you can pre-register (and maybe win some swag) at: Reformation and the City
you can pre-register (and maybe win some swag) at: Reformation and the City
Here are three examples I wrote for students. The assignment is to write a forgery, using a contemporary subject, of a fragment of a Gospel or of a scriptural apocalypse. The students are supposed to pay attention to the aims, the characteristic language, the themes and the style of the originals, and mimic those. These are my three!
A “Lord of the Rings/Hobbit” themed story, based on Luke 22:24 and following (a fragment from a Gospel)
A dispute arose among the travellers to Mordor about which of them was the greatest. The elves said: “We are immortal, and surely there is no greatness more desirable than this.” The dwarves said: “We are strong, and connected to the earth. Nothing is greater than the earth and its treasures.” The men and women kept silent, for they did not know what to say – they were weaker than the dwarves and short-lived: a man’s span is four-score and ten at most. But Gandalf called them together and said to them: “The lords of the Sauron lord it over their subjects. But it is not to be so among you. And then he took Frodo, the hobbit, by hand, and led him into the middle of the circle. “Rather,” Gandalf went on, “the greatest among you must become as the smallest, and the strongest as the weakest. It is the hobbit who is the greatest, for he will save us all.”
A Justin Trudeau political story based on Revelation 10: 1-10
And I saw a mighty lord coming down from the mountains of British Columbia, his smile like sunshine and a rainbow banner over his head; his face was that of an angel, and his body that of an athlete. He held a scroll in his right hand, and an eagle-feather from the First Nations in his hair, and when I inquired of my guide what the parchment might be, the guide said to me: “It is the last will and testament of his father, the Trudeau-who-was-before.” And setting his right foot on the sea of the Juan de Fuca strait, and his left foot on the land of Departure Bay, he gave a great shout, like the call of a grizzly bear. And as he shouted a sentence in both English and French, the three main political parties shuddered, and the fourth, a green beaver, hiccupped. And at the sound, I was about to write what I had heard, but the guide said to me: “Do not write what was just uttered. Rather, seal it up, and leave it for the second term.” And then the leader, who had a maple leaf across his chest and the words “Justin” over his forehead, held out his hand with the scroll upon it. And there was, I saw, also blood upon his head, and the guide said to me “That is the blood of the battles that are to come.” And then the guide said, “take the parchment from his hand.” And I did, and it looked handsome, but burnt my skin, like fire.
A personal family story based on Matthew 5, the beatitudes
When my grandmother saw the crowds of neighbours, she went up into the kitchen, and she sat down, and her daughters came to her. And she began to speak to them, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are you if you remember what you are worth, for no man will ever give you a value you do not give yourself.
Blessed are you when you suffer, as you will, for suffering builds character, and those whom adversity does not destroy, it strengthens
Blessed are you when you earn your own money. Keep some to the side, for the rainy days will come soon and often, and the dawning ease of childhood is short-lived
Blessed are you when you take up the cause of the poor and those with illnesses of the mind; there, but for the grace of God, go all of us.
Blessed are you when you remember me, and your father, and my parents, and your father’s parents, for you will remember then that you are rooted in a name and a tradition
Blessed are you when you put your hands into the soil, for you will be connected to what we are made of, and the matter to which we all return.
You are like a windmill on the farm. If no wind blows, the windmill cannot turn, and you cannot produce energy, or draw water. So always turn your face toward the winds of the spirit, and feel them in you, and you will be happy.
Yesterday I enjoyed (yes, enjoyed!) the marathon, 5 1/2 hr final segment of Wagner’s Ring Opera. The staging at Toronto’s C.O.C. was part “Mad Men”, part industrial grunge. In the last scene, the chorus – mostly men & some women, ALL in business suits – watched as flames engulfed the world, the twilight of the gods brought on by their short-sighted, avaricious greed. Important, up-to-date social commentary. At the opera. Who would have guessed?
‘Wait and see what Trump does.’ How many times have we heard that, lately. Such terrible uncertainty. Everywhere. But hasn’t it always been that way? Jesus called the first disciples during brutal military occupation. Martin Luther became a monk and then a reformer during societal earthquakes. Martin Luther King was who he was because he lived out his dream during, and precipitating, crises that shook the world. And so again the call. This Jesus walks by us too. And says: ‘follow me. NOW is the time. Despite: no – because of – the risk. Follow me.’
God’s mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation, says Mary. NOT “God’s mercy is for the rich”. She didn’t say that. NOT God’s mercy is for the upper-class. She didn’t say that either. And neither did she congratulate the selfish who are increasingly rewarded in our society and by our politicians (and apparently, by our votes): the influence-peddlers and the professors in their offices and the business-people in their downtown towers. For the mighty one of Israel, Mary said, has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly. God has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. Notice that word: empty. You and I –we’ve already had enough. Advent is about who we see and who we ignore, an announcement about place and privilege. It’s about justice. It’s about how much a cup of coffee costs, and who manufactures our shoes, and whether some government committee paid for by our taxes cuts funding for social programs. And it’s about our political and economic and environmental opinions just as much as our religious opinions. Because the surprise we’d better learn now, is that those things cannot be separated.
My father died this August. All Souls, this year, is hitting me hard. ‘All that stuff about saints’, I remember hearing, growing up, ‘that’s just idolatry… worshipping false gods.’ Actually, I think the opposite is true. When we imagine that in this creation we’re somehow alone, that it’s all about ‘my God and me’, we make ourselves into idols. When we forget that ‘ashes to ashes and dust to dust’ applies to all of us we’re pretending to BE gods. When we act – what pride it takes! – as if we’ll live forever, we’re ignoring all those who have gone before. The truth is, we’ll always be in relationship with a world, animate and inanimate, that has experienced forgiveness and mercy and love before us, with us, and long after us. That’s the church. The one without walls, in either time or space. The boat, on the river of time.
A gate is an entry point. Or, depending on how you look at it, an exit point. Either way, a threshold is a place of potential, of encounter. It can also be a place to decide against encounter. Then Jesus said to his disciples. ‘There was a rich man dressed in purple and fine linen who feasted sumptuously every day. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus. The rich man in his house. The poor man at his gate. Miles apart – even only a few feet. Doors – gates, borders – our liminal places – are INCREDIBLY important. Where we are in relation to them says a lot about our theology. Lazarus never, ever, made it into the rich man’s home. And the rich man never chose to go to the border of his own comfort. Later in the story, he PLEADS to go to a gate – from hell back to his home, to warn his brothers. But it’s too late. Father Abraham, the rich man begs, Let me go. If someone crosses the threshold from death to life they will listen. To which Abraham replies: let them listen to the scriptures. At our margins and borders (dangerous places: crucifixions take place at the borders of cities) we risk change. But only there, outside our comfort zone, can we share in the blessing of Abraham.
Life of a Montréaler Dept: I find out today is Sunday is something called “Kodumaalt Lahkumise Jumalateenistus” (Leaving Estonia ahead of the advancing Russian Army Sunday). Such a thing exists? So I include prayers for modern-day refugees. As the Estonians file in for church, there are two visitors who happen to speak only Russian. What are the chances? They want to know if I will take their book, in Russian, and find a translator for the Finns, the other group I am responsible for. They may be Karelians with links to Finland, but I can’t tell. So I wave at the replacement organist for my Estonian service, who happens to have moved to Montreal from Ukraine. She comes over and they talk, in Russian, about the Finns, while I put the finishing touches on the Estonian-English liturgy about fleeing the Russians. Another day as a Lutheran in Montreal.