Month: November 2007

Coming Together

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“No single tradition monopolizes the truth. We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions in order to give peace a chance.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and Scholar

 

I have been reading the works of Thich Nhat Hanh for many years. One of his best works is a book entitled “Living Buddha, Living Christ.” In it he outlines the similarities between Christians and Buddhists and brings hope to the world for peace and enlightenment for all of God’s children.  In the quote above he reminds the world of the need for TOLERANCE.  These words above would be hard to swallow if your are a literalist, extremistor fundamentalist, where absolutes are crucial. Tell Pat Roberson that “No single tradition monopolizes the truth.” This man of God wrote in his book New World Order, “When I said during my presidential bid that I would only bring Christians and Jews into the government, I hit a firestorm. "What do you mean?" the media challenged me. "You’re not going to bring atheists into the government? How dare you maintain that those who believe in the Judeo-Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?" My simple answer is, "Yes, they are." Indeed, if this world is to be a better place TOLERANCE has to become a real factor in day to day life and in particular, in day to day governance. We need to speak proudly of diversity and we need to do so loudly enough that the voices of intolerance become less significant.

 

Last night The Faith Club came to Windsor.  Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, Priscilla Warner are three women, who collectively, have become “The Faith Club.” Ranya is a Muslim, Suzanne is a Christian, and Pricilla is a Jew. After 9-11 these women came together, originally to write children’s book, to help their kids better understand differences and diversity in the culture around them.  They got more than they bargained for when they found that they had a lot of work to do, to work out their own differences.  Their book The Faith Club is a memoir of the journey they made together towards knowing each other better. They have visited over 40 cities across the U.S. and last night made their first visit to Canada.

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I was pleased to be at Assumption University’s Freed-Orman Center at the University of Windsor last night to hear these three powerful women of God speak. (You can read about their visit by clicking here)  I was pleased that some people from the church could attend and hear these women share their experiences of having to tear down their own prejudices and stereotypes of the other in order to move forward as friends and colleagues.  

 

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Powerful indeed, to have such well spoken and educated people of faith say with conviction that we all have stereotypes that need addressing. This was a profound answer to the hate-filled lecture “the Deadly threat of Islam” that was offered by Campbell Baptist earlier this year next door to the same campus. I noted last night that Dr. Donald Mckay, senior pastor was nowhere to be found. This man who labelled Islam as “oppressive” and “vicious” should have been present to hear Ranya Idliby speak so firmly about her faith. She is well versed in the Qur’an and gave us an image if Islam that is not at all oppressive and is in no way vicious. On a positive note the lecture was a full house and a good reflection of the fact that this city is indeed much more interested in dialogue that brings us together rather than in propaganda that separates and divides.  The night was the fruit of the labours another couple of strong women of faith – Martha Lee and Remy Boulbol from the U of W’s center of Religion and Culture. I offer them my sincere thanks for bringing God’s voice to the Windsor Community through the work and witness of these three great women.  

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said People hate each other because they fear each other, and they fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they are often separated from each other.” Many thanks to the Faith Club for removing separation, many thanks to God for giving these women such a strong voice – let us all work with people like Martha Lee, like Remy Boulbol, and like the faith club to remove the walls that divide us, and remove the fear that enslaves us so that we may embrace each other in love and in peace.

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The End of an Era

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You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.  ~C.S. Lewis

A few years ago I was in Victoria, BC taking a week of respite in February. I should say, straight away, that Victoria is a great place to be in February. Catherinanne was on a chaplains conference in CFB Esquimalt at the time and I took each day and roamed the streets of Victoria finding interesting places to sit and read one of the three or four books I brought with me to keep my mind occupied. I found some great places, among them a great English Style Pub called Darcy’s.

 

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I spent a day at Darcy’s – reading, eating and enjoying appropriate beverages – all different and all with suds on top. It was a great day! But alas, a man cannot spend 5 days drinking beer and eating fish and chips – although it would be fun to try.

So I branched out, and I found some different places to eat, to drink and to read. One of those places was the now 113 year old place called Murchie’s Tea. This very famous place in Victoria was a delightful place to get a great cup of tea and to enjoy a good ‘coffee shop’ atmosphere.

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Again, being there was for me – time well spent and I was pleased to have those moments of solitude and serenity. Today I read the sad news in the Globe and Mail that this Canadian icon is going to close. (You can read the article by clicking here). It is no longer viable in an environment where Starbucks and other American interests have taken over. This was sad news for me. Catherinanne just came back from there a few weeks ago and one of the very thoughtful presents that she had in her bag for me was a box of Murchie’s Tea.  I will savour every drop. It is sad that so many of our Canadian realities die away in the face of American consumerism. It baffles me really how that can happen. On a recent road trip from Philadelphia to Windsor, we stopped for a tea and a coffee at Starbucks on the Pennsylvania turnpike. I was shocked when the bill came to nearly $7.00. That is simply outrageous. But people seem obsessed with getting a ‘Starbucks’ coffee, or for that matter a ‘Second Cup’ or even a ‘Tim Horton’s.’ I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to this – we all seem sold on the BIG brands and we are all prepared to pay for it. In the meantime if a local Canadian institution has to increase it’s prices to keep up – there is a great cost to be paid. If it sounds like I am on a soapbox – I apologize. This is more of a lament than a sermon today folks and I convict myself of also participating in the great marketplace that often takes no prisoners.  We all love to buy the tings that the mass media sell us – we are purchasing a way of life.

I enjoyed the uniqueness of that small Western Canadian business, and I lament the fact that it is about to become a part of antiquity. That day a few years ago as I read my book at Murchie’s, I was cognisant of my own comfort with the unhurriedness of my day.  While I am so used to going at a fast pace, being still there put me in a place where I was imperturbable. I wish I could go back there, for even just one day. The great Buddhist teacher Thich Nat Hahn has a good philosophy about taking a tea break. “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” I think will go make a nice cup of Murchie’s Tea – not many left.

Baptism, Music and Remembrance

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A Two Part Blog –

 

MUSIC

Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body."

 

Last night I had a very refreshing musical bath. It is soul-refreshing to hear the soft melody of a great choir, particularly when it is well directed and well prepared. Tim Shantz is the conductor of the Windsor Classic Chorale and Katy Warke is Soprano in that great choir – together they are parents to Chloe and Isaac who were yesterday welcomed into the household of God in the sacrament of baptism.  They had quite a journey yesterday from a sacramental celebration of baptism to a prodigious performance at the Old Windsor Armouries last evening that left the sold out audience teeming with thanks.

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On Sunday evenings I am not usually full of vim and vigour, and last evening was shaping up to be tiring by virtue of nothing more than the length of the day. But I was oh so happy to have my sprit lifted and my soul renewed with the gift of music from Tim and his wonderful chanteuses, his wife Katy included. Indeed, I had received gift enough from them in the morning with the privilege of baptising Isaac and Chloe, along with little Sierra Bryceland and her mom Shannon and her Uncle Ryan (That’s right – 5 baptisms).

 

 

The kids were so awesome at their baptisms and brought great joy to our community in their young expressions of faith. Having that joy followed by the stillness and harmony of The Windsor Classic Chorale was more goodness than one paltry Parson should have in one work day.

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The concert was to commemorate Remembrance Day and included beautiful renderings of Amazing Grace, Dona Nobis Pacem, What a Wonderful World, Going Home, In Flanders Field and so many more. The night also included a fun sing-a-long with oldies like K-K-K-Katie … (I wonder why that song?) The whole evening was wonderful and I cannot say thank you enough for cleansing my soul with angelic sounds and for a wonderful day. Nietzsche was right- “Without music life would be a mistake.” I was pleased to experience the music of the morning and the music if the night! A great day indeed. 

 

REMEMBRANCE –

Another great gift yesterday was the gentle and loving way in which Christian Paulton taught the children about Remembrance Day. His duty was to play The Last Post and Revelee  – he was also supposed to give the children’s focus. He combined them and the result was magic.

Those of you who know me well, know that I have to work hard at the Remembrance day stuff. War for me is a real sad statement about our humanity and is cause for collective repentance. Yet, each year we have to find a way to honour the fallen with dignity and to give thanks for the freedom that we enjoy. I have gotten a little better at it over time – of note here I should admit that in my first tenure as a chaplain to the Legion in Labrador – I was fired. They were upset that at the Remembrance Day Celebration “All he talked about was Peace – he never even brought up the war!”  In any event I digress – this started out about Christian.  I share my struggles only to make clear how meaningful what he did was for me yesterday. For those who were not there, you missed a brilliant illustration.  He played The Last Post and in the silence (and the kids had all pledged to be silent) he opened a trunk to help them understand and remember. He brought out of the trunk a number of items that were reminders of the war – a model war plane, a bomber jacket, a picture of his Grandpa, a gas mask, a legion jacket replete with war medals, etc. As each was removed it was passed to a child and the wonderment and love that was expressed in those moments was magic. After all was said and done and each children’s mind was fixed in imagination, our senses were awoken with Revelee. It was profound and it was brilliant.

 The words I remember from the conversation Christian had with the Kids before “The Trunk” were “Thank God you do not have those pictures in your mind.” We need to all work for peace so that those children might grow up in a world which is free of the violence and war that we see about us even today.  Thank God that we do not have the images in our young minds that Rita Severs and Bill Brown have in their minds – having survived the bombings in London. Thank God we did not live the horrors that so many lived. While thanking God for that reprieve from those horrified images, pray to God to have the courage to speak peace, live peace, and work for peace so that  more of God’s Children might say – Thank God we don’t have those images in our minds.”  

We Will Remember

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Tomorrow is a big day at St. Mark’s by-the Lake. This year Remembrance Day falls on a Sunday and we will take the time in our prayers to remember those who have offered their lives for peace and justice in a world mad with war.  

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Benjamin Franklin philosophy was “Never has there been a good war or a bad peace.”  There is no doubt that we are thankful for the sacrifices of our forebears as we all know the terrors that this world had lived through in the last century. Yet the two “great” wars have to be for humanity something that we look at and mourn rather than celebrate. As I think at this time of the year of the young men and women from our country who felt so strongly about freedom that they went willingly, in some cases lying about their age to be able to go, I am grateful for their sacrifice and at the same time saddened about their loss and the loss that comes to humanity when we are warring.  Today we face these same problems and we must pray for peace. As Christians we are called to be a people who will NOT give up on the idea and notion that there should be dignity and peace for all people. We need to take a time like this to take a look at where we have come from, mourning the losses of the past, and in response call our attention to the world issues that face us today. So many are hungry, so many are dying from the scourge of AIDS and so many are just forgotten and our attention today is directed in other places. In the middle part of the last century Dwight D Eisenhower summed it up well when he said; “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”  Humanity is in need of a good dose of the baptismal covenant. We need to take hold of our promise "to seek and serve Christ in ALL persons loving neighbour as self." We need to stand firm in our resolve “to strive for peace and unity among ALL people and respect the dignity of EVERY human being.” (These promises are found in the baptismal covenant on Page 156 of the BAS). Once we lay hold of these ideas we can accept them as a way of life, as a life statement and we can show the world around us by how we act, that there is a better way. This will allow us to thank a Veteran for what he/she has done for us and at the same time work to make that kind of sacrifice unnecessary in our world. Eleanor Roosevelt seemed to “get it,” if you know what I mean. “We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk.”  The world is in need of conversation and dialogue. I hope this weekend as we look back that we also acknowledge the need for the world to come together.

We will have a great opportunity tomorrow to renew our own commitment to our baptismal ministry as we remind ourselves of who we are as community as we engage in the work of bringing more people into “the household of God.”  

Baptism

Tomorrow we will welcome The Bryceland family and the Warke-Shantz family as we celebrate the sacrament of baptism. As the children presented tomorrow are baptized let us pray that they may know a world of peace and that they might be part of making that peace happen.

 

 

PS – we are trying hard to get our plans together for the Annual Steak bbq and auction – if you plan on coming you can help us tomorrow by picking up tickets after church. Plan on joining us – it is the best deal in town – a great dinner and a great night out for a $25 Ticket – by a table for you and your friends! 

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

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A November 5, 2007 Time Magazine article entitled "An Evangelical Rethink on Divorce?" caught my attention this week. It is an interesting examination of a report from British Evangelical scholar David Instone-Brewer entitled "When to Separate What God has Joined: A Closer Reading on the Bible on Divorce." The conservative evangelical wing of the church has long held that divorce is forbidden and this has in many cases lead to pastors as soon as 30 years ago sending women home to abusive husbands to be dutiful wives. Now it seems, at least some, evangelicals are having a change of heart.

 

This is ironic in my mind. Truth be told, fundamentalist have always done this. Argue that scripture is in unwavering word of God and is not open to contextualization or new understanding. At the same time, they have long argued when reminded of scripture passages that espouse reducing the role of women, stoning adulterers, etc that these passages must be understood in “their context.”  This sort of biblical dance has always been for me a bit on the ridiculous side and reduces the credibility of Christians who take seriously the need to journey in faith, and struggle with scripture and its meaning in our modern world.  Now the evangelical church is opening a conversation about biblical teaching which hitherto has been untouchable for them. Cleverly, this scholar believes that the whole thing has been misunderstood all these years because the Greek manuscripts did not use quotation marks around certain phrases. The periocpe that is most often used is Matthew 19:3-6.

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ 4He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, 5and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ 7They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ 8He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. 9And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’*

The quotations are supposedly missing from the “for any cause” in verse 3. That would make this passage different in the sense of “No-fault” divorce. Jesus then answers – oh well of course not except if there is adultery involved. This then leads naturally enough to the assumption that Jesus would not have wanted people trapped in abusive and awful marriages.

 

Evangelicals have now found a convenient way to accept what many of us Christians have accepted for years – Sometimes there is a death in marriage long before either of the partners in that marriage dies. I wondered quietly these past few years when this might become a more vocal conversation for evangelicals.  It is not uncommon for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake to be the home of marriages that are unwelcome in other sectors of the church.  As more and more couples become disenfranchised by the evangelical understanding of divorce there is an emerging problem of loss of members to more liberal and I am sure in evangelical eyes, heretical churches.  So now is a convenient time to get a new understanding of biblical teaching on marriage. Good for them – now  the question becomes when will the conservative church find a new interpretation of biblical passages that relate to homosexuality?

I can’t wait.

Who is my Neighbour?

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Yesterday at Arby’s some of us were chatting about Mr. Rogers and how really good he was in his day on TV. He was a comforting presence that we welcomed into our homes, where so much of what we welcome into our living rooms nowadays is not nearly as healthy.  Mr. Rogers had a strong theology of love and really saw in each person a child of God who needed love and who was called to be loved.  He once said, “I think everybody longs to be loved and longs to know that he or she is lovable and, consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.”

 

Today I am reflective that it is indeed true that the world needs love and needs growth. God is all about love and all about service and Mr. Rogers reiterated that when he said “At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job.
Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds.  Life is for service.”

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So when it feels frustrating some days and there does not appear to be progress in the mission to BE the people of God and to Advance the cause of love and growth for all of God’s children, think of the late great Fred Rogers and his well communicated theology of love and community.  “Won’t you be my neighbour?”

 

Here is a video tribute – you can pause the music on this page first by clicking player above.

 

“Ossifer – I just came from Church!”

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It is hard to imagine that the Roman Catholic Church would be speaking out against a government attempt to cut down on impaired driving, isn’t it? But alas we should never be surprised by the church (including all of us here – Anglicans too sometimes) and its ability to participate in the most ridiculous of situations.

This story comes from Northern Ireland of all places. On November 2 the BBC ran a story with the headline, EUCHARIST COULD MEAN ‘WATER INTO FINE.’ Apparently, Sinn Fein has been calling for zero tolerance on what they call ‘drink-driving.’ This has already happened in many places in Eastern Europe. I understand from my extensive half an hour of research that ‘drink-driving’ is a big problem Northern Ireland and that this is an honest effort to stop people from the dangerous practice of finishing up a pint or two at the local ‘public house’ and driving several miles down the road to the next pub and so on and so on…!   To most of us that sounds like a good idea  (I mean the not drinking and driving part, not the going pub hopping with a car part!).

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Enter the Church – Stage LEFT. A very well known Irish priest, Father Brian D’Arcy weighed in; "We want a law that allows people to drive and not drive people off the road. We want a law that’s applicable and reasonable, not risible. Nobody in their right mind would want that." Why would the church be opposed? Good question! It appears that these fretting Fathers are drinking a LOT of communion wine on Sundays. The church, says Father D’Arcy has not as many priest and the ones they have left are forced to say several masses on a Sunday, in some cases with considerable distance in between celebrations. When I first read this article I thought to myself, “These GUYS have taken the word ‘celebrate’ far too seriously when it comes to the Eucharist.  It appears as though the whole thing is wrapped up in the practice of having priest consume the sacred wine instead of allowing any of the parishioners consume. Simple solution – share and share alike!

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Now I must say that Father D’Arcy may be a teetotaller, but he really should be a little more understanding of the needs of a community to be safe. Referring to legislation that is designed to protect human life as “risible” is really unfair and ironic coming from a priest who is charged to have respect for all human life.  According to RTE (Republic of Ireland’s News Network) the problem there is rampant. I am sure that it is not much different in Northern Ireland. How bad is it? “An average of 250 drivers are arrested each week for driving while under the influence of an intoxicant in the Republic of Ireland.” Over one-third of all fatal crashes in Ireland involve “drink-driving.” I would have to say that the last work that comes to mind is “risible.” The families of those who have lost a loved one would be deeply wounded at referring to legislation to curb that problem as “laughable.”  Bobby Bradley whose 20 year old son Robert was run over by a drunk driver in 2000 would not find this subject risible at all. In a 2003 BBC article DRINK-DRIVING DEATHS RISE, he was quoted saying that, “We feel there should be zero tolerance for drink-driving. We would not want any other family to go through what we have" When I was a teenager I lost two friends to drunk driving. Those families would also find very little in this subject that should be described as laughable or for that matter would see this debate as something that would give rise to amusement.

Well, I really don’t know all the answers. It seems to me that any move to protect the public should be something the church celebrates, even if it is inconvenient. I could be wrong, it happened once just yesterday – Maybe the lack of vocations has lead to the need to allow these fearful Fathers to consume handfuls of holy hootch and drive to the next appointment. According to Father D’Arcy even a small reduction in the legal limit would put them over the top. So in many jurisdictions on the planet where the limit is 50 mgs and not 80 mgs like NI, or where zero tolerance is already in effect,  there is already a pious predicament that leaves the church bound up between Scylla and Charybdis.  What should this hallowed institution do? Well they could do what priests in Crotia are doing – They are seeking $12 Million in comonesation for personal drivers. (Click here to read more) OR It seems to me that it might be time to address the lack of vocations – or am I just not "celebrating" enough?  If you asked me this is all risible!