WBB: Resurrection, Cover-ups, and Doubt–and Partying Nonetheless!

Resurrection, Cover up and doubt: Partying Nonetheless

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

That’s the proclamation on which the whole Christian story hangs.

Indeed, that’s the proclamation on which our Christian life hangs.

No point trying to “practice resurrection” if Jesus is still in the grave.
No point in worship, no point in discipleship, no point, no point.

And the range of responses to this world shattering event are mostly pretty predictable.

Those guarding the tomb “shake like dead men” and their supervisors amongst the religious elite buy them off to say that the disciples came and stole the body.

Cover up.

Nothing new there. That’s the way that the ruling authorities have always dealt with anything that would radically undermine their world.

The women are also full of fear, but to them comes good news from both an angel and the risen one himself, “do not be afraid.”

And so their fear is mingled with great joy. Read more WBB: Resurrection, Cover-ups, and Doubt–and Partying Nonetheless!

A Pastoral Letter for Holy Week 2011

Dear friends:

More than half a lifetime ago I co-wrote my first book, The Transforming Vision. And there was one response to that book that continues to ring through the years to me. No, actually, there were two responses, and they are deeply connected to each other.

The first response was from my friend and co-author, Richard Middleton. Upon completing the manuscript and offering up prayers dedicating this work to the furthering of the Kingdom of God, Richard looked at me and said, “You know that there is something missing in this book.” I thought that was an odd thing to say at this particular moment, and I couldn’t guess what he was talking about. Then he said, “This book says nothing about suffering, even though suffering is so central to the biblical story.” And then Richard added, “But that’s okay, we don’t know anything about suffering.”

An honest and telling moment of self-evaluation. These two young men had written a fine book on a Christian worldview – indeed, a book still in print – but missed a central motif in biblical faith.

The second comment was more inexplicable to me at the time. A friend and former student simply said to me, “It’s a great book, but you don’t know anything about the Eucharist.”

I had no idea what the woman was talking about. The book wasn’t about the Eucharist. What was her point?

Well, if you don’t know anything about suffering, then you likely won’t know anything about the Eucharist either, will you.

If you promote a Christian worldview without reference to suffering, then of course this will be a worldview without the Eucharist. It will be, if you will, a worldview without the cross. Or at least it will be a worldview without a deep enough grasp of the cross. And it will be a worldview that knows nothing of a profound dwelling in Holy Week.

As I look back on that period of my life I also recall that I was studying with Douglas John Hall at McGill University. Professor Hall was always talking about the “theology of the cross” and I was always pushing back with a “theology of resurrection.” Around that time, Hall wrote:

“Against the promotion of easy solutions to difficult human questions, the Bible offers the cross: that is God involved in the ambiguity of existence, broken by alienation, powerful only in the weakness of love.”

There was something about a God who was “powerful only in the weakness of love” that didn’t sit well with me. And that is likely why I knew nothing about the Eucharist. Read more A Pastoral Letter for Holy Week 2011

WBB: Jesus, Justice, and Vineyards

Vineyards, Justice and Jesus

Cultural discourse totally hangs on allusion and reference. You know what I mean. You can’t watch any episode of  The Simpson’s without picking up the references to other cultural products – whether they be other television shows, cultural stereotypes, music, art, sports, or politics. Now, of course, you don’t always pick up all the references every time you watch The Simpson’s or go to the movies or listen to a new song on the radio. And not all cultural products are created equal. Some are hopelessly flat. What you see is what you get and you aren’t getting very much.

Kind of like the difference between ABBA and Dylan. Okay, that is too close to home for some of you. How about the difference between Britney Spears and Joni Mitchell?

And it seems to me (in this little email that is starting to sound like an essay!) that the richer the allusions and references, the deeper the cultural product is. That’s why The Simpson’s is great television.

Well, Jesus knew all about allusion. He goes up a mountain to teach a new way, a new Kingdom, and everyone thinks of Moses at Mount Sinai. He feeds the multitudes in the wilderness and everyone thinks of the exodus and sustenance in the wilderness. He walks into the Temple and throws the furniture around and everyone thinks of Jeremiah’s temple sermon (Jesus actually quotes that sermon during his rage).

In all four gospels, Jesus makes reference to a vineyard. And just as  you couldn’t tell a story today with a wolf and a little girl in it and not catch the reference to Little Red Riding Hood, so also everyone who knew anything about Israel’s faith would remember Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard. Just say “vineyard” and the allusions immediately will come to mind.

And it is a vineyard that does not produce what was expected of it. Isaiah’s parable ends this way: Read more WBB: Jesus, Justice, and Vineyards

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF): Ending Well

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:

Ending Well:
Marking Our Transitions Together,With Gratitude and Prayer

An End-of-Term Potluck Celebration
of eating, reflection, discussion, and prayer with the GCF community

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

6:00 – Dinner
7:00 (or so) – Something After Dinner – discussion, etc.

Dear Friends,
This week at GCF we’ll be revisiting some themes that have emerged in the months since September: Sabbath, gratitude, rest, and the ways we mark the milestones of our lives. We want to create a deliberate opportunity to reflect on what has happened, what’s been accomplished, and what we’ve learned, both individually and together. We want to

Share food.
Thank God.

Thursday is the last GCF of the semester, and in the past I would have been inclined to call this the end of the year. We’ve often marked these occasions with farewells and blessings for those who are graduating or otherwise leaving us.

But that’s not actually where we find ourselves right now. Hardly any in our regular GCF community are graduating (please let us know if you are), and we’ve already been discussing and planning our continued summer gatherings for the past month. So what do we say at the beginning of April, with the flurries and the buds battling for dominance (fortunately we know who will win that struggle), classes ending, deadlines and exam marking looming, theses moving along (or just beginning), work continuing? Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF): Ending Well

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF) – Living Stones

Living Stones:
An Architect Reflects On Building Shalom

with special guest:
Craig Handy

– Bachelor of Applied Math (UWaterloo)
– Master of Architecture (UToronto)
– Master of Theological Studies (Regent College)
– Practicing architect

and in conversation, eating, reflection, discussion, and prayer with the GCF community

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Good news! Here’s this week’s introduction question in advance:

Craig writes: “Tell us about a place/space/building that comes to mind as somewhere tangible that announces ‘good news’. I suspect many places will likely have a strong connection to your personal story and I look forward to the descriptions we’ll hear. I hope with a little lead time you’ll be able to bring a photo or illustration so we can picture the places with word and image. Feel free to email me digital pictures as that is probably easiest. And if you are reading this but will not be at GCF, please send an image anyways – I’d love to see what places this evokes for you.” Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF) – Living Stones

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Dear friends,

This week at GCF we once again have the opportunity to hear and interact with a story.

Like many of our guests and story-tellers so far, this is a life story that doesn’t really follow any “traditional” trajectory.

But then, Joanna Manning is not your “traditional” Anglican priest (to be)!

And yet, in looking back and reflecting on her life, it is immediately apparent that God has been working through her and shaping her, leading Joanna “full circle” to this point in her life when, in her mid-sixties, she is preparing to be ordained as a Deacon (and then as a priest) in the Anglican Church.

Without giving too much away, here is just a sampling of the many roles and identities Joanna has experienced in her life:

Mother (and grandmother!)
Social Activist

I could elaborate on all of these, telling you about how Joanna left the religious orders after falling in love with a Jesuit priest, or about how conversations with women in Africa left her critical of the Roman Catholic stance on women and contraception, or about how her persistent calls for structural reform of the Roman Catholic Church caused her to lose her teaching job at York University, or about how she rose to national and international prominence as a writer and activist, calling on the Church to address the issues arising from the sexual abuse scandals that came to light in the 1980s in Canada… Read more Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Wine Before Breakfast

The Klu Klux Klan once moved into Riverdale.

That’s right, the KKK moved into the lower East end of Toronto back in the 80’s. And the church that I was part of back then organized a “Ban the Klan” rally. It was a profound act of inhospitality that I would repeat today. We embraced a Nimbyism that said in a clear voice that racism was not welcome in our backyard.

At the rally there was every progressive/leftist movement you could imagine. And in an act of hospitality to them we gave everyone a chance and the microphone.

“All union folk should ban the clan!”

“All gays and lesbians should ban the clan!”

“All anti-apartheid activist should ban the clan!”

But it wasn’t until late in the proceedings that a black person finally came to the microphone, and it wasn’t until that moment that a member of the church had finally addressed the crowd.

Sister Bernice was the pastor of that rockin’ black church that I walked by every Sunday night but never entered. This was one of those apostolic, Pentecostal, charismatic churches of the latter times.

And as Sister Bernice came to the podium, I gotta tell you, I was worried.

I mean, what was this woman going to say? And might she, well, “preach” the gospel to all these heathens in front of her?

Here’s what she said:

“When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi and asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say I am?’ some said John the Baptist, some said Elijah, and some said one of the prophets.

‘And who do you say I am?’ asked Jesus. And Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Then Jesus said, ‘That’s right, Peter, and flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, Peter, you are the rock on which I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against my church!‘”
Then she looked out at the crowd and said,
“I’m hear to tell you that the Klu Klux Klan are the gates of hell, and they will not prevail against the church of Jesus Christ!”

Sister Bernice left the stage to rapturous applause from all who were present.

I was right. This woman was going to preach the gospel. And I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a more eloquent or more radical proclamation of the gospel in my life.

The gates of hell will not prevail. Sister Bernice saw this as an attack from the forces of evil manifest in the KKK.

But I wonder if there is maybe another side to this. You see, gates don’t usually attack. They are usually defensive structures. They repel attack and secure those on the inside.

So I wonder whether Jesus was maybe thinking of something more offensive than defensive here. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church when the church attacks those gates.

It seems to me, friends, that we are called not just to resist the forces of evil, but we are called to go on the offensive against those forces.

That’s what we were doing that Saturday afternoon in Riverdale years ago. I pray that is what we do in every act of justice and compassion, every creative idea, every gesture of faithfulness of our lives.

May it be that in the breaking of the break and the pouring of the wine, we are storming the gates of hell every Tuesday morning.

I hope to see you this week at Wine Before Breakfast, in the face of hell.

Brother Andrew will serve the Eucharist,

Brother David will open the word,
Sister Jacqueline will lead us in prayer,
Sister Deb will lead us in song.

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

Dear friends,

As Geoff and I planned GCF for the month of March, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to wrap up the semester than by spending the next few weeks doing what has become characteristic of this community: sharing stories. As you know, we periodically invite members of GCF and some folks from outside the community to join us for an evening to tell us a bit about their lives-whether that be about academic pursuits or a passion for food, spiritual questions or life as a nun, travelling internationally or growing emotionally.

This week the first of those people will be sharing a bit of her story with us. Amber Aulen is a regular member of the GCF community who just completed her comprehensive exams for her PhD program in Russian Literature at U of T. Here’s a taste of what Amber will be talking about with us, in her own words:

“Since graduating from high school I have lived in eleven cities, spanning five countries and four US states.  Travel has been a crucial component in shaping my story throughout this time and as a sphere of activity whose vitality derives from the journey rather than the final destination it provides an appropriate framework for talking about the unexpected twists and turns of my life.  I would have predicted very few of the current realities of my life from the vantage point of my life circa 2001 (PhD in Russian literature?  Really?) and I will be reflecting on how I got from there to here…and where ‘here’ is – geographically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.”

As we begin the liturgical season of Lent tomorrow, we recall and live through Christ’s life and passion-His story.

What an appropriate time to continue to journey with us through the telling of and listening to our stories–starting with Amber’s story this week Thursday.

Looking forward to traveling with you!

Take care,

Wine Before Breakfast

Much depends on dinner.

Anyone at Wine Before Breakfast last week might remember that phrase. I must have said it a dozen times in my sermon, which is not bad for a ten minute homily.

Much depends on dinner, and it still depends on dinner as we come to WBB on Shrove Tuesday. Except, of course, we are talking about breakfast, not dinner.

And this week we meet a striking, and perhaps painful, irony.

You see in our reading from Matthew this week we meet two stories, both of which concern food.

First, there is a woman oddly identified as a Canaanite who asks Jesus for the healing of her daughter who is tormented by a demon. I’ll let Sara explain what is odd about that identification, but I’m struck by the culinary imagery in the story.

When Jesus rather rudely tells this “Canaanite” woman that he isn’t about to throw the food of the children to the dogs, she replies, “yes, but even the dogs get the crumbs from the table.”

Dogs get the crumbs.

This seems to catch Jesus short and he says that this woman has faith and her daughter is healed.

Dogs get crumbs from the table, and this Tuesday is International Woman’s Day.

Dogs get crumbs from the table, and this Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday when we eat a feast of rich and sweet foods at Wine Before Breakfast.

But the story goes on. It seems that once Jesus has healed this “Canaanite” woman’s daughter, once he lets her have the crumbs from the table, he gets even more generous.

I don’t know, but for some reason once this “Canaanite” confronts Jesus about the scope of his Kingdom, he starts healing all kinds of Gentile folk and then comes something that is a heck of a lot more than some crumbs from the table. Another feast in the wilderness. This time with 4000 folk (plus women and children!) at the party.

From crumbs to feast.

That’s where our story goes this week.

The feast needs food. Sweet food and rich food. Please clean out the cupboards and do some baking for the community.

So we move from crumbs to feast,
but then we also move from feast to crumbs.

That’s where we go this week. From the feast of Shrove Tuesday to the fasting and crumbs of Lent.

All “Canaanites” are welcome.

Wine Before Breakfast
Tuesday @ 7.22am
Wycliffe Chapel

Sara DeMoor is preaching,
Chris Dow is our Liturgist,
David Neelands will start the feast with wine and bread,
and the bandhood will likely sing a U2 song.

Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF)

The Graduate Christian Fellowship invites you to:


A Bible Study and Discussion
Revisiting themes and texts arising from our conversations about singleness

An evening of eating, reading, listening, discussing, laughing, praying, etc.

with the GCF community

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Chaplain’s office, Wycliffe College (basement)

6:00 – Dinner
7:00 (or so) – Something After Dinner – discussion, etc.



This week’s GCF will be a Bible study looking at some of the themes and passages that have come up in the course of our discussion about singleness. Throughout our various conversations we have mentioned, read, talked briefly about, or been prepared to discuss a number of biblical texts, but there have been so many other things to talk about as well, that the texts have not received the attention they need. This Thursday is our opportunity to address that.

Here are some of the possible themes and/or texts I have in mind:
– the importance / centrality of the body in the New Testament and Christianity:
– Jesus’ incarnation as God’s choosing to take on human physical form
– the metaphor of Jesus’ followers and the Church as “the body of Christ”
– the radical physicality – both actually and metaphorically – of the Last Supper / Eucharist
– Discipleship / the Church envisioned as a new family, superceding biological relations (parents, siblings, spouses, children)
– Christian ethical virtues as a framework for shaping how we express our sexuality
– Galatians 5 (Fruit of the Spirit), Ephesians 4, Philippians 2, Colossians 3

Let’s be clear right away that there’s no way we’re going to get to all of these texts / themes, and this isn’t even an exhaustive list. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll spend our entire time on one of the themes or passages, or look more briefly at a number of different ones. If you have a significant preference one way or the other, please let me know between now and Thursday evening.

What I’m much clearer about is the conviction that all of these texts have significant contributions to make toward our ongoing conversations, not only about singleness, but also more broadly about how best we can express ourselves as the sexual beings God has made us to be. I hope you will join us for that conversation, and that you will bring along any friends whom you think would benefit from being part of the conversation.