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I used to attend an artsy Catholic church.  Every Advent season they’d suspend a statue of a person from the ceiling, presumably representing Jesus, diving downward on a 45 degree angle toward the pews.

It was a compelling image – not really a common image for Jesus in our churches – but one well worth considering as we move into Advent this Sunday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability these days.  What must it have been like for God to make God’s self vulnerable in Jesus; to take on flesh, to become a child refugee, to give up glory for weeping and pain and other of the less-desirable bodily functions, to become vulnerable to temptation, to disease and to humanity?

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…severed from the roots of ritual
We surf the surface of a widescreen world
And find no virtue in the virtual…
(Malcolm Guite)

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I attended a great concert by Winnipeg-based singer-songwriter Steve Bell a few weeks ago here in Victoria. Featured in the show were a good number of songs from his new album Keening For the Dawn – which, unlike so much of the holiday fluff out there, delves soulfully into the aching and longing and joy of this soon-to-begin holy season (yep, it’s next Sunday that Advent begins). The album is not merely another Christmas album – for it takes on the more extended period of Advent, Christmastide and Epiphany and thus embraces the waiting, the joy, the darkness, the light and even the horror of what happens shortly after the birth (i.e. the murder of the children and the holy family becoming refugees into Egypt). Read the rest of this entry »

Someone recently commented to me that transgressing into the 7-deadly sins or violating the 10 Commandments might have been cause for serious shame in an earlier era.  They went on to note that they felt that the only real contemporary equivalent to induce that kind of shame for most of us is the ‘sin’ of having economic debt.

A lot of us have a lot of debt.

In light of that -and in light of household consumer debt being more and more on the rise – I stumbled across this interesting and exciting notion of a ‘rolling jubilee’ – where ordinary folks are fundraising to buy up reduced-rate bad debt (a common practice amongst folks who then try and get it back through coercion) and simply forgiving it!

Sound impossible? – check out more about it here (Democracy Now interview) or at www.rollingjubilee.org.  It sounds like CBC even has a piece on it here – though I haven’t had a chance to listen yet.

I’m sure the idea has some limitations (some are addressed in the Democracy Now interview) – but it’s nevertheless great to see people coming up with creative action very much in the spirit of the ancient Biblical Jubilee!

Forgive us, as we forgive… Amen.

This upcoming Sunday marks the Feast of Christ the King.  Here’s a little reflection on that notion.

Many years ago now, I heard NDP MP and Christian Minister Bill Blakie speaking at a conference on ‘Christ and Empire’.  There, Bill posited that Christians need to hold up Jesus as eternal sovereign against empire – to proclaim Jesus as the “King of kings” (over all other kings).  Though I can’t remember his exact words, he proclaimed that reclaiming this “King of kings” notion might be the only way that Christianity might actually be able to re-establish some of its ancient prophetic voice – a voice which in ancient times challenged and shook empire down to its very roots.  After the talk – I approached Bill and asked him to expand on this. In the conversation Bill admitted to me that without a  high view of Christ (or a high Christology, as the theologians like to say) – without the ability to see Christ as King – we Christians really have few resources to challenge the notion of earthly ’empires’ of oppression, violence and injustice.

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Opening note: This reflection has turned out to be longer than most of my postings – apologies!

There’s been a lot written lately about the demise of the liberal church. In the Canadian press, popular pundits such as Margaret Wente and John Snobelen have written, perhaps a-wee-bit dismissively, about this phenomenon. The United Church of Canada is most often the target of these attacks.

Allow me to tell you a story: About 15 years ago, I found myself at a crisis of faith. The Pentecostal, Baptist and Brethren (yes, all of those!) churches of my childhood and adolescence, often steeped in both political conservatism and theological fundamentalisms had seemingly failed me. Read the rest of this entry »

It may be that I’m ever-so-slightly missing the feel and intensity of a Southern Ontario Autumn (though I have to admit that Victoria, BC has far more of the beauty of Fall than I was led to believe).  Whatever the actual reasons, I’m feeling compelled to offer you my top album picks for my (imaginary) Autumn Soundtrack.  I suppose that many of these choices will date me.  I suppose that the notion of the ‘album’ in an age of itunes single-song-purchases and streaming radio dates me even more!  Such is the life of an almost 40 year-old!

Without further stalling, here’s the list:

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Somehow, I found myself shopping at Walmart the other day.  I can’t say I’m particularly proud of the fact that I was shopping there. The reason why I was there (as well as my resistance to being there!) is a long story and is outside of the scope of this post.

The ethics and ideals of shopping aside, there I was, pushing my 2-year old son in an oversized shopping buggy when, seemingly out of nowhere, he  started shouting a song at the top of his lungs.

Yes, right there in the middle of the produce section – somewhere between the genetically modified peppers and the biotech plums he started shouting this:

 Holy Holy Holy Lord! God of Power and Might!
Heaven and Earth of Your Glory are filled!
Hosanna in the Highest!

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I think this is one of the best ‘Christian’ hymns ever written by a Montreal-California Jewish Buddhist poet-pop star.

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About 10 years ago, I was part of starting an experimental, hip, alternative worship service under the umbrella the then-budding emerging-church movement.  Relevance was our mantra.  “How can we make the church more relevant for ‘native post-moderns’”? we asked as we consumed designer beverages at our planning meetings.

Though the experience of starting that worship was a good one, I do have to confess that 10 years on I’m skeptical about the very notion of relevance. I’ve learned that a desire for relevance – especially in the church world – has too much to do with performance, about keeping up with (or mimicking)  the culture and ultimately about making worship a commodity to feed a client base.  It is too often a last-ditch attempt for congregations or denominations to fight with futility against their own imminent death, by simply injecting a little ‘relevance’ into their worship.  Heck, maybe the youth will even show up!

And that might even work – at least for a while.   Read the rest of this entry »

I waited patiently for the Lord. - Psalm 40

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