Tuesday, May 31, 2011

KJV Turns 400

As an addendum to yesterday's post....

In preparing for Sunday I found a website dedicted to the KJV turning 400.  You can check it out here

Monday, May 30, 2011

Looking Forward to June 5, 2011 -- 7th Sunday of Easter

This year the King James Version of the Bible (also called the Authorized Version) turns 400.   In honour of that we will read our Scriptures from the KJV this week and spend time talking about how we approach Scripture.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-17
  • Revelation 22:16-21
  • Psalm 119:105-112 (VU p.841 Part 5)

For Children's Time we will have a variety of Bibles up front to look at--one of which is very special.

The Sermon Title is The B-I-B-L-E

Early Thoughts: OK, be honest, did any of you start singing this song when you read the sermon title? Well here is a video version of it for you to sing along with (done "boy band" style):

But really, what is the Bible? How do we, as people of faith, make use of it?  Is it "the Word of God" or is it words about God that contain a Word from God?  Where did it come from?  How do we interpret it?  Is the Bible "true"?  And what do you mean by true

These are important questions for us to talk about.  They are also questions for which faithful people have a wide variety of answers.

The KJV is an important artifact in English literature.  By some studies (see this article) it is still the most common version of the Bible on household bookshelves (although I suspect that this may be due to inherited Bibles rather than because everyone is buying KJV for personal use).  It was not the first translation of Scripture into English, but it was the first one with the official stamp and permission of the monarch (which is why it is called the Authorized Version).  And the committee that worked on it tried, as best they could with the scholarship of the early 17th century, to be as accurate as possible.   Some people still remember the shock and horror that many felt a half century ago when the RSV came out and changed the translation of some much beloved verses --there were some who called the RSV an atheist text and an abomination.  To this day there are a few people who maintain that the KJV is the only proper English version of the text to read, study, and use.

But we need to look beyond one version.  The KJV is an artifact from another time.  There are more accurate translations.  And more importantly there are translations that are written in the language we actually speak (which was the whole point of the KJV in the first place).  We have Scripture in our language so that we can read and study and discuss it.  Which brings us back to the questions I asked earlier.

TO find out how I answer those questions, you'll simply have to come on Sunday!

In the meantime, here is a song that grows out of the Psalm passage for this week:


PS>  here is a thread from WonderCafe about 18 months ago discussing the Bible.  I referenced the same song in its title...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

June Newsletter

Spin me a story in spinning you'll find.
One strand is yours another is mine.
Each alone has beauty to see;
reflecting the joys of what we believe.
Only when shared do stories take form.
Join in the telling a new strand is born.
By weaving the fabric a richness we'll see,
woven into God's great tapestry.
(“Spin Me a Story” verse 1 ©1991 Nancy Chegus)
Whether it is as our child heads off to bed, or gathering friends and family to remember a loved one, or at a faith gathering, or simply something to read as we relax on the beach we are story-people. Despite all the science and technology we use everyday it is stories that really tell us who we are. And so we all have stories to share.

This is especially true for us as people of faith. Our faith is not passed on through complex theological concepts or philosophies. Our faith is passed on through stories, stories from Scripture, stories from the life of our denomination, stories from our congregation, and our own stories of exploring faith, of encountering God in our lives. And so we have stories to share.

150 years ago Katherine Hankey wrote these words:
I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.
(“I Love to Tell the Story” verses 2 & 4)
Hankey knew something too many of us have forgotten. She knew that as people of faith we have a responsibility to tell the stories of faith to the people around us. And just like the stories we tell at family gatherings it really doesn't matter if people are hearing them for the first time or for the 100th time. We all have those stories we love to hear over and over again – like the child who knows her favourite story book by heart but still wants it read every night.
In theological language telling the stories of faith is called evangelism, sharing the Good News. That is a word we tend not to use much these days. But it is my considered opinion that we need to reclaim our evangelical heritage. We need to start telling our faith stories more. We need to tell our faith stories to help each other grow stronger in faith, to deepen our relationship with the Holy One. We need to tell our faith stories so that people we have not yet met can hear how our relationship with the Holy One has changed our lives. We need to be sharers of Good News, not to increase the number of people in church or dollars in the plate, but because we are people of story. Only if we share our stories can we share our understanding of God's vision for the world in which we live, in which we do our ministry.
Spin me a world that is free from all wrong.
Peacefulness reigns, all conflict is gone.
Hungry souls are fed by our love,
inspired by the hope of the dove.
This is God's world for us to weave.
Picture the future then start to believe.
Spin me a story in spinning you'll find,
one strand is yours, another is mine
(“Spin me a Story” verse 3)
What stories will we share as we try to live out this life and world transforming faith we call Christianity?
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
(“I Love to Tell the Story” refrain)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Looking Forward to May 29, 2011 -- 6th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday we will celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • 1 Peter 3:13-16
  • Psalm 66 (VU p.784)
  • Acts 17:16-34

The Sermon Title is Cosmopolitan Faith

Early Thoughts: How do we share our faith in a world where there are so many options?  Well we could do worse than model Paul.

Paul is best known as the (somewhat self-appointed) "Apostle to the Gentiles".  The stories we have of him tell of how he travelled all around the Eastern end of the Mediterranean spreading the Gospel (Good News) of the Risen Christ.  Here in this passage from Acts we see how did this in Athens.

WHat is most notable is that Paul is willing to meet people where they are at.  He speaks to them in a "language" that they understand.  He relates the Gospel of hope he has to share with their life and (perhaps more importantly in Athens) philosophy.  HE is invited/hauled in front of the intelligentsia to share his position and he does so respectfully.  At the end we are told that some scoffed, some said "we will tak about this again" and some joined.

Some people have suggested that the world of 2011 is, in some ways, much more like the world in which Paul lived and ministered that the world of 1911.  This may be particularly true when we come to the area of religion and spirituality.  Paul could not assume that his audience would know the story of his faith--neither can we.  Paul could (indeed had to) assume that his audience would include people froma variety of faith and philosophical background--so can (should?) we.  The Roman Empire was a very Cosmopolitan (citizen of the world, belonging to the wider world) environment, it was fed by ideas from all around the Mediterranean.  Today's global village is much the same.

And so we once again have to understand how we share our faith, our story, our hope in a world which is much less homgenous than the world our grandparents knew.  Here is one person's advice to those who are preaching in this environment:

In many respects we may be preaching to similar audiences these days. The traditional elements of the biblical narratives may be familiar, but the religious meanings and interpretations beyond the biblical records are not so familiar or may need to be updated. The need to open the meaning of religious experiences as they have come to us through the study of the scriptures, preparation of sermons, prayer and other elements of worship is the essence of our homiletical task. Like Paul, we need to plumb the depths of our own religious experiences, then use the best skills of rhetoric that we have learned to convey the meaning of those experiences so that others may gain insight and meaning from what we say from the pulpit.

SO this Sunday we will explore what it means to have a cosmopolitan faith.  But don't worry--we won't read from the magazine of that name.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Slave Lake Fires

The following is a Pastoral Letter from the Rev. Peter Chynoweth, President of Alberta Northwest Conference:

May 16, 2011

To: The people of Alberta and Northwest Conference
Subject: Prayers and thoughts for the people of Slave Lake

Many of us in the Conference awoke on Monday morning to news of the destruction that has occurred in Slave Lake as a result of raging wildfires pushed in to the town by winds of up to one hundred km per hour. As the day progressed we heard estimates that a large percentage of the town was destroyed, including many key buildings and churches, but more importantly, the homes of hundreds of Slave Lake residents.

With the town having been evacuated it is likely that many Slave Lake residents do not yet know what happened to their homes.

I know that you along with me are praying for the residents of Slave Lake as they face the devastation and grief of so much loss. All reports so far have indicated that despite the tremendous speed at which this catastrophe has happened, and the large number of homes, businesses and other buildings that have been destroyed, there has been no loss of life. We can hope and pray that this small blessing in the midst of such ruin will continue to hold true.

The work of re-building will take not only hard work, but also the strong commitment of many people, and a strength of will that will be hard to find in the midst of such loss.

We all know that the church is more than a building, but for those people who have lost their place of worship, it will be an especially traumatic time. However, the church is more than a building and I know that the church is also more than the people in a particular community. And so I invite us as the church to be with the people of Slave Lake, offering the hope and presence of God in all the different ways that are possible.

Please hold the people of Slave Lake in your thoughts and in your prayers, and be encouraged in whatever way you can to offer whatever other assistance you can.

We also hold in gratitude everyone who has responded to this crisis, and made things just a little bit easier in the midst of shock, loss, fear and disbelief.

We will continue to monitor the situation in Slave Lake, with particular concern for the community of faith, and we will provide updates as soon as we can, along with any information we can provide about ways that you can help in the days to come.

And to the people of Slave Lake, may you know the power, strength and love of God in this time, and may God's presence be made known to you by the people of God who are standing, praying and working with you in this very difficult time.


Peter Chynoweth
President, ANW Conference

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prayers For Our Siblings

WE have all heard/read the news from Slave Lake.  Many of us have friends or family living in that community.  And so I encourage us all to hold the people of that community in prayer.  Hopefully by Sunday we will have heard more.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Looking Forward to May 22, 2011 -- 5th Sunday of Easter

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Acts 7:54-8:1
  • Psalm 31(VU p.758 Parts 1&3)
  • John 14:1-14

The Sermon title is Which Way? Which Truth?

Early Thoughts: How do we reconcile this passage (especially verse 6) with the realities of living in a pluralistic society?

It is a challenge.  On one hand the realities of pluralism requires that we be open to people from other backgrounds and traditions.  On the other we have Scripture which proclaims that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  We have John's Jesus saying "no one comes to the Father except through me"  (of course earlier in the same Gospel John--chapter 10, the "Good Shepherd" chapter-- has Jesus saying that he has sheep in other flocks).

Can these two be reconciled?  Or can we only use this passage as an excuse for Christian exclusivism, for Christian bigotry (as has been done too often in the past)?

I think there is some room for Christian exclusivism in a pluralistic world.  Indeed I think it is mandatory.  It depends what we mean when we say Jesus is the Way.  DO we mean that Jesus is the Way for all people?  Or do we mean that Jesus is the Way for people of Christian faith?  I see arrogance in the first statement (an arrogance that I am not sure the Gospel writer would have meant, other than in relation to the Jewish community that appears to have recently kicked the Christians out of the synagogues when the Gospel was being written).  In the other I see a mandatory statement of faith, for Christians Jesus IS the Way.  But this does not mean we have to make him the Way for Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc.

And besides, we also have to remember that following the way/truth/life of Jesus has not always been obviously life-giving.  This week we also read of the martyrdom of Stephen, the 1st Christian Martyr.  Saying JEsus is the Way can come with a price.

In the end this week is part 1 of two sermons about faith in a pluralistic world.  The realities of life demands that we talk about this dichotomy--accepting of others but secure in our faith.  This week we talk about Christian exclusivism and particularity.  Next week we will hear about Paul preaching in Athens and the reality of living in a cosmopolitan world (and no, not the magazine).

Is Jesus the Way?  Yes.  But what does it mean to say that?  Come on Sunday and join the discussion.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Looking Forward to May 15, 2011 -- 4th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday we will celebrate the Sacrament of Communion.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 23 (which we will sing to VU 747 -- the Crimond tune)
  • John 10:1-10
  • John 21:15-17

The Sermon title is The Care and Feeding of Sheep

Early Thoughts: Are we sheep? Or are we shepherds? What if we don't really want to be either?

The 4th Sunday of the Easter Season each year (the Easter Season has 7 Sundays, starting on Easter Sunday and leading into Pentecost Sunday) is called "Good Shepherd Sunday" because each year we read Psalm 23 and a portion of John 10 where John is exploring the Shepherd image/metaphor as a way of understanding who Jesus was and is.

The image of a "good shepherd" runs through Scripture -and other literature from the same area and era- as the model of a good leader.  And yet it is a difficult image for many of us today.  If our leader is a good shepherd then what does that make us?  Well sheep of course, and that is not generally seen as a complimentary image.

But this image takes an interesting twist when we pair it with this passage from the end of John.  In this passage the Risen Christ turns Peter into the new shepherd, calling him to feed the sheep.  Theologically it is a small step to suggest that the task of all who seek to follow the Way of Jesus are called to be both sheep and shepherds.  We are called to follow the Good Shepherd but also to care for those around us.

What do shepherds do?  How do they take care of sheep?  And what does that mean we are called to do?  I'll do some checking on the first couple questions and get back to you on Sunday....

Monday, May 2, 2011

Looking Forward to May 8, 2011 -- 3rd Sunday of Easter, Mother's Day

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • Psalm 116(VU p.836)
  • Luke 24:13-35

The Sermon title is Gathering Around the Table

Early Thoughts: A family meal can be so much more than a way to get nourishment. It can be a religious/spiritual event!

 There was a time in human history when meals were a family affair.  Sometimes it was a nuclear family.  But often, especially for Sundays and definitely for high holidays, it would be an extended family gathering.

ANd there is something special about the family table.  At that table the life of the family is discussed.  At that table the stories of family history are told, re-told, modified.  At that table the family is strengthened and brought together.  And sometimes at that table the family is rent apart (if we are being honest), sometimes at that table the family disagreements are re-hashed.

One of the things I lament is that the idea of placing importance on a family meal seems to be fading in our society.  WE lose something.  We lose a chance to pass on our stories, we lose a chance to strengthen the bonds of family.  And some owuld suggest we lose something else...

In her book The Great Emergence Phyllis Tickle suggests taht one of the sea-changes in the church relates to the loss of Sunday family dinner.  Tickle envisions those family dinners where church was discussed, children were asked about Sunday School, the faith was passed on (and if your Grandmother was anything like mine there was little room for questioning the faith that was passed on).  As those dinners go away then the way the faith gets passed on changes.

ANd this makes sense, for those who had that type of family dinner.  THe Scripture story is clear that for the earliest followers of THe Way gathering for a meal was a critical part of how the story was told, how the faith was celebrated.  Indeed this week's story suggests that for some people it was at one of those meal gatherings that Easter was experienced for the first time.

MEals.  More than just taking in nutrition.  A chance to pass things on.  A chance to buidl relationships.  A chance to strengthen our family--however we choose to define that term.