Monthly Archives: September 2011

Children’s Sermons

Russell Saltzman has an article up over at First Things where he examines the dreaded dreadful children’s sermon, and how most of them are merely moralistic exhortations.

But object lessons are easy, too easy. They are almost always “law,” an important distinction from “gospel” for a Lutheran guy like me. They end with exhortations to be better, do better, practice hard and study well and keep their rooms clean, and get along with other people. Take this one from a real children’s sermon: “And I want you to remember not to fight with one another, not to be ugly, and to do as God asks.” Tell you what. Tell the adults first. Maybe if they get the hang of it, it’ll have a better chance of filtering down.

So how does a pastor do a children’s sermon well? My favourite piece of advice from the article:

If a pastor isn’t good talking with kids, and some aren’t, don’t talk. Show them things in the church instead. These are the only objects fit for use. I invite children to come and watch every baptism and I’ll pick a kid to be my book stand. I explain what baptism is, what is happening and why, and show them how to make the sign of the cross so they can remember their baptism every morning and evening like Martin Luther said to do in his catechism.

Read the whole thing here.

Queen, Briercrest and Lots of Win


Oh my goodness. So, this youtube video was posted at Fark this week. It’s an audition for the Queen Extravaganza contest. This guy, Marc Martel is amazing. Turns out, he’s the lead singer for a Canadian Christian band, Downhere. Even better, he’s a former student from Briercrest. How cool is that?

See also, the story over at CBC.

Life and Death

It was a really strange day in the news yesterday. In the U.S., two men on death row were executed. And yet the majority of the news outlets, and the overwhelming discussion in my Twitter feed was only about one of them. For the most part, the discussions on the net were about how Troy Davis’ execution should be a reminder of how wrong the death penalty is. But no one seemed to be saying the same thing about James Byrd.

Is there a double-standard? If we’re going to be pro-life and anti-death penalty, should that apply not only to the case with cries of innocence, circumstantial evidence and recanting witnesses, but also to the case where the guy really truly did it?

Adding to the strangeness of the day, the Canadian news outlets were reporting that Canadian serial killer Clifford Olson is dying. Quoting the families of the victims, the report says that there is a feeling that once Olson is dead, justice will finally be served.

“I’ve waited 30 years for this,” said mother Terry Bizeau, whose daughter Terri Lyn Carson, 15, was strangled by the notorious child killer during his reign of terror across southern British Columbia three decades ago. “Once he is dead, justice will be done.”
Other families of the 11 slain children expressed similar sentiments after learning earlier this week from corrections officials that Olson is on his deathbed.
Dee Johnston, whose 13-year-old step-daughter Colleen Daignault was also killed added: “You raise (children) believing that you don’t wish him any harm, you don’t wish him dead, but deep down in our guts we do want him dead.”

Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976, so I have lived my entire life in a country without the death penalty. And I know that that influences my opinion on the subject. Before I was a Christian, my main reason for opposing the death penalty was because of the ‘what if’ cases, the wrongful prosecutions, the possibility of executing a person for a crime they did not commit. (The Guy Paul Morin case is a perfect example of this.)

But as I mature as a Christian, I find that my opposition to the death penalty is evolving to reflect my pro-life ethic. I look south of the border and think, “The U.S. should abolish the death penalty.” Life is life and we should protect all life.

And yet, despite my macro-level belief that the death penalty is wrong, there is still a micro-level where I wish Canada had the death penalty.

This micro-level exception is Paul Bernardo. Anyone who grew up in Southern Ontario knows of Paul Bernardo. In the 90′s, Paul and his wife Karla, abducted three women and did horrible, horrible things to them. And this was on the heels of Bernardo’s late eighties run as the Scarborough Rapist.

Whenever Bernardo appears in the news, there is overwhelming gut reaction that makes me want to scream, “die you scumbag.” For all of my maturing, and all of my beliefs that life is valuable, I don’t want Paul Bernardo to be a recipient of that. He doesn’t deserve it. All life is valuable, except his. And even worse, I don’t want him to die by the relatively painless lethal injection. No, I want to see him fried on the electric chair. Or hung in the public square. Or executed by a firing squad. He needs to die painfully and publicly.

So much for my Christian, pro-life, anti-death penalty ideals. Just one exception and my ethics fly out the window. I honestly don’t know what to do about that.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis as an Example of a Good Complementarian Wife?

Courtney Reissig at TGC asks, Can Jackie O teach us to be good complementarians?

There are three issues with the article that I wish to highlight:

1. This is a rather muddled article, with Reissig on the one hand suggesting that we should not go back to past eras’ understandings of gender roles, but on the other hand, suggesting that we should look to Jackie O as a great example of what gender roles in marriage should look like today. She argues that all cultures are flawed, and that our understanding of gender has been flawed since the Fall, but then doesn’t interact with the idea that her understanding of ‘biblical womanhood’ might be just as flawed, and just as ‘cultural’. She argues that submission is good and right, but then suggests that submission in marriage that doesn’t point to Christ is meaningless.

2. I really shouldn’t comment on her use of John Piper’s definition of submission, but what always gets me is that it’s only a definition for a woman. What does submission look like for all Christians? (Since we all are called to submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21), to submit to Christ (James 4:7), and to submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1))

Reissig writes,

While we are not defined by changing cultural norms, we can see some elements of truth in how women like Jacqueline Kennedy support their husbands. Her devotion to President Kennedy is one that, as Christian women, we can admire and desire to emulate. This unswerving commitment to his success and good is reminiscent of the biblical command given to women by God in Genesis. God made woman to be a suitable helper for her husband, to submit to him and honor him. John Piper defines submission as “the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” Kennedy’s support of her husband and desire to make her home a haven of rest for him is a picture of what God intended when he created men and women.

3. And the biggest struggle I have with this article is that it completely falls for the magical facade of Camelot. What about John’s indiscretions? It’s easy to gloss over them for the sake of the fairy tale, but by buying into the facade it can be implied in Reissig’s presentation that Jackie’s devotion in light of John’s indiscretions is a good thing. What kind of message is that sending to women? “Submit to your husbands, even when he defiles your marriage vows and chooses to dishonour you.” But then again, if she’s following Piper’s definition, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the message, since Piper has also suggested that a woman who is being abused by her husband should “endure for a season”.

A Few More Canadian Christian Blogs

Julianfreeman.ca Julian is doing an M.Div at Toronto Baptist Seminary and is a member of Grace Fellowship Church in Rexdale, Ontario.

Love in Truth by Trevor Peck. Trevor lives in Sault St. Marie, Ontario.

Good News For Toronto by Paul McDonald.

The full list of Canadian Christian Blogs can be found here.

College and the Entitlement Generation

From the Globe and Mail:

But don’t take his word for it. Many students openly admit their goal is to succeed with the least amount of effort. And many universities make this easy for them. It isn’t hard to find courses where you can get good marks even if you don’t show up. Professors say it’s not uncommon for 30 per cent or 40 per cent of their students to skip any given class. And students strenuously object if they don’t get the marks they feel entitled to. “They got 80 per cent in high school and, when they get 62 per cent, they’re mad,” says Prof. Coates. “They bring assignments in late and think we’ll mark them without penalty.”

Just thought I’d post this BEFORE the mid-terms and papers start rolling in for all my professor friends.

Another Adventure in Anglicanism

I don’t pretend to know or understand all that is going on in the Anglican church of Canada. But as I settle in and become more comfortable with the liturgy and the language of the church, and as I begin to put down roots in this local church, I find myself finally being able to lift my head and take a look at what is happening more broadly in the denomination here in Canada and globally.

What I’ve read suggests there are some pretty wonky things going on. Supposedly there are some churches within the denomination who do not believe in a literal resurrection, or that Jesus is the only way to God. (Which I don’t get how that practically works, given that the liturgy in the BAS is so extremely Christ-centered that we proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection weekly be it through the act of communion, confession, or the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed). And of course there is the ongoing discussion of sexuality and marriage. Some people suggest that those who have left the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) to be a part of the new Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) are breaking communion. On the other hand, there are people who say that the ACoC (and the U.S. equivalent, the Episcopal Church) are the ones who are breaking communion by denying/reinterpreting the tenets and beliefs held by the global Communion.

As an outsider trying to peer in, it’s hard to navigate through the bluster and the spin and the hurt. For example, this article about the installation of the new priest at St. Matthew’s in Abbotsford seems way too propaganda-ish. It tries too hard to show how all the “cool” people came out for the special service. On the other hand, some of the commentary and blog posts coming from those who have left the ACoC to be a part of the ANiC are full of snark, and hurt, and as a result, sometimes lack charity and grace.

I grew up in a church that went through this twenty plus years ago. I grew up in a church where my pastor had to make the tough decision to leave the United Church of Canada because of the changing theological convictions of the denomination. I saw the hurt and the confusion and the struggle that the congregation and the pastor went through during that time. And the cynic (realist? grump? pessimist?) in me looks back at that experience and wants to say in this current situation that while unity is a noble goal, it is just not possible. On the other hand, I also find myself praying and reading and hoping that whatever is going to happen in this denomination in the next decade or so, will be done with all parties seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that there is healing, reconciliation, exhortation and corrective teaching (whatever that would look like) that will bring glory not to ourselves but to Christ.

Speaking of reconciliation, Fr. Allen Doerksen has started a blog that will chronicle his journey of Congregational Development, as he seeks to minister at St. Matthew’s in Abbotsford.

Here are some of the different sources I have been reading as I try to get a handle on what is happening within the denomination:
Anglican Essentials
Anglican Mainstream
The Anglican Journal
Diocesan websites (e.g., New Westminster, Qu’Appelle, Ottawa, and the ANiC)
Anglicans Online
Thinking Anglicans
Episcopal News Service
The Anglican Communion
Virtue Online

The Prayer That Doesn’t Say Anything

I went back to Ontario this weekend to attend a wedding. The night before the wedding, I was asked if I would say the blessing at the reception, with one caveat: no God stuff. “This is a civil wedding” I was told by the groom. Well, now how the heck am I supposed to pray without referencing God?

I love this couple very much, and the fact that I was asked to say the blessing was an honour. But, how do I do this? I spent Friday night going through one of my prayer books, googling and writing several dozen drafts.

I eventually came up with this:

We are thankful for the vows that have been spoken, and the love in which [bride] and [groom] are now united.
We are thankful for the love, guidance and support they will continue to receive from family and friends.
We are thankful for this beautiful evening, and we bless those that have worked hard to make this day a success.
We are thankful for the food we share tonight in celebration of this marriage.

But I still wasn’t comfortable with it. How can I, as a Christian, not pray to God? How can I not pray in the name of Jesus? Now of course, some would say that I can be praying to God and in Jesus’ name in my head and not aloud. Likewise those in attendance can pray to whoever they pray to, be it God, Allah, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the universe, whatever.

I struggled and prayed, and kept telling myself, this is what the bride and groom want, and it is their day. They are having a civil/secular ceremony with no God stuff.

The wedding was at 6pm in a little outdoor garden area of a restaurant. The bride was gorgeous, and the groom smiled adoringly as his bride walked down the aisle toward him. The officiant they had hired was the one provided by the restaurant. He wore a clerical collar. He prayed. He read from Scripture. He talked of covenant. He prayed in the name of Jesus and in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was a Christian ceremony!

How did the officiant do that? It’s not like the bride and groom didn’t know what they were getting. There had been a rehearsal and everything. So how come he gets to pray in Jesus name and give them a wedding ceremony that points to God’s grand covenant with humanity, while I have to give this fluffy little non-offensive prayer?

During the cocktail hour, I got a chance to talk with him. I briefly explained my dilemma. His advice: Pray how you want to pray. Most people, he said, will not be offended if you pray to your God to bless the couple. And then he winked at me, and said, “And whether they want him or not, whether they like him or not, God has shown up at this wedding, and the Holy Spirit has bound the bride and groom together. Nothing they say can change that. God moves where He chooses.”

And so, at the reception, the emcee invited me up to say the blessing. I asked the guests to bow their heads, and then I said:

Heavenly Father,
We are thankful for the vows that have been spoken, and the love in which [bride] and [groom] are now united.
We are thankful for the love, guidance and support they will continue to receive from family and friends.
We are thankful for this beautiful evening, and we bless those that have worked hard to make this day a success.
We are thankful for the food we share tonight in celebration of this marriage.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Later in the evening, several guests came up to me, and thanked me for giving the grace. Two different people even said to me, “It’s so nice to know that the bride and groom will always have someone praying for them, especially someone who is training to be a pastor.”

And so, the wedding may be over. The blessing at the reception has been spoken. But the praying continues. And it will continue all the days that the bride and groom are joined together — until death do them part.