Monday, December 27, 2010

Church History

Adult Sunday School Community Groups

Winter/ Spring study

Church History in Plain Language

Led by our Pastors:
Mark Graham
Elijah Mwitanti
Gerry McDermott

The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke

Study begins Wednesday, January 5 

In the Community Room on the upper level


Friday, December 24, 2010

Come My Light

Prayer of St. Dimitri of Rostov:

Come, my Light,
and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life,
and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician,
and heal my wounds,
Come, Flame of divine love,
and burn up the thorns of my sins,
Kindling my heart
with the flame of your love.
Come, my King,
rule the throne of my heart,
For you alone are my King
and my Lord.

The Pain And Hope Of Beauty

There is an ache or sometimes even a stabbing pain felt when I encounter beauty.  From what I've read of the poets, and others who write of these things, this is not an odd occurrence, but rather, I think, a common one.  It is as if something or someone wonderful has been lost and there is a deep longing to be reunited.  As a Christian, this makes sense from the standpoint of the fall.  Humankind has lost the deep unencumbered communion with God, and so we are reminded of the depth of this loss when we experience this aspect of him reflected in his creation.  Most of our lives are spent in the mundane, doing what needs to be done to get on with life, over and over again.  This is not a bad thing, but there is a sense that there is so much more.  As Lewis said,
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
I've been thinking of this as we come near to Christmas.  How Jesus arrived in the mundane, giving up the glory that was inherently his.  We like to doctor up the story, either in the direction of the ethereal, almost otherworldly birth with no pain and Mary serenely looking over baby Jesus all beautiful, neat and clean with light emanating from their faces, or in telling that he was born in a barn with animals and mayhem all around, along with a nasty innkeeper who wouldn't give Mary and Joseph a room for the night.

The facts are just a bit too boring and mundane for our desires.  Mary and Joseph were probably staying in a relative's home in the lower level where the stores and animals would have been kept.  (The Greek word translated 'inn' in Luke 2 can also be translated 'upper room') We know there is a manger from the Gospel of Luke, but we don't know if there were any animals around.  We don't know how long they were there before Mary gave birth, though the story is often portrayed in our movies and books that they made it to the 'stable' just in time.

God has chosen largely to work in the mundane.  Jesus came into this world, like many babies before and after, in a house with two parents who loved him.  Mary and Joseph were working out their life in the context of their faith and vocation in the culture in which they were born, just as we do with our lives.  In the midst of all of this are sometimes signs, such as the beauty of a piece of music, or a dream with a message, but signs are pointers.  They point us to the one who has returned to glory and splendour, even as he is preparing us to enter such a state.
1 John 3:2
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Have You Been Shocked?

Here is a lecture by one of my favourite living philosophers and authors, Peter Kreeft, given at Saddleback Church.  His lecture is taken mostly from his book, Jesus Shock, though he leaves out the most Roman Catholic elements of the book, he engages the ideas that both Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics can agree upon, namely, that meeting Jesus will change you and your world.  He is not neutral, he is not safe, but he is good, true and beautiful.

There's a great deal of  'housekeeping' at the start of the video, so if you just want the lecture, begin at minute 16:00.

H/T Scot McKnight.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dear, Dear Joseph

There has always been a soft spot in my heart for Joseph.  We observe his kind heart, even before he's let in on the secret of Mary's child in the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 1:18-25
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
There are times when God just doesn't seem to make sense.  Why put Joseph through the torment of thinking Mary had been unfaithful?  Why put Mary in such a questionable position?  I don't have any good answers for this, but that God works in our failings and weaknesses, and sometimes even in our strength.  He chose Joseph, who showed himself a man of kindness and character, which of course he knew him to be.  A man who listened to God, who paid attention to his dreams and didn't hesitate.  This is the man whose obedience and quick action will later save Jesus from Herod's soldiers.  This is the man who would raise God's son, who would raise God incarnate.

This last Sunday in Advent, I'll say a special prayer of thanksgiving for Joseph, and remember his kindness.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Candle Of Joy

Today we light the candle of joy on the Advent wreath.  Mary could teach us much about hopeful, joyful waiting.  Here is her Magnificat.
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants for ever, even as he said to our fathers.
Luke 1:46-55
Not only does Mary wait, but all of Israel has been waiting, looking for their redeemer and Messiah.  There is joy in the annunciation and in the trusted, hopeful expectation.  We have been told of the Messiah's return, when all will be put to rights.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, a time of rejoicing.  May we be as joyful in our waiting as Mary was in hers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Snowman

I suppose many things triggered my recalling this lovely little film:  the recent snowfall, the advent of Christmas and a discussion with my daughter, Olivia, about the Aurora Borealis.

It was adapted from a picture book by Raymond Briggs in 1982.  The illustrations are simple and beautiful, as is the music.  There is no dialog, only a few words spoken at the beginning as a way of introduction.  Music and action tell the bittersweet story;  a story of joy, wonder and loss.

Here is a scene which includes the only song in the score.  Be sure to enlarge it to full screen.

A thank you to my friend Maggie, who introduced me to this film many years ago.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Books

Every Advent, I gather all our Christmas books and place them in a large basket in the living room.  For quiet afternoons or evenings, it is nice to not have to go searching for that "certain" Christmas book that seems to make this holiday more complete.  Through the years, I've collected various ones, from craft idea books to children's and short stories, to novels.  I thought I'd share some of our family's collection.  There may be some you would like to share and I invite you to in the comments.

I'll begin with books geared toward children, with the reminder of what C.S. Lewis said about children's books.
A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.
The first was like finding a treasure.  It is a collection of stories Tolkien wrote for his children as Father Christmas over many years, complete with his illustrations.  It is
Letters From Father Christmas
I have a hardback version from 1995, which presents his letters individually to be removed from envelops pasted in the book, very much like the Jolly Postman books.  Like I said, a real treasure.

Speaking of the Jolly Postman, there is
The Jolly Christmas Postman
 This book is great fun and quite clever as it incorporates characters from beloved fairy tales.

Another children's book which is short but quite sweet is
Santa's Favorite Story
 For an older child, there is
Emma's Christmas Wish
Of course we had to have this!  In fact, I believe we were given two when our eldest daughter, Emma, was still quite young.

This is a good one with a bit of tension.
The Story of Holly and Ivy

A couple of older ones that are quite enjoyable are
The Birds' Christmas Carol
Turkey for Christmas
There are the short stories of George MacDonald
The Christmas Stories of George MacDonald
And Celtic short stories
A Celtic ChristmasA Celtic Christmas: Classic Tales from the Emerald Isle
Of course there's Dickens with
A Christmas Carol
and the sweet
Cricket on the Hearth
Here's one about getting the great Saint Nicholas right.
The True Saint Nicholas
 There are of course picture books which tell of the whole reason for Christmas.
The Story of Christmas
The Story of Christmas
 Of course, I would highly recommend reading about the Nativity right out of the Gospel of Luke.

Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Christ and it is appropriate that we think of these things when we recall and celebrate his incarnation.  One of the ways to do this is to prepare and light an Advent wreath.  A very helpful book to use  in this preparation is
We Light the Candles
 Well, though not a complete list of our Christmas books, this is a start.  There's one that is on my list which I have not purchased yet, but perhaps will soon.
It is
The Glorious Impossible
 It is indeed the time to reflect upon and celebrate the Glorious Impossible!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Silly Things Grown-ups Say

“That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.”
                                                                                              -Liam Neeson 

I guess he's forgotten this from the stories.

"Who is Aslan?" asked Susan.
"Aslan?" said Mr. Beaver, "Why don't you know?  He's the King.  He's the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here you understand.  Never in my time or my father's time. But the word has reached us that he has come back.  He is n Narnia at this moment.  He'll settle the White Queen all right.  It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus."
"She won't turn him into stone too?"  said Edmund.
"Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!" answered Mr. Beaver with a great laugh.  "Turn him into stone?  If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it'll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her.  No, no.  He'll put all to rights as in says in the old rhyme in these parts:-
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring
You'll understand when you see him."
"But shall we see him?" asked Susan.
"Why, Daughter of Eve, that's what I brought you here for.  I'm to lead you where you shall meet him, " said Mr. Beaver.
"Is-is he a man?" asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly.  "Certainly no.  I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea.  Don't you know who is the King of Beasts?  Aslan is a lion-the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man.  Is he-quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake,"  said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver.  "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good.  He's the King, I tell you."

Mentor?  Um, no, and any child who reads The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would never make that mistake.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Do You Know Jack?

The way one gets to know a writer is obviously, to read what he or she writes.  Perhaps one reason so many people have a great affection for Lewis is because he wrote so much!  From fantasy, literary fiction, apologetics, theology, autobiography, and more, there is a great deal to glean.  Lewis, being a prolific author and one that wrote on spiritual and theological matters, viewed this role as a great responsibility.  In doing so, he took on the obligation of corresponding with his readers, scheduling two to three hours every morning for replying to the many letters he received.  Because of this we also have a great many letters of his, both from his personal relationships, but also from his readership, which was vast.  We who have come after his life on Earth are blessed that so much of his correspondence has been saved and published.  Oftentimes a great quote of his will come from his letters, rather than his published works.

The first compilation of some of Jack's (as he was referred to by friends and family) correspondence, was, Letters of C.S. Lewis.  This was followed by Letters to an American Lady, C.S. Lewis' Letters to Children, The Latin Letters of C.S. Lewis, and eventually, three large volumes of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis.  I have not read all of these, but I have read Letters of C.S. Lewis, his Letters to Children, and some of the Collected Letters.  These add a whole different dimension to understanding his thoughts and development as a person and of his faith.

Many other writers, fascinated by this man have written biographies or analysis of his works.  Some that I can recommend, beginning with the biographies, are:  Tolkien and C.S. Lewis:  The Gift of Friendship, Remembering C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table, and Jack:  A Life of C.S. Lewis.  For analysis:  C.S. Lewis as Philosopher, Planet Narnia, C.S. Lewis Companion and Guide, and C.S. Lewis for the Third Millennium. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one from which I can personally endorse.  They all have their points of view, some of the writers are Roman Catholic and some are Protestant which at times comes through, but all are beneficial.

There have also been documentaries which include:  The Magic Never Ends, The Life of C.S. Lewis, and The Life of C.S. Lewis:  Through Joy and Beyond.

The film Shadowlands, written by William Nicholson has been produced twice, once for the BBC which stars Joss Ackland and the other for the big screen starring Anthony Hopkins. There really is a great deal of difference between the two, and I would by far recommend the BBC version.  The story begins at Lewis' meeting of his future wife, Joy Davidman.

For a complete bibliography of his writings, see here.