A Palm Sunday Homily

Like churches around the world, the one that I pastor here in Ottawa has been unable to meet for several weeks. To encourage our congregants to still engage in worship, we have sent out simple liturgies (worship guides) for each Sunday. Worship is an active and intentional practice. It’s different from consuming media, even if those media are sermons or worship songs. Along with each of the liturgies we’ve sent, I’ve included a short homily. Below is an audio version of what I’ve shared for Palm Sunday.

Viral Theology #7 – Still Connected

The news from Canadian sources today is that young people have been a key vector for the spread of COVID-19. In this case that means those under 40. That’s troubling. The other bit of significant news is that some government models suggest the social isolation requirements might need to be in place until July. Exactly which requirements is not clear, but it would seem likely that corporate church gatherings are off the table for not just weeks but months. This has lots of implications, but one is that we need to recover the Christian teaching about the “communion of saints.”

Continue reading “Viral Theology #7 – Still Connected”

Viral Theology #6 – Hoping We Don’t Return to ‘Normal’

My boys and I went for a walk today. It was ‘recess’ for them and a break from posture-killing laptop work for me. As we passed another family on a narrow path, all of us did the awkward slalom/edge-to-the-side maneuver to preserve those essential two meters. Will we ever get back to normal? Normal is no longer underrated. Most of us would like a bit of normal. Continue reading “Viral Theology #6 – Hoping We Don’t Return to ‘Normal’”

Viral Theology #5 – Horses in Tinsel

This surreal situation continues. Over the weekend my household was surprised when the dog starting barking and we heard a commotion outside. There hasn’t been much outside noise these last couple of weeks. Garbage has been collected (thankfully) and a few delivery vehicles have driven through the neighbourhood. Kids are occasionally in the street playing basketball or hockey. There are more walkers out during the day than usual, but there isn’t much going on. The barking and commotion had us all running to the front windows. Continue reading “Viral Theology #5 – Horses in Tinsel”

Viral Theology #4 – We haven’t been here before, but Cyprian has

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve told someone that our situation seems ‘surreal’ or ‘strange.’ I doubt I’m the only one that finds it hard to shift back and forth between thinking about normal things and thinking about pandemic things. Part of what makes this pandemic so disturbing for many of us is that we don’t have anything comparable in our own experience. Some people have drawn parallels to wars or terrorist attacks. Continue reading “Viral Theology #4 – We haven’t been here before, but Cyprian has”

Worship for Sunday, March 22 – A Liturgy for Households

Worship is not something we watch or consume. It is something we do. What follows is a worship guide for use on your own or with a household. Here are a few pro tips as you begin:

  • Load the music links before you start to get the commercials out of the way.
  • Turn off your phone and close the news tabs you have open on your laptop.
  • Light a candle as a symbol of God’s presence.
  • Observe a few moments of silence before you begin.

Continue reading “Worship for Sunday, March 22 – A Liturgy for Households”

Viral Theology #3 – Finding Space for Prayer (brought to you this week by ‘social distancing’)

Like many people around the globe I’m trying to use this period of social distancing to get some things done around the house. Today the task was getting my son’s winter glove off the roof. Please don’t ask for details. The details aren’t helpful. With that safely done (and the neighbours properly puzzled), it’s time to turn once again to viral theology. Continue reading “Viral Theology #3 – Finding Space for Prayer (brought to you this week by ‘social distancing’)”

Viral Theology #2 – Time for a Pilgrim’s Psalm

The man behind the counter told us that his daughter worked at a hospital. “She has to carry extra gloves with her at all times. The supplies are now kept in a locked room.” Apparently earlier that day the hospital’s security had stopped a man heading out the door with a cart full of hand sanitizer, gloves and masks. The same day there was a New York Times story about a man hoarding thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer with the goal of selling them at vastly inflated prices (he later donated the lot). These kinds of stories are scary because they reveal the truth of our vulnerability. Continue reading “Viral Theology #2 – Time for a Pilgrim’s Psalm”

Viral Theology #1 – Social Distancing and the Scabs of Leviticus

Not long ago I read Ellen Davis’s book Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture. It’s a book of serious scholarship, not something you pick up for light evening reading. One of the things her book convinced me of is the enduring value of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) for everyday sorts of things—things like how we should treat animals, how we should care for land, how we should care for the vulnerable, how we should approach work and entrepreneurship—those kinds of things. I’ve had her book in the back of my mind as we’ve moved into this strange new reality of living through a global pandemic. Continue reading “Viral Theology #1 – Social Distancing and the Scabs of Leviticus”