The writer Christian Wiman includes this provocative little snippet in the story of his conversion: “If that’s what he means,” says the student to the poetry teacher, “why doesn’t he just say it?” “If God is real,” says the parishioner to the preacher, “why doesn’t he simply storm into our lives and convince us?”
Today I’d like you to take my sermon as an invitation, or maybe a provocation, to have big conversations. Some of you might have teenagers in your household. You might not need this. The rest of us, however, are pretty shy about having big conversations.
We are used to thinking of darkness as something that falls. The Czech philosopher Erazim Kohák points out that evening shadows do not fall exactly: they “edge up from the thickets.” Kohák died in February of this year. He made the observation about darkness in his 1987 book The Embers and the Stars. It’s one of those books that scholars refer to occasionally, but few others have read. I picked it up not long ago.
The congregation I serve here in Ottawa is holding a funeral for one of our long-term members. Unfortunately, due to pandemic-related regulations and a few last-minute developments, I am not able to participate. Here is a recording of the meditation I had planned on offering.
It is hard to be thankful today. But the reasons are not the obvious ones. It is not really because there are various buffoons in positions of power. It is not really because we can’t visit our friends and family. It is not really because we lack the moral strength to say “Thank you.”
Is Christianity becoming a more environmentally sensitive faith? In 2016, a scholar named Bron Taylor, along with colleagues Gretel Van Wieren and Bernard Daley Zaleha, published a paper in the journal, Conservation Biology suggesting there is no evidence that the world’s religions are becoming greener. Earlier this year, a Nigerian scholar named George Nche published a paper that surveyed more than 100 empirical studies and came to a similar conclusion. There is scant, if any, empirical evidence to suggest that religions in general, or Christianity specifically, are becoming greener. Continue reading “Are Christian Becoming Greener?”→
We can read the book of Jonah like a parable. It’s a bit like the book of Job in this way. Both of these books reference some known people or places, but neither is really intended to relate historical events. Instead, what both Jonah and Job do is present a story as an invitation to think about difficult things. Difficult things being the ways of God with the world and the ways of our hearts with God. Continue reading “Sorry ____, God is Not on Your Side – A Sermon for Sept. 20”→
Our reading from Romans 14 is about judging others. It’s about the limits of our ability to say what is right for someone else.
I’m trying to word that carefully. The issues is not whether we should or should not reason together or even debate together about what it means to follow Jesus or what it means to love God and our neighbours. Of course we should do those things. This passage is about the limits of our ability to determine what is right for someone else. Continue reading “Sermon for Sept. 13 – Eating Vegetables and Passing the Judgment”→
I’ve long been convinced that one of the most significant things we do is spend (or not spend) money. What we buy is an expression of what we value. It’s a direct vote in the ongoing referendum on the type of economy we want. These last six months have made this clearer to me. Years ago I remember being scandalized when a national leader (a president or something) urged everyone to respond to a crisis by going out and buying stuff. I still think the advice was misplaced, but I am now a little more sympathetic. Continue reading “To Buy or Not to Buy? This is Not the Question”→
I want to use my time today to encourage us to think about two virtues. A virtue is a quality of character. A virtue is an expression of who we are. All of us cultivate virtues over time. And the virtues we cultivate, or the virtues we practice, go a long way in determining how we respond to the things that happen to us. Down through the ages, this language of virtue has been a way for Christians to connect with good people outside the faith. Hope, self-control, justice, bravery, joyfulness, patience—these are virtues our neighbours praise and respect, just as we do.
Some time ago I came across an essay suggesting that pets introduce us to theology. The basic idea was that we don’t learn about God only from parents or teachers. We learn about God from animals. I forget the name of the theologian who wrote the piece. Before we dismiss the idea, think about this: several early Anabaptist leaders were known for advocating what they called the “gospel of all creatures.” It’s the idea that somehow the good news God displays in the life of Jesus is good news for, well, all creatures. Or consider this: the end of the Gospel of Mark (in what we refer to as the long ending of Mark) Jesus instructs his students to “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” We could add on here a list of saints who affirmed the gospel of all creatures and other biblical passages that show God cares for more than just people. Continue reading “Sermon for Sunday, August 16 – “Send her away. She keeps shouting at us.””→