Saturday, December 27, 2014

Celebrate Christmas

There's nothing like music to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Here's a gift from the gifted Canadian singer-songwriter, Bruce Cockburn. A blessed Christmas to one and all! :-)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Prayer remembering Kristallnacht

In remembrance of Kristallnacht-the night(s) of broken glass-on November 9-10, 1938, when the Nazis attacked Jewish citizens and their property, marking the escalation of their antisemitic and anti-Judaic persecution, culminating in "the final solution," it is, I think in order to offer a prayer for the Jewish people-especially in light of the growing antisemitism around the world today. 
   LORD God, out of your super-abundant grace, you chose and elected the Jewish people to be a light to all nations. We give you thanks for the legacy of faithfulness of the ancient patriarchs and matriarchs, such as Moses and Miriam, and Abraham and Sarah. Down through the centuries the nations of the world have been jealous of your everlasting covenant with and blessing of your Chosen People, and therefore instigated countless pogroms, persecutions, and expulsions against them. Tonight we remember November 9-10, 1938-Kristallnacht, and the Jewish victims of the Nazi's hate-filled acts of violence, escalating into the Holocaust and the loss of six million Jewish souls. 
   In a world of growing hostility against Israel, and antisemitic and anti-Judaic acts, protect the Jewish people from evil and harm. Help the Gentile world and we who call ourselves Christians to defend Israel's right to exist as a nation and speak out and actively work against all forms of antisemitism and anti-Judaism. Unite Jews and Christians everywhere to serve your greater purposes, that through their unity all the nations of the world would be blessed and peace with justice would flourish as the prophet once proclaimed: "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Amen.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Leonard Cohen's "Almost Like The Blues"

Leonard Cohen has, over the years written some profound lyrics. I like this new song, and think it's a bit of an insightful commentary on what's going on in the world today.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Thought-provoking Quotes

Thought-provoking Quotes

"The justice of God is not that we are allowed to complete what we have begun, but the grace of God is that we are allowed to participate in what God has begun." -Peter J. Gomes

"For all that has been THANKS! For all that will be YES!" -Dag Hammarskjold

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: At Day's Close

At Day’s Close: Night In Times Past
A. Roger Ekirch
New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005 & 2006
447 pages, including: Illustrations, Acknowledgements, Preface, Notes and Index
Reviewed by Rev. Eclecticity 

This volume is a rather unique contribution to the study of night—an eclectic potpourri of history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and more, dating from the late Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. An engaging and entertaining read, yet at times tedious, having to contend with around seventy pages of endnotes.

The structure of this work is divided up into four parts and twelve chapters. Part One, “In the Shadow of Death,” describes the negative, evil, threatening nature of night. Part Two, “Laws of Nature,” portrays how religious and civil authorities attempted to employ suppressive measures like curfews and watchmen to control nocturnal human activities. Part Three, “Benighted Realms,” examines men and women at work and at play; and how night transformed the traditional, class-oriented daytime roles. Part Four, “Private Worlds,” addresses the world of sleep and dreams, as well as evening rituals.

Each of the four parts and chapters begins with a thought-provoking quotation, such as: “Never greet a stranger in the night, for he may be a demon.” THE TALMUD “The law is not the same at morning and at night.” GEORGE HERBERT “Many things even go best in the raw night-hours.” VIRGIL, 1ST CENTURY B.C. “Happy are those who can get rid of their problems when sleeping.” GUILLAUME BOUCHET

In addition to the familiar beliefs associated with night, the author points out other factors that torment human beings after dark, such as: strange sounds, distorted sights, the fear of robbers, rapists, murderers, and other malevolent beings. The nocturnal habits of royalty, clergy, the rich and the poor, prostitutes and outcasts of all kinds. Even a husband or wife would kill their spouse while they were asleep. Many a fire started from burning candles and melting wax when folks fell asleep—claiming lives and homes. Sometimes fires were deliberately started and could destroy entire streets because the buildings were so close together and people had little or no equipment to put them out. Accidents occurred on city streets at night when horses and carriages ran over pedestrians who were unable to find safety on narrow streets. People were injured or killed from falls into cisterns, holes, and cellars at night. Many were afraid to travel at night for fear of being robbed, mistakenly killed or beaten, or getting lost due to darkness.

On the upside of night, in both Jewish and Christian traditions, clergy encouraged reading, study, prayers and devotions. Religious minorities often met secretly at night and held their worship services, including weddings and burials.

Ekirch also ponders such traditions as: the origin of bedtime clothing for the middle and upper classes in the sixteenth century, while the poor slept in their day clothing and without blankets, sleep as terror for those who fear their enemies or have nightmares, sleep as a blessing for those who have visions and ecstatic dreams, the recommended hours of sleep for a healthy life, and the influence of gas lighting in cities during the nineteenth century, among various and sundry other subjects.


Friday, June 6, 2014

After 30 days

I've completed the Tutu 30 Days of Forgiveness Challenge. It surprised me in some respects. There was a person from the past with whom I had a falling out. Many years have past since then and I thought all had been forgiven. Yet, with this challenge I realized that I still need to release the relationship to complete the forgiveness process, which, by the grace of God, I was able to do. Check out this video if you are interested in pursuing forgiveness further.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge Day 2

Here is what the Tutus wrote for today's challenge. Hope you enjoy it and consider signing up, if you haven't already.

Day 2: The Science of Forgiveness

Dear Friend,
Welcome to the second day of our journey to understand and practice forgiveness. Did you know that forgiveness is now gaining attention as an academic discipline studied not only by philosophers and theologians, but also by psychologists and physicians?
There are dozens of research projects taking place at universities around the world. Even neuroscientists are studying the biology of forgiveness and exploring the parts of the brain that light up when we forgive. There are even some who are looking to see if there might be a forgiveness gene somewhere in our DNA. Isn’t that amazing? Here is a quick summary of what they are finding.
The Findings
As modern forgiveness research evolves, the findings clearly show that forgiving transforms people mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically. There are psychological benefits to forgiving (reduced depression, decreased anger, increased self-confidence) but there are also very real and concrete physical benefits.
People who are more forgiving report fewer health problems and fewer physical symptoms of stress. When you hang on to anger and resentment and live in a constant state of stress, you increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, and so many other chronic stress-related illnesses.
So what do we want you to know today? We want you to know that forgiving is good for your health! It’s good for your body. It’s good for your heart. It’s good for your health. It’s good for your soul.
With Love,
Desmond & Mpho

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge

One of the inspiring and insightful Christians in our day is Desmond Tutu. He has started, as of today, a Global Forgiveness Challenge. Forgiveness, likely for most of us, is or has been a challenge, especially if there has been great loss or hurt due to cruelty, evil, oppression, injustice, abuse, etc. However, it is possible, with the help of God, thanks to the grace, saving work, and influence of Jesus. I don't think we ever become "experts" at forgiveness, given the human condition. However, with practice, hopefully we continue to learn and grow through the journey. So I've signed up for this 30 day challenge, how about you? 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Painting by Marc Chagall, White Crucifixion

This painting, by Jewish artist Marc Chagall, is one of my favourites. I like it for at least two reasons: i) It depicts Jesus as a Jew, notice he is wearing what looks like a Jewish prayer shall. ii) Around the cross there are also Jews who are fleeing for their lives, likely from eastern European pogroms, and reminiscent of their plight during the Shoah. Unfortunately, historically, Jews have often lived in fear for their lives far too often during Holy Week celebrations. Christians fuelled the evil fires of antisemitism and anti-Judaism, and carried out violent acts against God's Chosen. As Christians we need to continue to renounce all antisemitism and anti-Judaism.  
   Yet, paradoxically for me, Good Friday is one of the most, if not "the" most meaningful days of the church's liturgical year. I love J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion, and think it is the best choral work ever composed. I also find the older traditional Lutheran Tre Ore (Three Hour) Good Friday liturgy based on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross and the classic Lutheran hymn "Jesus in Thy Dying Woes," composed by Thomas Pollock, sung to the tune "Ack, Vad Ar Dock Livet Har," from the Stockholm, Swedish Koralpsalmboken  profoundly simple, yet most moving. The hymn is divided up into seven parts, and each part consisting of three stanzas. It is a beautiful prayer-meditation on Christ's Passion. The version of it below is from our Lutheran Book of Worship, I'm rather disappointed that in our newest hymnbook, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, that it is omitted. 
Part I
1 Jesus in thy dying woes, Even while thy life-blood flows,
Craving pardon for thy foes: Hear us holy Jesus.
2 Saviour, for our pardon sue When our sins thy pangs renew,
For we know not what we do:Hear us holy Jesus.
3 Oh, may we, who mercy need, Be like thee in heart and deed,
When with wrong our spirits bleed: Hear us holy Jesus.
Part II
4 Jesus, pitying the sighs Of the thief, who near thee dies,
Promising him paradise:Hear us holy Jesus.
5 May we in our guilt and shame Still thy love and mercy claim,
Calling humbly on they name:Hear us holy Jesus.
6 May our hearts to thee incline, Looking from our cross to thine. Cheer our souls with hope divine:Hear us holy Jesus.
Part III
7 Jesus, loving to the end Her whose heart thy sorrows rend,
And thy dearest human friend:Hear us holy Jesus.
8 May we in thy sorrows share, For thy sake all peril dare,
And enjoy thy tender care:Hear us holy Jesus.
9 May we all thy loved ones be, All one holy family,
Loving for the love of thee:Hear us holy Jesus.
Part IV
10 Jesus, whelmed in fears unknown, With our evil left alone,
While no light from heaven is shown: Hear us holy Jesus.
11 When we seem in vain to pray And our hope seems far away, 
In the darkness be our stay: Hear us holy Jesus.
12 Though no Father seem to hear, Though no light our spirits cheer, May we know that God is near: Hear us holy Jesus.
Part V
13 Jesus, in thy thirst and pain, While thy wounds thy lifeblood drain, Thirsting more our love to gain: Hear us holy Jesus.
14 Thirst for us in mercy still; All thy holy work fulfill; 
Satisfy thy loving will: Hear us holy Jesus.
15 May we thirst thy love to know; Lead us in our sin and woe
Where the healing waters flow; Hear us holy Jesus.
Part VI
16 Jesus, all our ransom paid, All thy Father's will obeyed;
By thy suff'rings perfect made: Hear us holy Jesus.
17 Save us in our soul's distress; Be our help to cheer and bless, While we grow in holiness: Hear us holy Jesus.
18 Brighten all our heav'nward way With an ever holier ray
Till we pass to perfect day: Hear us holy Jesus.
Part VII
19 Jesus, all thy labour vast, All thy woe and conflict past;
Yielding up thy soul at last: Hear us holy Jesus.
20 When the death shades round us low'r, Guard us from the tempter's pow'r, Keep us in that trial hour: Hear us holy Jesus.
21 May thy life and death supply Grace to live and grace to die,
Grace to reach the home on high: Hear us holy Jesus.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A short, short story on keeping Lent

What does it mean for us twenty-first century Christians to “keep Lent”? the pastor asked his congregation this rhetorical question in a sermon on the first Sunday in Lent.

   There was silence for a few seconds. Then Pastor Jacob continued with the rest of his sermon on “What do you give up or take on for Lent?”

   After the service, shaking hands with his parishioners there wasn’t a word spoken to Pastor Jacob about his sermon. He wondered whether his message made any difference. He wondered if he made any difference. What was God up to in his life and in the life of the members of this congregation, Resurrection Lutheran Church? Sunday after Sunday the same response, the same soul-wrenching questions. Were there ever going to be any answers? he wondered. The more he looked and longed for, the less he saw any signs of resurrection in himself or his parishioners.

   Then, one day while preparing yet another sermon for Sunday, there was a knock on his office door. He opened it. In front of him stood a homeless drunk whom he had seen in church before.

   The drunk surprised him when he blurted out, “Pastor, I would like to take on something for Lent, can you baptize me?”

   They sat down and chatted further, they agreed to go ahead with the baptism next Sunday, even though Resurrection Lutheran frowned on such a practice during Lent.

   Next Sunday Bjorn Egan was baptized much to the surprise and dismay of many parishioners. Pastor Jacob wondered what was going to happen next. Was that the last he would see of Bjorn Egan?

   The days passed by quickly and as the pastor began the Sunday service, he was shocked and delighted to see Bjorn Egan and a dozen or so other street people sitting in the two back pews.

   Of course the congregation glared at them as if to say “What are you doing here?”

   After the service when Bjorn Egan shook hands with Pastor Jacob, he asked him: “My friends here were wondering if you would baptize them too?”   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the world wide web

Today, March 12, marks the 25th anniversary of the world wide web. What do you the readers of this post think of the www? Do you think we are better off with it, or would you rather turn back the clock to life before the www?
   One of the main fall-outs of the www I believe is how we gain our information now and how we communicate with others. Before the www, most folks relied on books, magazines, newspapers and libraries for their information. Now a huge number of people look for their information on the www. This is both bane and blessing in the sense that there is far more access to information on the web readily available to the public. Yet, one questions the reliability/credibility of the information out there.
   Another huge issue I think is that the www has caused some negative consequences for how we communicate with others. Many folks become reclusive and are addicted to the www, that is not a healthy thing. I think it can and sometimes sadly does have very adverse consequences for husband-wife and parent-child relationships. When folks are in public places, more often than not, you see them obsessed with their i-phones or smartphones and NOT communicating with others in their midst. Even when you manage to involve them in a conversation, they still keep their device out and keep checking it obsessively, which I think is just plain rude and disrespectful of the person that is trying to converse with them. 
   On the national and global level, of course there are also still some very serious issues like, for example, privacy, security, cyber-bullying, identity theft, and more. For an interesting reflection on the www, I encourage you to watch the video below by Tim Berners-Lee the purported founder of the www, and then tell me what you think by leaving a comment.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

At the Concert Hall

Image credit:
Recently my wife and I attended a Jesse Cook concert. He is, by now, a world renowned guitarist. We enjoyed the concert and, judging from the resounding standing ovations in the concert hall, so did the other members of the audience.  He definitely has the ability to encourage an audience to participate, in this respect he reminds me a bit of the old classic folk musician, Pete Seeger.
   Cook seems to have been influenced and inspired by world, jazz, Spanish, and Middle Eastern traditions. If you're not familiar with Jesse Cook, visit his website here to find out more, view a video, and discover where he is touring-perhaps in your city. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ask the pastor

What does the word shrove mean, and why are pancakes served on Shrove Tuesday?

The word shrove comes from another related word, shrive, which means to confess one’s sins and receive absolution or to hear
Image Credit:
confession of sins and give absolution. Dating back at least to the Middle Ages, Shrove Tuesday confession and absolution prepared the faithful for the season of Lent, which begins the next day, on Ash Wednesday. Martin Luther however in his Small Catechism, exhorts the baptized to drown the sinful Adam and Eve in us by a daily sorrow and repentance, in order that the new person may rise up, cleansed and righteous.

The serving of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday also most likely dates back to medieval times; some even refer to it as Pancake Tuesday. The practice of serving and eating pancakes is related to dietary restrictions and fasting during the Lenten season. Diary products and fat foods were all gathered up and prepared to consume on Shrove Tuesday to clean the household of these foods for Lent. In some traditions, Shrove Tuesday then became the last day to indulge in worldly carnal pleasures prior to the austerity of Lent—hence the celebration of Mardi Gras carnivals, parades and parties. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

On the lighter side

On the lighter side, someone passed on this video to me today. Whether or not it actually happened or if it's a fake, nonetheless in addition to it giving me a chuckle, I think it's "a soundbite moral tale" for a couple of reasons. First, it teaches us not to mess with little old women with shopping bags. Second, it's a great example of NOT living by the Golden Rule, and NOT loving your neighbour as yourself. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Love your enemies

One of the most inspirational preachers of the twentieth century was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During this Week of
Image Credit: Robert Casilla
Prayer for Christian Unity, it is instructive for us all to learn from one another and grow in our faith and life journey by studying, reading, praying with and for, and participating in worship and social justice projects with other Christians from a wide spectrum of denominations. To that end, I post the following link to a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. King, Jr. based on Matthew 5:38-45, at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in Montgomery, Alabama on November 17, 1957: Love your enemies

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

14 Things you shouldn't say to your Pastor

The folks at have listed the following 14 things parishioners shouldn't say to their pastor.

1. I wish I had a job like yours, where I could work only one day a week.
2. What do you do with all the free time you have?
3. Can I have a couple of minutes before you preach?
Image Credit:
4. I love you pastor, but _______________________________ (fill in the blank).
5. I like your preaching, pastor, but I really like ____________________________ (fill in the blank with television or podcast preacher).
6. Can your wife/husband play piano?
7. Your kids shouldn't behave that way. After all, they are pastor's kids.
8. Your low salary is good for you. It keeps you humble and dependent on the Lord.
9. I bet you don't spend any time preparing your sermons.
10. Pastor ________________ (predecessor pastor) didn't do it that way.
11. You don't have a real degree. You went to seminary.
12. How much longer do you think you'll be at our church?
13. Did I wake you up pastor? It's only 1 a.m.
14. Did you hear what they are saying about you?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Prayer of the Day/Collect for Baptism of Our Lord

God of water and life, long ago you sent your Son, Jesus to be baptised by your servant John to fulfill all righteousness. We
Image Credit: James B. Janknegt, Baptism of Christ
praise and thank you that through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, we are given the water of life through a covenant that equips us to serve you and your holy purposes in the world; through your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit; one God, now and through all ages of ages.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

World's only ice music festival

From January 16-19, the world's one and only Ice Music Festival will be held for its ninth year at Geilo, Norway.  Located in the idyllic mountain home of Geilo in Norway, under the watchful eye of the mighty Hallingskarvet Plateau - the Ice Music Festival’s aesthetics, music and nature, melt together under the first full moon of the year. 
   Constructed and formed exclusively from naturally harvested ice and snow, the Festival is a tribute to art, the environment and one of the world’s most vital resources - water. Frozen water.
   Conceived and developed in 2006 by ice music pioneer Terje Isungset and Pål K Medhus, the Ice Music Festival is an annual celebration of collaborative music and expression performed by specially invited artists, curated by Terje.
   Here's a sample of what those who attend will hear and see from the 2012 festival.