Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On Turning Sixty-Two

On Turning Sixty-Two

When I was twenty-five,
I felt really alive.
Twenty-five years later,
No need for a pacemaker.
Wordle: Season

Now I am sixty-two,
Wondering where time flew.
Seasons come and go,
What you reap, you sow.

Every day is a gift,
God gives us a lift,
Whenever we freely serve,
We’re graced without reserve.

So grow old gracefully,
Like a noble oak tree,
For this day could be your last,
Tomorrow your time may pass.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reformation Sunday

Tomorrow Lutherans—and perhaps some Anglicans, since they are now in full communion with us—around the globe will be celebrating Reformation Sunday. In our tradition, Reformation Sunday is always celebrated on the last Sunday of October, marking the date, October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door, hoping to initiate a debate concerning the theology and practice of selling indulgences in
Martin Luther
the Roman Catholic Church. This event was the first among many that eventually led to Luther’s excommunication and the birth of the Protestant Reformation of the Church catholic in Europe during the 16th century.
   The contributions of Martin Luther to the Church catholic and the world are many. The following are, in my humble estimation, the most significant ones.
   First Luther, with the help of the printing press, was able to translate the Bible into the vernacular German of his day, thus making it accessible to, not only scholars, but also the common people. The implications of this are many; the most profound in terms of the larger Reformation movement was the challenge of the power and authority of the papacy. For Luther the ultimate authority on earth was the Bible-sola scriptura, not the pope. On this matter, many other Protestant reformers were influenced by and agreed with Luther.
   Second, over against “the theology of glory” deeply entrenched in the medieval Roman Catholic Church wherein it was taught that God rewarded human beings with grace only when they were able to obtain their highest, noblest good works and achievements; Luther advocated “the theology of the cross” wherein the emphasis is the precise reverse of “the theology of glory” in that it is when human beings are at their lowest, and farthest away from God that Christ’s love and grace reaches them and draws them to himself. Here Luther’s “theology of the cross” was strongly influenced by his study and interpretation of the Pauline epistles—especially Romans and Corinthians—and the Fourth Gospel Jesus, wherein the classic pericope is that of Jesus speaking of his being “lifted up” on the cross and thereby drawing all people to himself. For Luther, the “theology of the cross” always emphasises God’s initiative first and only then human response—the classic pericope in this regard is from the Johannine literature: “we love because he (Christ) first loved us.”
   Third, Luther emphasised the power, activity and multidimensional nature of the word. For him the word was extremely creative, God spoke creation into existence. God loved the word so much that the Word became incarnate in Jesus, and through him brought salvation to the world. God’s word in the sacrament of Holy Baptism is what makes the water efficacious and gives the baptised the gift of a covenant relationship with God by being baptised into the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the sacrament of Holy Communion it is again the word working in, with and under the elements of bread and wine that make the sacrament efficacious and the presence of Christ real, along with the promise of forgiveness of sin. In reference to preaching, the word works in the hearts, minds and lives of the people through the law and the gospel to create, sustain, renew, instruct and inspire faith; bringing life, health and salvation; delivering human beings from sin, death and the devil.
   Fourth, many don’t realise that Luther was also a musician. He apparently could sing and play the flute and lute; he also composed—although scholars have not reached a consensus on this—37 hymns for the Church—including his most popular, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which, I understand, some Roman Catholics even sing today. In 1524, a German hymn book of sorts was published, and thus began an emphasis on congregational singing in the Lutheran worship services. Indeed, as Lutheranism grew and spread across Europe, it became known as “the singing church.” Luther’s musical legacy certainly inspired future generations of Lutheran musicians and composers, among them some of the finest in all of Christendom, including: Michael Praetorius, Heinrich Schűtz, Dietrich Buxtehude, J.S. Bach, and several of his children, Nicolai F.S. Grundtvig, Paul Gerhardt, Albert Schweitzer, and many others.
   Fifth, Luther contributed greatly to individual and family piety with an emphasis on prayer. He was known to have prayed often, counselling others to do the same. Indeed, he claimed that the busier, more demanding and stressful his day was, the longer he needed to spend time in prayer with God.
   In closing, I am including a couple samples of Luther’s prayers.
   Prayer for and increase of faith: O Lord, increase our faith. Gladly and truly I would think of you as my dearly beloved Father, and Christ as my brother. But alas, my deeds will not follow. Therefore, help my unbelief, so that I may accept your word as truth and glorify your name. O Lord, end our captivity. Redeem us, for we are the first-born of your new creation. As redemption has been perfectly and sufficiently accomplished through Christ, so may we fully and truly know and accept it. As by your mighty hand the sea was dried up by the parching wind, so let everything of our remaining bondage vanish. Amen.
   Prayer for the Holy Ministry: For God’s Counsel and Guidance: You know how unworthy I am to fill so great and important an office. Were it not for your counsel, I would have utterly failed long ago. Therefore I call upon you for guidance. Gladly will I give my heart and voice to this work. I want to teach the people. I want always to seek and study in your word, and eagerly to meditate upon it. Use me as your instrument. Lord, do not forsake me. If I were alone, I would ruin everything. Amen.1
1 Herbert F. Brokering, Editor, Luther’s Prayers (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1967).            

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

James Tenney’s Maxi Music

James Tenney was born in 1934 in Silver City, New Mexico, and grew up in Arizona and Colorado, where he received his early training as a pianist and composer. He attended the University of Denver, the Juilliard School of Music, Bennington College (Bachelor’s degree 1958), and the University of Illinois (Master’s degree 1961). His teachers and mentors have included Eduard Steuermann, Chou Wen-Chung, Lionel Nowak, Carl Ruggles, Lejaren Hiller, Kenneth Gaburo, Edgard Varèse, Harry Partch, and John Cage.

   A performer as well as a composer and theorist, Tenney was co-founder and conductor of the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in New York City (1963-70). He was a pioneer in the field of electronic and computer music, working with Max Mathews and others at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the early 1960s to develop programs for computer sound-generation and composition. He has written works for a variety of media, both instrumental and electronic, many of them using alternative tuning systems.

   Tenney is the author of several articles on musical acoustics, computer music, and musical form and perception, as well as two books: META + HODOS: A Phenomenology of 20th-Century Musical Materials and an Approach to the Study of Form (1961; Frog Peak, 1988) and A History of ‘Consonance’ and ‘Dissonance’ (Excelsior, 1988). He has received grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Fromm Foundation, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, and the Jean A. Chalmers Foundation.

   Tenney returned to the California Institute of the Arts in the fall of 2000 to take the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition, having taught there at its beginnings in the early 1970s. He has also been on the faculties of at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, the University of California at Santa Cruz and at York University in Toronto where he was named Distinguished Research Professor in 1994.

   James Tenney’s music is published by Sonic Art Editions (Baltimore) and the Canadian Music Centre, and is also distributed by Frog Peak (Lebanon, New Hampshire). Recordings are available from Artifact, col legno, CRI, Hat[now]ART, Koch International, Mode, Musicworks, Nexus, oodiscs, SYR, Toshiba EMI, and New World, among others. [Bio credit:]
   The Maxi Music video below gives one a feel for Tenney's love of percussion compositions. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Prayer of the Day/Collect for 22 Pentecost, Yr C

God of justice: Long ago a widow appealed tirelessly to an earthly judge for justice. Hear the desperate cries of the millions today who are enslaved by injustice, and quickly grant them justice; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.   

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Religion in Canada

Religions in Canada

Image credit:


[Lately the 2011 Government of Canada research has become available to the public. The information below reveals some of the trends concerning religion here in Canada. I find it interesting that the survey does not include the number of Protestants and the percentage or number of each respective Protestant denomination. Why they are excluded one can only speculate: are Protestants becoming so insignificant and fragmented that they are of no or little interest to government researchers? Or are there other reasons for their omission herein?
   When I observe what’s going on with the Protestant denominations in my city, I see that the parishes are shrinking, some closing down, others consisting of mainly grey-haired members, and not able to recruit the “bust” and “echo” generations, and even my “boomer” generation is not overly interested in being actively involved in the mainline Protestant churches.
   Of course, sociologists such as Professor Reg Bibby have their theories and observations on the current trends in Canadian religion. However I think even Bibby’s research is somewhat biased—often coming out in favour of the more “conservative” denominations as the ones having the most potential for growth in the future. What I see happening in my denomination—the Evangelical Lutheran Church In Canada—is a continuous loss of membership and an increased emphasis on more liberal approaches to controversial doctrinal issues such as same-sex blessings and marriages, bio-ethics, social justice, ecumenical and inter-faith relations, as well as lower enrollment in our seminaries and a growing number of retired clergy who are living longer.
   Another growing trend in Canada is the higher number of citizens with no religious affiliation—almost one-quarter of the total population, 23.9%. In many respects, I think we are becoming one of the most secular nations in the world. For example, in some of our largest cities only one-tenth of the total population worship regularly—i.e. once per month. Then number of church marriages and funerals are also decreasing, along with an increasing number of the deceased having no funeral. Will these trends change in the future and can the mainline churches attract some of these folks? Only time will tell. What do you think of the findings of the National Household Survey? Do you consider the findings positive or negative? Your comments are most welcome.]
The NHS (National Household Survey) collected information on religious affiliation, regardless of whether respondents practised their religion.
   The largest faith in Canada was Christianity. About 22,102,700, or two-thirds of Canada's population (67.3%), reported that they were affiliated with a Christian religion.
   Roman Catholics were the largest Christian religious group in 2011. About 12,728,900 people identified themselves as Roman Catholic, representing 38.7% of Canada's population as a whole.
   Consistent with changing immigration patterns, there were growing proportions of the population who reported religious affiliations other than Christian. These religions included Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist. In 2011, about 2,373,700 people, or 7.2% of Canada's population, reported affiliation with one of these religions. This was up from 4.9% a decade earlier, as recorded in the 2001 Census.
   In 2011, people who identified themselves as Muslim made up 3.2% of the population, Hindu 1.5%, Sikh 1.4%, Buddhist 1.1% and Jewish 1.0%.
   Roughly 7,850,600 people, or nearly one-quarter of Canada's population (23.9%), had no religious affiliation. This was up from 16.5% a decade earlier, as recorded in the 2001 Census.
   Immigration has contributed to a higher share of the population having affiliation with Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist religions as well as to a higher share of the population having no religious affiliation. Of the immigrants who came prior to 1971, 2.9% were affiliated with Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist religions, whereas 33.0% of immigrants who came between 2001 and 2011 reported affiliation to one of these religions. As well, 16.0% of immigrants who came before 1971 had no religious affiliation, compared with 22.0% among those who came between 2001 and 2005, and 19.5% among those who came between 2006 and 2011.

Monday, October 14, 2013


On this thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, we take time to remember what we are thankful for, and to show our gratitude to those most important in our lives-God, family, and friends, etc. One of the exercises I highly recommend to assist in remembering how much we have to be thankful-grateful for is to think of someone or something for each letter of the alphabet and express your gratitude.  Here's one simple example:
A: Thank you God for the wide varieties of apples.
B: Thank you God for babies, and the joy and hope they give us. 
C: Thank you God for colours, that make our world so beautiful. 
D: Thank you God for doors that open up opportunities for us. 
E: Thank you God for education, giving wisdom and knowledge. 
F: Thank you God for friends whom we can trust. 
G: Thank you God for your goodness, which fills all creation.
H: Thank you God for health, homes, and the promise of heaven.
I: Thank you God for ideas, which make the world a better place.
J: Thank you God for your Son, Jesus our Messiah and Friend. 
K: Thank you God for the countless kindnesses shown me. 
L: Thank you God for your greatest gift-love.
M: Thank you God for mothers, who contribute so much to society.
N: Thank you God for the necessities, which make life possible.
O: Thank you God for oceans, teaming with life. 
P: Thank you God for peace, giving life quality and stability.
Q: Thank you God for questions, helping us to grow and learn.
R: Thank you God for the future hope of bodily resurrection.
S: Thank you God for all of your saving activity. 
T: Thank you God for your truth, which sets us free.
U: Thank you God for this vast, magnificent universe.
V: Thank you God for so much variety in your creation. 
W: Thank you God for your word, which gives abundant life.
X: Thank you God for x-rays when we need them. 
Y: Thank you God for all the years of life you give us.
Z: Thank you God for giving us zest to be enthused with life. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Another Short, Short Story

Once upon a time, in the imperfectly perfect city of Purfeckt, lived some imperfectly perfect citizens who were in the process of electing a new mayor and city council. 
   The present mayor and 3 of the 7 city councillors were electioneering again, hoping the citizenry would re-elect them. 
   However, there were other candidates running too, most of whom were young, and inexperienced in civic politics. They were Sally, Mary, Harry and Barry. Or the 'rhyming Simons' as many citizens called them-some in jest because they alleged that these newbies had nothing unique to contribute to civic politics, they were all blowing the same trumpet so-to-speak, offering no viable alternatives to the present council.
   Then, at the last moment, a new candidate registered, with only a handful of citizens actually knowing her. 
   She was a recent refugee from Rwanda, a feminist, a devout critic of the status quo on matters of politics in the state and the church. 
   Her campaign was simple, yet profound. Zero umemployment rate, zero poverty rate, perfect peace with justice policies and love with mercy policies that guaranteed living wages for everyone, free education, free music, art and literature events that involved the whole city every week at city hall. There would be no need for police or jails or guns or emergency shelters and homes for the abused, since no one would have the need to break any laws, no one would be abused, no one would resort to violence to solve problems, no one would be bullied, or manipulated or hated, all would be loved, accepted and equal in the city, all would look after all.
   She was elected mayor for life, her name was Shalomie, and everyone lived happily ever after in the now perfectly perfect city of Purfeckt. One day, she observed, "This is all possible because the Messiah has come."    

Friday, October 4, 2013

Morning Meditation Moment

"I lift up my eyes to the hills-from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:1-2)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New book on Heschel and Buber

Without question, the two twentieth century giants of Jewish thought were Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel. A new book has been published written by Alexander Even-Chen & Ephraim Meir, Between Heschel and Buber: A Comparative Study. Reviewer, Dr. Michael Marmur, writes:

   Between them, articles relating to Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel account for over nine hundred entries in the Jewish National Library’s Index of Articles on Jewish Studies. Add to this the steady stream of books concerning either Buber or Heschel, and the sheer bulk of the bibliography is even more daunting. Comparisons between the two thinkers, however, are rare.[1] None of the previous attempts to set these two figures alongside each other in search of affinities and contrasts compares in scope and depth to the volume under review. By undertaking a well-structured and thoughtful comparison of the men they describe as “giant and committed thinkers of the twentieth century,” Alexander Even-Chen and Ephraim Meir have achieved a significant feat. Rather than being one more entry in a crowded field, Between Heschel and Buber deserves a special place within a rapidly burgeoning literature. Read the whole review here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interfaith relations and world peace

Several years ago, religious leaders and theologians made the case for the following thesis: “Without peace among the world’s religions, there can be no peace in the world.” The recent tragic events committed by Muslim jihadists in Pakistan, Nigeria and Kenya leaves Christians living in Muslim-majority nations, in the very least nervous, and at its worst, fearing for their lives and livelihood.  What, if anything, are Muslims doing about this evil violence and terrorism? Is there adequate trust and mutual respect for both faiths to work together for peace with justice in the world? What do peace and justice look like for both faith traditions? In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Lorna Dueck shares some hopeful thoughts on Christian-Muslim relations.  

   “Muslims finding common ground with Christians: The path to peace,” by Lorna Dueck: This week, my Muslim friend Raheel Raza asked me to come to Toronto’s Pakistani Consulate with her to protest her faith’s violent extremism against Christianity. It was an unexpected reach of kindness from Islam to me, a Christian, in response to a horrific attack days earlier at All Saints Anglican in Peshawar, which saw 85 Christians die when obscurantist suicide bombers rushed church doors as worshippers left. Like many, I’m angry that a powerful religion cannot correct its jihadism, and I don’t trust its ethos. Read the whole article here