Packing as Reflection – Scripture, Ecology, Vocational Change

If you’ve ever had to pack up the stuff in your office and move it out in boxes, you know it’s a weird feeling. Is the change a symbol of success . . . or failure . . . or just the start of a new season? I’ve done this kind of packing twice now. Both times it’s been an exercise in reflection and hope. Conversations I’ve had with people run through my mind. I reflect on what my work might have meant to others and what it’s meant to me. I sort through pictures and cards. I try to fit the greatest number of books in the fewest number of boxes. I’ve been a theology prof and a pastor. These are both book-heavy jobs, so packing up is a slow process. 

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A Sermon for May 1

I was grateful for the opportunity to join the good folks at St. Clement’s Church in Toronto yesterday. My sermon text is below. A recording of their worship service is available here. All the best to this congregation as they consider how creation care could be more fully expressed in their ministry.

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Texts: John 21:1-19; Psalm 104:24-30; Romans 8:18-25

Once someone mentions it, it is obvious: the Bible is an outdoor book. Someone has said that we spend 90% of our time inside—not true for the people of the Bible. Most of the action in the Bible occurs outside.

The thought that I want you to consider today, is not just that the Bible is an outdoor book, but that the Bible’s core message has deep ecological significance. Ecology, of course, is the study of connections—the connections that make up the web of life. Hear, once again these verses from John’s gospel, imagine the scene:

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. . . . Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.”

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Creation Care or Climate Justice – Does the Distinction Matter?

While I was on my way to work several weeks ago, I was reflecting on an email that had shown up in my inbox some time before. It was an update from an organization working to spur action mitigating climate change. What had caught my attention was the group’s worry that some impending action from a Christian denomination would engage “creation care” and not “climate justice.” That distinction had troubled me, but I couldn’t figure out if my unease was simply personal preference or something deeper.  [Read my full column here.]

Against Boredom and Disenchantment – A Sermon for Feb. 13

Texts: Ps. 104:1-4,14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

I would like to begin this morning by drawing out two phrases from our scripture readings—just two. The first is from Ps. 104, “Oh LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”  Let me distill these sentences into one word: wonder.

And from I Corinthians 15, a question from the apostle Paul, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead?” Let me distill this sentence into one word: hope.

Wonder and hope are of crucial importance today. Wonder and hope are worth cultivating. They are even worth defending. Wonder and hope—in all their biblical nuance and universal appeal—are a response to a pernicious set of modern temptations.  

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Faith and Public Life – Back to Basics

As protests continue in our nation’s capital, there are a many things I would like to see less (intimidation and hate symbols for instance), but there are also a few things I would like to see more. One thing I would like to see more is the use of that very Canadian phrase, “peace, order, and good government.” The phrase comes from the Constitution Act of 1867, and it’s long been held as one of the articulations of Canadian political values that distinguishes this country from others.

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I’m Headed to A Rocha

Seasons, seasons, seasons . . . my season of ministry at Ottawa Mennonite Church is coming to an end. Though many of you are aware of this already, it is still strange to write these words. It will be hard to say goodbye to the many wonderful people my family and I have gotten to know here in eastern Ontario. OMC is a special congregation with a rich history and an important role to play in this city. Though I’m stepping away from pastoral ministry, I remain deeply convinced that faith communities are a vital part of the social fabric and essential to our spiritual lives.  

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Consider the Raven – A Sermon on the Bible and Biodiversity

Texts: Luke 12:22-31; I Cor. 13:1-13

On a day when our city is full of noise and sloganeering, this is a sermon about what holds the world together. This a sermon about what our Catholic siblings sometimes call the “integrity of creation.” This is a sermon about the Bible and biodiversity. This is a sermon about God’s love for the wonderful variety of plants and animals that populate the earth.

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The Vulture: A Hopeful Symbol of our Economy

The vulture is under-appreciated. We would all be better off if this noble creature had more of our respect. Better yet, we should make our native turkey vulture a symbol of our economy. Canadian coins feature a variety of animals: the loon, the caribou, the polar bear, and the model-citizen beaver. No vultures though. U.S. coins exhibit an eagle fixation, so no vultures there either. I would like to see this change.

[Find the rest of the essay on the Mennonite Creation Care website.]

The Story Water Tells – A Sermon for Jan. 9 and the Baptism of Jesus  

Texts: Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

The person we know as John the Baptist had a vocation, it was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” So John did two things: First, he preached repentance. Luke tells us that John encouraged everyone with two coats to give one away and everyone with more food than they needed to share it. Second, John baptized. Baptism is a ritual of cleansing and renewal. Rituals are important. During graduation, you walk across a stage or shift the tassel on your cap from one side to the other. If you’ve taken marriage vows, you probably exchanged rings. None of these rituals are necessary, but yet they are.

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