“I Was Beside Him Like a Master Worker” (SD #100)

Today, Trinity Sunday, I want to encourage us to reflect on the doctrine of the Trinity. This is one of the most enduring and central descriptions of God maintained by Christians around the world. In the coming year I intend to encourage our congregation to think and pray about the ways we care for each other. trinity iconThis is both a question of our individual disposition and a structural question. The reality for our congregation and for many others is that the ways we’ve cared for each other in the past are no longer as effective as they once were. Things have changed. Given that context, you can think of the reflections that follow as a bit of a rationale for why that’s an important question. Psalm 8 was a part of our liturgy this morning but Prov. 8:1-4, 22-31 and John 16:12-15 are our central readings. As we begin reflecting on the doctrine of the Trinity in the context of these passages, I wonder if I can admit something . . .  I don’t really like the book of Proverbs (gasp!). Can I admit that as a pastor? The book irritates me. Read more

Pentecost, Romans 8 and Acts 2 (SD #99)

Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, one of the Sundays of the year when our congregation welcomes new members. In the ancient church most new members were initiated (baptized) on either this Sunday or Easter. Baptism is a ceremony Christians have used since the faith’s beginning. It both depicts God’s grace and expresses the baptismal candidate’s desire to fashion his or her life in mold of Jesus of Nazareth. Baptism is a tangible way of experiencing the church’s welcome and God’s love. Those joining our congregation on Pentecost Sunday had all moved to Ottawa from other communities and had already been baptized, so we didn’t do that. However, giving them a formal welcome and celebrating communion with them was the focus of our worship that Sunday. For that reason we didn’t have a proper sermon, but I did offer some reflections on the day’s Scripture readings (Rom 8:14-17; Acts 2:1-6) and the liturgy of the morning.   Read more

Should We Try to Change the World?

I flipped open a magazine today and noticed an advertisement for a Christian university here in Canada. The ad, set against the backdrop of an artist’s hand, asks if you think a brush stroke can change the world. This particular university thinks it can (or at least their publicity department does) and wants to be at your elbow as you do. Given the criticism of this sort of modern ambition in recent theological work, I was surprised to see it from a university.

I’ve recently read James Davison Hunter’s book To Change the World. Part of the case he tries to make is that this ‘let’s change the world’ ambition is characteristic of Christian engagement with the broader culture in North America. Before seeing this ad I didn’t think his analysis applied in Canada. According to Hunter, contemporary Christians have the impression that if they can just latch onto the levers of power they can fix things. JDHunterOne of the results has been a politicization of the Christian life and the conclusion by many that the best way to express their hopes and values in public is to do so through the mechanisms of state power. Hunter, a Christian and professor of Religion, Culture, and Social Theory at the University of Virginia, thinks this is a pretty serious problem. I have a few hesitations about Hunter’s analysis but here are a few of his insights worth mulling over:   Read more