Too Nice to Help?

The story begins familiarly enough: a young person on a service trip to a poor country is rocked by the poverty and the suffering she sees. Upon returning home she finds that she can’t carry on with life as usual. The knowledge that, even though she lives in relative comfort, others suffer profoundly from a lack of the most basic provisions is too much. It’s hard to settle back into ‘normal’ life. Where this particular story takes a different line than most, is when the young woman decides to return and volunteer at one of the charities making a difference. And where the story gets even more surprising—and for a time inspiring—is when the young woman decides to start her own charity. She was 19 at the time. The needs were obvious. The people back home were generous. God was in it, at least that’s how it appeared. Continue reading “Too Nice to Help?”

Is Climate Change Divine Judgment?

I remember the first time I visited the Rocky Mountains in Canada.  I was just a kid, but I was still impressed by the signs that marked the retreating glaciers. Years later, before heading to Glacier National Park with some friends, I remember reading about the same thing: there were less glaciers in that landscape than there used to be, those that still existed were shrinking. Earlier this year the New York Times ran an impressive multi-media piece showing the same phenomenon on a much larger scale. All this has come to mind as I’ve been reflecting on the Psalm assigned for worship this coming Sunday. Here are verses 10-12 of Psalm 85:

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase. Continue reading “Is Climate Change Divine Judgment?”

We’re all in Debt – And it’s Not a Bad Thing

I’ve spent the last several days at a national church conference in British Columbia. Sadly, given the location, I only managed to escape the conference centre a few times. One of the terms I heard repeatedly over the weekend (while not getting outside) was “institutional church.”

As in, “The institutional church would do things that way, but I’m different.”

Or, “The institutional church is dying, but thankfully my friends and I have our own thing going.”

Or, “Don’t blame me, I’m only on the fringe of the institutional church.”

What was curious was that this dismissal of the “institutional church” was happening at a gathering organized and funded by the “institutional church.” The justice work many of us celebrated was initiated by the “institutional church.” The place where we advocate for change was in the “institutional church.” The schools that educated many of the conference participants were sponsored by the “institutional church.” The collection of music from which we sang was created by the “institutional church.” The digital projector showing the pictures of the “non-institutional” initiatives was rented by the . . . wait for it . . . “institutional church.”   Continue reading “We’re all in Debt – And it’s Not a Bad Thing”

Is there anything we need more than wisdom?

Imagine an alien spaceship hovering over a city. Let’s say the aliens have an anthropological bent and start making observations. What intrigues them most is the city’s traffic. Initially it looks like chaos. The aliens are astounded by the fact that there aren’t more accidents. Not only do they observe many different kinds of vehicles, but they’re all going in many different directions, at different speeds, through intersections, making lane changes.

The alien anthropologists realize that there must be some logic or code behind it all. So they take a bunch of video and the run it through some powerful analytical tools. Pretty soon they’re looking at a printout of the rules of the road. They wouldn’t be entirely right, but they’d be close. They might misinterpret speed limits as minimums and yellow lights as invitations to zip through intersections, but for the most part they’d understand how things work.

Wouldn’t it be nice, we might think, if life were like that? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some underlying code that we could figure out? Continue reading “Is there anything we need more than wisdom?”

Speaking of God – An Essential Guide to Christian Thought

    So, here’s the cover of the book. It should be available sometime in October. One early reader, Stephen Backhouse who is author of Kierkegaard: A Single Life and Director of a fascinating project called Tent Theology has this to say: “This is an excellent book for anyone interested in helping Christians think Christianly about their own Christianity. Siegrist writes with clarity and ease. … Continue reading Speaking of God – An Essential Guide to Christian Thought

The Weekly Dose – Worship as Reorientation  

Earlier this month the lectionary assigned a reading from Revelation 5. The passage is an excerpt from John’s vision of a heavenly throne room. John sees the throne of God surrounded by twenty-four elders and four strange creatures. He sees a scroll, which no one can open. No one that is, until a lamb, one that had already been killed, steps forward and opens it. Then John sees the elders and the creatures all worship the lamb and the one on the throne. Continue reading “The Weekly Dose – Worship as Reorientation  “

Babies, If, and Simple Instructions

I’m am not an expert on children or parenting or teaching or mentoring—I claim no expertise in those fields. One thing I have noticed, though, is that just as soon as you feel like you have a kid figured out, they change. Last Sunday our congregation celebrated the arrival of two new little ones. As we usually do, we joined their families in celebration and then committed ourselves to supporting the parents and being decent examples for the children. The babies were champs. The only tears shed came from adults. Then the scripture reader read to us the passage assigned for worship on that Sunday. It was John 13:33-35. It is not explicitly a passage about the nurture of children. Continue reading “Babies, If, and Simple Instructions”

Easter—This Time with Honesty  

Preaching on Easter Sunday is hard. Expectations are high. Whenever there’s a trumpet involved in a worship service, the preacher is obligated to step up. But Preaching on Easter is also hard because it can feel dishonest. Or maybe not ‘dishonest’ exactly, but certainly ‘hollow’ or ‘one-sided’. Already, in the few days that have elapsed since Easter, I have spoken with a number of people who are suffering—who have been suffering for a long time. Some are in hospital beds, some have creaky knees, some have relationships that are strained to the breaking point. What does Easter mean in those situations? How do we speak about victory over death and evil, when there seems to be so little actual victory over death and evil? Continue reading “Easter—This Time with Honesty  “

Thinking Big: What are Christians Hoping For?

One of the most persistent questions I hear about the Christian faith relates to what we believe about the future—our future, the future of our communities, the future of the world. In the midst of our suffering and confusion, what are we hoping for? There was a time when responses to this question were dominated by the idea a spiritual future in “heaven.” This vision didn’t include our bodies and didn’t have much of anything positive to say about God’s beautiful creation. The concept of heaven is important to the scriptures, but not as the dominant picture of the future for which we hope. That spot belongs to “new creation” or “creation renewed.” II Corinthians 5 is one key passage here, as are Ephesians 1 and Revelation 21 & 22. The first chapter of Colossians is important too, as is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. What we anticipate is the renewal of the world God created. We believe that God’s peaceful economy will realized in the place we were designed to enjoy and keep. Continue reading “Thinking Big: What are Christians Hoping For?”