Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Germinating COncept----or Weed?

Being in a small congregation means that most of teh Christmas pageants that one finds are essentially useless.  Many of them are written with the "find speaking parts for the most kids" mindset,  but when your regular Sunday School is 5 children in Grades 3 and under with a couple of youth you may be able to get to help that mindset just doesn't fit.

ANd so each year I toy with writing something.  But thus far I have always been fortunate enough to find something that will work.  ANd that is good since often I don't start thinking about it until NOvember.  But this year I have started thinking early and am tempted to try to write a whole service/pageant for White Gift Sunday.

So far I have an idea to have 4 speakers:
  1. A narrator/liturgist
  2. Scripture Reader
  3. An older woman remembering fondly what Christmas in the church used to be
  4. A young man/woman who is struggling (possibly homeless???) economically and wondering what CHristmas will bring this year.
The service would intersperse carols and spoken bits and prayers as we talk about the Christmas story and lead into the sharing of gifts for the Food Bank or Christmas Cheer.  NOt sure what to do about the "traditional pageant" piece.  THe kids we have could be granchildren or children of the speaking parts or some sort of pageant tableau could be worked in.  Do we have to have a stable scene for it to be "proper"?

My tentative Advent theme as a whole is looking at what is being born.  Writing our homegrown pageant could allow it to fit that theme????

Friday, September 25, 2009

Just over 1/2 done!

It is the last weekend of September and in these here parts that means it is Presbytery time!

2 solid days of work (with an extra 2+ hour exec meeting last night for an emergent issue).  But at least most of my actual work is done now.  Just a bit to present tomorrow and one motion that we didn't get done today.  Otherwise just sit back and listen and debate.

ANd then no preaching on Sunday!  Unfortunately I would LOVE ot be at home hearing the guest reacher instead of drinving 4-5 hours (depending who you ask/how heavy a foot you have) to City-by-the-lake to pick up the dog before the kennel closes and then another 2 hours home.

TOday was a good day, as PResbytery goes.  TOmorrow may be interesting at times....

And I was only asked to take on 2 new jobs in the last 24 hours.  One was a quick and clear no.  THe other will need thought--maybe if it can be done by teleconference?????????

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who Do You Say You Are? -- A Sermon Opener

“Who do you say I am?” Jesus' question echoes through the ages. Not just “what do others say about me?” but “who do you say I am?” “What do you believe? It isn't enough to rely on what others have said, you have to make up your own mind.” Jesus tells the disciples.

(Interestingly, as Mark tells the story Jesus seems to be less than impressed with Peter's reply. In Matthew Peter is praised but here Jesus tells them not to repeat that anywhere.)

But here is the real kicker. We still have to answer this question. One of the reasons we retell the stories of the Scriptures is to see where they intersect with our lives in the here and now. And this story intersects with our faith lives at the most basic level.

One of (some would say THE) defining marks of Christian faith is that we have to take the Jesus story seriously. To be a Christian means making a statement about who and what Jesus was and is. And we are encouraged to find our personal answer. It isn't enough to simply recite the teaching of the church by rote. Our answer to Jesus' question has to have meaning for us.

It has been suggested that if Peter was a modern Jesus Scholar the discussion in today's story would have gone like this:
Jesus said, "Who do they say that I am." They replied, some say Elijah, some John the Baptist, others one of the prophets." And he said, but who do YOU say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are the ground of our being, the ontological kerygma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationships." And Jesus said, "...What?" That is our answer but yet it is not our answer.

That answer, when taken apart and translated into English, describes a fairly common picture of who Jesus is for us. But it can't be our answer. For starters, who really talks like that? SO the question remains, how would you respond to Jesus? Who is Jesus for you?

And why does the question matter? Well, as I said already, declaring who Jesus was and is is central to Christian faith. And why is it important to be clear about what we believe? We need to be clear about our faith, or at least have a degree of clarity since faith tends to be a moving target for many of us, because that clarity is a source of strength when the world get rough. If we don't know who Jesus is for us it is that much harder to know who Jesus is when the road of faith takes a dark turn.

Because look what happens right after the question. Jesus talks about the road that leads to cross and grave. Jesus talks about the need for people to take up the cross and follow him. And let's be clear. Jesus isn't talking about our “cross to bear” as some sort of inconvenient disease or hardship like we often do. Jesus is talking about the road of faith being a road that leads to persecution and rejection. Knowing who we are, knowing whose we are, knowing what we believe helps us when the cross comes knocking.

Scholars now tell us that this story probably doesn't come from the life of Jesus. Instead it is probably a post-Easter reconstruction as the disciples strove to understand what had happened. IT isn't a story of identification of a a person – it is a story about confessing the faith. When we make the same sort of claim that Peter makes then we make a statement about to whom we belong. We make a statement about whose side we are on. Such statements are not something we should trust to others. Such statements are something we have to make for ourselves. The faith that has been handed down through centuries of the church helps us find our way, but rote recitation of others words is not enough. Who do you say Jesus is? Whose do you say you are? Who do you say you are?

Friday, September 11, 2009

YAWN!!! Friday Five--Pyjama Time


1. What was your favorite sleeping attire as a child? And did you call them pjs, pajamas (to rhyme with llamas), pajamas (to sort of rhyme with bananas), jammies, or ??? pjs was that term we used. and always wore 'em

2. Favorite sleepwear put on your own little ones, or perhaps those you babysat? (Bonus points if you made it). LAtely the girls have decided that they need to sleep in underwear only. Hopefullly we can convert them back to pyjammies before winter hits

3. How about today-do you prefer nightgown, pajamas, undies, or au naturel? pajama pants to this day, unless it is REALLY warm (although someone votes that I wear too much a it is --oops is that the TMI land)

4. Silky smooth or flannel-y cozy? Cotton in the summer, fleecey in the winter

5. Socks or bare feet? Bare feet save for cold weather when camping at times

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Who Is Welcome?? -- A Column

The brightly lettered sign on the door said “All welcome, come as you are”.

Pete looked at his his wheelchair and asked “even me?” and then he continued down the street. How would he get up the stairs?

Next came Sue and Cathy. They looked at the sign, and the beautiful stained glass windows and for a moment thought about going in. But then they remembered the last time they had been, and the clear message that folks like them were “bad”. They knew they weren't welcome as a couple.

Next down the block was a young family. “Let's go see!” shouted the youngest. But the kids tended to be noisy, they had trouble sitting still. Not wanting to cause trouble the parents quickly walked away, dragging the kids with them.

Finally came Fred and Alice. They thought it would be nice to have a warm place to sit and maybe a cup of coffee. But they looked at their shabby clothes and their unwashed faces and knew that their presence seemed to make others uncomfortable. So they went down the street to try and find a meal.

Meanwhile, oblivious to the people passing by and wishing they could come in, the congregation sat looking around the half-empty sanctuary and asked themselves: “Why aren't there more people here? We are such a friendly group?”

The Gospel message is clear. The love and grace of God are offered to all of God's people. But even then we see the struggle to understand what that means. Even Jesus has to be taught about God's amazing welcome. It takes a foreign woman challenging his prejudices to show Jesus that, as an old hymn says, “the love of God is broader than the measures of the mind” (see Mark 7:24-30).

And still the world struggles. Every church I have attended has described themselves as warm and friendly. Every church wants to believe that all are welcome in their midst. But the reality people experience is far different. The story told earlier plays itself out over and over across this country. But God is still calling us to a new way.

God is calling the global community to be a place where all are welcome. All. Regardless of age, or physical/emotional/mental ability, or gender, or race,or social background, or economic status, or marital status, or sexual orientation, or any of the multitude of other ways we have of dividing people; despite all of that you are welcome in the Family of God.

This is the challenge for the world, to live out God's amazingly broad and open welcome. We will sometimes fall short. Sometimes we fall short intentionally, sometimes we don't even know it. If we are going to do better we need to be challenged. Otherwise we are as oblivious as the congregation in the story. What barricades do we put up that keep others out of our clubs, our businesses, our communities? How do we go about breaking them down?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Jobs I have Had...

In honour of Labour Day I thought I would try to remember all the jobs I had had.  So here they are; the good, the bad, and the ugly:
  1. Babysitting (because really isn't this the first job for most people?) -- although I really did relatively little babysitting during my teen years.  Certainly I didn't make my fortune at it.  I did, however, take a babysitting course when I was 12 or 13.
  2. Ticket Seller at Klondike Days -- Summer of 1987 -- this was a 10 day job that pretty much falls into the ugly category.  SPent a whole shift either standing or perched on a little stool selling ride tickets in a booth that became an oven in the hot sun.  Even wore I was 18 so I was put on the late shift and so was ther until the ex closed each time I worked.  THe biggest drawback though were the people with whom I worked.  IT is hard to spend an 8 hour shift beside someone who is doing everything he can to scam the system (or outright steal from the customers as one person did).  Oh and if you didn't balance at the end of the night any shortage was taken of your check.
  3. Gas Bar Attendant -- 1988-1992 -- this started as a weekend graveyard position the summer after first year university.  ANd then I moved to take some morning and afternoon shifts as needed by the end of the summer.  Then during 2nd-4th years of University I worked 3 or so afternoon/evening shifts a week.  It was a great job during school since I could usually get some schoolwork done during my shift.  On a few occassions I helped out with paperwork during the owner's absence.
  4. Lumber Yard -- summer 1988 -- a two week job cutting fence boards that grew into 6 weeks of general lumber yard assistant (a whole lot of stacking and strapping cedar).  Worked with good people but not a job I care to repeat.  ANd since during that time I worked at the Lumber yard all day (8-16) Monday to Friday and then graveyards at Job #3 Friday and Saturday I was really well tired out by the end of the 6 weeks
  5. Devotions Director -- Summers of 1989 and 1990 -- this was my intro to Camp ministry and, as it turned out, my starting on the road to Ordained ministry.  I first applied because it was the sort of summer job that provided career-relevant experience to an Education student.  But it had an infectious quality that remains to this day.
  6. Bull Cook -- Summer 1991 -- my 3rd year at camp.  I had finished my 4th year of Education but still had one round of Student Teaching to complete so I suddenly needed a summer job.  As it happened the camp needed to fill their 3rd cook position, sort of a glorified help-all, and so I went back to the lake.  IT was alright, unfortunately the Head Cook was a bit difficult to work with.
  7. Dishwasher/General Kitchen HElper -- fall/winter 1991/92 -- after camp ended I now needed a job.  Friends of ours were opening a restaurant in town so I aplied.  I started as the daytime dishwasher (with some janitorial work at the beginning of each day) and then when it came time for me to finish my student teaching I moved to an evening line cook position where I stayed until May.  I had a great time at that job and learned more about cooking than I had expected.
  8. Golf Course Clubhouse -- Summers 1992, 1993, 1994 -- I left job #7 to work at my home congregation for the summer.  Unfortunately the grant that was funding the job was for summer students and since I had only taken one course the preceding year I was not eligible so I had to find a job.  I had one offered at a Pizza place but after showing up for the first shift and, half-way through, being told that since this was training it was an unpaid shift I decided tht wasn't a place I wanted to work.  Then I got a job serving in a golf course clubhouse.  I enjoyed it so much I went back the next 2 years (in -between years at seminary).  The 2nd and 3rd summers I did both serving out front and worked in the kitchen (we were short a cook one day and I said "well I can do that" and then the die was cast). 
  9. Assistant Cook -- Summers 1995 1996 -- the year of my first internship I reconnected with camp.  And the next summer I was teh Assistant cook. It was a much better atmosphere in the kitchen these years.  The HEad Cook and I worked well together.  And it worked out that I got to do some programming as well as work in the kitchen.  Actually had the manager/director known it he had a cook who did far more programming and general non-kitchen work than was common.
  10. Car Detailer -- Fall 1995 -- without a doubt the worst job I have ever had.  Not only was the work mind-numbingly dull and mindles but the company was (IMHO) violating the labour code.  The code stated that once you arrived at work you were automatically there for 3 paid hours and ou were always paid for at least 3 hours a day.  But the trick was that you had to be there 11 hours a day while only being paid for the time you were clocked in.  SO if you spent most of the day in the break room because it was slow it was a (free) waste of your time.  It is telling (both in terms of turnover rate and quality of people employed there) that after being there a week they approached me about becoming the assistant manager of the detail area.  I lasted 6 weeks there before I left.
  11. Line Cook -- Winter 1995-96 -- finding myself unemployed and wanting to save money for a trip to England I applied at a new restaurant that was opening.  I didn't get the hours I had hoped for (partly because they didn't get the amount of business they hoped for) but I moved from a relatively limited position to working the full line fairly quickly (along with a few prep and dishwashing shifts as needed).
  12. Line Cook -- Fall 1996 -- My 3rd restaurant opener.  AFter camp ended I was looking for work that would be a little more meaningful.  That didn't come around so I went back to applying at restaurants.  I got a job as breakfast cook and ended up working evenings (again they had less staff than they originally planned because they had less business than orginally planned.
  13. Family Support Worker -- 1996-1999 -- WIthout a doubt one of my favourite jobs.  WOrking at a Crisis Nursery.  Once I got this job (part-time at first) I quit #12 to free myself up for more shifts.  Within a few months I had moved into a 0.9FTE and after about  year into a full time spot.  Being shift work it meant I could do some other things (like spend lots of the summers at camp and do an extended CPE unti one winter).  I worked with great people and of course there was the rewards of helping people in crisis and having shifts where the main job was to play with kids.  I only left this job because it was time to return to working on my MDiv.
  14. Camp Director -- SUmmer of 2000 -- the summer betwen internship and final year of seminary.  Of course I needed work both for time usage and for $$$ so I worked at a different camp.  I likely could have gotten the director job at my "home" camp but didn't really want it both due to geography (this camp I could base out of the city where the seminary was, thereby making saving myself a move right before school) and because that job included recruiting 15-20 volunteers a week.
  15. Ordained Ministry -- 2001 onward -- and that brings me to where I am now.  Wow!  15!  I had never stopped to count them all up before.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bus Bullying???

I heard the end of this story on the radio earlier, and now have found it in entirety...
Greyhound Canada said Thursday that unless it gets $15 million in government aid, it will cease passenger bus operations in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario because it is being forced to operate unprofitable rural routes without government help.
Now this town lost Greyhound service last year. ANd someone stepped in to partially (almost fully) fill teh gap. ANd I could see why Greyhound stopped the route, it had to be losing bigtime money on it given the amount of use it was getting. I could see the logic of threatening to stop or cut back servicing underused routes. But to simply cut a great big hole in national service? To stop servicing a province 2 months after opening a multi-million dollar terminal in the provincial capital? THis is good business practice?

This time (although I hate to admit it) I have to agree with the federal government. It smells like bullying. IT smells like a money grab. After all, as you read further you find that they are not only threatening Ontario and MAnitoba but all of WEstern Canada.

Time will tell if they get away with it.

PS> this has been a few years building. MAny of the rural routes used to be served by Grey Goose Lines but ever since they were bought out by/merged with Greyhound there has been pressure to cut back on this service. Unfortunately this service is a vital lifeline for many in those small communities (for simple little things like medical appointments, you know not that those are important...)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


As I prepare for worship this week I am musing on wisdom. What is it? How do we get it? HOw is it passed on? How does wisdom relate to knowledge?

ANd of course the big question for those of us who are people of faith: HOw and why are Godly wisdom and worldly wisdom the same? Different?

If we are wanting to develop as people of God we need to embrace the foolish wisdom of God, even when (or perhaps especially when) it goes against "common sense".

ANy thoughts about any of these questions?

70 years ago...

On September 1 1939 the troops of Nazi Germany broke through the border barriers of Poland.

Soon afterward England and France declared war on Germany in defence of Polish sovereignty. A few days later Canada followed suit (this was a step forward in Canadian history because in 1914 the English declaration of war automatically brought Canada into the war).

70 years later what have we learned? WW2 was a slaughter. Millions died, nobody is really sure how many. Historians debate whether it could have been avoided had the LEague of Nations, particularly ENgland and France stepped in to stop Hitler when he first started violating the conditions of the Versailles treaty, or if that treaty had not been so punitive in nature. But what have we learned?

Did we learn enoguh to avoid war in the future? Apparently not. SO what will it take for us to really learn that lesson?