philip & the ethiopian eunuch

Here is a sermon I preached fifteen years ago (May 21, 2000) at University Hill Congregation on the texts in the Ecumenical Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday, May 3 - Acts 8:26-40 & John 15:1-8.

The Bible is a familiar book in this place. We’ve been reading it together for a lifetime and longer. Yet, as the folks in our ‘Disciple Bible Study’ have been discovering this past year, the Bible is full of forgotten surprise. Take this morning, for example. We find ourselves deep intothis season’s Eastertide readings from the Acts of the Apostles where we come upon a peculiar little story ... the story of ‘Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch’. This is a little known and often ignored passage. Not one that was talked of often in the Sunday School classes of my youth. I  suppose that the teachers must have feared the inevitable question: “What’s a eunuch?”.

Nonetheless, I have come to believe this week that there may be no more important story for our congregation to consider at this time in our life. So this morning there are no hidden agendas ... all of the preacher’s cards are on the table right from the beginning. Simply put, my intention is to convince you that Acts chapter four, verses twenty-six through forty is not some odd, inconsequential ancient story but is, in truth, God’s living, breathing Word here and now.


pomalidomide (cycle four)

Yesterday I had my regular appointment with my hematologist. I am now nearing the end of my fourth twenty-eight day cycle on pomalidomide (two cycles at a low dose of 2mgs/day, now on to my second cycle on the regular dose of 4mgs/day). I have not had any of the signs of a bad reaction to the drug (which is related to lenalidomide, the drug that I could not tolerate in the spring of 2012). So far the blood tests have shown that the free light chains are staying fairly stable. While they have not dropped significantly (i.e.: below our goal of less than 100) they have also not gone up significantly (they are between 140 and 240 at this point). My doctor says that while he would ideally like them to be lower this is still a good result (given they were at 1600 when I was diagnosed and have been back up as high as 700 during the past few years). We will continue to monitor the free light chains and continue with pomalidomide so long as it can hold the free light chains relatively stable. The main concern is keeping the amyloids as low as possible to prevent amyloid disease from affecting my organs. Amyloidosis is a hidden disease that does not show itself until there is obvious organ damage. I am fortunate that we discovered this before any damage has been done as it has has given us the opportunity to undertake preventative treatment. It turns out that because amyoidosis affects so few people it is an orphaned disease in the research community where there is little incentive for researchers to invest time and resources into understanding and treating it.

I am to see my doctor again in three months. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the free light chains with monthly blood tests. I will stay on pomalidomide (daily for 21 out of 28 days) and dexamethasone (steroids every Monday). The main side effects continue to be the weekly roller coaster ride on dexamethasone, along with weight gain. While I am not thrilled to be living with steroids I am grateful that, along with pomalidomide, the steroids are controlling the production of amyloids in my blood and that this is lowering the risk of suffering organ damage that would bring with it much worse symptoms.


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.