To See Through A Different Glass

from Benedict’s Dharma: Buddhists reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict

Jesus’ characteristic declaraiton is “Your sins are forgiven.” This can mean that form God’s point of view, they were always forgiven. It might seem a contradiction when Jesus goes on to say that unless you forgive one another your sins, God won’t forgive yours. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that God is saying, “I will check whether they’ve forgiven one another, and then I’ll make up my mind whether I’ll forgive them.” Rather, it means “I have forgiven you from before always, but I can’t do anything with you if you don’t forgive each other.” Failure to forgive oneself can be paralyzing, and the words of release, “Your sins are forgiven,” mean you don’t have to hang on any more.

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SUSE Linux DVD Frustrations

So

I’ve got a laptop – IBM – an old one, but it works well.

It’s got a DVD player.

But, because of the DRM folks, I’m not allowed to watch encrypted DVD’s on my system.

There are workarounds – but the workarounds aren’t working for me.

So.

It looks like I’m going to have to load some version of MicroSquish on here… just so I can watch DVD’s that I’ve legally purchased and simply want to watch.

Darn.

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On Same-Sex Marriage

A friend of mine – a minister in another United Church – asked if I would write a “position paper” in support of same-sex marriage, to help the congregation he serves to explore the idea.

It’s relatively short… I had to keep it to two typewritten pages. *grin*

If you’d like to read what I wrote… click below.

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On Same-Sex Relationships

When I was working on my D.Min., one of our tasks was to explore a dilemma in our ministerial life in light of the scriptures.

Just before the paper was assigned, a couple came to me, asking if I would be a part of blessing their covenant as a couple.

Over the past few days, I’ve been in a couple of conversations with people about same-sex marriage – and about homosexuality.

So I decided to post what I wrote.

Please note, it was written four or so years ago… and there are still some rough edges in it. (And I’m not sure if the Hebrew and Greek will show up properly in all browsers.)

By the way – I have no desire to defend my perspective. I’m posting, and you’re free to rip what I’ve written apart… but I may (or may not) respond.
Have fun reading!

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Thinking About This Morning

The gospel lesson (from the Revised Common Lectionary) for this morning is:

Mark 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)2:1 When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.

2:2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.

2:3 Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.

2:4 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.

2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

2:6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,

2:7 “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

2:8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?

2:9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?

2:10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” –he said to the paralytic–

2:11 “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”

2:12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

This week has had me really wandering with this text.

For some reason, I keep coming back to 2.4-5, “And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'”

Here’s what keeps catching me. The story tells us nothing about the state of mind or state of being of the man on the pallet. We have no idea if he wanted to be there, or if he fought his friends with every step they took. We have no idea if he was despondent, or embarassed, or angry.

We have no idea if he was “faithful”.

Look at the text… (yes, I even pulled out the Greek and worked on it)… when Jesus sees, “their faith”, whose faith is it?

As best as I can tell (though I am always open to correction), its the faith of the friends of the man who was paralyzed.

Their faithfulness – their belief that bringing their friend into Jesus’ presence would make a difference in his life – was what Jesus noticed.

What does that suggest to you and me – in the where and the when that each of us lives?

For me, it speaks to:

a) continue in my own personal development of my faithfulness to God – because it doesn’t only make a difference to me… it can make a difference to the world;

b) that faithful people have a responsibility to bring others into the Divine Presence. Now, I want to be careful here – I’m not saying that we should be dragging (or forcing) people to come to church! (Sometimes, though, we need to be quite a bit more ready to put forward and invitation… and to listen carefully to those around who aren’t ready to ask, but want to be asked.) I am saying, however, that this story suggests that however people are brought into the Presence has efficacy.

There are people who will never step through the door of a church.

There are people who will never believe in God.

There are people who don’t want what God has to offer.

I still need to pray for them – for their wellbeing – for their life – for their moments of paralysis.

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United Church of Canada General Council Office Responds To The Cartoon Controversy

I have the “United Church of Canada” as a Google news update. This came into my inbox this morning. I’ve been thinking about it all day.

United Church expresses regret over Muhammad cartoons

TORONTO, Feb. 17 /CNW/ – The United Church of Canada has sent a letter to
the Islamic Council of Imams expressing the denomination’s “deepest regret
that the name of Muhammad has been so tragically misused in the depictions of
cartoons first published in Europe, but now also in Canada.”
The letter, which was addressed to Imam Abdul Hai Patel and Imam Hamid
Slimi, was faxed late yesterday afternoon. Because the Moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Right Rev. Dr. Peter Short, is currently out of the
country attending the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto
Alegre, Brazil, the letter was signed by the Rev. Dr. James Sinclair, General
Secretary of the General Council and the Rev. Dr. Bruce Gregersen, General
Council Minister for Programs for Mission and Ministry.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Imam Patel and Imam Slimi;

Greetings in the name of Jesus, whom both Christians and Muslims
honour.

On behalf of The United Church of Canada we wish to express to you
and through the Council of Imams, to the Islamic communities of
Canada, our deepest regret that the name of Muhammad has been so
tragically misused in the depictions of cartoons first published in
Europe, but now also in Canada.

We believe that the intention of publishing the cartoons has little
to do with freedom of expression and much to do with incitement to
racial and religious hatred. As you have noted in your recent press
release, the cartoons suggest that Islam itself teaches, condones and
encourages violence, bombings and the mistreatment of women.
Furthermore, the implication is that all Muslims believe so as well.
This we know to be untrue. The answer to your question of “why
publish such cartoons?” we believe is simply racial hatred. In other
forms it has been called Islamophobia.

These attitudes should have no place in Canada. Because we all share
responsibility for the society in which we live, we wish to offer our
sincere apologies that such attitudes can persevere in a country that
we believe can and should be a model for the world of racial and
ethnic respect.

May God’s peace be with you.

Now, to be honest, I’m of two minds about the cartoons themselves. Part of me thinks, “Did the publisher not realize that printing the images was going to infuriate many Muslims? Was it really a question of ‘free speech’ vs. ‘religious sensibilities’?” Another part of me thinks, “Does The Prophet Mohammed (may light eternal shine upon him) really need to be defended? The faithful will continue to give him respect.” (And, please… yes, that’s the way I feel about Jesus Christ, as well. Make fun of him if you want. I may question you about it. But nothing you do can do damage to him or his truth.)I believe that it was fair for the General Council Office to speak to what has happened… and I do believe that standing in solidarity with our Muslim cousins is a valid – and right – action.

However, I have a great deal of difficulty with Jim and Bruce writing that the reason for the creation and publishing of the cartoons was “racial hatred”.

The cartoonists and publisher could have been deciding to “push the boundaries”, without any real sense of what the response would be.

Ok… so, not much in the way of intelligence or forethought… but hatred?

I am deeply sorry that the cartoons were published. I believe that there were other ways that the question of Islamic religious sensibilities vs. freedom of speech could have been explored. I pray that holy wisdom would reign.
I am deeply saddened that the response of so many people has been violent… and I continue to pray that holy peace would find its way into their – and our – lives.

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RevGalBlogPals Friday Five

(My first time doing a Friday Five… *grin* I thought it might get me typing here again!)

1) Which of the Winter Olympic sports is your favorite to watch?

Skelton. I mean – throw your tummy on a pair of skateblades and toss yourself down an ice chute. WOOOHOOOO!

2) Do you speak Snowboardese?
Sadly, no. (But it was really fun to listen to when CBC was interviewing the various atheletes. The Snowboarders really stood out well… dude!)
3) Define Nordic Combined. Don’t look it up. Take a guess if you must.
Cross-country skiing and… hmmm… Ariel? (tossing oneself into the air, after going down an insane slope on two thin pieces of flat stuff attached to one’s feet.)  Again, I say, WOOOOOOHOOOOOO!
4) Curling. Please discuss.

The mental agility of chess combined with physical prowess and an innate sense of balance, while tossing a heavy rock down a sheet of ice (and or sweeping the way that my 3-year-old likes to sweep the kitchen). The only winter Olympic sport that I might have the chance to play. (Ok. If I was a heck of a lot better at it. And didn’t have to work on Sunday mornings. *sigh* Can we say “Bonspiel”?)

5) If you could be a Winter Olympics Champion just by wishing for it, which sport would you choose for winning your Gold Medal?

Women’s hockey. (I know that sounds strange – it’s just that I think that the Olympic Women’s hockey is a much, much better game than the men’s. Skill, finess, and a pile of strength and determination.)

Wow! That was easier than I thought it would be.

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When The Going Gets Tough, Richard Gets Sleepy

I got an email today, asking why I haven’t been posting much lately. Part of it was that I was away for a week… but a bigger part of it is that its February. I find February to be one of the most draining months of the year. The other reality is that I’ve been working so much on the computer at the office lately, I don’t really want to do much on it when I get home.

If you’re interested in seeing a part of what I’ve been working on… well, read on!

Lenten Exploration:

St. James Anglican Church has invited us to join with them in celebrating the Eucharist (communion) at 8:30am each Wednesday morning from March 8th until April 12th. Set aside some time to gather with other Christians in this kairos moment.

Wednesday evenings will find members of our congregation and community gathering together in the parlour of St. Marys United Church for a Lenten exploration of one of God’s great gifts in creation – water. From 7:30pm to 9:00pm, from March 8th until April 5th, we will explore various ways water fits into our lives and the world, through a new resource titled, “Waters of Life: Issues, Ethics, and Actions”.

Thursdays, between 12 noon and 1:30pm, people are invited to come together for a Prayer Walk in the sanctuary of St. Marys United Church. During this time, we will follow a meditative tradition of walking and breathing prayer, as a way of helping us to focus on prayer petitions from our congregation, community and world.

St. Marys United Church and St. James Anglican Church are preparing joint Sunday Evening worship services, in the style of Taizé. Taizé is religious community in France, who share in their joy of worship through music. The music is beautiful – and not difficult to learn! Whether you pray through singing, or through listening to the music, we’d like you to be a part of this wonderful experience. We’ll be meeting in the sanctuary of St. James Anglican Church – 7:30pm to 8:00pm, each Sunday evening from March 5th to April 9th.
During the Season of Easter:

The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam – For four Sunday afternoons – April 23rd to May 21st, from 2:00pm to 3:30pm – members of the congregation and the community are invited to a book study on this text by author Karen Armstrong. (Some paperback copies of the book will be available for a cost of $25.00. Please let the church office know if you need a copy of the book.)

F:A.Q. (part 2) – Faith: Asking Questions is a lunchtime exploration of our personal spirituality. These six sessions will run as potluck lunchtime gatherings on Wednesdays, from May 3rd to June 7th (12 noon until 1:30pm). Whether or not you were able to take part in the first set of discussions, consider coming out to explore questions like: “Forgiveness: What are the challenges and the blessings?”, “After death: What is next?”, “Nurturing your faith: Which spiritual practices are best for you?”, “What is this community called church?”, “How do you live your faith in the world?” and, “The journey continues, what is next?”
Ongoing:

At the beginning of the year, the congregation was invited to take part in another “Reading the Bible in a Year”. To support those who decided to take on this discipline, Richard will be in the Church Parlour each Sunday (20 minutes following the service), for an hour, to give people the opportunity to explore some of the questions or concerns that might have come up during their reading of scripture. (If you weren’t able to get a copy of “the Bible in a Year” reading list, please contact the church office.)

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I Know It’s Not Much of A Post


Your Inner Child Is Surprised


You see many things through the eyes of a child.
Meaning, you’re rarely cynical or jaded.

You cherish all of the details in life.

Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.

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Yes, Minister.

Unless it is a matter of life-and-death, on matters of politics I usually keep my mouth shut for a few days. By that point, i’ve had the chance to be a bit calmer. Less reactive.

Not today.

People who read here will probably have pegged me as a small-l liberal. Much of the Conservative social agenda bothers me – it feels “un-neighbourly”. But I’m always prepared to respect the Government – even if I can’t respect their agenda.

Watching the swearing in ceremony yesterday, I found myself… well… unimpressed.

Not with the majority of the Ministers. Most of them made sense in the portfolios in which Prime Minister Harper placed them.

But, Mr. Prime Minister… after all your ranting about governmental ethics… to appoint to cabinet a member who crossed the floor before even sitting for one day under the banner through which he was elected is… well… difficult to comprehend as “ethical”.

There may have been a lot of people who voted for The Hon. Mr. Emerson on the basis of his personal stance. But there may also have been a lot of people who voted for him because he was a Liberal… or, at least, not a Conservative.

Now, I know he was elected legally.

I know he crossed the floor legally.

But… ethically, sir?

Perhaps it is time to move away from parties naming candidates. Have everyone run as independents… get elected… and then form party alliances. Maybe then we voters would take a much closer look at what our candidates believe and think – and then vote for them on that basis.

Now, about Mr. Fortier…

nah…

I’m not going to go there.

At least you only appointed one unelected absolute supporter to cabinet.

Only one-27th closer to the style of support President Bush gets.

My prayers continue to be with you and all of your leadership choices, Mr. Prime Minister.

Peace be with you.

And the wisdom of Solomon.

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Stories Of Welcome

I’m wondering if anyone who reads here might be willing to share some “stories of welcome”.

What I’d like to hear about are the times in your life that you felt welcomed… and, if you wouldn’t mind, letting me know what it was that made you feel welcomed in that moment.

One of my stories of welcome…

I was 19 years old, in my first year of university. The Roman Catholic community at my university had a noontime mass each day during the week. Because I had pretty regularly attended mass in my home town, though it wasn’t my denomination, I felt quite comfortable taking part. It became part of my personal spiritual discipline.

Because I knew the rules around table fellowship in the Roman Catholic church, each time my fellow worshippers went forward to partake, I would remain on my knees, praying – for them, for me, for the paper that I just had to get done… etc.

One day – after about a month of me being their each day – as we prepared for worship, the priest looked at me and said, “Excuse me. Why are you not partaking?” I explained that I was a member of The United Church of Canada and wanted to respect the rules around the Eucharist in his tradition. He looked at the rest of the group, paused, and said, “Does anyone here have a problem if our brother joins us at the table? No? Good.”

“Come.”

The fact that he was willing to say that the table was for me, too… in the face of tradition and rule… was a huge statement of welcome.

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Turning The Wheel: Henri Nouwen and Our Search For God

Received this a couple of days ago – looks like a great conference!

Thank you so much for having supported us in promoting our upcoming conference, Turning the Wheel: Henri Nouwen and our Search for God.

I would like to advise that early registration is now open until Thursday, February 2nd. Early registration is $380, which includes $230 for general and the sponsorship of a student, at a cost of $150.

General registration opens on Thursday evening, February 2nd. General registration allows people to register at the regular price of $230 or as a student at the cost of $150.

Could you please circulate this information accordingly. On-line registration is on our website.

Many thanks!

Colette K. Halferty
Conference Coordinator

I’m afraid I’m already booked for that weekend… but I hope that others might be able to check it out.

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I Can Do It. I Can Do It. I Can Post!

As long as I can keep my eyes open.

Its been a long week. A good one. But my energy is a’flaggin’.

Congregationally, things are going well. We’ve got our lenten exploration plans all laid out. Happily, the Rev’d Dr. Dalice Sim (from St. James Anglican) and Mr. Andreas Thiel (organist, Director of Music and Pastoral Visitor extraordinare!) and I will be working together on some of it.

Sunday is our Annual Congregational Meeting. Please note – Annual Congregational Meeting. Not Annual General Meeting. Their ain’t no such beast in the context of The United Church of Canada… and it has some rather specific corporate legal meanings that don’t apply to the congregational context. Like… well… under the polity of The UCCan… the Congregational Meeting doesn’t have power to make decisions (except about “change of pastoral relations” stuff). Really. Look it up. The Manual – an interesting and wonderfully mind-blowing document.

So I’m working on the “journey” section of the meeting. (That’s the part where I get to facilitate vision and discernment regarding our short and longer-term future.) I’m borrowing a lot of stuff from The Emerging Spirit process of The UCCan. Some good stuff in there.

Four areas we’re going to focus on: Becoming Welcoming, Being Stewards (of relationship, of talent and of resources), Better Communicating… and Prayer.

This afternoon, as I was getting ready to head home, I heard a “ding” from my computer. Yep – the good ol’ “you have mail”. It was from a couple who had been introduced to our congregation by our website… and wanted to know more about who we are, because they’re interested in checking us out! I went into shock. Someone contacted us through our website – and mentioned that they thought the information on it was great! Woohoo!
Personally, things are well, as well.

Wednesday, Shannon and I celebrated the eighth anniversary of our wedding. Eight years ago, during Sunday morning worship, we stood in front of a congregation who neither of us really knew, along with about thirty members of our family, and shared our vows. And… right after that, in front of them all… we joined together – in celebrating communion. Our first act as a married couple was to officiate at the table, together.

Here’s to another eight years!

Today, while reading The United Church Observer (our denominational mag) I saw this. Interesting, eh?

On Sunday, worship will be full of music. The St. Marys Children’s Choir, the Festival Youth Singers and the Bach Children’s Chorus will be sharing their gifts as the musicians for worship. So… to be honest… I don’t think I’m going to be doing much in the way of preaching. *grin*

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