(1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8) – J G White
Sunday, April 29, 2018 – UBC Digby

Vineyards. We are seeing more of them in NS…

“I am the Vine and you are the branches,” said Jesus, to his disciples of long ago. Are you a disciple of Jesus today?  We do not teach that a person can be a believer, a Christian, be saved, without being a disciple of Christ.  Being a Baptist is not a spectator sport.  It means you are an apprentice to the Master.  Actively learning to live and serve. Lifeskills.  

So we get active with our salvation by abiding in the Vine, living closely with God, day to day.

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

Dictionary on my desk only says this about abide:  1 v. tr. tolerate, endure (can’t abide him). 2 int. a act in accordance with (abide by the rules). b remain faithful to (a promise). (The Canadian Oxford Paperback Dictionary, 2000)

All this does not quite get at what we read here about abiding in the Vine, in Jesus.  Or when we sing Abide With Me.  But, do some people endure Jesus?  Or simply think of Christianity as a way of acting in accordance with God’s rules?  Or act as if it is only remaining faithful to some promise once made?

I want to connect abide with abode: where one lives.  To abide in Christ is to live with and in God.  I inhabit God, and God inhabits me.

What does this look like?  

There is action and contemplation. Doing things.  And then reflecting on what got done, praying, seeking guidance about it.  

These are both part of bearing fruit, and being pruned.  Doing things, and praying/meditating.

Contemplation.  Basically includes Prayer and Bible.  Are you satisfied with your praying?

With your use of the scripture?

I want to offer some guidance for adults in terms of Bible comprehension and use, and the practice of prayer.  I am tempted to invite many of you to a Bible Study only for those who have not been to a Bible Study. If you already have been to Bible Study as an adult, you are not allowed at this one! 😉  I won’t limit it that way. But I’d like to hear who is interested.

Meditation & other spiritual practices.

Pastors’ Retreat this week: resting in God.

These aid our reliance upon the Vine, strengthen our connection. Partly because we get in touch with ourselves, our inner selves, deep inside.  Where the deepest connection with others, and Other, happens.

Action. Do things with God.

Henry Blackaby’s book and study guides titled, Experiencing God, have been popular for twenty-five years.  One of the lessons there is: Join God in what God is doing…  The Spirit is active in your neighbourhood: get in touch with what Christ is doing, and join Jesus there!

Here is an example from Tidings.  Tidings is an Atlantic Baptist monthly magazine which celebrates and resources our ministry locally, and around the world.  In the March issue is an article titled, ‘Eat Out More Often’, by Andrew Morse.

A ministry at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Saint John, NB, that we call Soul Food was born almost a decade ago to respond to the needs of the hungry in West Saint John.  Initially, the program was designed to be like a soup kitchen with delicious food, worship music, and the gospel message all being offered as a service to the community.  Then something shifted a couple years ago and our little ministry absolutely changed.

We invited the congregation to join us at the Soul Food program, and the mealtime became an opportunity to care for and sit down with our neighbours.  We were no longer providing a service as much as we were having meals with our friends. In a period of about two years, the ministry grew from about 15 to 20 folk to around 80 to 100 people.  We absolutely fell in love with them and they knew it!

The dynamics continued to evolve.  Those who initially came to receive a service were soon working alongside us.  Our Soul Food people now helped with setup, teardown, leading hymns, serving the food, and so on.  

This sort of ministry can get a little messy, but I believe it is the kind of pure religion talked about in James 1:27.  (p. 11)

Good action is also a matter of knowing what not to do.  Paring down the excess. Paying attention to how what we do can be changed; just as the Soul Food luncheon did.  We have Jesus’ words about God pruning the vines. For the sake of the whole vine that is to bless the world, it gets trimmed regularly.

Ever notice that overgrown, untended vineyard in Annapolis Royal… Weedy and unpruned for a decade.  There must be pruning in our lives.

Also, abiding with God happens in relationships.  Andrew Morse, at that Church in Saint John, says, People crave genuine love in relationships.  For too long, we have let the fear of making mistakes keep us from doing God’s work when he has simply desired obedience from broken people who love others honestly.  

Our Jesus relationship happens in our people relationships, not just in our alone time.  

There is a horrible song, sung by Tom T. Hall. 😉

Well, me and Jesus got our own thing goin
Me and Jesus got it all worked out
Me and Jesus got our own thing goin
We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.

That doesn’t work for me!  Ugh.

How we treat one another is how we spend time with Christ, with God, with the Spirit.  I think, in my own life, I am finally beginning to appreciate this.  

After all, Jesus said, “just as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mtt 25: 45)

And apparently He also said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:12, 13)

And, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (Jn 15:5)  

So act – do good things – then contemplate your action.  Think and pray, and learn from what you do. Spend time alone so you can be close to God, and spend time with people so you can be close to God.  These must go hand-in-hand.  

Abide: dwell with and in God, in every circumstance, every day. And Christ, the Vine, will grow us as beautiful branches.  Fruitful and good for this world, and forever. Amen.

Green Pasture or Shadow Valley

(Psalm 23; John 10:11-18) – J G White
Sunday, Earth Day, April 22, 2018 – UBC Digby

Rev. Laura McCue introduced us to a wonderful movie this year.  All Saints.  A true story of a little Episcopal Church in Tennessee; I would like to show it to you sometime.  A new priest is sent to the church. His work: to care for the handful of people, and to sell off their building and everything in it.

All Saints

All Saints

But, one of the surprises that comes along is this: the dying Anglican congregation takes their lovely few acres of land and plants a farm.  The shadow of death that hangs over the church seems to become a green pasture. That’s just part of the story.  When that little church’s crop was ready to be harvested, a torrential rain came, the creek rose, and the people panicked. Their farm was going to be ruined!  

I won’t tell you the whole story; no ‘spoiler alert’ needed.  You’ll just have to see the film.

Today is Earth Day.  I have two questions today.  The first is this: Is the universe friendly?  Is creation basically good to us, or bad to us? Green pasture or valley of the shadow of death?

We do live in a deadly world.  Shelley Maas remarked last week: five people from the area she knew died on April 14th!  Five on the same day. And the illnesses and injuries we hear about among those we know sometimes seem to pile up far too much.  

And “man’s inhumanity to man” is still with us.  People harming and killing other people. On Thursday I attended the amazing one-man show called “Solitary Refinement.”  It is the story of a man imprisoned and tortured for fourteen years, in the mid twentieth century, in Russia. The audience was reminded that the story of the persecuted church continues in our day and age, in many parts of the world.  I recently heard Father Vincent tell of the terrible violence and oppression against Christians in his home nation of Nigeria, in Africa.

Of course, every race and faith group suffers.  In places like the Middle East violence continues.  Digby resident Shekrallah K_____ had one of his nephews killed last week in their hometown, in Syria.  

Humans have sometimes thought themselves the pinnacle of creation, the crowning glory of what God has made.  But we know how terrible and dangerous we are.

Is creation – us included – friendly or not?  It is a mixed bag, a variety, a dangerous / beautiful place.  Thank God we learn to sing, from deep inside:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way;
When sorrows, like sea-billows, roll…
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.  

There is good and ill for us all in all things.  So we look for guidance. A way through this life.  A Good Shepherd. For thousands of years now people have sung, to hundreds of different tunes: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.  

Our faith and experience confirm what we read in Psalm 23 and John 10: we have a Good Shepherd for the green pastures and for the ‘shadow of death’ valleys.  

It is a faith statement to declare: the Universe is good.  It is beautiful. It is for us, not against us.  Our knowledge of God as Creator and Shepherd gives us hope when all seems lost.  Gives us purpose when we are blind to why things happen. Gives us connection to everything when we seem torn apart.

Time for the second question today, Earth Day.   After ‘is the universe friendly?’ we ask ourselves: Are we friendly to the universe?  Are we mainly good in creation, or bad for it?

What do you say?  Is the planet better for having people on it, or not?  And why? Say more…

In the role of preacher I could speak from Psalm 23 of the soul-restoring qualities of nature. Of the right paths of care for creation. Of the valley of the shadow we have created by our pollution and destruction and extinction of life.  Of this creation that does provide everything we need. This could be my sermon.

But Psalm 23 is not actually concerned with the environment, with creation.  It is concerned with people and God. We cannot impose environmental- ism on the Bible.  But the setting of Psalm 23 is our familiar natural world: the hills and fertile valleys, the sheep and the humans who shepherd them, and the deadly wild places.

Our experience in the world is real and true: our breathing, our feasting, our enjoyment of beauty and our amazement at what is awesome.  And the Good Shepherd who guides our human lives, our spirits, is the Lover of all creation.

As a faith family what do we do?  We are believers in a Creator; how do we as a church live within creation?  
Find ways to use less oil and electricity.
Find ways to use up less paper.
Find ways to use up less plastic.  
Share a building with other churches.  
Educate and inspire people about earth care.
Get active in community clean-ups and so forth.
Speak up in our province about the important issues – be prophets, whether we are listened to or not.

There are new ways we have learned through the years.  We take better care and walk lightly upon the earth. What is different now from when you were a kid?  How do we live now as better stewards of earth?

If a congregation were to take creation seriously, we would set a new goal each year – perhaps on every Earth Day, April 22nd – and act on it.  Take a good step, change our habits and ways of doing things: every year make progress. Just as you and I can do in our own lives.

What could our next step be?  

Share some ideas…

We people can be a good thing for Earth; make green pastures instead of creating valleys of death.  Do you hear the Shepherd calling us in that direction?

In the name of God: Creator who keeps creating, the Firstborn of all Creation, and the Spirit brooding over the chaos.  Amen.

Beloved Child of God

(Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7)
Sunday, April 15, 2018 – UBC Digby – J G White

I started a five-hour committee meeting the other day with the usual check-in with everyone around the table.  But along with ‘how are you so far this year?’ we each gave our middle name. This got people talking about nicknames, and names that get passed down in families, and so forth. We have all run across a lot of nicknames, and some of you are called by a nickname, not any of your given names.  I can think of Peggy, whose name was Edith,
Deanie, whose name was Edna,
Haywire, whose name was David,
Bonnie, whose name is Phyllis,
Joe, whose name is Donnie,
and Chook, whose name is Carl.

Today in scripture we have another moment about being named.  In this case, being named a child of God. See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.  We are children of God.

Lately I have been reviewing again Henri Nouwen’s beautiful little sermon from the Crystal Cathedral in 1992. Being the Beloved
Who are we? We may think and feel:
I am what I do.
I am what others say about me.
I am what I have.

It’s all WRONG, proclaims Nouwen.
You are the beloved of God.  
I am God’s beloved one.  

Jesus had these same temptations.  
Turn these stone to bread: do something.
Jump from the peak of the Jerusalem Temple: have people speak well of you.
Worship me & gain the world: possess a lot.

No, Christ said.  No, to all three. He knew He was the beloved Son of God.  And so we are too.

I am the beloved of God.  You are the beloved.
We are children of God. That’s what we are called.  That’s what we are.  

There is opposition to this.
the world does not know us …it did not know him.
Others do not treat us like this.
We don’t even know it, claim it, or live it.
This blindness, this darkness of sin – at the heart of it – is not seeing and knowing we are God’s beloved one.  We are welcomed in to the Trinity of love and power, into the Divine Relationship.

When we do know this, for ourselves, we can face those who do not see and know this.  Because our inner connection with God is what matters most. How God esteems us overshadows what others seem to think of us.

We shall be more. what we will be has not yet been revealed… when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
We shall be more.  More than we are now.
And we shall be more like Him, like Jesus, God.
We do tend to become more and more like what we worship, what we adore, what we pay attention to, what we study.

Brian McLaren wrote: our concept of God will form us whether or not there is any reality corresponding to that concept.  If we have a concept of God that is violent, we will be transformed into that violent image, whether or not that concept is true.  Similarly, if our concept of God is nonviolent, we will be transformed into that nonviolent image, whether or not that concept is true. (The Great Spiritual Migration, 2016, p. 94)

As people take this life’s journey, the is the potential to be more and more, not to mention in eternal life.  Each person we meet, loved by God, can be more and more than we glimpse now.

I think back to the words of C. S. Lewis, in his essay called “The Weight of Glory.”
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

So it is good to think on how we help every person along in the best direction, do them good.

And then we find Jesus saying this remarkable thing, to His disciples: Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

We, do greater things than Jesus did, back then?  Or did He just mean those twelve (or eleven) men? No, we are beloved children of God, and we continue the beautiful work of Christ today.

Our response to this good news is also about our improvement.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.  There is a lot of talk in this short letter in the Bible about love, and about sin.  I think of the whole thing in terms of our direction, how we get pointed along the best path to take.  

Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard claimed ‘Purity of heart is to will one thing.’  What is it to be pure? To be complete, be total, be all focused in one direction. Not trying to go in lots of directions.  Headed, all in all, in one direction.

To seek to be pure, to be good, to be whatever, is how we respond to the wonderful News that we are the beloved children of God.  No, we don’t get to be loved by God by acting good enough, and making ourselves pure enough. We start off loved by God.
As we are.  Just as I am.

In the early months of 2017, in the winter, Sharon’s daughter Teanna was expecting a child.  She was due at the end of June, last year. Well before the birth, the family already loved the child.  What had the child done to deserve all that care and desire and hope and longing in us, the grandparents?  Nothing. She had done nothing at all. She was just in the womb. We did not know if the child was a she or a he.  We did not know what it might look like. But we loved this child-to-be-born. We did not know if the child would be born quote healthy or quite ill.  We did not know if the child would even live. But we rejoiced over this child. We cared. We welcomed and included the child who was promised.

Just like this, God loves each child too, and we are all God’s beloved children.  No matter how we turn out, we belong, we are loved. We are that important and cherished in this universe.

‘Good Anglican’ that he was, C. S. Lewis, wrote: “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” (The Weight of Glory) When you get in touch with who you are – a child of God loved by God – you can see that in others around you, and act accordingly – lovingly.  

In the name of the God of Relationship: Father, Spirit, Son: Amen.

The Problem of Unhealthy Churches

(Psalm 133; Acts 4:32-35)
11 am, Sun, April 8, 2018 – UBC Digby – J G White


Are you feeling healthy, or unhealthy?
When I came down with a bit of a cold and a cough, at the end of November, I started to get some kind advice.  From you! All of you.

Drink water, stay hydrated – Dr. Dondale
Take Zinc; take Vitamin C – Dr. Outhouse
Use Buckley’s Mixture – Dr. Olsen
Go see a Doctor! – Nurse Gilliatt
Drink Baking Soda in Vinegar – Dr. Marshall
Take this aromatherapy – Dr. Gilbert
Use essential oils – Nurse Doucette
Eat an orange a day – Dr. Whalley
And other advice.  I think I forget some of the prescriptions.

When Dennis Bickers wrote his book, ‘The Healthy Small Church,’ he got a Church image for the front cover that’s like Leonardo da Vinci’s famous illustration called the Vitruvian Man.  A human body drawn inside a circle and a square, perfectly proportioned and structured.

A healthy church body is composed of healthy disciples of Jesus, brought together in beautiful ways.  Of course, it ain’t always so, in real life, right? Are we a bit off-kilter, with a bit of rot? Month by month we are visiting the themes of Dennis Bicker’s book.  today, chapter 2: The Problem of Unhealthy Churches.

We rightly go back to the scriptures for lessons about being a healthy fellowship of God’s people.  Today’s Acts 4 reading is a classic scene from the very beginning of Christianity. The people, gathered in the city of Jerusalem, were of one heart and soul, we are told.  Wow, what was that like? They gave up private ownership of things and shared everything. That’s an interesting experiment! And the leaders kept telling their story of the resurrection of Jesus, who had been executed.  This opened the door for grace – good blessings – to be on everyone.

We read the rest of this book called Acts, and the letters back and forth between these early Church people, and we find all was not well for them – from the start. Perfect health was not there.  Church illness needed to be addressed. That’s why we have all these New Testament letters, little books we call Romans and Corinthians and Timothy, and so on.

Today, what do we do?  Like the cure for my common cold and persistent cough, everyone seems to have a remedy, and hopes they know what will help.  What church consultants like Bickers can do for us is lend us their expertise.

In his chapter on The Unhealthy Church, he lists some of the main problems that come along.  Interestingly, he starts with Conflict (he talks about unresolved conflict).  Then, other illnesses: Focusing Inward, Cultural Indifference, Poor Leadership, Lack of Vision and Purpose, and Poor Self-Esteem.

When I see some of these things happening, I wonder if a congregation has got to the point of having a survival mentality, as I call it. Lots of attention goes into surviving, keeping afloat, taking care of ourselves.  Less attention goes towards serving the world on our doorstep. A fellowship can be of one heart and soul – dwelling in unity – but be totally focused inward!  “We’ve gotta survive, protect ourselves, maintain what we’ve got.” This is a symptom of dying and death for the group.

Acadia Divinity College professor Stephen McMullin, in his church research, tells us that when a church is ill [dying], these are the common responses:

Blame Society: It is the world’s fault that the Church is not growing. Non-Christians should be coming to Church!  Stores should be closed on Sundays. Sports should not be allowed on Sunday.

Seek to save/raise money to keep the church open.  Bills must be paid. Buildings must be maintained.  Establish an endowment fund.

Attempt new techniques.  What if we tried this program or strategy?  

Make members/leaders feel guilty.  Obviously it is someone’s fault (the pastor, the leadership, the uncommitted members, etc.).  

Blame the young.  They aren’t taking on their fair share of the work. They owe us for raising them in the church.

Blame the old.  They caused the problem.  If they had been willing to change, things would be fine. (EVAN 3023 notes, Day 1)

So when such warning signs are familiar, we can learn something.  We are on our way to a diagnosis! And to treatment. And to some curing and healing.

The health of a group is rooted in our God.  That short Psalm, 133, speaks of the LORD ordaining his blessing, life forevermore.  To be united is a blessing from God. To be one in Christ Jesus is grace.

We have ‘Christ’ in our name.  We are Christians.  So we are people of the Cross and the Resurrection.  Thank God we can face death and pain, and live, live on forever.  We happen to be a Church that has lived for about 180 years now. We can live on!  We don’t need to be in perfect health, but we can be healthier.  

As Bickers suggests, we can find some practical help.  We can focus upon our strengths, not our weaknesses.  We still have great strengths!  We can look at the big picture and understand the issues we have in the ways we do things. And we can take time to be renewed – it does not happen overnight.

Two weeks ago I got all stuffed up again, and started coughing again.  Again, some of you had ideas about what was wrong and what to prescribe me.  

Right now, in our fellowship, we differ in what we see that needs fixing or healing in our congregation.  And we have lots of ideas about what might be done next. Jesus, the Great Physician, has some great plans for us – really good things for us to do and be.  And some real curative steps for us to take.  

The greatest news is we still have a calling, a purpose to bless our neighbourhoods.  I like Reggie McNeal’s language. Instead of saying the Church should be calling the shots, he writes:

The church should be calling the party in every community — a party convened to solve our biggest problems.  I am calling the church to offer its best resources to the community and to galvanize the efforts of the community to tackle the issues that threaten the welfare of its people. (Reggie McNeal, Get Off Your Donkey, 2013, p. 16)

The tiny church in the first century, the church of Acts chapter 4, went on to bless many a community.  Here is Digby, blessed by the church. Let us continue to bless, and be healthier for it!

This Is Not the End

(Isaiah 25:6-9; Mark 16:1-8)
Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018 – UBC Digby – J G White

When is an ending not the end?
When a dead man rises from the tomb — and when a Gospel ends in the middle of a sentence.
(Lamar Williamson, Jr., Mark, 1983, p. 283)

So said one Bible scholar in his book about Mark’s Gospel.  The scripture today from Mark chapter 16 can seem to end abruptly, but this is one of the endings of this book.  

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (M 16:8)

The end.  And, in the original language, it really does appear to end in the middle of a sentence.

Yes, there is more than one ending of the book of Mark.  Depending upon the ancient manuscript – the scroll – you read.  Take a look in the pew Bibles. Turn there with me. Page 722. Yes, open it.

See the break after 16:8?

[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20.]

This is the longer ending of Mark. There is also a shorter ending of Mark, printed in some Bibles.

I like ending at verse 8, because it leaves the reader, or hearer, to respond.  To decide. To choose your own adventure. To react to the empty tomb. To experience that moment, before things become clear.

For me, it’s like the ending of a famous musical and movie about Christ.  At the finale of the ‘rock opera’ Jesus Christ Superstar, just before Jesus’ crucifixion, Judas sings; he asks Jesus:

Did you mean to die like that? Was that a mistake, or
Did you know your messy death would be a record breaker?
Don’t you get me wrong.
I only want to know.

Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ, Superstar
Do you think you’re what they say you are?
(Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, 1969)

We who hear the Jesus story again, this Easter Day, must answer these questions for ourselves.

In our day to day lives, the meaning of resurrection is multifaceted.  Like a gemstone, there are many beautiful shining facets that can shine.  In this tradition I grew up in, there is the personal salvation story. Jesus’ suffering, death, and rising from the dead, touch my imperfection, and my mortality.  Christ died for my sins, and rose up to give me new life.  

But Christian conversion can be seen as a repeated process, and as life goes on we come to moments when we need to be resurrected again.  And again.

You may be able to testify to resurrection in your own life, a stone rolled away just when you thought all was lost. We all know people who were given a terminal diagnosis by the doctors, but here they are, alive and well, years later.  People who attempted suicide but lived, and still live. (May it be so for E__!) People whose plans for life got totally wrecked – either in family or jobs or health – but they found a new path and have done more than anyone would have expected.

Many years ago there was a young pastor who was about to move.  After being a youth pastor at a big Baptist church he was about to move to be the lead pastor in a smaller church.  He was also to be married to a gal who had also studied for the ministry.

She was actually from Bear River.  Not long before the wedding, she had a car accident, and was killed.  A disaster, for both of them, of course. All their plans changed, drastically.

But the man spoke of his dear devoted friends, back them.  They spent a lot of time with him, took him on road trips that summer, supported him in every way.  He actually used the word resurrection to talk about that time; he was given a resurrection when his life’s plans had been destroyed.

The End is not the End!

Another facet of the empty tomb is the conversion of the Church, of Christianity.  Together, we sometimes need reform, we sometimes need a resurrection, we sometimes need a miracle.

The whole thing may be in a bit of a mess here in Canada and the US in our lifetimes.  Twenty years ago, controversial Episcopal Bishop Spong titled one of his books, Why Christianity Must Change or Die.  I just read Brian McLaren’s 2016 book, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking A Better Way To Be Christian.  

McLaren, a pastor an author, speaks of the need to lose our sense of a violent God.  This would be a big reformation for Christianity. Moving to a non-violent God. McLaren tells this story, from when he was just becoming a teenager.

My grandfather was a Scotsman who had been a missionary in Angola for forty years.  While on furlough, he had a minor stroke that temporarily slurred his speech and confined him to a wheelchair.  Our family went to visit him in South Carolina, where he was convalescing. It was the April weekend in 1968 after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered and the air was humming with tension.

Black and white scenes of rioting flashed on the [TV] screen, and my grandfather responded — slowly and deliberately because of the stroke — “I’m glad they got that communist devil.”

I was horrified.  My grandfather had lived among Africans in Africa for over half his life.  How could he say this about an African American leader who had risked and now given his life for the dream of racial equality?

How could my adolescent brain come to terms with the fact that my beloved grandfather simultaneously loved God and was glad that a human being had been murdered?

McLaren ends this chapter, saying, To be converted from all forms of supremacy and domination, we must dare to embark on a great theological migration, challenging many of our deepest assumptions about God. (pp. 86-88)

Change for the better is sometimes a big step.  And a move away from violence and judgment may not be what we think we are looking for.  

Like Jesus’ dear friends back on resurrection day, we sometimes don’t look for a stone rolled away, because we don’t expect such a thing. Those women went to do some loving embalming work on the body of their friend. They did not go to find find out if He was alive. They were concerned about the tomb, a cave covered with a large stone door.  How would they get in to tend to the body of their friend?

But He was alive.  Gone on ahead of them to Galilee.  This was not the end.

And this, the twenty-first century, may not be the end of the Church in Canada.  What is being born may surprise us. For it will be new, and fresh, and still not perfect.  Still becoming.

The Gospel, the Good News, still ends in the middle of a sentence.  Unfinished. The story waits for us to respond, to play our part, to do what we are going to do with Jesus Christ.