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The World In A Cart: The World In The Word


When I was thinking of a topic for a post today I was thinking about the future, the repitition of semesters here at work and the changes I make over the years in teaching the same courses.  It came to the fore yesterday when I was looking all over my classroom for 6 envelopes with little slips of paper in them.  This is a partenting activity that I have been doing for years and it is still one of the best activities we do.

Together these thoughts led me to look back at what I posted on this blog two years ago today.  That is what you will be reading below.  Enjoy.

When I was in high school (can’t believe I just wrote that) if I wanted information about the world I would dig out an atlas or the encyclopedia.  There was lots of information there, but it was not necessarily up to date.  Today I wheeled the world into my classroom in one of the school’s Mac-carts.

Ideally the students would all have a netbook or laptop all the time.  This isn’t the case yet at my school but still there is a huge change.  Today in my class I had students in contact with community agencies in several cities, looking up how to make tied baby blankets, researching statistics on childhood obesity in Canada, writing project proposals, designing websites, designing stickers to go along with a calendar they are making and more.  In some other classrooms and schools children are using programs like Skype to talk with students and teachers in other countries and even working on group projects with kids all over.

Has it made things better, this globalization in our education system?  It has to be more useful for kids to be planning projects for the community and or with people in other countries than drawing and colouring maps.  Does it matter if I know the GDP of a country from three years ago when I can find out the economic reports from last month?  The internet lets us keep up with a quickly changing world.

There are some things that don’t change.  God doesn’t change, the Bible doesn’t change, although it is are easier to hunt for particular sections and quotes using the computer.    When you open an atlas there is information about a lot of places but it is not the world.  When we open the Bible and read God’s word that really is the world!

 

13 Days Until Easter: The Distracted Blogger


Today we begin with a confession.  I am that distracted blogger referred to in today’s title.  By what have I been distracted? *hears the beep indicating new email and quickly switches tabs to see what it is* It doesn’t seem to take much these days to distract me.  We give my dog a hard time because he will get barking over as little as a leaf blowing by, but I’m afraid I’m more like him that I would like to admit.  I’m hoping that I am not alone in this trait of distraction.

On the up side, as far as I know no traffic accidents are caused by my distraction.  Unlike driving with my cell phone to my ear, there are no immediate effects to my distraction.  People don’t get a notice that I have posted anything for several days, no one’s hurt in this story.  No one but me that is.

For every day that I go without posting I get less and less inclined to even click on the link to wordpress.  I spent most of the weekend on the computer but just left that tab in the corner and ignored it.  I began to feel guilty, even about not doing something no one asked me to do, with no deadline except the expectation I have set up for myself.

With Easter two weeks away, I would like to claim that my distractions have been church related; planning and practicing for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and 6 weeks of Easter Sundays.  This, at least, would feel justified.  No, my distraction has largely been looking at things people have for sale on-line.  I don’t need anything, don’t have any intention of buying most of what I see, and yet there I sit skimming through the latest offerings on etsy.com or ebay.  It can be mesmerizing!

Whatever our distractions may be, and I’m sure there is huge variation in causes, pulling our attention back to the things that really matter to us; our faith, our families etc. can be a tough one.  Everyone else has some idea about what should get your attention.  The Pharisees felt that Jesus was giving all his attention to the wrong people.  They did all they could to distract him and get him back on their religion and the people at the top.  But in the end it was for those of us at the bottom that he suffered humiliation and death, so that we might have eternal life.  

Here’s to our efforts against distraction in these last 13 days before Easter! 

 

 

Regardless of the Type of Pillow, God Can Speak in our Dreams


One of the things that happens when you travel is that you end up sleeping in strange, that is to say unfamiliar, beds.  They may have firmer or softer mattresses, different sheets and blankets, and perhaps more of an issue, different pillows.  Pillows come in all levels of firmness, some are stuffed with feathers or down, some with synthetic filling, and ours are filled with buckwheat hulls.  In some hotels they realize the importance of choice of pillow to the extent that they provide a variety of pillows and even label them as to firmness. No matter how nice the bed may be, when you get home to your own bed, and settle your head down onto your own pillow for the first time there is such a feeling of comfort.

Today one of the lectionary readings was the story of Jacob in Bethel.  Jacob is on the run after cheating his brother out of his father’s blessing.  He is out in the middle of nowhere and overcome with exhaustion he settles down on the ground with a rock for a pillow.  He falls into a deep sleep and dreams of a ladder to heaven.   I have slept on some pretty uncomfortable pillows in my travels, even down to a little pile of clothes under the end of the sleeping bag, nothing came close to a rock!  What was he thinking?  Did he not have any other options?

Hard and uncomfortable as that pillow was, Jacob slept well and God spoke to him through his dream.  Do we need a rock pillow, hardship, or fear for our lives in order for us to hear God’s message?   I don’t think so.  Sometimes it is easier to remember to pray when things are going badly or we are in pain, but God is there for us regardless.  When we are curled up in our own beds with our own familiar pillows under our heads we will still be able to hear the voice of God if we listen carefully.

Photo by Daehyun Park find on flickr

Follow the Bubbles: 8 Lessons from the cenotes


My sister and I just got back from a trip to Cancun.  We had been there before and planned to mostly sit in the shade and read books.  We did decide to visit Xcaret (esh-ca-ret) which is one of the biggest parks in the Cancun area.  There is so much to do there that we will need to go back several times to cover everything.  Our biggest adventure was definitely when we decided to go ahead and try snorkeling through the cenotes (underground rivers).We hummed and hawed considerably, but eventually packed our things in a locked waterproof bag to be taken to the outlet area next to the sea.  Next we got in line and picked up flotation vests, goggles, snorkels, and swim fins.  We set off to the entrance spot.

 

Our swim in through a cenote began with gingerly stepping into the cold water in a brightly lit and beautifully clear pool.  Once acclimated to the temperature it is quite beautiful and little effort is required due to your flotation device.  A little practice breathing with the snorkel and we were off…

 

Faces down in the water and breathing through our snorkels we headed off down  the river.  We were a little nervous, but  reassured by the idea that it was a river and would head directly to the sea.  What could go wrong with that?  Well, it sounded good!  We quickly moved from this swim in the sunlight, into…

 

the dark.  While you were able in the darker underground areas to see a glimmer of light up ahead, this was only the case when you had your head above water.  When you swam into these areas with your face down you were frequently unable to see anything.  It is here that the trouble began.

 

There were two main problems; staying together and finding the right path.  With my sister in the lead not lifting her head at any point I was aware when we took our first wrong turn but unable to catch up to grab her swim fins there was no way to get the message to her.  When we came to the next open area, which had no outlet, I explained about our wrong turn and we headed back around.  Eventually we ended up behind the group who had entered after us and came out into another open area where a man who worked for the park wanted us to pose for a picture.  Somewhat dazed, we complied but didn’t strike any happy thumbs up pose at all and in the end we didn’t manage to find and buy the picture which would have been our only proof that we had really gone on this excursion.

 

We left that area, headed downstream.  I led this time and all was going well, I thought.  We came into the light in another spot but it seemed that we shouldn’t have been there.  With a picture of the map of the park in our heads, it seemed that we had somehow gone in the wrong direction again.  We made the decision to go back to the start  and get out.

 

If you have been paying attention, you will know that this decision meant that we would be swimming upstream the whole rest of the time in the cenote.  Did I mention that I am a middle-aged, not terribly fit individual?  We only made one more wrong turn in our adventure but the struggle to keep up and stay in contact was considerable for me.  Very often I felt that as much as I used my feet to propel me, I was going nowhere.  I had to use my arms most of the time just to keep up.

 

How did we end up getting out of the cenote?  My sister, in the lead, stopped frequently to make sure I was still with her and encourage me,  and I followed her bubbles which, under water, is the same as following her breath.  So long as I was near the bubbles, I knew that even if we were lost, we were lost together.

 

The steps, when we found them, were a welcome sight.  We were not just climbing out of the water after a vigorous swim, we were climbing out of the dark and uncertainty, and we were together!

 

What lessons may be taken from the story of our adventure?
1. If you have to go into the dark, take a friend.

2.When you are leading people don’t forget to lift your head up to stay on track.

3. When you are in the lead, stop frequently to be sure those behind you are still there, and encourage them.

4. Stay together in dark as well as in the light.

5. It is harder work getting back on track once you have taken a wrong turn, but do it anyway.

6. Like your life vest, God will keep you afloat come what may.

7. There is no substitute for a good map (Bible) or a guide (Jesus).

 8. No matter what, keep the bubbles (the breath of God or the Spirit) in view at all times. 

Seed Packets Redux: Part 2


As I was driving up to Montreal last week I drove past countless fields at various stages of planting.  Some fields were bare, with the earth prepared and awaiting seed, some were newly planted with a bright fresh crop of green or yellow covering them, some were burned over and likely to be left fallow for the summer, and between them all there were wild areas with an abundance of plant life most would call weeds.  What do we see when we look at ourselves, our congregations, families,colleagues etc.?  Do we  see fertile ground awaiting seed, rows of plants growing to bear seed, or a tangled mess of weeds?

Living Faith 4.2.1 says, “The Spirit enables people to receive the good news of Christ, to repent of their sins, and to be adopted as children of God…the Spirit enabled us to believe.”  Living Faith 6.1.2 “God brings us to faith in many ways. We may have trusted in God from childhood; or our faith may have come later in life.  Faith may come suddenly or only after a struggle to believe.” 
Given these statements, it is clear that it is not really you and I who are bringing people to faith.  The job of sowing faith is the work of the Spirit through the Word.  It is with this understanding that we come to the parable of the Sower and the Seed this morning ( Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23).

Have you ever prepared a garden bed?  There are many things that need to be removed; sod, old patio stones, weeds, and rocks in the ground.  Whether in our own hearts or those of others we’ll need to remove preconceptions and prejudices against Christianity and or the church as an institution, negative prior experiences, hurts, and fears.  Some of us have built up walls around our hearts which may take considerable care to break down.  Sledge hammers are never called for, and it is important to save all we can of the soil.  Our primary tools for this work are our open minds, our love, compassion and our listening skills. Once cleared, we add fertilizer of some kind in order to aid in the growth of the plants.  Here we apply such offerings as Sunday School, Bible studies, service groups, book clubs, VBS, and of course heartfelt weekly worship.  Even if all hearts are already prepared to receive the Word, care needs to be taken over time to watch out for and remove any weeds which may come up and attempt to take over, and the weeds are many and insidious.

I can easily justify my lack of follow-through in my garden at home.  After all, if I don’t support the local farmers by buying their produce I am contributing to the economic decline, right?  The problem is, at the end of the day I will still have the hearty crop of weeds there reminding me daily of my failure.  There will, however be another spring and another chance to get the job done properly.  Those of us in the church would do well to
remember that only ¼ of the seed in the parable turned out to be productive.  Numbers are not everything!  The number of people in the pews on Sunday, the number of children in Sunday school each week, the total number of families and members, don’t need to cause stress.  When they are high we may be on the top of the world and feel that we are truly doing the work of the Kingdom, and when they are low we may fear for the survival of our congregation.  Even if our programs or events seem less successful than we would like, so long as one plot of soil was readied, or one seed planted we have done well.

Whatever Kingdom gardening we may be doing, we need to remember to take time out to praise and worship the Father who has sown the word in our lives, the Son who is that word, and the Spirit who inspires us to listen.

Living Faith is the Statement of Christian Belief of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and can be downloaded at http://www.presbyterian.ca/resources/online/2447

Seed Packets Redux: Part 1


On Feb 20th I wrote a post I titled, While Visions Of Seed Packets Danced in My Head (http://wp.me/p1hsO8-6p).  At that time, with my garden under a foot of snow, I was distracted from tidying the living room by the lure of a gardening book.  An hour later there I was with my pencil and paper making plans for what to plant in my vegetable garden and wondering if last year’s compost would be ready to use.  As soon as the snow cleared, sometime in April, I was out in the back yard with my work boots and gloves on, and my tiller in hand turning soil and getting all the weeds out of a section of the
garden.  I got about half the area cleared that day before hitting the shower. Time passed……a little over a week ago I was sitting on my deck with a lovely view of what was once bare earth and is now covered with weeds of various types, many taller than my tiller which is still stuck in the ground where I left off.

The Gospel reading this morning, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, is all about gardening, or agriculture to be more specific.  In this very familiar parable Jesus shares a story with a crowd of people beside the Sea of Galilee, so large that he actually gets into a boat to get free of the press of people.  He talks of something with which all these people would be familiar, a man, the sower, planting seed.  This man has a “packet” of seed.  We assume that all the seed is basically the same and equally capable of growing and bearing a good
yield.  Some of his seeds fall on the path and are snatched up by birds, some fall on rocky ground where they begin to grow but with shallow roots they shrivel up under the sun.  Some of the seeds fall among the weeds where they begin to grow only to be choked off by the weeds.  Some of the seed falls on good soil, grows and provides an extraordinary harvest.  He sows all his seed, but in the end only one quarter of the seed produced a
harvest.  Interestingly, the harvest was many times more than might have been expected from the whole amount of seed
sown!

Israel, situated as it was in the Fertile Crescent, was a culture which based on agriculture and much of the imagery in the Old
Testament was related to sowing and reaping.  Their laws included regulations on when and where to plant, what kind of
seeds to plant, when they should harvest, and even what to do with any grain left in the field.  They were used to God being referred to as the sower.  In creation he planted every plant of every kind in the Garden of Eden.  He is variously said to have sown Israel and Judah into the land, sown peace in Zion, and sown righteousness in the nations.

For the most part, although they were familiar with the trials of farming and the vagaries of rocks, birds, and weeds, people didn’t understand the point of Jesus’ story.   The disciples, who didn’t get the point either, had the benefit of Jesus’ extra time and patience when he explained it to them later, when they are alone together.  Unlike in the Old Testament, in the New Testament the imagery of the sower is used to represent the sowing of the Kingdom.  Jesus explains to the disciples that the seeds in his story represent the Word of God.  When the Word does not get into the soil at all, on the path, it is stolen by “the evil one.”  For the other examples, where the seed reaches the soil, our hearts, the image refers to what happens with us.  Sometimes we are turned away by troubles or persecution for our beliefs, sometimes overwhelmed by the distractions of the secular world, and sometimes the seed takes root and we produce a good harvest.

There are many ways of interpreting the message of this parable for our lives.  Are we meant to look at ourselves as the soil, the seed, the plant, the sower, or the harvest?  If Jesus is the seed and we are the soil, what kinds of harvest how can our soil provide a
better harvest.  If we are a seed and plant and we produce a good harvest, what form does that take?  A lot of time is spent in considering the present condition of the soils.  One interpretation I read took the view that within each of us we may have areas of
all the types of soil, thus when the seed is sown some of it may find good soil while other parts of us are unwilling to yield.  All of these points are worth consideration, however, when I first thought about this week’s readings it occurred to me that maybe we aren’t supposed to focus so much on the current condition of the soils in the Parable and which type we are ourselves, nor on how we can do a better job of sowing the Kingdom in our communities, but on what we do in our churches and ministries
to prepare the soil for planting.

Too much to eat: gluttony in a land of plenty


I just came out of a restaurant with my parents having finished a great meal and, of course, feeling over-stuffed! Even having ordered the “mini” plate of liver and onions I was unable to finish all the fries. Don’t get me wrong though, I still had carrot cake for dessert!

A few days ago a friend sent me the following email which included pictures of families with the food they would eat in an average week on display.

“Quite a powerful story in pictures. What is eaten in one week around the world?  Very interesting assortment.  Note the large amount of drinks in some pictures.This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting e-mails I’ve ever received.  Take a good look at the family size & diet of each country, and the availability & cost of what is eaten in one week.

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide, Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina(Sure hope most American families eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food than this family.)Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily, Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca, Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna, Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt : The Ahmed family of Cairo, Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Ecuador : The Ayme family of Tingo, Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan : The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village, Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad : The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp, Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Don’t know about you, but right about now, I’m counting my blessings!”

It is a pretty stark picture of the plenty with which most of us live, while others are smiling and proud to display what we would consider to be barely enough.  Growing up many of us were told to consider the starving Armenians when we didn’t finish all our supper.  Obviously our parents were hardly planning to send our left-overs overseas, but they were on track with their mention of the need to stop and think about the lack of balance in food distribution worldwide.

The Verses In The Plain Brown Wrapper: Why The Lectionary Skips Verses


If you look at the Revised Common Lectionary listing of Bible readings over a three year period you will notice that while in theory it covers the whole Bible in each cycle there are parts you may never hear preached.  Thankfully one section in this category includes most of the book of Numbers which contain seemingly endless lists of genealogies.  One of the most curious things is that even with the Psalms there are frequently parts of the Psalm which are not designated as a part of the reading.  For example; two of the Sundays in June had small pieces removed from the Psalms in the RCL.  On June 5 we read Psalm 68 but left out verses 11-31.  On June 12 the reading was Psalm 104 and we left out verses 1 -24 and 35A.

If you read these Psalms responsively in your worship service, these skipped sections can lead to confusion for the congregation as well as the minister, unless you print them out.  What could be so wrong with Psalm 68 verses 11-31 that would deem it unusable in worship.  It is a part of the Bible, that is not denied, the planners of the lectionaries, though, presumably thought it best to skip them.

Psalm 68
11
The Lord gives the command;

great is the company of those who bore the tidings:
12   ‘The kings of the armies, they flee, they flee!’
The women at home divide the spoil,
13   though they stay among the sheepfolds—
the wings of a dove covered with silver,
its pinions with green gold.
14 When the Almighty scattered kings there,
snow fell on Zalmon.
15 O mighty mountain, mountain of Bashan;
O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!
16 Why do you look with envy, O many-peaked mountain,
at the mount that God desired for his abode,
where the Lord will reside for ever?
17 With mighty chariotry, twice ten thousand,
thousands upon thousands,
the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place.
18 You ascended the high mount,
leading captives in your train
and receiving gifts from people,
even from those who rebel against the Lord God’s abiding there.
19 Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.
Selah
20 Our God is a God of salvation,
and to God, the Lord, belongs escape from death.
21 But God will shatter the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crown of those who walk in their guilty ways.
22 The Lord said,
‘I will bring them back from Bashan,
I will bring them back from the depths of the sea,
23 so that you may bathe your feet in blood,
so that the tongues of your dogs may have their share from the foe.’
24 Your solemn processions are seen, O God,
the processions of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
25 the singers in front, the musicians last,
between them girls playing tambourines:
26 ‘Bless God in the great congregation,
the Lord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!’
27 There is Benjamin, the least of them, in the lead,
the princes of Judah in a body,
the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.
28 Summon your might, O God;
show your strength, O God, as you have done for us before.
29 Because of your temple at Jerusalem
kings bear gifts to you.
30 Rebuke the wild animals that live among the reeds,
the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples.
Trample under foot those who lust after tribute;
scatter the peoples who delight in war.
31 Let bronze be brought from Egypt;
let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out its hands to God.

I assume that in the case of the above verses there were a couple of concerns.  In many of the verses God is portrayed in a very militaristic and vengeful light.  God’s army is huge, will shatter the heads of the enemies, there is talk of feeding the enemy to the dogs and the victors bathing their feet in blood.  Yuck!  One of the things that is most disturbing about reading in the Old Testament comes from this sort of portrayal.  This is not the loving God with whom we grew up in the mainline churches!  The other thing I noticed was how much God’s desire of a mountain top abode, receiving of gifts etc. reminds me of what I have taught for years in my unit on Mesopotamia and other ancient civilizations.  This is not surprising exactly, but in early days it would have been very important to distance Christianity from pagan practices.

Would the reasons be the same for Psalm 104?

God the Creator and Provider

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honour and majesty,
2   wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
3   you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
4 you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.
5 You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.
6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
8 They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
11 giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
15   and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the coneys.
19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they withdraw
and lie down in their dens.
23 People go out to their work
and to their labour until the evening.

35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

As you could see, Psalm 104:1-24  had none of the more disturbing elements to it at all.  Paired in the lectionary as it is with the creation story from Genesis, I think we can be fairly certain that this shortening was done for time.  The Genesis reading is long and covers all the same ground as in verses.  Verse 35A however consigns sinners to be consumed (one assumes by fire) which seems contrary to the concept of Christian love.

I wonder if we do too much of this covering up, or brushing aside, the uncomfortable parts of the Bible.  I certainly understand that one might not want your five-year-old repeating lines about feeding their enemies to the dogs, or bathing their feet in blood.  My concern is that it is a little like issues of family violence.  People didn’t ever talk about family violence.  It was something to keep behind closed doors.  Neighbors might be somewhat aware that things were happening, but would never think to ask or offer help.  What ends up happening, in the case of the Bible, is that we educate Christians while side-stepping the issues, and then later when they come across these verses in their own study they are ill prepared to deal with them.  I know I wasn’t prepared the first time I seriously sat down and read the Old Testament!

I’m not sure what a solution might be.  Perhaps we need to be offering Bible studies on the unpalatable parts, but then, being so unpalatable, who would attend?  I do feel, however that it is important to get the verses out of their plain paper bags, and into the open.

Think, Think, Think: How Pooh And I Clear Writer’s Block



I’m looking across the room at a picture of Winnie the Pooh in his classic thinking pose.  His eyes are scrunched closed, one arm is around his chest and this other hand is up to his temple.  Even looking at the picture I can hear him saying, “Think, think, think.”  Maybe he is trying to think of an answer to a question piglet has asked, or maybe he is working on a hum, but he is thinking hard!

Here at the front of the room the same scenario is playing out.  OK, I’m not physically squinting my eyes or knocking on my temple, but I am mentally trying to squeeze some kind of coherent thought out.  I have an assortment of posts in the works at the moment, but they are stalled at some point or other.  Some are just cool titles at the moment, while others were going along fine until I hit a mental snag on a point of logic or an annoying fact making my conclusion questionable.

There are various ways I get around this.  Today’s choice was to write about the block itself rather than try to dislodge it from my path.  Other options which I often use for blog writing include; saving my work and then choosing tags, previewing the post as it stands, heading off to http://creativecommons.comto find a good image to use, doing a spell check, or fixing the font and paragraph spacing.  If all of these distractions fail to help me reach the dangling strand of my thought, I just stop for a while and do something totally unrelated.

 

There are times when the strands just won’t be caught and I eventually give up on the post altogether.  Those bits often come back at a later date when they end up fitting like the missing puzzle piece into a completely different topic.  I’m sure you are familiar with the adage, “I think, therefore I am.”  It is the thinking that really matters and a slight change of focus can make all the difference.

Does the Audience Change the Message?


I expect most of us are familiar with the expression, “The medium is the message” coined by Marshall McLuhan.  The phrase is as old as I am, well ten months older.  At the time it was spoken in reference to the quickly changing face of media and our tendency to focus on the obvious effects and not really look for a deeper level.  I don’t pretend to really understand McLuhan’s message, but I think that it is important to look at our messages, especially as they are becoming more and more public through blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc.

When I prepare a message for any of my usual churches I do so knowing that, for the most part, I will be preaching to a Christian audience with a fairly similar frame of reference to mine.  When I write something for my blog it is different, I have no way of knowing who may read my post so things I wouldn’t normally explain get explanation.  Things that are totally open to the world on the internet need a different filter than comments to my friends and colleagues over lunch.  Awareness of audience is even one of the sections on rubrics for evaluating student writing.

I am working on a service I will be leading at my sister’s church in the Montreal area.  I have led worship at all four of the Presbyterian churches in my area, but this will be my first time preaching out of the province.   I am somewhat familiar with the church as I have worshipped there and sung in the choir on occasion, but I don’t really know it.  I do know that there are several retired ministers and theology professors who attend her church. While I am used to having one or two retired ministers in the congregation for my services at home, they are people with whom I am very familiar and comfortable.  This is not the case for my sister’s church, and who knows what other areas of speciality  I may trip upon in my message?

One service I did on Aboriginal Sunday a while back went well.  At the end I greeted people at the back as usual.  One woman hung back for a bit and when she came up to me said she was debating whether or not to tell me what she really thought.  I asked her to go ahead.  She was not pleased with my message and gave me various reasons mostly related to her perceptions of “special treatment” for First Nations people in our area.  While she had, in part, missed the actual point of the sermon, she needed to talk about the issues it raised for her and I hope that helped her in some way.

So, would I write a different message if I was speaking to the un-churched, the working class, a room full of professors, or atheists?  In the end, all I can do is what I usually do.  I will study the texts carefully, review what other’s have said on the topic,  do some fact checking, and then write what seems to flow.  Hopefully what I say will give people something new to think about, something to inspire them, or something about which to debate.