A Preface to Baptism

IMG_1894One of the challenges I experience around baptism is how to remind those gathered that the sacrament of baptism is bigger than the person being baptized that day. Though one person is receiving the mark of baptism, as a liturgical act, baptism is also a communal event in which the Spirit immerses all who are gathered more fully into a baptismal way of life. Baptism is both an extension of God’s covenant to one more person and a renewal of God’s covenant with all of God’s people. Continue reading

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OPT: Slowing Down Worship

From the 2015 Candlelight Service at First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church.

From the 2015 Candlelight Service at First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church, Hamilton, ON. 

Over the past couple weeks, I have read several posts calling for a slower, more deliberate approach to worship. Chris Morton outlines a participatory approach to worship. Jonathan Aigner draws attention to how worship is something we do. Melissa Cain Travis observes a shift toward liturgy within protestant communities. This post on Other People’s Thought (OPT for short, see note below) highlights each of these three posts as potential resources for slowing down our communal worship.   Continue reading

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A Christmas Farewell

IMG_4066Now that the garbage and recycling have been picked up, only a few remnants of Christmas remain in our house. There’s that one card stuck on the wall still, the decorative fake tree guarding our front door, and a few remaining bites of Margaret’s speculaas cookies in the kitchen. Oh, and lest I forget, the string of lights above the gutter, waiting for a warmer day, when I can pull the ladder out to take them down. With New Year’s resolutions disciplining our bellies and school rhythms regulating our sleep schedules once again, our Christmas celebrations have been done around here for a few days already.

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Clear as Mud

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve made any New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I am opposed to them. It’s just that living within academic and church ministry year cycles, an early or late summer date tends to encourage contemplative assessments and reconfigurations of how I am going to live for the coming year. Continue reading

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Reimagining Sabbath

This post is part 3 of a 3-part reflection on Sabbath. Part 1 can be found here; Part 2 here.

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Having grown up in Michigan and Indiana, there are inevitably a few words in my vocabulary that sound funny in my current Canadian context. Admittedly, some of  it is the exaggerated nasal “a” that shows up from time to time, or the difficulty I have with saying ‘process’ with a British long-O sound. Even when I say it ‘correctly’ around here, people can still tell its not natural for me. But there is another set of uniquely pronounced words in my vocabulary that simply reflect a misplaced emphasis. The most obvious one is insurance. Most folks, place the emphasis on the second syllable, in-SUR-ance, and enunciate all three syllables. But not me, somewhere along the way I started to place my emphasis on the first syllable, followed by a contracting of the last two syllables as if the word only has two syllables instead of three: IN-sur’nce.

Too often, I’ve come to realize, our Sabbath practices have been like my funny sounding words and misplaced emphases. Even when we manage to adhere to the expected standards, its obvious something is still off.

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Sabbath (Dis)Comforts

This post is part 2 of a 3-part reflection on Sabbath. Part 1 can be found here.

My Sabbath experiences growing up were not as restrictive as most of my friends. My parents encouraged us to slow down and refrain from work, but did not define that rest by inactivity. So while we did not make our beds, run the vacuum, or mow the grass on Sundays, we had the freedom to ride bikes, go swimming, and go out to eat. Sabbath was in many ways like a second Saturday with less errands and responsibilities and the addition of one (sometimes two) worship services. All in all, Sundays were pretty relaxed, comfortable days. Continue reading

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Sabbath

Sabbath.IMG_2631

For the last several weeks, I’ve wanted to write in this space again and I’ve been wondering what my first word would be as I re-engaged this setting. Until the last few days, Sabbath was not even in the top ten list of topics I was considering.

There has been plenty of other stuff churning in the media and in me. Continue reading

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Christmas Day! Jesus Christ is Born!

* This post concludes a series of Advent devotionals that was posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Christmas Day: December 25 – Jesus Christ: God with Us!

Our Context   

What more can we say? God has entered our darkness and turned it into light. We were hopeless; but in Jesus Christ, God has filled us with an overflowing hope. We were without peace; but in Jesus Christ, God has enveloped us in his all-encompassing shalom. We were without joy; but in Jesus Christ, God has given us the gift of a joy that endures all circumstances in eager anticipation of Jesus Christ’s return. We desperately needed to be loved; and in Jesus Christ, God has lavished upon us the glorious riches of his love.  Jesus is the life that lights our way!  Continue reading

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Advent: Day 25

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Wednesday 24 December                   

Read: Isaiah 65:17-25

(light four candles)

Reflection

Have you noticed what’s missing from the nativity scenes that adorn our mantels? Blood, dirt, and manure. Mary has just given birth in a back room used for the animals! Yet, Mary’s clothes inevitably fall gracefully down her side with pleated folds protecting her modesty. Did she do a quick change of clothes after the messiness of birthing a baby? And her smiling face looks so freshly washed – no sweaty, dirty smudges, not a hair matted to forehead or cheek! Joseph stands peacefully by her side, though they’ve just finished a journey and his wife is giving birth to a child that is not his own. Continue reading

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Advent: Day 24

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Tuesday 23 December                

Read: Isaiah 61:1-3

(light four candles)

Reflection

Each Sunday in Advent last year and this year our church has proclaimed the Good News through a simple call and response between our children and the adults. The children gather at the front of the sanctuary. While facing the rest of those who have gathered that morning, they declare in a loud voice: “Jesus is coming!” To which the adults respond: “He’s almost here!” This simple act reminds us that our act of remembering Jesus’ birth is intended to deepen our anticipation and longing for the day when Jesus will return.

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