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 #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 #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”

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”

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”

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”