Showing posts from 2015

Spiritual, but not religious

I read an interesting book review today by Anthony Robinson on the book
Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes:Finding Religion in Everyday Life
By Nancy Tatom Ammerman.

The review contains the following:

"So it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear the eminent sociologist of religion Nancy Ammerman conclude in her new study of religion in everyday life that the SBNR [spiritual, but not religious] is a unicorn—a species that does not exist in reality. For most people, Ammer­man found, organized religion and spirituality are not two separate realms but one. Respondents who were “most active in organized religion,” she reports, “were also most committed to spiritual practices and a spiritual view of the world.”... The other side of the coin is that those who invoke the distinction between religion and spirituality (“I’m spiritual but not religious”) turn out to be neither. For the most part, such language is what sociologists call boundary-maintaining discourse. It is a way that people wh…

Colossians and transformation

1st Sunday after Christmas-  Colossians and transformation
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 Colossians 3:12-17 Luke 2:41-52

We read in our Gospel lesson that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in years”. He sits in the temple among the teachers and is asking questions and giving answers. He is participating in learning the ways of the Law. There was a development in Jesus. He learned. His character developed. Jesus is at about the age when Jewish boys have their Bar Mitzvah. It is a time when they are considered to make a transition from boyhood to manhood. Before their Bar Mitzvah the sin boys commit is the responsibility of their parents. After their Bar Mitzvah it becomes their responsibility. So there is an expectation that not only will people grow older physically, but their character will develop. They will become wiser. They will develop virtue.

We read something similar about Samuel who lived in the Temple with the priest Eli. It says, “the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favo…

Christmas and doubt

Doubt and skepticism are powerful in our culture. In some ways this is good because it can make us investigate and not believe something too quickly. For example, I’m glad I was skeptical of some of the products I saw advertised on some late night infomercials.
 … So doubt and skepticism can be a good thing, especially in a culture where we are dealing with a constant stream of advertising.

Religion is often a target by the doubting and skeptical. In the Bible, in the letter of Jude we read, “Have mercy on those who doubt” (1:22). The Bible allows room for those who doubt. … But, we can go too far with this. It can become a general attitude we adopt as a way of appearing intelligent. Dallas Willard, who was a philosopher from the University of Southern California once said, “We believe the skeptical person to be more intelligent in our culture. You can be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt” (Hearing God by Dallas Willard, Epilogue). A cheap and easy way of appearing intellige…

Make a U-turn- John the Baptist

Luke 3:7-18
John the Baptist sure puts you in the Christmas spirit, doesn’t he?

John represents the school of the prophets. He is dressed like Elijah. They both wore Camel’s hair garments with a leather belt around the waist (2 Kings 1:8 and Matt 3:4). Elijah was the prophet’s prophet. He was supposed to come before the messiah would arrive (Mal 4:5). John also had the words of the prophets on his lips (Mal 3:1; Is 40:3-5). The stereotypical cry of the prophet is “repent”, which means to turn. You repent when you head down the wrong road and when you realize it you make a U-turn. It involves both turning away from what is wrong and turning towards God and His ways. The prophets usually arose to call people back to the Law and Covenant. The people would stop following God’s direction in their life. They would become attracted to the cultures around them. They would start participating in the worship of other gods, and forget the moral and religious direction God set out for them. So the…

Repent! John the Baptist

Luke 1:68-79

Our Gospel reading opens with a list of names, mostly obscure and hard to pronounce. We also know about these names outside of the Bible through ancient historians and archaeology. What Luke is trying to do is to place this story in history. We have a system where we give a number for every year (2015). That wasn’t really used until the 9th century AD. Before that historians would often say the year of an important ruler. Luke says this part of his story takes place in the fifteenth year of Emperor Tiberius. We know Tiberius was officially in power from 14 to 37AD.
We know Pontius Pilate was a governor of Judea from 26-36 AD.  Archaeologists have found his name engraved in the city of Caesarea on a plaque stating that Pontius Pilate built a pagan temple to the honour of Tiberius. 
 Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee from 4BC to 39AD. He was the son of Herod the Great. Another son of Herod the Great was Philip who ruled northeast of the Sea of Galilee. 
And Lysanias ruled a…

What is Advent?

What is Advent?

The word Advent comes from the Latin word for “coming”. It is a season that marks the beginning of the Church’s year. It starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is a time when we emphasize the coming of Jesus Christ- past, present, and future. We remember Jesus who will be born on Christmas in an animal’s feeding trough to a people who were longing for God to rescue them through the expected Messiah. We yearn for God to come to us in our daily lives, especially through the Sacraments, Scripture, the community, and the needy. We also expect Jesus to come again in a unique way at the Second Coming when God comes to renew creation and defeat evil and corruption once and for all. Advent is a time of waiting, expectation, and longing. We remember Mary pregnant and longing to see her child which will bring her such profound joy. We prepare for Christ to come again recollecting that we have been given work to do as Christ’s Church in the w…

Will you be ready when he comes?

Jer 33:14-16 Luke 21:25-36

Today we are starting a new year in the church’s calendar. The Church year always begins with Advent. Advent is a season that brings a certain level of tension. Our culture is ready for Christmas, but in the church we are in Advent.

In Advent we think about Christ coming to us as a baby. We imagine Mary’s pregnant belly and her anticipation. So our Old Testament Reading includes the line, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer 33:14-15). It is a prediction about Jesus’ coming. It is a time when we remember John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way for the one who was foretold.

But, we also imagine Christ coming to us again, this time in power and as judge. This is often called the 2nd …

Living in the Kingdom- Reign of Christ

Living in the Kingdom
Revelation 1:4-8
John 18:33-37

In Revelation, Jesus is described as “The ruler of the kings of the earth”. Revelation was written to a group of persecuted Christians. It’s a bit strange that the followers of the highest king would be enduring such difficulty. In John’s gospel Pilate confronts Jesus about being a king. Jesus admits he is a king, but ironically Jesus is on trial. The ruler of all kings (including Pilate) is in the process of being condemned to crucifixion. Strange thing to happen to the highest king.

In a world where hundreds are being terrorized by attacks like we have seen in Paris and Beirut and in Nigeria, what does it mean to say Christ is King? … A friend of mine died a few days ago. She was a runner and she had a brain tumor that resulted in one side of her body being mostly paralyzed. All she wanted to be was a mom, but she left behind two beautiful young girls in their late teens. The cancer took her. What does it mean to say Christ is Kin…

in times of destruction... wars and rumors of wars... Mark 13

Mark 13:1-13
When we look at what is happening in the world it can feel like we are on the verge of the end of time. Almost 130 people have been killed in the Paris attacks that we assume are connected to the Islamic State (ISIS). Recently, in Beirut (Lebanon) there was an attack that claimed the lives of 43. There have been massacres in the hundreds in Nigeria by the fanatical Islamic group Boko Haram. We see a constant stream of attacks all over the world in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Somalia, and the Philippines. In 2014 there were just over 30,000 deaths due to terrorist attacks. … On top of this, the news is frequently telling us about the increased frequency of natural disasters due to climate change and showing us the deadly results. This is often reported alongside the threats of Western economic collapse. .. Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of wars. He said nation would rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. He said th…

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Psalm 127

Psalm 127
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
     those who build it labour in vain.
   Unless the Lord guards the city,
     the guard keeps watch in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
   and go late to rest,
   eating the bread of anxious toil;
   for he gives sleep to his beloved.
3 Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
   the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
   are the sons of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has
   his quiver full of them.
   He shall not be put to shame
   when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Today I want to look at Psalm 127. It is a short Psalm, but it holds a profound truth. Psalm 127 is one of only two Psalms that are connected to the name “Solomon”. Solomon, you might remember, was the Son of King David. When David died and Solomon took his father’s throne He asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9). Solomon’s name is also connected to the Book of Proverbs, which are short teachings about li…