Saturday, March 28, 2015


    Tomorrow will be, in hundreds of thousands of churches around the world, Palm Sunday. There will be songs of triumph and the welcoming of Jesus as Saviour, King, Messiah and, the deliverer of forgiveness from our sins. In many churches, small palms will be distributed and many (if any are available) children will be involved. Jesus will be portrayed as a conquering hero, welcomed by the masses.
   Of course, the whole picture has less to do with the reality of two-thousand years ago, than with our reality right now.
   We do so much need to make a king or divine figure out of our heroes. In that, we are the  same as the people back then. They needed a Messiah, a king who would rid the land of the hated Romans, a king who would be righteous and do the will of Yahweh, who again, would rule over the land as a true ' Kingdom of God'.
    Several times the people had tried to make Jesus accept the role as messiah. Most of his disciples had urged him to 'go for the crown', so to speak. Most had simply not accepted the fact that his vision and calling did not follow that road of violence. He had not been able to convince them of his Other Road and Way of love. Even his most trusted followers could see no other way than the usual.
   His entrance to Jerusalem was no triumph of the will of God, but an admission of failure, for Jesus  was very alone as he sat there on the donkey, being welcomed by a crowd that was full of adoration and worship, celebrating a victory that would only come with violence and more hatred, everything that he was against. Had he ever asked for adoration and worship? Had he ever asked to be more than a voice and prophet? Hadn't he always pointed toward Yahweh as the giver of life?
  In every way, he must have viewed his surroundings as failure, proof of the smallness of people and  his inability to convince them of the larger vision and love of God. He had accepted, at last, the cloak of the messiah, knowing that only if he accepted it, and then rejected it, would the people have a chance of knowing and understanding that that path of power and violence was not the path of God.
   But, here we are, once more, still denying the reality of what happened, joining, not Jesus and his reality, but of the people then, once more living in denial and illusion, in our own wants, needing Jesus to be our messiah, or even better, a God, to do it all for us. Not one who urges us to become God's children ourselves, to take for ourselves the power and responsibilities that are offered us.
   There are so many songs that I simply will not be able to sing tomorrow morning. I will be there, even in the choir. For me, it will be a day of mourning, but I will still be there, surrounded by people, good people all, joining in the praise and celebration. I am one of them, but I will feel so different, for I know that their way of thinking is part of the problem that is so limited and is keeping the simple message of Jesus of Nazareth from reaching the world today.
   I will share the sorrow and tears that Jesus shed, even while others shouted with joy, hoping that some day, even one day soon, they will begin to understand the deadliness of their ways and the hope and love that is their's if only their eyes and ears will open to God's love and call.
  But for now, it is still the tears, for the churches simply will not see and try to understand.

Monday, March 2, 2015


                                      A VISIT TO A WONDERFUL, BUT DYING CHURCH

     Yesterday I left our little island and took the short drive to Kingston, to attend a larger church and experience something a bit different. I chose a congregation that I knew had once been a 'flag-ship' of sorts, know across the country, even. I am aware of the trends in general, of  how all of the 'mainline' churches have declined drastically in the last couple of generations, for I have been part of that picture, but it really hit home to me yesterday.
   Firstly, let me say how welcomed I was, how I felt right at home. The service, music and message were good, loving and sincere. In no way am I finding fault with those hard working and wonderful people who are doing their best to support and continue their beautiful church and traditions.
   But, it is dying. They know it, for their average Sunday worship attendance last year was under fourty; ten members had died or left while none had joined and there was one baptism. There is no need to dwell on other factors.
   It was pure coincidence that the annual report had just come out, in preparation for the up-coming annual meeting, so I was able to get an updated picture of congregational life. It is probably fairly representative of hundreds of others across North America and Europe.
   The annual  budget of about $180,000  is not being met by fund raising or givings. Most events are measured by how much money they generate. Two thirds of the budget goes to meet salaries.
   I know well how hard it is to give up or to radically change habits and traditions that have been part of our lives. I understand how the members of this and the  hundreds other 'sister' congregations, year after year, decide to not to decide on any real changes, let alone seek with new eyes, ears and hearts, the Call of the God.  Most congregations are simply choosing to die in their old ways, instead of choosing life, for them and others. I understand this. Assisted suicide is now legal. But it is not necessary.
   Instead of the usual way, what if the people of a congregation question the traditional need to have paid personnel, including a professional preacher? The people would have to  do things for themselves, learn how to share and do. What if they would actually begin to pool their stuff, homes, skills, gifts, just as the early followers of Jesus did in the beginning. What if they started to give away all that they could, to neighbours and strangers in need, sharing housing, food, all that they had?
   Just imagine the scandal, amazement and attention their actions would arouse. Students from Queens would come a-running; they would have to defend their actions in court because of the by-laws broken. Wonderful!
   The possibilities are endless once the decision for life is taken.  What is most sad, is that this one decision is simply not being made.  A people who have spent their lives worshiping and operating in a certain way are still assuming that those ways are equal to faithfulness for them.  They alone can determine that.  Again, this is understandable.  But again, all of creation is the loser, for the lesson we are being given by churches is that God is as small as these people and their dying traditions. This, of course, is not true.
    We can only hope that very soon, there will arise people who will join in a life/worship/faith style that is true to the God of Love and Creation that addresses the reality of today.  It will flourish.More importantly, it will be Joy, Fun, and a challenging life.