• Posted on July 25, 2014

My Life’s Angst

christ cosmosTwo days ago, while on a walk with Fran, I said it more concisely than I’ve ever said it before, “We (Christians) are good with knowing Christ as the mediator of our salvation, but what about knowing Christ as the mediator of creation and Christ as the mediator who now holds together that creation?”

We’re good at quoting John 3:16, but not so much John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:15-17.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

Through Jesus everything was made, saved and is now held. I think we need to get on with knowing the fullness of who Christ is!

 

  • Posted on July 17, 2014

Top Ten Fun Things I got to do as a result of Preaching Creational Texts

 

10. Talking with Roger Hodgson’s manager about how much he appreciated my sermon on Supertramp (How God used Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) to save my life)

9. Visiting several fire halls and interviewing firefighters for a sermon on their vocation (God’s Saving Heart in a Firefighter)

8. Having a huge catered-in mid-winter feast as our church service one chilly February Sunday morning (complete with a string quartet).

7. Moving our entire church service to the Telus Spark Science Centre for our Sunday service (Epigenetics and the Love of God)

6. Having a professional basketball player do a slam dunk after first flying over top of your head – after preaching on the sport (Henry Bekkering jump)

5. Blowing glass with a local Calgary artisan (God’s Hand’s on Truth in Glass Blowing)

4. Riding a combine and taking in the fall harvest of Hard Red Spring Wheat with a local farmer on a brilliant fall evening (Cultivating God’s Presence through a Farmer)

3. Interviewing judges in their chambers and then heading off to hear a case with one of them and entering the courtroom from the judge’s entrance (God’s just Heart in a Judge)

2. Interviewing a fashion designer on stage, after the runway show, as that Sunday’s sermon (Paul Hardy Interview)

1. Donning a beekeeping suit and being swarmed at a hive out on the middle of the prairie (God’s face in a Honey Bee)

  • Posted on July 14, 2014

Digging for Dinosaur Bones

Coulee WallWent on another dinosaur bone dig with Fran today (I love that I live in Alberta!). Mid-day I experienced a wonderful God-moment as I stood back from the coulee wall that I was exploring and took in all of its layers. A hundred million years right before my eyes! All of it held by God. For a second or two it felt like I was standing face to face with the God of all time and geological history.

At roughly two meters from grade, tiny bone fragments pour out of the hillside. They look like petrified wood and you can tell they are bones by the porosity of their ends (according to a geologist/friend). We must have picked up a hundred pieces and then threw half of them back. Such a great day.

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  • Posted on June 24, 2014

Top 10 reasons to preach on Radiation Therapy

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 10.20.46 AM copyHere are the top ten reasons for preaching radiation therapy;

1. Over the past 5 years you’ve been given the opportunity to learn how to preach scientific texts though your involvement in two John Templeton faith/science grants. Having already preached 15 science based sermons on topics ranging from physics to hydrology to neurology to nephrology, you find yourself in a place where it wouldn’t seem odd to preach radiation physics.

2. Six months ago you meet a woman with late-stage cancer who’s undergoing radiation treatment and as you talk with her you get the sense you should preach on God’s healing presence through the gift of radiation physics.

3. A few days after meeting that woman, an old friend calls and says he’s in in Calgary and would love to meet for coffee. Later that day you learn that he’s written three text books on radiation physics (and he’s willing to help you with your sermon).

4. The next day you message that woman with cancer and tell her that you’re going to preach on the radiation treatments that are trying to buy her some time. She’s excited about the topic and gives you permission to use a photo of one of her treatment sessions.

5. A month later you’re holding her hand in the hospital and you tell her that you’ll still preach that sermon. You say a prayer, with both her and her friend, and it feels like God is in the room. You express thanks for her ever-loving and accepting character and pray that God will give her peace. Two days later she dies.

6. A few weeks later your physicist friend makes the research easy by sending you the introductions to his three books and then – a week before your scheduled preaching date – agrees to an hour long phone conversation (where you get to clarify – and gain some confidence about – what you’ve read).

7. You start that phone call off with this sentence, “Hey Jake, when you came up to me at church 22 years ago and told me that you thought I should change careers and go into the ministry – could you have ever imagined that one day you’d be helping me research a sermon on the radiation physics you’ve dedicated your life’s work to?”

8. As you’re writing that sermon the next day, the pile of information that seemed overwhelming and incomprehensible at times, now starts to come together alongside the biblical text. You begin to catch glimpses of the nature of the God of all medical history, particle physics and human biology.

9. That same afternoon you visit an old squash buddy who’s dying of cancer. He used to be so healthy (ripped, huge pipes, all round athlete) and now he’s a fraction of his former self. His radiation treatments fell short and there’s no more they can do for him. He’s worried for his wife and kids. He feeds himself through a tube while you’re visiting and your heart is broken.

10. The next day the rest of the sermon comes together and the concluding point seems to come out of nowhere. Through tears you type the words… who could have ever known that the death that brings life via radiation would connect to the death that brings life via Christ?

And here’s how that sermon came together. http://vimeo.com/98968544

 

  • Posted on June 10, 2014

The Gospel Through Maps

Fra_Mauro_World_Map,_c.1450 wikiI don’t know if our faith community would have ever got to that beautiful God-moment on Sunday apart from the decision to preach on the cultural text of maps.

The basic thesis of the message was that maps are snapshots of humanity’s progress in living out God’s cultural mandate to “fill the earth” (you can watch the message here for a fuller exposition of that idea). The hope was that by looking at these snapshots we could know the providential heart of God more.

Reading my sermon over early Sunday morning I was struck by how it had all came together; scriptural references from Genesis, Joshua, Ezekiel, Matthew and Revelation (excerpts from the whole scriptural counsel as a foundation for a sermon on the whole creational counsel as depicted through cartographic history), the use of a couple of  bible texts that I’d never preached on before (Joshua commanding his leaders to make a map of the promised land, God telling Ezekiel to make a map/model prophesying the judgement of Jerusalem – again affirming my theory that every biblical text has a creational correlative!), and, once more, seeing the beauty of how the nature and content of cultural text really did bring a deeper understanding to the biblical text (and vice versa).

That amazing moment on Sunday happened just after I’d told a story about how hard it’s been for me to throw away my cheap tourist map from Paris. It had so many memories attached to it. At that point in my sermon I pulled out the map and retraced a couple of the more beautiful moments from that trip. I was trying to make the point that maps can imaginatively ‘take us places’ (looking back via our memories or ahead via our dreams). Then I made the segue to the Revelation 21/22′s description of heaven on earth – a real place with walls, foundations, streets, trees, a river and the most amazing Light.  I mentioned how it would feel like both a memory and a dream. And in that moment, it was like we were all there! After painting the heavenly picture with words I said, “Imagine street-viewing that place… imagine walking down that main street with the river running down the middle, and with all those trees…. and that light…”

And I don’t know if everyone was in the same place, but I really had the sense that a lot of really were. The Holy Spirit took the imaginative gift that enables us to ‘go there’ via maps (an innately human gift that was made by, for and through Jesus) and helped us apply it to the divinely descriptive words of Revelation!  After 25 minutes of talking about and looking at God’s word through maps, it was like we were all totally prepared for that experience.

Part of me really does wonder if we would have ever got there apart from choosing to engage and preach on God’s authoritative truth in maps. It was a wonderful Pentecost Sunday gift – God affirming that he speak all languages, including cartography!

 

  • Posted on May 23, 2014

Giving Muslims the Key to the Church

trinity-rublev-1410This weekend history will be made when Pope Francis meets with the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church – Bartholomew – in Jerusalem. Theirs was the first major church schism in Christian history. It occurred in 1054, over “three little words” that were added to the Nicene Creed – “and the son”.  A Globe and Mail report notes that it wasn’t so much the theological stance that led to the separation as much as the fact that the then-Pope didn’t consult the others (sounds like the church!).

Reading the Globe article, this paragraph really struck me;

“Nowhere is Christian disunity more in evidence than in the faith’s most important site, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the place of Jesus’s burial and resurrection. Feuding among Christian denominations for place and position inside the church is so intense that no one branch of Christianity could be entrusted with the key to the building, lest it lock the others out. For that reason, the great iron key has been entrusted for centuries to one Muslim family, the Nusseibehs.”

Really?  So sad that we Christian denominations can’t trust each other to this extent.  And so wonderful that God would use a Muslim family to keep the peace.

  • Posted on May 21, 2014

An article I wrote for ThinkChristian on the NYC’s 9/11 Museum

National_Park_Service_9-11_Statue_of_Liberty_and_WTC_fireLast week I read a Globe and Mail article about an astronaut’s real time view of 9/11 and his perspective felt like God’s.  That article inspired this one.

  • Posted on May 17, 2014

God’s Truth in Maps

photo-23 copy 3I’m having trouble throwing away my cheap holiday tourist map.

It’s all ripped and tattered, but every time I look at it I’m standing somewhere in Paris; in that little park west of the Eiffel tower that one afternoon, in front of Monet’s lilies on the top floor of the L’Orangerie that Wednesday morning, holding hands with Fran as we strolled St. Germain, sitting in one or two or three cafes that day.

Maps allow us to look back; at where we came from and where we were. They also have a prophetic function as they show us what lies ahead. Maps tell us where we are – give us the bigger picture. It’s like having a top down view on providence.

I’m looking forward to preaching on this topic on June 8th.

  • Posted on April 21, 2014

Preaching Searching for Sugar Man

SUGARMAN SIXThis weekend I experienced the death and resurrection of Christ in a profound way… all because of the film, Searching for Sugar Man.

God’s truth in the movie illumined his truth in the gospel of Matthew. God’s documentary revelation became a lens through which the narratives of Good Friday and Easter Sunday were experienced anew. I’m still feeling the connections; how Rodriguez’s humility was a pointer to Christ’s, and how ‘becoming nothing’ is so necessary for speaking the greatest truths. And then on Easter Sunday, connecting the glory of a resurrected singer to our future glory… it was just so beautiful. That moment when Rodriguez took the stage in South Africa for the first time was such a powerful foretaste of what we’re all meant for. How we are meant to experience the joy of seeing one who we thought was dead, now alive. How we are all meant to meet that resurrected one, one day, at a huge reunion concert. And how we, like him, are meant to be, one day, resurrected ourselves, and be put back on stage, and fully be ourselves again, for the first time!

God’s contemporary death and resurrection story via Searching for Sugar Man brought colour, feeling, faces and sound to his first Easter telling.

This morning I read an excerpt from the Heidelberg Catechism (1563 CE) – question and answer 122. As I read these old words that I was forced to memorize as a child, what was once dead to me came alive.  Referencing the first line of the Lord’s Prayer, the catechism asks;

Q. “What does the first petition mean?

A. “Hallowed be your name” means:

Help us to truly know you,
to honor, glorify, and praise you

for all your works
and for all that shines forth from them:

your almighty power, wisdom, kindness,
justice, mercy, and truth.”

Help us to truly know you…. for all your works and for all that shines forth from them.

For millennia the church has downplayed these ‘alls’. By refusing to fully preach God’s revelation, as he speaks it throughout creation, all the time and everywhere, I wonder if the church has missed out on so much of what God is saying.

The more I experience the power of God’s words in the bible and creation, co-illumining one another, the more I am convinced that this is what knowing God is truly meant to be.

(Here are the links to video of the Good Friday and Easter Sunday sermons)

 

  • Posted on April 14, 2014

Spruce Sap Macro Photos

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