an idle tale?

- Luke 24:1-12; Psalm 118 (a sermon for Easter Sunday)

“Perplexed. Terrified. Disbelieving. Amazed.” 
These are the words that Luke uses to describe the church’s response to the resurrection. We expect words like “praised God” or “filled with rejoicing.” There must surely be a “Hallelujah” or at least an “Amen.” After all, these are the words that fill the Easter section of our hymn books. We know that Easter Sunday is a day for rejoicing. And it is. But, first, says Luke there is perplexity. The resurrection is not simply the rebirth of the earth in the springtime. Don’t get me wrong, I am as grateful for a glorious spring day like today as you are. It is just that the resurrection confounds nature. It is the reason that Easter is perhaps best celebrated in the southern hemisphere, where the days are growing shorter and the leaves are dying, not budding. Then the songs of rejoicing might sound, well, a bit more perplexing. Even in its rejoicing over the news of the resurrection the church remains perplexed by the mystery. Are you perplexed by the resurrection? Join the crowd!


while it was still dark

John 20:1-18  (a sermon for the Easter Vigil)

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.” While it was still dark. It is a small but significant detail. Matthew, Mark and Luke all note that Mary arrives “when the sun had risen.” It is the reason that Easter sunrise services have become a tradition for many. But we gather here while it is still dark. If we set our clocks according to Jewish custom it is already Easter morning. Then the day does not begin at sunrise or even at midnight but, instead, at sun down. It is the reason that the three day Triduum that begins on Thursday and ends on Sunday is not called the Quadruum. The passover meal begins with sunset which marks the beginning of the new day. So it is that we gather here remembering that Easter begins in the darkness. It should not come as a surprise that John records its discovery “while it was still dark.” Remember how John’s gospel begins: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (Jn. 1:5). The awesome discovery that the darkness has not overcome the light of Christ occurs, says John, in the dark.


the seven last words

(a sermon for Good Friday)

There is a tradition of marking Good Friday with a service that begins at noon and continues until three o’clock. It is worship that remembers the three hours of darkness when the sun does not shine. In these services it is customary to have not one sermon, not two, not even three but - count them - seven, yes seven, sermons! Imagine. A sermon marathon. In some communities multiple congregations gather to mark the three hours, inviting seven different preachers to preach seven different sermons. Each sermon considers one of the seven last words that Jesus utters from the cross. Some of you are right now saying prayers of thanksgiving that we do not have a similar tradition here. You will forgive me if I confess that it is a dream of mine to one day be one of seven preachers caught up in the Spirit, proclaiming the gospel on this crucial day. But since such a service does not appear to be on the immediate horizon I am taking the liberty of lining out a brief synopsis of seven sermons that might be preached if we decided to stay behind at noon until three this afternoon.

John's gospel records three of the seven words. Luke records three more. Matthew and Mark each record the same one, making the total seven. Seven is a significant number in the Bible. It is a number of completeness. Together these final words provide the church with a powerfully complete meditation on the gospel and the cross. They also give us speech for our own dying, our own suffering, our own participation in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. When we wonder what a good death, a faithful death - a death that participates in Christ’s dying and rising - is like we speak and we listen for words like these.


myeloma fundraiser update

Our April 5th multiple myeloma fundraiser is coming together well. We have a few tickets left. A wide variety of items have been donated for the silent auction. Many old friends and neighbours are planning to join us including at least two friends who are also currently living with myeloma. Today our local newspaper, the Peace Arch News, includes a story about the fundraiser under the headline "Cancer patient still counting blessings". Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to the VGH+UBC Foundation in support of the Hematology Clinical Trials Unit. Your generosity is very encouraging. You can donate online at the secure donation page or, if you would rather, you can donate by cheque. For more information contact me.


velcade breather, part two

I am well into my Velcade breather having completed a thirty-five day cycle without any treatment. My free light chain count has, as expected, increased. Yesterday brought confirmation that over the thirty-five days the number rose from 45 to 153. Since our goal is to keep the number below 100 this means I'll be re-commencing treatment. My doctor is currently applying for funding to continue treating the myeloma and amyloidosis with Velcade. My next appointment with him is on April 8. I expect that he will then confirm a new round of treatments. While it is not great news that my free light chain count has risen it is what we expected. The good news is that the Velcade is working and is necessary to manage the diseases. The next step is approval of the funding request and a return to weekly visits to St. Paul's Hospital.

In the meantime ...


galatians - week six

Here is the introductory page for Galatians chapter six and week six of our congregational conversation about Paul's letter to the Galatians ...

In preparation for our time together read Galatians, chapter six. Note your own questions and insights. Bring them with you to our conversation. Consider these statements and questions:

diakonia - commanded to love

The mark of Diakonia is the root word for our terms “deacon” and “deaconess”. In the world of the New Testament it refers to the role of a slave or a servant (in Latin the word slave is “minister” and slavery is “ministry”). Diakonia exhibits the ways in which the church, as a slave of Christ, is obedient to Jesus who, after washing his disciples’ feet, says: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also ought to love one another” (John 13:34). When the church wonders where the boundaries of such extravagant love might be found it is reminded of the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). These explosive parables announce that God’s love ignores the boundaries to care and concern that we have erected and accepted. They alert the church to the news that Jesus is unexpectedly present incognito in the hungry other, the imprisoned outcast, the forgotten invalid and the lonely stranger. Surprising hospitality to the other, the outcast, the forgotten and the stranger is a hallmark of God’s glory. Its emergence in community is a crucial sign that God is calling the church into being once more.


galatians - week five

Here is the introductory page for Galatians chapter five and week five of our congregational conversation about Paul's Letter to the Galatians ...

In preparation for our time together read Galatians, chapter five. Note your own questions and insights. Bring them with you to our conversation. Consider these statements and questions:

What does life look like when one has “fallen away from grace” ? What typifies a church that has “cut itself off from Christ”? (Gal. 4). How do you interpret the phrase: “For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” (Gal. 5:5)?

koinonia - the coinage of community

The mark of Koinonia translates into words like “community”, “fellowship” and “participation”. It is the root word for “coin” which refers to coinage as everyday currency in common usage. Christian communal life – Christian koinonia – is every day community in Jesus Christ. It is the place where we practice loving neighbour and loving enemy. In the fellowship of fellow Christians we hurt and are hurt, learn to forgive and be forgiven. Sin and brokenness are no stranger to Christian life. This is no zone of perfection. Rather it is a flawed human community being saved by the amazing grace of God, not by our capacity to get life right. In Christian community we are invited to un-learn our proud independence and to re-learn the humility of mutual dependence. When Christian koinonia is in bountiful supply the church’s common currency includes the bearing of one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). The mark of koinonia is a reminder that the Christian life is necessarily social. For if God – the Three in One – is, by definition, a community then the glory of God is always shaping, forming, creating, intending and building koinonia. In a culture of increasing social isolation the church lives a counter-cultural alternative in which God calls into being a people being taught to love God and to love neighbour, a community called the church.


multiple myeloma fundraiser

It has been five weeks since my last Velcade injection and it is five weeks until I sit down with my doctor to plan ahead. Next week I will have a blood test that will reveal if my free light chain count is on the increase or is remaining stable. I am enjoying these ten weeks without treatment. Some are concerned that I must be feeling anxious as I wait to see what is next. I find that I am not anxious but, instead, am grateful to be in an early stage of this disease, to have good medical care and to be surrounded by a network of loving care and support.

In the meantime, my spirits are buoyed by the Multiple Myeloma Fundraiser that our daughter Anneke - along with her siblings and friends - is organizing. On Friday, April 5 at the Elgin Hall there will be music from talented local musicians, a barbeque and a silent auction. The funds raised will go to supporting the Hematology Clinical Trials Unit at Vancouver General Hospital. At some point I will be the beneficiary of these trials in which promising new drugs in treating myeloma (among other blood related cancers) are offered to patients like me. If you would like to attend the fundraiser or make a contribution to the silent auction please contact me.

You can also help us reach Anneke's goal of $5000 by visiting the donation page for her Multiple Myeloma Fundraiser and making a donation online.

I am very grateful for the care, concern, support and encouragement of so many. Thank-you!


galatians - week four

Here is the introductory page for Galatians 4:1 through 5:1 and week four of our congregational conversation about Paul's Letter to the Galatians ...

The words “slave”, “slavery” and “enslaved” occur thirteen times in this passage. Twice Paul speaks of being “enslaved to the elemental spirits of the word” (Gal. 4:3 & 4:9). “Why should Paul speak to the Galatians about the elements of the cosmos, and how does he intend them to construe his references? What, precisely, are these elements, how did they enslave, and how is it that their universally enslaving power has been broken by the advent of Christ? Was it not sufficient in Paul’s mind to characterize the period prior to Christ as one of imprisonment under the Law (3:23,25)? Why speak also of imprisonment under the elements, somehow identifying the Law as one of them? These are exceedingly thorny questions, as one can see from the extraordinary number of studies given to them, and from the striking absence of a consensus.” (J. Louis Martin, “Galatians”, p. 394). In what ways do we, and the world we inhabit, live in slavery “to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, to beings that by nature are not gods” (Gal 4:8)?

liturgia - a public works project

The mark of Liturgia literally means “ a work of the people”. In the ancient Roman world aqueducts were liturgical structures, that is, public works. Christian worship is a public work that is intended to benefit the world that the church inhabits. Christian worship is not a consumer activity meant to meet the needs of those who gather to worship. Those who worship gather to offer themselves to God on behalf of the world and to be sent into the world as Jesus’ servants on behalf of God. The early Christian community renamed Sunday as the Lord’s Day (often calling it the Eighth Day of Creation – an entirely new day of the week) as a constant reminder that Christian worship is the praise and response of a people whose life together is rooted in the startling, transforming Resurrection news of Easter Sunday. On Sunday the church brings with it the harsh truth about the world’s Good Friday ache and grief as well as its Holy Saturday longing and despair. Then, in Word and Sacrament, it meets the Easter God who, in Jesus Christ, brings to birth a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17). Here the gospel is revealed to be both intensely personal and radically social. Nothing and no one is beyond God’s power to raise from the dead. God’s glory is revealed when the liturgy is a performance of this gospel drama and when the gathered congregation are its actors.


like rain and snow

When you live in a rain forest you learn what to expect. It rains. A lot. And up on the mountains? It snows. A lot. By the time March rolls around we are dreaming of the days when the rains finally cease and the snow begins to melt. If pressed to find a metaphor for God’s activity in all of this our minds wander to those long warm summer days and glorious sunsets. But not Isaiah. Not today. Today Isaiah (Isaiah 55:1-13) sees a God of rainstorms and blizzards. Isaiah the poet-prophet says God is raining down speech on the earth. He says God’s voice blankets the earth in the way snow transforms the landscape. Isaiah sees that God’s word is never futile, God’s message is not wasted. God’s speech is like the rain and the snow. It soaks into the earth, into us, into the church. It waters arid ground, dry souls. It prepares farmland and rain forest and you and I and the church alike for God’s coming season of growth.