Philip Jakob Preaches the Reign of Christ

What a weekend we had! St Aidan’s was fortunate to have world class liturgical animator Phil Jakob with us. Phil stayed with Catherinanne and I over the weekend as he came to town to lead a Mission for the Deanery of London. I first met Phil at the Abbey of Iona while we were on pilgrimage there in 2010. I was moved by Phil’s faith and his ability to bear witness to it with word and song. Phil  lead our mission on Saturday and all who were present bore witness to these gifts. Phil was also present to the Faculty of Theology at HUC on Friday. He worked hard while he was here.  Philip who has played organs from Notre Dame to Sacré Coeur, and cathedrals of Chartres, Beauvais, Laon, Rheims, Soissons, Bergerac, Toulouse, Ypres, Ghent, as well as several other churches in the UK, Belgium, Holland and Spain.  Phil Jakob was Music Director in the Diocese of Hallem in the UK. When he was let go as a result of poor stewardship and financial mismanagement The people of St Lawrence in Tampa Florida saw great opportunity and jumped at the change to bring this world class talent to North America. I am glad they did – it meant he was so much closer. It was a joy to reignite a friendship forged on the sacred soil of Iona.

Here is an audio recording of Phil’s preaching. Within it, he introduces a new piece of music of Marty Haugen. St Aidan’s church was the first place to pray these words. We were honoured and blessed to do so.  Thank you Philip for a tremendous weekend.



The trouble with today’s celebration of Christ the King is that it can lead us to spend the day, the month, the year or our entire discipleship life in simply worshipping the undoubted greatness of Jesus Christ, God-made-man. Worship is only one element in discipleship.

Another, and more challenging element,is to enflesh the person of Jesus Christ in our own lives, priest, prophet and king (as we are all baptised). My old Bishop in UK, John Rawsthorne, now retired but very active, used to say that our full, active and conscious participation in the Eucharist is completed by our full, active and conscious participation in action for justice in the world. We will be familiar with the writings of the apostle James …Prayer without action means nothing!

Discipleship can be costly. Where Jesus went we are invited to follow. So let’s look at today’s Gospel ….

Jesus Christ was sent to his death by religious people who may have thought they were doing the right thing. They bring him before the Roman authority.
Pilate is in a fix. He has the authority to send Jesus to his death or to free him. He admits to finding no fault with him but prefers to wash his hands of responsibility regarding his fate. He hears the truth in his heart but, fearing a riot of protest from the mob, seems to lack the integrity to carry the truth into his own actions.

In other accounts of the same event Jesus says very little to defend himself. He remains silent to questioning. Since he is Truth, why should he need to defend what he is? I am reminded of the advice of St Francis

‘Preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.’

There are several instances in the Gospel narratives when we might wonder why God did not intervene. Divine intervention would have made everything so much easier. But then God would have denied the very freedom he gave humanity – the freedom to choose good or evil. Truth or untruth.

“Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice”

Truth is a virtue we are all invited to reflect in our lives. For Jesus says, ‘The truth will set you free’.
What is our truth??

When we see a report of an atrocity in the media do we reel with horror?
Has the casual access we daily have to such horror anesthetized our senses?
I recall being in the company of a friend who visibly broke down when news broke of another bombing in Ireland, this time in the town of Omagh.
The bombing brought with it the death of innocent by-standers. She was so connected to her fellow humanity and their pain was hers.

Do we rejoice with hope at news of the landslide election victory of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar? Are we surprised that the topic of her first meeting with the military powers was a non-violent solution to the country’s challenges? Do we greet good news stories with tears of joy and tragedy with tears of sadness?
Where is our truth?

Do we confront convenient lies?
In the aftermath of the killings in Paris last week I heard several instances of anti-Islamic comment from ordinary people in the bar I frequent.

Attempts to introduce my understanding that such extremism betrayed Islam, that Islamic scholars had issued a public statement denouncing this extremism and that ordinary Muslims were afraid of an ignorant backlash from their neighbours were all met with disbelief. They admitted that they had never encountered a Muslim but felt confident enough to express ignorant and negative opinions about them.

Then I went to my Facebook account and found one friend, Alison, commenting:

“I’m really upset that some of my Facebook friends are sharing furious rants about yesterday’s terrorist attacks and calling for terrible revenge. What we need now is not more violence but to work and pray for love, peace and justice to prevail.
‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.’


Others of my friends had super-imposed a French flag on their profile photos. They never did the same for the recent bringing down of a Russian plane or for the killing of innocents in Kenya the day after attacks in Paris. Collective conscience can be so selective and so media-driven.

But what is our truth?

I was really impressed by the way in which Canada, and particularly the churches owned its responsibility for the mistreatment of First Nations people As witnessed in the June report of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Not every nation has reacted with the same integrity.

In its 400 pages are detailed witness statements and harrowing evidence about the treatment of children in ‘residential schools’ in what is described as ‘cultural genocide’. Truth sets a nation free to become truly human – multicultural even, to be one nation: many cultures. Not for nothing does one of my colleagues in the Iona Community say “God’s favourite colour is tartan!”

This openness has already led you in this parish of St Aidan to consider how it might respond to the refugee movements from Syria and elsewhere. This is a wholly Christian attitude. The welcome we extend to the stranger is a characteristic we share with followers of both Judaic and Islamic faiths. And in greeting the stranger we often welcome angels in disguise!

Sing IN THESE TIMES by Marty Haugen

When I was living in UK I sold my house in one affluent part of Sheffield and moved into a much larger house in the most run-down part of the city. I had friends there and had become impressed by the sense of community in that area. But even still my friends could not understand why I needed a 6-bedroom house. Even I was skeptical!

Then opportunity came my way.
Sheffield became one of the major dispersal areas for asylum seekers in UK. The system could not really cope with the massive influx of broken people. And in time communities began to respond to their needs for food, learning English and friendship. Occasionally this led to legal representation as some refugees were described as bogus or illegal. These are terrible and most objectionable labels to place on any human being. When government support to an asylum seeker was terminated for whatever reason, what was he or she to do, prevented from earning a living and without food or housing?

I was fortunate enough to be able to offer my spare rooms to accommodate some of them. Over a period of 3 years I gained immensely from the experience of sharing what, by the grace of God, I had with those who had nothing. I only stopped hosting people when the processing of asylum cases became more efficient and they were either accepted or deported more speedily.

Some of my guests were deported but others were eventually welcomed into UK or, in the case of Seraphim, transferred to Australia. Seraphim had been a well-known radio broadcaster in Congo and chose to speak the truth which led to his arrest and torture. He managed to escape and eventually arrived in England where he spent 7 years awaiting a decision about his case for asylum. His wife and 7 children had been in a refugee camp in Malawi before being transferred to Australia where they now live happily together.

On one occasion my mother promised to visit me in Sheffield and I took the opportunity to mention that there would be another person, Seraphim, staying with me. When she heard the details she asked if I felt safe, if this was legal. She had read convenient lies in her chosen newspaper and had believed them, but it was an unexpected encounter with a human being behind the headlines that changed her mind.

Our opinions are formed by received instruction and by our life experiences. When these experiences force us to confront previously conceived ideas we may also change our minds. This is a sign of our maturity as human beings: the ability to change our minds when our previously conceived notions are challenged by injustice or untruth.

Jesus was a bit like my mum.

An unexpected encounter with a foreign woman (the Syro-Phonecian woman) caused him to confront his own pre-conceptions and to widen the understanding of his mission to embrace all nations rather than simply his own.

So where do we all go from here? How should we respond to the Gospel today?

We know that evil flourishes when good people do nothing. When Mother Teresa was asked how she managed to touch the lives of so many thousands of people she replied; “One person at a time.”

So be strong.
Let’s be the people God created us to be.
We are the body of Christ and not the corpse.


Affirmation of Faith
written by Allan Boesak

It is not true that this world and its inhabitants are doomed to die and be lost.


It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction.


It is not true That violence and hatred shall have the last word, And that war and destruction have come to stay for ever.


It is not true That we are simply victims of the powers of evil that seek to rule the world.


It is not true That we have to wait for those who are specially gifted,who are the prophets of the church, before we can do anything.


It is not true That our dreams of liberation of humankind, our dreams of justice, of human dignity, of peace, are not meant for this earth and its history.


Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback.

Scripture and Refugees

IMG_6454In the wake of the terror bombings in Paris last week there is much debate about Syrian Refugees. Unfortunately, much of the discourse is driven my misinformation and half-truths. When we see the kind of barbaric and senseless violence that we saw last week, it is not at all surprising that fear might lay hold of our hearts.

I believe that we who are members of the church need to place our voice in the public square as a people who support Refugee Resettlement. I am heartened by the response from so many Christian Communities across Canada who have done the work necessary to rescue Syrian Families from the terror that they have been living. I can include St Aidan’s in that group, as well as the Deanery of London. Our church community has begun the work to bring two families here. Our Deanery is ready to also begin work for our first two families.

We have a strong history in being a people who offer sanctuary and help to refugees. Perhaps the church is so compelled because Jesus himself was a refugee. We have plenty of reason to reach out, to be welcoming, and to be hospitable.

I read a piece entitled What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees[1] on Relevant Magazine’s webpage, In it they list twelve passages of scripture that address how we as a people of God ought to be present to those who need help, those who are without a place to call home. It was well done – so here they are – lifted straight from that page

Love Refugees As Yourself

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Leave Food for the Poor and the Foreigner

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

The Sin of Sodom: They Did Not Help the Poor and Needy

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

Do Not Oppress a Foreigner

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

Do Not Deprive Foreigners Among You of Justice

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

Do Whatever the Foreigner Asks of You

“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name— for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. (1 Kings 8:41-44)

Leave Your Door Open to the Traveler

No stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler (Job, discussing his devotion to God) (Job 31:32)

Invite the Stranger In

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

We Were All Baptized By One Spirit

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

Have Mercy on Your Neighbor

He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:29-37)

So with the strength of Scripture behind us and the call of Jesus echoing in our ears let us be present to this world as people who act in faith. There are plenty responding out of fear. We are people of light, people of faith – let us respond with the loving witness and mercy that is the hallmark of our baptismal promises.

[1]


We MUST Pray!

How do I feel about the terror attacks in Paris?
I have been asked a few times in the past couple of days.
I have also had to contend with reading and digesting more than enough anger and hatred than I care to take in — especially when it comes from people I love and respect.

SO — I am posting my sermon here! This will give you a sense of how I feel and what I am thinking about in the days following a week of terror attacks. Please feel free to share — please feel free to disagree — The comment section is open. It is not a forum for hatred however and disrespectful, or xenophobic comments will be removed.

Loosely speaking the text of my sermon is posted below… with some exceptions and changes.

Sermon – In the Wake of Parish Terror Attacks – WE MUST PRAY

Begin by praying Psalm 43 ….

Darkness will not drive out darkness – only light can do that! – MLK

This week has been one of the very worst.

We have all been rocked by what we have witness come across our TV screens, our front pages, our twitter feeds … etc.

The terror that fell upon Paris on Friday is an affront to humanity everywhere. It has shocked us all.

Here the words of faith leaders:

Pope Francis:

‘I am moved and I am saddened…There is no religious or human justification for it’

Justin Welby – Archbishop of Canterbury:

Tragic Paris, desperate news of deep tragedy, with heartbreak for so many. We weep with those affected, pray for deliverance and justice.

Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Catholic archbishop of Paris:

In the face of human violence, may we receive the grace of a steady heart, free of hatred. May the moderation, temperance and self-control that everyone has shown up to now continue throughout the coming weeks and months. May no one allow themselves to get caught up in panic or hate. Let us ask God for the grace to be peacemakers. We must never despair of the possibility of peace, if it is justice that we are building.

Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain

“This attack is being claimed by the group calling themselves ‘Islamic State’,” he said. “There is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil, and outside the boundaries set by our faith.”

International Abrahamic Forum

The International Abrahamic Forum, comprising Muslims, Christians and Jews, strongly condemns the horrific terrorist attacks carried out in Paris.
We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the innocent people who lost their lives in these vicious inhumane attacks and pray for the full and speedy recovery of the wounded. These barbaric acts stand contrary to everything that Islam represents. We express our solidarity with the French people and pray that peace and reconciliation between all the children of Abraham will prevail.

IAF Co-chairs Rabbi Ehud Bandel and Dr Mustafa Baig 
and Project Coordinator Francesca Frazer

Bishop Bob Bennett

It is important that our prayers do not end with Paris and this tragedy alone.  Pray for our world which seems to be increasingly full of deep violence and pain.  Pray for those who will be unfairly targeted after this attack because they share religion or race with the attackers.  Pray for all of us, that we do not become what we fear.

So since Friday – I have been trying to pull together my thoughts. I have done so prayerfully because honestly – these things have a way of really leaving us without words.

Here are some of my thoughts – I confess – not all of them.

Why pray ask some? – Prayer will not do anything. I disagree.
We run the risk of becoming what we condemn.We Need to Pray!Some are asking why would God put this tragedy upon the people of france? God did not. People filled with hate did that. We need to pray!

Many people now have to figure out how to live in the midst of the unspeakable aftermath of Friday in Paris. We need to pray!

AFTER the violence in Paris I became aware of the violence of this week —
The people of Beirut suffered a suicide bombing on Friday – 43 dead over 240 hospitalized. We Need to Pray!

The people of Baghdad suffered a Suicide Bombing at a Funeral on Thursday.  19 dead and 33 hospitalized My prayers are for the people of all races and nationalities, my prayers are for leaders around the word. We Need to Pray!

I have been asking myself of I, along with much of the West place different values on different lives? Are we as outraged at the killing of those in the Mid-east as we are at those in Paris? We need to pray!

My prayers are that we now allow the hate that inspired attacks on innocents this week turn us to hate. We need to pray!

We need to pray in part because our humanity is intertwined with all humanity and when others hurt – we should feel that hurt. We need to pray because we often value some lives more than others and that is wrong. We need to pray because we need our hearts to remain firm in Love. We Need to Pray!

And most of all We need to pray because hate is insidious and it is the work of the dark one — when these things happen. Hate is breathing down our necks — we need to pray to be people swift on our feet to put distance between ourselves and that hate. We need to pray that we do not become what we most despise. We Need to Pray!

In the words of Martin Luther King –
“Darkness cannot drive out Darkness – only LIGHT can do that!”

Today’s gospel is a reminder that the Kingdom is not just around the corder we are in the midst of war and earthquake and confusion. Those are not the harbingers of the kingdom…

We pray – “Thy Kingdom come ON EARTH as it is in heaven!”We search for God’s reign, we pray that we may begin to truly live it. It will become real when we have the wisdom to put aside the ways of war and violence and embrace peace and shalom. In the words of Isaiah…

Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”
Instruction will come from Zion;
the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.
Come, …
let’s walk by the Lord’s light.

God weeps at this kind of human failure. God weeps all the more when our response is to follow the leading of Darkness.

I close with these words from Jeremiah – I believe they reflect how God is present in this very difficult week of violence:

A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and wailing.
It’s Rachel crying for her children;
she refuses to be consoled,
because her children are no more.
The Lord proclaims:
Keep your voice from crying
and your eyes from weeping,
because your endurance will be rewarded, declares the Lord.
They will return from the land of their enemy!
There’s hope for your future,
declares the Lord. Your children will return home!

As is always the case – your feedback is most welcomed here. Simply post your comments below. 

“We Must Make Start”

1waterYesterday we collected ourselves together for worship by bringing water from all over the world – literally. Stories were told of waters from Porto, to New Zealand, from Port Elgin, ON to the Glaciers of Norway [Ask Richard Gillam about his near death experience collecting water for our font]. It was a great time of worship, of celebration of the water and of making a start!

We are at that time of year when people come together again after long summers, — and we prepare to make the first steps together into a busy fall season and winter season with loads of church activity. “We must make start!”

We come together around a new effort to sponsor a refugee family from Syria. There is much to do to make this happen — but we had to make the first steps. We have raised $31 000 in one week. “We have made start!” Now we will assemble the rich people resources we have at St Aidan’s to make us people ready – “We must make start!”

We enjoyed a BBQ, we enjoyed one another’s company, we prayed, we sang, we celebrated, we remembered St Aidan, we journey together, we broke bread, we churched!

Many thanks to Greg Smith and our Worship Planning Team for your work and vision.

Here is the sermon – with remarks from John Davidson included.

Red Tape Challenge

This is an update on last week’s blog post.

After church on Sunday I was overwhelmed with the immediate and strong support. A number of you have come forward and committed $19 000 of the $27000/$30000 we will need to sponsor a Syrian Refugee Family. We are 2/3 of the way there in one week. That is tremendous. The People of God are good in this place. We are quickly at work to show that Mercy trumps Judgement.

We also have had a number of people step forward to become part of the Committee needed to make application and to do the work necessary for settlement when the time comes. Again – the People of God are awesome in this place. We are quickly at work to show that Mercy trumps Judgement.

The other great movement that has come to life is the #RedTapeChallenge. After church last Sunday John Davidson came to me and told me he had some thoughts for a grass roots idea. Something he would call the Red Tape Challenge. How it works? Well a donation is made to St Aidan’s or another place of worship working to bring Syrian Refugees to Canada, then tear up a very Canadian product, duct tape, on video and posted to social media if possible, as a call to the folks in Ottawa to cut through the red tape and speed up the process to help rescue these folks from the hell that they have been living in. Its a great moment when someone responds so immediately to a call for action in a sermon. We are quickly at work to show that Mercy trumps Judgement.

In the days ahead, you too can take the #RedTapeChallenge — here is John Davidson’s call to action followed by a couple of videos showing how you can participate.

Mercy Trumps Judgement

[As always, your comments, thoughts, and feedback would be most welcome] 

A Sermon Dedicated to Alan Kurdi
As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead.

Who among us was not deeply impacted by the image if three year old Alan Kurdi washed up on the beech in Turkey? I have been prayerfully considering what response is appropriate. The first thing I needed to do was convict myself of my lack of effort on this front when this has been an issue for so very long. My first response needed to be to seek forgiveness for not stepping up sooner. Alan Kurdi’s little body on that beech opened my eyes. I was wilfully blind to what people are suffering.  There are millions of people fleeing persecution. That little boy’s death was my moment of having my sight restored and my ears unstopped. There are many more Alan Kurdis. What that in mind it is important for me to commit to personally give to a family who needs to be freed from the Hell that they are fleeing. There is no Christian response that can be rooted in being greed, or judgement. I need to commit, time, money, and effort to do something about this humanitarian crisis. I also realize that my efforts must be joined with a community effort. To that end I have called on our community to come come together to sponsor a Syrian family.

The call was well received. We will require approximately $27 000 to bring a family here. This week I received text messages and emails letting me know that if we do something there will be support. Those commitments totalled $3000. Today by the time we had left church, another $2500 was committed.  There is a vibration of God’s mercy and compassion welling up.

The Epistle reading today from the book of James is clear – “Mercy trumps judgement!” So I am calling on all of us to step up! I am asking us to step away from the electoral rhetoric that we have been listening to during this silly season called an election campaign. That means avoiding the trap of judgement. So when you begin to say “What will they do when they get here?” – beware of the trap called judgement! Remember MERCY. When you begin to say – “Will it be a Muslim family or a Christian Family?” – Beware the trap called judgement! Remember MERCY When you find yourself asking, “Why should Canada have to do any of this?” – beware of the trap called judgement! Remember MERCY. When you begin to leap to the conclusion that we just don’t have the resources, beware of the trap called greed! Remember MERCY. 

There is much work to be done. Let’s get to work together and do what we can to help this refugee crisis. If you want to help in any way, please be in touch with me. You can email me at We will need finincial commitments, we will need volunteers to form a Refugee Committee, we will need prayers. We need a joint effort by the people of God.

Today’s Reading from James

My brothers and sisters, when you show favoritism you deny the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has been resurrected in glory. Imagine two people coming into your meeting. One has a gold ring and fine clothes, while the other is poor, dressed in filthy rags. Then suppose that you were to take special notice of the one wearing fine clothes, saying, “Here’s an excellent place. Sit here.” But to the poor person you say, “Stand over there”; or, “Here, sit at my feet.” Wouldn’t you have shown favoritism among yourselves and become evil-minded judges?

My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith? Hasn’t God chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Don’t the wealthy make life difficult for you? Aren’t they the ones who drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who insult the good name spoken over you at your baptism?

You do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself. But when you show favoritism, you are committing a sin, and by that same law you are exposed as a lawbreaker. Anyone who tries to keep all of the Law but fails at one point is guilty of failing to keep all of it. The one who said, Don’t commit adultery, also said, Don’t commit murder. So if you don’t commit adultery but do commit murder, you are a lawbreaker. In every way, then, speak and act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment.

My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.

Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful action. It’s good that you believe that God is one. Ha! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble with fear. Are you so slow? Do you need to be shown that faith without actions has no value at all? What about Abraham, our father? Wasn’t he shown to be righteous through his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? See, his faith was at work along with his actions. In fact, his faith was made complete by his faithful actions. So the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and God regarded him as righteous. What is more, Abraham was called God’s friend. So you see that a person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through faith alone. In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute shown to be righteous when she received the messengers as her guests and then sent them on by another road? As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead.

Erathen Vessels and God’s Love

It is possible to enjoy every day of life as an unfolding mystery filled with more gifts then we can hold. But most of us are too afraid of mystery and too busy to find it in ordinary places. We are so obsessed with what we do not have, we can’t see the value in what we have been given. The blessings from God are usually hidden in very plain packages. They come wrapped in things like an evening meal at the kitchen table with someone you love, a child you see playing in the backyard while you’re doing the dishes, a great conversation with a friend… In these earthen vessels are found the treasure of God’s love. ~ Craig Barnes


I have been reading Craig Barnes book Hustling God. I am loving it. The words above speak to one of the great challenges the People of God face as we journey on ‘The Way’ in a consumer culture; God is always reminding us of how very loved, and beloved we are, but we often cannot recognize that because we are overwhelmed by messages that reinforce the notion that we must be busy and productive in order to achieve the next ‘thing’ that will prove we are successful.

How do we break down those walls to allow the mystery that is God’s love to captivate us and set us free that we might see God’s blessings all around us? The trouble is, we have convinced ourselves that ‘blessings’ are God’s reward’s for good deeds, time well served, hard work, great piety etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. God chooses to love us…period…FULL STOP!

While we are busy being productive, successful, consumers looking to acquire the next thing that we do not have, we often cannot see the work that God is doing. We cannot see the blessings around us. Barnes hits the nail on the head; look to the people around you, to the moments you share with people around you and you will see God’s blessings wrapped in the plainest of packages.

May God grant us all the wisdom to not fear mystery and seek to focus less on what we do not have in order to appreciate what we do have – earthen vessels full of God’s love.

Go Forth and Set the World on Fire


“O my God, teach me to be generous
to serve you as you deserve to be served
to give without counting the cost
to fight without fear of being wounded
to work without seeking rest
and to spend myself without expecting any reward
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.
Ignatius of Loyola

Today the Church celebrates Ignatius if Loyola. The spiritual practices of Ignatius of Loyola have influenced many over the years. The Jesuits have contributed greatly to the world in their writing and in their service to the poor.

Often people ask, “How should I pray?” It’s not uncommon that people feel they do not know where to begin when it come to trying to engage God in prayer. One of the resources that I like to refer people to – is the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.

One of the Spiritual Exercises that Ignatius in particular that I think is helpful for all who walk the Way of Jesus, is the Examen. “The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.  The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.”[1] Ignatius asked all Jesuits to practice the Examen twice daily – at noon and at days end. In brief the Examen calls us to:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

I, personally, have found this to be a great exercise. Perhaps today you might give it a try. To learn more about this five step exercise click here


As is always the case – I look forward to your thoughts and feedback. Click the stars above to vote and click leave a comment to offer your thoughts

“Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning.”


Vacations are, for me, a wonderful time to catch up on reading. I was recently off for three weeks and was afforded the opportunity to dive into the pages of some books that I had set aside for reading, some suggested books, and a couple of newbies that I discovered while away. Here, in no particular order, is my suggested reading list. I will add a comment or two about each book:

A Blue Puttee at War (Sydney Frost) FullSizeRender(2)
Every Newfoundlander is aware of the Blue Puttees. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment was brought together in 1914 to join Allied efforts in WWI. The first 500 of these men were known as the Blue Puttees. They were so named because of the unusual colour of their puttees. A fabric shortage saw them supplied with these lower leg coverings by the Church Lads Brigade – an Anglican organization which is still operational in NL. One of the first 500 to sign up was Sydney Frost, an employee of the Bank of Nova Scotia. Frost was a Canadian living in the Dominion of Newfoundland. He became a very well decorated soldier. He was one of the few Blue Puttees (original members) to survive the entire war. This book, edited by Edward Roberts, is a personal account of his time in the RNR. Frost kept a remarkable amount of notes and accumulated notes and paperwork over the years. This book was his memoir and was not written to be published – but his family thankfully decided to have this remarkable story told. This book gives the reader a first hand account of the slaughter that was Beaumont Hamel. On July 1, 1916 there were 767 Newfoundlanders sent over the top in an impossible situation. They next day only 58 men answered the roll call. Over 300 were dead. The Dominion of Newfoundland has suffered a devastating blow. To a small colony, whose population in 1916 was considerably less than the City of London, ON., July 1st became formative it its peoples cultural memory. If you are interested in the collective Canadian History and are unfamiliar with the contribution that Britain’s oldest Colony had paid before it became a part of the Dominion of Canada, this book is a must read!

Detroit: An American Autopsy (Charlie LeDuff)FullSizeRender(4)
Charlie LeDuff is a journalist who grew up in Motor City. He left his home to pursue a very successful career ad a writer fir the New York Times. LeDuff finds himself returning to his natal city after leaving the Times and looking for employment. He takes a job with the Detroit News, which is a limping remnant of the newspaper business. LeDuff offers his personal experience of pain tragedy and loss as experienced by his own family and in the lives of the people of what was the heartbeat of American industry and culture – Detroit. LeDuff, is raw and unfiltered. He does not sugar coat the ills of Detroit and by extension the ills of a nation. He challenges everyone from corrupt Mayors to Union Bosses. LeDuff posits Detroit is a city whose future is a litmus test for the future of the nation. For those of us who love ‘The D,’ this book is both gut wrenching and hopeful. A terrific read. Thank you Jim Townsend for lending me this before my break.

The Bible Tells me So: Why Defending Scripture has Made us Unable to Read it. (Peter Enns)Screen shot 2015-07-28 at 10.38.53 AM
If you are a Christian or even interested in Christianity this book is a must read. We Christians are a people who have The Bible as our guiding text. Enns makes the bold assertion that church has spent too much time and effort trying to tame and sanatize scripture. He insist that our efforts to make the Bible behave is crippling to our faith. This professor of Biblical Studies is a great writer. His use of humour and sarcasm make this book not just an important read, but a fun one as well. He exposes fear based beliefs that are often at odds with one another and challenges the Christian to wrestle with scripture and to do so knowing that God would expect as much from us.

 Here is a taste:
“If we let the Bible be the Bible, on its own terms—on God’s terms—we will see this in-fleshing God at work, not despite the challenges, the unevenness, and ancient strangeness of the Bible, but precisely because of these things. Perhaps not the way we would have written our sacred book, if we had been consulted, but the one that the good and wise God has allowed his people to have.”

The Pastor: A Spirituality (Gordon Lathrop)IMG_6088
Primarily through examination of the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and the Commandments, Gordon Lathrop provides a life-long catechumenate for those who pastor. In this book Lathrop calls on those who pastor in Liturgical settings to pay heed to the words they are saying weekly. Through an examination of the Lord’s Prayer he calls the pastors to embrace the communal nature of who we are at what we do. He nails it in suggesting that the the Lord’s prayer images ‘a strong center and an open door.’ “Open door to the reality of the condition of the world. Strong center in bread and forgiveness. Open door in the priestly identity of the assembly for the sake of the life of the world. Passing on the skills of the community involves helping people know themselves as marked by both these themes of the prayer. And passing on the skills of the community is one important way to prepare for assembly leadership and live the vocation of the pastor. So, ‘let us pray with confidence,’ as the old invitation says, giving others access into the heart of the prayer, helping others be held by prayer.” I recommend this book to all who are pasturing in Liturgical traditions.

Our Scandalous Senate (J. Patrick Boyer)FullSizeRender(6)
In this very well timed work, Former MP and member of the Mulroney Government makes the case for abolishing the Upper House. I picked this book up in a little store in Bracebridge, home of the author. Now I must confess that I read this book thinking I would disagree with much of what was in it. As a socialist I did not think I would find my opinions to be in concert with the conservative professor. I was wrong. The author is honest and fair to both liberal and Conservative parties in his assessment of how the Senate has been used over the years. I began reading the book as one who bought the argument that the Senate was a place of ‘sober second thought.’ I finished the book feeling that the upper chamber us anything but a place of sober second thought – or sober anything for that matter. Boyer is very knowledgeable and has built many relationships with legislators and with senators over the years. I have valued his counsel on this matter as we journey toward a fall election. Boyer argues that the provinces managed to eliminate their ‘senates’ with no discernible negative consequence. The Senate of Canada has been abused for political gain by Liberal and Conservative Prime Ministers over the years, says Boyer. “…it was inevitable that, over time, and by extension, those whom they ensconced in the place would evince similar behaviour.” Great reading for Canadians as our Fall election approaches . [As an aside I understand PM Harper was to announce policy to abolish the Senate today, but backed out upon the announcement being leaked – I wonder what Boyer thinks of that.]

Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx. (Heidi Neumark)IMG_6085
This was one of my favorite books over the summer —- so far. Neumark’s memoir recounts her 20 years as a pastor of a struggling Lutheran Congregation in the South Bronx. The principal thesis here is the need for breathing space for new life. She writes about the need for the congregation to find breathing space, the need for the neighborhood (choked by pollution) to find breathing space, the need for desperate people to find breathing space, the need for her as a pastor to find breathing space, the need for her family to find breathing space. It is beautifully written and a really meaningful piece of work. The stories of poverty, violence and loss are gut wrenching and heart breaking. At the same time, reading about a church which renews itself by finding its mission in the community is a very heartening and hopeful promise for all who minister in parish settings.

Here are just a few of her words that just leapt out at me:

As a pastor, I keep wanting to build something stable, solid, and lasting and often I seem to be failing. Things progress and then seem to fall back. I’ve always like the phrase “burning patience” quoted by Pablo Neruda when he received the Nobel Prize for literature:

‘I wish to say to the people, of good will, to the workers, to the poets, that the whole future has been expressed in this line if Rimbaud: only with a burning patience can we conquer the splendid city which will give light, justice, and dignity to all.’
… Impatience with my private failures too — feeling constantly torn between family and church responsibilities, never enough time to do anything right, feeling that everything is so fragile and might collapse at any moment….and it will be my fault as the pastor who should oversee it all — and knowing that such thoughts give far too much importance to myself. Lack of perspective, lack of breathing space.

Pegahmagabow: Life Long Warrior (Adrian Hayes)IMG_6089

This book was also a purchase in the little store in Bracebridge. Francis Pegahmagabow is Canada’s most decorated war hero. He was also a great political leader in the years following the World War I. He is simply a Canadian Icon – but one I have never heard of. This speaks to the injustice to First Nations people in terms of how their story is retold.

If you are not family with this great Canadian I might suggest your interest might be piqued by this CBC piece. Click Here

Adrain Hayes writes well and this book reminds all who read it that Pegahmagabow was more than a war hero – He was also tireless in standing up for the rights of Canada’s First Nations People.

This is book that should be a text book for all teenagers in this country. A Quick read.

Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical InclusionScreen shot 2015-07-28 at 11.03.33 PM
(Yvette Flunder)
Flunder is a United Church of Christ Pastor whose life experience minister with and to people who are on the edges of society provides a memoir that challenges the church to remove the barriers that we have placed before people and provide radically inclusive communities that address the needs of those within them. As she puts it;

There can truly be no Lord’s Supper, no communion, no Holy Eucharist, in a community whose members do not love each other. We may as well call it a poorly planned dinner party.

He book is part story telling about community and part sermon. In section one she writes about creating community , sustaining community, celebrating community, and preaching to community. In part two she offers a sampling of her preaching. It’s a great book.

Of the many bits of great advice in this book I found these words most helpful:

Yesterday’s kindling and logs were for yesterday. Keep an eye on your fire, protect it and watch the character of it, what feeds it, what works and what doesn’t. Become intimate with the gift of God in you. Honour it and add some fresh fuel to it daily; minister to your gift according to the need….

Appreciate the fact that the original flame, the original gift, came from God. God is making you responsible to steward over it. Don’t take it for granted. God gives the fire… We tend it. Tend it like it is precious and priceless. Don’t be afraid to say, “No, I can’t do that or I can’t go there, it will disturb my fire.”

The Future of Faith (Harvey Cox)Screen shot 2015-07-28 at 10.58.20 PM
This is a book I would recommend to all who are engaged in the practice of ministry. Cox offers the thesis that there are three ages of the church’s life; The Age of Faith, The Age of Belief, and The Age of the Spirit. He argues that the Age of Faith began with Jesus and his immediate followers and was propelled by faith that he initiated. This ages was marked by growth and persecution. Faith provided hope and assurance to those working to user in a new ear that was marked by compassion, justice and healing. The Age of Belief took root when the church leaders began formulating orientation programs for those who had not know Jesus and his followers directly. The Age of Belief replaced faith in Jesus with believing proper tenets about Jesus. This was exacerbated with the development of an elite clerical caste who became specialist who distilled all that had been written into a list of beliefs. Then along come Constantine and Christianity becoming the religion of the Empire. This followed by councils to determine what right belief looked like set us firmly in an age that lasted for over 1500 years. In fact, Cox argues we are still shaking it off as we move into The Age of the Spirit. This age which is now being birthed relates strongly to The Age of Faith. This new age is

“less focused on creeds as were those who live in the Age of Faith. Hierarchies had not yet appeared then; they are wobbling today. Faith as a way of live or a guiding compass has once again begun, as it did then, to identify what it means to be Christian. The experience of the divine is displacing theories about it.”

This is a great read and offers hope to those practicing ministry today that we are living in an age closely akin to the days following the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. There is life in the church.FullSizeRender(7)

An Altar in the Wilderness (Kaleeg Hainsworth)

This is a beautiful book about spirituality, ecology, and God’ created order. I read it in one good sitting. Hainsworth writes this manifesto as an expression of his love for spirituality and how it is lived and expressed.

“Spirituality is not for hobbyists. We engage with the spiritual world every time we reach beyond ourselves, every time we encounter and form relationships with other people…we belong to a complex, platitudinous ecosystem that extends beyond us limitlessly in all directions. If it’s possible to say that spirituality begins the moment we enter a relationship (with God, with each other, with our per, a garden), then how great is the need for spiritual ecology? We are after all in relationship with every living thing on the planet, even if we can’t see so far as to know it.”

This book argues that we get closer to God when we come closer to creation, when we do our best to protect and restore it, and when we seek forgiveness for how we have harmed it. Great Read!

Introducing the Missional Church (Alan Roxburgh and Scott Boren)IMG_6121
What is Missional Church? This book lays out the challenges of answering that question. It’s authors argue that we have too long been fixated on attritional models of ministry. Build it and they will come. In the very well written book on Missional Church, Roxburg and Boren give great direction on how to help congregations move from putting out fires and building programs to get them to come to outlining how to create space where people can honestly talk about our fears with the change we all face in the church and then work to discern how God is at work in the neighbourhoods around us and become present and active with God.

They write:

What would it be like to cultivate a church in which people ask deeper questions without strings attached? What is important to emphasize is that we don’t need to have answers in order to create this space for people. In fact, having all the answers and bible verses on hand runs contrary to what we [should be doing]. We need an environment in which people feel safe to give voice to what is happening inside them right now.

This is another book that should be on every pastor’s reading list

An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbrook  (Etty Hillesum) Screen shot 2015-07-28 at 11.17.08 PM

“Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning.”

This is a powerful book. Etty Hillesum’s dairies and her letters tell the story of her life as a Dutch Jew during WWII. Her letters from Westerbrook show the unbelievable resolve of a woman who would not let violence and hate kill her spirit.

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”

There are countless pearls of wisdom from this woman who is often referred to as the adult Anne Frank.

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”

It is impossible to read Etty’s word’s and not come away having reclaimed large areas of peace within. I pray that what I have been given in her words, I may reflect to those around me.

A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson)FullSizeRender(5)
This book is REALLY funny. Lots of moments where I laughed out loud. Bryson writes about his experience of walking the Appalachian Trail. He offers insights into himself, his friends, strangers he met along the way and the nature of awesomeness of forest.

One of the funniest lines:

“What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die of course. Literally shit myself lifeless.”

And a thoughtful quote….

“In America, alas, beauty has become something you drive to, and nature an either/or proposition–either you ruthlessly subjugate it, as at Tocks Dam and a million other places, or you deify it, treat it as something holy and remote, a thing apart, as along the Appalachian Trail. Seldom would it occur to anyone on either side that people and nature could coexist to their mutual benefit–that, say, a more graceful bridge across the Delaware River might actually set off the grandeur around it, or that the AT might be more interesting and rewarding if it wasn’t all wilderness, if from time to time it purposely took you past grazing cows and till fields.”

That’s a short snapshot of some of the reading I have been doing. I am now on to Harper Lee’s book – Go Set a Watchman — I’ll keep you posted….


As always – please feel free to offer your comments and feedback. If you have read some of those – let me know your thoughts. Just vote at the top… and click on “Leave an Comment”