Lower Mainland in the autumn. Working to a deadline - which happens to be tomorrow - is always a good way to clarify the mind. Don't they say the same thing about imminent death? That it clarifies the mind? Yikes.

I'm ramping up for another level of Spanish language instruction. En un correo electronico la semana pasada, mi profesor me digo que ahora puedo escribir en mi blog en espanol para mis amigos y amigas en El Salvador! (Trans: in an email last week, my teacher told me that now I can write in my blog in Spanish for my friends in El Salvador). Sounds like a good way to double the load!

Anyway, later today I'll be starting into the present subjunctive tense. "If only there were not so many verb tenses!"

When I first went to El Salvador in 2004, I didn't speak a word of Spanish. But I realized it's really important to be be able to communicate with people in their own language if genuine relationship is to be formed. So, I started studying. Last year, at the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad I consolidated a lot of what I'd learned the year before. Here's a photo of Maribel who was my teacher there:


She's a single mom with two little girls. She used to teach at a high school in San Salvador where there were a lot of problems with gangs. But after she got sliced in the cheek with a machete, she decided for the sake of her daughters that she should get a safer job.

When I was there this past February, I was really pleased that I was able, not only to speak the language, but to translate for others.

Really, speaking in a language that other people understand is relevant in more ways than one. I'm not talking about languages like Spanish or Swedish or whatever. I mean really communicating with people by demonstrating that you want to understand them, to understand their world.

I suppose we can fall into a trap of thinking others view the world we do; that their perspective is similar to ours. Not necessarily true. I think when we talk about Jesus "coming into the world" (not that he came from somewhere else, like the back side of outer space... I believe - like John - Christ was here before the dawn of creation) we're talking about the idea that Jesus communicated with people by looking at reality through their lenses of human experience. He couldn't have communicated so effectively if he hadn't made the effort to look at life from that angle.

Think about it. If Jesus didn't make the effort to see what it's like to feel unloved, he'd not have been able to communicate the message of God's lavish love in a way that ended up shaking all of history.

Monday, May 01, 2006

 

Hidden Wisdom

In the first part of the third century A.D. Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, claimed to have discovered the true Cross of Christ in a cistern in Jerusalem. She built a church to mark the spot. With this began the process of historicizing the Christian faith – and calling it “orthodox” – at the expense of some aspects of the infant Church’s wisdom.

What was really going on at the time? Did the inventors of orthodoxy have a concealed agenda?

I'm going to lead a course at the Sorrento Centre, July 9-15, called Hidden Wisdom in which we'll think about some of this. We'll explore some of the Church’s “historical” claims, take a look at the Gnostic Gospels which have captured so much imagination since they were found at Nag Hammadi in the 1940s. And we'll reflect on some of the Egyptian, Roman and Greek myths that informed the faith of the first followers of Jesus Christ.

Question accepted truth. Never stop.


 

It’s about being grateful

What a beautiful day it is! I live in one of the most spectacular corners of God's creation.

When God created humans, we were given everything we need. This
tiny blue ball of a planet, with dense forests and meandering rivers and beautiful valley vistas and mountain tops where winds blow so thin and cold we want to laugh and cry all at the same time.

God said it was good. And God gave it all to us. A gift.
God trusted we would care for it. That we would be grateful for it.

Stewardship is about
being grateful. About planting seeds God has given us, tending the earth, and returning some of the harvest to God with thanks.

How would the world be different if every person gave thanks like this? Sharing the money God has given us. Sharing our unique talents. And our energy. How much healthier would our planet be if its abundance were distributed more evenly?
God created enough to share.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things. Revelation 4:11

Sunday, April 30, 2006

 

Save the Earth

I'm so proud of Matthew. I'm his godfather, and Matthew has decided to do what he can to save the earth. A couple weeks ago Matthew wrote a letter to David Suzuki. He told David he cares about the environment and wants to protect it. Matthew is collecting recyclable bottles. He's filling his paper mache globe with coins and contributing every penny to the David Suzuki Foundation. Last week Matthew made a speech to 600 students at his school where he is in kindergarten. He's six years old!

Tonight, Matthew spoke at SMK to a group of 50-60 people. He made his speech again, and talked about how caring for God's creation is a matter of
Christian stewardship. Did I say I'm proud of Matthew?

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