Thursday, May 4, 2017

Clergy Comment column

Here is my article published in the May 4, 2017 Camrose Canadian Clergy Comment column.
   Last Sunday was the third Sunday of Easter. The gospel reading was Luke 24:13-35, the story of two followers of Jesus, Cleopas and an unnamed one. They are journeying from Jerusalem to a village named Emmaus, walking and talking about the passion and death of Jesus, looking sad and trying to process their grief.
   Suddenly the risen Jesus appears and engages them in a conversation. Yet, ironically, they don’t realize it’s Jesus. In their conversation with Jesus there are words of sorrow, disappointment, and uncertainty. Jesus then provides them with a brilliant interpretation of the scriptures, fulfilled prophecies concerning himself and the recent events. They arrive at Emmaus and invite Jesus in to eat with them. As they share a meal together, Luke tells us that “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” Afterwards they reflect on their encounter with Jesus, recalling how their hearts were burning within them as Jesus opened up the scriptures to them.
   Each one of us is also on an Emmaus road journey. We, like those two followers of Jesus, travel through all of the different stages of the journey. As life events unfold, we move from adventure, joy and contentment through to sorrow, grief, doubt, despair and disappointment. Our eyes are kept from recognizing Jesus—even though he walks with us on our Emmaus road.
   We, like the two followers of Jesus, miss him as we journey through the daily events of our lives. Yet he is there with us, speaking through the people we encounter and the activities of each day. Sometimes our fears, doubts and disappointments prevent us from understanding the scriptures. Even then, Christ is with us and leads us through every stage of our Emmaus road journey.
   No matter how hopeless, hurt and uncertain we may feel, Jesus refuses to give up on us. His love is always there for us. We, like those two followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus have much to learn as we journey on. We, like they, need his word and his meal, the Lord’s Supper, to open our hearts, minds and lives so that we see him with us in our life and faith journeys.
   As the events of the world and the church continue to unfold, our calling as followers of Jesus is clear. We, like Christians throughout the centuries are called to proclaim and live the words: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!” For we are a resurrection people, even in the most hopeless situations individually, as well as in the church and the world can become hopeful—thanks to the risen Christ!  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Prayer of the Day/Collect for 5th Sunday in Lent, Year A

Cross by Dim Lamp
Life-giving God: Long ago you breathed life and hope into your chosen people, and delivered them out of exile. You also show compassion to those who grieve the loss of loved ones, and promise them new life with a hopeful future. Help us to show compassion for those who are grieving in our midst, and to be bearers of your grace; through Jesus Christ, our cross-bearing Messiah, who lives and reigns with you and the life-breathing Spirit, one God, now and forever.    

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Prayer of the Day/Collect for 2nd Sunday in Lent, Year A

Cross by Dim Lamp
God of love: You sent your Son, Jesus into the world to show how much you love the world through his suffering and death on a cross. In gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, help us to share this love each day with others by following him in the way of the cross; through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit; one God, now and forever.    

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Help Thanks Wow: A Brief Review

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
Author: Anne Lamott
Publisher: New York: Riverhead Books a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012
103 pages, ISBN 978-1-59463-129-0, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Anne Lamott is a popular author whom many praise, quote and speak and blog about these days. I hadn’t read her books prior to this one, so I thought I’d find out for myself what she had to say.
   In the “Prelude,” Lamott describes prayer as “private,” and “communication from the heart to that which surpasses understanding.” (p. 1) She goes on to tell her readers that she’s not too concerned about how to name God—which may be an issue for some of her readers who believe that God should definitely be communicated with by employing specific names. She believes that one can speak with God in prayer about anything.
   Lamott is a creative writer. In this little volume, she seems, to this reader, to be a stream of consciousness writer. There is a flow to the writing. Her turns of phrase are attention-grabbers, unpredictable, humorous, insightful and more. Yet, at the same time, they are both her strength and her weakness.
   The writing is so colourful and busy that it goes off in far too many directions too rapidly and, at times anyway, for this reader more difficult to track. Overall, for Lamott, perhaps the chaos theory of existence is more attractive than the ordered theory of existence.
   Having said all of that, I do appreciate some of her turns of phrase. Here are three examples that may make readers of this review curious enough to explore Anne Lamott’s writings. 
   From the “Help” chapter, concerning seeking an answer from God: “Yet maybe if you ask God for help in knowing which direction to face, you’ll have a moment of intuition.”
   “The response probably won’t be from God, in the sense of hearing a deep grandfatherly voice, or via skywriting, or in the form of an LED-lit airplane aisle at your feet.” (p. 37)
   From the “Thanks” chapter, an insight into the nature of gratitude: “Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means you are willing to stop being such a jerk.” (pp. 56-57)
   From the “Wow” chapter, on the wonder, awe, and amazement of life: “Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal.”
   “What can we say beyond Wow, in the presence of glorious art, in the music so magnificent that it can’t have originated solely on this side of things? Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath. That’s why they call it breathtaking.” (p. 81)
   So, if your prayer life has become stale, boring and dry and a bit too ordered; if you are looking for more creativity in your prayer life; you may want to read Anne Lamott’s book.   

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Clergy Comment column

Here is my article published in the February 16, 2017 Camrose Canadian Clergy Comment column.
We human beings mark the passing of time and seasons with calendars. In the life of Christians, some churches follow a liturgical calendar year. In Western Christendom, we are now well into the season of Epiphany. Epiphany often spans anywhere from six to nine weeks, depending on the date of Easter, which is a moveable festival.
   The word Epiphany comes from the Greek and means, “to show, to reveal, to make manifest.” Four of the classic, Epiphany New Testament texts that highlight the showing, revealing, and making Jesus manifest are: the magi visitation (Matthew 2:1-12); Jesus’ Baptism (Mark 1:9-11); the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11); and the Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:28-36).
   The magi, who were Gentiles, underscore God calling and extending his grace to all nations. Jesus’ Baptism and Transfiguration emphasize his divinity, and the description of the Transfigured Jesus is similar to the Resurrected Jesus. The turning of water into wine at Cana symbolizes the Church’s two sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The sign at Cana reminds us that Jesus comes to bring us joy and the abundant life.
   Another Epiphany theme is light. Jesus, speaking of himself said: “I am the light of the world.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus is: “The true light, which enlightens everyone.”
   Light shows, reveals, makes manifest what the darkness distorts or hides. This is true in many areas of life.
   For example, it is interesting that the symbol of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization, Amnesty International, is a lit candle, which is surrounded by barbed wire. The barbed wire is symbolic of injustice and evil forces. In a lot of cases, the injustice and evil is related to tyrannical nations, which arrest, imprison and torture innocent citizens—usually based on false, trumped-up charges and lies. The candle’s flame is symbolic of hope and truth as forces within each person who speaks out; serving as an advocate, by writing letters and contacting the powers-that-be—by defending human rights around the world.
   In this way, we as Christians can be a light in the darkness of the world. Our letters of encouragement to prisoners and letters of appeal to leaders can and do make a difference. Many innocent people have been freed from prison and were given a new hope-filled beginning in life because of the letters and appeals of others letting their lights shine.
   So, the season of Epiphany is a reminder that, in the words of the Gospel of John: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)