Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obscene

THat is the only way I can describe this story I found at Prairie Preacher

How many people does it take to eat something described as:
A Restaurant in Detroit Michigan has just announced it has the world's largest commercially available burger on the menu ... with 24 hours notice and $350 you can get the "Absolutely Ridiculous" 61 kg (134 lbs) burger on a 23 kg bun along with bacon, cheese and all the fixings!!
And we wonder why there is an epidemic of obesity in North America???????

Shaun asks why we would trumpet such a show of excess in a world of hunger, homelessness, poverty, and need. Why indeed?

Money as a Spiritual Issue

Several years ago the Bare Naked Ladies mused about what they would do “If I had $1 000 000”. All month Ontario Lotteries has been running TV ads asking us what would we do if we won $1 000 000 a year for 25 years. And this week the Federal budget was unveiled. But did you know that all this money talk is a spiritual issue?

In many ways there are few documents more spiritual than a budget. After all, a budget talks about what we think is important, and shows that importance with money and resources rather than just words. And so we have to ask ourselves what our financial decisions say. Do tax cuts show an attempt to favour the rich or an attempt to provide for the poor? Is increased spending a waste of money or an active provision of needed service and support? Do our personal finances focus on our own wants or what is best for the society as a whole?

Note that the answers to these questions are rarely straightforward. There is nothing wrong with watching out for our own needs and wants. There is nothing wrong with being rich. The witness of Scripture never makes wealth a sin. Money is morally neutral. It is the choices we make that have moral or ethical value. Scripture calls us always to use what we have for the betterment of God’s whole Creation.

So I took time to think about the question asked in the lottery commercial. (Of course in my case the question is purely rhetorical since you can’t win when you never buy lottery tickets.) What would be the thing to do with a million dollars a year for 25 years?

Some things are obvious. Provide for the girls now and in the future, create education savings for them. Pay off the van, buy a second vehicle, help out our families. But that doesn’t take nearly the amount of money we are talking about here. So what else?

For me some of the what else would be support ministry in various places and ways (in and out of the church). Give to worthy causes, nationally and internationally. Do those things that allow people of all sorts of backgrounds find the abundant life that is the hope of us all. Find ways to help pick each other up out of whatever hole we find ourselves in.

But I would also set aside money to support other parts of creation. I would take time to set up a fund for building ultra-high eco-efficient houses and buildings. I see a fund for a wide range of public and private and public/private projects to improve our ecological quality of life.

That, in part, is what I would do. What would you do?

Oh and lets be honest. In all our minds part of the answer is given in the end of the song:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is This Good or Bad?

9

Apparently I am reallly soft? OR just really nice???

Hat Tip to John

Saturday, February 23, 2008

SOme Days I Just Don't Understand

This weekend I am at a Presbytery meeting. Long weekend (12 hours yesterday, 8 hours today). A Good theme presentation arranged largely (or rather completely) by a colleague was last evening and this afternoon.

BUt here's what I don't get. LAst year two of us presented a motion that we ask our Conference to move from holding general meetings every year to having 2 in every three-year period. THe reaction was far from positive. HOwever, instead of defeating it the motion was postponed definitely.

So this year it came back to the floor. I spoke to it again, having done some research as to how other conferences have done just this thing. I was fully prepared to bring it up, have the vote and hve the motion defeated. AFter all, I was asked to help write a similar motion at last year's Annual Meeting only to have it defeated soundly (and in terms of political process it makes more sense to not bring up the question every year).

THe result this afternoon? No debate, no questions for clarification, and an overwhelming acceptance.

SOme days I don't understand how the SPirit moves in the church...

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Retreating IDea (part 2)

This morning I was thinking about this idea some more.

In particular I was wondering how one got the ball rolling to get such an idea explored. But then it struck me. In 3 months I will take on the Chair of thisPresbytery. That gives me a voice to suggest things.

One of my goals is to challenge the PResbytery as to how ALL of its actions work to support the ministries within our bounds (this is what our mission statement says we are all about). BUt maybe another goal could be to explore the idea of a clergy & family retreat.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Looking for a Guidepost

THe latest issue of Touchstone includes an article by VST professor Lynne McNaughton on Pilgramage as a Spiritual Practice During Life's Transitions. (the current issue is not yet online)

In it she relates the story of a pilgrim walk on Ireland's Dingle peninsula (the Cosan na Naomh --Path of the Saints). The way has no visible trail but the path is marked by a series of posts about 500 meters apart (1 meter=39 inches). The day they walked it was foggy and the next post often could not be seen so they had to travel on trust, following the direction of the arrow on the post until the next post emerged out of the fog.

McNaughton uses that image often in the article. And it does indeed seem like a very apt metaphor for the life of faith. So often in life we find ourselves standing looking in the direction we are being pointed, wondering what lies out in the fog. BUt the only way to find out is to stride forth, looking for the next guidepost to emerge.

As I read the article, I couldn't help but realize that it was resonating with me, deeply. I think I find myself in search of a guidepost. Which way is the arrow of faith pointing me right now?

THere are options. Do I explore the possibility of taking a sabbatical (3 months) and with that commit to being here for another 3 years? Do I start to be more proactive in looking at what may be out there? Do I continue to "keep my options open"? WHat path brings life to me, to the family, to the congregation?

OR maybe I just start investing in lottery tickets and use the money to make dreams come true?

Friday, February 15, 2008

FRiday Five: H20 and Word

In this Sunday's gospel Nicodemus asks Jesus, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Poor old Nicodemus! He was so confused about the whole "water and Spirit" business of baptism.
For today's five, tell us about your baptismal experiences.

  1. When and where were you baptized? Do you remember it? Know any interesting tidbits? I was baptised on May 25, 1969 I know the exact date because I went and got my baptismal certificate out of the desk drawer. Seeing as I was 2.5 months old at the time my memories of it are limited :). I was baptised in the church where my mother grew up (my grandparents were charter members) and where my parents were married. A couple years later my sister was baptised by the minister who had performed my parents' wedding and my baptism -- he wanted to "finish off the family" before his retirement.
  2. What's the most unexpected thing you've ever witnessed at a baptism? Nothing comes to mind. I mean kids are kids so it is safe to expect almost anything after all.
  3. Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms? This congregation not so much although "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry" is almost always a part of the service (this hymn also works for weddings--trust me I know personally--and for funerals, or confirmations, or graduations, pretty much any rite of passage). THe church I attended when in seminary (also the church of my baptism) had at that point a tradition of placing a card at the back of the sanctuary for all in attendance to sign that morning.
  4. Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor? Have a story to tell? Nope. In UCCan tradition the congregation are the godparents, a role that is lived out with uneven results. Since we moved from my birthplace that congregation did their part when I returned as a student a couple decades later. In the past year, I have come to think that sponsors, properly oriented to that role, are actually a good thing.
  5. Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn? See #3. Also "Out of Deep Unordered Water"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Bookish Meme

As seen at Inner Dorothy

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more.(no cheating!)
A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson ANchor Canada 2003) Haven't even read this one yet.
Find page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
I need hardly point out that when he did get one it tended to be good. Einstein's next idea was one of the greatest that anyone has ever had -- indeed, the very greatest, according to Boorse, Motz, and Weaver in their thoughtful history of atomic science. "As the creation of a single mind," they write, "it is undoubtedly the highest intellectual achievement of humanity," which is of course as good as a compliment can get.

In theory I now tag 5 people. Whatever. IF you want to do this, go ahead, if not, don't.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fundraising Ethics

As we all know, most children's activities these days need to do some fundraising to make ends meet. I understand that and to a degree I accept it. Personally I prefer fundraisers that actually sell things as opposed to raffles or things such as 50/50 draws or bingos or lotteries. If I want to support you I will make a donation (and really that is what I see myself doing when I buy tickets on the things).

OF course to make these things happen the families need to help out. I get that I really do. BUt when an organization sends out tickets to sell with a letter saying "You must sell this many tickets or be billed for the difference" then they have crossed the line. Saying "in order to make enough money we need everyone to sell..." is fine. But mandating that people will sell a certain number of tickets is not ethical.

True they offered a way out -- "those who do not wish to sell tickets may make a donation of..." (note that a mandated donation is not a donation, it is a fee) but still this seems a gross misuse of parental support.

ANd more to the point, shouldn't you set your fees so that they cover the base costs of the program and then use fundraising for extras and/or scholarships to support those who find the costs onerous? I would gladly pay an extra $20 up front than be bullied into either 1) making a "donation" or 2) forcing a ticket sales pitch upon friends and acquaintances.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What's Up With this??

There is a spirituality group meeting at the church. Last night the topic was Birth and Death.

To spark discussion one of the group members had brought a DVD of Esther Hicks/Abraham.

I had never heard of her. I had heard of The Secret but really only in passing.

Part of me was thinking this was nutty--this woman "speaking for some non-physical entities". Part of me thought it sounded strangely like a sci-fi plot (specifically Star Trek came to mind). But then how would we view the Biblical prophets who essentially made the same claim?

To tell the truth I found her channellings/ideas difficult to follow. But what I did follow was rather wierd.

Part of the purpose of this group to move beyond traditional Christian ideas and look at wisdom and practices from other sources. So Esther/Abraham fit in as a discussion starter. And her/their idea around making your own reality can be very attractive to many. But in the end I found that there was much in her philosophy that I could not reconcile with my experience of the Source. ANd it had a very individualistic sound that has ethicl implications in a communal world.

What do y'all know about/ or think about Esther and Abraham?

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Lenten Friday Five

As seen at RGBP

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How? We went to the local Anglican Church for Pancakes on Tuesday. And on Wednesday Beloved and I went to a play The closest that comes to being an Ash Wednesday observance is that they held curtain for 10 minutes to allow people from the RC church next door to get over after mass.
2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent? None of them seem overly memorable. The most I guess would be the one year we did an Ash Wednesday service here. It is one of maybe 3 times I have attended an Ash Wednesday service.
3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it? Not particularly. WE always knew it was Lent, and when I was young the Anglican congregation shared our building and they always had a Pancake Supper for Shrove Tuesday. But in terms of traditional Lenten observances beyond that? Not so much.
4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between? When I have done anything it has been take-on, usually of working through a Daily meditation for the season.
5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year? Nothing special planned really.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On Dying and Family (or Lack Thereof)

THis Friday I have a second funeral for a person with no survivors (this year).

In a community this small this is rare. Most people have some family around. But in January I had one through the Legion and this morning I got a call from the funeral home. Death, no family (or no family willing to get involved), funeral home would like some rite at the graveside, could I help.

Of couse the answer is yes. But this evening I am struck by how sad that circumstance is. I suspect there will be some friends at the cemetery, and there were last time. But to have nobody who will automatically take a lead role in arranging your memorial. That is sad. Even if not family--after all in our nomadic society we sometimes get separated from family, and family just means we are related-not that we get along--some close friends, someone to arrange something.

IT just strikes me as sad. People should not be allowed to die alone or unmourned.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

We Have This Ministry!

Sally laid out this challenge on Facebook:

There are many good things happening in the Church today, and yet we often only hear negative stories.
With this in mind I am proposing a synchroblogging/ face book posting event for the 2nd February.You are invited to share a local positive and encouraging story.
God is with us, working in through and amongst us- lets talk about it!!!!
This seems to be a great idea so...

What is happening to fulfill the ministry of the church in this place and time?

LOTS! ONe of the gifts this congregation has is that of caring for each other. IT is one of truths abotu small communities that "everyone knows everyone". Truly this is sometimes a mixed blessing. But when people are so close then people know when there is need.

THis congregation supports each other. Maybe someone is ill? A card gets sent. Maybe a significant birthday or anniversary is being celebrated? IT gets named in worship. Death in the family? New baby? You might well get a meal delivered to help feed the family who have arrived. ANd you will be named in prayer, names written in the prayer book. Worship at the care home? Expect not just the clergy person but a group of others to show up to sing and chat and worship with old friends.

Little happens in this congregation that someone doesn't know about (again a mixed blessing for some). And because of that we find ways to let people know they are cared about. Both in word and in deed we live out this ministry, and we are not discouraged.

ANother gift is that of hospitality. When we have a meal the whole town is invited. People of all faith (and/or no faith) communities in town arrive to eat together fall and spring. OR when we host a regional gathering the food is given a high priority (and often rave reviews). And of course there is something holy about sharing the table with our neighbours.

Thanks be to God!

Troubling.

Toronto will now have a Black-focussed (not black only) school.

A proposal to create Canada's first black-focused public school was approved by Toronto District School Board trustees Tuesday night.They have recommended the creation of an alternative school that features a curriculum and teaching environment oriented around black history and culture.(CBC NEws)

To a degree I understand the logic of those who have been advocating for this sort of thing. It seems a logical response to a situation where there is a clear apprehension of bias/prejudice. AFter all I doubt that 40% of all Toronto High School students are dropping out (if that was true there would be big trouble for the school board).

BUt in the end I think that while this may in fact be a solution it is not the best solution. SEparating people out, even if on a voluntary basis, doesn't solve the underlying issue. I have the same issue around the resurgance of single gender schools -- yeah there is some research that shows it improves performance but at what social (and socialization) cost?

TO me it is simply a sad mark of our supposed progress as a society...

Friday, February 01, 2008

ADvice Sought

I am mulling over the idea of purchasing a multi-media projector later this year.

BUt I am not sure how to knowwhat specs to look for and know that price alone is not always a good guide. SO I am wondering if readers out there have advice on what to look for in such a piece of equipment.