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meal and battle

A group of us have been working through the fascinating book of Revelation. It has been enlightening in so many ways. I liken it to walking through an art gallery filled with images which, at first glance, seem bizarre and unrelated, but after spending some dedicated time with the works of art and taking in a guided tour with an art historian, you start to see how the pictures fit together and play off each other. In the visions and images of Revelation, Christ and the world are revealed in both new and yet familiar ways.

Revelation is divided into three sections: God speaks to the churches in the city (chapters 1-3), God judges the Great City (chapters 4-18), and God redeems the Holy City (chapters 19-22). [1] Each of these sections begins with a vision of Christ, a reminder to the hearer/readers that whatever strange and horrible visions may follow, the One who is, who was, and who is to come, the Lamb who was slain, remains on the throne, at the centre of it all. Revelation 19 is …
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come (and leave)

"Come!" It's a positive word, connoting an invitation to join in a venture with someone. It is certainly more positive than the word, "Leave!" And yet, one cannot do one without also doing the other. In order to come, one has to leave. Leaving and coming are two parts of the same action.

We find this leave/come dynamic all through scripture, starting in the creation narrative. "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one" (Genesis 2:24). In order to start a new family, one has, in some form or other, to leave the old one. The Abrahamic covenant begins with this directive: "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). In order to establish a new nation, Abram had to leave his familial home. It is interesting to note that he was given no definitive destination. Abram was told exactly what and who to leave, but…

The 12 days of Christmas

I know the Christmas season is over, but it is not as far in the rear-view mirror as one might think. This past Saturday, Dean and I stopped in at our favourite nut store and the lady at the counter mentioned that she was celebrating Christmas that very day, January 6. For those of us in the Western church tradition, this might sound a bit strange, but for the first few centuries, the early church celebrated the birth of Christ and the manifestation of Christ as Messiah on Epiphany, January 6. Only later (4th century) was the celebration of the nativity separated from the celebration of the manifestation of Christ. The separation of the two events eventually resulted in commemorating the twelve days of Christmas, with the Twelfth Night feast falling on January 5.

That's right. The Twelve Days of Christmas is not just a song from the 18th century. The church has been celebrating various feast days following the birth of Christ for many centuries. To be honest, our Western Christma…

win or lose

Of late, debates on any subject tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth. I have observed my share of debates (in academic, political, and online settings) and engaged in a few myself. Debating societies have been around for a few centuries and the form goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. The idea is that debating helps people develop rhetorical skills and sound reasoning. However, I wonder if debate is really all that useful as a pedagogical tool. It seems to bring out hubris instead of humility. It encourages a defensive posture instead of active listening. Being proved right seems more important than seeking truth and people become reduced to their positions. Transformative engagement is rare.

In Luke 20, we find several interactions between Jesus and religious leaders. The religious leaders use what some might view as legitimate debate techniques in an attempt to undermine Jesus's authority. They pose trick questions and present convoluted hypothetical situations. They flat…

Vertigo: be still

Christmas Day 2017 started out with great hope and expectation. Dean and I woke up just after 4 am and headed to the airport, eager to celebrate the holy days with our families in Manitoba. That changed somewhere over Ontario when vertigo paid me a visit. I won't regale you with the not-so-pleasant details of how many airsick bags I used or the dread that came over me when it was time to get off the plane and take that long walk to the airport exit. Let's just say that with great discomfort, I finally made it to my destination in Winnipeg and, for seven days, did as little moving and looking as possible (who knew vertigo affected your ability to focus?).

When I could manage it, I read up on vertigo. The official name is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Benign means that it is not related to another illness. Paroxysmal has to do with the intensification of symptoms during episodes (my body seemed to have missed this part because my symptoms were continuous, not episodic).…

The Liberator

When preachers and teachers tell the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, they often draw attention to her brave act of submission. After the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that she is to give birth to the Son of God, Mary responds: "I am the Lord's humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me" (Luke 1:38). Mary, no doubt aware that she could be stoned as an adulteress for having a child out of wedlock, says Yes to the dangerous, messianic mission presented to her by the angel. Mary is the model of female compliance, or so we have been led to believe throughout much of church history.

The depiction of Mary as an innocent and docile peasant girl is carelessly, perhaps even willfully, selective and incomplete. Sadly, the iconic portrayals of Mary have only served to reinforce the stereotype of a meek and mild Mary. But if we keep reading the story in Luke 1, just a few lines later we find a song erupting from this feisty young girl's mouth, a son…

a long list of names

When I ask people what their favourite part of the Christmas story is, I get a variety of answers. Kids like the angels and the animals. Others mention the incarnation, the courage of Mary, the kindness of Joseph to a son who was not his own, the remarkable dreams which led the young family away from danger, or the excitement of the shepherds. Very seldom does anyone mention the genealogies. I am not quite sure why, but rattling off a list of people’s names (most of them long dead) is usually left out of nativity pageants. Perhaps we should change that.
The genealogies of Jesus are found in two places: Matthew 1 and Luke 3. Go ahead and read them now if you like. The family tree in Matthew is the shorter one, with only 42 names listed, while in Luke we find 77 names. Matthew, meant for a Jewish audience, focuses on the nation of Israel’s highlights. Luke, written primarily for non-Jewish ears, is much more inclusive. There are some other differences between the two genealogies. Since…