10/3/16

cruciformity - life as a gospel rabbi "the video"

In April I had the privilege of speaking at the annual gathering of "Cruxifusion". At the time I posted some notes about that presentation here - "Life as a Gospel Rabbi (1)" and "Life as a Gospel Rabbi (2)". Recently a video of that presentation has been posted on the Cruxifusion website. In many ways this sums up what I learned in my life as a pastor. You can view the video at "Cruciformity - Life as a Gospel Rabbi".

preacher's notes on john 3:16-21

The following article was written to provide preachers with pastoral reflections for a sermon that proclaims the message of John 3:16-21. If you were preaching a sermon on this text ... or listening to one ... where would you want the emphasis to fall? What is the Word from God from these verses for our time and place? for you at this point in your life?

What an extraordinary announcement: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). We are accustomed to stories of the gods who are, at best, indifferent and, at worst, hostile to the world. We assume that if God loves anyone it will be those who love God. But the text does not read “God so loved the church” or “God so loved the faithful” or “God so loved the pure.” The focus is out beyond the horizon of the church. This story is about God’s deep and abiding love for the world. This is the missional energy, the “missio dei,” that is meant to be the heart and soul of the church’s witness. No wonder so many use the shorthand “Jn 3:16" as a signpost pointing to the new world of the gospel.

preacher's notes on john 3:9-15

The following article was written to provide preachers with pastoral reflections for a sermon that proclaims the message of John 3:9-15. If you were preaching a sermon on this text ... or listening to one ... where would you want the emphasis to fall? What is the Word from God from these verses for our time and place? for you at this point in your life?

“How can these things be?” Nicodemus speaks for a wealth of insiders and outsiders who wonder at the impossible possibility of a new future. How is real newness possible? It is a question that saps the energy of lone souls in despair, of congregations in fatigue, of families in dysfunction, and of peoples in oppression. Nicodemus names Jesus “a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2) but this teaching is more than he has bargained for. It is one thing to be taught to live a more faithful life. It is another thing to learn that the future calls for re-birth “from above” (John 3:7). Those who know too well what it is to endure cycles of abuse and those who witness the continued degradation of the planet by human consumption wonder with Nicodemus how anything truly new can be.

preacher's notes on john 3:1-8

The following article was written to provide preachers with pastoral reflections for a sermon that proclaims the message of John 3:1-8. If you were preaching a sermon on this text ... or listening to one ... where would you want the emphasis to fall? What is the Word from God from these verses for our time and place? for you at this point in your life?

Nicodemus comes to Jesus “by night.” When Nicodemus later appears at Jesus’ tomb John makes it a point to remind us of this: “Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came” (John 19:39). Is Nicodemus afraid of the ramifications of being seen with Jesus? Perhaps. Or perhaps the Gospel is providing us with a portrait of what takes place when an insider, a church member, a pastor comes face to face with Jesus, “the light of all people” (John 1:4). When read through this lens the story of Nicodemus’ darkened encounter with Jesus can open the reading community to an as yet unimagined future.

5/16/16

five years since diagnosis

This month marks five years since I received the word that I am living with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis. That was eighty-five myeloma related blog posts ago. The second of those posts was the sermon I preached on my first Sunday in the pulpit after my diagnosis - "What's Up" (a sermon for Ascension Sunday that named the new reality of my illness). You can follow the story of the last five years by clicking here - Myeloma posts.

Here's the latest update ...

4/27/16

cruciformity - life as a gospel rabbi (2)

Here are some background notes that outline the shape of the presentation I made at the gathering of Cruxifusion in Toronto last week. The theme of the conference was "Equip" with a focus on equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. I offered my thoughts on what will best equip pastors to equip their congregations to be faithful disciples of Jesus in our time and place ...

4/19/16

cruciformity - life as a gospel rabbi (1)

I am in Toronto, a guest of Cruxifusion where I am speaking on the topic "Cruciformity - Life as a Gospel Rabbi." I intend to post some notes from my talk in the next few days. In the meantime, I am posting links to the books that I will be mentioning so that they are easily accessible for those at the gathering who want to follow up on them ...

4/12/16

call for submissions - christian seasons calendar 2016-2017

Your help in spreading the word to those who may be interested in this unique venture is very much appreciated ...

Artists are invited to participate in the upcoming issue of Salt of the Earth - The Christian Seasons Calendar for 2016/2017. 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 here.

Interested artists are encouraged to offer artwork that represents scripture readings and themes within the Christian Year. The scripture readings used for the 2016/2017 calendar will be those listed in Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary, which can be found online here. There is one page available for an image for each of the following seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week and Easter. There are two pages available for Epiphany. There are four 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.

2/23/16

transformed by font & table: the sacramental life of the pastor

This is the story of one pastor’s sacramental life. It is the testimony of the thirty-five year journey of one called and ordained to preside at the font and table. To my surprise it tells of the ways in which hosting the congregation’s celebration of the sacraments became central to my ministry and my life. 

It is a surprise to discover that my sacramental life as a minister in the United Church of Canada transformed my life. At the time of my ordination I felt ill at ease when presiding at services of Baptism and Holy Communion. Raised in a minister’s family I had regularly witnessed baptisms and participated in the Lord’s Supper. Baptisms were always of infants. Baptism was experienced and spoken of as a birth ritual. Communion was celebrated quarterly. My confirmation as a teen-ager marked my inclusion in the community that gathered to share the bread and wine. It meant that by the time of my ordination I had been to the table in my home congregation for just over a decade – perhaps on fifty occasions.

It is little wonder then that, at the age of twenty-six, when I began to preside at the font and table I felt ill at ease. Outwardly I tried to project confidence but inwardly I felt uncertain, uncomfortable, awkward. The sacraments were not in my bones. Nor were they in the bones of the congregations I served. It was hard to talk about this. After all, I was an ordained minister, set apart to preside at the sacraments. Of all people I should be at home at the font and table. Now, at the age of sixty-one, there are few places I feel more at home than when presiding at the font and table. Now the sacraments have become part of me, they are in my bones. They have become the interpretative centre of my preaching and teaching, of my ministry and of my life. How did this come to be?

1/26/16

praise & rage - Luke 4:14-30

The Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday is Luke 4:21-30. Here is a sermon I preached on February 1, 2004 that included the gospel lessons for two successive Sundays - Luke 4:14-30 ...

The text begins “Then Jesus”. We are picking up the story in midstream. Jesus has been led into temptation and been delivered there from evil. Then Jesus returns to Galilee. But he comes home a different person than the one who left to be baptised by John in the river Jordan. Jesus has been filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke is at pains to make this clear to even the slowest of readers. After Jesus’ baptism, Luke tells us that “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.” The divine breath takes on materiality. It descends in bodily form. Then Luke tells us that Jesus, “full of the Holy Spirit” is “led by the Spirit in the wilderness”. And now, back in Galilee and in his home town of Nazareth we hear once more that Jesus is “filled with the power of the Spirit”. We talk frequently about spirituality and widespread contemporary longing for a more spiritual life. But this depiction of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, seems somehow different. Luke is testifying to an extraordinary occurrence. Jesus - the carpenter’s boy from Nazareth - is overtaken by a power from above and is changed. He is full of Holy Spirit and is led by this same Spirit into danger and an unexpected path. This is due warning that our Lenten mid-week gatherings to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit be result in unexpected change in our life. To receive the Holy Spirit is not simply to be given energy and health, it is to be changed and to be led into danger.

in a riddle - I Corinthians 13

The Epistle lesson for this coming Sunday is the famous passage at I Corinthians 13:1-13. Here is a sermon I preached on this text on February 3, 2013 In A Riddle. Looking back, it is a favorite of mine after many attempts to preach on this passage at weddings over the years.

1/25/16

calling jeremiah - Jeremiah 1:4-10

Jeremiah 1:4-10 is the Old Testament text for this coming Sunday in the Ecumenical Lectionary. Here is a sermon that I preached on this text on January 28, 2007 at University Hill Congregation ...

On Wednesday I asked the ‘Text to Sermon’ gathering for help. The problem is that all of the scripture set to be read by the common lectionary is so strong, so rich and so thick with vitality. After we had chewed on the texts from Jeremiah and Luke and 1 Corinthians, just as we were about to leave, I asked which one would best be given a voice in the sermon. “I think it is Jeremiah” said Margaret. Then Janet said, “I think it must be Jeremiah.” Betty and Bernice agreed. I am not sure that I know why they settled on Jeremiah. I am not sure that they know why. But I trust their hearing and hosting and intuition.