Saturday, September 6, 2008

Full Days


I am glad to say I have not had time to blog over the past few days. Friday was my day with Sandra. We had a wonderful time together: we especially enjoyed the Grafton Street Dinner Theatre. It was hilarious - a very talented group.

Today the whole household headed off to the Nova Scotia International Air Show. Despite the poor weather, the boys got more than their share of airplanes, including the Snowbirds!

Despite moments of melancholy from time to time, I am fully enjoying every single moment of every day.

Thank-you to everyone who has passed along words of encouragement.

Every Blessing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

William's Day


Today was “William’s Day.” William and I took the afternoon to do whatever he wanted to do. We had a blast! We walked across the MacDonald Bridge, we visited ships at the dockyard (where he had the opportunity to board HMCS Toronto), and we went to the MicMac Mall where he bought a Transformers movie!

William loved walking the bridge. He never stopped talking!

Like Peter, William knows I’m going to ‘Basic Training’ though he has a greater appreciation of the fact that I’m going away for ‘94 sleeps.’ He has promised to take care of Peter and to talk to me every night on the phone.

Every night putting the boys to bed gets a little harder. I’m not sure how I’ll handle Monday night...

Tomorrow is a day for Sandra and I.

Every Blessing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Peter's Day


Today was “Peter’s Day.” In preparation to leave for Basic Training, I took the afternoon to spend with Peter, doing whatever he wanted to do. It was a wonderful time. We went to the base, the dockyard (where he was amazed by the ships), Chapters (which he calls ‘the Thomas store’), MicMac Mall, a pet store and Dairy Queen for ice cream!

He knows I’m going to ‘Basic Training’ though he has no concept of what that means. He has promised to take care of William (with Momma’s and Charlotte’s help) and also promised to talk to me every night on the phone.

It’s slowly starting to dawn on me that I will be leaving. The boys are putting the whole thing in perspective, though. They have a very simple concept of time. Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow. Carpe Diem - Seize the Day!

...or as a bumper sticker I once saw put it, “LIVE LIFE: this is not a dress rehearsal!”

Every Blessing.

Swissair 111


Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a memorial service at the Stadacona Chapel to commemorate the 10th anniversary of SwissAir Flight 111. For more information about the crash itself, check out . The service at the base had a specifically ‘Canadian Forces’ theme. I was not fully aware before of the extent of the Forces’ full involvement in that tragic event. Padre Humble shared the memories of two individuals who were intimately involved. All elements of the Forces, Air, Land and Navy were actively involved in the recovery effort - a challenging experience for all, to say the least.

This is a prayer from the service I think we can all take and modify for our own situations...

Loving and compassionate God, out of terrible happenings, you weave wonders of goodness and grace. Hear our prayers for those overcome in the disaster of Swissair 111. Heal the pain of families who remember the loss of loved ones. Strengthen with your presence those emergency and military personnel who continue to suffer. Grant tenderness and wisdom to those who minister to them in their need. In this time of remembrance, may we find hope, and be comforted, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In memory of all whom we have lost...

Every Blessing.

Sunday, August 31, 2008



I’m gearing up for Basic Training from September 10th to December 12th. It promises to be a challenging time for me personally and my family as well. One of the greatest personal challenges for me in preparation has been the physical training. I’ve never been an active person, preferring to spend my time in front of a computer or good book. Two good friends, Chris and Harry, have helped me overcome this significant obstacle.

This new emphasis on the ‘physical’ aspect of my ‘self’ has helped me better appreciate the body God has given me. I have ignored this significant part of who I am for a long time. Paul asked, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19)?” Ask yourself, how do I treat this body of mine, this gift from God?

I know my track record sucks.

Every Blessing.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Michael David Cashin
September 25, 1950 - April 23, 2008


It has taken me some time to process the loss of my friend, Mike....but here it is.

If you’d like to get into a ‘proper space’ to read this blog, please first take the time to visit the links below.

From the first moment I met Mike I was blessed by his hospitality. He was always quick to invite me in to sit, drink some tea and share in whatever fish had just been cooked....oh yeah...Mike was never far from a meal of fish! As I have stated elsewhere, one of the greatest lessons I learned from Fr. Boyd Morgan at Queen’s College was that Hospitality is the most revealing aspect of Christian character. Mike’s hospitality was second to none. I will greatly miss the greeting, “Oh, hello Father...come on in!”

Once settled away with our cups of tea, Mike was never one to mince words. The greatest gift anyone can bring to a conversation is simple honesty. Mike’s honesty and ability to speak-from-the-gut was quite refreshing. I don’t know if my collar made any difference, but when we talked I had no doubt that I was dealing with truths. When we talked about the joys of his life, his face lit up. When the conversation moved to pain, struggles and frustrations, he held nothing back, often apologizing for his ‘colourful’ language. I will greatly miss our frank conversations.

Mike was a man of devotion: devotion to his family, devotion to Mary, his wife, and devotion to his God. Mike loved and was very proud of his family. Mike deeply loved his wife, Mary - she was his life. Mike was one of the most devout Roman Catholics I have ever met, with a strong sense that God’s hand was very present all the time. All Mike’s devotion flowed out of a huge heart and an overwhelming ability to care. I have been blessed to have met such devotion in a fellow human being.

Finally, Mike loved salmon fishing, and this is the point I’d like to close with. The best salmon-fishers are those who have great patience and greater faith. The need for patience is obvious, many hours of waiting are required for a person to catch even one fish. Faith is required in order to come back to the river, time after time, believing there will be something there to catch.

That’s the way our spiritual lives usually unfold isn’t it? Coming back to the river time after time. Some days are beautiful, some are miserable, yet every day is an opportunity to experience something wonderful, something sacred.

Thank-you, Mike, for the gift of sharing a little of your life with me....and by the way, congratulations on catching “the Big One.”

Every Blessing.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mika Trilogy - Part 3


One more Mika tune before I let it go....By the way his name is pronounced Meeka!

The final song I’d like to highlight before you all go out and by his CD is “Lollipop.”

So what could a song called Lollipop possibly be about? Love, of course. In Mika style, he playfully compares love to sucking on a lollipop. Oh the metaphors and meanings abound! I’ll let you make up your own mind...

Below are a best guess at the lyrics.

“Lollipop,” Mika

Hey, what's the big idea?

Yo Mika.

I said,
Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down,
I said,
Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down.

Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down,
Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love, say love,
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love, say love,
Oh love's gonna get you down.

I went walking in with my mama one day,
When she warned me what people say,
Live your life until love is found,
'cause love's gonna get you down.
Take a look at the girl next door,
She's a player and a down right whore,
Jesus loves her, she wants more,
Oh bad girls get you down.

Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down,
Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love, say love,
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love, say love,
Oh love's gonna get you down.

Mama told me what I should know,
Too much candy’s gonna rot your soul,
If she loves you, let her go,
'cause love only gets you down.

Take a look at a boy like me,
Never stood on my own two feet,
Now I'm blue, as I can be,
Oh love come and get me down.

Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down,
Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love, say love,
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love, say love,
Oh love's gonna get you down.

I went walking with my mama one day,
When she warned me what people say,
Live your life until love is found,
Cuz’ love's gonna get you down.

Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down,
Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love (say love), say love (say love),
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love (say love), say love (say love),
Oh love's gonna get you down.

Mama told me what I should know,
Too much candy gonna rot your soul,
If she loves you, let her go,
'cause love only gets you down.

Whoa-oh, whoa-oh, whoa-oh, lollipop.
Whoa-oh, whoa-oh, whoa-oh, lollipop.

Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down,
Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down

The song reminds me thematically of Sting’s, “If you love Somebody, Set Her Free,” but the sentiment is ancient - love is not about holding tightly.

Two lines I love...

Jesus loves her, she wants more...


Too much candy gonna rot your soul...

You can see the video at the link below.

Every Blessing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mika Trilogy - Part 2


Some more comments about one of my favourite new artists, Mika.

This next song I’d like to comment on is “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful).”

Like “Grace Kelly,” this song challenges stereotyping, specifically the popularized vision of what defines a beautiful woman. A touchy issue at the best of times, Mika treats the topic with such a light touch and with such joy that we can enjoy the challenge and sing along.

Below is a best guess at the lyrics:

“Big Girl (You Are Beautiful),” by Mika

Walks in to the room
Feels like a big balloon
I said, 'Hey girls you are beautiful'
Diet coke and a pizza please
Diet coke I'm on my knees
Screaming 'Big girl you are beautiful'

You take your skinny girls
Feel like I'm gonna die
'Cause a real woman
Needs a real man here's why

You take your girl
And multiply her by four
Now a whole lot of woman
Needs a whole lot more

Get yourself to the Butterfly Lounge
Find yourself a big lady
Big boy come on around
And they'll be calling you baby

No need to fantasize
Since I was in my braces
A watering hole
With the girls around
And curves in all the right places

Big girls you are beautiful
Big girls you are beautiful
Big girls you are beautiful
Big girls you are beautiful

(With a lot of repetition)

Okay, they’re not the deepest of lyrics, but they work. Again pop music with pop lyrics sending an anti-pop message.

It’s all about affirmation - “real woman...curves in all the right places...Big Girls you are beautiful!”

Sing along! There’s no more beautiful sound that hearing our boys singing, “Big girls you are beautiful!!” from the back seat.

The video below pulls no punches either. Mika and some ‘real’ women celebrating who they are!

Every Blessing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sin and Punishment, Exile, Exodus


My friend, David, offered some interesting comments to which I’d like to respond. First of all, let me give you the full text:


A couple of your comments caught my attention.

While I can agree in general with your view of the Bible and its place in Christian faith and order, I would wish to add that the problem with many folk is that they see the Scripture as something akin to the Criminal Code of Canada--or other legal documents.

When a lawyer (and the police, in the case of crime) are rightly required to make reference to the legal authority in their case, the same does not apply those who seek to interpret the Bible. I am always a little uneasy about reading (or hearing) someone make a statement then quote a biblical reference (book, chapter and verse) to back up their view--as if it puts the proponent's view above contradiction. I feel our use of Scripture should be inductive instead deductive.

My second point is on judging others. Both Jesus and Saint Paul are explicit in their denunciation of human judgement. I have long given up judging another person's actions. I can be saddened by them, even regret them--but I cannot judge them. Why not? Simply because my judgement of other is, at best, impaired by my own sinfulness--and at worst, impossible.

But I can--and do--judge myself and my actions in the light of Scripture (here I part company with Saint Paul). I do have some idea of my own motivations and short-comings and although my self-judgement is imperfect and subject to correction, it is necessary if I am to change my mind and by God's grace conform more fully to God's holiness.

And another thing (sorry for this irruption) I think is unfair to cast aspersions on those of us who may appear to be obsessed with sin and punishment. Surely sin and punishment is what the Gospel is all about. Because of Jesus' death (he was both the scapegoat and the slaughtered goat) our sins are done away with. But in order to receive God full and complete forgiveness, we do need to recognize sin and to repent of it. I am always grateful to those who are loving enough to point out the possibility that in a given action (or, more usually, inaction) I am sinning.


With regard to the comments concerning interpreting the Bible I couldn’t agree more. Scripture is not a law-code, even if parts of it read like one. Most laws of Scripture are as barbaric to us today as they were progressive for the ancient society for which they were written. At best, Scripture offers us a glimpse of a people’s (or person’s) evolving relationship with the divine. Only by entering into Scriptures with the recognition of its very human origins can we hope to appreciate the real experiences of the divine which inspired their writing. This inductive approach offers us the opportunity to encounter truths which still hold meaning for us today. Otherwise, one is stuck using deductive reasoning to apply Leviticus 19:27 - You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard - to our modern lives!!!

I believe the points made about judgement and sin come from the same root - a traditional (qua Medieval) interpretation of ‘sin.’

The idea of sin in today’s church is almost tangibly ‘objective’ by which I mean we see sin as a ‘thing.’ Sins ‘stand in our way’; sins ‘weigh us down’; sins can be counted, categorized and even put in order of significance. This is the perception of sin I am reacting against.

Sin (for those of you without an ancient Greek language background) is translated in our New Testament from the word ‘amartia’ - which simply means ‘to fall short’ or ‘miss the mark.’ It is not a thing, but rather a state of being, most significantly not being in a right place (relationship) with God. This amartia can be due to things we have done, not done, ignored or even done our best to do!

The opposite of amartia is dikaios - righteousness - literally, to be in right relationship with God...but, as Paul reminds us (sorry David), “There is no one who is righteous, not even one;” (Romans 3:10). This brings me back to judgement.

Judgement about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ is always possible, and necessary, but judgements about right and wrong are not the same as judgments of sin or righteousness. Human hudgment of ‘sin’ or ‘righteousness’ is completely impossible. How can one honestly judge another’s relationship with God? We can’t even judge our own righteousness. Even if we feel ‘out of sorts’ with God, God may feel hunky-dory with us!

All this is very academic, but significant, especially in light of the one statement David made with which I do (humbly) disagree...“Surely sin and punishment is what the Gospel is about.”

Actually, Jesus spends few words discussing sin and even less on punishment, but when he does it is usually to highlight the power of forgiveness and the need for repentance - a change of heart - in order to recognize the kingdom of God in our midst.

I am currently leading a book study on Marcus Borg’s “Reading The Bible Again For The First Time” and he makes a point in one of the DVD interviews that two themes of our salvation history have been eclipsed by the theme of Sin and Punishment though much of Christendom - Exodus and Exile.

Exile is the recognition that we often dwell at a distance from God, driven there by a variety of reasons, sin (for one), but also fear, doubts, circumstance and even the influence of others. The Gospel (Good News) is that God seeks to lead us home from our exile.

Exodus in the recognition that we often find ourselves in a “bad place” even with God in our midst. The Gospel (Good News) is that God seeks to lead us out of bondage and into freedom.

Could the Cross of Christ - the centrepiece of the Gospels - teach us as much about Exile and Exodus as it does about Sin?

I leave that question with you, faithful reader.

Thanks again, David.

Every Blessing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mika Trilogy - Part 1


I’d like to introduce you to one of my favourite new artists, Mika.

Check out his Wikipedia Bio at

The Mika song that first caught my attention was “Grace Kelly.” I saw part of the video on TV one night and was instantly hooked! Everything about it sounded fresh...and fun. Remember when music was fun?

Below is a best guess at the lyrics:

Grace Kelly,” by Mika

Do I attract you?
Do I repulse you with my queasy smile?
Am I too dirty?
Am I too flirty?
Do I like what you like?

I could be wholesome
I could be loathsome
I guess I’m a little bit shy
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you like me without making me try?

I try to be like Grace Kelly
But all her looks were too sad
So I try a little Freddie
I’ve gone identity mad!

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you walk out the door!

How can I help it
How can I help it
How can I help what you think?
Hello my baby
Hello my baby
Putting my life on the brink
Why don’t you like me
Why don’t you like me
Why don’t you like yourself?
Should I bend over?
Should I look older just to be put on the shelf?

I try to be like Grace Kelly
But all her looks were too sad
So I try a little Freddie
I’ve gone identity mad!

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you walk out the door!

Say what you want to satisfy yourself
But you only want what everybody else says you should want

I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you walk out the door!

A wonderful anti-pop song!

A few lyrics I’d like to comment on further...

Why don’t you like me without making me try?
I’ve gone identity mad!
Say what you want to satisfy yourself
But you only want what everybody else says you should want.

Sounds like high school and the adolescent struggle to assert one’s identity while questioning the authority of parents and peers. Yet, in the end, even identifying oneself through rebellion ties one’s personhood to those whom are rebelled against! Oh the dilemma!

The sad truth is that more and more people don’t get past this stage of development in our increasingly shallow Western culture.

Another two lines...

Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you like yourself?

We are increasingly becoming a people who hate ourselves and consider those who do maintain a distinct identity to be ‘backward.’ My thoughts go immediately to Muslim countries who struggle with the encroachment of ‘Western’ influences.

Woah....that’s too heavy.

Just watch the video below. I love the absurd use of ‘pop’ images to poke fun at ‘the industry.’

Every Blessing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Noah's Ark


My friend David sent me a link to a recent article from the Church Times, a newspaper from Britain covering issues of the Church of England....and wider Anglican Communion.

Please read the original article here before continuing.....I’ll wait....


First of all Kudos to Mark Oakley! I thought it was a wonderful article.

I just want to highlight a few sections for further comment....

“The division, however, is not really between conservatives and liberals at all. It is much more serious than that. It is a division between, first, those who are willing to say that other Christians, who have different views or lifestyles to themselves, are still, nevertheless, Christian, and have a Christian integrity that must be part of the Church; and, second, those who think that this simply cannot and must not be the case.”
I would add to this that those who have decided to ‘leave’ the Anglican Church by forming alternative structures of authority are doing so not because they have been “driven out” but rather because the vision of loving compassion and inclusion that has grown within the church over the past century has not fit well with their own preoccupation with sin...and punishment. This preoccupation with sin (whatever its root) has been thinly veiled behind the term “Christian integrity” (to use Oakley’s term) or “Orthodoxy.”

“These people [from the first group] believe that the Church is a Noah’s ark, where every animal has to budge over in the straw to let someone else nestle down. This is a Church where friendships count for more than sound-bites, and which understands that something of God is shadowed every time a believer forgets that Christian faith is an exercise in humility. This has been the Anglican spirit at its best — with a resistance to over-definition of doctrine, in preference to worshipping together in common prayer.”
Again, right on the spot! Where is the humility in this jostling of power and vituperative language over who represents the ‘true church?’ Have we forgotten that the central Anglican tradition of common prayer is not based so much on common doctrine as it is on the willingness to gather together, despite our differences? Noah’s Ark! Brilliant! Come on in! Let’s ride out the storm together.

“It is not so much that the Bible neatly answers all our questions, as that it questions all our answers. Its treasures are not yielded up overnight, at whim, or as ammunition. The only ultimate uniformity on offer is the constant fidelity of God towards us all.”
Alleluia! I have never met another person with whom I have shared 100% agreement in our understanding of Scripture. Does that mean we are in some way fundamentally divided? I hope not...I’d be awfully lonely.

“This is not about conservatives and liberals. It is about the survival of the Anglican soul. There is middle ground — and it is where we should all be at times, for the sake of one another and the message of reconciliation entrusted to us.”
Amen. Thank you Mark...and thank you David.

Every Blessing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Answering the Call


As some of you who have been reading my blog for a while know, I haven’t written much ‘personal’ material for a while....actually I haven’t written much at all.

The main reason for this has been that my mind has been occupied, since the fall, with the decision to pursue a career as a Chaplain in the Canadian Forces. I’ve kept this part of my life private primarily out of consideration of my current parish. If this process had ended in my rejection from service, my pursuit alone would have suggested a desire to leave St. Mary’s. How could I have continued effective ministry then? But now all that is past. I have been offered a commission as a Padre in the Navy and will be soon stationed at CFB Halifax with basic training to start in the fall.

We are all excited about the move and what our futures will hold.

The most common question I am asked is “Why?” There are many reasons: a sense of call (starting in high school), a desire to serve my country, for the good of my family, for the opportunities for professional development, for the adventure and challenge....

In all this, one reason remains paramount. I cannot bear to watch another Canadian military family bear the loss of a loved one in Afghanistan (or elsewhere) without answering the call on my heart to reach out to them. I feel a deep desire to stand with the women and men who put themselves in harms way on behalf of all Canadians to try to make our world a better place, one challenge at a time. I am not political. I am NOT glorifying war or violence. I am not judging the current missions of our forces. I am proud to be given the opportunity to serve those who serve us.

The motto of the Canadian Forces Chaplain Branch is “Vocation Ad Servitium” - Called to Serve.

Every Blessing.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Anna's Story


A Midrash based on Luke 24:13-35.

I’d like to introduce you to Anna.

In Luke’s story of the Emmaus Road he introduces two characters walking from Jerusalem. One he later names, Cleopas, yet the other remains unnamed. Usually unnamed characters in ancient texts, especially our Scriptures, are women, so I’ve taken the liberty of calling the second disciple “Anna.”

Though Anna’s voice and identity remain hidden in our Bible-story, I will try to reclaim her voice for us today.....

I am scared....all the disciples are. Jesus was arrested by the temple police, and in short time was crucified by the Roman governor. Jesus, one of the first people to look at me as if I were a real person. Jesus, the one who had healed my broken heart after my father’s early death. Jesus, the one we were sure was the Messiah. Jesus was dead. Dead and gone.

Not only was he dead, but the plot which brought him to the cross was masterminded by one his closest advisors, Judas. Who could be trusted?

On the day before the Passover, while Jesus was being tried and executed, Cleopas and I hid near one of the governor’s stables, afraid that we might be sighted and be given our own crosses.

The following day was the Passover itself and so we remained in hiding. To travel on such a holy day would have attracted too much attention.

But this was the third day. Thousands of pilgrims would be pouring out of Jerusalem. Blend in. Get out. That was all we could think about.

As we walked along we saw other disciples also headed out of Jerusalem. We weren’t the only two disciples fleeing the city. Golgotha, the place of crucifixion was on the main road and we passed it without being able to even look at it. But then the unexpected happened.

Mary and some of the other women were running towards us. Anna, Cleopas, they shouted, he’s alive, he’s alive, we were at his tomb, but it’s empty, he’s alive!! We have to tell Peter and the others. They’ve decided to meet in the upper room. We’ve got to go tell them!

Some of our group ran with them back to Jerusalem. Some headed off to the tomb to see for themselves. Cleopas and I made the quick decision to continue out of the city and to a safer place. After things had calmed down, then we’d listen to see what had really happened.

Later on the road, while taking a drink at a spring, some of our friends caught up to us. Dora, a young girl who had only recently been baptized, told us that they had gone to the place they thought was the tomb, but there was no one there except some Roman guards. Cleopas said it sounded like a trap.

We continued on the road though the afternoon sun. Feeling more confident about being out of the city, we started talking about what we were going to do now that Jesus was gone. A stranger walking near us asked what we were talking about. Cleopas was quick to answer. Where have you been? Under a rock? He was angry, we all were. Angry and afraid...and alone.

I took Cleopas’s hand and offered him a reassuring smile. He apologized to the stranger and explained who Jesus was, how had died, and even went so far as to share our sense of loss and disappointment. I think he needed to do that. To get it all off his chest.

The stranger listened and walked beside us, not interrupting Cleopas, but letting him get it out.

When the stranger did speak, however, it was not in a way that I expected.

“You Fools! Prophets are always killed in Jerusalem. The Scriptures themselves say so over and over. God’s servants never find safety within its walls. And if this person, Jesus, was the Messiah, did you expect his reception to be any better?” On and on the stranger went, quoting the Law and the Prophets, revealing to us how death is not necessarily the end.

I must say my heart was strangely warmed by the words. The stranger even quoted some of the Scriptures Jesus himself had used from time to time. Cleopas nodded his head with every point the stranger made.

As afternoon turned into evening, we came close to a little village where we knew we could stay for the night. The stranger didn’t turn off the road however. That was crazy. There were no other villages in walking distance before nightfall. There were probably bandits.

Cleopas and I insisted that the stranger stay with us for the night, our friend Naiomi would have room for one more.

Some bread and wine was quickly provided for our evening meal. We reclined around the table with Naiomi and her three children. Then the stranger surprised us again.

Not waiting to be served, the stranger took the bread, said the table blessing, broke the bread and gave a piece to each of us. All I could think was, that’s just the way Jesus used to do it.

That’s just the way Jesus used to do it!

Cleopas and I looked at each other in amazement, thinking exactly the same thing....That’s just the way Jesus used to do it!

We scrambled to our feet, but found that were alone with Naiomi’s children. No stranger.

No stranger, but knowing that Jesus was still here.

We’re not wasting any time. We’re running back to Jerusalem, to the upper room.

We have to tell them.

He is alive! He is alive!

He was with us the whole time and he is alive!

Cleopas argued with me that the stranger was an old woman who only looked like Jesus at the last moment. I was sure the stranger was a young dark-skinned man from the south.

The details don’t matter. The truth is Jesus is risen from death and is alive.

He is alive and even in the middle this miracle of revelation he has taught me a valuable lesson....

I will never look at a stranger the same way again.


Every Blessing

Wednesday, April 2, 2008



I hope to start my regular blogging again very soon.

In the meantime, here is the text of the Tenebrae service held at St. Mary’s on Monday of Holy Week. I thought it was a particularly moving service...


St. Mary the Virgin
✞ Holy Monday✞
Tenebrae - “Shadows around the Cross”

Call to Worship
One: Let us praise God for the gift of his Son who became the Light of the world.
All: We would thank God that Christ came as a great light shining into a world darkened with sin.
One: Let us never forget those shadows of evil which followed Him to the cross.
All: We would remember that the power of Christ is greater than the power of evil, and will overcome it. Lord, help us to be aware of those events that caused Jesus to be taken to the Cross. As we become mindful of those who confronted Him with betrayal, denial, rejection, injustice, torture, ridicule, and mockery, we realize that these same traits may be found in our lives. Help us to re-examine our inner selves as we reflect upon the lives of those who failed our Saviour. If we have crucified Him anew, grant us forgiveness and cleanse our lives of sin. Uplift us that we might see beyond the shadows of the Cross, and find the Spirit of Him who comes as the Light of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

#22JP - “Be Still and Know That I Am God”

The Shadow of Betrayal - Matthew 26:47-50
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’ At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.


The Shadow of Betrayal

Betrayal - to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling a relationship.
- OR to disappoint the hopes or expectations of another person;
- OR to be disloyal to another person.

On his way to the cross, Jesus knew the kiss of betrayal.

Why did it have to be a friend
Who chose to betray the Lord?
Why did he use a kiss to show them?
That's not what a kiss is for.

Only a friend can betray a friend,
A stranger has nothing to gain.
And only a friend comes close enough
To ever cause so much pain.
- “Why” by Michael Card

Who have we betrayed?
To whom have we been unfaithful?
When have we been disloyal to those who placed their trust in us?

When have we added to the shadows around the cross?

Hymn - #431 - Take Up Your Cross (verses 1 & 5)

The Shadow of Denial - Luke 22:54-62
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.


The Shadow of Denial

Denial - to refuse to believe;
- OR to disavow or disown another person.

On his way to the cross, Jesus knew he would be deined.

Denial is a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true, despite what may be overwhelming evidence....sounds like Peter to me.

Whom have we denied?
What have we denied?
When have we felt uncomfortable enough to deny the truth that lays before us?

When have we added to the shadows around the cross?

Hymn - #196 - Ah, Holy Jesus (verses 1 & 2)

The Shadow of Rejection - Mark 15:6-14
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’


The Shadow of Rejection

Rejection - to refuse to have;
- to refuse to take;
- to refuse to recognize;
- to refuse to give;
- to refuse to accept.

On his way to the cross, Jesus heard the crowds who had once shouted Hosanna reject him.

Rejection means to say ‘no.’ Or ‘not now.’ Or ‘never.’ Or ‘leave me alone.’

Whom have we rejected?
What have we rejected?
When have we actively rejected another person?
When have we rejected another person by ignoring them?

When have we added to the shadows around the cross?

Hymn - #184 - My Song Is Love Unknown (verses 1, 3 & 5)

The Shadow of Injustice - Matthew 27:24-26
So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.


The Shadow of Injustice

Injustice - to violate of the rights of others;
- the unjust or unfair action or treatment of others.

On his way to the cross, Jesus felt the helplessness of injustice.

To do injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer it.
- Plato.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
- Elie Wiesel. (Holocaust Survivor and political activist)

When have we less than fair with others?
When have we ignored injustice and unfairness around us?
Have we become deaf to the injustices which fill our world?

When have we added to the shadows around the cross?

Hymn - #386 - When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (verses 1 & 3)

The Shadow of Torture - Mark 15:16-20
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.


The Shadow of Torture

Torture - the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.
- to inflict pain upon another person.

On his way to the cross, Jesus felt the horrors of torture.

Pain is not just a physical thing.
- There are mental anguish and psychological abuse we can inflict on those around us.

Whom have we hurt?
When have we chosen to say something in order to hurt another person?
When have we wished we could hurt another person?

When have we added to the shadows around the cross?

Hymn - #511 - Lord Jesus, Think On Me (verses 1 & 3)

The Shadow of Ridicule - Luke 23:39-43
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."


The Shadow of Ridicule

Ridicule - speech or action intended to cause contemptuous laughter at a person or thing.

On his way to the cross, Jesus heard the hurtful taunts and laughter.

In ridiculing another person, we make them less than they are. We bring them down. And we do so in such a way as to give others the opportunity to laugh with us.

Whom have we made fun of?
When have we chosen to say something in order to put another person down?
When have we laughed at the expense of another person?

When have we added to the shadows around the cross?

Hymn - #634 - Jesus, Remember Me (sung three times)

The Shadow of Mockery - Matthew 27:39-50
Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, 'I am God's Son.'" The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way. From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "This man is calling for Elijah." At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.


The Shadow of Mockery

Mockery - A false, or ridiculing imitation.

On his way to the cross, Jesus heard the mockery of his own words being twisted and used against him.

In mocking another person, we take and twist their words and actions in order to criticize them.
But mockery is not criticism, it is an act of creating hurtful lies.

Whom have we mocked?
When have we twisted the words of another in order to put another person down?
When have we made a mockery of ourselves?

When have we added to the shadows around the cross?Hymn - #202 - There Is A Green Hill Far Away

Prayer of Dedication
All: Holy God, as we realize the depth of your love for us and for all your creation, fill us with that sense of holy awe that will assist us in true worship of you. We dedicate ourselves this day to a new awareness of our place of responsibility in your creation, and we seek your mercy and grace to lead us into paths of righteousness. We are your children; cover us with your love, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
One: Jesus says, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
All: Holy God, Mighty God, Everliving God, have mercy on us.
One: Go in peace to serve the Lord in one another.
All: Thanks be to God.

We leave in silence and darkness.


I hope it’s something to reflect upon...

Every Blessing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Encountering Scriptures - A Lenten Meditation


My Lenten Midweek sermon and reflection questions for February 13, 2008.

Encountering Scriptures

It is my privilege to start off this journey through Lent, following Jesus, with you.

One of the great truths about a journey is that the destination isn’t necessarily fixed, so we can spend our time enjoying the landscape around us.

And though it is true that this lenten journey will bring us to Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Day and beyond, these memorials too will mean different things for each of us.

So, come along as we take the time to meditate on ways by which we journey with Christ, six ways through which we follow Jesus: through Scriptures, through Prayer, through Worship, and so on.

Tonight I have the responsibility of guiding us through a reflection on the role of the Scriptures on our journey.

There are a million-and-one ways I could start this reflection, but I have chosen what I hope will be the simplest and most tangible for us.

I would invite you to reflect upon what happens between the words, “A Reading from the book of ...” and the words, “This is the Word of the Lord” - an event we most commonly refer to as “the Proclamation of the Word.”

To help us understand this event of proclamation, I chose the two pieces of Scripture we have already heard tonight: two stories about proclamation events.

The first reading, from the prophet Nehemiah, is the recollection of the first reading of the Scriptures at the newly rebuilt temple in Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonian exile.

The story is a simple one. In the course of rebuilding the temple, scrolls of what we now refer to as the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible are discovered and at an appointed time they are read to the people in a kind of re-consecration ceremony.

There are two things happening in this event of proclamation:

First, the people of God, returning from generations in exile, find their identity in the reading of Scriptures.

This is nothing new to us as Newfoundlanders. Every gathering is an opportunity to relive and recount our shared stories and in doing so claim our identity.

In the event of Scripture being proclaimed, we do the same thing. We share our story, we listen to our story and we allow this story to form a part of who we are.

The second thing which happens is that the people engage with the Scripture, or as Nehemiah puts it, they read it with interpretation.

This is of vital importance to the event of Proclamation.

The bible in and of itself is simply words on a page. Black marks on white paper.

The Word of God, on the other hand, is a living event. The word of God happens when the word is spoken, heard, interpreted and applied.

There is no proclamation without interpretation, without seriously engaging the Scriptures and working out its meaning for us here and now.

“A reading from the prophet Nehemiah” only becomes “the Word of the Lord” when we share it together as community and reflect on what it means to us and what it calls out of us.

The second story, Luke’s Road to Emmaus, tells a similar story, but with an even greater challenge to see the event of proclamation as more than simply reading a text.

Luke’s account of the Emmaus road challenges us to see God’s creative and often surprising activities working in proclamation events. God often works OUTSIDE what we consider to be ‘normal’ and ‘proper’ channels.

On the road to Emmaus, we bear witness to an event of sharing stories, but, in this case, the stories outside of the Scriptures.
- Remember, there are no gospels, no letters, no revelation on the road to Emmaus. Though the stories shared on the road are the seeds of our gospel narratives, they aren’t Scripture yet.
- It took a great leap of faith for the early Christians to call the stories of Jesus and letters of the early Church, “Scripture.”
On a symbolic level these stories are also being told outside of Jerusalem.
- Luke’s gospel is filled with suggestions that God’s will and activity will not be contained within one city or one people.
The one truth the disciples are trying to come to terms with, that Jesus is indeed risen had been reported by a group whose witness lay outside of the sources that could be trusted - women!
- “Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.”

- Legally, two men could provide witness in a court of law, but a the word of a thousand women was useless. I wonder if the fact that it is women who first bear witness to the resurrection is not the greatest evidence of God’s sense of humour.
Even Jesus’ interpretation of the Hebrew Bible lays outside the normal way of describing the Messiah.
- Remember, even though we as Christians easily read Jesus into the Hebrew Bible, Jewish people today also easily dismiss this interpretation.
- Jesus’ interpretation would have been innovative at the least for a people who expected a Messiah who would overthrow Rome and set up Israel as the greatest nation of the world.

So what does all this mean?

We should never draw permanent lines around what we hold to be true, even when encountering the Scriptures.

God can and does act in surprising and unexpected ways - this is a part of the testimony of our Scriptures.

We need to encounter our Scriptures with a spirit of generosity and a grain of salt, especially when we hear the interpretations of others. This is a vital grace in our modern church.

A closed mind and heart can never encounter the Word of the Lord, but only the words of the bible.

So, as we continue to observe a holy Lent, I invite each of you to open your minds and hearts to the Holy Scriptures:

As the traditional Collect puts it, “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.”

Talk about the Scriptures with others.

Share your interpretations.

Share your stories.

But most of all, expect the unexpected.

Jesus often surprises us on the journey.

Let us pray...

Eternal God,
who caused all holy scriptures
to be written for our learning,
grant us so to hear them,
read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that we may embrace and ever hold fast
the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflection Questions: 1. Whose interpretations of Scriptures do you like the most? Whose do you like the least? Why? 2. To what bible-story or passage of Scripture do you find yourself most often drawn? What does this reading reveal about God? What does it reveal about yourself? 3. If you were offered the privilege of adding a personal story to the Bible of your own journey with Jesus, what would it be? What would it reveal about God? What would it reveal about you?

...Every Blessing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Temptation and Choice


My sermon text for February 10, 2008.


Reference Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Verse 1: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

“Former president Ronald Reagan once had an aunt who took him to a cobbler for a pair of new shoes. The cobbler asked young Reagan, “Do you want square toes or round toes?” Unable to decide, Reagan didn’t answer, so the cobbler gave him a few days.

“Several days later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked him again what kind of toes he wanted on his shoes. Reagan still couldn’t decide, so the shoemaker replied, “Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready.” When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! “This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you,” the cobbler said to his indecisive customer.

“I learned right then and there,” Reagan said later, “if you don’t make your own decisions, someone else will.”

I’d want to add: If you let others make your choices for you, you’ll probably just look like a fool.

During the season of Lent we have the opportunity to choose a discipline to focus on. If you haven’t chosen one yet, have no fear, there is still time....but don’t be a fool and neglect to choose.

In choosing your Lenten discipline, what you will give up or what you will take up, I want you to ask yourself...

Who is your Lent for? (I know, grammatically incorrect)

It is for yourself?
- Will the goal of your Lent be to lose a few pounds or give up a bad habit, even if just for a few months? Seems trivial.

Is your Lent meant to prove your piety and devotion towards God?
- Will God give out a reward to the most pious person or the person who gives up the most? Seems silly

I am of the opinion that Lenten devotions are meant to be for others.

God can use this season of self-denial as a means to teach us to focus more on the needs of others than our own needs.

Matthew’s account of the temptation clearly states that Jesus was lead, by the Spirit, into the wilderness in order to be tempted. God leads Jesus to be tempted.

God, as Spirit, leads Jesus through 40 days of disciplined self-denial in order to face the spirit of temptation - Satan.

This is a very Jewish portrayal of Satan. As in the book of Job, Satan is a servant of God, with only the power to tempt and only able to tempt those God chooses. In many ways, this image of Satan is more like a teacher who tests our faithfulness than then leader of the powers of darkness.

But God doesn’t lead Jesus to encounter Satan immediately after his baptism, but only after 40 days in the wilderness.

The time Jesus spends in the wilderness, in fasting and in prayer, is time to learn the vital lesson that the only way to live is to become reliant on God’s grace.

But this is only an internal discipline. A Jesus who knows how to live totally on the grace of God could just remain in the wilderness or retire to the mountaintop. But that’s not the Jesus we know.

This is where Satan enters, not so much to challenge what Jesus will do next, but to question what his motives will be....if he is REALLY the Messiah.

The first temptation is to turn stones into bread. This is the most obvious of temptations. After 40 days in the wilderness, even Matthew feels the need to record that Jesus was famished. So why not? Jesus may profess that one should live by the word of the Lord, but that doesn’t stop him from eating later. There is no sin in making bread. But the heart of this temptation is for Jesus to use power to serve his own needs.

He says ‘no’ to the temptation...but...

Later Jesus does use his power to create bread, to meet the needs of the multitudes who have gathered around him.

Later Jesus gives bread to his followers as a symbol to remember his sacrifice for the sins of the world.

The second temptation is to clearly reveal that he is the Messiah by having angels catch him as he plummets from the highest tower of the temple in Jerusalem. And why not? That way there will be no confusion as to Jesus’ true identity. The heart of this temptation is for Jesus to use supernatural powers to accomplish his mission, and in doing so prove that he is the Messiah.

He says ‘no’ to the temptation...but...

Later angels do come to Jesus’ aid, after he faithfully denies the temptations which lay before him.

Later angels to come to release him from the tomb after his sacrifice on the cross.

The third temptation is to take the title Lord of the Nations by using the powers of this world: lies, greed and force. The heart of this temptation is for Jesus to use power to force the kingdom of heaven onto the world. Why die on a cross? Why not crucify people until the rest fall in line?

He says ‘no’ to the temptation...but...

Later Jesus is given the title, “King of the Jews” by Pontius Pilate the highest authority in the land as he hangs on the cross, the only throne on which he will ever sit.

He says ‘no’ three times to the temptation to use power to meet his own needs in order that he might later say ‘yes’ to our needs.

Jesus’ temptations are ultimately to choose between what is easier for him and what is better for us.

As we make our Lenten journey this year I encourage each one of you to ask:

Is my Lenten discipline serving God by making life better for others?

How is my Lenten discipline going to make a difference in the lives of others?

Who is my Lent for?


As I prepared the above text for preaching, I did so without having chosen my own discipline; but now I have: this blog will be my discipline. I will carefully and prayerfully take time each day to work at it through reading, research, reflection and writing (my four R’s!). I pray it will be a blessing to you.

Every Blessing.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Still Here


I guess some of you have been wondering where I’ve gone.

I’m still here. Just a bit spent after two very hectic months (personally and professionally).

My last blog concerning the church’s response to the ‘split’ in the Anglican church of Canada inspired two very interesting responses. I promise I will respond to them in due time. Watch for it! BTW, has anyone else noticed how very un-newsworthy this ‘event’ has become since no exodus of dissatisfied Anglicans has come to pass? Like I said before, this is a splinter.

This past Thursday evening, nine of us started a 10-session course entitled, “Experiencing the Bible Again for the First Time,” based on the Marcus Borg book, “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally.” I recommend the book to anyone who struggles with how to apply Scripture to our modern world-view. It’s not like some of the over-simplistic “pablum” that calls itself “biblical studies,” but challenges us to really think...something I fear most people would rather have others do for them.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest...

At its heart the whole course is about building a community who will take some steps (some large and some small) to meet the bible in a fresh way. It is done in an attitude of worship and with the Bible (not Borg) as the central text. As one participant put it, we are in for a fun time ahead!

Every Blessing!