Ecotheology and the Burning of the Earth with Steven Bouma-Prediger

It is surprising to look inside the cover of the first edition of For the Beauty of the Earth, and see a publication date of 2001.* The book, written by Steven Bouma-Prediger, is almost twenty years old, yet it reads like a fresh and relevant treatment of the subject. It’s particularly well-pitched to engage those interested in what the Bible has to say about environmental ethics. The writing here is clear and direct, intended to persuade and teach. Continue reading “Ecotheology and the Burning of the Earth with Steven Bouma-Prediger”

Division, Wisdom, Christ Crucified—A February Sermon

Paul wrote the letter we know as I Corinthians to deal with divisions in that community. There were many sources of division there. One was related to leadership. Some said they followed Paul. Some said they followed Peter. Some said they followed Apollos. And some tried to trump everyone else, by saying “I just follow Jesus.”

Paul responds to them all by saying something like: “Come on. Get it together. Was I crucified for you? Was Apollos? Where you baptized in my name? I’m glad I didn’t baptize any of you, so you can’t get confused about where your loyalties lie.”

Then Paul seems to think for a moment before continuing. “Well, okay, I did baptize Crispus and Gaius. But still, it’s Jesus who is your true leader.” Continue reading “Division, Wisdom, Christ Crucified—A February Sermon”

What Makes an Anabaptist an Anabaptist?

There was a time when various Christian networks or denominations liked to talk about what distinguished them from others. Arguments were had over minutia of doctrine and practice. This still happens in some places, but for many of us it has now become much more important to look at commonalities than differences. In that earlier era, though, Anabaptist writers published a flurry of books and articles trying to sum up an Anabaptist approach to the Christian faith in nice, easy lists. The push was to develop the shortest set of teachable points that somehow could speak to core issues that distinguished this segment of the Christian family from others. You can probably tell that I’m not much taken with these projects anymore. Having said that, I do know we all like lists, so below is an extract from a sermon that is my cut at listing Anabaptist distinctives. Or, put another way, these are gifts Anabaptist Christians bring to the larger family of faith: Continue reading “What Makes an Anabaptist an Anabaptist?”

A Primer in Ecotheology with Celia Deane-Drummond

This post is the first in a series based on reading I’m doing this winter in the literature of ecotheology.

I’m not exactly sure where the eucalyptus branches came from, but there they were at the front of the sanctuary on the altar. The woman who put them there said they were to remind the congregation of Australia, eucalyptus being a common tree in that country and that particular Sunday being about the time we learned that hundreds of millions of animals had died in the fires there. In the midst of the service I found myself praying for those animals. I had never prayed such a prayer from the pulpit before. Continue reading “A Primer in Ecotheology with Celia Deane-Drummond”

A New Mysticism for a New Year – A January Sermon

It is less common today than it used to be, but there once was a time when every household had one person who was almost always left out of group pictures. It might have been one particular friend, or mom or dad, or a certain relative, but there was almost always one person absent from visual records. This was the person that usually took the pictures. Any outsider looking through the photo album could be forgiven for thinking that person was not an important member of the household. Continue reading “A New Mysticism for a New Year – A January Sermon”

Is the Prince of Peace Bad for the King of the Jungle?

There’s something still stuck in my head from Advent. I’ve thought about it before, but for some reason the question is sticking with me longer this year (probably because I’m also reading an old book by Holmes Rolston III). The thought is this: What do we do with Isaiah’s peaceful vision? Is the arrival of the Prince of Peace bad news for environmental ethics? It seems an odd question at first. Within the current political alignment, concerns for peace are often allied with concerns for the environment. And in the annual run-up to Christmas churches typically work their way through some of the prophetic passages in Isaiah, the ones that New Testament writers then link to Jesus of Nazareth. Preachers like myself then tie the radical enemy-love of Jesus with Isaiah’s picture of predator and prey living peacefully together. Lion and calf, wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, bear and cow, baby and asp—they are all put together in the nursery of Isaiah 11. And we think this depicts a great future. Continue reading “Is the Prince of Peace Bad for the King of the Jungle?”

Learning about Advent from Bilbo Baggins

A few weeks back, just before the start of Advent, churches around the globe were reading the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. The story they were tracking was not yet the birth of Jesus, but the birth of another child—this one named John. The story of John’s birth is interesting. The boy’s mother, Elizabeth, had given birth; her neighbors and relatives were just as excited as she was. They assumed that she would name the boy Zechariah after his father. She refused and insisted that the baby would be named John. In her day a mom didn’t just give a child a nice sounding name that she found on the internt. Kids usually received family names or names with some unique meaning, so the name John came as a surprise. Continue reading “Learning about Advent from Bilbo Baggins”

Churches, Forests, Restoration

One of the places my family and I like to go on a Saturday is a nearby ‘natural’ area known as Forêt Larose. At 11,000 hectares, this is one of the largest community-managed forests in Ontario. We enjoy the trails; skiing and snowshoeing them when there’s snow, hiking and biking them when there isn’t. What I appreciate most about this forest, though, is its story. In the nineteenth century, this part of the province was aggressively logged. Then it was farmed—or at least farming was attempted.

The sandy soil wasn’t productive and by the beginning of the twentieth century, the area became known locally as the Bourget Desert. In the 1920s, a local agricultural representative named Ferdinand Larose began a campaign to have the area replanted with trees. One of the goals was to create sustainable, local jobs. Today the place is forested well enough to draw hikers, mountain bikers, and hunters. On winter weekends, visitors can even hear the rowdy barks of sled dogs. And yes, the forest can now support some careful logging. Continue reading “Churches, Forests, Restoration”

On the Verge of a Reckoning – Apocalyptic and our Changing Climate (Extracts from a Sermon)

Luke 21 tells the story of an ancient field trip. The Rabbi Jesus has taken his students to Jerusalem. Many of the group were from towns up north and rarely visited the city. They were used to small towns and small synagogues, and so the size and sophistication of Jerusalem—especially its temple—made a great impression on them. Continue reading “On the Verge of a Reckoning – Apocalyptic and our Changing Climate (Extracts from a Sermon)”

“Whether the Time is Favorable or Unfavorable,” A Sermon for the Sunday before the Election

“Be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.”

This morning I want us to reflect on this phrase in the context of our upcoming election. I want us to consider how this phrase, vague though it is when standing alone, might help us trace the basic shape of a Christian political vision. By ‘political’ I simply mean what is traditionally meant by that word: a vision of human flourishing and a practical way of getting there. Things that tread that territory, including the Christian life of faith, are inherently political. Continue reading ““Whether the Time is Favorable or Unfavorable,” A Sermon for the Sunday before the Election”