Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Friday, November 11, 2016

Leonard Cohen dies at 82

Yesterday, November 10, 2016, I saw the news that one of my favourite Canadian poets, novelists, singer-songwriters, Leonard Cohen died at the age of 82 years. 
   The first song I heard of his, if I recall correctly, was Suzanne, when it came out in the 1960s. It was, in a sense, a revelation of what would be for him more to come, with the ever-pervasive motifs of sexual love and spiritual love, sometimes contradicting one another and at other times in a holistic and holy unity. Indeed, in some pundit circles, Cohen was dubbed 'a ladies man,' to which he responded that if that was the case, then why did he spend so many nights lonely and alone? Interesting though that he had two children, a boy and a girl, but he never married. 
   With poetic flair his lyrics spoke volumes not only biographically, but universally. In his most recent album, I like the ponderous turns of phrase in the title track You Want It Darker-especially 'Hineni, I am ready my LORD,' appropriate words to speak or sing at the end of one's life, me thinks. Give it a listen. 
   Rest eternal grant Leonard Cohen LORD, and may your blessed Shalom surround him. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Reformation 500

Tomorrow we Lutherans around the globe celebrate Reformation Sunday, which always falls on the last Sunday in October. Then, on October 31, which is our Lutheran official Reformation Day, there will be a special commemoration ecumenical worship service in Lund, Sweden to kick off the year long celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. For the first time in Lutheran history, a Roman Catholic pope, Francis will also be celebrating the event with us Lutherans. This certainly is a significant gesture on the pope's part towards unity within Christendom. 
   However, as the cartoon suggests, we Lutherans still have significant doctrinal and ecclesiological issues to settle with the Roman Catholic Church before we can reach enough consensus to have full communion with them. We have moved in that direction with other denominations, especially in North America. Here in Canada, for example, we have full communion with the Anglicans. In the United States however, the altar and pulpit fellowship extends also to several other denominations within the Reformed family of churches. 
   One sign of hope for future relations and dialogues with the Roman Catholics is a couple of statements Francis has made regarding Martin Luther, whom he called an intelligent man, and a comment about a Lutheran woman being able to commune in a Roman Catholic church with her husband who is R.C., that if she believed she could commune with a clear conscience, she may be able to do so. 
   Whether or not we Lutherans and Roman Catholics will be able to resolve our differences regarding papal authority, the doctrine of ordained ministry-including women clergy and married clergy, Mariology and the definition and criteria of sainthood, and the number and nature of the sacraments remains to be seen. 
   Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 is thus an ongoing one for us Lutherans and Roman Catholics.    

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bob Dylan wins 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature

Congratulations Bob! I've been a fan for a lot of years.

Half a century ago, Bob Dylan shocked the music world by plugging in an electric guitar and alienating folk purists. For decades he continued to confound expectations, selling millions of records with dense, enigmatic songwriting.
   To read the whole New York Times article, click here

Monday, October 10, 2016

Canadian Thanksgiving Monday 2016

Today—the second Monday in October—we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Scripture underscores the importance of gratitude to God for the gift of physical and spiritual life, as well as everything in creation that sustains life, and everyone who contributes to the well-being of humankind and all of creation.
   As an exercise in Thanksgiving, I’ve found it helpful to list at least one person, place or thing for each letter of the alphabet to give thanks to God for. It is also an exercise in which friends, neighbours, strangers and family can participate as they gather around the table for a Thanksgiving meal.
   All praise and thanks to you LORD God, Creator, Father, Mother, Redeemer, Son, Saviour, Messiah, Friend, Brother, Sustainer, Holy Spirit, Breath of Life, Teacher, Giver of Fruit and Gifts. Today I realize that there are so many people, places and things I am thankful for.
   I thank you for art,
   I thank you for the Bible,
   I thank you for this country, Canada,
   I thank you for the diversity of all creation, including humankind,
   I thank you for ears to hear with and eyes to see,
   I thank you for faith to trust in you and your forgiveness for all of my sins,
   I thank you for your grace, which names and claims me as a member of your family,
   I thank you for the gift of reasonably good health, and your promise of life with you in heaven,
   I thank you for ideas that make a difference in my life, my province, nation, and the whole world,
   I thank you Jesus for your life in this world, your teachings and miracles, your love for me and all of humankind, demonstrated by your suffering and death, resurrection and ascension,
   I thank you for the gift of kindness shown to me each day in many and various ways,
   I thank you for the greatest gift of all, love, given to me and all of humankind,
   I thank you for music, another beautiful gift that adds so much to the quality of life,
   I thank you for novels, revealing insights into life,
   I thank you for olive oil and oranges,
   I thank you for prophets, who are called by you to speak truth to power, and are your agents to facilitate justice,
   I thank you for quiet times and places for relaxation and renewal,
   I thank you for the gift of reconciliation for humankind, for family, friends, neighbours and enemies,
   I thank you for the promised gift of salvation, which you have willed for all people,
   I thank you for your truth, which sets us free to love and serve you and our neighbour,
   I thank you for the gift of unity in marriages, families, congregations and parishes, within and between denominations, governments, and nations,
   I thank you for vocations, to give human beings meaning and purpose in their callings and work,
   I thank you for the opportunity and privilege to come before you to worship you, to bring all of our self—body, mind, and spirit—with us in awe, reverence and wonder and be judged, forgiven, instructed and inspired, equipped and sent to love and serve you and our neighbour,
   I thank you for xylophones, making beautiful music,
   I thank you for the colour yellow, bringing more light into the world,
   I thank you for zippers, that close winter parkas on cold winter days.
   All praise and thanks to you O Triune God, now and forever. Amen.   


Friday, July 29, 2016

A short story

Joy was a missionary who had taught school in Iraq for seven years. True to her name, she spread the joy of Jesus’s love to whomever she met. Many of her Muslim students fell in love with Jesus through the beautiful songs Joy sang. Joy had the voice of an angel. Listening to her sing inspired the soul, melted the heart, and was like a drink of cold water in the hot desert sun.
   Then, one day without warning Islamic State fighters invaded Joy’s school. One fighter grabbed Joy and threatened to kill her on the spot if she resisted him.
   She was blindfolded, pushed into a truck with other prisoners, and driven to an Islamic State building. They locked her up in a room for two days with nothing to eat or drink.
   Then, on the third day, a man came in and started ordering Joy to take off her clothes. She refused. Instead she started singing the most beautiful rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” that she had ever sung.
   The man pulled out a knife and threatened to kill her if she refused to do his bidding.
   Joy continued to sing. The man then grabbed her, shook her and yelled at her as he brought the knife closer to her neck: “I told you to take off your clothes!”
   Joy ignored his order and continued to sing, she couldn’t stop singing. As she sang, the man began to listen, he soon dropped the knife and let go of Joy.
   A few moments later, he began to cry. He sobbed uncontrollably, and fell to his knees, and buried his head with his arms.
   Joy stopped singing and looked at him and prayed for him in silence. She prayed as she never had before, for an enemy, one who most likely hated her and everything that she loved and believed in.
   After a few minutes, the man looked up at Joy and said gently: “Forgive me. Please sing that song again, it is beautiful.”
   Shocked, and expecting the worst, Joy was surprised and began to sing again.   
   “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
   “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Elie Wiesel dies at 87 years

Elie Wiesel, (among other things) a Nobel Peace Prize winner, author, professor, Holocaust survivor, humanitarian, child of God, died last Saturday, July 2, 2016. He was an amazing person! He inspired and mentored many people from a wide array of faith traditions, and nationalities. 
   I have read about six of his books-he was a prolific writer. I found his books at once filled with despair and hope, struggle and peace, depressing and inspirational, autobiographical and universal, profound, insightful, challenging, poetic, prophetic, and reminiscent of the Psalms of lament-to employ a few descriptive adjectives among many more. 
   He was a man of deep faith, who, like a Jeremiah of old, was deeply compelled to speak truth to power. 
   May his life, memory, and legacy be a blessing to everyone. May God grant him shalom eternal. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Dr Gordon Fee on the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation, from its beginnings, had a difficult time getting into the biblical canon. Many scholars were sceptical about it. Martin Luther was not over enthused about it-and had a pastoral concern that it had the potential of doing more harm than good for parishioners. 
   Over the centuries, many interpreters of Revelation have had a field day with Revelation-twisting and distorting it to interpret current events rather than referring to the original audience and their context in the Roman empire. Many have also been preoccupied with interpreting Revelation to support their views on how the future is going to unfold. 
   New Testament scholar Dr. Gordon Fee offers some helpful insights into the Book of Revelation in the following video. Even though he is not a Lutheran, I find myself agreeing with much of what he has to say. Hope you enjoy the video.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Today in music history, April 16

Today in music history, April 16:

1964, The Beatles filmed the "chase scenes" for A Hard Day's Night with actors dressed as policemen in the Notting Hill Gate area of London. In the evening they recorded the title track for the film, 'A Hard Day's Night' at Abbey Road. John and Paul had the title first, and had to write a song to order, completing the track in nine takes.