sheep

Amazing Grace

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 15: 1-10

About a year ago I buried one of our church’s founding members. Back in 1968, Archie McDonald and a handful of others started our congregation, in order to have a local church with membership policies that were not segregated. Archie was a professor and historian, ornery and rough-hewn, but he had a profound sense that it was only due to the grace of a loving God that he existed at all and only by God’s grace did our church exist. He knew what the dying priest knew in Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest, “It’s all grace.”

The very meaning of the word “grace” is “undeserved favor.” We do not deserve it. If it is deserved, then it is not grace and it is certainly not amazing.

Which is why Archie’s favorite hymn was “Amazing Grace.” As he said, “it is the one hymn most about me, especially the part about saving wretches and being found.” And he liked to call our congregation, the “Amazing Grace Baptist Church” because there was and continues to be a sense that we’re all lost yet we’ve been found by the loving Good Shepherd. Read more

sacrificed lamb

Believing and Proclaiming

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Sharing a household with beloved in-laws who watch TV regularly and don’t hear as well as I do, I have learned to turn away from a blasting televisions, as it strives to capture my attention with its show of urgency or of overwhelming sensation. Yesterday afternoon was somewhat of an exception. When my dear mother in law instructed me in a whisper to ‘turn on the TV’—she was on the phone at the time—I felt a sense of foreboding. As I pondered the clicker, I felt caught between my habit of flatly refusing such invitations to be informed—a habit rooted in a general distrust that what the TV anchors would express as urgent truly was—and a nagging sense that I could be neglecting a civic duty by not paying attention to the story. I turned it on long enough to get the gist of what happened at the Boston marathon, before turning my attention back to playing with my five year old daughter. Read more

van Eyck lamb

Lamb and Shepherd: The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The Reign of Christ
Christ the King

Ezekiel 34: 11-16
Ephesians 1: 15-23 OR 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Matthew 25: 31-46

There is a poster on the wall in the weight room of our local recreation centre where I go twice a week for strength training, along with some amazing 70 and 80 year olds (yes, at forty-six my nickname is “the kid”). I try not to look at the poster as it gets my goat, blithely proclaiming that the destination matters not, only the journey is important. Except, of course, the destination in large part determines the journey and without a destination the journey can get pretty lost and chaotic. This coming Sunday, Reign of Christ or Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday in this liturgical year, is set aside to highlight the destination of our journey together in Christian faith. Having come full circle and before we begin again a new Christian year, it is to remind us, with our hearts enlightened, of who we are and whose we are and of the hope to which Christ has called us. Read more

good_shepherd

Signs, Sheep, and Shepherds

Luke 15:1-10

Our church’s logo is a shepherd’s staff, based upon the parable of the lost sheep, along with Psalm 23 and the Good Shepherd of John 10. We’ve had this shepherd’s staff with our congregation’s name written beside it out front on our sign since 1979 and it is on our letterhead, Sunday order of worship, and website. This shepherd’s staff is a constant reminder to us and to others of our vocation – who we hope to be and are called to be. More than that, it always reminds us who God is.

Our congregation began in 1968 as a gathering for lost sheep, black sheep, burned-out and beaten-up sheep, with a few old goats thrown in, as well. A lot of us were lost, but here, by the grace of the Loving Shepherd, we’ve been found. Furthermore, because of our own experiences, we have sought to make this congregation a body, or flock, where other lost sheep can find a home. Read more

sheep-on-edge-of-cliff

Crash Course

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, (53-56)

Richard Dawkins, the famed British scientist and atheist, believes in Progress (with a capital “P”). He concedes the Shoah was a “temporary setback” for humanity, but nothing to fret about in the long run. In his view of history, religious faith is in full rout (though still, to his mind, terribly dangerous), material welfare is on the rise, and goodness and peace are coming in every way. Supremely confident in the power of Science (with a capital “S”), Dawkins assures his readers that, “our brains…are big enough to see into the future and plot long-term consequences.”

Progress has been a dogma of modernity since at least the time of Francis Bacon, and it has real staying power. It’s just a lot harder to believe in it now that Science and Technology (with a capital “T”) have shown themselves to be two-edged swords. Read more