By the Tender Mercy of our God (181)

[Luke 1:68-79; Luke 3:1-6]

Some time before, Zechariah had drawn the short straw. He had been chosen by lot to carry out the priestly duties in the most holy, and most dangerous, part of the temple.

Different time and different culture, but this time of year we see fellows who have drawn the short straw too. They are the ones in the Christmas parade carrying the shovels, following the horses.

It was different for Zechariah. For him drawing the short straw may have meant that his colleagues clipped bells to his robe and tied a rope to his leg. If the bells stopped ringing his colleagues knew he had been struck dead and had to be pulled out by the rope. As it happened, Zechariah was not struck dead. He did, though, have a strange encounter. He saw an angle. The angle said that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son. This son would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Continue reading “By the Tender Mercy of our God (181)”

A Tree and a Branch (180)

[Jeremiah 33:14-16; Luke 21:25-36]

Have you head of Big Lonely Doug? He lives near Port Renfrew. Actually he lived there when the town was still called Port San Juan. Authorities had to change the name because the mail kept ending up in the San Juan Islands (USA). Port Renfrew is on Vancouver Island. Big Lonely Doug doesn’t live in town. He’s something of a hermit. Even so, he’s had thousands of children, and outlived most of them. Big Lonely Doug has been part of political campaigns and he’s been featured in magazines. Now he gets some visitors. Here are some of the basic facts: Big Lonely Doug is old, probably 1000 years old. He’s tall, 66 meters (216 feet). He’s well-rounded, 3.79 meters in diameter (12.4 feet). He’s also a record-holder: Big Lonely Doug is Canada’s second-tallest Douglas fir.   Continue reading “A Tree and a Branch (180)”

Durability

It is a late-November morning. The dog and I are off for a walk. There are six inches of snow on the ground and the thermometer says it is -17° C. I’m thinking about durability. Last Sunday our congregation celebrated the arrival of four new children. Lest you get the wrong impression about the fecundity of this group: I should make it clear that they didn’t all actually arrive on that day. We hold these celebrations twice a year, each time we catch a sixth-month harvest. What happens on these Sundays is that each child is introduced by a parent. And then either I or my colleague wrap the little one in a blanket made by some of the congregation’s quilters. When I perform this ritual I tuck the infant in one arm and place my other hand on the little one. Then I say something like this:

Welcome into this congregation. We are thankful for you and we rejoice with your family at your presence in this world. May God bless you, may you grow in wisdom, in strength and in right relationship with those around you.

Then my colleague will read a bit of a Psalm in the child’s honor and the parents and the congregation will exchange commitments of care for the children and their families. Each family keeps a blanket. I hope the parents also keep a sense that their community of faith both shares in their happiness and will be supportive when the cute addition wrecks their lives. Continue reading “Durability”

“She brought him to the house of the LORD” (179)

[I Samuel 2:1-10; Mark 13:1-8]

Not long ago an international newspaper profiled someone who lives here in Ottawa. By itself, this isn’t terribly surprising. This is the nation’s capital; there are many interesting people here. What caught my attention about this piece, though, was that the subject was known essentially for a blog about books. The guy had previously worked for a Canadian intelligence agency and now has a website that is popular among CEO and high-net-worth investor types. What’s interesting too is that one of the most recent authors this guy has featured is a former nun, named Barbara Coloroso.

Now, one of my rules for life is that when I get an opportunity to listen to a conversation between a former spy and a former nun, I always say ‘yes’. Continue reading ““She brought him to the house of the LORD” (179)”

Evangelical Politics

Just the other day I was going through some things my parents left behind after a recent visit. Stuffed next to some snacks in a paper grocery bag were several political flyers. They were the cardboard kind that you sometimes get in the mail or that a candidate’s supporters sometimes leave on your doorstep. We’ve recently had municipal elections here in Ontario, so I’ve seen a lot of these lately. Actually, just last week I received a visit from a campaign surrogate asking if I would support a particular candidate in next year’s federal election. He left a flyer too. Continue reading “Evangelical Politics”