Category: Worship Gatherings

Movie Theatre

MennoNerds Lent Vlog – Rebellions are Built on Hope

The following was written for a MennoNerds vlog.

This is probably my favourite photo I’ve ever taken. It was during a thunderstorm last summer with an amazing purple sky, looking out from our balcony. In the centre of the shot is the cross at the top of the Lutheran church right beside our apartment building.

3-dimensional cross from church in front of purple stormy sky

Eucharist as Appetizer

When our local church gathering ended this week, Emily turned to me and said she was hungry. Maybe that’s not that strange – our church ends about 12:15, just in time for lunch, but it’s not particularly normal for either of us. I theorized that the piece of bread for communion may have had an appetizer effect, telling our bodies it is time to eat and making us hungry.

Later in the day, the analogy kept hanging around in my head. Maybe it’s not that deep of a thought and really it isn’t much different than the language of sacrament used in much of the Church, but with different language in a way I hadn’t thought about it before.


We Need Confession

Things like shame, fear, and judgementalism have no place in the Christian life. The perfect love of Jesus casts out that stuff. We have new life in Jesus. We face no condemnation. That is all true and very important to remember.

I talk about that kind of thing a lot, but sometimes we over-correct and become afraid of confession. One phrase I’ve heard is that we are Easter people, not Good Friday people. Yes, that’s true. That is where our hope is found. But by definition Easter could not have happened without Good Friday. Jesus couldn’t have been resurrected if he didn’t die first. We, like Jesus, have new life, but the process of that new life isn’t comfortable. It would be wrong to celebrate Easter without Good Friday just as it would be wrong to celebrate Good Friday without Easter.

"I never intend to adjust myself in economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few." - MLK

Birthing New Systems

"I never intend to adjust myself in economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few." - MLKAt our worship gathering Sunday morning, we sang the song “God of the Bible.” Verses 3-5 really stuck out to me, in many ways representing the best of the Anabaptist tradition. On MLK Day in the U.S., this seems like an appropriate segment to share.

Those without status,
those who are nothing,
You have made royal,
gifted with rights,
chosen as partners,
midwives of justice,
birthing new systems,
lighting new lights.

Not by your finger,
not by your anger,
will our world order
change in a day, but, by your people,
fearless and faithful,
small paper lanterns,
lighting the way.

Advent candles and wreath

An Eschatological Advent

This Advent I’ve thought about the usual theme for Advent – the second coming of Jesus – more than usual. It’s probably because of the Daily Common Lectionary plan I’m subscribed to (shameless plug).

Growing up I was always told that Advent is about remembering Jesus’ incarnation but even more about about preparing for his second coming. In that church, we didn’t really talk much about Jesus’ second coming, or the parousia to use the biblical term. There were occasional hints that the pastor probably did believe in the Rapture, although I also remember some suggestions that it was not pre-tribulation so not escapist Left Behind theology. Even in seminary, when we had to drop a topic in systematic theology because of a snow day, we unanimously chose to drop eschatology. My general assessment was that it was not the most important topic.

Singing Bad Theology

Most worship music I’ve found to be ecumenically-friendly. Even when I’m out worshipping with other branches of Christianity, I don’t see too many problems with the lyrics of the songs we sing. But being trained in theology, including worship planning, I do tend to notice lyrics that don’t fit with my theological understanding.

Here are just a few examples:

My First Catholic Mass

My wife and I went to our first Catholic Mass this past Sunday with a good friend of mine. I had been to a special event or two at Catholic churches and gone to a couple of dinners at the Catholic ministry at Queen’s, but I had never done a Mass. It was a great opportunity to learn from a tradition that is a “big sister” in the faith to my own. Here are my scattered thoughts, sorted as likes and dislikes. It is about my own experience in one particular church, not about “good” and “bad” which would imply a universal judgement which I don’t pretend to have.

Liked: Liturgy

I have a strong appreciation for well-done liturgy, and I don’t think anybody does it better than Catholics (with all due respect to Anglicans and Orthodox). I’ve experienced other well-done liturgies occasionally in some of my Protestant mainline experiences, although usually not consistently from the same church and usually with a lot of less-meaningful liturgies in between. A liturgy poorly done tends toward rote repetition, but a liturgy well done can be a powerful setting for meeting the divine in a way that having to find your own words may not always be able to provide.

Setting Church Boundaries

Last Thursday night we held the latest MennoNerds discussion oriented around how a peace church ministers who those to take part in “justified” violence and see no problem with it. While we failed to record it again, Deborah did give us a great recap. There was a lot of great and important stuff in that conversation so check out that summary for the whole thing.  One topic stuck in my head, though, and didn’t go as far in the conversation as I would have liked. Here’s Deb’s general comments from the conversation:

Yet, this tension increases when we think about membership issues.  On the one hand, it is fine to include all people into church life, but those who are taking the step of baptism and/or membership perhaps should truly believe the set of doctrine laid out before them.  In one way, it might not make sense to allow “just anyone” to be able to be in a position to instruct and lead others.  We talked about the need to look after our “flock”.  When someone comes in and starts teaching theology contrary to what the pastors and elders believe it can really upset and damage the church.  Perhaps there should be some type of “fencing” that we put into practice…

House Churches vs “Traditional” Churches

In the last generation of Western Christianity, we’ve seen a lot of new churches launch around a house church model instead of the “traditional” model. I use traditional in quotes because if you know your history, you’d know that the earliest church also operated on a house church model. In that case of course, it wasn’t so much a strategic model as it was a necessity since they were a minority of mostly poor people who were at times persecuted and at the very least were consistently treated as outside the norm of Roman life. So in the earliest tradition, house churches are “traditional,” but for the sake of normal Western contemporary conversation, we see “traditional” as being large buildings with scheduled meetings once a week and maybe some other things on the side.