Wine Before Breakfast

Title: WBB: No one ever said this was going to be easy
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel, 7.22am

No one ever said that this was going to be easy.
            Not Paul’s letter to the Romans.
            Not the faith that he there proposes.
            Not the Jesus he calls us to follow.

Romans 6 … things are settled.
            We are saved in Jesus Christ,
            no longer slaves to sin, but slaves of righteousness.

Romans 7 … things are unsettled.
            We are caught between conflicting laws,
            Christ and sin.
And we are all adulterers.

And it all comes down to “dwelling.”
            Romans 7 painfully reminds us that sin “dwells” in us,
            while Romans 8 insists that we are set free from sin
            because the Spirit of God “dwells” in us.

But this still doesn’t make it easy.
            There is still “war in my blood.”
            There is still a royal battle between a mind set on the “flesh”
            and a mind set on the Spirit.
            Death or life.
            War or peace.

Heavy stuff at any time, not least at 7.22 in the morning!

This week I’ll be preaching, David Julien will be presiding, and the band will be playing some Steve Bell for us.

Know anybody struggling with these kinds of tensions in their lives? Bring them along. They’ll be in good company.

In hope,

Brian Walsh

Start Time: 7.22am
Date: 2009-11-17

WBB, Home Wrecking and Christ

Title: WBB, Home Wrecking and Christ
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel

Dear friends:

These days, when I think about marriage or any other relationship of covenantal intimacy, words from a Martyn Joseph song invariably come to mind.

“I would never do anything in this world to hurt you…
But I do.”

The deep sentiment of faithful love meets the reality of pain, hurt and betrayal.

We profess with confidence that we would never do anything in the world to hurt the one we love the deepest, and yet we in fact do hurt that very person.

I think that Paul is on to something like this in Romans 7.

Read more WBB, Home Wrecking and Christ

WBB and 21st Century Slavery?

Title: WBB and 21st Century Slavery?
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel

No longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness!

Not exactly the kind of alternative that folks in the 21st century would find too appealing.

I mean, who wants to be a slave to anything?

And while I can get my head around being a slave to sin – I have some personal experience in the matter – what could it mean to be a slave to righteousness? Especially when you consider that the word that Paul uses for righteousness could be just as easily translated “justice.” A slave to justice? Wouldn’t we have assumed that slavery and justice have no place in the same sentence?

A slave to justice. What could that mean? And what could it look like at the centre of an empire that speaks the rhetoric of justice while it enacts the practice of oppression?

These are just a few of the thousand questions that Romans 6 gives rise to. Scott Flemming is preaching, and he’ll undoubtedly have his own set of issues to struggle with here.

Read more WBB and 21st Century Slavery?

WBB, Adam and Home

Title: WBB, Adam and Home
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel

Adam or Christ? Homewrecker or Homemaker?

Dear friends:

Last week I got to reflecting on reading Romans from the perspective of home, homelessness and homecoming. And I suggested in my WBB sermon (now posted at that Paul offers the story of Abraham as a family story for the church. Abraham is the father of all of us. In this memory, in this family story, there is the space for making home together.
Read more WBB, Adam and Home

WBB, Marriage and Faithfulness

Title: WBB, Marriage and Faithfulness
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel

Dear WBB friends:

Forgive me for offering a “sermon before the sermon” this week. I know that this is a little long.

It seems that this is the season for weddings in and around the WBB community. Last week we prayed for Bethany Osborne and Ed Miedema and this week we will bless Melissa Graham and Dave Burke.

Now let me candidly admit that I don’t know the “secret” to keeping a marriage healthy. I have no “four easy steps” to marital bliss. In fact, it seems to me that there are no recipes for this stuff and there certainly are no guarantees. So my word to folks entering into marriage is to try to get the starry eyed romantic look off of your face as soon as possible because this business of being married is hard work.

Read more WBB, Marriage and Faithfulness

WBB, Faithfulness and “This is My Story”

Title: WBB, Faithfulness and “This is My Story”
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel
Start Time: 7:22
Date: 2009-10-13


Dear WBB friends:

“Straight, No Chaser” is arguably one of the most important jazz albums ever recorded. Here we meet the piano virtuosity of Thelonious Monk at one of his finest moments. And yet, in the middle of the album we find a song that runs a scant one minute and forty seven seconds: “This is my story, this is my song.”

You might already be humming the tune because you recognize the reference to the chorus of Fanny Crosby’s classic hymn, “Blessed Assurance”:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long.

But there is something wrong with this track. Upon first listening it sounds more like an eight year old at her first recital. The piece is played haltingly, tentatively. There are mistakes, even a moment of dissonance. Could this be Thelonious Monk?

Of course, the answer is, yes, this is the great jazz master. But Monk plays the piece with the lack of assurance of an eight year old precisely because he lacks that assurance.

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”

Well, maybe Monk isn’t so sure.

“This is my story, this is my song.”

The great artist isn’t at all convinced that this is his story, that this is his song.

I don’t pretend to know why Monk struggled with the faith of his youth, or why he felt it important to include this statement on “Straight, No Chaser.” But it isn’t all that hard to empathize with his struggle. There is, after all, a lot of counter-evidence to this story of blessed assurance in the fractured, broken and disappointed stories of much of our lives.

And if you’ve been paying attention at all to Paul’s letter to the Romans over the last few weeks, you will see that the apostle himself can pile up the counter-evidence. I mean, which story is it that we can sing of with such assurance when our lives bear all the marks of sin that Paul has been relentlessly addressing in these opening chapters of the letter?

Well, the time for good news has finally come. While the apostle told us right at the beginning that he “is not ashamed of the gospel” of Jesus Christ, now he begins to unpack just exactly what the good news is all about.

And if I were to put it in a nutshell, it’s this: in the face of our faithlessness, we meet the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Because this one man was faithful, because this one man embodied the faithfulness of God (which is at the very core of who God is!), and because this one man demonstrated what covenantal faithfulness was all about, thereby demonstrating what it means to be most authentically human, there is a path opened to us beyond the dead end of our own sinfulness.

There are lots of songs to sing, lots of stories to believe and to have as foundational to our lives. At Wine Before Breakfast we sing songs about and to Jesus, the faithful one.

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” Maybe you can’t sing that song with any more assurance than could Thelonious Monk. That’s alright. Some of us can, and we’ll sing it for you tomorrow morning.

So whether you are blessedly assured or deeply confused come on out to Wine Before Breakfast in the morning.

Rebekka King will be preaching (courageous lady!). David Julien will be breaking the bread and pouring the wine. Deb Whelan has written the prayer litany. The Bandhood-of-all-believers will be playing Fanny Crosby, Bruce Cockburn, John Newton and Sinead O’Connor (does it get more eclectic than this?).

And!! And we’ll be praying prayers of blessing over Bethany Osborne and her beloved Ed Miedema in joyful anticipation of their wedding this Saturday.

Rich fare, my friends, rich fare indeed. Come, eat, drink and believe.

Wine Before Breakfast Wycliffe Chapel Tuesday mornings@7.22

In Christ,

WBB, Paul and us

Title: WBB, Paul and us
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel

Paul is having an argument.

It is an argument with his fellow Jews in the church in Rome, and maybe it’s an argument that he’s had deep within himself.

So you are a Jew.
And you’ve got the law.
And you boast of your covenantal relationship with God
And you know God’s will.
And you are pretty sure that you are a guide to the blind.
And you are a light to those who are in darkness.
And you are a corrector of the foolish.
And a teacher of children.
And … and … and.

So why the hell don’t you live like it?

What’s the point of being a Jew if you don’t live in covenantal faithfulness?

Now this might seem like an archaic argument that is at best only of historical interest. I mean really, why should we even care about a first century debate like this?

Well because all we need to do is replace the word “Jew” with “Christian” and you can see how devastatingly contemporary this discussion is.

Many of us are still reeling from the death of David Dewees on Saturday morning. And my hunch is that we desperately need to hear of the faithfulness of God in the face of our infidelity, the truth of God in the face of our deceptions, and the restorative justice of God in the face of our injustice.

We will grieve David tomorrow. And we will hear the good news of Jesus Christ. In fact, we will attempt to surround ourselves, David’s family and friends and students in prayer suffused with grace.

Andrew Asbil will be presiding and preaching.

Please come.


Start Time: 07:22
Date: 2009-10-06

WBB – Paul’s over the top

Title: WBB – Paul’s over the top
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel

It seemed over the top.

No, not my sermon last week! I’m talking about Paul.
OK, maybe the sermon was a little heavy too.

But Paul was really laying it on, wasn’t he. You can see where those gay hating folks get it.
“God hates Fags!” read the posters.
“Gays deserve to die!”

Isn’t that what the apostle said?
“Those who practice such things deserve to die.”

Now we need to notice that the “such things” Paul was talking about were not just sexual sins (regardless of how you interpret which sins those might have been).

No, his list includes such things as covetousness, envy, strife, rebellion towards parents, and foolishness. For these things, he says, we deserve to die.

So think back on a time when you were a teenager and had a huge fight with your folks because your sibling got something that you didn’t get. Covetousness, envy, strife, rebellion towards parents, and foolishness – it’s all there.

But deserving of the death penalty? Seems a little over the top, doesn’t it?

Well maybe that was the point.

Maybe Paul was deliberately over the top.

Maybe this whole thing was a set up.

Get certain folks in the community all riled up and self-righteous about other folks who are clearly sinners and then turn the whole thing on its head and say that anyone who passes judgement on another is engaging in an act of self-condemnation.

Kind of like Nathan telling David a story about a rich man who steals the only little ewe lamb from a poor herder who has nothing else. The king gets furious and tells Nathan that the man who had done such a thing “deserves to die.” (2 Sam. 12.5) And Nathan says, “You are the man.” Gotcha!

This week, Paul does the same thing. He turns the whole thing on its head on those who would use this diatribe against sin as a club with which to beat others.

If you missed Wine Before Breakfast last week because you’ve got this sin thing licked, then it looks like you can sleep in again tomorrow.

But if you’ve got the courage to face yourself and maybe expand your horizons, then things get started at 7.22 tomorrow morning in the Wycliffe Chapel.

Judith Alltree will be presiding (she’s kind of like the mother of WBB)
Rachel Tulloch will be preaching (she’s kind of our go-to lady when it comes to difficult passages in Romans)

Breakfast will of course be served.

And bring other sinners along.

In Christ,

Start Time: 7:22
Date: 2009-09-29

WBB – Only sinners and idolaters allowed

Title: WBB – Only sinners and idolaters allowed
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel
Description: So here’s the thing. Paul simply has no ability to pull his punches. When it comes to human sinfulness he refuses to avert his gaze, or our gaze as his readers.

Why? Because he understands so deeply the revelatory goodness of all of creation and because he knows the power of the gospel to break through our penchant for evil.

But I’m not so sure that I can handle so much sin and wickedness at 7.22 in the morning. I’m not so sure that I can handle being “given up” to the “lusts” of our hearts, to “degrading passions” and a “debased mind” so early on a Tuesday morning. I mean, that seems like late-on-a-Saturday-night kind of stuff.

The problem is that we’re committed to journeying with Paul in his letter to the Romans this year at Wine Before Breakfast. And Paul insists that we can’t grasp the power of the gospel, without facing the depths of our brokenness. We can’t disarm the power of the empire in our lives without debunking the empire’s idols.

So here is what I propose. If you don’t have any problem with impure lust, degrading passions and a debased mind, then take a pass on WBB tomorrow morning. If the seductive power of idolatry has never held you in its grip, then stay home. If things like covetousness, malice, strife, gossip, slander, insolence, parental disrespect, foolishness, faithlessness and ruthlessness are not a part of your life, then why don’t you just sleep in on Tuesday morning.

But if you are a sinner, then come and join me and a bunch of other sinners as we face our brokenness and turn to the only one who can make us whole. And bring along other broken and idolatrous folks with you. But don’t bother the sleep of those who have already got this sin stuff licked.

Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesday September 22 @ 7.22
Wycliffe College Chapel

David Neelands will serve the bread and the wine. I’ll be preaching.

Again, sinners only!

In sinful solidarity,

— Brian J. Walsh CRC Campus Minister, University of Toronto
Start Time: 07:22
Date: 2009-09-22

Wine Before Breakfast starts – “Return the call to home”

Title: Wine Before Breakfast starts – “Return the call to home”
Location: Wycliffe College Chapel
Link out: Click here
Description: “Return the call to home” sings Bono in the closing song to “No Lines on the Horizon.”

That’s kind of what worship is all about. Returning the call to home.

Wine Before Breakfast begins its ninth year as a worshipping community at the University of Toronto on Tuesday, September 15 at 7.22am in the Wycliffe College chapel (5 Hoskin Ave.).

This year we return to Paul’s letter to the Romans to help shape our worship and to guide us home.

Rob Crosby-Shearer returns as our music director after a few years hiatus.

Scott and Erika Fleming (newly married!!) will be joining the pastoral team (and we will be blessing their new marriage this week!).

Lydell Wiebe will coordinate a bread maker’s guild for both our Eucharist break and breakfast. [Thanks to blessed Bethany Osborne who taught Lydell everything he knows and will now take a break from baking all of our bread as she enters into married life – which we will also bless in due course!]

Those are the details, my friends. Now read the next email ( to get the story.

I hope to see you on Tuesday morning, and I pray that you will come with all kinds of folks who have never worshipped at such a sanctified time in the morning before.

“Return the call to home.”

Start Time: 7:22
Date: 2009-09-15