About raspberryman

I am a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, serving a parish in Ottawa Ontario. I am a husband, father, and admirer of the Ottawa Valley. I enjoy beaches, sunsets and waterways. I like to write, reflect theologically and meditate in the Christian tradition.

East wind

(photo by Martin Malina at Cape Flattery WA, 14 August 2022)

What does being faithful, being spiritual, mean in the face of unhappy circumstances in life?

I must admit that for me during the past Easter season sometimes the messages and metaphors of pure light and new life clashed with the losses, disappointments and bad news that came up during the Easter season. It seemed the joy of resurrection felt incompatible with what is happening in the world today and in our lives personally. There was this disconnect, and it didn’t always feel right to shout out at the beginning of every Easter service: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

Maybe, then, this Pentecost season is a gift to us, and a help, as it shifts our attention away from the images of new life and pure light – God knows we have lots of daylight these days! We’re ready for another image to guide our imagination and encourage our spirit and faith.

What about, wind? Wind is central to the Pentecost and Creation stories from the bible.

I love it when the wind blows from the north and west. It’s the cleanest air, and the most refreshing especially after days of hot and humid weather is blown out by a storm.

These northwest winds clean away the haze, pollution, toxins and allergens, leaving the air crisp and fresh. The north winds rarely herald bad weather especially in the summer. But the wind is not just about comfort.

It’s the east wind you need to watch out for. If the wind comes from the east, you can be sure a storm is moving in.

From the scriptures, we find that the Spirit of God can blow through in ways we may not always expect, nor even prefer. What does it do? First, the wind jars us out of our comfort zones. It makes us uncomfortable.

First, the Spirit of God must “bear witness” with our own spirit, as Saint Paul puts it[1]. Our own lives are exposed, in all truth. Some call the Spirit of God the “objective inner witness”[2] that looks back at us with utter honesty. We might call it, simply, a wake-up call. And that is why we begin the liturgy using ancient words of confession: Lord, have mercy.

It wasn’t an easy beginning for the first disciples of Jesus. Take for example the story from Pentecost last week, of the arrival of the Holy Spirit on those apostles gathered in Jerusalem:

“When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house…”[3]

You can’t get away from the unsettling, inertia-disrupting character of God’s creative Spirit. In Genesis, when God created the world, when the earth was “a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep,” God’s Spirit, “a mighty wind from God” swept over the face of the waters.[4] Notice the descriptive words: mighty, sweeping …

Then in the book of Exodus when the Hebrews escaped slavery in Egypt, in which general direction did they head? They were going East towards the Promised Land when they came up against the Red Sea in front of them.

And “The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night … and the waters were divided.” [5]

In order to walk that path on dry ground toward the other side, toward freedom, the Hebrews needed to push into that east headwind blowing into them at full throttle. They needed to lean into the counterforce of that harsh, persistent headwind blowing against them, likely slowing them down and making their passage more frustrating and uncomfortable, for sure.

But that unfavourable, uncomfortable wind, was at the same time the way towards their freedom and deliverance, a saving gift all along.

These scriptures remind us that God’s Spirit may not always arrive as a pleasing, warm summer night breeze or a still, small voice, a faint stirring of the heart, or a subtle and polite whisper.

Divine Spirit can also arrive with difficult, unsettling effects.

My mother tells me of a time when she was a young girl growing up in southern Poland towards the end of the Second World War, in a town not far from Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp.

As a six-year-old, my mom one afternoon was playing in her backyard, and a gentle east wind was blowing in from the direction of Auschwitz. And she recalls a strange, acrid odour wafting in with that wind, coupled with what she thought were ashes floating around everywhere.

It was only much later as an adult, my mom recalled this disturbing childhood memory, with the foul smell and ashes floating in with the wind. And she realized the horrible truth of what that wind revealed that day.

How over a million Jews at Auschwitz were gassed to death in specially-built chambers, and then their bodies burned in crematoriums with smokestacks pointing to the sky, the wind carrying and revealing the gruesome truths of this systematic, mass-murderous activity of the Nazi regime.

What did the wind blow-in on that day?

The Spirit of God—of truth however hard it might be—may not always be easy to take. The Spirit of God opens to us the difficult and challenging realities before us. The Spirit of God does not allow us to avoid nor deny the truth any longer.

So how do we align ourselves with the Divine Spirit, so that we might be witnesses to, messengers of, mouthpieces for that Spirit? Going where the Spirit sends us? Catching the wind and sailing along with that mighty wind of Divine Spirit? And in so doing, spreading more truth, justice and love in a world that so needs it?

God’s Spirit bearing witness to ours shows us whom we need to love. A sign in a church classroom read: “You cannot treat people like garbage and worship God at the same time.”

And so, we must unveil the hard truths of past and present suffering of others at the hands of the church: Jews, blacks, indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, people of colour. We must confess and dispel the implicit racism that creeps constantly into our daily discourse, a racism that swims almost unconsciously in our institutions, organizations and in our own hearts.

Holy Trinity Sunday is about celebrating a relational God. However we define trinity or seek to intellectualize about it, the bottom line is God’s identity is wrapped up in the relationship between God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The story of Pentecost and the early growth of the church was about building relationships based on the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The season after Pentecost calls the church to build and rebuild relationships of faith. That is our mission to the ends of the earth and to all nations. And doing so, we are called to pay attention to the values which determine the words we say and our behaviour with others.

At a time when the church faces critical decisions it’s important to affirm this fundamental characteristic of the church since the beginning; indeed, the beginning of time: How we relate with one another and with the world is crucial. The how reflects the why.

Some of you know I like to write and aspire to finish some novels that are in my head waiting to be written down. I was looking recently at the website of the Ottawa Writers’ Circle where they identify not merely a code of conduct but a code of values.

The rationale they provide for doing so is that “… it’s important that we all understand what is expected of members at events, offline and online.… A Code of Values outlines what [we] stand for and what we expect our members to believe in …”[6]

Even though this particular group is primarily about writing, they are nevertheless upfront about how and why they treat each other the way they do. They are expressly an open, safe, and welcoming community, who prioritizes respect and diversity. This means, and they publicize this:

Treating people like we would like to be treated; Never saying anything about anyone you wouldn’t say to them directly; Listening with the intent to understand, and acknowledging it is important to the speaker; Learning when a behaviour is welcome and unwelcome; Not using poor social grace as an excuse to consistently make people uncomfortable; Being understanding when someone is new or shy without being forceful.

To become aware of the pitfalls is part of the learning:

But the learning and the journey ultimately brings us to compassion, even with ourselves. Because the Divine Spirit is a life-giving Spirit, bringing much needed oxygen to efforts which stir up joy and love, affirmation and encouragement in any and all places and people.

Just as that mighty Wind of Pentecost filled the entire house and the apostles’ hearts, carrying and scattering them to the ends of the earth in the name of Jesus, may that same Spirit fill, carry and send us out, to breathe new life, grace and love where we can.

[1] Romans 8:16

[2] Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Cincinnati Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2008), p.74.

[3] Acts 2:1-2

[4] Genesis 1:2

[5] Exodus 14:21

[6] Ottawa Writers Circle Code of Values

“East Wind” sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday by Rev. Martin Malina

And so it begins

The chancel on Pentecost-Confirmation Sunday (Faith Ottawa, photo by M.Malina, 2023)

Dear Confirmands,

Confession: Over the past two years of meeting and Confirmation programs, we’ve barely skimmed the surface of what we can know about the Christian faith from a Lutheran perspective:

We’ve just scratched the surface of the biblical story and sacraments. We’ve only dipped our toes into the shallows of the otherwise deep waters.  We’ve said the Lord’s Prayer together and read through the Creed. We’ve talked about the Commandments and affirmed Article Four of the Augsburg Confession—that we are saved by grace alone and nothing we can do or know will ultimately save us.

And maybe that’s the point. Because here we are confirming you today! Despite what from one perspective can be seen as a rather lean program. And yet our action today underscores this fundamental Lutheran belief: We cannot by our own strength and efforts earn God’s favour.

Many of our senior members will be eager to tell your stories of large confirmation classes where they had to sit for hours memorizing scriptures, learning by heart the entire catechism and singing the Reformation hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. And that’s not even describing the anxiety surrounding the final exam before their confirmation.

Another confession: I think we have long passed the day of doing confirmation that way.

And still you are today being confirmed in the faith. Besides affirming we are saved by grace alone, our action today underscores another very important understanding of our faith: Confirmation merely emphasizes you are at the start of a journey today, not the end of it.

Over the last several months groups of Lutheran youth leaders from around the world—specifically from Africa, Europe and the Americas—gathered to set priorities for the church today. These priorities will be part of the deliberations at the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in Poland which I will attend in September later this year.

Some of these priorities agreed by Lutheran youth leaders, ages 18-30, were: eco-theology, justice in community, inclusive and accessible churches, youth leadership and mental health.[1] Clearly there is a future for the church because there is so much to be done by you and others your age. And you’ve already started on this journey:

Even though you didn’t memorize anything, or read through every word or explanation in Martin Luther’s catechism, you did feed the hungry and provide clothing to the poor. You did plant a garden. You did, by handing out coffee and slices of pie, put a smile on the faces of homeless people in downtown Ottawa. You ate together, shared laughs and silly stories. You engaged in service projects around the city. You worshipped and prayed together.

But it’s not over. Those activities can and will happen again. The one word we should eradicate from the lexicon and culture of Confirmation Sunday is ‘graduation’. You are not graduating today. You haven’t completed anything, really.

Today is not a graduation. It’s really the start. It’s a journey you are on—we are all on—to grow in faith. That’s why each of you is receiving the gift of a small tree–a white spruce. Because like anything that grows, it will need regular care and nurturing. And it will grow over time.

You may doubt everything we do today. And that’s ok. It’s a journey. You may not be sure of God today and what God promises you. And that’s ok.

It’s ok because what we did accomplish these past couple of years was community. Not perfectly. But we related with one another, and spent time together doing meaningful things. We got to know each other a bit. And when one of us was missing from class, we asked about them—where they were and how they were doing.

And that’s what the church today needs: Forming relationships in faith. And maybe for some of us older ones, re-forming relationships of faith.

Confirmation is an affirmation of faith—a saying yes to everything good. To our baptism. To God’s grace. Saying, even though we may not be 100% sure and even though we don’t know everything, we do know this:

God loves you and God will be with you forever. God loves everyone else and will be with us forever.

[1] Scan recent posts in the Lutheran World Federation Youth Instagram account @lwfyouth https://www.instagram.com/lwfyouth/

And so it begins”; a sermon for Pentecost-Confirmation Sunday, by Rev. Martin Malina, May 2023


Moving holding still (photo by J Hawley Malina 18 May 2023)

You can miss something Jesus says in the Gospel if you read it too quickly or skim over it. But because the instruction is repeated almost verbatim in the other reading assigned for the 7th Sunday of Easter I bring it to your attention.

How would you react to being told to wait? It’s hard enough to wait your turn in a crowded supermarket line, or getting snarled in stop-and-go traffic, or waiting for needed surgery or treatment. What would you do when someone asks you to wait? Wait for a sign before going through with a course of action your heart has settled on, or doing something you really want to do?

Jesus tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the promised Holy Spirit. They are to wait there before going out in God’s mission to the ends of the earth, to all nations.[1] Why are they waiting, to stay in place, before doing the Lord’s good work? What value is there in doing that?

On the other hand, if we use Jesus’ words to justify inaction, I think we are missing the point. Jesus isn’t saying: Don’t do anything until everything else is figured out and we have clear-cut answers. Jesus isn’t saying: Don’t do anything until all our problems are solved, until conditions are right or everything is perfect or until there is no doubt as to what to do.

To have peace in one’s heart and confidence to move forward in life means fear and doubt will still be part of our journey. To have peace and conviction about a course of action means there will always be reasons not to do something.

How does this Gospel help us today?

The disciples had experienced a significant transition in their lives. It had only been three years on the road with Jesus. They had experienced the wonder and the joy as well as the challenges, the disruptions, the dangers, and the threats of being with the Lord in person. All of this, after being—in some cases, suddenly—called away from their previous lives as fishers and tax collectors. That’s a lot of change in a short time.

And now, after the intense and tumultuous last days in Jerusalem witnessing Jesus’ arrest, torture and violent death on a cross, after witnessing his resurrection and encountering Jesus in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus and by the lakeshore, did they even have time to process all of this, to grieve?

Perhaps that’s one piece of wisdom in Jesus’ instruction: Wait in Jerusalem. Give yourself some time. Slow things down, take a breath, re-group. Pressing the reset button on their lives, the disciples spent valuable time in prayer, blessing God in the temple.

We may do well in our lives to pay attention to times of transition. Not ignore nor devalue those moments in-between. From a broader perspective, we are emerging from three years of pandemic disruptions. We cannot deny nor minimize its impact—positive and negative—on our lives. We need to give space for grief, for re-grouping, resetting.

It is time to again affirm what wisdom traditions through the ages have often claimed: What we most deeply seek and desire — healing, fulfillment, an answer to a question — must ultimately reveal itself to us. French philosopher Simone Weil once noted: “We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them.”[2]

I want to conclude by giving us a practical exercise. Here is a spiritual discipline we can practice on a regular basis, even every week at worship:

Statio, from the contemplative Christian tradition, is the practice of stopping one thing before beginning another. Another way of expressing Statio is “holy pausing”. It is the acknowledgement that in the space of transition and threshold is a sacred dimension, a holy pause full of possibility. This place between is a place of stillness, where we let go of what came before and prepare ourselves to enter fully into what comes next.”[3]

When we pause between activities, we open ourselves to the possibility of discovering a new kind of presence of in-between times. Statio calls us to a sense of reverence for the “fertile spaces between our goals where we can pause and center ourselves and listen.”[4] We can open up a space within for God to work.

Because when we rush from one thing to another, we skim over the surface of life. When we rush from one thing to another, we lose the sacred attentiveness that brings forth revelations in the most ordinary of moments. We can become fully conscious of what we are to do rather than mindlessly completing another task. We can pay attention to what is actually happening rather than compulsively finding something else to talk about in order to erase the discomfort of a quiet moment between words.

In little yet significant ways, we can practice Statio in the liturgy. Our weekly worship is designed to honour times of transition. And we have to be intentional about our movement through the various stages of the worship service.

The prelude and postlude, for example, are transitional elements. The instrumental music first brings us into and then takes us out of the time for prayer. Here we can practice being still and silent within ourselves. We can collect our thoughts and affirm our relationship with ourselves and with God. We can just listen.

During the prelude and postlude, as we enter and leave this space of worship and prayer, we can give ourselves and each other the honour and respect of practising transitional time.

We do this, so that when the Spirit calls, and our hearts are nudged in faith, we will go. The seed of faith has been planted. And the seed of new life will now grow.

[1] Acts 1:4; Luke 24:49

[2] cited in Richard Rohr, “Waiting for Things to Unfold” Expanding our Vision (Daily Meditations, http://www.cac.org, 1 June 2022)

[3] “Holy Pausing” in Christine Valters Painter, The Soul’s Slow Ripening (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2018), p.8-9.

[4] Ibid.

Practise ‘Statio’ – a sermon for Easter 7 by Rev. Martin Malina

Children’s Chat: Nurturing love takes work!

The only one that made it from seed (photo by Martin Malina 13 May 2023

Years ago, my daughter received a package of ten seeds — ten spruce tree seeds.

So, we found a large pot, filled it with good soil and planted the seeds evenly apart in the pot. We followed the instructions on how to care for growing these seeds. We watered the earth. We left the pot in the sun.

But later that year, we noticed only three seedlings coming out of the earth. Only three of the ten seeds sprouted and began to grow.

The following year, I transplanted the three saplings into separate pots so each would have its own space to grow. But, alas, over several days we left them in direct sunlight outside for too long! Two of the three saplings turned brown and died.

Only one of the ten seeds that we had originally planted, made it. Today, it is about three feet tall and growing well in our backyard (photo above). It has a good chance of maturing even though I still give it extra water from time to time.

Today is Mother’s Day. Specifically, though we give thanks for our mothers we also express thanks for all the caregivers in our lives who love us and nurture our growth. Growing flower or tree seeds can remind us that nurturing love takes a lot of work!

Nurturing love is NOT planting a seed and just leaving it alone. Nurturing love, which is God’s love, means hard work and trusting that the seed of faith within in us all will grow.

My daughter and I, admittedly, were a bit lazy at times growing and caring for those ten seeds. Sometimes we didn’t do it the right way. We made some mistakes along the way.

But I am grateful that every time I can look at that one spruce tree that did make it I am reminded of both the hard work it takes to grow seeds to life, and the gift of life and love that God gives.

Here are some packages of flower seeds. You can give them to your moms or other caregivers. Help them plant the seeds this Spring. Take care of them. And watch them grow!

Let us pray: Dear God, thank you for the gifts of love and life. Help the seeds of love and life grow in me. Help us all learn to trust in those gifts to do their job in time. Amen.

On the path to finding our life

On the way, toward the truth, to find life (photo by M Malina on the Braeside-McNab trail, May 2023)

Yet again, what we read in the bible is not easy to grasp. And this time, from the lips of Jesus himself. Jesus says to his disciples, “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”[1] Is this poetry? Is it mere abstraction?

Now, I know in this congregation there are engineers and mathematicians. The logical empiricists among us might argue that metaphysics doesn’t mean anything worthwhile. Who could blame them? “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”?

What we can understand, however, is that central to the Gospel of John is the identity of Jesus. Who is Jesus? Now that he is alive and no longer dead? And the Gospel of John suggests that who Jesus is cannot be untangled from who God is. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God”, Jesus basically says in the verses leading up to today’s Gospel reading. But here Jesus goes further. Who Jesus is cannot be unravelled from who we are. In effect, Jesus answers the question of our identity. Basically, he says, “Who we are in God is who we are.”[2]

By now our empirical minds are overheating! For, have we seen this truth with our own eyes? Can we verify it with evidence? What does it mean that our true self is “in God”? Because, all in all, humans do not give good and consistently faithful witness to God. We have not lived out of our core identity in God. And because there appears precious little proof of the holiness of humanity, how can this be true: “We are in God”?

When I had my recent dental cleaning appointment, the x-rays revealed that a filling on a back tooth was cracked. The filling itself was first put in when I was a child, decades ago. After looking carefully at the x-ray and then at the tooth itself, the dentist wanted to schedule another appointment as soon as possible to replace the old filling.

I had to believe her. But I had to confess I wasn’t so sure. You know, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. From my perspective, I had no pain or discomfort at all, going to the dentist. I was leaving her, apparently, with a problem now that needed more fixing. So, I was a little bit cynical.

In fact, I recalled the last time one of my old fillings was replaced, it required a couple of follow-up visits to adjust the bite. In other words, replacing a filling likely meant several days of discomfort eating solid foods before the teeth were realigned.

Now, believing the dentist wasn’t irrational. I could have examined the x-ray myself and asked the dentist to explain what she saw. I could have educated myself and employed technical knowhow to determine for myself the condition of the old filling and tooth. So, it’s not about science versus belief. It’s not about something that can’t be known.

I had to trust her, that not only what she said to me, but years of first-hand experience and full-time work of being a dentist gave the proposition credibility. Just because couldn’t ‘see’ the truth of the matter about my tooth with my own eyes didn’t mean it wasn’t true. 

Paul, in the Acts of the Apostles, visits Athens in Greece where he recognizes all manner of shrines and temples dedicated to all manner of gods. But one shrine catches his attention. It’s an altar dedicated “to an unknown god”.[3] And that’s the one that he uses as a springboard to describe the one God who created heaven and earth.

This inscription to the ‘unknown’ God is appropriate because, as Paul says, this God is not bound by human-built, material constructs. God is not bound in any one place. So, where is God? God resides in every human heart turned to faith. For, “in him we live, and move and have our being.” God inhabits the whole earth, all that God has made.

What does bind us together—the Father, the Son, and us all—is the Spirit of God’s love. Love. Twice in the Gospel today, Jesus refers to “my commandments”, in the first and last verses of the text.[4] 

Specifically, when Jesus refers to his commandments, we must recognize Jesus’ own definition of the Law—the Great Commandment: He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”[5]

And on the night before he died, Maundy Thursday, Jesus reiterates this “new” command by instructing his disciples to “love one another just as I have loved you.”[6]

Jesus promises his disciples that though he will leave them in body, he will not leave them “orphaned.” It’s interesting Jesus uses the word, “orphan” which is here another word frequently mentioned in the scriptures. Throughout the scriptures when orphans are mentioned it is often in the context of the mission of justice to care for the widows and orphans.[7]

As Jesus promises his disciples an Advocate to help and be with them, the mission of God is planted in us to be “little Christs”[8], advocates, to those who need our presence and help.

Though we cannot see the full truth of God’s presence in all—including in us—though we cannot always get what we see, or feel the love of God, doesn’t mean God is separate from us, doesn’t mean God has abandoned us. God is with us. God loves us. 

And so, when we love ourselves, when we love the earth and when we love others, we will know God is with us. Cesar Chavez once said, “It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life.”[9]

The Easter message is wrapped up in that line: Only by giving our lives in love, as Jesus did, do we find life. 

[1] John 14:15-21

[2] Richard Rohr, “Upending the Social Order” Freedom from Shame (Daily Meditations, www.cac.org, 8 May 2023)

[3] Acts 17:22-31

[4] John 14:15,21

[5] Matthew 22:37-39

[6] John 13:33-34

[7] See Deuteronomy 14:29; Proverbs 23:10; James 1:27

[8] A term used by Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis.

[9] Cited in Robert Ellsberg, ed., All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (Crossroad, 1997), p.180. Cesar Chavez was a 20th century American labor leader and civil rights activist.

From Monday to Saturday

In the chapel at Queen of Apostles, Mississauga Ontario (photo by Martin Malina 2 May 2023)

We are: “God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us….”[1]

This address from Peter oozes confidence. Here is a description of a people boldly going where no one has gone before! – To believe that what you do, even the smallest action, matters. In this confidence, then, there is meaning, hope and joy.

Or maybe you are like many whose confidence is shaken. Maybe you’re not so sure. Well, you’re not alone. I’ve come to believe that so much in the world today shakes our confidence. Maybe even snuffs it out.

I like the way Cameron Trimble puts it. She writes that in recent years, “we have experienced economic meltdown, climate countdown, racial throwdown, political breakdown, technology showdown, and religious letdown.”[2]

No wonder the mere suggestion that people of faith have something positive to offer our world today falls on deaf ears. When we are tempted to think, “It doesn’t matter, nothing we do matters,” then we know we’re in trouble. The church has a crisis of confidence to deal with.

What pulls the rug from under our own feet? Would we face what it is that keeps us from living out our faith in confidence?  

Is there a way to rebuild that confidence?

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”[3] It is a mental picture that Jesus draws for us in the Gospel for today. It’s not a physical house, one that we can walk into and look around right now. The space is not material. It is a vision Jesus paints before us.

And more than that, it is a vision to which each of us belongs. Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you … I will come again to take you to myself.”[4] A vision to which we belong, lies before us.

And here is another reason why we might fail in believing what we do matters. Because this vision lies ahead of us, we may think that what we’re doing now doesn’t really count, that our work is inconsequential. We can’t or won’t hold the vision, the big picture, before us. Therefore, we don’t appreciate the value of the smallest work, our smallest action.

But what we do now is part of God’s vision. As people of faith, who believe in God, we trust that the future will be good. We hope that things will eventually work out. And we want the future to reflect that vision of God.

Our confidence grows when we regard our present work as building toward that vision. “The future will be different if we make the present different.”[5]

And that is why every time we come to church to worship, what we are doing by being here and engaging the experience of worship is declaring that hope: that whatever happens now, in all that we do from Monday to Saturday, is linked to the vision of God. So, everything we do, 24-7, flows from a heart of faith.

As part of the agenda of the Eastern Synod Deans’ meeting, one evening this past week the group of us visited a Lutheran Church in Markham, near Toronto. The congregation treated us to a fabulous meal. We listened to the stories of several of the newcomers who are now members there, from Hong Kong and Ukraine. They spoke of displacement from their home country, their struggles in war zones, their immigration to Canada and how they have settled in the past year. 

One constant theme from all the testimonies we heard—and we heard many Chinese and Ukrainians—was the central place that the church had in this turbulent period of transition in their lives. The congregation was intentional to welcome them, support them, and accompany them in meeting their needs and giving them joy and hope for the future.

Everyone was engaged now in this larger vision. Members were living out their faith in every way imaginable: cutting grass, cleaning toilets, preparing meals, delivering furniture, etc. They were living out that vision—that bigger picture of the future and present of God’s kingdom.

One member of the congregation—his name is Max—came to Canada from Bermuda decades ago. He started up a Toronto moving company. Recently he delivered furniture driving in his white van to the homes of Ukrainian and Chinese newcomers to Canada. 

Max told us the story of bringing a single mattress to a house address on one of his workday delivery runs across the city. When he knocked on the door, first nobody answered. So, he waited a few moments before trying again. Then, he saw it: A face slowly rising above the windowpane of the door. And when the newcomer to Canada saw the mattress leaning against the door, the smile and joy that sprouted on their face warmed Max’s heart. He said in that moment he knew he wasn’t just delivering a mattress. He was doing God’s work.

During our visit to the Markham church last week, there was one word that was never once mentioned in all the testimonies we heard from newcomers, the pastor, the council members, board members, church members. The one word all of them never said was “volunteer”. Nobody there was ‘volunteering’. Instead, they were living out their faith as disciples of Jesus. Discipleship.

I think we need to practice not using the word “volunteer” in the church. We don’t need volunteers. That language compartmentalizes our life into separate boxes: A Sunday box; a work box; a play box, a leisure box, a hobby box, etc. The church doesn’t need volunteers. The church needs disciples. We need to see all our work that everyone does—in the church, in our lives—as our discipleship, an extension and expression of our faith which changes over time but still is part of it.

In the Gospel text today, Jesus talks first about knowing God and believing in God. But it’s not just Thomas that doubts. Philip, too, has trouble believing just the spoken words. “[Don’t tell us about] Show us the Father”, Philip demands.

And Jesus answers, if they don’t believe by the words he says, “then believe me because of the works themselves.”[6] Belief sometimes needs action to start the whole ball rolling. Often belief is not the best starting point to God. It’s the doing. The action, first, will lead to a stronger faith and relationship with God. The action will grow the community of faith and strengthen relationships of faith.

As if to underscore this truth, Jesus takes it to the next level. He says something audacious and, frankly, very hard to believe—that the person of faith will do “even greater works than these”—than what Jesus ever did![7]

“Greater works”, from the context of the early church, refers to the ever-widening circle of the church’s mission to the Gentiles[8]—to those who fall outside the traditional religious circle of the day. We must translate that missional dynamic into our world today. 

I think I witnessed a present-day example of the vision of God in Markham earlier this week. We’re not going to do exactly the same thing they are doing. The point is the attitude and heart and disposition they bring to church life. And I pray we as Christians and people of faith can catch the Spirit of the living God, to live into the future which is ever hopeful and expansive.

It may start by simply asking the question: “What do we care about—beyond ourselves?” As a congregation, a community of faith, what do we care about—beyond ourselves? And can we do that, together?

In closing, I want to return to the original vision in this Gospel text—the roominess in the house of God. A Lutheran theologian, Robert Jenson, suggested that God’s roominess described here relates not so much to the space, but to the time, God has for us.[9] God is roomy. God has all the time in the world for us.

All of it belongs, even everything we do from Monday to Saturday. And God is ever-patient with us. God is always opening for us ways to live out the gift of faith in our lives. 

[1] 1 Peter 2:9

[2] Cameron Trimble cited in “Fly Loose: Transitions”, Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations (www.cac.org, 5 May 2023)

[3] John 14:2

[4] John 14:2-3

[5] Peter Maurin, cited in Daily Prayer for All Seasons (New York: Church Publishing, 2014), p.114

[6] John 14:8-11

[7] John 14:12

[8] Donald Senior, “John 14:1-14” in David L. Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary Year A, Volume 2 (Kentucky: WJK Press, 2010), p.471.

[9] Cited in Cynthia A. Jarvis, ibid., p.469.

“From Monday to Saturday” – a sermon by Rev. Martin Malina for Easter 5A

Open door policy

Jesus identifies himself with a gate. The word, ‘gate’, appears several times in this Gospel text today.[1] Unlike “bread”[2], “light”[3], “vine”[4]—all natural and organic analogies created by God— “gate” is the only “I am” saying by Jesus in the New Testament that is built by human hands. 

That’s significant. Because unlike bread, light or a plant a gate is not meant to be the central focus of what is going on around it. A gate is merely a way through on a journey or intention that begins before approaching it and leads to somewhere else after leaving it. It is functional, serving a larger purpose. 

It is meant to be experienced. You experience passing through a gate, and what it signifies: a means to an end, a transition from one place to another. Today we receive an image to help us move into places of resurrection.

During the Easter season we consider being the presence of the living Christ to the world today. We hear the Easter message of new life in the conclusion of this Gospel text today; Jesus came so that “we may have life and have life abundantly.”[5]

A biblical professor of mine from my seminary days talked about it this way: The bouncing ball over time. The ball starts its journey by being dropped to the earth. 

God, in a sense, takes this direction or movement — first down:

“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.”[6]

That’s downward movement. The first trajectory of the divine movement comes down to earth. And it is on the ground that the first disciples witness and experience the human Jesus for the first time in history, in first century Palestine. 

As time moves forward, the ball then goes up, up in the air, off the ground and into the realm of abstract analogies, mental constructs, images, metaphors. The ball is flying in the air, to the degree that it is now our minds that must re-present Jesus who is no longer in the flesh, on the earth, a human being. 

But do these analogies leave us ‘up in the air’? Does Jesus remain merely an abstract notion? When Jesus says, “I am the gate” he’s also the “true vine”, the “light of the world”, the “good shepherd”[7], the “resurrection and the life”[8], the “way, truth and the life”[9] and, “the bread of life” as well. It’s not the image or metaphor that is the most important; it is the person of Christ it points to.

The gate image, because it is a thing, reminds us that Jesus must become real to us again today, in the flesh, in our experience. The ball will land, must land, on the ground again.

In other words, we are free to ‘see’ Christ in others and in the world today. We have to understand our context, too, for the message of Christ to have life. We don’t live in 1st century Palestine. And, to be fair, we no longer live in an agrarian-based society, as it was in the ancient world when the bible was first written down. 

In the middle of the 19th century, 84 percent of Canadians lived in what we would define as rural areas. But today, almost two centuries later, it is flipped: Some 82 percent of all Canadians live in cities. For the vast majority of Canadians today, agrarian images no longer carry the same weight, as far as meaning goes.

So, what would a contemporary gate look like today? Not a gate in the country, let’s say, but a gate in the city. A city gate?

When we consider gates in our backyards – the chain link fences dividing up suburbia – but also the gates keeping a city safe – checkpoints, guard houses, toll stations, prisons, the locks on the Rideau Canal. One thing about these city gates are that they are not constructed to be easily crossed, whether we are talking about regulating water flow, children playing in the yard, border crossings or prisoners in jails. It’s not a walk in the park.

Also, it takes time going through gates today. In fact, these city gates require significant effort. Procedures. Passcodes. Keys. Questions. And hopefully the right answers. Going through some gates can pose a threat, even present a degree of danger. 

The term ‘gatekeeping’ today is intimidating. It suggests the role of being a bouncer at the door—asking for credentials or proof to those wishing to enter, testing the veracity of the traveller’s claims. I think we live in a world today where gates are built to make it harder to open than to close. To open them takes more effort and time.

Among people of faith, too, I think we are tempted to keep Jesus inside. And so we close the gates of our hearts, and the gates—physical and mental—that keep matters of faith preserved. The result of this strategy, sadly, is to exclude, control and/or force everyone ‘inside’ to conform.

But Easter changed all that. Easter means that Jesus is alive, not dead. Easter means that Jesus has gone into the world, and lives in every corner of it. Easter has opened the gate, so that Christ is released out there.

While modern city gates are normally designed to control or stem traffic flow, the gate of Jesus is easily opened. More often than not, it’s stuck open. It’s harder to close it than it is to open it. Jesus’ gate is more about a free flow of traffic in and out. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.[10]

The community, the reign, the shepherding of Christ if you will involve relationships defined by the grace, freedom and love of God—the freedom for welcome, acceptance, and even the freedom to leave. This freedom of movement from outside to inside and inside to outside is the open-door policy of God’s reign. 

When the church remains a place where all people are free to come and to go, we remain true to Christ who is this gate, who is this place of transition. It might not always be easy to go through either way, because of the blocks we create, we place on ourselves. But Jesus doesn’t block the way. When we would rather close the gate, Jesus opens it. The One who is the gate is faithful and beckons us through to the fullness, the abundance of life beyond.

[1] John 10:1-10

[2] John 6:35-48

[3] John 8:12; 9:5

[4] John 15:1-5

[5] John 10:10

[6] Philippians 2:5-8

[7] John 10:11-14

[8] John 11:25

[9] John 14:6

[10] John 10:9

“Open door policy” (sermon by Rev. Martin Malina)

From broken to broken – God’s grace at the holy meal

Yes, indeed this chapter is typical of the Lukan narrative style.[1] Because the story is resolved and reaches its climax around a dinner table, around a meal.

One of the stand-out activities of Jesus’ ministry throughout the Gospel of Luke is eating. I’ve mentioned this before, that there is some kind of reference, or at least implied, to “eating” in every one of the twenty-four chapters of Luke. And Jesus is at the centre of it all. 

Some notable examples—Jesus is born in a feeding trough for animals.[2] Jesus is accused early in his ministry of being a glutton and a drunkard.[3] What is worse, he eats with all the wrong people![4]Then, he shares the Passover meal with his disciples the night before he died.[5]

So, it’s instructive that in the resurrection story about the walk to Emmaus[6] that, in the end, it’s not Jesus’ teaching—significant nonetheless—that opens their eyes. It’s not his physical presence—significant nonetheless—that opens their eyes. It’s Jesus’ breaking and sharing bread with his friends.[7] It’s his blessing of food. In this sharing of bread at an ordinary table, we catch a glimpse of “Jesus’ transformative kingdom.”[8]

It’s when Jesus takes what he is going to eat, breaks off a piece, and shares it with everyone else gathered at table. It’s like he’s taking the conventional expectation—that when someone comes to the table, they’ll keep for themselves the food placed before them. Jesus, again, turns upside down everyone’s expectations. There’s this self-giving, from a heart of love, that offers not what is perfect but what is broken. To everyone.

Which is not how I instinctively operate. If I’m going to share something, especially food, I want to make sure I’m offering my guest and those whom I serve the best pieces, the biggest, the best-looking off the grill. In other words, I’m looking to give the very best of what I can give. 

But not Jesus. Jesus does not exercise his mission based on performance and perfection. Jesus’ action invites us, maybe challenges us, first to receive and accept what is less-than-ideal in and around us.

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St Peter meets him at the pearly gates.

St Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man said, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

“One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.

“TWO POINTS!!” the man cries. “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

St Peter says, “Come on in!”

God is gracious and merciful, despite our imperfect efforts to catch God’s attention and despite our belief that we have to earn our way into God’s favour.

From broken to broken. From broken—meaning despised and rejected, what Jesus suffered himself on the cross—to broken; meaning, touching what is broken within us. In the holy meal, Jesus touches what is broken in our lives and in need of healing and in need of being made whole again. Bread broken. The Body of Christ given—broken—for you. And everyone else.

The Holy Communion magnifies the truth of grace, a truth that we don’t ‘see’ in each other normally in our compare-and-compete world. Jesus takes the initiative to find us on the road—on our journeys—and approaches us because we are beloved children of God. Not because we have accomplished something grand. The disciples on the road felt as failures; the past three years were all for nothing, it seemed. But despite their, and our, brokenness and even because of it, Jesus approaches us with love.

Within our historic Christian faith, we affirm that all humanity bears the imprint of the Divine[9], that we are made in the image of God. This is the starting point for drawing forward our sense of dignity. This is the intrinsic value that is ascribed, not earned, based on our essence in reflecting a good and loving God.[10]

When we start with the grace of resting in our dignity—despite what is broken within us— then the truth of our identity flows forward to embrace those around us. We re-spect them, the word ‘respect’ means “to see a second time”[11], to take another look. To see the good.

A colleague who teaches a two-year confirmation class concludes the program by announcing a final exam. Each student must take the three-hour exam after which the pastor takes up the answers with each student.

As you can imagine, the students get quite anxious and nervous leading up to the exam. All kinds of reasons are presented why some can’t participate. The pastor gently but firmly persists and insists. With a twinkle in his eye. This moment will define and determine the student’s standing in the church and with God for the rest of eternity!

At first the students are shocked when after the written test is completed and handed in, the pastor in dramatic fashion rips up the paper without even looking at any of the answers written down, and unceremoniously deposits the shredded pieces into the recycling can.

Grace doesn’t demand perfection as a condition for belonging to God’s reign. Grace doesn’t insist on getting it right before you receive the gift of Jesus’ life in yours. Grace doesn’t put conditions on anyone coming with an outstretched hand to the table.

Our lives begin and end in the love and grace of God. Whatever our good efforts, and however we try to get it right, this will make a difference and open up ‘airspace’ for God’s grace to flood in. But we can’t control the outcome. And sometimes we need Jesus to break in when we can’t break out when we are stuck, likely more often than we think. In the end it is the freedom of God’s agency to show mercy and open the eyes of our heart.

You are welcome to partake of this Holy Meal. And next time you connect at the table in person or by watching online, take a good look—and maybe a second look—at who is there beside you also receiving the gift, the grace, also a beloved child of God. Will you ‘see’ them with renewed vision? As beloved children of God?

[1] Luke 24

[2] Luke 2:7

[3] Luke 7:34

[4] Luke 5:29-31 “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

[5] Luke 22:1-23

[6] Luke 24:13-35

[7] Luke 24:30-31

[8] Eric Barreto, “Commentary on Luke 24:13-35” in workingpreacher.org (23 April 2017).

[9] Genesis 1:27

[10] Christ Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth (Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan, 2017), p.17

[11] Richard Rohr, “Everyday Pilgrims” in Daily Meditations (www.cac.org, 10 March 2023)

From broken to broken’ sermon for Easter 3A (Rev. Martin Malina)

Lightning – Life in Christ

Lightning will strike (photo by Martin Malina, Arnprior, June 2020)

I’ve found myself reading more children’s stories over the past few years. In the simple language and images not only do I gain insight into a perspective from children, but I also find deep wisdom in the writing.

There is a genre of children’s literature known as transition stories. Focused on the in-between moments that cause young people stress, topics range from bedtime to moving, from separation anxiety to grieving, and more. [1] These books help children grow and mature into accepting the reality of life we all face, no matter our age.

How do we make those transitions in life—transitions that are significant milestones? From living with someone for decades and then you lose them. From one job to another that is completely different. Moving to another country on the other side of the globe. From good health to illness. We may find ourselves at a station of life where we’ve gotten off one train, and we are waiting for the next one to arrive.

How do we make those transitions? And how do we make them well?

Today’s gospel reading is a transition story too.[2] From the night of that first Easter morning, to a week later. From fear to faith. From the disciples not knowing what to do, to being given a big job to do. 

And, like the first disciples, we cannot make a significant transition by ourselves. We cannot shepherd ourselves through our own transitions. We rely on others—family, friends, pets, a community of faith. Who is in your relational circle? 

How do our relations help us? For one thing, we rely on our shared stories—common interests, aligned perspectives, similar and dis-similar life experiences. And when we share those stories—when we are heard and when we can listen—we discover meaning. We may even unlearn or face our fears. In the sharing of stories, we discover meaning in life’s transitions. We may, like the disciples and in the awareness of Christ’s living presence with us, greet a renewed purpose for life.

Books and films whose main characters are children or young people impress me when, at the onset we meet a young child, innocent, immature. But by the end of the epic adventure or quest they undertake, facing seemingly impossible odds and dangers, they have become strikingly mature and adult. It causes me to pause and reflect on how much they have changed to come into their own.

Last week I preached about the power unleashed at the death of Jesus. And, at his resurrection, the great power of love overcame the world’s powers of violence, fear, and hatred. This resurrection power was not just for Jesus, but for all people in Christ for all time. Recall that when Jesus died and rose, “the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After [Jesus’] resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.”[3]

The power of the resurrection was also then given to the disciples in the upper room on that first day: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”[4] This is incredible. It is a great gift to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and to have the capacity to exercise it.

What strikes me is that the power of resurrection resides in the disciples with purpose to make a positive difference in the world. The responsibility now lies in them to affect the world for good.

Easter is not just about the individual miracle in Jesus’ life. It is a miracle for all of us.

Jesus’ life is a grace and a gift to us now. The purpose of Jesus’ life is not so much to arouse empathy but to create empowerment.[5] In other words, Jesus is not particularly interested in increasing either your guilt or your devotion, but rather, in deepening your personal capacity to grow, to transition, to make the passage into a fuller, wholesome life.

That power resides in us.

We find ourselves in what is sometimes called the shoulder season of Spring—the in between winter and summer. It is a transitional time, weather-wise. In one short week we went from going through the worst ice-storm in Ottawa since 1997 to 20-degree, summer-like temperatures. During that ice-storm I even heard thunder and saw flashes of lightning.

Lightning occurs, of course, primarily because of conditions from above—the charged air-mass and weather system moving over the land and coming from somewhere else. Most lightning strikes are from cloud-to-ground. The power of God occurs from the start because the Spirit moves into our space.

But does lightning always strike only from the sky down? 

While most lightning is initiated by downward leaders, upward discharges are also possible, occurring almost always from towers, tall buildings, or mountain tops.[6]

When I consider the power of the resurrection unleashed by the empty tomb, when I consider the gifting of that power to forgive, to love, given to the disciples, I think of lightning as a good metaphor.

Because the power of God is a two-way street. It cannot be complete without being connected to God’s power. It cannot be complete without our participation in the powerful activity of God in the world.

We are given the Holy Spirit to make a difference. Having life in Christ’s name means we have the power. The Spirit has been given to us in Christ Jesus. We are connected to Christ. Thanks be to God, who by the power of Jesus’ resurrection, empowers us to be Christ’s presence in this world we inhabit today.

[1] Sundays and Seasons, Daily Resources 16 April 2023

[2] John 20:19-31

[3] Matthew 27:52-53

[4] John 20:22-23

[5] Cynthia Bourgeault, “A Transforming Passion” Daily Meditations (www.cac.org, 5 April 2023)

[6] Upward discharged lightning

A sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A (Rev. Martin Malina)

Simple enjoyment: An Easter Sunday sermon

New Life Springing Up All Around (photo by Martin Malina, Kootenay River BC, July 2019)

Happy Easter!

Now, did you know that Easter is not just today — one day? Easter lasts fifty days, from Easter Day through to the Day of Pentecost, which this year is on May 28.

And, for that matter, every Sunday in the year — even during Lent — is considered a ‘little’ Easter, a mini feast of the resurrection on what Christians have called the first day of the week.

The primary theme of Easter is resurrection. Jesus Christ is alive, raised from the dead. We, too, share with Jesus life everlasting in our baptism. Therefore, new life is always around us and in us, of course. But we don’t always notice it.

Admittedly, with all that’s wrong in us and in the world today, it’s not easy to focus our attention on the new life springing all around us. That’s why we need to hear the Easter proclamation over and over again: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Maybe it’s too simple a thing. Our minds want to complicate the message of Jesus’ resurrection with debates, controversies, stipulations—and we end up thinking we need to do a whole bunch of mental gymnastics. In order to believe we think we need to have every question about life after death figured out, solved.

And yet for over two thousand years Christians have believed in the presence of the living Lord Jesus, and expressed their faith in resurrection and new life, despite the evils and troubles in the world.

During the Holocaust in the last century over six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. In a part of the city of Warsaw in Poland, called the Warsaw Ghetto, an inscription was discovered years later carved into a wall in the home of a Jewish family. It was a prayer, a statement of belief and an expression of faith: 

“I believe in the sun even when it doesn’t shine; I believe in love even when I don’t feel it; I believe in God even when God is silent.”[1]

I wonder if, today, we need to renew our faith in the truth and wonder of the resurrection. I wonder if we need to narrow our focus and try not to complicate the simple practice of belief and faith, despite the temptation to do so.

A couple of decades ago a scientist, David Quammen, published a book probing the far-reaching effects of extinction. This is, admittedly, a broad and expansive topic with many implications: the climate crisis, evolution, species diversity, etc.

In order to understand ‘extinction’, David Quammen studied not every species that ever became extinct throughout history, no. He studied a single species, the dodo bird, the last of which died on an island in the Indian Ocean in 1681.[2]

Any pursuit of the mind or soul, whether in science or in the life of faith, begins on as small a scale as possible. “The way to the many is through the one. Loving all things starts with loving one thing.”[3]

How do we practise focusing our attention and simplifying things, in the first place?

In the midst of all that is, good and bad, let’s take a deep breath and take a good, long look and listen around us. Have you been outside this weekend? What’s one thing you notice in nature and in the change of the seasons?

We know nature can’t be speeded up. We may want it to! —especially given the sluggish arrival of Spring this year. And still we are reminded again of the natural pacing of things. The crocuses, the tulips, the buds on the trees and blades of grass will soon emerge with fresh, new greening. This is both the reality of nature, and the nature of reality. 

But we are often at odds with the natural pace of life. Nature and reality happen often at a much slower rhythm of life than we’ve come to know for our own lives. Consider the nine months of pregnancy, periods of incubation, weather systems, growth, ripening — these are all teachers for us.

Thomas Aquinas, the great Doctor of Theology from the thirteenth century, defined prayer as the “simple enjoyment of the truth.”[4] The truth is, like nature, what is real. We don’t live in a fantasy world—the world of ‘what if’s’ and the world of ‘could-of, would-of, should-of.’

Easter is real. And the truth of new life and resurrection is to be celebrated and enjoyed: The simple enjoyment of the truth.

We can’t enjoy this reality when we are speeding. Because of the instant culture in which we live—instant results and same-day delivery—we’ve rather lost this art of simply enjoying the truth.

I now drive an electric car (EV). Driving an EV has opened my awareness to the simple enjoyment of the truth. The greatest enemy to the range of a battery-powered car is increased speed over time. As a friend who also now drives an EV told me recently: “the speed limit is your friend.”

I’ve experienced a conversion of sorts. I used to not think of driving over 120 kms/hour on the expressways. Now, I average well under 110. Why? To extend my range. Not an easy lifestyle adjustment. Yet, slowing down—ironically—has made me realize how much time I actually have.

Of course, we’ve always known that our energy consumption increases the faster we drive—no matter whether your car is powered by fossil fuel or electrons. The faster you go, the more fuel you burn. It’s always been true. The speed limit has always been my friend. I’ve just noticed it now with the EV probably because I don’t have the same level of ‘convenience’ filling up anywhere. I’ve had to confront some limitations to engaging our culture of hyper, hurried, hustle.

With a positive result for me. When I slow down, I pay attention to what has always been true, right there before my very eyes.

When we slow down, when we narrow our focus, we expand the field of vision before us. We notice in another person, for example, things we may have missed when we’ve hurried past them in the hallway. We reconsider and see again their true needs. We listen better. We don’t just rush to conclusions but recognize what they really need and who they really are.

Who is your neighbour? Where is new life beckoning around you now?

New life in Christ is here! It has already happened. And continues to happen all around us, all the time! 

Easter doesn’t magically remove evil and all the troubles in the world today. Easter is not waving a magic wand and making our suffering disappear. The living Lord is not some cosmic superhero that solves all our questions with a snap of a finger.

The simple enjoyment of the truth is the presence of heart, mind and soul seeing God in the real, the natural: the breath, the heartbeat, the love and the good that is always around us. Let us rejoice today in this most blessed gift!

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

[1] My translation, from “Karfreitag 7 April” in Der Neukirchener Kalendar 2023 (Neukirchener-Verlagsgesellschaft, 2023)

[2] Cited in Belden C. Lane, The Great Conversation: Nature and the Care of the Soul (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), p.40-41.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cited in Laurence Freeman, “Conditions for Breakthrough” in The Art of Waiting (Singapore: MedioMedia, WCCM, 2022).