We could see the green copper roof of the Parliament building through the wide glass windows surrounding us. We were on the top floor of the University of Ottawa’s business building, just a few blocks from the center of Canada’s federal government. It was day one of our orientation to a program of studies in environmental sustainability. We had to introduce ourselves: I described myself as a pastor and a theologian. I felt entirely out of place.
I’m working from home today. Not long ago the doorbell rang. A delivery man handed me a box. An initial shake gave me the impression it contained books. Occasionally I do receive books that I forgot ordering, but not usually this many. It turns out this box of books was different: inside were several copies of my new book, Speaking of God. I wasn’t expecting these for several more weeks. In honor of the early arrival of the blue books I’m posting an excerpt from chapter 14, which is titled “They were all Together in One Place: Connections.” It’s about ways that we connect with God. Continue reading “Prayer and the Lumberjack”
How much is a great whale worth—alive? One study puts the number at $2 million. Whales are an important part of marine ecosystems. They sequester carbon and distribute nutrients. But putting a number like that on a whale brings up deeper questions about value.
Yesterday young people led a global protest against the lack of serious action on climate change. Let’s be clear, the debate is not essentially a disagreement about the relative importance of the economy or the environment. There are jobs to be had and money to be made on both sides. The real issue raised by these activists is one of value. Continue reading “The Climate Strike, Scripture and the Deep Question of Value”
On my desk I have a sticky note with a few key words that guide my preaching. One of them is the word ‘meaning’. I think we’re all looking for meaning. We want our lives to mean something and we want to participate in something bigger than ourselves. We want to make a difference in something that really matters. Yet I think it’s increasingly uncommon for people to have this sense, this deep conviction that their lives mean something. This is one of the reasons that I’ve found myself drawn again to the theological concept of vocation. Continue reading “Vocation and the Economy of God”
The other week I was thinking about the way life unfolds along all kinds of unpredictable lines. I was reminded of an unfinished essay I’ve had sitting on my laptop for some time. Here it is . . .
The hike was not more than four or five kilometers long. We had just started when two fat-tire bikers zipped by. As I watched them drift up the banked turns and grab as much of the up-and-down as they could, it was hard not to be a little envious. They were alone. They could travel at speed if they wanted. I on the other-hand, was trying to convince a four-year-old that it makes more sense to let the legs of his rain pants hang over his boots than to tuck them inside. Not yet out of sight behind us was the place where we stopped to deal with an issue of bunchy socks. It was chilly, the rain morphed into snow and then back to rain. Continue reading “Big Mountains and Dreams that were too Small”
Over the last couple of months I’ve had a few conversations with people who work for Christian advocacy organizations here in the capital. These are folks who encourage Christian citizens to make their voices heard in our democracy. These are also folks who work to share the priorities of their constituents with government. One interesting commonality has popped up in these conversations: that is, here in Canada it is the reticence of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada that stands in the way of Canadian Christians speaking with one voice on matters of creation care. Continue reading “Do Evangelicals in Canada Care about Creation?”
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?”
My household relies on one of those old-style push lawnmowers with rotary blades and no engine. I like it for a couple of reasons. First, it’s quiet: I can mow and still talk to my kids. Second, it meets two needs at once: the lawn needs cut and I need exercise. I’ll admit that it doesn’t always do a great job when the grass gets particularly long. However, the only thing it’s cost us in the last ten years is a little bit of lapping compound (to sharpen the blades).
As I was mowing last week I was thinking about Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical letter Laudito Si (On Care for Our Common Home). Like most people, I usually think about papal documents as I cut the grass. Laudito Si has been on my to-read list for a while. I tried reading through it online a few times (available here), but because reading on a screen stinks I never finished it. Continue reading “Five Thoughts on Laudito Si”
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?”
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”