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.

Continue reading “Back to Dust, An Invitation to Big Questions – A Sermon for Oct. 25”

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”

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”

Sermon for Sept. 6 – Debt, Love and Courage

Text: Romans 13: 8-14

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.

I want to commend two virtues here: the virtue of love (of course) and the virtue of courage. Let’s do this in conversation with Paul’s words from Romans chapter 13. Continue reading “Sermon for Sept. 6 – Debt, Love and Courage”

Sermon for Sunday, August 16 – “Send her away. She keeps shouting at us.”

Texts for August 16 -Matt. 15: 10-28

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.””

Homily for Sunday, July 26 – Of Fungi and the Kingdom

Texts: Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a rock star biologist, but if there is then E.O. Wilson is one. Wilson is retired now. He’s hook-nosed and in his 90s. But he remains one of the world’s leading experts on ants. Wilson spent his career teaching biology at Harvard, doing field research, writing books, and winning a slew of awards. E.O. (or Ed) Wilson is a fierce advocate for protecting and mapping the full diversity of life on earth. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, July 26 – Of Fungi and the Kingdom”

Homily for Sunday, July 12 – The Pressure Sparrows Feel

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Creator God, in the loveliness and intricacy of your world may we see the beauty of your infinity.  

Canadian birds have recently made an appearance in the New York Times (and the Smithsonian Magazine, the CBC News, ABC News, Popular Science, NPR and even the Technology Times of Pakistan). All of these news outlets have recently run stories about Canadian birds, specifically, about the white-throated sparrow.

In the New York Times Cara Giaimo tells the story this way: several years ago two ecologists were together in some forest in western Canada. One was Scott Ramsay from Wilfred Laurier University. The other was Ken Otter from the University of Northern British Columbia. Scott, the fellow from Ontario, noticed something strange. The birds were singing something weird. His ear had caught the song of the sparrow. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, July 12 – The Pressure Sparrows Feel”

Homily for Sunday, July 5 – Bounding over the Hills

Texts: Song of Solomon 2:8-17; Matt. 11:28-30

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes, leaping over the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Whenever I hear lines from the Song of Solomon I remember how a woman at a church I once attended would read them. She would pretend to swoon and would fan her face. I always believed she meant it as a joke. Texts like these read in church can make us shifty. But I also thought her little bit of acting did a good job highlighting how this part of scripture cuts through our moldy piety.

Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, July 5 – Bounding over the Hills”

Enlivening Faith – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in New York

I’ve been thinking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer again these past weeks. There’s something about his life story that continually intrigues me. Maybe it’s the sharpness of his rejection of a vapid cultural Christianity or maybe it’s the incisiveness of his political critique—I’m not entirely sure. Whatever it is, it’s caused me to pick up a book that’s been on my shelf for a while, Ferdinand Schlingensiepen’s biography. I’ve read sections of this biography before, the ones most relevant to the book I coauthored on Bonhoeffer’s ethics. There are a few parts, however, that I haven’t read closely. I’ve been enjoying those. One of the things that’s stands out about Bonhoeffer’s faith is the decisive turn it took during his time in New York City. Continue reading “Enlivening Faith – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in New York”