Thursday, April 27, 2006

I hab a code

My throat is sore and my nose is interchangeably running or stuffed and my head feels like it has been packed full of rags which have been soaking in old milk.

I feel sick.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Evangelicals and Mennonites and Anglicans (oh my)!

Elliot and Diedre have both posted recently about Mennonites and Evangelicals, and it got me thinking.

I met Jeremiah on the bus recently. He had some things to say about the Church—about where it is going and where it has been.

Jeremiah is in his late fifties. He’s missing a few teeth, and his breath is unpleasant. His grammar is flawed and his logic is questionable. He’s in love with Jesus. As we rode the bus together, he told me earnestly about the Anglican church, and how it is failing in its mandate to witness to the world. He told me about a preacher he knew who believed in miracles and preached about life-changing faith. He told me about God's work in the church.

I've spent a lot of time in the past few years with people who would call themselves intellectuals. CMU was my church when I first came to Winnipeg, and it has constituted almost my entire experience with Mennonites. Through CMU, I gained a lot of respect for the Mennonite church. At CMU I found people who took their faith seriously, who thought deeply about the challenges of Christian faith, and about how we should live in light of that faith. I found people who argued passionately a Christian ecological stewardship of this earth. I found people who for intelligent and complex reasons were convinced that God calls us to make peace in every way, and that as Christians pacifism is a necessity.

I also found people for whom "Was Hitler redeemable?" and "Is an American soldier redeemable?" are questions of equivalent difficulty, and the strong instinctive answer to both is "no". I found people who look down their noses at "stupid fundamentalists", who exhibit a hostility which is difficult to call by any name other than hatred for people who take the Bible literally. I was introduced to a two churches (MB and MC Canada) with so much hostility for each other that I was surprised that they had any left for the rest of the world. But they did. I found people who, in between statements on pacifism and reconciliation breathed venom for the Billy Graham and divided their own churches. I found people who would have utter disdain for Jeremiah and his kind of Christianity.

My church now is St. Margaret's Anglican. It contitutes most of my experience with the Anglican church. In the Anglican church I found people with a love of the sacramental mysteries, who feel that there is more in heaven and on earth than is dreamt of on our philosophy. I found people with a deep respect for the symbolism of the church. I found a church that produces art and literature. I found a litergy with generations worth of insight and wisdom written into it, and a church structure that is carefully and intelligently designed to be meaningful on more levels than we may be aware of. At St. Margaret's I found preaching of a kind I'd never experienced before, intellectually challenging and engaging. David quotes the Bible and Barth and Luther and Augustine and Plato and Bonhoffer, and other people I would never have heard of at the AGC church I grew up in. People whose names I probably still wouldn't recognize if I hadn't been to CMU for four years. At St. Margaret's I found people who engage their faith on an intellectual level, and who truely try to love the Lord their God with all thier mind.

And I've found a church that teaches (implicitly, mind you) that education improves a person's worth. I've found a church where intellectual posturing and condescention are par for the course. I've found people who genuinely believe that if you haven't read Barth's dogmatics then you are failing in your mandate as a Christian. I've found people who are sure that our salvation lies in our ability to think through theological problems. I've found people with utter disdain for fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. St. Margaret's allows itself to be evangelical in theory by thinking of themselves as smart evangelicals, and behind our smiles we laugh at the stupid people who think that the world was created in seven days.

But Christ does not teach smug satisfaction. Christ teaches love. Jesus was much harder on the intellectual elite than he was on the uneducated. And demononational rivalry is the great shame of the Christian church. We are one body. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists also serve in the body of Christ.

Theology is important. An intellectual engagement with God and with his Christ is important. Pacifism and social conciousness is important. But all this is not the Gospel, and no one will be saved by their theology, or by their works. Salvation comes from God, not from us.

Both Mennonites and Anglicans have failed and continue to fail. As do Fundamentalists and Baptists and Presyterians and Pentacostals. This doensn't make them hypocrates, though. It is possible to believe in something and still fail to live up to it. It's called "sin", and it's what we should expect.

And salvation comes from God. It comes for Mennonites and for Anglicans. It came for Jeremiah, and it comes for me.


Friday, April 21, 2006


In Jan's recent post of ten things she likes and ten things she doesn't, she mentions Superstore.

I thought I would add my voice of disapproval. Superstore is a place of pain and suffering. If Dante were writing in contemporary Winnipeg, he would base one of the circles of hell on Superstore.

Let's, just for the moment, overlook the fact that Superstore has carts three feet wide and aisles three feet-two-inches wide. Let's forgive them for having an organizing scheme which was obviously designed by someone with less that a second-grade education, on hallucinogenic drugs, while having a stroke, and being beaten around the head with a shovel—producing a store where chicken broth is found in four different places, and cocoa is found nowhere. Let's pretend that we don't mind that the staff stand in the middle of the tiny aisles with their giant carts and discuss video games, and that if you ask them where to findavocadoss they look at you with a blank expression as if you inventing words. The real unpleasantness of Superstore is that everyone there—customers and staff alike—are in a foul, confrontational, angry mood. You can't even pull into the parking lot without being honked at. People in Superstore cut each other off, scowl at each other, snap at each other, roll their eyes at each other, and I can only assume, occasionally break into actual violence. I've never witnessed Superstore violence myself, because I do everything I can to avoid setting foot there, but it seems reasonable to assume, given the general mood, that it erupts from time to time. That place is a powder-keg.

We went shopping there the other day, and once we got there we realized that the carts take a loonie, and all we had was four quarters. So I went to the service desk to ask for a loonie. She told me that the service people were naccustomedmed to providing any actual SERVICE to customers, and sent me to the greeter. The greeter stood unnecessarily close to me and told me that he didn't give change. He sent me to the service desk. The service desk woman give me my loonie, but seemed mightily annoyed by it. I walked past the greeter, loonie in hand, and he stopped me, keeping me from leaving the store to walk deep into the parking lot where the carts are kept (because why would they do anything so silly as keepicartsrts in the store?). "Do you need change?" he asked me. It took all my self restraint to keep from stabbing him in the eye, and then kicking him in the crotch while he was distracted. Less than a minute into my Superstore trip, and I was contemplating violence. And everyone knows what a pacifist I am.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Secret of the Easy Yoke

I could hear the church bells ringing
They pealed aloud your praise
The members' faces were smiling
With their hands outstretched to shake
It's true, they did not move me
My heart was cold and tired
Their perfect smiles annoyed me
I could not find you anywhere

Would someone please tell me the story
Of sinner ransomed from the fall
I still have never seen you
And some days I don't love you at all

The devoted were wearing bracelets
To remind them why they came
Some concrete motivation
When the abstract could not do the same
But if all that's left is duty
I'm falling on my sword
At least then, I would not serve
An unseen, distant Lord

Would someone please tell me the story
Of sinner ransomed from the fall
I still have never seen you
And some days I don't love you at all

If this is only a test,
I hope that I'm passing
Cause I'm losing steam
But I still want to trust you

Peace, be still
Peace, be still
-Pedro the Lion

Monday, April 17, 2006

Holy Week

This post is really a continuation of this post, (and this one, actually) if anyone cares.

As other people have mentioned, Holy Saturday is a confusing time for the church. My own thoughts on the subject are mostly covered at the end of my first post on Holy Week. I think that there is a terrible tendancy to undermine the solemnity of Holy Saturday and to skip it. It is the whole point, the whole appeal, and the whole power of holy days and festivals that they have a discrete beginning. We cannot, during Holy Saturday, truly forget that we know the story of the resurrection, but we can pretend. And we can respect the sanctity of Easter by waiting until Easter is truly upon us to celebrate.

Jan and I went to two Holy Saturday Easter Vigils. Both were excellent services, but I think neither were sufficiently respectful of the day. More on that later.

The first service was at 5:00pm. It began in darkness in the basement, as candles were lit from a new fire. It was an Easter Vigil, and it was a service of confirmation. Five people were confirmed. Confirmation is a public affirmation of commitment to God, a renewal and personal claiming of the promises made at baptism. It was very exciting. The service itself was joyful and energetic, with more contemporary music than is usual at St. Margaret's. It was a nice change, although I found that the congregation wasn't quite sure how to react to upbeat, uptempo music. The bishop and David tried to get people clapping, but without much success.

The evening service was darker and more sombre. It was also an Easter Vigil, with a service of confirmation. The service was held in darkness, as we waited for the rising of the Lord. When the bishop said "Alleluia, Christ is risen!" and we replied "The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia" the lights came on in the sanctuary, and it was followed by a singing of Alleluia. It was quite powerful and quite moving.

Both services were excellent. However, the first service was overly joyful for early evening of Holy Saturday. In prempted the rising of Jesus, and celebrated the resurrection while we should still be waiting. The second service was much more appropriate, but it also jumped the gun a little by celebrating the resurrection at about 11:00. Although I can understand the practical reasons why this wasn't the case, I think that ideally an Easter Vigil should celebrate the resurrection at midnight, when it is Sunday. It also adds weight to the Alleluia if the church has followed the tradition of not using the word alleluia at all during lent.

These objections are relatively minor. Happily, the Anglican church has a whole season of Lent to prepare and to wait so as to strengthen, underscore and emphasise the joyful celebration of Easter. It does seem a little unfortunate to jump the gun, however, even by a few hours.

The Easter Sunrise service was beautiful (and comparatively short), and the 10:30 Easter Morning service was completely joyful and exuberant, and included a great sermon by David on (of all things) Jesus' death and resurrection. In a harmony with other intelligent people, he talked about the fact and the fiction of Jesus' death and resurrection. Jan summed it up this way:

Jesus was dead, to begin with, there is no doubt whatever about that. Jesus was as dead as a door-nail. There is no doubt that Jesus was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

Jesus's death is indisputable, and the religious leaders were afraid that his disciples would steal the body. But theft was the second least likely thing to happen to that body. The Romans could have posted a blind little girl as a guard and it wouldn't have mattered, because the disciples lacked the stomach, the will, the foresight and the intelligence to steal Jesus' body.

Of course THE least likely thing to happen to that body did happen. Jesus rose from the dead. The guards were not there to keep disciples out, but to keep Jesus in. And the Romans could have posted the entire Roman army as a guard and it wouldn't have mattered, because no power on this earth could have kept Jesus in that tomb, separated from his world.

Jesus really was dead. And he really did rise. No tricks. No fraud.

And now Lent is over. Our preparation has ended, and the firstfruit has come. Our mourning is over and it is time for joy. Our fasting is over and now is the time of great feasting. The debt has been erased, the ransom has been paid up in full, death has been robbed of its victory and we are assured of life everlasting.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Christ is Risen

He is risen indeed. Alleluiah!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Churchy churchy church church


It is Holy Week.

This is the time of year when I am most glad to be in a Liturgical church. So far I have attended four services this week. I will likely attend two today, and three tomorrow. And that's exactly how I want it.

St. Margaret's does Holy Week very, very well.

Thursday was Maundy Thursday. Maundy Thursday is a commemoration of the day when Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. It is the day when Jesus was arrested and handed over to those who would kill him. It is the day he was abandoned by his disciples.

The Bishop of Rupert's Land was at St. Margaret's, and he washed the feet of some people who are being confirmed. In this way, the Bishop renewed his own service of God by serving his church. In this way, the Bishop acted out his discipleship by imitating Christ.

Our rector David gave an excellent sermon about excommunication, in which he made the point that excommunication is the Bishop's responsibility, because to those who do not discern the body of Christ, communion can be fatal. On Maundy Thursday, when Christ instituted his communion, we would do well to remember that while it is a holy sacrament open to all, it is a holy sacrament, and should not be done lightly. The torturer cannot share communion with the tortured. The oppressor shares communion with the oppressed to his own peril. And the Bishop must remove communion from the oppressor, lest communion be turned into a sword.

At the end of the service, the all the clergy and lay-leaders removed their albs surpicles and stoles, and left the Lord's Supper on the alter. They abandoned the body of Christ, abandoned their office, and left, and the church was made dark. From the back of the church, Psalm 22 was sung, and the altar was slowly stripped, piece by piece. The cross was covered with a dark shroud.

Yesterday at the morning Good Friday service, they were still not wearing their albs, but only a black cassock. The service was excellent, with the best choral music I have heard this year, three excellent meditations by David, and the passion according to the Gospel of John read in full. David's meditations were on the problem of evil, and a Christian response. Christians, says David, cannot ever make peace with evil. We cannot explain evil philosophically to say that it was in some way necessary. We cannot argue that darkness is needed to understand light. The Bible does not support such arguments. Darkness is not necessary for light to exist. Evil is not necessary for good to exist. The Bible offers no philosophical explanation of evil. What the Bible does offer evil is opposition. In Christ, the Bible offers us hope. In the cross we have a God who suffers with us, and in the ressurection we have triumph over evil. Good never had a beginning, and will never have an end, but evil did have a beginning, and it will have an end. Amen.

In the afternoon, Jan and I helped lead a walk through the Passion for families. It was very tangable and tactile, and in the end much more meaningful and moving than I expected it to be. We followed Jesus into a tomb, and then followed him out again.

Then Jan and I skipped the evening Good Friday service to go to have supper at the Olive Garden—which is our Good Friday tradition.

And now it is Holy Saturday. Jesus is dead and buried, and today we wait. We wait in mournful sadness, and we wait in joyful anticipation, but our joy does not overcome our sorrow yet. Though we know that Sunday is coming, and we cannot pretend that we don't—though we cannot help but see the crucifiction in the light of the resurection, and therefore is it a Good Friday—yet it is not Sunday yet. But soon.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Life as a Clown

Life is strange.

The eccentricities of my life and past are so familiar to me that they have mostly stopped being surprising. I don't even bother to tell people, because on some level I assume that they know. But life keeps moving on, and I keep meeting new people who don't know my stories. And one day I look up and I discover that even my very close friends don't know things about me that are pretty basic, just because it has never come up.

I worked for several years as a professional clown. I haven't done it in a full-time way for a few years, but there was a time when that was my job. I made enough money to pay for a trip to Mexico. I made enough to pay for my first year of university.

When I was in high school, my older brother got a job as a clown on the street. He was hired by a florist to stand in a clown costume, wave at traffic and draw attention to their store. He had applied for a job as a cashier, but they were hiring for a clown, and since he knew how to juggle he thought it might be fun. He was miserable. I used to go visit him every day to keep him company. I would ride my bicycle down to his work with my roller blades in my back pack, and then he would ride my bike home, towing me on my roller blades. It was fun.

I was there almost every day, and the owner of the florist got to know me, and when my brother left for university, she offered me the job instead. I couldn't juggle, or do anything clown-like. What the heck. I thought. I don't NEED the money, so if I hate it I will quit and it won't matter.

I spent eight hours a day, five days a week that summer practicing my juggling. By the end of the summer, I was very good. I could juggle balls, clubs, rings, knives and torches. I could do tricks like under the leg, behind the back. I could juggle one handed, I could eat an apple while juggling it. I was very good.

My parents bought me a unicycle for my birthday, and I taught myself to ride it. I made myself a pair of stilts, I taught myself to make balloon animals, and I started to get bored with interacting only with traffic.

And somehow people started to get my phone number. I never advertised, but I would get phone calls asking me to do parties or special events. I had a blast. I spent months developing my propless clowning, until I was fairly sure I could spend a few hours happily walking around a party without any juggling balls or balloons and could still be funny and fun. I practiced storytelling, and developed a few clown skits.

I don't do much clowning anymore, but I would like to. Maybe I'll try to get a busking license this summer, and see what I can do.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Diamond Ring

You said that you would not love me last summer
And you said that you would not love me last spring
But I thought that I could change your mind by autumn
Especially when I bought that diamond ring

But you still said No
You would not have me
You still said No, No, No

I heard that you've been sleeping with your old friends
And I heard when each one left it broke your heart
I told you then that I would never leave you
And I told you that I loved you from the start

But you still said No
You would not have me
You still said No, No, No

Even though you haven't any answers
You still think that you don't need anyone
To save you from the mess that you've created
And even when I sent my only son

You still said No
You would not have me
You still said No, No, No

-Pedro the Lion

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pedegogical Efficiency

I am back at the university. Yay.

My first class on Tuesday was Psychology of Learning, which has been one of the better classes this year. The prof told us that he was going to be going away for a few weeks, and couldn't get anyone to replace him, so the next two classes were cancelled. Then he decided that we would be done a week earlier than the syllibus indicated. Then he let us out an hour early.

And then try to tell me that this class is even remotely useful. That what we are doing is valuable. And this is typical of the faculty of education. My second class of Tuesday remains a mystery to me. I still cannot tell you what it is about, and I cannot name a single thing I have learned.

Gah. Get me out. Make it over. I just want to teach!