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?”

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”

Do Churches Matter in the Environmental Crisis?

We could see the green copper roof of the Parliament building through the wide glass windows surrounding us. We were on the top floor of the University of Ottawa’s business building, just a few blocks from the center of Canada’s federal government. It was day one of our orientation to a program of studies in environmental sustainability. We had to introduce ourselves: I described myself as a pastor and a theologian. I felt entirely out of place.

Continue reading “Do Churches Matter in the Environmental Crisis?”

Speaking of God – An Essential Guide to Christian Thought

 

 

 

So, here’s the cover of the book. It should be available sometime in October. One early reader, Stephen Backhouse who is author of Kierkegaard: A Single Life and Director of a fascinating project called Tent Theology has this to say:

“This is an excellent book for anyone interested in helping Christians think Christianly about their own Christianity. Siegrist writes with clarity and ease. His thinking is biblically informed, historically grounded and personally tested. His theology is generous, winsome and deep.  In my work as a teacher and traveling theologian I am often asked to recommend books to people new to theological thinking. Siegrist’s work has shot to the top of my list.”

Thanks to Stephen for the kind words and to the good folks at Herald Press for the design work and editorial advice along the way.

Inhabited by the Word – a short story (183)

The group left the lake behind and pushed further into the bush. They needed to make camp, but staying by the side of a lake was too obvious. The thick ice made the water virtually inaccessible anyway. There were seven in the group, in various states of health and fitness. If you were to cast a group on the move, you would not cast a group like this. Among them there were no weightlifters, no action stars and no lanky beauties. Only two of them could have even been described as young, Dorcia was about twenty and Andy was fifteen. Phoebe, who had a persistent cough, as well as Eunice and Matt were all over 50.  Mary and Simon were somewhere in between, but nobody new exactly and it hardly mattered. Dorcia walked with obvious stiffness; you could see the lump of a bandage under her winter layers.

By most standards the group appeared leaderless, which is to say, nobody barked orders and none of them new this country particularly well. Only a few could even tell the full story of how they had come together. They usually just said they “met along the way.” Continue reading “Inhabited by the Word – a short story (183)”

Violence in the News – finding a pastoral response

An essay of mine recently appeared in the Collegeville Institute’s web magazine. Here are the first few paragraphs:

The trouble with being a pastor is that you are supposed to know what to say and do in any situation. People get sick, have babies, engage in relational acrobatics, embarrass themselves on the internet, fail in school, become estranged, crash their cars, win the lottery, get engaged, die, fight with their neighbours, play in the orchestra, get promoted—and in every case a pastor is expected to have the right words, the right gesture of support. It is like a never-ending, three-dimensional pop-quiz.

Beyond the personal questions there are those dropped on us daily by the news. Some of the most difficult involve responding to yet another shooting or vehicle attack with massive innocent casualties. These events are horrific. When they happen in a pastor’s own community, I see leaders rise to the occasion. They speak a community’s grief; they sound notes of reassurance and resolve. The question is immediate and local. Many respond well.

But what do we say and do when these events do not touch our communities directly? A little over a year ago in Quebec City, some 400 kilometers from where I pastor in Ottawa, a young man entered a mosque after prayers and opened fire. A trigger was pulled. Children lost fathers. In the following week, Christian ministers throughout the city of Ottawa sent notes of sympathy to Muslim leaders in our community. It wasn’t hard to imagine that they would feel vulnerable. Our churches prayed for them too. We wept for them. We wept for the state of things

Such a response was not nothing. Yet, when worshipers are intentionally cut down by bullets, praying and weeping can often feel like nothing. . . .

Here’s the link to the rest of the piece. It includes echoes of some of my prior posts here.

 

Faithful Disbelief (158)

What does it take to call yourself a Christian?

The answer often depends on whom you ask. Some people would respond to the question by immediately rattling off a list of things you have to believe in order to call yourself a Christian. They might mention the triune character of God or the divine inspiration of Scripture or maybe something about miracles, the significance of the church or the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Others, Mennonites maybe, would respond to the question by saying something about following Jesus. If you would ask them why, they would probably respond by telling you what they believed about this ancient rabbi or what they believed about the need for peace today.

Continue reading “Faithful Disbelief (158)”