8/31/14

the call

- Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28

Moses is minding his own business. He is tending his father-in-law’s flock when, so says the text, “he led his flock beyond the wilderness.” Beyond the wilderness? In other words, he is way out of bounds, far beyond civilization, out in the marginal places. Perhaps somewhere far up the west coast, far from voice mail and internet access. Or maybe down an alley littered with needles and broken lives. Or maybe it is an inner place, beyond the wilderness of grief, in a place of great risk and possibility. This is what Moses discovers. He learns that beyond the wilderness lies the mountain of God, the place where an angel of the LORD appears in a flame of fire. It is an odd discovery. There is a bush on fire, a tumbleweed across the valley. At first he does not take much notice of it. But he looks again later and sees that it is still burning. And later it is burning still. The bush draws him closer. It should be consumed by the fire but it just keeps on burning. My friend Doug was raised in the Presbyterian church. It is from the Presbyterians that we in The United Church of Canada have received the burning bush as one of the four symbols on our church crest. Doug is the one who taught me that this is how Presbyterians think of the church. They notice that it is always in the process of falling apart, burning up, surely dying out … and yet, against all logic and against all odds, the church continues to burn. It is not consumed. It draws us in closer, close enough to hear the voice - the voice that is not the voice of the church but the voice of God.

7/9/14

good news health update

I was in to see my hematologist this week. My last appointment was in early March. I have been off of targeted chemotherapy (bortezomib) and steroids (dexamethasone) since mid-February. In the meantime, my free light chain count has risen slowly (up from 100 in mid-February to 178 currently). The doctor does not think that this warrants beginning the next treatment at this time. Yay! He is thinking that when the count is closer to 300 we will start with pomalidomide and dexamethasone.

6/24/14

will god provide

The text for the sermon this coming Sunday is Genesis 22:1-14 - the binding of Isaac. It is at once a strange and yet foundational text for a people of the Bible. As I wrestle with the text (or, more to the point, as it wrestles with me) I am reminded of the last time I preached on this passage. It was June 29, 2008. Here is the sermon from that occasion ...

6/13/14

our refuge

Psalm 46:1-11

“Selah”. Don’t know what it means? Neither do I. “Selah”. It is a mysterious instruction, written in the margin of this – and other – psalms. No one knows how to translate the word “selah”. Perhaps it means “Amen, we agree, that’s right”. Those who have thought about this much more than I argue that it stands for “chorus” or “refrain”. That is how Gerald Hobbs lined out Psalm 46 when he translated it for Voices United. Notice the letter “R” for “Refrain” repeated three times in the 46th Psalm (p. 770). In each case it appears in place of the word “selah”. And, in each case, the refrain – like the word “selah” – comes at a turning point in the song. So here is how we will host the text this morning. Each time the sermon is about to turn a corner from one section of the Psalm to the next we will become the choir singing the refrain:“The God of Jacob is for us a refuge strong and sure.” That’s one way to be kept on our toes. Listen for the “selah”.

6/10/14

call for submissions - christian seasons calendar 2014/2015

Artists are invited to participate in the upcoming issue of "Salt of the Earth - The Christian Seasons Calendar for 2014/2015." This unique calendar follows the seven distinctive seasons of the Christian year and is distributed worldwide. View a sample of the current Christian Seasons Calendar online here.

Interested artists are encouraged to offer artwork that interprets scripture readings and themes within the Christian Year. A list of the scripture readings used in Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary can be found here. There is one page available for an image for each of the following seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week and Easter. There are five pages available for art in the Season after Pentecost. On these pages we seek images that portray Pentecost, All Saints Day and the Reign of Christ as well as images particular to biblical texts included in the lectionary readings during this season of growth in discipleship.

6/8/14

bewildered, amazed & astonished

A sermon preached at the Celebration of Ministry Service during the Annual Meeting of the Maritime Conference of The United Church of Canada in Sackville, New Brunswick on Pentecost Sunday, May 30, 2004.

Acts 2:1-21

It all begins at a Conference. Pentecost is an annual meeting. Everyone returns every year like clockwork, fifty days after Passover. Everyone knows what to expect. Old friends. Business. Worship. Crowded agenda. Not enough time. And then something totally unexpected occurs. The Holy Spirit - the vital energy of God - charges the community with voltage, with juice, that catches the neighbourhood off guard. Do you see? Pentecost is not locked in history like a fly trapped in amber. This dangerous text in Acts tells the story of a church being overtaken by God here and now.

5/27/14

speak your word of life

A prayer before preaching (based on Isaiah 55:8-12). A sermon based on this text can be found at like rain and snow.

You whose thoughts are not our thoughts,
You whose ways are not our ways,
as You send forth the rain and the snow
       to water the earth
            giving seed to the sower
                 and bread to the eater ...