Category Archives: 2014

Preaching Sherlock

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 10.36.24 AM

On January 4th I’m going be preaching on the BBC’s Sherlock. If you’re a fan (and I know you are) I’d love to hear your response to the following questions;

1. What do you love most about the show?

2. What is it about Benedict Cumberbatch’s embodiment of Sherlock Holmes that you find most compelling?

3. What do you think God is saying about who he is through the co-creation of this little mystery parable (and all detective mysteries in general)?

Ancient waters discovered deep within the earth


Scientists have discovered ancient water deep beneath the earth’s surface. Old water, common to the whole earth, located in Precambrian rock formations.

A new study “suggests that the water is more widespread than researchers had previous recognized, and some cases it has existed kilometers below the surface for millions or even billions of years” (Globe and Mail, Ancient waters widespread, Dec 18, 2014).  And, based on chemical analysis of these waters, scientists think these waters are capable of supporting microbial life – they have “the energy budget for deep life”.

As I read the news report I was reminded of the old biblical worldview that held that the world was surrounded by waters below and waters above. Then I thought about how, the further we move from the earth’s surface, the older things get – in both directions. And then I considered how ancient things – billion year old water or comets – illumine the ancient nature of God. Deep life pointing to Deep Life, the distance between ‘now’ and a ‘billion years ago’, such a powerful icon revealing God’s ancient wisdom.

Proverbs 8:24-30 New Living Translation (NLT)

I was born before the oceans were created,
    before the springs bubbled forth their waters.
Before the mountains were formed,
    before the hills, I was born—
before he had made the earth and fields
    and the first handfuls of soil.
I was there when he established the heavens,
    when he drew the horizon on the oceans.
I was there when he set the clouds above,
    when he established springs deep in the earth.
I was there when he set the limits of the seas,
    so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.
And when he marked off the earth’s foundations,
   I was the architect at his side.
I was his constant delight,
    rejoicing always in his presence.

News Stories Imaging God

320px-JDWatson_2007-04-30I love it when news stories image God.

This week the richest man in Russia bought DNA co-discoverer Dr. James Watson’s 1962 Nobel Prize medal at auction for 4.76 million dollars. And then he gave it back. He didn’t think it was right for such an outstanding scientist to sell his prize in order to donate the proceeds to charity.

What a wonderful story. How amazing that a person would respect and honor another person to this extent. First Dr. Watson is willing to give up a bit of his glory for the sake of helping others and then someone on the other side of the world, seeing this selfless act, chooses to give that glory back.

It reminded me of the triune love that flows between Father, Son and Holy Spirit and how that love plays out through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The Son willingly laying down his life and the Father rightly giving it back. Jesus making a selfless and costly decision, and his Father, while honoring that choice, planning a brilliant rejoinder – a resurrection!

Russian entrepreneur Alisher Usmanov tried to contact Dr. Watson when he heard about the plans for an auction. He wanted to save the scientist the pain of giving up his medal by offering him a cash gift instead. But Dr. Watson insisted that the auction go ahead anyway – in part to restore his good name. In 2007 he made a regrettable racist remark and has been ostracized by society ever since. He hoped that this medal-auctioning act could bring some redemption. I suppose that Dr. Watson knew, deep inside, that a sacrifice had to be a part of the redemption process.

Knowing that the auction would still go ahead, Usmanov came up with an alternative plan.

And a most beautiful parable of redemption was spoken!

Through the willing sacrifice of a humbled scientist and the just heart of a Russian philanthropist we catch a glimpse of a God who, while he knows that sin can’t be tolerated and that sometimes a price must be paid, also has a much bigger and much more beautiful redemptive plan in mind.

I hope that Dr. Watson was able to hear what was said through this week’s encouraging series of events. God’s repatriating, redeeming love imaged by a billionaire Russian businessman from a former cold war enemy state, saying, “You’re forgiven. You don’t have to be an outcast any more. Welcome back.”

Whether or not the scientific community comes to the same conclusion, it’s nice to know that someone has a bigger and more gracious view.

The Theology of Sleep


“For God does speak – now one way, now another – though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, 
when deep sleep falls on people 
as they slumber in their beds…” Job 33:14-15, NIV

This Sunday I’ll be preaching on the Theology of Sleep. What does the nature of this nocturnal gift say about who God is? How do we image God during the 7-8 hours per day we sleep? What does our chronic lack of sleep say about our brokeness?

I know that the bible speaks about God meeting us in our sleep (via dreams and visions) and about how the quality of our sleep is often a barometer of our spiritual health/state. But I don’t want to limit my message to these foci. I also want to look at the physiological reality of the nature of sleep.

Why did God create this nocturnal creature? Why is it ‘just right’ for our human flourishing? How does a ‘human being asleep’ uniquely image God?  I just sent emails to the heads of two sleep clinics (one in Chicago and the other in Calgary).  A bit late I know (asleep at the sermon-research wheel).

(sleeping baby image courtesy Alyda Schinkel)

Preaching a Murder Mystery


For years I’ve been thinking about preaching a sermon on murder mysteries. Why are we so drawn to them? What does their proliferation say about who we are as human beings? And what does our love of the genre say about who God is?

I just read this in a NYT’s obituary for P. D. James,

“Reviewers frequently lauded Ms. James for “transcending the genre,” but she was a champion of the detective mystery, which she called “a literary celebration of order and reason.” She considered it a modern morality drama by virtue of its affirmation of enduring social values. In turbulent times, she said, people turn to detective stories for reassurance as much as entertainment “because they do affirm the intelligibility of the universe, the moral norm, the sanctity of life.” “It seems to me,” she continued, “that the more we live in a society in which we feel our problems — be they international problems of war and peace, racial problems, problems of drugs, problems of violence — to be literally beyond our ability to solve, the more reassuring it is to read a popular form of fiction which itself has a problem at the heart of it. One which the reader knows will be solved by the end of the book.”

We are made in the image of a world-ordering God. Our capacity to (and love of) reason images his. He has built ‘enduring social values’ into human nature, values that reflect his nature as the Intelligible source of the Universe, the Moral Norm and ‘the Sanctifier of Life.  To help us face problems that are “beyond our ability to solve” God tells us a story to help us work the mystery through; one where the problem is “solved by the end of the book.”

image credit – [[File:PD James Cologne.JPG|PD James Cologne]], Wiki Commons


Old Rolling Stone story on NHC

rolling stone news story on NHC

While doing some research for my book on preaching I tripped on this old Rolling Stone story on our Metallica sermon. I still shake my head and think, ‘Did that really happen?’

Here’s the full text (and video of the sermon recorded by Warner Music Canada);

Rolling Stone Magazine Online May 2004
The Week in Weird

St. Metallica, Sir Ozzy and more


While we find it hard to imagine Metallica’s fans having enough self-control to get through an entire song without tossing up the devil horns, a Canadian minister thinks he can work that miracle by working the elder statesmen of evil into a church service. Pastor John van Sloten of the New Hope Christian Reformed Church likens James Hetfield and company to Old Testament prophets, since they “rail against all the crap going on in the world and reflect the heart of God” — not to mention those animal sacrifice rituals. The pastor plans to play twenty minutes or so of Metallica’s Unforgiven DVD as part of his sermon, thus risking the wrath of Lars — who had quite a time smiting the online trading infidels . . .

DAVID SPRAGUE (May 7, 2004) ©2004 RealNetworks, Inc. All rights reserved. ©Copyright 2004


A New 1950’s Smith Corona Typewriter

A few quick photos/macros of our new Smith Corona typewriter. Fran bought it for $10 at a thrift store knowing I needed some visuals for November 9th’s sermon on a journalist. And… added bonus… it actually works. I’m half-thinking of typing my sermon on the thing!

IMG_6145 IMG_6152 IMG_6160 IMG_6165 IMG_6168 IMG_6171 IMG_6183

Affording a new facility

new hope logo Later this morning I’m meeting with someone who is representing a potential ‘next facility’ for New Hope Church. It’s an ideal building, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. I have no idea how ‘attainable’ it is for us. Plus, the cost (in our city) will surely be way out of our very limited range. So I’m trying not to hope too much, to be reasonable in my expectations, to listen. It’s just an exploratory meeting.

Then I read the Old Testament story of the widow’s oil. She had nothing. And out of nothing God made just enough. When I read the words, “There is not a jar left’, I had to catch my breath.  God is a God who takes ‘next to nothing’ and makes ‘just enough’.

By his Spirit he’s poured something beautiful and valuable into our little faith community. I want nothing more than for the little we have to be poured out for many. And I want everyone to see that it was by God’s mighty power that this happened.