Thursday, May 31, 2018

Music around the world

For more music from around the world, be sure to check out this cool website, which works to improve the quality of life for those living in poverty around the world:   

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Clergy Comment column

Here is my article published in the March 29, 2018 Camrose Canadian Clergy Comment column.
   Hope and joy. What or who gives you hope and joy?
   The Bible mentions hope and joy well over 100 times. Stories of hope and joy abound in the Bible. For example, in the Hebrew Bible there are stories like those of Abraham and Sarah, thanks to God’s promise and intervention, being able to conceive and give birth to a son Isaac in their senior years. There is God liberating the Israelites from Egyptian slavery as they miraculously make their Exodus into the Promised Land. In the New Testament, there is Mary being chosen by God to miraculously give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. There is the promise fulfilled that Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour of the world by conquering the powers of sin, death and evil through his life, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection. The Christian faith therefore is, among other things, one of hope and joy.
   In the movie Good-Bye Girl, a relationship develops between a woman and a man. The man leaves, and promises to return to her later. She doesn’t believe his promise, and thinks he’s left her until she realizes that he has left behind his most important possession—his guitar.  It was a sign of his promise and his full intention to return.
   The Bible is God’s promise to us of Jesus the Messiah’s return—both his resurrection after three days in the grave, and his return again at the end of time. As Christians, we celebrate that hope every Sunday as we worship together.
   We also are a people of joy. Joy however, as many may think, is far more than a fleeting emotion. Joy goes down deep into our being since it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, listed by the apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians 5:22. Joy deep within us, thanks to the Holy Spirit, reminds us that Jesus is always with us in our day-to-day living.
   Author and scholar C.S. Lewis wrote a book titled, Surprised by Joy. Lewis didn’t come into the Christian faith eagerly. Rather, he had the impression that Christianity was a faith that brought people misery and sadness. He was surprised by joy to discover otherwise. Joy comes in realizing that the gift of being in relationship with Jesus gives deep meaning and quality to life, even when one least expects that to be the case. Such was the case for the first disciples as they met the risen Jesus. “And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” (Luke 24:52)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Brief Review: A Passage Through Sacred History

A Passage Through Sacred History: Lenten Reflections for Individuals and Groups
Author: Don C. Skinner
Publisher: Cleveland, Ohio: United Church Press
96 pages, ISBN: 0-8298-1216-4
Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Don C. Skinner, at the time of writing this little volume, was a retired United Church of Christ minister living in Forest Grove, Oregon.
   The volume contains a brief Introduction and seven chapters. Rev. Skinner suggests that the book be read, studied, and discussed one chapter at a time to coincide with the seven weeks of Lent.
   The format is as follows: i) A quotation at the beginning of each chapter, from various sources, attempting to compliment the theme of each chapter. ii) The chapter’s content material, based on one or more passages from the Bible. iii) Questions for discussion, which may also lead to further study and research.
   In chapter one, the author focuses on the story of God’s promise made to Abraham and Sarah, and the Hebrew concept of hesed, “radical faithfulness” (p. 7) as a description of God’s character—meaning that God can be trusted to carry out and honour his promise.
   Chapter two looks at God’s covenant with Moses and the Israelites, and emphasizes that a covenant is more like a marriage than a contract.
   In chapter three Rev. Skinner points out one of the oldest theological conundrums for Israel’s prophets—the dialectic of right worship and right action, ritual and social justice, and the tension these often create.
   Chapter four makes the case for the Jewishness of Jesus, the gospel accounts of his compassion for his own people in his public ministry, and a needed emphasis that there is no place for anti-Semitism among Christians.
   In chapter five the author draws some parallels between the Passover and the Last/Lord’s Supper.
   Chapter six focuses on the Christian celebration of Pentecost, which is rooted in the Jewish Feast of Weeks. God offers his grace to Israel in the gift of the law. God offers his grace to Christians in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
   In the final chapter, the author tells a couple of contemporary stories, highlighting unity and diversity, and acts of kindness and mercy in the church.
   This volume has the potential to be a helpful and edificatory resource for the season of Lent.