shocking grace

Once again this year University Hill Congregation has prepared an online daily Lenten Devotional. This is the seventeenth year in which members of the congregation have been invited to host a scripture passage and to listen for a Word from God on behalf of us all. You can read more about this tradition here. This year I was invited to host Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is my contribution ...

“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant …. for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

We are accustomed to singing of grace as “amazing”. That it is. But here, when Jeremiah discovers it – hears it – on the lips of the LORD (“Yahweh”) it is shocking. Jeremiah is well known for preaching “Jeremiads” – sermons filled with rage and judgment. The LORD is furious with the ways in which God’s own people systematize injustice and whitewash its sin with religious rituals. The LORD is the source of the coming downfall and exile.


pomalidomide (year four)

Today I began my fourth year on pomalidomide in conjunction with dexamethasone and cyclophosphamide. The good news is that nothing much has changed since my last update in March 2017. At some point the monthly blood test results will reveal that this trio of drugs is no longer working but, for now, I am grateful that all continues to go well. The side effects of the drugs regularly cause me to feel lousy for a few days each week. In the weeks ahead I am going to try changing the day of the week on which I take my regular dose of cyclophosphamide to see if I can shorten the length of time that I feel "off" each week. April will mark seven years since I was diagnosed with myeloma and amyloidosis. While my doctor reminds me that the disease is in an acute phase the daily reality feels more like a chronic condition. Given the alternatives I am very fortunate, indeed.


like trying to drain the ocean with a spoon

"We should not try to master the text. The Bible will become more and more mysterious to real exegetes. They will see all the depths and distances. They will constantly run up against the mystery before which theology is like trying to drain the ocean with a spoon. The true exegete will face the text like an astonished child in a wonderful garden, not like an advocate of God who has seen all his files" (Karl Barth, Homiletics, p. 128).

not to talk about scripture but from it

"Preaching must be exposition of holy scripture. I have not to talk about scripture but from it. I have not to say something, but merely repeat something .... Our task is simply to follow the distinctive movement of thought in the text, to stay with this, and not with a plan that arises out of it." (Karl Barth, Homiletics, p. 49.)

Not long ago a friend made the comment that my last sermon at University Hill Congregation revealed just how much Karl Barth influences my preaching. It surprised me when he said it because I simply thought of that sermon as how the text (Mark 4:35-41) speaks now, how it demands to be proclaimed. I didn't realize how obvious Barth's influence might be.

Reading some of Barth's thoughts on preaching today I was reminded of that sermon - "To the Other Side". Yes, it is fair to say that while my journey as a preacher began with a desire to make the text as relevant as possible it inevitably shifted to listening for the odd Word of God revealed through scripture. I found my way to this mode of preaching through teachers like Walter Brueggemann and Will Willimon who trace their roots directly to Karl Barth. For that I am grateful.


salt of the earth - a christian seasons calendar 2017/2018

Cover 2017.jpg

It is wonderful to see that the new "Salt of the Earth - A Christian Seasons Calendar 2017/2018" is now available online.

This unique calendar tells the story of the Christian year through scripture, liturgical colour, and artwork. The Christian year has its origins in the festivals held in the early centuries of the church’s life. These gradually grew into the annual marking of time that Protestant and Roman Catholic churches share today. By focusing on the seasons of the Christian year, this calendar offers an alternate way of remembering, and living in, the story of Jesus Christ. The annual re-telling and re-living of the narrative of the gospel is a powerful training resource for churches and disciples who live in cultures that have forgotten, or have never heard, the Christian story.


god's own gift: glimpsing tomorrow's church today

"But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you" (Isa. 43:1-2).

“Do not fear.” “You are mine.” “I will be with you.” This is the surprising news that God—through the prophet Isaiah—speaks into the despairing souls of congregations that find energies dwindling, numbers depleting and doors closing. Exiled far from their familiar home, they no longer know how to navigate the cultural map of a strange new twenty-first century world. The evidence suggests that it is only a matter of time before this people is no more, subsumed into the culture of consumption in which it now swims. But the prophet sees otherwise. There is a future for the people God has brought into being.


a prayer of approach & confession, a declaration of grace

A Prayer of Approach & Confession

You speaking your goodness into creation.
You birthing your Word in human flesh.
You enflaming your church with speech.
Great Three in One.
We worship You.
We praise You.
We adore You.
You, our hope.
You, in glory.
You, with power.
And then us.
Us in praise.
Us in gratitude.
Us in love.
With you.