Friday, May 31, 2013

Meditation at Shale Beach

I recorded this last week when I was at Holy Cross. I had just finished meditating at the edge of the Hudson River and felt like sharing a bit of what that scene is like.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This is just too funny not to repost on my own blog. This was on Boing Boing. Flashbacks. Yikes.

Sermon: Trinity Sunday

Hyperbolic expressions of love, esoteric theologies of Trinity, a handful of water taken from the ocean: our very human need to grasp the un-graspable is part of the heart of the mystery of the Trinity. In it we find a lover's poem of what our people have learned about the divine after thousands of years. This sermon begins with part of the Opera "Einstein at the Beach" by Philip Glass. Many thanks to Fiona Ryan for improvising "Philip Glass-esque" music under that part of the sermon, a task I asked her to do mere moments before the liturgy began!

Preaching after doing a retreat is always great because you have a lot of fresh material, frankly. All that contemplation and meditation and prayer does wonders for your preaching-life!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Blessing "Knot Here"

We took advantage of the beautiful weather to say farewell to our friends the Robinson family as they go on a three-month sabbatical cruise on their boat, Dragonfly. They invited some of their friends to their sailing club, QCYC. This was also a good opportunity to bless the new boat, "Knot Here," who will be taking "Dragonfly's" place in Dave's slip at the club and racing. Before the blessing I took her out a little sail with Charles, Henry, and Betsy. She handles well and I enjoyed our little outing immensely. There is still a lot to learn with this boat, but it's coming quick. Henry managed to finally take a nap in cabin, which was terrific.

Back at the marina we blessed and renamed the boat using a liturgy that Dave and Heather developed for Peregrine (their previous boat) and used on Dragonfly. I believe parts of it are taken from the blessing ceremony used by the Canadian Navy, but I'm not certain about that. It's a touching liturgy that hits some nice notes.

Here is the leaflet created for the liturgy.

I'll be on retreat at Holy Cross starting tomorrow. Coming back Friday. A pretty ambitious trip--just like me to do things the hard way! Anyway, here is a picture of me and Betsy for your pleasure...

Time Off

This past week (since my last post) was supposed to be time off, but of course I find it difficult to disengage from the parish. There was a lot to do, still, at the church. I had to make the leaflet for Pentecost and I had a Corporation meeting and a few urgent e-mails and phone calls to deal with. Also urgent was getting the Kirby 23 (which we've decided to name "Knot Here" rather than "Redemption Song") up-to-snuff before Dave, our skipper, leaves on vacation. That required fixing a small leak, installing a bilge pump, and getting necessary safety gear, etc. It wasn't until Saturday that I was finally able to actually sail her for the first time.

It was "Sailpast," the day when the club officially kicks off the season with ceremonial salutes back and forth between boats and the Commodore of the Club. We "Dressed" both Dragonfly and Knot Here with colorful flags and had BBQ. I was managing Henry on my own, which was a bit of a challenge, but we did it. Here are two pictures to give a sense of what this was all like:
"Knot Here" Dressed for Sailpast
Henry enjoying the feeling of speed on the water

The first sail was exhilarating. Charles--one of my mates--and I took her out with Henry and Charles' friend Audrey. I've "driven" boats before, but this was the first time I've done so as the primary guy in charge (Charles doesn't have his boating license yet). I have to say that it was easier than I expected. Motoring was a piece of cake and then sailing was lovely. She's responsive and fun and I can't wait to take her out again! We are doing a re-naming and blessing ceremony on Victoria Day (tomorrow) so my plan is to go for a sail then.

One of my big questions about "Knot Here" is whether she could be single-handed. In mild to moderate conditions: yes, easily. Now, whether I could do that with Henry also on board is another question. What happens in the extremely unlikely event that I get knocked overboard, for example? If I am by myself and in Toronto Harbour it's a short swim to shore and hopefully the boat won't hit anybody before it runs aground. But it could be quite dangerous for Henry to be alone on board in that kind of situation. So for the time being I think I need a buddy to go with me, just in case.

Today we had brunch with some friends and then went to church at St. George the Martyr. It was a nice service and I had some nice chats afterwards. Then it was home for naps, a bit of gardening, playtime with Henry, and other tasks.

This week I am heading off to Holy Cross for a Tuesday-Friday retreat. It's going to be rich and wonderful and challenging, I'm sure. Not least because it means leaving Betsy with Henry and no car for four days!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sermon: Easter 7 2013 (Mother's Day)

These days my sermons are short and then followed by a period of reflection by the congregation. In this one I explored some of the issues around Mother's Day. I found the double image of freedom and release in the reading from Acts designated for the day (Acts 16.16-34) compelling. Partly inspired by the article "Why I Hated Mother's Day" (via Relevant Magazine) by Maria Gocke, along with this excellent, excellent sermon by Alyce M. McKenzie entitled "'M' is for the Many Things: A Sermon for Mother's Day", I tackled the ambiguous nature of Mother's Day head-on. Yes, mother's are great and deserve honour, but the way this festival is often promoted completely ignores and marginalizes people whose story doesn't look like something Normal Rockwell would have painted. It's tempting on a day like this to just go with the positive stuff, to talk about the "motherhood" of God, perhaps. Or maybe the Blessed Virgin Mary. Or the most important lessons I learned from my mother, etc. But a more honest (and rigorous) approach is to deal with the two sides of the issue and then shoot the gap between them.

Other influences on my preaching this morning included the Working Preacher website. I particularly liked this week's commentary on the Acts passage by Brian Peterson. I would like to tell you that I also read Feasting on the Word, but I didn't get around to it. I suppose I would have picked up FOTW if I hadn't already decided to go in the Mother's-Day-meets-Sunday direction. FOTW might have sharpened some of my tie-ins with the biblical material, but I had so much to work with already I didn't feel the need.

The other thing I would mention about my process this week would be the role of prayer. I was feeling very prayerful this morning as I thought about this sermon and then as I composed it. There was, as usual, the moment when all I had was thought about the passages and not even a glimmer of a sermon, yet. It's always terrifying to look at a blank screen or an empty piece of paper. So then I took a breath and prayed to the Holy Spirit, and she delivered as usual. The Holy Spirit has my homiletical back.

My practice is not to include the feedback time when I record these sermons. I want to respect people's privacy and maintain the very intimate, open, and trusting atmosphere of the forum time. Too bad, because much of the feedback today was excellent and highly engaging. Betsy, for example, pointed out that the founder of Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, was distressed by how commercialized Mother's Day became even in her lifetime. Others pulled our time in other directions, including a heart felt reflection on the need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Great stuff. I loved the comment that one person made about how they studied the passages at home before Sunday! It's very hard to get that kind of engagement without having opportunities for feedback.

Amazing Human Tricks

Here is one of the video that makes you feel better about what kind of beauty is still possible in an otherwise snarky and cynical age. One simply wonders how long it took for Miyoko Shida Rigolo to learn how to do this. Note the absolute silence that envelopes the crowd toward the end. One reason we admire the work is because we recognize how hard it is to creat, which does raise the interesting question: what about art that we perceive (fairly or not) as being "easy" to make?

Friday, May 10, 2013

The "Orthos"

Orthodoxy: Right Belief
Orthopraxis: Right Practice
Orthopathy: Right feeling

Lately I've been noting how the standard evangelical emphasis on Orthodoxy as the way to faith makes me uncomfortable. I have colleagues who seem to think that the primary method to bring people to God is to educate them. As though if they knew more about Jesus, they would naturally want to follow Him. Thus, they spend a lot of time in a basically pedagogical mode: it's all about the teaching. Maybe; maybe not. Often the impact of teaching people about Jesus is that come to the conclusion that "Jesus was a really cool guy," but the essential claims that Christianity makes about his divinity or the implications of his death/resurrection fall flat.

I mean, why would someone want to be a Christian when they could be a Jedi? As long as we compete on historical or purely philosophical grounds we will conceding far too much ground. Yes, there are historical and philosophical claims being made by our faith (and ethical ones, for that matter), but there are lots of other perfectly reasonable belief systems out there grounded in good history and philosophy. So why would we want to fight in that particular ditch? Two possible alternatives are stake a claim in relational space or existential space. That is, "Become Christian because you are one of us" or "Become a Christian because the poetry of our faith resonates with the deepest chords of your soul."

This impulse to focus on pedagogy and orthodoxy comes from the other side of the lay-ordained dynamic as well: many people assume that the next step in their spiritual journey is a "Bible Study" and talk about their desire to know more about God. They tell me how much they admire this preacher or that one for teaching them something new. I've listened to some of these preachers and been frankly disappointed. A good example would be Bruxy Cavey, who often borders on being intellectually dishonest for the sake of clarity and homiletic impact. (Case-in-point: Listen to his preaching on Just War Theory and you'd think nothing had happened in theological ethics since Augustine).

I think that a more holistic approach is necessary, and that approaches that spend too much time on the "teaching" part are problematic because of the inherent materialism of such an approach. I'm sorry, but I don't think there is such a thing as "Five Biblical Principals for a Happier Life." Maybe being a faithful person means your life will be less happy! This version of Christianity gives an illusion of control and sometimes borders on Gnosticism. The worst excesses show up in something like the ridiculous "Prayer of Jabez" fad.

Even in the case of doctrines which are not false, getting people to intellectually assent to set a doctrines (no matter how true or insightful they might be) is rarely transformative. Consider the many people who gain great insight about their problems in therapy, and yet are unable to heal them! Right-belief is important, of course, but goes hand-in-hand with the other "Orthos": practice and feeling.

Here is a good example of what I mean. I commonly encounter people who come to church because they feel anxious, lonely, or otherwise in a state of existential distress. In my opinion and experience, there is much nothing you can teach them that will change that feeling. You can tell them about how God loves them and care for them. You can point to the various passages of scripture in which God tells us that worrying is pointless and un-holy. In all likelihood you are going to make things worse because now their presenting distress is compounded with guilt--"If I only really had faith in God's love for me, I wouldn't worry so much."

Now, check out a possible alternative. Here is Ian Mobsby from the Moot Community in London talking us through the "Welcome Prayer."

This is good stuff. And I've taught something very much like this technique for years. But it doesn't give an "answer" is just a practice designed to engage a feeling. But it is holy, right, and helpful. So how come I'm not seeing more of this kind of stuff among my Fresh Expressions/Church Planting/Evagelical friends?


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Vivian Maier

Ever heard of Vivian Maier? She is a recently discovered master of street photography who died, unknown, in 2009. After a local collector came upon a trove of her negatives and realized what he had unearthed, things really began to take off for the legend of Vivian Maier. She was such an intensely private figure that there are still many huge gaps in her story, yet the work remains. A documentary is being produced about this remarkable artist.
One of many things that fascinates me about Vivian Maier is that such a private person was so tuned into the emotional lives of her subjects. You can see, in her photography, an intensely sensitive temperament that existed beneath all that armor.

Sadly, she was destitute by the end of her life, but some of the children she had once taken care of as a nanny made sure she had a comfortable place to live and that her bills were paid. She was injured in a fall in 2008 and died in 2009. But the work remains--the children she helped raise but also these amazing photographs that give us a glimpse into urban American life in the 1950's and 60's.

Turning the Tide: From Charity to Advocacy in Ontario

What are Anglicans doing about poverty in Ontario? This video was Executive Produced by Murray MacAdam for the Diocese of Toronto's Social Justice and Advocacy Committee to answer that question. It was Produced, Directed, and Edited by Tim Harry. My only contribution was to look at it a few times in the process and make suggestions about technical stuff like audio and color balance, etc. I think Tim (and, by extension, me) learned yet more about working with clients like the Diocese. For its part, the various people in the Diocese are learning more about how to produce videos like this one.

I am very proud of it. I think Murray and his team and Tim did a fantastic job. Probably the best video our Diocese has done to date. Note the terrific job done by Judy Maddren--who is the mother of my friend Jeremy Elliot. Many other volunteered their time and talents, as well, including Fiona Ryan (Messiah's Minister of Music) and even Charles Waterman (a Messiah Warden) contributed!

It's very good, and I feel like Tim has really showed us something about what he can do as he stepped up his game considerably with the challenge of this project!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Juliet of the Spirits

"Juliet of the Spirits" (originally Giulietta degli spiriti) is one of my favorite movies of all time. This 1965 (!) masterpiece by Federico Fellini is both about his wife and not about his wife. It's a character study and it's not a character study. Fellini is directing his wife and muse, Giulietta Masina, here is one of her finest roles. You get a sense throughout this movie that is might just be putting us on, indulging her husband's fantasy of who he thinks she is for the sake of her own amusement, and we get to watch. It's an utterly playful movie, hardly the super-serious dour sort of thing people sometimes think when it comes to foreign films. It's sexy and funny and bizarre at times. But then, in a typically Fellinisque way, it will take an insightful turn and you are suddenly overwhelmed with the concision of his artistic vision.

It's a difficult movie to describe, but I will just include this short clip that might give you a taste. Fellini was a master of the surreal, and no one would be surprised to hear that he reported taking LSD to prepare to make this film. But this is not just the random visions of a hallucinating genius--this is highly disciplined, crafted stuff. Notice is this clip, for example, the simple, bold strokes he makes. It's not confusing at all. And when he does gives us perplexing images (in this or any other of his films) we are never left alone in our confusion, bystanders who don't get the joke; he always gives us character that are equally bewildered to lean on. Few Directors ever have done a better job capturing the uncanny quality of dreams, visions, and the miraculous encountered in everyday life.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Great Day for Henry

Henry had a great day. He got to play "on the big boat" as daddy and some other daddies got it ready for the water. He also got to play Baseball at Sportball with daddy. There was a nap and then there was gardening with daddy and then time in the park with mommy. Homemade pizza for dinner (Henry helped make the dough a few days ago--it's more delicious when in ages a few days). More playtime with daddy kicking around a ball in the back alley. Then chocolate ice cream, early bath, and time on the coach enjoying the Leafs victory. Story time and bed. A great day for Henry. He even got to wear his favorite monster truck shorts all day!

Here is some video of his help gardening....

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"The Americans"

"The Americans," a serial spy-thriller set in 80's Washington, is an excellent show. The sharp writing and wonderfully tangled morality spiced with just a touch of nostalgia for the Cold War is terrific fun, and I do commend it to you.

That is all!