ecce homo

(A Good Friday sermon preached at St. Anselm's Anglican Church on April 3, 2015)

At the heart of Christianity is a tragic, traumatic story that turns out to be the source of healing and redemption. The story of the terrible suffering - the Passion - of Jesus Christ dominates the gospels. The eight days of Holy Week take up an inordinate number of verses, as if the rest of the narrative is an elongated introduction or prologue to the originating event, the primal memory, of the church. Today we find ourselves at the shocking centre of Christian faith – Christ crucified. The Messiah lynched. God Incarnate rejected, humiliated, violated, abandoned. The Apostle Paul says that the story we tell today scandalizes the religious community and sounds like utter foolishness to everyone else. It doesn’t matter if one is Jew or Gentile, churched or un-churched the first thing to say is that when it comes to God a cross is the last thing we expect. We expect religion to present a God who is appropriately civilized. We want a religion to teach our children proper values. Instead we weave palm fronds into the shape of an instrument of torture (think water boarding) and teach our littlest ones to wave them in the air. We imagine that the purpose of spirituality is to teach us practices that console and comfort. Yet when the “spiritual but not religious” arrive they find the church deeply rooted not in a sensible spiritual practice but in a history that must be described as terrible. Redemptive, yes. Salvific, absolutely. But certainly also terrible.


notes on first peter four

When we gather on Thursday evening we will read the fourth chapter of the First Letter of Peter. Come with your questions and insights. Here are some questions to consider as you read …


fifteen hundred sundays

I have been preaching most every Sunday for thirty-five years. It means something like fifteen hundred Sundays by now ... and fifteen hundred sermons. Counting the sermons in Holy Week that are coming up I think there are fifteen sermons to be preached before I step out of the weekly rhythm that I have been in for three and a half decades. I find myself thinking back to my first weeks and months as a preacher when this all seemed so strange and new and difficult. Now it feels so familiar and habitual and ... difficult!


notes on first peter three

When we gather on Thursday evening we will read the third chapter of the First Letter of Peter. Come with your questions and insights. Here are some questions to consider as you read …

pomalidomide (cycle two)

First off - for those who can catch it later today the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is live streaming the concert "Cancer Blows" from Dallas, Texas. Here is the link. Ryan Anthony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra principal trumpet and former member of the Canadian Brass, was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma last year. This concert brings together many trumpet players in raising awareness about the disease as well as fund-raising for research into treatments for multiple myeloma.

On more mundane matters, I am coming to the conclusion of my second twenty-eight day cycle on pomalidomide and dexamathasone. Cycle three begins this coming Monday ...


on being a catholic church

On a recent Sunday in worship I could not help but notice how very catholic our singing has become. A gathering song by Fanny Crosby, blind author of over eight thousand gospel hymns and songs was followed by an opening hymn of praise from Ambrose of Milan, the fourth century doctor of the church who introduced hymnody to the western church. The Singers (our choir) offered the contemporary hymn “In the Quiet Curve of Evening” as a haunting and inviting choral introit. There was a sung Kyrie from the intentional Christian community at Iona and the “Asithi Amen” from Africa. The chorus of the traditional French carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” provided the Gloria. A hymn by Joachim Neander rooted us in the Protestant Reformation while a setting of Psalm 91 by Michael Joncas connected us with twentieth century liturgical renewal in the Roman Catholic church sparked by Vatican II. Our children led us in singing the Lord’s Prayer with embodied actions. The text for the day from Isaiah 40:31 brought to mind a popular chorus – “Those who wait upon the Lord” – and when it was sung we told the story of its author, Stuart Hamblen, the once famous singing cowboy, among the first of Billy Graham’s converts, whose transformed life surprised and confounded many in his time.


filled with the holy spirit

At Pentecost the church is scripted into its startling identity. Here the miracle of our existence as a people is retold with wonder. As Peter says: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people” (I Peter 2:10). To our continuing surprise the life of the church is not a product of human ingenuity. It is, instead, the gift of God whose divine energy inspires a new community into being. The power of God to reconcile and make new, to bring life out of death and to form a people who live to God’s glory is what we name the Holy Spirit. This is not just any spirit. When we describe the Spirit as “holy” we are saying that it is the odd, unique, powerful Spirit of the God who is met in Jesus.

It is the Holy Spirit that sweeps over the primordial waters of chaos, giving life to a world that is very good (Genesis 1). It is the Holy Spirit of the Lord that brings “good news to the poor and release to the captives” (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19). At Pentecost, it is the Holy Spirit that fills the entire congregation with the capacity to proclaim God’s “deeds of power” in every human language.

The Holy Spirit is central to the life of the church. Yet, at times, we shy away from naming the truth that we owe our existence as a people to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is as if we are content to let others in the Christian family make this their focus, leaving us to other pursuits. Perhaps we are not confident that we, too, are filled with the Holy Spirit.