Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

spectacle and grandeur

Some years ago, I was privileged to take a week of classes with the late Dr. Robert Webber, a noted author on worship, and the founder of the Institute for Worship Studies. During that week, we were discussing the recovery of spectacle in worship, that so much had been lost with the Reformation and its focus on removing excesses from the church, that indeed too much had been removed, leaving the church devoid of spectacle, grandeur, or mystery.

We discussed that in a post-modern era, the importance of experience would trump sound argument and logical reasoning. That it would be more important to have experienced God, than to have been convinced of God by some type of logical exposition of truths or facts.

I was reminded of this as I sat in the Rogers Centre in Toronto with 40,000+ other people this past Saturday, as we joined together across denominations, across races and gender, across age and social standing, to focus our energies to worship God, and to experience a spectacle of worship on a large scale. I was at many points moved to tears, as we came together despite our differences and sang and cheered and celebrated God.

I remember one of the questions Dr. Webber asked us was “Why do we have no problem cheering and shouting at a hockey game or a baseball game, yet are so reluctant to do so in church?” We are not embarrassed to cheer for our favourite team, yet we somehow feel strange cheering for God. I wonder, who has done more for us, the athletes, or God? If anyone deserves our rapturous applause, it would be God. Let me tell you, when a stadium full of people starts cheering for God, it is pretty inspiring.

I was reminded of spectacle again last night, as I watched President-Elect Barack Obama give his acceptance speech. If anyone has stirred the imaginations and hopes of a nation, it is Obama. With cheering throngs of people attending to his every word, many in tears, both those in the crowd and those watching around the world, Obama spoke about the campaign, about his opponent, about the difficult times ahead, and about history. It was deeply touching and moving, and as he ended his speech he rallied the crowd around these three words, “Yes we can!” From a human perspective, these three words summarize the hopes of the campaign, that the American people will unite and decide that together they will accomplish great things.

Two very different events. Both grand spectacles. One celebrating God, the other celebrating hope in humanity.

I wonder about the things we will see in our lifetime, and in my children’s lifetime.

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An Ascension Day Message

This is the full text of a message I gave today on the Ascension.

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How many of you have siblings?

I’m an only child. No siblings. People would ask me all the time, weren’t you lonely? Lonely? I was never lonely. Was I lonely? No, I had friends, didn’t you have friends? I guess when you grow up without siblings, you don’t know any different. But secretly, I used to envy you. You people with siblings, I always thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have an older brother, you know, someone who was cool and who you could look up to. But when in my adult years I talked to people who had siblings, and they told me their war stories, then I didn’t envy you any more. It was then that I learned about birth order, and about the middle child. You know, the oldest is the responsible one, and the youngest is the baby of the family, but the middle child, well… the middle child often feels invisible, neglected, and ignored. Unsure of their role in the family, uncertain of their parents’ affection, the middle child struggles to be heard. So the theory goes, anyway.

In the church, Ascension is kind of like the middle child, forgotten between the grand drama of Easter and the joy and celebration of Christmas. Continue reading

fragility

I’ve been having a heavy week. My mom called me last Friday to tell me that my Uncle passed away of a stroke. I hadn’t known him that well, they live in Australia and I’d been there only once to visit them, when I was small. Still, it was saddening.

Then on Saturday I checked in on one of my blogger friends (wheat among tares), and discovered that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Then I was reminded again of how fragile we are by Philip Yancey, who spoke at the Tyndale President’s Dinner on Tuesday night.

So right now, rather than retreat into myself and shut down as I am prone to do, as I am wont to do, as they would say… I am going to fight. I am going to fight against this darkness that would threaten to overtake me, to overtake us all with sadness, and I will fight the only way I know how. Before God in prayer.

calling into question

I was taking the subway today. It was a hot and smoggy day, so I decided to be nice to the air and not drive my car to work and to my doctors appointment this afternoon. Anyway, on the way home I saw a billboard for National Geographic. It depicted a cross in black, on a red background, with the cross casting a shadow on the ground, except the shadow was of a question mark.

The tagline was something like “The secret they don’t want you to know.” Apparently it’s part of ‘Sacred Secrets Month’ at Nat Geo. (Please correct me if I don’t have my facts straight, I saw the billboard from inside the subway car, across the platform on the opposite track, so I couldn’t make out all the words exactly…)

Isn’t it ironic, that in a world where it is politically incorrect to say there is any truth, there can be a still be a secret that covers up ‘the truth’. So truth does exist, after all? You can’t have a mystery about something if there is no truth… otherwise you would solve the mystery only to find yourself holding nothing.

As I looked at the image, I couldn’t help but wonder, is the cross a question mark in my life? Is it a question mark in yours? Is it an enigma, or have you got it all figured out? It seems to me that I would be arrogant to say that I know everything there is to know about Jesus Christ, or even to suggest that we can know everything.

Jesus said “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) In a time where we have little truth, we have little freedom as well. And so in place of truth we have experience. What have we seen? What have we felt? What have we tasted? We call ourselves Christ-followers instead of Christians. As we follow Christ, we experience a different kind of life. Shane Claiborne is a great example of how different that life can be. If you have time (50 min), check out one of his talks here.

I don’t know everything. I know that I’ve experienced grace in my lifetime that I never deserved. I know I’ve dreamed of God, felt His presence. I know I’ve seen things happen that are beyond what I’m capable to understand. So yes, the cross is a question mark in my life. It reminds me that for every thing I do know, there are more things I do not know, and that I’m ok with that. Because what I do know gives me the will to carry on.

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perpetuating the myth

So we survived another Christmas, and I say that in the best way possible. Because Christmas Eve was on a Sunday this year, we had a pretty busy day and evening. After evening service, we drove home the ‘scenic’ route, both to ensure the kids fell asleep, and also to pass by Nathan Phillips and the Bay Christmas windows. They did a Narnia theme this year for the windows, and while they were cool, they were not that interesting for little ones, nor were they particularly Christmas-y. J made it to just past the windows before passing out. T took a litlle longer, but was safely asleep by the time we got home. By that I mean she could be moved without waking her. She’s a super light sleeper, so if we’re not careful, we can wake her up if we take her out of the car at the wrong point during her sleep. Which kind of sucks.

Anyway J had been talking all week about putting out some milk and cookies for Santa. She wanted to do it on Monday already! When I asked her where she got the idea from, she said she saw it on TV. Good old TV. Anyway, we decided that we would perpetuate the myth this year. Previously, it hadn’t really come up, because they were either too young, and we had just moved, and Christmas was still kind of a new thing in the kids’ consciousness. Anyway. This year, we did it right. J made a cookie for Santa in her kids program. She had written a note to Santa last week, which read:

FROM J. H.

SANTA I WOULD LIKE A BLASTER

Hm. Ok. By “Blaster” she means one of those big water guns, that everytime she saw in Superstore her Grandpa said, “Hey look, a blaster!” to which she responded with gales of laughter. We’re not big on letting them play with weapons: toys or otherwise. So how to respond? Well, I decided that Santa would leave J a note, explaining why no blaster, thanking her for the cookie (which I found to be sweet, covered in sprinkles and frosted, but lacking in the necessary chocolate to take it over the top), and wishing her a Merry Christmas and so forth.

Christmas morning we awoke, and surprisingly, the kids were not chomping at the bit to go down and open the presents. I expect that will change as they get older. Anyway, as we went down, I led J over to the table, where I had placed her note next to Santa’s note, and the empty cookie plate. I read her the note, and then we opened Santa’s present and looked in their stockings at what Santa brought.

According to my wife, we are reversing their family tradition, which was to have the ‘big present’ be from Santa. We are having the stocking stuffers be from Santa, and the bigger gifts be from us. This year they got books and scissors and a “Lucky Ducks” game from Santa. Maybe this way they won’t put so much expectation on what Santa might bring… and not get too excited or disappointed, either way. We’ll see.

The greater issue is what we say about Santa to our kids, and how long we keep up the myth? I’m guessing that it won’t last for too too long, although I was surprised that J was so into it. I thought she would be more skeptical, since she seems to be so analytical about everything. However, she had little to ask about Santa. I thought she would ask how it was possible, or how he would get in the house, etc. She did ask N what would happen if Santa had to go downstairs to the basement to use the bathroom, which is a totally J kind of oddball question to ask…

The even greater issue is, I wonder if we give more thought to how to explain Santa, than we give to how to explain faith? Without making everything all “Christian-y”, but actively engaging life with faith, living with a radical transformed perspective? Living an alternative life-style to the world’s in the world, rather than creating for ourselves alternatives that are out of the world.

well, it seems that my little blog break is over, J has awoken from a very good and very rare nap. Cheers!

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