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.


in the woods

It is Lent and for Christians it is a reminder that Jesus spends forty days of temptation in the wilderness before he begins to witness to the nearness of God's realm, God's kingdom come on earth as in heaven. For a biblical people the wilderness is rich with memory of fleeing from oppression and longing for the land of milk and honey. Here in British Columbia, the wilderness means the forest. Those of us who live in and around Vancouver are all too familiar with the regular news reports of travellers who go for an afternoon hike on one of the local mountains and do not return. We are constantly reminded that just out our back door is a wild and dangerous back country full of steep terrain in which cell phones have no reception. It is easy to imagine that the wilderness is held at bay by contemporary comforts and protections. But, then, it turns out that the woods are very close at hand ...

notes on first peter two

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


call for submissions - christian seasons calendar 2015-2016

Artists are invited to participate in the upcoming issue of "Salt of the Earth ‑ The Christian Seasons Calendar for 2015/2016." This unique calendar follows the distinctive seasons of the Christian year and is distributed worldwide. View a sample of the current Christian Seasons Calendar online at thechristiancalendar.com.

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 C of the Revised Common Lectionary can be found at lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu. 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.


notes on first peter one

During Lent we are hosting a weekly evening gathering with a meal, prayers, hymns and discussion of the First Letter of Peter. As we do not own a church building we are meeting in the home of one of the members of University Hill Congregation. This is one way in which our experience as a congregation parallels that of the early church addressed by this letter. In preparing for our time together I send a few questions to the group, hoping to stimulate their own questions as they read. Here are those questions for week one, chapter one ...


2015 lenten daily devotional online

The season of Lent is just around the corner. Ash Wednesday, that marks the beginning of Lent, is on February 18 this year (Lent's dates change from year to year since Easter is a lunar festival and, therefore, varies each year). Once again this year University Hill Congregation has created an online daily devotional and invites us to join in the daily discipline of hosting scripture in our lives and life together.

Here is the introduction to this year's Lenten Devotional ...

"Welcome to University Hill Congregation’s fourteenth annual Lenten Devotional. Here you will find forty-seven daily scripture readings, each accompanied by a response offered by a member of our community. We invite one another to welcome scripture as a holy guest, offering each text hospitality in our midst, listening with curiosity for a living Word from God to our life here and now.

We find that this annual practice is one of the ways in which we are recovering our memory as a Christian community. The youngest contributors in this year’s devotional are in their first decade of life, the eldest contributor is in her tenth decade. Some live close to our worshipping home on campus at the University of British Columbia, others have moved as far as Sweden and Taiwan. We include university students and professors, retirees and workers of all sorts, some new to Christianity and some steeped in the faith. We share in common the hope that, through scripture, God is re-scripting our lives and life together so that the strange, new world of the Bible becomes the real world in which we live.

The forty-seven texts included in this year’s devotional are derived from two sources. First, we have included all of the lectionary texts from the six Sundays of Lent and from Easter Sunday along with lectionary texts from Ash Wednesday and nearly all of the lectionary texts from Holy Week. Second, as the Lenten Bible study at University Hill this year is an invitation to host the First Letter of Peter, we have included a number of passages from this formative letter.

We invite you to join us in the daily practice of hosting scripture and, in doing so, in listening for God’s living Word today. We encourage you to consider developing this practice in your own congregation. We have found this to be a rich experience in which we rediscover scripture and one another. We wish the same for you."


pomalidomide (cycle one)

My new treatment regime is underway. Yesterday I began the second twenty-eight day cycle on pomalidomide (Pomalyst) and dexamethasone. I had been scheduled to begin in December but asked my doctor for a reprieve until after Christmas. He agreed and this allowed me the freedom to carry out my Christmas duties as minister and grandfather without worrying about side effects from new medications. Speaking of side effects, I have only noticed one caused by pomalidomide - a very itchy scalp for a few days during the first week in the cycle. Other than that, the side effects I have been experiencing are the familiar roller coaster ride that results from taking 40 milligrams of dexamethasone on days one, eight, fifteen and twenty-two (I take pomalidomide daily on days one through twenty-one). Those ten steroid pills every Monday morning lead to two days of manic energy followed by two days of bleary fatigue. My best days are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is good to be feeling better on the weekends and especially good to know that I will be at my best for worship. It will take a while to determine if this dosage of pomalidomide will work to lower my free light chain count. We have begun the treatment with half of the usual dose (2 mg instead of 4 mg) because of the bad reaction I experienced when taking lenalidomide (Revlimid). As the two drugs are related it is possible that I could have a similar reaction once again. However so far, so good. If all continues to go well we will watch the monthly blood tests in order to determine if it is wise to try raising the dosage. In the meantime, my family and my congregation and I will continue to adjust to my weekly ride on steroids. I am grateful for everyone's patience with me through it all. And I am doing my best to be patient with myself as well.