Wednesday, February 28, 2007

[LIF] Wahoo!!!!!

I just got my letter of acceptance for the Masters programme at St. Paul next semester! Plus my marks earned me a bursary! I'm so stoked! Got to run, church in just a bit.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

[LIF] Midterms Back

I'm doing well this semester. I did really well on my paper concerning the historic Jesus, Wright would be proud. My English exam was my lowest score (possibly my lowest score ever - a B!), I thought I did poorly on it because I became disillusioned with my thesis statement midway through writing. But that isn't why I lost points, mostly it was because I was trying to work within structural constraints that my thesis was too complex to remain within - I bit off more than I could chew in a sit down exam! Not a bad lesson to learn.

I have to keep my nose buried in books all the time now, I have three major papers coming up real quick. On another note though, I have an appointment to review some work I did last year in hopes of trying to get it published. That is exciting. And I confirmed that my application for the Masters programme has gone up and is waiting for the committee to make their decision. Oh the tension!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

[THO] Wrestling with the Text

I'm guest preaching tomorrow at Hosanna Vineyard. I could speak on anything, but I really feel that it is important that I stick with the lectionary. So tomorrows gospel reading is the Temptation of Jesus from Luke. I've read, re-read, examined key passages in the Greek, compared Luke with Matthew and Mark (;-)), read the context, made a few pages of notes, prayed through the verse, read the accompanying texts from the lectionary and I have a direction but I'm arriving with fear and trepidation.

This is a special community and they are used to a different style of preaching. I'm not going to be hoping from verse to verse here, I'm going to deal with the text. My heart is that my message will be life giving to a congregation that has had a rough go of it the last year or so. I really don't care if my message is "polished" as long as it breathes something of the life of the Spirit in them. But having said that, I don't want to pull any punches. This is a tough text and I think they need a tough text. This is the text that situates Jesus' whole ministry - and those are the insights I want to draw from.

So here I am blogging and praying my way through the text. Trying to name some of my hesitations so that I can face them head on. If this text is what takes the newly baptised Jesus to the point of launching his public ministry then it has that same potential in us. At the very least it can direct us to the areas God wants us to mature in as we seek to be faithful to the calling on our own lives.

I have to be careful, in my community I can talk easily about political activism and social engagement. I know we've spent enough time talking about such things that people will get it. But here I am stepping into a conservative neo-pentecostal setting and bringing a message in a format they might not expect and with content that will challenge their worldview. Is it any wonder I am a bit timid? I want to be careful though, these are great people and a great church. I've hung out with them many times in the past which has been great. And they are a mixed community, my challenge will be to preach a message that engages with each of them, challenging them all to take a step further into a Kingdom lifestyle.

It is going to be fun, I better get my notes sorted out and practice my message. Please pray for me.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

[THO] Ash Wednesday Celebration

Our community celebrated Ash Wednesday this evening, it was a delightful service. I normally speak on the gospel readings, but tonight I spoke on the reading from 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2. Here Paul calls us to question out of what core our ministry flows. I identified a different question for each of these four verses.

First, that any ministry we do must come authentically from our own being ministered to. That is evident even at the start of this epistle with Paul's discourse on comfort. He urges us to be reconciled to God because to minister from any other place is sadly lacking in authenticity.

Second, that our ministry is compelled by our recognition of the sheer greatness of God's love for us. The kenotic act of Christ becoming sin for us has only one reasonable response - total self-sacrifical worship. As Paul explains earlier in this same chapter, it is Christ's love that compels us to the ministry of reconciliation.

Third, that our ministry is a grace and not a legalism. This colours our ministry in the world, we are not coming in trying to impose a new legalism or process of salvation. No we are proclaimming the same grace we have received. To do anything else kills the grace aspect of it. We spoke about evangelism as our example. I didn't mention it to the group, but in my own reflection I was struck by just how different Jesus ministry looked to what passes for evangelism today. This is passionate and deliberate, but it is not goal oriented rather it is people oriented.

Fourth, that our ministry is grounded in a conviction that salvation is the imminant reality. God wants to step into history, and has. God is not willing that any should perish is not about lining up convert on benches, it is about God's desire to be real and present to all people everywhere. When we minister out of a lesser vision and a lesser conviction we not only rob the gospel of its power, we preach a whole other gospel than the one Paul is talking about here.

When I was reading through the epistle in preparation for this message I was struck by how passionate Paul's writing is. My excitement was renewed, and I was quite happy to share that with my congregation.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

[FUN] Help Desk

Hey I found it again!

[REV] Luther

Having just covered the section on Luther in my Modern Church History course I thought it would be fun to watch the movie Luther (2003) starring Joseph Fiennes. So last night Sharon and I sat down to watch this delightful film. The films treatment of Luther was engaging and modern. In fact if I had any complaint it was that they modernised some of the language too much. Also I think they fudged in a few things around Carlstadt seem blurred together and all the dead bodies no longer make sense (wasn't there a plague around that time as well?). Also Martin quoting verses by chapter and verse struck me as odd, IIRC chapter and verse comes much later, but I could be wrong. The movie avoided making Luther into an uber saint which was good. There is much that is questionable in Luther's theology. And I was hoping they would cover some of the debates post Augsburg, but alas those would be of more interest to me as a theologian than the typical movie viewer. Tetzel is done brilliantly, but it is obvious that the actor borrowed from pop-evangelical fervour for this role (he actually confirms this in his interview). All in all it was a very fun movie, a worthwhile view.

[LIF] Young Exorcists

The girls (4 & 6) were running into our room saying there was a dog under their beds. Sharon calmly tells them that it has to be a stuffed animal. Then she thinks to add, "if it is a spirit dog then ask Jesus to get rid of it for you." We have been teaching our kids to call on Jesus when they have bad dreams. So then we over hear the oldest leading the youngest in a prayer for the spirit dog to go away in Jesus name. Yeah it was cute. But then a few seconds later they are jumping around yelling, that the dog is gone forever! "We did it!" reminds me of the Dora the Explorer victory song, which I promptly make up a version about kicking out spirit dogs to get Sharon laughing. We are folding clothes when the "we did it"s ended, a pause and then Elyssa tells her little sister, "Chelsea, now that we did it, let's go get our reward from Jesus."

I guess I need to work on the theology, but that was a heck of a lot funnier than my lame Dora song.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

[RPG] Dungeon Crawl

I started playing in a Dungeon Crawl run by my buddy Richard. We are a massive group of adventurers all at really low levels. We played so late last night that it was just silly. This was the second session I have made it out to, I play a priest of a war god named Marin (the picture is the miniature I use except I repainted his robes orange). I love to shoot my crossbow more than heal up people, so I take lots of buffing* spells and go in loaded for bear. It is great fun as the party tries to convince me that it is more important for me to heal up the front line fighter than it is to take a shot. Fortunately for the party there is another priest who happens to be more into the healing thing. We finished our session at 2AM, mainly because we were in an uber battle at the end of which two of our party lost their lives, despite my occasional breaking down and healing up folks. Finishing at 2AM and remembering that I still needed to get gas before I got home made for little sleep for me. Oh well, this group doesn't meet that often, once every month or so. That meets my quota for gaming this week - now back to reading.

*buffing spells are spells that enhance abilities like making your stronger, better protected or even more attractive.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

[LIF] Reading Week begins!

Because I front loaded my week with classes I end up with an extended reading week! Unfortunately I forgot my chequebook yesterday when I was at the school so I had to go back today. I did get to attend a student council meeting, but the whole day I've been stumbling around making little progress. Part of the problem is that I'm still a bit stunned. Today I submitted my application for the Masters of Theology with a concentration in Systematic and Historic Theology. What is scary is that the faculty head thinks they will accomodate my course mix-up, they think my work shows I'm ready for this step. I only needed two profs to write me letters of recommendation, the first two I asked were very eager to help. I've been dreaming of this since 2000 when I started and now it is finally happening.

I need to be competent in French by September, I have signed up for help with that. That is daunting but very doable, I have lots of support with friends and we can switch to French at home between me and Sharon. Sharon emailed me a lot of great links for French resources, what a great wife. It will be important to come up to speed in French fast because as soon as I start my Masters I am also going to start German.

Kenny was asking what my focus will be on, I don't have to choose right away and the methodology course will also help me narrow my subject. The Masters at St. Paul is an interesting programme, basically it is a course to see if you are ready for the Doctorate programme. You write maybe a chapter's worth of a thesis - 40-60 pages. And you work in all the disciplines attached to Theology: Spirituality, Ethics, Systematics, Biblical Studies, etc. They want to make sure you don't narrow your studies too soon. It is completable in a year and I know a bunch of the other students applying this year. Soon as I narrow it down I'll let everyone know.

I feel like a chapter of my life is closing, and in fact it is. I know that this transition is from a wide focus to a more narrow focus. This is good, but it is hard to choose. I love so much about many aspects of thoelogical studies. I really enjoy history and biblical studies. I am going to miss taking Political Ethics with Ken Melchin (that was going to be my last required course in my undergrad degree). I am going to miss Spirituality with Heather Eaton, she has opened me up to more diversity than any other professor at St. Paul.

The good side is that as one chapter closes another opens, and with it new possibilities. I've come to expect that God is in the possibilities so that is exciting. Please pray with me that everything will work out for me to graduate this Spring and start right in on the MATh degree. And yes, it is really funny to me that the degree is named that when I have trouble with simple arithmetic at times.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

[LIF] Distractions, distractions, distractions...

I think Ze Frank's vidpost on procrastination the other day was appropriate for me. Or rather it discribed my present state to a tee. I am 1/2 a page from completing the paper due tomorrow and I still have to re-read the short stories for my English midterm. I fell asleep trying to do the reading and now am late making supper. Last night I was up until 2AM working on the paper and managed to grind out a mere 4 pages??? I was scattered. This is that unrefined moment in every semester when the immensity of the workload (no matter how heavy or light it actually is) hits me. I always make it through, but it isn't pretty. I can usually grind through papers a lot faster than that and I am actually clocking some impressive reading speeds this semester (thanks Kenny). The problem is I've seen an entire season of Kenny vs. Spenny, surfed the majority of the blogs listed on this site - daily, and read almost all of the novel for my English class. Grant it the novel is reqired reading - but not just yet. It is just so well written. Medicine River if you are wondering, laugh out loud funny in places gripping with its realism.

Well, my wife is on her way home from work and I need to finishe supper, pack up my study materials and head out to the coffee shop where it is harder to procrastinate.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

[LIF] I'm in Shock!

I was under the impression that I had two full semesters left on my degree, but it turns out that I had some advanced standing for my College course! So I'm two courses away from a BTh!!! Now one of them is an ethics course and I won't get that until the Fall, but wow that is amazing. Next week I'm meeting with the faculty head to discuss moving right into a Masters. That means I will need to do langauge studies this summer - French to start then I'm hoping to do German in the not too distant future. I'm still in shock!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

[THO] Resurrection and Grace

"The raising of Christ from death is an expression of the surplus of grace, for 'where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more' (Rom. 5.20). This added-value of grace becomes effective when liberation from the chains which bind the victims and the guilty to the past allows them to move out into the new shared life in the powers of God's righteousness."

- Jürgen Moltmann, In the End - The Beginning: The Life of Hope, Fortress, 2004.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

[THO] Malcolm X

Reading James Cone yesterday I kept running into references to Malcolm X. I had bought this film at a yard sale in the summer but due to its length I've put off trying to watch it. That is until yesterday, I wanted some context and what I got was a brilliant movie. Malcolm X is Black Theology worked out in the life of a very charismatic man. At one powerful moment in the film a police officer makes the comment about Malcolm's charisma, "that is too much power for one man to have." I wonder if the same would have been said of Moses by the Pharoah's warriors!

This is a raw movie, you really get the sense that the fight for liberty is so all consuming that it blinds one to other injustice. Watch how Malcolm treats women and sympathetic white folk. Spike Lee really captures the whole of the man, warts and all. What is really profound is that Malcolm, like Romero, has a series of messy conversions. These are true horizon expansions. His message continually reflects the evolution of his heart as he becomes more and more aware of how big the struggle for freedom really is.

I was chatting with my neighbour about the film and was saddened because he seemed to not be interested in hearing about the life of a Moslem. My comment was that this man, Malcolm X, was doing theology. As I reflect on that, it is never comfortable when we do theology. Especially when we realize how much we are personally implicated in the systems of injustice. If you haven't seen this movie, it is worth watching. Brother Malcolm was a truly great man of God, let his life speak to you about your own committment to justice.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

[THO] Romero

My community watched the film Romero last night. It is my third time seeing the film that explores the life of El Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero. I highly recommend this film, it is full of insight. I wanted to share a few here.

Right at the beginning of the film Romero is talking with his friend Father Rotullio and Romero, troubled by what he overhears in the marketplace, cautions his friend about fostering subversive ideas. The response was profound: How can I love God whom I cannot see if I cannot love my neighbour whom I can see.

Romero's conversion is slow and painful, full of wrestlings. It is, in other words, very real. There are many uncomfortable moments. But to see this "man of books" find courage within himself to recover the violated host from the occupied church really moved me. I often wonder what I would do if faced with a similar circumstance - would I risk my life for the gospel? Romero encourages me that in that moment there is a strength that cannot be gained from books, and that strength is sufficient.

Finally listening to the radio this morning they were talking about global climate change. The concensus is that 90% of scientists agree that the climate is changing and that we are responsible. Driving home last night a fellow preacher had the oddacity to suggest that if the climate is changing that's just God's will, fatalism like that drives me nuts. Even though I felt the speakers on CBC held too much faith in a technological solution they were calling for a social transformation. Romero says that economics is the root cause of the injustice in his country. That critique is common to Liberation Theology and is apt. In fact all of the world is implicated in this injustice. This must be part of the social transformation, a conscientization, if we are to see justice not just ecologically but socially and politically as well. We can't afford to throw up our arms in the face of crisis, and we can't afford to ignore the fact that our economic choices have global repercussions. We need to find a better way.