Monday, April 30, 2007

Road Trip Day Six

This morning we left Halifax around 9:00am and headed up to Cape Breton to travel the Cabot Trail. The weather has been on and off raining and we actually got some wet snow. At the very tip of Cape Breton, called Cape North, the ceiling was very low and we were basically traveling through fog.

The snow was also still present and actually quite deep - as you can see by one of the pictures. Either it has been very cold late into the Spring or they had a great deal of snow up here this winter. I think both are true because it was quite cold today (hence the wet snow). The drive was spectacular in spite of the rain. I'm not sure we could have made it all the way around if the weather had been sunny and clear because we would have been stopping every couple of minutes. Even the low clouds and the rain created a mournful beauty that affected the soul and created a sense of longing.

The guys were alternately silly and comatose today. They were jumping around and hamming it up for the camera when we stopped to take pictures and then they promptly fell asleep anytime we settled into any lengthy drive.
Cape Breton had a noticeable difference in the style of churches. It was the first time I saw the first brick and stone on church buildings outside of larger cities - not for every church but it was a marked difference. The other difference is that we are in a noticeable French-speaking area along the west coast of Cape Breton. There is a strong Acadian presence on the cape and many signs are only in French. That affects the church architecture and I saw more two steepled churches as well as more colourfully painted homes.

Well we are almost ready to come home. We are spending the night in Sydney and will meander back to Halifax tomorrow. Hopefully we can drop by the fort at Louisbourg tomorrow - something that interests me, this former member of the Fort Henry Guard (FHG 559). I'd like to see at least part of the fort and see how they run the fort. Of course I could spend the whole day there - maybe I can get the guys to commit a couple of hours.
Tuesday evening we should be spending the night in Halifax at my sisters place and then heading back to Thornhill on Wednesday/Thursday. After six days on the road we are all feeling like we would like to get back home. The rest of my pictures are on the Flickr site HERE. Of course the other photos we've already taken can be found HERE at another Flickr site.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

An Atheist Goes to Church

I've had a chance to do just a little reading on my road trip, so I read a little book. It's called "Jim and Casper Go to Church" (I've listed it under books I've been reading in the sidebar at the right). The premise is this: Jim Henderson (through a bit of a convoluted process) hires (yes, pays money to) Matt Casper (an avowed atheist) to come to church with him. Their purpose is to have Casper evaluate the churches he attends and give Jim an outsider's view of those churches. What impresses him, what doesn't. Would he ever consider attending this church? Why or why not? Jim's goal is not necessarily to convert Casper but to do research and as such tries to keep their conversations at a professional level - although you can see that there is much personal interaction going on and a friendship is developing. They go to the big name churches (Willow Creek, Saddleback, Mosaic) and mention the big names (Bill Hybels, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Erwin McManus, etc.) and also go to some smaller churches including a house church. All the churches take in the broad range of what would constitute Evangelical in the USA.

What impressed me about the book was the fresh and honest look at what we as Christians sometimes take for granted in our culture. Things like the fact that we've kind of accepted that lots of money is spent at big "production-style" churches because that's how to compete with the rest of the culture. We've taken for granted that it's ok to be entertained instead of discipled, that it's more important to be friendly than real, or that we need to strive for professionalism at the front (in speaking and worship leading) instead of striving for authenticity. (The mannequin style worship singers always have me saying "What's the point?")

Casper makes a number of excellent points about how we run our churches and how we unconsciously exclude those who are not like us. One of the most significant points was about how almost all the churches followed a basically identical format (ie songs, message, offering, challenge at the end) no matter the style (seeker sensitive, mainline traditional, emerging, rock church, etc.). The other aspect of that point is that every church seemed to have a different message. For some it was work with the poor, for others it was heaven, and others it was God will give you money. He felt like he didn't hear the same message although he attended only Protestant, evangelical churches.

What I didn't like was that there was very little appreciation for God or faith or even joy in his responses (which makes sense I suppose). But he really does fundamentally miss the God piece. When Casper heard someone say they had prayed for someone and that person had been healed, Casper responded by saying if this guy can heal, why aren't you taking him to the hospitals and on to the streets to help those who can't afford health care.

All in all the benefit is that he provides an honest, outsiders perspective and deeply challenges the fact that we as the church are often not living out the Gospel. He challenges the focus on money (and on money spent on our own agendas and our own entertainment). He challenges the ongoing racism and segregation in the church. He challenges the confusion about the true message of Jesus being presented in churches. And he challenges the bigger is better myth. It's a quick and easy read and worth reading but probably not worth keeping in your library - try to borrow it.

Road Trip Day Five - Sunday

This was a much more relaxing day. We spent the day mostly at my sister's place and in the afternoon drove down to Peggy's Cove where we were able to get some pictures before the rain started. We visited the Swiss Air Flight 111 memorial and then Jared and John walked along the water intending to go all the way to the lighthouse. However, when they were about halfway, I drove around and picked them up where the ocean came close to the road.
We didn't take nearly as many photos today but I've chosen a few and posted them on a new Flicker site (mgekrause) that you can find HERE. I haven't labeled them but they are all of Peggy's cove or of the churches I saw on the way to Peggy's Cove. Of course the other photos we've already taken can be found HERE at another Flickr site.
On the way back from Peggy's Cove we dropped John off to visit his 2nd (3rd? 4th?) cousin and he stayed there and had supper with them.

Tonight we will just relax, maybe watch the Raptors game and hopefully get to bed earlier because we plan on having an early start tomorrow. The plan is to head out early to Cape Breton (which is about a 4 hour drive) so that we can be touring around the Cabot Trail during the day. We may overnight there if the weather is good and continue to explore on Tuesday. If so I would love to visit the old French fortress at Louisbourg. We'll see how the day turns out and stay tuned for more of our Road Trip!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Road Trip Day Four

We began our day in Charlottetown with overcast skies, drizzle and a low ceiling and so we spent some time at Future Shop where John bought himself some electronic gadgetry. As we got to Truro we actually decided not to head out to Cape Breton today because of the drizzle and because we were only an hour away from Halifax thought we would go there first. So we took the scenic route from Truro to Halifax via the Minas Basin and sections of the Bay of Fundy.

In other news, I found it actually quite strange that the first two churches that we saw on day four were fairly ugly compared to the beautiful country churches we had been seeing along the way. One was the PAOC church in Charlottetown and the other was a Baptist church so hopefully I'm assigning blame equally here. How is it that these old buildings seem to beautify the landscape and the new ones just look like eyesores? Where one dominates the landscape and creates a wow experience, the other seems to pollute the landscape and create an uugghh! experience.

Just in case you didn't notice the first picture is a lighthouse on the Minas Basin and the second is one of those eyesores and the third is one of those that beautifies the landscape.

I've also been noticing distinct differences as we go through regions of he country. In Quebec every town had a huge cathedral like structure in the middle of the town dominating and defining the entire community. It was also on the highest point of ground in the town and then often raised up on a built up portion of ground. In Quebec almost all the churches had two symmetrically balanced usually square but sometimes round towers with steeples at the front of the building. The churches were predominantly white with silver coloured roofs on the church and the steeples.

As we went into New Brunswick, there was almost always only one steeple and it was square and more squat looking than the steeples in Quebec. Here the churches were almost exclusively white and sometimes there was more than one church in town. Interestingly enough the churches were usually on the main road but not usually in the centre of town.

In PEI the churches were similar to New Brunswick but were sometimes outside of the town altogether or sometimes on a back street in the town. In Nova Scotia the churches were similar to NB and PEI but seemed more weathered with paint peeling. It seems as if they were not as well taken care of and other times the churches had been converted (pardon the pun) into community centres or theatres. I have no real verifiable conclusions about all this, but it seems that in Quebec the church was central to all of life in a small town and it still serves as a symbol of that today - even if the reality of it is not there. In NB and PEI religion was important but was separate from day to day life - maybe a reflection of the holiness tradition. Whereas in NS religion does not seem as important and is reflected by the lack of maintenance. I don't know enough to make more than a guess.

As for our trip today, the Bay of Fundy and downtown Halifax at night dominated the photos. Jared and John slept for quite a while in the car as we travelled. I'm still amazed at the beauty of our country and could stop every few kilometres and take some more pictures.

In Halifax, we went straight to my sister Dorothea's place. Her husband Michael and son Daniel were there but her daughter Christel was at her new apartment (she had just finished moving out today!) We will see her tomorrow. So then Daniel played tour guide and took us downtown and we walked through downtown and headed up to the Citadel and took some night photos of the city and the harbour. As always you can check them out at my Flicker site HERE.

These last two pictures are first of all my sister Dorothea and her son Daniel. The second is a shot of the lighthouse in the eastern part of the harbour in Halifax.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Road Trip Day Three

We finished the day yesterday in Bathurst, New Brunswick forgetting that we crossed a time zone and lost an hour. So instead of getting to bed at our usual 1:00am or so, it was actually two and I don’t think I fell asleep until three.

Today it was mostly driving as we went through Miramichi, slipped through the outskirts of Moncton and headed for the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island. We stopped for some directions to some nice sites and checked out some coastal scenery (including lighthouses - that's me leaning against the lighthouse) before heading up to the north shore to visit Green Gables. We were the only ones there. There is some advantage to going off-season. The house itself was closed (the disadvantage of going off-season) but we didn’t really want to see the inside anyways.

I think we are mostly “scenery” guys anyways and took more photos of the north shore. (Today we took over 300 photos! At this rate we will be calling this "The Trip of Ten Thousand Photos!") Then we headed down to Charlottetown to find a hotel and something to eat.

The guys (John and Jared) are fun to be around and we all get along well. They actually went out to catch a movie while I stayed back to read and do the blog and post some more pictures at the Flickr site HERE. We tried to take more pictures with us actually in them instead of just shots of the scenery.

Jared and I are loving the camera – a Fuji f30 – which has been easy to use, takes great point-and-shot pictures and the battery life is amazing.

Tomorrow we will be heading back across the bridge (the ferry doesn’t start running until May first) and out towards Cape Breton along the Cabot Trail. Hopefully the weather will break. It started raining just after dark here.

In this last picture you can see the Golf (I'm actually sitting in the car). John is in front of the car and Jared took the hike down the coast to take the picture.

Road Trip Day Two

We woke up in Quebec City this morning, ate breakfast, packed up, checked out and went back to check out Quebec City. Jared and John found a great second hand music store on Rue St. Marie and I sat on a bench on the sidewalk having a coffee and reading a good book, enjoying the spring sunshine.

This is such a great city. It kind of reminds me of the Beaches, Yorkville and Europe all rolled into one. I could live here – if I spoke French. There is something about mountains and water and history that is just so amazing. It makes you wonder why so many people live in drab Toronto and the equally pedantic GTA.

We have such a beautiful country. Driving along the St. Lawrence River with its views and vistas and then driving through the back country was stunning. We stopped for a while at a place called Bic (it’s the place where they make the pens – just kidding) just west of Rimouski on the St. Lawrence. There was a stunning little waterfall pouring out with all its spring flood fury. And walking along the beach was a bit of a transcendent experience. God was there.

Not only was the scenery spectacular the weather was absolutely stunning. The day was finished off so wonderfully by an amazing sunset over the Restigouche River estuary near Campbellton, New Brunswick. We drove for another couple of hours and stopped for the night in Bathurst.

Our plans for tomorrow are to head over to Prince Edward Island or maybe even to Cape Breton first depending on what the weather is like. The Cabot Trail would be so much nicer with a view. I think some of the history in PEI can be appreciated in any kind of weather.

Jared and I have continued taking tons of pictures which I have uploaded to my Flickr site. I hope you are enjoying the travelogue. I had made comments and titles for all the pictures on Flickr but it didn't upload properly because we were having difficulty with the internet connection. But some of the photos are nice and you get a bit of a feel for the grandeur of the country. Try them out HERE.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Road Trip Day One

We have arrived in Quebec City and will be staying overnight.
We left this morning at 8:00am (or so), picked up Jared's friend John in Brockville at around noon (at where else but Tim Horton's), survived a harrowing trip through bumper to bumper Montreal traffic - even though the signs all said traffic was moving well, and arrived in Quebec City at around 5:30pm. It really was a great day for driving - no rain - and most of the afternoon was sunny and very pleasant. If only ...

We are absolutely delighted with Quebec City. Our hotel is a bit of a walk from the Old City but it was actually fun going through the streets meandering along what I would call a small lane but which carries two lanes of traffic and has buses zooming through. The Old City is so picturesque and everywhere you look you can see history and culture. I do regret not keeping all that high school french in my head. But the folks here have been very gracious - even with my Je ne peux pas parler Francais. It has been so much fun just walking around and stopping wherever we want. The downside is all the grade eight bus tours. Boy can you believe the nerve of them coming to Quebec city just when we are here?

Jared has been having fun with the camera taking about 300 pictures - some of which I have posted on a flickr account HERE. Unfortunately they are in reverse chronological order and I couldn't stay up late enough to fix that. Anyways, I hope you can check them out. (Rabbi Mykl is me by the way!)

Tomorrow we will be spending a bit more time in Quebec City and then heading out along the south shore of the St.Lawrence River up to Rimouski and then down to Bathurst, New Brunswick where we may stay the night.
We really don't have a strict agenda except to be in Halifax by sometime Sunday and be home sometime Thursday of next week. I will try and post something every day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Road Trip

Well, we're heading out to the Maritimes. My son has finished exams and it's time for a road trip. Jared and John and I will be taking a week and making stops in Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton and Halifax. I'll be posting pictures and hopefully some kind of regular update - depending on internet access along the way. Pray for nice weather - the last time I was in Halifax in late April it was very cold and they still had snow on the ground!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Wild Storm

Around four this afternoon we had one very scary storm. Some of our neighbours had seen a funnel cloud and there was a great deal of damage to property around my neighbourhood. On my street we had many shinglesblown off roofs, chairs and tables tossed around like toys, fences toppled and on my house I lost some fascia.

More significantly hydro poles and light standards toppled over cutting power to our house and much of Thornhill. Bathurst Street is still closed five hours later as is Bayview Avenue and Yonge and Keele Streets.

Traffic was horrendous. You can see a pole that had fallen on top of a car in the picture to the right (I had to use my cell phone camera - sorry about the poor quality).

The police had completely blocked off access from our street to Bathurst because of the hydro lines that were lying on the road. We could not even cross Bathurst Street on foot because of the danger posed by the wires. One of my neighbours had made it home from work as far as the other side of the street and couldn't drive or even walk the last few hundred metres because of the wires. I of course was out there directing traffic trying to help people who had been forced off Bathurst into my neighbourhood - trying to find some way to get past all the closures.

The loose facsia means a bit more work for me. I wanted to go out right away to get some replacement fascia but of course the roads were all blocked and I couldn't get through. Let's hope I can do it tomorrow. The other thing that happened was that I was preparing my taxes this afternoon - on the computer just as the power went off. Fortunately I had been saving frequently and didn't lose any work of significance. The power came back on in time for me to finish them off tonight. I will "Netfile" tomorrow.

The one really good thing about the storm is that it brought all the neibhbours out. We were all standing outside talking and complaining for hours. It was so nice to see many of them again after a long cold winter. It's amazing what a little storm can do!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Boyz

Once a month or so we gather together and ...
What is it exactly that we do (if we actually do anything)?
And who exactly are "we?"
"We" are the guys you see in the pictures - five of whom I have known since Stone days (i.e. the mid eighties). There's Ron, JP and Peter, and then Tony, Russ and Norm.
And what do we do?
Well, I could list our activities.
We talk (a lot - some of us more than others). We don't always agree. We eat. We drink coffee. We pray. There is an occasional prophetic "word."
But I'm not sure that captures it.
There are some months I don't even want to go - but I do go and afterwards I'm usually glad I went.
Tonight I was glad I went. We were honest. We came out of our shells. And we prayed like we knew God was real - hearing and answering our prayers.
Out of our prayers I realized something.
We want to be really alive.
We want to let that which God made us to be, come to the surface and break free.
We want to unashamedly follow Jesus, proclaiming His Lordship over our lives and in this world.
We are men.
We are the church.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Proving God

Robert Linthicum shares part of his testimony in his book “Building a People of Power: Equipping Churches to Transform their Communities.” I will share a few more items from his book as I continue reading, but his encounter with a missionary at an Episcopal church in 1950 when he was a thirteen year old atheist, is worth sharing.

The missionary spoke. His topic was “How You Can Know There is a God.” I expected a philosophical argument. What I got was something entirely different.

The missionary held up a chair and said, “I could present you with an esoteric argument for the existence of God and it might convince you that an object named ‘God’ exists in the universe – just as this chair exists. But what would I have accomplished by such an argument? I would have simply convinced you that there is an object in this universe we call ‘God’ just as there is an object in the universe we call ‘chair.’”

‘But,” he continued, “God is not an object like this chair to be proved. God is a person to be known, loved and experienced, and he is experienced in the man Christ Jesus. Think of a person whom you know and who loves you. Think of the person sitting next to you. You know him or her. Bu how do you know that person? Do you have to have that person’s existence proven to you? Of course not! And why not? Simply because you experience that person everyday in your life, and that person is already very real to you.”

Then he brought it home. ‘Well, just as this person is one you experience and love, so God in Christ is a person you can experience in your everyday life. And once you have experienced him and come to know him, you no longer need to have his existence proven to you. And why? Because you already know him.”

That did it! This missionary had presented an argument for the existence of God I couldn’t deny. To meet and experience God is to know God. But to refuse to experience him would mean that to have his existence proven to me would be meaningless – because even though I might know about him, I wouldn’t know him.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech

After a tragedy like this what can you say and what can you do? Scott McKnight posts a thoughtful response at Jesus Creed which I copied below. What can we do? We can pray. We can comfort the afflicted. We can mourn with those who mourn. We can allow ourselves to be in relationship with the wierd and the difficult people around us even though it's hard. When we say "of course" to Jesus when he asks us to love even the least of these, we don't always know what we are getting into. Lord help us notice the lost and lonely. May we not pass them by.

Virginia Tech: What can we do?
by Scott McKnight
We can pick up the pieces of rubble left aground by the cold-blooded murdering of 32 Virginia Tech students, but we cannot make sense of the senseless shards of rubble we find. A professor who perceived that the young man was deeply troubled and fellow students who knew the same; lives of 33 familes now wrecked and young adults who will not return for the summer; security measures that can never be secure enough to block tragedies and police investigations that didn’t take the turn we wish had been taken. What can we do? What do you think?

We can hold the entire school, the families, the police force, the medical doctors and nurses still tending to the wounded and all involved unto our God as an offering in the hope that we can heal the grieving and guide our country.

But we can’t make enough laws to prevent troubled, isolated individuals from penetrating into the fabric of a reasonably-safe garment to unravel parts of it.

We can be more sensitive to the troubled and more vigilant in seeking help for roommates, students, acquaintances, and those we encounter whom we believe are a threat.

But we can’t find our way into the inner world of everyone so that we can with breathless certainty discern those who might explode at any moment.

We can fight for justice, establish better laws, and live out our vocation in peace and justice and love. And we can urge the media to remove the videos of the murderer — those videos can have no redemptive value.

But we can’t create a completely safe world, a perfect environment, or a society in which no one with evil intent can ever enter.

We can live by the Jesus Creed, but we can’t force anyone to live by it.

For these reasons, and more beside, we can pray what Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

A Few More Quotes

A few more quotes from The Irresistible Revolution ...

On the "church as an agency" ...
The social work model of church produces clients and providers – facilitates the exchange of goods and services, putting professionals in the middle to guarantee that the rich do not have to face the poor and power doesn’t shift – inequality is carefully managed. Church becomes a distribution point where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied but no one is transformed.

On the illusion (and danger) of safety ...
"Most of us live in such fear of death that it’s as if no one really believes in resurrection any more. Jesus said that we shouldn’t fear those things that can destroy the body but that which can destroy the soul (Mt 10:28) so we need to avoid things like safety, numbness, complacency, comfort – subtle demonic forces. Jesus is not safe – but He’s good."
"Lukewarm – the old school way of saying “cool”! You don’t get crucified for being cool. You get crucified for living radically different from the norms of all that is cool in the world – and it’s usually the cool people who get most ticked off." 231

Dropping a few famous names ...
Tony Campolo: “If we were to set out to establish a religion in polar opposition to the beatitudes Jesus taught, it would look strikingly similar to the pop Christianity that has taken over the airwaves of NA.” 269
Brennan Manning: “The greatest cause of atheism is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” 270
Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?” 270
“Throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our houses and threaten our children and we will still love you. Beat us and leave us half dead and we will still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.” 276

On church buildings ...
"As we enlarge the territory of the corporate property, private property remains comfortably sacred. So as congregations build larger buildings gyms and food courts we find ourselves less likely to meet in homes and kitchens and around dinner tables. We end up centralizing worship on corporate space or "on campus" (i.e. the church campus). Hospitality becomes less of a necessity and more of an optional matter – a convenient privilege. On the other hand as members open their homes and yards and share vehicles and recreations spaces, less and less corporate property is necessary. God is ultimately in the process of bringing down the towers of Babel – the great prostitute Babylon – eager for power and wealth. Rather than our towers and temples reaching up to heaven the God of heaven reaches down to earth and lives among us. In the New Jerusalem, there are no church buildings, no temple because God will live among us."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The New Monasticism

I have been reading Shane Claiborne's book "The Irresistible Revolution" and it makes some great points, provides some great quotes and seriously challenges our North American style of Christianity. He (that's his picture to the right - a little crazy looking don't your agree? But that's his "promo" picture off his website!) lives in "community" in a reclaimed abandoned house in a very poor area of North Philadelphia. His community life would be like life on a commune (for those of you older than about 40) except with only 6 or 7 living in the house. They share their resources, grow their own food (or as much of it as possible) and live among the poor. The term "New Monasticism" would be the phrase that best describes what they are doing there and it is happening in many places across North America.

Now a few quotes:

I gave up Christianity in order to follow Jesus. What does it really look like to follow Jesus? Quotes Soren Kierkegaard: "The Bible is very easy to understand,. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly … Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close."

Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara: “When I fed the hungry they called me a saint. When I asked why people are hungry, they called me a communist.”

Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them. 129

Community is what we are created for. We are made in the image of a God who is community – a plurality of oneness. Jesus lived and modeled community with his little band of disciples. He always sent them out in pairs and the early church is the story of a people who were together and were of one heart and mind sharing all in common. The story ends with a vision of the new community in the book of revelation where the city of God is dressed beautifully for her lover this community called the New Jerusalem.
But that doesn’t mean community is easy – for everything in this world tries to pull us away from community. Pushes us to choose ourselves over others to choose independence over interdependence, to choose great things over small things, to choose going fast alone over going far together. 135

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Don't Tiptoe

Just read this quote and want to share it with you. It is from Shane Claiborne's book, "The Irresitible Revolution" and he's quoting a former professor of his (whom he fails to name).

"All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, dance, just don't tiptoe!"

And how about this quote from Emma Goldman (also from "The Irresitible Revolution")
"If I can't dance, then it is not my revolution."

Jesus said: "Except you become like little children ..."

Monday, April 16, 2007

New Look

Just thought I would update the look of the blog - just a change of templates really. What do you think? I like it better - and so does Brigitte (high praise!).

Hospitality 2

As I was preparing to talk about hospitality in the early church at Hills on Sunday, I was amazed at how much I had looked at the book of Acts through the eyes of my late 20th century church eyes. You know, the church that has 3 or 4 hundred people in a nice church auditorium used a couple of times a week with everyone sitting in rows and facing the front listening to one person drone on and on and afterwards trying to find someone to go out to eat with so you could practice the hospitality you were shown by someone else last week.

Now (with my 21st century eyes) I am seeing stuff in the book of Acts I never realized was there. I am seeing that the house churches were the embodiment of biblical and Christian hospitality. These house churches were not preacing points but places where dialogue happened. (Preaching was primarily for the proclamation of the glad tidings to people who had not yet experienced the reality of the risen Christ.)

In my life the theological aspects of hospitality had been left unstudied. If I had ever heard a message on it, the main ideas were neighbourliness or inviting someone home for dinner after church. I never saw that the core of Christianity and the success of the movement revolved around hospitality. Hospitality resulted in household salvation and was the medium of the growth of Christianity

In many ways this is counter cultural teaching but Christians need to excel in this virtue and transform it into a distinctly Christian principle. We are called to a higher level of living than the society around us and so must live as relational people. A commitment to hospitality confronts our society's rampant individualism and it actually protects our life together as the people of God.

A few Scriptures ... Hospitality is our duty and the duty of elders Titus 1:8; it is a spiritual gift Rom 12:13; practice hospitality without grumbling 1 Peter 4:9; by hospitality we may entertain strangers Heb 13:2; in the gospels, the very success of the mission depended on hospitality – finding a man of peace and being welcomed into homes Mt 10:5-42; Mk 6:7-11; Lk 9:2-5; 10:1-16.

The challenge remains: can we break out of the individualistic culture around us (and deeply ingrained in us) in order actually practice what is commanded? I know it is challenging me because hospitality is exercised as a household and everyone in the household needs to cooperate - or at least comply - in order to make hospitality effective. The last post about the role of women in hospitality neglected to mention that it is a combined role requiring husband and wife (and often children and extended family) to participate together "without grumbling!"

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hospitality 1

This morning at church we talked about the significance of hospitality and I might post a few times on this topic. A number of weeks ago Scott Mcknight posted a comment on his blog concerning the role that hospitality plays in the advancement of the kingdom of God. I've quoted three paragraphs of his post and made a few comments afterward.

"Today I want to suggest that women took common places and converted them into sacred spaces, and I want to suggest further that women developed “missional centers” in earliest Christianity. And I want to contend that any suggestion that the hospitality women offered in the 1st Century was simply cooking for others or making life easy for others greatly devalues the kind of hospitality women created."

"Martha and Mary illustrate the kind of benefaction women offered Jesus and the Twelve and the kingdom ministers (Luke 8:1-3). Martha and Mary illustrate how to use one’s goods and money for the sake of the kingdom; Jesus criticized the rich and offered consolation to the poor — and called those who followed him to surrender their goods (Mark 10:17-31). These women were illustrations of how to do that: they used their goods for the kingdom."

"One needs to note that women were so much a part of offering hospitality in the early churches that churches got connected to them — notice Acts 12:12; 16:13-15; 16:40; Rom 16:1-5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col. 4:15 and 2 John 1. If the hospitality that is being offered here is truly Jesus-shaped, it is a hospitality that engaged one another in fellowship, in instruction, in learning, and in shaping the kind of kingdom ministry in those communities.
Now, let me make this clear: women did more than this, but this they did in the earliest churches: they converted common places into sacred spaces."

The hospitality aspect really captures my imagination here. We speak of it as almost something optional as if we would be hospitable if we (male or female) were willing or gifted. But the whole New Testament makes little sense without hospitality at the core of how the church developed.

The ministry of Jesus was dependent on the hospitality of those around Him (Mary and Martha, Peter's mother-in-law, etc.). The church was dependent on the hospitality of those in whose homes the church actually met. Hospitality is not an extra but the strategic central concept of the first three hundred years of the church. The household church was where hospitality was embodied and it was the medium of the early church growth.

Our reluctance to show hospitality, or the hospitality that is limited to family and friends, or the marginalization of household hospitality in favour of mega church programs and fellowship suppers is hopefully one of the things being challenged by the emerging church movement.

I think some of those embracing new monasticism (Shane Claiborne and others) have captured some of the essence of biblical hospitality and it challenges me deeply.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Zvi's Bike

I went with Zvi (my friend and neighbour) to Bike Depot today and he got himself a new bike! A very nice Specialized Rockhopper.

Looking at some of the bikes they have there (I saw one for $5500) made me realize that I have a nice bike that I really haven't ridden much over the past couple of years. It is an older bike (I put it together with my bike courier buddy while I was still working at Evergreen) but very nice and very light. It has a Rocky Mountain frame and a lot of LX and XT parts on it.

I used to ride it back and forth to work (45 minutes each way) when we lived in Don Mills and it certainly gave me a great workout. As Spring rolls around I think I need to slip on the helmet and the sweats (you don't want to see me in bicycle shorts) and get a good sweat going as I enjoy the great outdoors.

Breakfast of Champions

Ahhhh! The smell of bacon in the morning (and the afternoon because it clings to your clothes and tells the whole world what you've had for breakfast). You'll notice the eggs and bacon and sausages on the stove just about ready to be consumed

And in the second picture those ready to consume (Christian, me, Dan, Jared, Phil and Alan - Norm's taking the picture and Ken, Glen and Tom have not yet arrived). We actually had a few more show up after our photo shoot to help us with the abundance of food. You can actually see the smoke from the cooking of the bacon as it catches the early morning sun streaming in through the window.

For the last four years or so Norm has been hosting a breakfast for the men who hang around Hills and their friends. We call it the Breakfast of Champions because we don't pray enough to call it a men's prayer breakfast. But we do talk! Sometimes the talk is silly - but most of the time the talk is about what's going on with us or with our world or with the whole world. We talked a bit about the Leafs and why they are not in the playoffs. We talked some politics this morning (why is Belinda Stronach in the news again?) But mostly we talked about our testimonies (or Tom did anyways). He told us how God interrupted his life and in the "cone of silence" showed Himself to be real and alive.

I am so amazed of the repeated stories of how God moves in people's lives and how much of it is very similar from person to person. As we look back we can see the amazing way God has been faithful and with us every step of the way - even though in the middle of the journey He can seem kind of far away.

Thanks for your story Tom.
And thanks to you Norm, you really know how to show hospitality (and thanks Marika - because although Norm had the house before he was married and he still does most of the cooking, I know you make the place look nice and you still so graciously put up with our banter, and our mess!) Thanks for letting us be the church in your house!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Praying the Gates

Tonight we prayed the gates (compass points) of Thornhill (some of them at least - in the driving sleet).

The city of Jerusalem is a paradigm for many things Christian: the city of God, the hill of the Lord, Mount Zion, the new Jerusalem (Kingdom of God), the church, the dwelling place of God, etc. It is of course a literal, physical city - both throughout Scripture and in current events. Historically the Scriptural writers used many metaphors to describe the relationship between God and man. The Psalmist writes refering to Jerusalem:
3. Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?
7. Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in. (Psalm 24)

We prayed that the King of Glory would come and possess our city for His Glory and for His purposes. We prayed along the lines of some of the prayers found here.

Although it was probably one of the worst nights of the year to be outside praying, I felt like we connected with God and that there was something very significant accomplished. Prayerwalking (praying onsite with insight) really is effective and we sensed God was with us and had gone before us.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Johnny Hart Passes Away

I found out today (on a couple of sites so I won't link to them) that Johnny Hart, the creator of the comic strip BC and Wizard of Id passed away on the Easter weekend. I found an exerpt of a news report that I copied below.

"Cartoonist Johnny Hart, whose award-winning "B.C." comic strip appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers worldwide, died Saturday while working at his home in Endicott. He was 76.

"He had a stroke," Hart's wife, Bobby, said Sunday. "He died at his storyboard."

"B.C.," populated by prehistoric cavemen and dinosaurs, was launched in 1958 and eventually appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers with an audience of 100 million, according to Creators Syndicate Inc., which distributes it.

Later in his career, some of Hart's cartoons had religious themes, a reflection of his own Christian faith. That sometimes led to controversy.

A strip published on Easter Sunday in 2001 drew protests from Jewish groups and led several newspapers to drop the strip. The cartoon depicted a menorah transforming into a cross, with accompanying text quoting some of Jesus Christ's dying words. Critics said it implied that Christianity supersedes Judaism.

Hart said he intended the strip as a tribute to both faiths."

I really enjoyed his comics because they had some great themes and very direct Christian content (like the example given in the article). Here's another good one.

May we all choose so wisely.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cultivate Gathering

Cultivate Gathering is a learning party which is taking place in Hamilton, Ontario on Saturday, April 21, 2007. What does "learning party" mean? Well, basically it's designed to be everything good about a conference without all the rigamarole... and much more fun and interactive.
[Read more here...]

Cultivate Gathering is for anyone who is interested in church planting or creating new forms of church. This year, we will be exploring three areas which relate to the missionality of local church communities:
Culture & Creativity
Spiritual Formation
Urban Renewal

I was at this gathering last year and enjoyed the group of people who attended. It's a good chance to talk about stuff and get some ideas. A little steep maybe for one day but it'll be a good day.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Go Leafs Go (home)

A change of pace.

Yes! The Maple Leafs are where they deserve to be
- out of the playoffs.

What was obvious to most pundits at the beginning of the year, and obvious to most objective observers and obvious to everyone but the Leafs management and the most rabid of fans in the Leaf Nation, became a reality today as the Islanders overcame adversity and clinched the final playoff spot.

Not only that but the Leafs managed to be the best team in their conference not to make the playoffs - and the second best team in the NHL not to make the playoffs (after Colorado). That means their draft pick will be mediocre at best.

The question at the trade deadline was why the Leafs weren't sellers so they could have picked up some good young talent for their overpriced, slow-footed defense corps. Let's hope for some good off season dealing.
However, it may take ten years of missing the playoffs before management decides enough is enough and actually bites the bullet to go through a true rebuilding process.

Maybe it will take a Jubilee before the Leafs bring home another cup.

He is Risen

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! I was so moved by the truth of this passage this morning.

Luke 24 The Resurrection

1On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " 8Then they remembered his words.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? The significance of Jesus dying on Passover was our theme this morning at church. That He died on Passover because he came not just to forgive our sins but to set us free from oppression and slavery. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." Acts 10:38

People were in a foreign land
They were enslaved
They were oppressed
Passover provides a liberation paradigm
God (through Moses) did many signs and wonders
Provides a worldview that we are being set free
The image of a captive people being set free – not just a sinful people being forgiven
Freedom from oppression – and an oppressor
Passover was also the first month of the year
They ate the lamb
They took care of the poorer families
He brought us out to bring us in

What did death at Passover do?
- Passover involved the death of a lamb; the Paschal Lamb (spotless lamb – a year old)
- it involved the smearing of a lamb’s blood with the hyssop branch on the door; the blood protected from God’s judgment and liberated Israel following that protection.
- Jesus was creating a story of deliverance by the timing of his own death
- Jesus was claiming that his followers were protecting themselves from the judgment of God by partaking of His blood and body
- It was a revolution against the oppressive, violent, and power-mongering leaders of Israel and Rome who right now were oppressing God’s good people.
- No destructive plague would touch the Israelites because of the blood Ex12:13
- He will not permit the destroyer to enter the houses of the Israelites Ex12:23
- They plundered the Egyptians Ex12:36
- Jesus chooses the images of divine protection and liberation and new kingdom
- He offers himself—in death—to absorb the judgment of God on behalf of his followers so he can save his people from their sins.
- Jesus’ act at the Last Supper declares that his death is atoning,
- that his blood is like the Passover blood,
- that his death will save his followers from their sins,
- and that his death will create the new covenant community around him.
- He is the Passover lamb

It is the image that He proclaims at the beginning of His ministry as he quotes from Isaiah 61

The Year of the LORD's Favor

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

He uses Passover as the time of His death to proclaim to us freedom from oppression - final victory over death and hell. He is Risen indeed!