On the Role of the Church in Times of Division

Most of us have been refreshing news websites more than usual these last few days. We’ve done more than a little addition and subtraction related to the number 270. We’ve had a good refresher in US political geography. Our eyes have become quite quick at discerning red from blue, light red from dark red, light blue from dark blue. Some of us have even found ourselves caring more than is natural about the workings of this obscure creature known as the electoral college.  

Whatever the outcome of the US election itself, it is already clear that the social divisions that plague our communities have not gone away. There has been no massive unifying reaction to the presidential term that is about to expire. In that sense the situation in the US remains similar to many other western countries, Canada included. In such a context, we might wonder, what is the role of the church?

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Rulers, Chiefs, Prophets and Teachers – A Sermon for Nov. 1

Texts: Micah 3:5-12 & Matthew 23:1-12

Let’s begin by hearing a bit more from the prophet Micah. I warn you, these lines from the beginning of chapter three, are a bit macabre: “Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Should you not know justice?—you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people, and the flesh off their bones; who eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron.”

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Back to Dust, An Invitation to Big Questions – A Sermon for Oct. 25

Texts: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6; Matt. 22: 34-40

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.

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Welcoming Autumn’s Darkness

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.

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Gratitude and Disenchantment – A Sermon for Oct. 11

Texts: Psalm 65; Luke 17:11-19

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.”

The reason it’s hard to be thankful is not because here in the fall of 2020 the world has suddenly become an especially bad place. There is evil in the world, but that is not why it is hard to be thankful. Continue reading “Gratitude and Disenchantment – A Sermon for Oct. 11”

Are Christian Becoming Greener?

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?”

Sorry ____, God is Not on Your Side – A Sermon for Sept. 20

Texts: Jonah 3:10-4:11; Matthew 20:1-16

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”

Sermon for Sept. 13 – Eating Vegetables and Passing the Judgment

Text: Romans 14:1-12

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”

To Buy or Not to Buy? This is Not the Question

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”