Using the First Nations Version Bible: Learning from indigenous voices

As we start our gatherings, we “acknowledge the history, spirituality, culture, and ancestral stewardship of the land on which we regularly meet by the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek Nations, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.” We continue our land acknowledgement with words that one of our emerging leaders helped us adopt several years ago: “we commit ourselves to seeking to live out the Good Way, which encompasses both love and humility as we bravely journey towards the justice which Jesus proclaimed with his words, life, death and resurrection.”

Our land acknowledgement recognizes our complex histories of the land on which we live and gather and reminds us of our desire to learn from other cultures. One way we as a community have chosen to more actively learn from Indigenous wisdom is through using the First Nations Version of the Bible, which is an Indigenous translation of the Bible. Using a different translation of the biblical text can be helpful for hearing the text in a new way; furthermore, the use of cultural norms and words that are different from what many of are used to can challenge our assumptions about what the text means.

As we have been using this version of the Bible at our gatherings these past few years, many people have commented on how the translation uses descriptions for names, such as Creator Sets Free (Jesus), Bitter Tears (Mary), Father of Many Nations (Abraham) and House of Bread (Bethlehem). Such descriptions may feel distracting at times but most of us have found them helpful, as they provide us with extra information for understanding the biblical text, including the meaning of the words in the original language.

Using the First Nations Version of the text is a simple and concrete way of acting out our desire to learn from Indigenous voices. We are hopeful that the Holy Spirit will work in and through this translation to allow many to grow in appreciation of the Bible and how we can learn from other cultures.

A prayer of confession re: disunity + lack of diversity

Brenda, on behalf of the Christian Reformed campus ministry, participated in a Palm Sunday service for all CRC churches this week. She was asked to offer a prayer of confession, which is given below.

Gracious God,
Life can be hard, and we often feel confused and disoriented.
In our desire to fix that disorientation on our own,
we have turned away from those who bring us more confusion:
those with different languages, culture, or backgrounds;
those who ask questions and have ideas that unsettle us. 

In our desire to create a safe and comfortable place for us and our people,
we have often excluded those who are different from us,
and we are saddened by our actions. 

O God, "our sins are too heave to carry, 
too real to hide, and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name,
what our hearts can no longer bear
and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment.

Set us free from pasts that we cannot change;
open us to futures in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image;
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world." Amen


The second half of the prayer is a quotation of the prayer in Lift Up Your Hearts 636, which was adapted from Book of Worship (United Church of Christ)

Endings and New Beginnings: Saying good-bye to Deb

Deb has taken on a new job with the Anglican Diocese and has thus left the campus ministry staff team. We are sad to see her go, but we are also hopeful about how the Spirit will use her gifts to bless the church in new ways.
The following is a letter from Deb with more about her endings and new beginnings. Following that are some words of thanks from Peter, who is a long-time participant in the Wine Before Breakfast community and a member of the campus ministry supervising committee. We invite you also to pray the blessing he shares at the end. – Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink

Hello friends, near and far, new and old…

Some of you have heard the news, but to make it official, I am taking over Brenda’s usual communication to our vast community to let you know that my time with the CRC Campus ministry team is coming to a close. I’ve accepted a position with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto as a consultant on a team focused on congregational development, working with the numerous parishes in Toronto’s massive diocese. While I know I have so much to learn, I am feeling quite confident about what I can contribute to this work, which begins on November 1st.

It really does feel like the end of an era as I shift gears and prepare to leave campus ministry. I found Wine Before Breakfast at a different time of transition in my life: my faith in and curiosity about Jesus, the Bible and Christian community had me feeling a bit at odds with the church I’d grown up in. I was in pursuit of a career as a singer-songwriter and trying to save up enough money to go back to school and get that degree in Canadian literature I’d started once-upon-a-time. Gradually my attendance at church faltered, but not because my faith was diminishing -it just had me yearning for something different. That yearning was satisfied when I arrived at Wine Before Breakfast for the first time in September of 2009. Not only did I find a faith community that was going to hold my questions, my doubts and my laments, I found a community that knew exactly what to do with a singing, song-writing young lady who catalogued pivotal moments of her life in playlists (we called them mixed CDs back then) and wanted to belt out anthems written by the lyrical prophets of our time, their words resonating with those of the prophets all through the scriptures. I attended Wine Before Breakfast only once before joining the band up front, and I stayed there for the next 14 years.

I never did get around to finishing my degree, but I did become a regular fixture on campus, and I definitely got an education. I don’t know where to begin describing the impact this campus ministry community has had on me, but I can tell you it has shaped me deeply as a person, and a minister, of faith. It has offered me countless opportunities to work and worship in an interdenominational capacity; to push at the boundaries of what a church service can look like; to make more room for people who want to radically examine and practice Christian faith; and to understand that weirdos like me can and should belong. In fact, it’s my participation in ministries like Wine Before Breakfast that have prepared me so well for the new ministry that I am moving onto. And while Wine Before Breakfast has wound down, in the capacity that many of us has known it to be, I will never think of it as anything but a successful ministry. I know I will tell its story over and over again as a testament to the way God can work in unconventional ways, and through unconventional people.

This has been an extended season of change for the ministry, that has included both joy and sadness, and is a large part of my own season of change. But I want all of you to know how grateful I am for this ministry and for your part in it -whether as an attending student, service participant, a donor, a staff member or committee member. This has been an impactful and ground-breaking community over it’s 20+ years, thanks in no small part to the contributions of all its members. Even though Wine Before Breakfast is no longer a weekly service, it remains a community of people whose faith is both peculiar and profound as a result of all God has done, and will continue to do, in us.

So thank you, my friends. I covet your prayers in this next stage of my life, and hope you know you can count on mine. May you remember that we are bound by the love of God, after which we have honed our love for each other. I don’t know what song is ringing in your ears right now, but in mine, I hear the words of Alexi Murdoch’s Orange Sky: “In your love, my salvation lies.” Always.

-Deb Whalen-Blaize

Reflections from Peter regarding Deb’s contributions to Wine Before Breakfast

I believe very much that Deb’s time with this ministry had a profound effect on her. And I think Deb’s musical ministry at Wine Before Breakfast had an equally profound effect on those who attended. I know it had a profound effect on me. Deb’s musical selections and singing, especially in those opening and closing songs at Wine Before Breakfast, resonated so well with the liturgy and spoken word ministry of those leading or preaching, as well as her own sermons. 
 
For me, that musical ministry was something that immediately drew me in the very first time I attended a WBB service. One of the earliest song’s Deb did that stands out for me was Josh Ritter’s Thin Blue Flame. Another song that stands out in my memory is another Josh Ritter song that Deb sang on the Tuesday following the shooting death of Adam Wood, In the Dark, with its chorus of “Don’t you leave us in the dark”, and then Brian turning out the lights in the chapel as you started to sing. And I’ll always remember Deb’s acapella rendition of U2’s Bloody Sunday, on a Tuesday evening following a bloody mass shooting at a Florida nightclub. And Deb’s tearful rendition of Martyn Joseph’s Whoever It Was That Brought Me Here (Will Have to Take Me Home), the final closing song at the last WBB in August.
 
One of the traditions at Wine Before Breakfast was the laying on of hands during the “Prayers of Leave-Taking and Commissioning” for those leaving WBB. I wish we all could have given Deb that leave-taking prayer in person. In lieu of that I’ll end this with the closing words of that prayer (which all reading are invited to share):
 
Go forth, dear friend,
with our blessings and with our prayers.
Go forth in the power of the risen Christ.
Go forth and bear witness in all that you do,
to the love of God,
the redemption of Christ,
and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
In the powerful name of Jesus,
Amen, Alleluia!

This post was originally sent out as an email to the campus ministry community.

Spring Update: God working in and through the ministry

As we wrap up our 54th year of encouraging students to engage with their faith on campus, we are thankful to once again share how God has been working in people’s lives and at the university. Through the pastoral work we do and the programs we offer, we challenge, mentor, and enable students to think, work, and live as Christian disciples in the academy and in their professions. Through wrestling with Scripture and difficult topics, we invite people into radical Christian discipleship, inviting them to rest in the hope of Christ and to participate in God’s work of bringing justice. 

The following is an example of one way that we’ve been blessed to see God work: 

During the pandemic, one of the grad students now participating in our ministry experienced a time when she was deeply overwhelmed. One evening she called out to Jesus and felt God’s presence in response. After this encounter with God, a friend encouraged her to connect with the ministry as a means of growing in faith. She started attending Wine Before Breakfast and soon became part of Graduate Christian Fellowship. Through her participation in the ministry and pastoral conversations with the campus ministers, she grew in her understanding of how God was inviting her into radical Christian discipleship in all of her life.   

This spring she was baptized at a local church during their Easter Vigil. What makes her baptism even more special is that her baptism class was led by Andrew, who has himself been significantly shaped by Wine Before Breakfast. 


To read an update about the ministry and more stories of how God is working in and through the ministry, read our spring newsletter.

The retirement celebration for Brian was another reminder of how God works in and through the ministry to touch the lives of many people. In case you missed the service, you can watch it here. The service starts at 11:50, speeches in honour of Brian start at 2:09:28.

Less victim, less pressure, more grace, more hope.

Jonathan Haidt, made infamous for his article on trigger warnings and coddling of the American Mind, was recently in the news again concerning the well-being of teens and young adults (see article, and Haidt’s own words in article1 and article2). The argument once again points to social media as playing a significant role in the well-being of youth (see also Twenge’s now famous article on whether smartphones have destroyed a generation).

Another part of Haidt’s argument about the decreased well-being of young adults is his articulation that certain ways of thinking, “say identifying with, or privileging victims and a victim status, tends to disempower people because it puts someone else in charge of your life.” (Robinson) While we should acknowledge that many of us, and some more than others for various reasons, have been and continue to be victims of unjust behaviour and/or institutions, the problem comes not from recognizing that we are victims, but by allowing being a victim to become one’s sense of identity. Victims have limited agency and there is limited focus on resiliency. Without conversations about resilience and agency, people are more likely to become depressed.

While this is an interesting conversation to be had in terms of how such thinking is affecting young adults, especially at university, it’s also an interesting conversation in wondering, like Robinson, “if there is some cross-over to all this in churches.” Have we lost our sense of agency in the church? Or, more accurately, have we forgotten God’s agency?

Robinson notes that in the “more liberal and progressive church context, there’s a lot of emphasis on the problems of the world, and on what you should be doing about it. Which begins to sound a lot like law, not gospel. It’s all about what you should do or feel or think. If God is in the picture, it’s about what God needs us to do, demands that we do. There’s little emphasis on what God has done or is doing on our behalf or on God’s capacity to bring good out of or in the face of evil. So it’s kind of all on us.”

That sounds exhausting and debilitating.

In a world where so many are exhausted and overwhelmed, when we feel like we have too little agency and too much responsibility, church can’t be a place that tries to give us more of that. Church – and all Christian organizations – need to be places of grace and hope.

Please pray with us that we in the ministry might indeed be one of those places where we extend grace and help people hope.

Mark 3 and Unforgiveable Sin

The following sermon was preached by Andrew Kuhl at Wine Before Breakfast on March 14, 2023

Unforgiveable Sin…

I want you to imagine for a moment, a list of things that you think God will not forgive. Maybe the list that you had in mind before hearing today’s reading.

There are many things that we might think are unforgiveable. Violence, Neglect, Destruction of the planet, or maybe leaving the milk bag empty in the milk jug and leaving it in the fridge. Or forgetting to put your dishes back in the dishwasher. You know the Big things that grieve us deeply.

I don’t know what you imagined, but I want you to hold onto that list for a bit and we will re-examine it, in the perspective from our reading today.

Today in our Gospel Reading, Jesus makes it abundantly clear,

“I speak from my heart, humankind will be released from all their wrongdoing and evil speaking, but whoever speaks evil of the Holy Spirit will not be released. This wrongdoing will follow them into the world to come and to the end of all days.” Mark 3:28-29 (First Nations Version)

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:28-29 NRSV

That is the extensive list of unforgiveable sins.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

How many of you had that on your list?

And maybe it isn’t one that comes across our minds very often, because we approach it with the sense of as long as I don’t bad mouth the Spirit, or if I keep a reasonable amount of skepticism about the revival in Asbury, and hedge my bets about the Super Bowl advertisements and who is sponsoring them, and as long as I don’t curse her in my mind. Then, I am not really blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Or it perhaps feels a bit absurd. An accusation of a thought crime, one that can provoke a significant amount of anxiety if we don’t understand it properly, because Who doesn’t have doubts and who wouldn’t speak against the Spirit before they know God.

But I think it is more than that.

This saying is important enough to be here in our Gospel passage, and it appears in both Luke and Matthew. And in other early church writings (like the Didake and the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas). Which suggests it is likely something that Jesus actually said. (If you get the Historical Jesus society to vote with their coloured beads on the veracity and it would probably be fairly high chances of an original Jesus saying).

So unfortunately this morning we need to think about what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit because it is listed as the thing that is unforgiveable.

And to be honest, I can unpack the words: Blasphemy is to profane or speak sacrilegiously, to treat as not set apart or to treat the Holy Spirit as a force of evil.

And the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. The one who Sanctifies us, She who empowers us with gifts to live out our faith, to draw us into relationship with the Creator and the Son.

And in the context of the passage it should make some sense, Satan doesn’t stand against Satan, and nor does the Trinity work in contrary ways to themselves.

But that only gets us so far. And then I am left with the mystery of the text. Because it isn’t super clear what it means for us: as followers of Jesus, as people pursuing the reign of God.

So when I get stuck in scripture, I turn to two places: 1) To related pieces of scripture (To see what connects and if it clarifies) and 2) to the documents of tradition, to hear alongside of what they are hearing in Scripture.

So my mind, Went to looking at the 10 Commandments, and I noticed something in the Exodus account that I hadn’t noticed before. Maybe you know the 10 commandments: No other Gods, No Idols, Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, Keep the Sabbath, Honour your parents, Don’t Murder, Don’t commit Adultery, Don’t Steal, Don’t bear false testimony, Don’t Covet.

Maybe your list had one or two of these as unforgiveable?

But in our simplification, we miss some of the detail that is there in the Exodus passage where God gives this Covenant to the people they rescued from Egypt, and Loves and is longing to bind themself to this people through this agreement.

And It’s the third one on that list that jumped off the page when I was reading through it. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. The passage reads like this:

“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses [their] name.” (Exodus 20:7)

God will not acquit them, God will not find them guiltless. The person who makes a wrong use, or takes the name of God in vain, will be found unforgiven.

That is one Parallel that we will hold onto for a moment…

But let’s seek some wisdom from another voice.

A North African, Theologian, Bishop, and pastor, has an exceptionally helpful sermon on a parallel passage to this gospel in Matthew. (Augustine writes out his sermon, and I will admit that I took some inspiration from him in case you thought this was a bit of mental gymnastics, he says that “[God’s] will indeed was to exercise us by the difficulty of the question.” (paragraph 10 Sermon XXI). )

Where Augustine lands on the idea of unforgiveable sin is that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that is being talked about is an impenitent heart. A heart that is turned away from its need for repentance, turned away from the need for grace. That is the state that is outside of forgiveness because it does not truly accept it.

So these three snippets:

  • A heart that doesn’t see the need for repentance.
  • Taking God’s Name in Vain.
  • And Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

These three things together bring the question and us into a better focus of what is unforgiveable.

Let’s come back to those lists of unforgiveable things for a moment because we all possibly had the cruellest forms of violence and misuse of power as unforgiveable: And yet our Gospel seems to say that even those are forgiveable. (Of course this is the scandalous nature of Grace!) But those things might actually have elements of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. (Though we should not be quick to judge those things as outside of the realm of repentance!).

But what is not forgivable is blaspheming the Holy Spirit and it is better for us to read it closer to home to read that for ourselves first:

Perhaps it is like the Philip Yancy story that Brenda sent around. It is when we persist in doing that which is wrong, “trusting in God’s grace” but never working to change our lives because God will just forgive us.

And eventually we stop looking for grace?

It is the story of how we move to an unrepentant heart.

To live claiming that Covenant, that God has bound themself to us, in the giving of the law, in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and God has acted to save us and will act again, And yet we continue living in a way that dishonours that law or that covenant. Continue to dishonour that relationship.

That’s taking the Lord’s name in vain. Living as God’s people without honouring the covenant given to us. Living as though that relationship is not important.

Because it is a life that cheapens the grace that we are offered. And actually, as long as we persist in treating that grace as not significant we just continue in that path.

And maybe that is what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

To live in such a way that we treat that grace,

Salvation too lightly,

Sanctification too ordinary, too profane.

That if we are honest about what it is saying, it is actually blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

And here is the good news. If it is abiding in that way of life, that attitude of our heart, that act of living blasphemy, that we continue to refuse the grace offered to us, and the opportunity to be sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit. Then we are living unforgiven. We are living without that reality of God’s grace being real and present in our lives.

And in turning, in returning, we find that God is still patient, and gracious, and merciful because God longs for us to be in relationship with them—for our own good, and for the good of the world around us. That grace that we receive in forgiveness, actually frees us to be transformed by the Holy Spirit to live in a way that seeks the reign of God, marked by justice, and goodness, and life in its fullness.

And it is good news, because God’s Grace is capable of transforming even our hardness of heart, if we are willing to return to our God and be open to being changed.

Amen.

Source: Augustine of Hippo: Sermon XXI https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/160321.htm

Brian Walsh’s (much-delayed) Retirement Party and 70th Birthday Bash!

You can watch the event via youtube: Brian Walsh’s Retirement and 70th Birthday Party – YouTube

The following is the liturgy for the service:

The Christian Reformed campus ministry past and present is delighted to co-host Brian Walsh’s long-awaited and much-delayed Retirement Party. And we’re throwing in a birthday bash to make the event more fun!

When and Where 
7 p.m. on Friday, April 21 at Church of The Redeemer (162 Bloor St. W) 

What to Expect
A Wine Before Breakfast – style service of Thanksgiving followed by a Light Potluck and speeches.
You are invited to BYOB and an appetizer to share after the service. 
There will be an offering taken with proceeds going to the campus ministry.

Who is Invited
All current and former participants of Wine Before Breakfast and Graduate Christian Fellowship, along with supporters and friends of Brian Walsh and the campus ministry. 
 
Books!

We’ll have copies of A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh, as well as Habakkuk Before Breakfast and St. John Before Breakfast available for you to purchase, with proceeds going to the ministry.  

We hope you can make it! 

Living with hope,
Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink, CRC Campus Minister,
on behalf of the campus ministry committee and staff

Sin: A sermon (or why many Protestants need a better theology of sin)

The following sermon was preached by Michael Buttrey at Wine Before Breakfast on March 28, 2023, as part of our series on sin. He looks at James 1:12-15 and 1 John 5:14-17

Three years ago, I started to think there’s something weird with how Protestants talk about sin. I was at a pub west of here, and we were discussing what we do with theologians like John Howard Yoder, who abused his power to assault and harass dozens of women. The conversation was a struggle, in part because a professor insisted that “we’re all sinners.”

I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since. It’s true: all human beings are sinners. But in the context of that pub conversation, it was unhelpful. To see why, imagine a friend was telling you their child was sick and you replied that everyone dies eventually. True, yes, but in context you’re saying they shouldn’t care so much about their child. It’s cruelty disguised as insight.

Since then I’ve been looking for sources that understand sin differently. I don’t have a comprehensive theology of sin or anything like it; just a couple of ideas I’d like to share with you.

First, consider First John. I wasn’t very familiar with this letter, and I don’t think people preach on it as much as Paul’s letters. Reading it, you can understand why: it’s kind of a mess, and there’s some harsh and apocalyptic imagery in it.

There’s also a lot about sin, or broken ways as our translation puts it. In chapter 1 the author affirms that everyone has broken ways, saying that we call our Creator a liar if we claim not to have sinned. But in chapter 2 he says that he is writing so that we will not walk a path of broken ways – in other words, that we “may not sin.” Interesting, that.

Later in chapter 5 sin comes up again. In the passage read for us, the author says “you might see a sacred family member walking in a broken way that does not end in death. You should pray and that person will be given life.” Ok, great. Pray for other people when they’ve gone astray, got it. But then: “There is a broken way that ends with death. If that is so, prayer will not help.” What? Prayer doesn’t always help? And finally: “All who do wrong walk in broken ways, but not all broken ways end in death.”

If you’re a Protestant, your alarm bells may be going off. If not, here’s another translation of the last verse: “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.” Ding ding ding! Non-Protestant doctrine detected. This text seems to be suggesting that some sins are deadly, and some aren’t. Eugh!

Actually many Christians through the ages, even notable Protestant Martin Luther, made distinctions between what they called mortal or deadly and venial or non-deadly sins. However, the distinction has fallen out of fashion since 16th century theologian and influencer John Calvin attacked it, calling it “absurd” and “an insult to God.”

Now to be fair to Calvin, I think his purpose in attacking distinctions between sins was to emphasize how God’s mercy is great enough to pardon any sin. Thomas Aquinas makes a similar point about this passage: we can’t reliably tell how deadly people’s sins are, so we shouldn’t deny anyone the help of prayer. I agree!

We can also rightly worry that making distinctions can risk self-righteousness. Remember Jesus’ parable where a Pharisee thanks God that he’s not like that tax collector? Distinguishing between mortal and venial sins can easily turn into the classic game of “my sins are venial, your sins are mortal.”

At the same time, I think there are practical contexts where we need to make judgements. For example, I know of a couple churches that consider the offence of “publicly criticizing church leader” to be worse than “sexual harassment.” Personally, I think that’s completely backwards. But the solution, I’d suggest, isn’t to abolish all distinctions, but to make better ones.

Even in the most progressive community, there will come a time when someone may need to be excluded for everyone’s safety. If so, that decision had better be based on careful distinctions, not just what the leaders personally find annoying.

Another role for distinctions may be in our own spiritual development. For example, in my own life, should I be more concerned about laziness and sloth? Or wishing ill on people I don’t like? Are those exactly, equally bad for the health of my soul? This passage doesn’t answer this question, but it does suggest there are reasons for different levels of concern.

Turning now to our other passage. James is a famously rigorous letter, and the comments on sin are no exception. However, notice the progression here. In the passage read, James discusses temptation, and argues against the idea that the Great Spirit is responsible for tempting us. Rather, James says we tempt ourselves when we are lured and enticed by our desires. Then, when an evil desire takes root in our hearts, it gives birth to broken ways, or sin. Finally, when these broken ways have taken over, they drag us down a path that leads to… death.

Sounds dismal, doesn’t it? But notice how the word “when” is repeated 3 times. This happens in stages. Sin doesn’t arise out of nowhere, take over our hearts, and immediately doom us to death for breaking God’s law. It’s a process, which means it can be interrupted.

If you haven’t already removed the battery from it, I bet your Protestant alarm is going off again. Am I suggesting sin can just be avoided?

Well no – and yes. The problem is that discussions about sin happen on at least two different levels, or contexts. On one level, capital S sin can’t be avoided. Everyone sins. On another level, there’s evidence certain lowercase sins can be avoided. After all, the murder rate varies enormously between individuals: most people commit 0 murders, some commit 1, and a few, many.

The confusion between these levels arises in part because theologians are generally concerned with big picture questions, like why do human beings sin? Why does humanity need redemption? The answer is usually doctrines like the Fall, and maybe also free will, depending on the theologian.

But for me, my most urgent questions are more personal. Why are some people impatient with their spouses, and others are serial sexual predators? Can I avoid certain serious sins? Why am I tempted in this particular way? Is it even possible to become a better person?

The doctrine of the fall doesn’t answer these personal questions. Neither does the idea of free will, except to say “try harder.” Trusting in Jesus is certainly helpful, definitely a good idea, but also kind of mysterious.

Nowadays people are more likely to ask their therapist such personal questions than their priest. And that’s fine, I’m not sure I’d want to tell my priest all my problems, and they definitely don’t have enough time to listen to mine and everyone else’s. But even though the authors of the New Testament weren’t psychologists, they had insights into the human person, and they were interested in these questions. Thus, any good theology of sin should reflect these very scriptural nuances.

So let’s return to the text. One thing I really appreciate about the First Nations Version is how it uses the phrase “broken ways” for sin. In the context of our passages, that phrase suggests to me that sin is like a journey – “walking in broken ways.” But on a journey you can stop, change course, turn around. You don’t have to keep walking brokenly.

James makes the same point with the three stages of sin. Yes, desires can entice us, but they don’t have to take root in our hearts. Or even if they take root, broken ways don’t have to take us over. The progressive process can be interrupted at each point. And not just out of our own willpower – maybe, as 1 John suggests, it’ll be because someone is praying for us.

Now, you may find the idea of making distinctions between sins and examining your desires exhausting. If so, I get it. Life is already full of demands, and I don’t want to add any more burdens to your journey. The good news – and it is good news – is that you don’t need to understand sin in order to be redeemed from it.

But if you want to better understand the broken ways in our world, I think there’s some real resources out there – in psychology, ethics, theology and even the Bible. All we need to explore them is to turn off that Protestant alarm for a bit.

Amen.

Prayers for Mark 3

The following prayers were written by Matthijs for the March 14 service at Wine Before Breakfast that focused on the end of Mark 3.

Dear God, we turn to you, as we come to this shore.
You brought us here.
Your boat is ready.
A sea of people stands around us.
Yet we are alone, and afraid.
To you we pray, dear God:
Send your Spirit and save us.
[Silent and spoken prayers for the church, as we know it]

Dear God, for a while we may bask in your light
and hear your voice.
Nourish the growing seed in our hearts.
But soon, we fear, the storm will break.
Its clouds fill our horizon.
The punishment for our sins
and the failings of our generation
bear down on us like a flood.
And we are still alone.
To you we pray, dear God,
Send your Spirit and make us one.
[Prayers for the world in which we live.]

Dear God, 
Demons have entered our sanctuaries,
despoiled our houses, divided our families.
Guilt, despair, and corruption infest our nations,
our screens, and our minds.
There is no health in us.
Dear God, you who gave Jesus the power
to bind the strong man,
you forgive our sins and prepare for us a table.
To you we pray: send your Spirit and set us free.
[Prayers for schools and universities.]

Dear God, you who are truth and word and spirit,
you know the tasks we are given to accomplish;
our efforts at sowing and our hope of a harvest.
You observe our exhaustion and our tiredness.
To you we pray, dear God:
Refresh our minds
with your love and wisdom and grace.
Make us your true scroll keepers, 
bringing words and questions that engage and support.
[Prayers for our own intentions and our loved ones.]

Dear God, dear Spirit of Consolation, 
you who fill this house with your presence,
To you we pray, in the name of Jesus your Son
who brings us together:
give us strength this day for our journey.
Carry us forward by your mercy
into your promised kingdom. Amen.