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Showing posts from August, 2016

Luke 14- humility and hospitality

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Luke 14:1, 7-14
There is a story about a university professor who went to visit a Zen master to learn about Zen Buddhism. The master served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the tea overflow until he could no longer restrain himself, “It is full. No more will go in!” “Like this cup,” the master said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” The professor was full of himself. In a similar way, the Pharisees were full of themselves. In Zen Buddhism they teach that there is no such thing as the “self”. There is no soul. There is no person, ultimately. In Christianity, the teaching is self-forgetfulness. There is a self, but the self is not the focus. The focus is to be other-focused- towards God and neighbour.  The Pharisees were self-focused.    Jesus saw the Pharisees choosing their places at the table according to how important they thought they were and he says, &quo…

from 1961- "The Hidden Failure of our Churches"

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So a friend of mine has a Maclean’s magazine from Feb 25th 1961. (For those of my non-Canadian friends, Maclean’s is ‘the’ Canadian magazine). My friend was kind enough to lend it to me and I thought I would give a bit of a review of it. First, the title- “The Hidden Failure of our Churches: Despite the so-called religious revival, the churches themselves- Catholic and Protestant- are afraid they are losing their place in Canadian life”.The first thing that struck me was the idea that these are “our” churches, rather that “the” churches. There was an identifying with the church on the part of, not only the author, but seemingly of the magazine.
The magazine is from 1961- the year JFK became president of the United States, and John Diefenbaker was prime minister. The Cold War was worsening and some families were building bomb shelters. 1961 saw the beginning of the building of the Berlin Wall. This was also the year of the first direct involvement of the US in the Vietnam War. Bonanza …

Who wouldn't want to be a prophet?

Jeremiah 1:4-10
There is a pattern in the Bible that we often see when prophets first receive their call from God. God calls the prophet. Then the prophet will protest that they should not be the one to do what God is asking. God then reassures them that He will be with them to help them carry out their task.

I find it very interesting that these faithful people show a reluctance to respond to God’s call. When God first calls Moses out of the burning bush, Moses responds, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11); “What if they do not believe me or listen to me … I have never been eloquent … I am slow of speech and tongue… Please send someone else” (Ex 4:1, 10, 13). We see a similar reluctance from Jeremiah who responds to God’s call saying, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jer1:6). In addition to Moses and Jeremiah, we see this reluctance in the stories of Gideon, Saul, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. … We see this in t…

drawing the line - Luke 12

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Luke 12:49-56
Our image of Jesus tends to be a very gentle image. There are pictures of Jesus walking along with a flock of sheep with a little lamb in his arms. We tend to think of Jesus as incredibly accepting and non-judgmental. We tend to view him as a very nice man that wouldn’t hurt a fly.

So when we hear readings like we have today it can be a bit shocking. 
 "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! … Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Lk 12:49,51). Those are not the words we tend to hear on Jesus’ lips.

We tend to gravitate towards the comfortable teachings of Jesus and avoid the uncomfortable teachings. We love the story about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8). Jesus faces off with a crowd that wants to stone the woman according to the law. Jesus replies that those who are without sin should throw the first stone. Of course no one does. It is the image of the non-…

Be Watchful- Luke 12

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Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
One day I was going through a box full of things from my childhood. I came across a picture I drew and as soon as I saw it a memory flooded my mind that I hadn’t thought about for years. I think I was about 8 years old and it was a picture on me reaching for a yellow belt. It brought to mind a belt test I attended as a part of my Karate class. I didn’t pass the test. I remember feeling crushed by that experience (which was the inspiration for the picture I drew). But, I received numerous belts since that time and I studied martial arts for quite a few years, so when I look back on that picture it’s actually quite embarrassing to see how worried I was by that experience. I felt that embarrassment numerous times going through that box of memories. It didn’t get any better when I found my journal from when I was a teenager. I look back on those fears and worries that haunted my mind and they seem fairly trivial now, even to the poi…

The power of the powerless, the powerless powerful

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20;  2 Kings 5:1-14
I would like to look at both our Luke and 2nd Kings reading this morning because I think they relate in an interesting way.

In 2nd Kings we read about Naaman. He is an important commander in an army of one of Israel’s neighbouring countries (modern Syria). In fact, he seems to have been an enemy (at least at one time) since he stole an little Israelite girl in one of his raids, which means he or one of his men may have killed her parents. He kidnapped this little girl and made her a slave for his wife.

This powerful man is powerless when it comes to his health. He has leprosy. In Israel, and I suspect in the surrounding cultures, this was more than a skin disease. In Israel, Leprosy also meant you were quarantined. You were separated from your family and friends and the rest of the community. You became an outsider. You lost everything. I’m not sure what this meant for Naaman, as he was from a different people and a different religion, but it seemed t…