7/9/18

preaching ephesians on july 15, 22 & 29

Those who are following the Revised Common Lectionary have an opportunity to preach from the Letter to the Ephesians on successive Sundays this month. Here are preacher's notes on the readings from Ephesians this July ...

                July 15 - Ephesians 1:3-14
                July 22 - Ephesians 2:11-22
                July 29 - Ephesians 3:14-21

4/23/18

seeking the addition of kyprolis to provincial drug plans

As the only national organization uniquely devoted to the Canadian myeloma community, Myeloma Canada works to educate and empower patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals from coast to coast. I appreciate the information sharing and advocacy work of Myeloma Canada. 

Recently Canada's myeloma community has undertaken a drive to engage our local elected provincial representatives in conversation about the need for our provincial drug plans to fund the new drugs Kyprolis and Darzalex. Over the past years these two myeloma drugs have received approvals by Health Canada and positive recommendations for funding. On January 31, 2018, it was announced that pricing negotiations for Kyprolis have also been positively concluded. 

At this stage, it’s finally up to the provinces and territories to list Kyprolis on their public drug plans so that Canadians can access it. If you live in Canada please write your local MLA/MPP/MNA with a request that they advocate with their Ministry of Health for the funding of Kyprolis on the provincial drug plan. If you visit the Myeloma Canada website and scroll down the page to the section that is in red you will find a tool that will take you to your local provincial representative's contact information. It will also provide you with a sample letter. Thank-you for your help!


* * * Good news update on 30/04/18:  British Columbia and Manitoba have added Kyprolis to their public drug plans. The drug is now covered for relapsed myeloma patients in these two provinces. For those in the rest of Canada the need to encourage provincial governments to fund this drug continues. Residents of BC and Manitoba can thank their provincial governments for providing this care to those living with myeloma * * *

4/15/18

the problem with calling the church a faith community

In recent years it has become common place in The United Church of Canada and beyond to speak of the church as a "community of faith" and to refer to congregations as "faith communities". I suspect that this shift in language has been made in order to include ministries that are not patterned on a congregational template. This generic designation is also seen to allow for a sense of shared identity when in an inter-faith context. Some report it is language that is invitational to seekers. However, in adopting such a change it is worth stopping to note the problems inherent in calling the church a "community of faith".

4/10/18

does it matter if you call it a sermon, a reflection or a meditation?

Lately I have noticed that what was once called a "sermon" is now described in many an order of service as a "reflection" or a "meditation." I suspect this is the result of the term sermon falling out of favour because it evokes an image of stereotypical boring and lengthy monologue from a pulpit. When people use the word "preach" in conversation it is usually to say something like "Don't preach to me." Preaching is taken to be a moralistic, even aggressive, in your face type of speech. Of course, good preaching is none of this. It is never boring and, if lengthy, one only realizes how long the sermon has been when you look at your watch after and wonder at how the time flew by. As Walter Brueggemann has said when asked how long a sermon should be: "A good sermon is never long enough ... and a bad sermon is never short enough." A good sermon is, like the gospel, surprising and challenging. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "A truly evangelical sermon must be like offering a child a beautiful apple or holding out a glass of water to a thirsty person and asking: Wouldn't you like it?" With the recent commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination we were reminded once again of the power that preaching can have for inspiring and uplifting a people. Martin's preaching was anything but reflections or meditations. His were powerful orations that can only be described as sermons.

Which leads me to wonder about the wisdom of the move to abandon the title sermon in favour of reflections and meditations. On first glance this move seems more invitational. A sermon is meant to be an announcement delivered by a breathless messenger who has important life changing news to share. Reflections and meditations suggest something less urgent, calmer. In avoiding the stereotypically negative reaction to a sermon these alternatives may change the congregation's expectation of the moment when the Word is proclaimed. Of course, just as the preacher may preach a bad sermon so a reflector or meditator may well offer a good reflection or meditation. In the end, it is not what it is called but what is delivered that matters. Nonetheless, I fear that this shift in name will lead congregations to forget the purpose of preaching - namely, that it is intended to be a daring proclamation. In response to bad memories of preaching in the past I suggest not abandoning the sermon but surprising the church with sermons that delight and engage with a Word that is unusual, unexpected and inviting - the good news in Jesus Christ.

4/4/18

thoughts on the domestication of easter

Easter focusses the mind of the church and its pastors. One of the gifts of the Christian Year is its seven Sundays to celebrate and to explore the vast implications of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet most around us think of Easter as a single celebratory Sunday. It means that it is crucial for Easter Sunday preachers and presiders to focus the mind of the congregation on the gospel and its implications for the church and for the world in which it serves. This is no easy task given the commodification and domestication of Easter weekend. The church's proclamation is overwhelmed in my part of the world by bunnies and chocolate eggs. The clerks and tellers greet their customers with a cheery "Happy Easter" comfortably assured that it has little to do with proclaiming their shared faith in the Saviour of the world.

4/2/18

memory is at the heart of identity

I recently had the privilege of providing the Foreword for “Times and Tides: BC Conference – An Overview 1970-2017”. Edited by Jim Taylor, the book tells the story of the United Church in British Columbia over the past five decades. It will be available at the Conference's upcoming General Meeting in Penticton and then from BC Conference. Here is the Foreword ...

It was 1970 when I became a Candidate for Ministry in BC Conference. I was a child of the 1950’s when for a time the United Church was building a new church somewhere in Canada every week. Those boom years made way to the rapid cultural changes of the 1960’s. In the five decades since then the mainline church has been in a season of decrease. Numbers have declined, buildings have closed, influence has waned. This has required and called out leadership – clergy and lay – that keeps the faith while the cultural tide is waning. In such a period the church learns again that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It is one thing to tell the story of a young and growing church. It is another to recount an era when that church is confronted with diminished numbers and resources.

3/31/18

interrupted by pneumonia

Just when life with myeloma felt like it was becoming a predictable weekly journey with my medications pneumonia interrupted everything. It was a winter in which I seemed to  catch every cold that was in the air. That was the first clue that my immune system is not running at full capacity. Then February rolled around and a fever took me to the local hospital. Eighteen days later I returned home after a successful course of antibiotics. I see now why infections - and especially pneumonia - are dangerous for those of us living with myeloma. Our compromised immune systems make us particularly susceptible to these unwelcome guests. I am glad to be recovering strength and health as spring arrives here.