We are about life, not the other way around

“By the River”, painting and frame by Lois O’Brien
sermon audio “We are about life, not the other way around” by Martin Malina

The NHL season began this past week. And the Ottawa Senators hope not to repeat last year’s start, which saw them losing all but two of their first fifteen games. Even though they ended the regular season last Spring one of the hottest teams in the league—winning ten of their last fifteen games—they still didn’t have enough points to make it into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

They say teams can lose the Stanley Cup in the first month of the season, meaning those first few games are crucial to the team’s prospect of making the playoffs. So, there’s a lot riding on each game, especially early on.

Yet the opposite is also very true: You can’t win the Stanley Cup in the first few games of the season either. Many teams have to build resiliency and overcome adversity on the road to ultimate success. And that means losing some games and surviving those slumps which inevitably come to all successful teams at some point in the season.

In other words, accepting our limits and checking our ambitions is very much integral to the overall arc of one’s life. Not just for professional sports teams.

In the Gospel text for today,[1] James and John go for it. To run this race, they are out of the starting blocks at full gallop. Believing they need to compete on the ladder of success with the other disciples, believing they need to vy for a privileged seat in some hierarchy of God’s reign, believing they’ll get ahead only by denying the other disciples this privilege—they demand from Jesus “to do for us whatever we ask of you …grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

No wonder the other disciples were angry with James and John.

I was being opportunistic. I knew the market was hot for used canoes. So I went for it. I sold my favourite canoe for a good price. With the money from the sale I decided to buy a new kayak. They would have to build one because – you guessed it – there were none in stock. That was July 1st.

Originally they said it would take two months until I could pick it up. Ok. In September I could still get out on the water several times. In retrospect, I could have been out on the water every day this past week with the warm, summer-like temperatures we have enjoyed to date.

But in mid-August I received a letter from the owner of the canoe company apologizing and advising that my kayak’s production was running behind schedule about six-weeks. There was now very little if any chance I would be in the water in my new kayak before winter. I would likely have to wait until Spring to enjoy my new toy.

My ambition ran into a brick wall. What started out as a great plan to maximize my enjoyment of paddling, and take advantage of the resources at my disposal, ended in disappointment, you could say. I’d have to gain some perspective to keep from slipping into regret and ingratitude.

Gus, the main character in David James Duncan’s bestselling novel, The River Why, reflects on his passion and calling to be on the river and to be the best fly-fisher he could be. As you get to know this character, you very quickly realize how much his life is defined and motivated by fishing and spending time on the river.

But he soon also realizes that immersing himself fully into his passion without boundaries and without limits, and pursuing his ambition unchecked, was actually driving him mad. He had to find balance in his life. He had to find other activities and build relationships with neighbours. He had to take care of himself.

Gus muses, “The once-monthly fisherman adores his rare day on the river, imagining that ten times the trips would yield ten times the pleasure. But … I learned that not fishing is crucial to the enjoyment of fishing: fishing is a good thing, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing.”[2]

Jesus turns the tables on James and John. They expected that their ambition would be rewarded. Well, it often is in the world of purusing self-gratification, what’s-in-it-for-me lifestyles and me-first relationships. Indeed we are often rewarded by a world that values going-for-it, and looking-out-for-oneself and one’s-own, a world motivated by uninhibited, individual ambitions.

Jesus suggests another strategy, one that realizes peace and contentment through acknowledging one’s limits, a lifestyle that finds meaning and purpose by respecting one’s place in the larger scheme of things.

When Jesus talks about giving his life, what he means is that we are part of a much bigger whole. Jesus asserts not just by his words but by what he does that “life is not about us, but we are about life.” 

We are not our own. We are an instance of something much bigger than us. Life is living itself in us. This thinking is revolutionary to our brains which have been trained to believe otherwise. As Richard Rohr confesses, Jesus’ message is “an earthquake in the brain, a hurricane in the heart.”[3]

As it was, and as I waited, I still got out on the water a handful of times this summer in our other, older fifteen-footer canoe and by borrowing demo models at lakeside outfitters in Algonquin Park.  Paddling on the water a couple of times was pure joy. And enough. 

I learned that regardless of how many times I’m on the water doesn’t gaurantee a ‘perfect’ experience every time: bad weather, faulty gear, unexpected high winds. So, I discovered that not paddling is crucial to the enjoyment of paddling: paddling is a good thing, but too much of a good thing can also be a bad thing.

In the want, in the suffering, in embracing the lack of things, we learn to live in the moment, a moment still infused by God’s grace. We learn to pay attention, even in the want, to what God is bringing to you this very day, and at this very moment. Even amidst the pain, we more readily bind our hearts with others and look beyond our present circumstances.

One of the main turning points in The River Why happens when Gus, a miserable and unhealthy man, begins to emerge from his self-consumed life. He decides to meet his neighbours living along the river. 

And that is when his life changes for the better.


[1] Mark 10:35-45

[2] David James Duncan, The River Why (New York: Back Bay Books, 2016), p.75-76

[3] “Your Life Is Not About You” Reality Initiating Us: Part One  (Daily Meditations, www.cac.org, 1 April 2020)

Warming hearts

Cape Disappointment, Washington State, 2018, by Martin Malina
audio of “Warming Hearts” sermon, Martin Malina

The ice was coating the sidewalk, and even the packed, dirt path leading to the graveside.

The rare, January rain had turned back to sleet and snow. The temperature was falling to its customary levels for that time of year, freezing again the mounds of earth piled on the side of the deep hole in the ground.

The winds out of the north were picking up, gusting across the open farm fields surrounding the cemetery. It was not a day to be out doing anything, let alone carrying a casket with numbing cold hands and wearing dress shoes.

The conditions couldn’t have been worse. It was the last place on earth I’d go to experience God: a frozen cemetery feeling the sorrow of losing Dad to a horrible disease.

And yet, when we buried my Dad in those conditions almost two years ago, the bad weather is not the only thing I remember. 

As Bishop Michael began leading us over the frozen ground towards the planks of wood lining the grave, we realized we would need some extra help. Because it was dangerous going. A slip and a fall was only a snowflake away. 

I remember the bishop looking over at the little group of mourners gathered with my Mom, my brother and I that frightful January day and finding the eyes of a young man – the son of one of my mother’s friends. Thanks be to God he was there. The bishop didn’t need to say anything. We were all thinking the same thing. With a nod, the young person jumped in with us and added his strength to guide the casket down onto the grave-hoist ropes without incident.

And as we shivered in the wind to hear the familiar, comforting words, the warmth expanded in my heart.

I think back to that time now, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because since then the pandemic has brought the reality of death to the forefront of our collective lives. Maybe because so many have indeed suffered and lost everything. Some have braved and weathered the adversity they faced. Some have barely survived through times of unprecedented change. 

Going into public places – even going into a church building – may be the last place you’d feel like going on a Sunday morning these days.

And maybe because we also realize now that the threat of COVID won’t just disappear anytime soon. Grief is like that. We’re in the business of endurance for the long haul. It is indeed a marathon we are running, emotionally and spiritually.

On top of that and in all the debate and division about vaccines, lockdowns and restrictions, have our hearts hardened?

In the Gospel for today[1], Jesus encounters the keepers of the law – the Pharisees. The keepers of the law wanted to question Jesus about the law and specifically the commandments about marriage from the time of Moses. If they could trip Jesus up on the icy surface of their logic, perhaps they could find reason to condemn him.

Mount Sinai was in the middle of the desert. The desert, the wilderness, was also a dangerous place. Freezing temperatures at night. Sweltering heat under the noonday sun. Deadly animals and lack of food, constant threats. 

Yet, this was the place – the last place on earth – where the law was given to Moses. The law wasn’t delivered in a vacuum, after all, but in the middle of the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Inbetween the place where God’s deliverance of the Israelites began, and where it was hoped God’s deliverance would end. They had a long road to travel to get there.

When the Israelites had crossed the sea out of Egypt, escaping the clutches of their pursuers, God was not done freeing them. The God of the bible is not a God who liberates, then leaves. But a God who continues to save, even in the last place on earth.

“This is a God who walks with people through the desert in a cloud of smoke and fire and who literally sets up camp with them in the form of a traveling tabernacle. This is a God who cares about every detail of their new life together …”[2] who gives to the hungry manna, just enough to keep going. 

With God, deliverance is not a one-time deal. Freedom, healing and salvation in Christ is not a one-off, run-and-done. Learning and growth in faith is a process that continues throughout our lives.

“It was because of the hardness of your hearts that Moses gave the law,” Jesus says. But Jesus is not finished speaking. Hardness of heart is not the end of this story. Jesus is not finished showing them. He has much more to show the scrutinizing keepers of the law about life and marriage and loss and divorce. 

Because they forget one thing, one very important thing about God when they only want to keep the law. That God is not done with them and us. And especially in those times and those places that test us.

The Gospel text for today ends with this odd, almost disconnected scene of Jesus welcoming the children, taking them up in his arms and blessing them. “Let the children come to me, do not stop them,” Jesus says. What do the children have to do with laws about divorce and marriage? 

Perhaps, then, the discordant, jarring form of the text itself is suggestive. Perhaps, then, it is precisely how it comes to us—in those jarring, dangerous times of life, where the connections are not easy to make—like when confronting suffering, death, God, or love. These realities confound us. These are testing times. 

Maybe, then, it is precisely in those long-haul, grinding-it-out times when we feel we are walking a slippery plank on the edge of an abyss, where we are one breath away from falling, when we can only see the grey skies stretching into the horizon and brace against the cold winds of fear ….

Those are the times, those are the places, those are the moments we really need to pay attention. Because God is not absent in those suffering times. The problem is not that God isn’t there with us in the desert, at the graveside when the weather is frightful. The hardness of our hearts is the problem.

But that is when God finds us. The last place on earth is where grace happens, where the love of God erupts as a small flame in our hearts. The love of God erupts in a small moment of giving, and of receiving the unconditional help of a friend. 

Our hearts warm. The ice melts. God takes us in arms of love, and blesses us. This is God. Compassion is the way through the desert, through the long-haul sufferings of life. Compassion is the way.

And it’s just beginning.

Thanks be to God.


[1] Mark 10:2-16

[2] Rachel Held Evans. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. Tennesee: Nelson Books, 2018. p.53.

God’s freedom

Algonquin Trail underneath Hwy 417 at Arnprior, Ontario – photo by Martin Malina
audio version of sermon, “God’s Freedom”, by Martin Malina

Jesus’ disciples think they are doing a good thing. They try to stop someone who is doing a good thing. But, there’s a problem. For the disciples that problem outweighs the good thing that person is doing. John, the disciple who speaks, says, “We saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”[1]

The problem is, this person is not a card-carrying member. They’re “not following us”; they weren’t part of the club. And no matter the good they do, it doesn’t count in the religious mind-set of the disciples.

Are we much different? The debates continue today about whether it counts if non-believers do good, whether it counts if those who do not belong in a formal way to the church or to our congregation do good – things that we are called to do. Does that count?

You could say that, at least, they were casting out the demon “in Jesus’ name”. And that may be why Jesus said, “Do not stop him.” 

I’ve found at least a couple very good commentaries on what “In Jesus’ name” means: One approach suggests the name of Jesus itself is powerful. Here, the exorcist seems to be using Jesus’ name explicitly as a powerful tool for casting out demons. 

Therefore, according to this interpretation, the story in the end may be less about the power of demons and more about the power of language itself, to change the speaker and to shape the identity of the community.[2] “No one who does a deed of power in my name,” says Jesus, “will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.”[3] Using the name of Jesus is a powerful act that cannot leave the performer unaffected. 

Another good approach suggests that to act in Jesus’ name is simply “to act in a manner consistent with his character”.[4] By this interpretation, some people may behave in a Christlike manner without realizing it, consciously. Such is the case in Matthew 25:31-46, where the action itself is the focus – visiting the sick and imprisoned, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry. The action itself determines the Christian way regardless of who is doing it. Some have called this ‘anonymous Christianity.’

Nevertheless, I still wonder: If this person was doing good in Jesus’ name, why weren’t they already following Jesus? Why was this person apart from the community that surrounded and followed Jesus throughout Galilee? The action in the text pivots from excluding someone who does not belong, to Jesus authorizing their inclusion. “Do not stop him.” The action in the text hinges on what Jesus says here.

So, in the end, for me this passage points to the freedom of God. When we begin with God’s freedom, we also affirm that we are not in control nor do we judge who’s in and who’s out when it comes to the work of the Holy Spirit, the work of God, in the world. 

Richard Rohr asserts that it is a very hard task indeed to keep God free for people, “because what religion tends to do is tell God whom God can love and whom God is not allowed to love …”[5]

Gus, the main character in the novel, The River Why,[6] is on a journey to find God. And Gus believes the only way to do that is to find God in a certain place that Gus determines. In the novel, this place is the source of the river on whose banks Gus lives, farther downstream. It’s a long and arduous journey. When he finally arrives at his destination, Gus fails to experience what he intended by all his hard work and labour to find God and truth. 

Slumping at the source of the river he confesses: “It’s a damn tough business sitting around trying to force youself to force God to forcefeed you …”

By the end of the novel, Gus does find God. But it’s in the least expected turn of events and experiences of his life. He concludes, “Thank God I failed. It would have been a hell of a note to have to hike fifty miles up[river]… every time I wanted a word with … [God].” 

Gus discovers that God and God’s truth are not experienced according to his anticipated and sought-after outcomes. Gus discovers that God’s ways are not his ways, that he can’t force God’s hand, or be driven spiritually by his own notions of where it must happen, when it must happen, or with whom it must happen.

The example of Jesus in the Gospel today pushes us to consider God’s prerogative, to consider others as God’s hands and feet in the world. Consequently I believe the Word calls us to examine the barriers we may be tempted to put up in order to exclude those who are not like us, or who differ from us in ways that make us uncomfortable, or those who do not follow us.[7]

Someone we know who prays. But is not Lutheran.

Someone who cares for the earth. But you doubt whether they go to church.

Someone who volunteers in drop-in centres for women, someone else who volunteers at the local food bank, someone else who gives their time writing letters to members of parliament to ensure safe drinking water for northern, indigenous communities. But they aren’t professing Christians.

A family member or friend who is honest about their doubts yet still practices compassion and listens well to people who come to them with their problems offering their gift of healing. But doesn’t use the right, familiar God-language.

While we will not control their behaviour nor their beliefs, we can trust that God has this in hand. We don’t need to put up any roadblocks when the Holy Spirit works in the lives of those who nonetheless are doing good, in Jesus’ name. Because our task is not to be gatekeepers or guardians of God’s truth, but rather faithful followers and trusting servants of God, who is love.

Amen.


[1] Mark 9:38-41

[2] Martha L. Moore-Keish, “Mark 9:38-50 Theological Perspective” in David L. Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary Year B Volume 4 (Kentucky: WJK Press, 2009), p.118

[3] Mark 9:39

[4] Martha L. Moore-Keish, ibid.

[5] Richard Rohr, “A Journey Towards Greater Love” Living Inside God’s Great Story (Daily Meditations, www.cac.org, 29 August 2021)

[6] David James Duncan, The River Why (New York: Back Bay Books, 2016), p.340-341

[7] Br. David Vryhof, “Inclusion” Brother, Give Us A Word (www.sje.org, 10 September 2021)

Behind the words

Martin Malina_sermon audio version_behind the words

“We will bury you!” 

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev said those words in 1956. He was speaking to American diplomats at a reception in Moscow. In 1956, those words caused quite the stir.

In fact, those words—“We will bury you!”—helped spur the rapid arms build-up which during the Cold War in the last century pushed the world’s two superpowers to the brink of World War Three and nuclear annihilation.

What did Khrushchev actually mean by saying to the Americans, “We will bury you!”? It’s impossible to tell exactly. Because history suggests he was a man prone to brashness and exaggeration. Some say those words were based on a failed Marxist philosophy that the masses (proliterate) would be the undertakers of the monied bourgeois. Khrushchev may very well have been speaking out of a specific worldview and his belief in how history will unfold. 

Yet, these words were widely misinterpreted to suggest burial, literally, under mountains of radioactive rubble. Because Khrushchev was in 1956 one of two men in the world who had the power to launch a nuclear catastrophe.[1]

Words matter. The words we say or write have power, for good or bad.

In the current Canadian federal election campaign, there are lots of words coming at us from the candidates. I don’t believe I’m alone in sometimes noticing a difference between words I read on a page or screen, and those same words I watch and hear spoken.

On paper, the words alone suggest one thing for me—good, bad, indifference. But when I see and hear the person speaking those very same words, I can have a completely different impression altogether and derive a completely different meaning. As is often the case, the way in which those words are spoken—the medium, you might say—is the message.

There’s more to the words alone.

I’d like to do a simple exercise with you. Listen to this short sentence, six words long. I will repeat this sentence six times, the same words in the same order. How does the emphasis on different words change the meaning of the whole sentence? 

I didn’t say you were wrong.

didn’t say you were wrong.

I didn’t say you were wrong.

I didn’t say you were wrong.

I didn’t say you were wrong.

I didn’t say you were wrong.

When I was first introduced to doing this exercise as the listener, I presumed the same six words would convey the same meaning no matter how often repeated or regardless of which word in that sentence was emphasied? Was I wrong![2]

The book of James is popular for Christians for its practical advise. In the text assigned for today, James first lashes out against the tongue and how evil it can be.[3] “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!” In truth, Khrushchev’s tongue and words in 1956 almost did set the world aflame.

The opposite is true, too. Even good words, warns James, can be a hypocrisy if spoken without authenticity. It’s hard to believe even good words if not conveyed by a credibility and trust in the person giving them. “From the same mouth can come blessing and cursing.” Words have that duality to them, if treated alone, on the surface.

To know Jesus, then, is to know more than merely the words recorded about him. These are nonetheless beautiful and important words to help us on our journey of faith. Yet, to know Jesus, and to be an authentic follwer of Jesus, is to experience the presence of the living Christ in your own life today.

And that involves more than words on a page.

What we don’t say has just as much to ‘say’ as any words might. The Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote, “A person does not speak only with words.” You could call this non-verbal communication—our tone, body language, posture, eye contact, maintaining physical distance, smiles or frowns, inviting facial expressions or with engaging, open, curious energy.[4]

In a word-infested world where we are bombarded and assaulted by so many words—many good, some bad—the Gospel points us to a deeper way, a more authentic starting place behind any words we might say, write or read.

The prophet Isaiah gives us direction on this path of a deepening experience of God. How does Isaiah do good with his words – a prophet who is known for his words, who had a lot of words to say? How does Isaiah “sustain the weary with a word?”

Isaiah listens first. “The Lord God … wakens my ear, every day, to listen as those who are taught.”[5] Listening to another opens the pathway to authentic relationships, as we respond out of a heart that receives the other first.

What is behind the words for a Christian?

Love. In the end, words are not enough. Words—like technology—are very good, capable tools for life. But words are means; words are not ends in themselves. 

Love is the true end and starting point. Without love, our words are lifeless. Truth cannot be communicated apart from a heart of love in relationship. In the service of love, out of a heart of love, our words find place and purpose.[6] As Jesus did for those he met, healed and to whom he spoke. As Jesus does for us, out of God’s heart of love.

Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, The Emotion Thesaurus. WritersHelpingWriters.net 2012, p.106

[1] Giles Whittell, Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War (New York: Random House, 2010), p.44

[2] Adapted from “Creative Listening” in Frontline, Earl A. Grollman (Summer 2021).

[3] James 3:1-13,17

[4] Ibid., Grollman

[5] Isaiah 50:4

[6] adapted from Br. Keith Nelson, “Knowledge”, Brother, Give Us A Word (www.ssje.org, 2 September 2021)

They are love

“They” are love – Martin Malina

I live in Arnprior, whose logo reads — “Where the Rivers meet”, because the town is situated at the confluence of the Madawaska and Ottawa rivers. The flow of rivers around me, around the place I live, communicates to me important spiritual truths.

Under the evening moon at the confluence of the Madawaska and Ottawa rivers in Arnprior

As a Christian, I take spiritual truth to be the way of Jesus. So, everything from my practice of prayer to how I aspire to relate with others flows from the waters of my baptism in Christ.

The flow of water can move one’s heart and mind in directions not anticipated nor expected. Just try running white-water rapids or going down a water slide. When you enter the water, your body will be subject to forces beyond your control and often make your body go in directions not intended.

When I read the bible sometimes familiar stories will come at me sideways and I’ll notice something that I’ve never before noticed. And it will open up new and unbidden horizons that will both challenge and inspire me on my journey of faith.

This is true with the Gospel reading for today[1] — about the healing of the deaf and mute person. And what jumped out at me was the first word in verse 32: “They”. The unidentified and unnamed people who brought the deaf man to Jesus. What is more, “they” begged Jesus—begged him— to “lay his hand” on him. And that’s where I stopped. I know the end of the story: he was cured of his ailments so there was no cliff-hanger for me there. But more about the ending in a moment.

First, who are “they”?[2] Who would take the time, the energy, the strength to bring someone who was probably on the margins of the socio-economic engines of 1st century Palestine? Who are “they” to place such value and worth on someone who couldn’t hear and who had a speech impediment? Who was this deaf and mute man to them? 

A family member? The text doesn’t suggest family relations. There are other healing stories in the Gospel of Mark where daughters and fathers and sons are explicitly mentioned and involved.[3]

What is more in our Gospel text is it’s not a passive, obligation kind of service — a do-gooder “I-have-time-today” kind of action. They begged Jesus to heal. This is passionate language. No time for self-preoccupation. And all for the sake of someone who might normally be dismissed, disregarded and even despised in society.

Such a reading leaves me wondering about the quality of my own Christian service and love. Is healing in Christ only for me? Or, for my own? “They” were more than one person. And each of those individuals that comprised the “they” in our text had their own problems, suffering, pains, losses, griefs that likely needed Jesus’ healing touch. Why weren’t they self-advocating? And yet, “they” as a group were so passionate in finding healing for this one man they brought to Jesus.

This summer I canoed the Barron River in Algonquin Park relatively close to where I live. There is a spectacular red flower found almost exclusively along this river: It’s called the cardinal plant, Lobelia cardinalis. What is special about this plant is that it requires not one, but two visits by a hummingbird in order to procreate. The bird arrives when the flower is in early bloom and uses its long bill to sip the nectar, which lies just deep enough that the brow of the bird brushes against the flower and picks up pollen.

Later, when the stamens of the cardinal flower no longer produce pollen, the pistil—the female part of the plant, protrudes through the spent stamens to a point where, when the flower is visited the second time by a hummingbird whose head has been dusted with pollen from another plant, fertilization takes place.[4]

In other words, healing and new life require at least more than one visit by the grace of God. More than one dose of love. More than a mere self-preoccupation about the healing gifts of God. The more-than-for-me is necessary to complete the picture.

The witness of “they” in the Gospel reading today gives me a wonderful picture of what true love—complete love—in Christ is about. Individual healing is maybe one part, but alone it is not the gospel. If it’s just about ‘my healing’, or ‘what I want’, it is not the gospel. The gospel is going to the second part, which is loving others. We are they. When we consider the needs of those unlike us, and act on them, then we are being true to the gospel. We are driving it home.

“Look not to your own needs first, but to the needs of others,” writes Saint Paul.[5] This doesn’t mean we dismiss and disregard our own needs. It means our healing and salvation is found in striving to meet the needs of others.

When the crowd witnesses the miracle of healing, what do they say about Jesus? They conclude that he has done well. Maybe Jesus passed some test they had for him— he can cure disease. It’s only as an afterthought do they add: He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak. It’s as if the healing of the individual is not the main point. It isn’t for Jesus, who orders everyone “to tell no one” about the healing. So, the individual healing takes a back seat to what is really the miracle, that others cared enough about someone who was of little consequence— the marginalized, the weak, the homeless, the needy — to take the risk of bringing them to Jesus. That is the miracle.

Of course the gospel of Jesus is essentially about love. How do we love, then? That is the question. And how do we be like “they”; that is, how do we do this work of loving others together as a congregation? How do we love others who are different from us, who have different needs than we do? This is not easy. But that’s where the Gospel of Jesus Christ leads us.

In David James Duncan’s best-selling book ‘The River Why’, he describes what love is by using an analogy.

He writes that love is “like a trout stream: try to capture a trout stream with a dam and you get a lake; try to catch it in a bucket and you get a bucket of water; try to stick some under a microscope and you get a close-up look at some writhing amorphous microcooties. A trout stream is only a trout stream when it’s flowing between its own banks, at its own pace, in its own sweet way”.[6]

In the end, this text provides us with a picture of who God is. While we may stumble in our efforts and aspiration to be like “they”, in the end, God is they. Because God is love. We witness here how far God will go, by our side, to bring us to healing and wholeness. No matter how down-and-out we may be, no matter how much we have lost, grieved and suffered, no matter what place we occupy in our social and economic world, even for the most destitute, God is the passionate Friend who will take us there. 

Love opens the floodgates. Love doesn’t confine, constrict, or try too hard to change us into something we are not, out of judgement or fear. Rather, grace, mercy, and forgiveness flow alongside us, following us all the way downriver until we meet the vast, unbounded ocean of God’s eternal love.

Not just once. Not even twice. But many, many more times than that.


[1] Mark 7:31-37

[2] We encounter a similar rendering when Jesus cures a blind man at Bethsaida in Mark 8:22-26

[3] See Mark 5:21-43 & Mark 9:14-29.

[4] Roy MacGregor, Canoe Country: The Making of Canada, Toronto: Penguin Books, 2015, p.131

[5] Philippians 2:4

[6] David James Duncan, The River Why, Back Ray Books, 2016, p.396

Canoe lesson

My plans for the rest of the summer still involve a couple short trips into Algonquin Park. And a stay in the Park isn’t complete without a paddle in a canoe or kayak.

On my reading list this summer is a recent national best seller by Roy MacGregor entitled “Canoe Country” in which the author surveys the importance of the canoe as a symbol for Canada. I am enjoying the stories he tells of his paddling exploits.

So I have to tell you one: On a journey down the Dumoine River in Quebec, MacGregor describes running the fabled white water rapids called “Canoe Eater”. The name itself suggests what can easily happen running these rapids.

While Roy was a seasoned paddler, he had mostly canoed flat water lakes and rivers. White-whiter was something relatively new to him. Just fresh off a white-water course, he was looking to learn more about this cherished mode of river transportation.

Roy details the two different approaches to running Canoe Eater rapids. Two canoes. Two different pairs of people. Two different approaches. 

The first pair beached their canoe above the rapids and scouted the shore line all the way to the bottom. They read the river, looking for the path between the standing waves, over the haystacks and along the deepest portions of the torrent of flowing water. They even memorized the route: Ferry left here, paddle hard to the right there, and so forth. After the scouting and memorizing were done, the pair, including Roy, got back in the canoe atop the rapids and aimed to replicate their plan.

The second canoe. This pair was led by Lorne, a retired judge. During his days in court Lorne had the reputation of being meticulously prepared for each case he judged, and painstakingly by-the-book.

But for the irony of it all, his super-conscientious, hyper-planned personality in the courtroom was at odds with what took over in the canoe. He was one to show disdain for scouting rapids. Instead of first disembarking and reading the river, Lorne approached Canoe Eater the way he approached any set of rapids:

He stood in the bow of his canoe “like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic,” about to spread his arms to take in and survey the water lines from his perpective. “The ultimate freelancer, he would make it up as he went.”[1]

Of the two canoes, which one do you think made it through Canoe Eater rapids, and which one dumped?

In the concluding sermon in our series this past month we ask one last time: Why do we have congregations? Congregations are the only place in our society where a community learns to love. Congregations are schools of love. In school, we learn. 

How do we learn the faith? Emphasis on how. Three ways:

First, we practice. When we practice loving others, it’s the best and only way to learn our faith. If we are not ready to practice loving others, frankly, we are not ready to learn anything about God, faith or the church. The two are inextricably linked: learning faith and loving. 

Most paddlers on the Dumoine are experienced. These paddlers have taken white-water canoe courses and have spend thousands of hours paddling. All the people in McGregor’s party were expert paddlers and some had already canoed and practiced on this river before. We have to practice, over and over again, how to love.

The second way we learn  faith is being able to change our way of thinking about things. A colleague of mine told me recently that she begins each worship service with these words: “You may not get what you want in this service, but I trust that the Spirit of God will give you what you need.”

Schools of love will challenge us to grow, and that may not always feel good at first. Being challenged in faith is not an indictment against the past. It is simply (yet not easily) a challenge to grow.

In the Gospel text for today, the crowd came looking for Jesus to seek out and learn more. They came with expectations: They thought they knew where Jesus and his disciples were. But he wasn’t there. They had to go somewhere else to find him, to Capernaum by the sea. They themselves had to get into boats to go there – that’s not the mode of transportation they initially thought they would be using to find Jesus. They had to change their way, literally.[2]

“Faith isn’t about having everything figured out ahead of time; faith is about following the quiet voice of God without everything figured out ahead of time.”[3]

Maybe you’ve already guessed it right. Who dumped their canoe? And who made it through? At the first turn in Canoe Eater rapids, the well-prepared, well-intentioned, meticulously-planned pair hit the flat rock they wanted to avoid, then dumped the canoe into the fast-paced and frigid waters of the Dumoine River. Roy MacGregor obviously lived to tell the story; they came out of the water feeling good, if not soaking wet, at the bottom of the run.

Roy had watched from shore as Lorne, the meticulous judge, chose the far side, quickly kneeling from his standing position, “prying the bow over into a dark tongue that seemed to pull them like a giant slingshot down into the churning waters. They danced, slammed, slipped, twisted, shot free and bounced through Canoe Eater, deftly turning to the left at the bottom into quieter water, swirls, and small, harmless whirlpools.”[4]

Like Lorne in the canoe, sometimes our learning in faith will mean we have to change tactic from what we are normally accustomed to, for the sake of others, and for the sake of life to the world.

Finally, learning the faith is about looking for signs of life in the world. The crowds ask Jesus how to do God’s work. Believing in Jesus is about watching for “signs” of Jesus. That’s important for us, over two thousand years later. We have to perceive correctly. And what is that sign of Jesus? 

“The bread of God from heaven that gives life to the world.”[5]Life to the world. Not just life to me for my own sake and personal satisfaction. But, the world. Wherever we perceive God giving life in the world, to others, to creation, there is Jesus. Wherever love and mercy and compassion and forgiveness and right behaviour, justice and goodness are expressed and shared – that is ‘life’ to the world. That is the work of God. 

Learning faith is a process of “being formed in the image of Christ for the sake of others.”[6]This learning takes time, and it is intentional. Being schooled in love means that coming to church is “not primarily about personal satisfaction or fulfillment; it is about being shaped in ways that enable our lives to reflect the life and love of Christ to the world.”[7]

In congregations, we practice being loving to others. We are challenged to change our minds from time to time. And we train our perception to spot signs of God’s life in the world around us. In so doing, we deepen our trust in God’s being in the world. 

We trust that, at the end of the torrid run and turbulent waters we occasionally encounter on the journey, we eventually come out at the bottom into quieter, small whirlpools where peace and love remain.


[1]Roy MacGregor, Canoe Country (Toronto: Penguin Random House; Vintage Canada, 2016), p.57-60

[2]John 6:24-35

[3]Attributed to Rachel Held Evans

[4]MacGregor, ibid.

[5]John 6:33

[6]M. Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey (Intervarsity Press, 2016), p.16

[7]Dave Daubert & Richard E.T. Jorgensen, Jr., Becoming A Hybrid Church(Day 8 Strategies, 2020), p.36-37

A timely meal

In the children’s story entitled, “Six-Dinner Sid”,[1] a cat named Sid eats six dinners a day. But not in one place, not just in one home does he enjoy a daily meal, but in six different, neighbourhood homes.

By the end of the story, the six neighbours, or hosts, that provide the meals for Sid don’t mind feeding him, don’t mind that he was getting six meals a day, don’t mind giving grace upon grace to Sid. They all loved Sid, who was by nature a six-dinner-a-day cat.

For Sid, the daily meal never ended. It went on, from one house to the next, every day. Kind of like a progressive dinner not just for different courses but a full meal each time! Lucky Sid.

Luke’s version of the Lord’s Supper presents a challenge of timing. For one thing, Jesus “eagerly desired”[2] to share this meal with his disciples. Yet, in the very next verse, he declares he won’t eat it until the Reign of God is fullfilled, presumably sometime far into the future, at the end of time. Not once but twice in these short verses Jesus says he will not partake of the meal “until the kingdom comes.”[3]

It’s like the meal is both in the present moment and at the same time never ended, never finished. The Eucharist is part of something that extends beyond any given moment. As with so much that surrounds the meaning and practice of the Holy Communion therein lies a holy mystery involving time and space.

Why doesn’t Jesus eat with his disciples the night before his death? Perhaps Jesus is being a good host. Jesus does not eat until the fulfilment of the Reign of God because as a good host who loves his guests he eats last. He first serves others with the gifts of God.

Jesus’ love is nevertheless not reserved only and exclusively for those first disciples in the Upper Room on that first Maundy Thursday. The Holy Meal began on Maundy Thursday. And, the Meal continues over time and in different places to its completion with the fulfilment of the kingdom of God, when Jesus finally eats—lastly—as a good host.[4]

The meal is ongoing because we, too, are part of that meal. God’s love in Christ embraces you and me and everyone who comes to the table of the Lord to be nourished in faith. The real presence of Christ is intended to embrace us all, in every time and every place:

Including, in our homes and at different times of the week, online even, whenever we watch the service. As we have been saying long before COVID in the introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer: “It is indeed right, our duty and our joy, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks and praise to you, almighty and everlasting God.”[5]

Not only here. Not only on Sundays. When Communion happens we’re not the ones creating all these separate Eucharistic meals, but rather we participate in the one Eucharistic Meal already happening.

Sid the cat was blessed with the gift of gracious hosts. In Christ, we have a host who does not hold back the gift of his presence and grace for us. Christ is the host of the one Meal in which we partake each time we eat and drink together in his name—wherever and whenever we are. Christ is the host whose love is so great that he will wait for us until all have eaten their fill. No matter how long the line is to Christ’s table, and no matter if you are at the back of that line, there will always be enough bread for you.

And with Paul, we can then express confidence in God, that God, “who began a good work in you, will bring it to completion”[6] at the end of time when Christ, too, will eat with us.

“Why do we have congregations?”—this is the question we have been asking throughout this month’s sermon series. Today, we answer by saying that we have congregations in order to connect with each other in meaningful, tangible and loving ways. We do this gathered around the table with all the saints in Christ, of every time and every place. 


[1] Inga Moore, Six-Dinner Sid (New York: Simon & Schuster, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1991)

[2] Luke 22:15

[3] Luke 22:16,18

[4] Thank you, to the Rev. Dr. Allen Jorgenson, Professor of Systematic Theology at Martin Luther University College, for articulating this response to the question of timing.

[5] Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2006), p.108

[6] Philippians 1:6

Possibility thinking

Two items I will have with me every time I venture outdoors for a canoe camping trip: A spork (one end is a spoon and the other a fork) and my hat. Well, on the first night of this recent trip, both suffered serious damage. 

While washing up after dinner by the campfire, my plastic well-used spork exploded in serveral pieces. It was done. And then the strap for my well-worn hat, essential for keeping the hat on my head during windy lake crossings, ripped. It was done. What would I do if in the next gust my hat would fly away? Even more concerning, how would I eat my food for the rest of the trip without any cutlery?

Fortunately, I was not alone. John was with us. And he is an outdoor survivalist. For those my age, remember the original TV show “MacGyver”? Well, he was MacGyver. Bush-crafting is John’s passion. And, wouldn’t you know it, he had some paracord handy – that orange rope that can hold up to 500 pounds. He cut some off, melted the ends with his lighter, and in no time had my hat all strapped up.

Then, John eyed a deadfall cedar tree lying on the ground at the edge of our campsite. He said, “That wood is perfect for carving …” He took out his knife and before our next meal the following day, had carved a spoon for me. Impossible! I would never have thought …

Living in faith will challenge us to live into what we might first think impossible. Having faith, according to Brian McLaren, is “to blur the line between what we think is possible and what we think is impossible.”[1] What we think is possible and what we think is impossible will be different for each of us and will depend on the unique circumstances and challenges each of us faces.

Normally, that line is not blurred. Normally, that line between what we think is possible and what we think is impossible is a hard and straight line that we dare not cross. Because in this world we are rewarded for reducing our reality “to a series of scientific obversations and algorithms.”[2] We are rewarded for presenting only what is empirically justified.

And this is not all bad. Naming what is possible respects our limitations. At times we need to acknowledge our vulnerability, our limits and the real constraints pressing on our capacity to function and produce.

When followers of Jesus come up against the prospect of scarcity at the feeding of the five-thousand, in their minds they immediately want to offload their responsibility for others. They advise Jesus to “send them away so that they may … buy something for themselves to eat.” Even when Jesus challenges them, “You give them something to eat,” the disciples are still in the ‘what is possible’ side of the line; you can follow their logic: “Are we to go buy enough bread for everyone?” [3] You can just hear them saying – “We can’t afford that!”

Our minds naturally resist thinking beyond our limits, and our fears. Our minds will want to understand God and the world we inhabit according to the rationalized conditioning of our culture. Yet, while our world and faith can be understandable through our heads in many ways, our world and God is most powerfully experienced through our hearts.[4]

In this sermon series, we have been considering the question: “Why congregations?” And a vital piece to answering that question is something many of us have cherished coming together to worship and serve, because congregations create space—onsite and online—for awe and wonder. 

To be in awe and express wonder is to cross that line from what is possible to what is impossible. The stories of Jesus’ miracles and healing that we read about from the Gospel of Mark intend to create a sense of awe and wonder about God and God’s good purposes on earth. That’s why we have congregations: To learn, and train the heart’s eye to see the possible in what might appear, at first, impossible.

Yet, this awe and wonder of God is born not from some herioic, newsworthy spectacle. The character of God’s greatness that moves us into the realm of awe and wonder comes from the simple things, and the often mundane and hidden acts of service and love.

Paracord is just a piece of rope. And felled cedar logs are common in the bush. Yet, John took these simple gifts and used his skills to express caring love for me. Simple things and simple, generous acts created in my heart a sense of awe and wonder for the goodness in it all. My inner vision of God expanded in that experience.

Brian McLaren promotes what I call ‘possibility thinking’ in reflecting on the vision and poetry of Isaiah[5]; he writes, “Could we ever come to a time when swords would be beaten into plowshares? When the predatory people in power—the lions—would lie down in peace with the vulnerable and the poor—the lambs? When the brokenhearted would be comforted and the poor would receive the good news? 

“If you think, Never—it’s impossible, then maybe you need to think again. Maybe it’s not too late for something beautiful to be born. Maybe the present moment is pregnant with possibilities we can’t see or even imagine.”[6]

When we grasp this essential truth, we are freed – freed to love, to celebrate, and to hope.


[1] Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (Jericho Books: 2014), p.68-69.

[2] Cameron Trimble, “Why Congregations?”,  https://convergenceus.org/category/cpr-connects/, 10 June 2021

[3] Mark 6:36-37

[4] Cameron Trimble, ibid.

[5] Isaiah 2:4, 11:6, 61:1-2

[6] Brian D. McLaren, ibid.

Water-way

Down the Barron Canyon river system, Algonquin Park (photo by Brian Kauk)

Read Mark 6:14-29,15:39

My brother and I paddled across several small lakes on our journey down towards the Barron River Canyon this last week. We had to portage several times to get from one lake to the next. Each time we put in, we surveyed the far shore of the lake we had just entered to determine our direction forward.

When we started paddling across the long Highfalls Lake, we knew from the map that at the far end we should find a narrowing of the lake into a river which would take us to the next portage. Yet for most of the paddle up the lake, I couldn’t see any exit. All I could see was a typical rocky and forested shoreline barring any water-way forward.

Were we in the wrong lake? Did we make a wrong turn somewhere? Did we just spend the last hour hiking a brutal portage just to have to turn around and go back? Despair started to settle in.

Yet as we finally neared the far shore, the closer in we paddled, gradually the unique contours of the shoreline revealed itself. And, sure enough, angling off to the side, a narrow river opened to us the way forward.

John the Baptist is known for his radical way of introducing people to faith. Standing in the Jordan River he baptizes with water people yearning for new life. Then, John the Baptist introduces people to Jesus, who will baptize not only with water but with the Spirit of the living God.

The Gospel text for today[1] describes the grusume circumstances of John’s death. Yet a closer reading suggests that this story really points a clear finger at Jesus. For one thing, this story begins with a debate about who Jesus is: Is he Elijah, or a prophet, or John the Baptist raised from the dead?

In Mark’s Gospel, the answer to this question is not revealed until the crucifixion. Here, a Roman soldier watching Jesus die on the cross recognizes Jesus for who he is: “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”[2]

God’s revelation in the Gospel centres on the cross. The cross represents the place, the moment, where God is most profoundly revealed for who God is in Christ Jesus. In the moment of Jesus’ greatest vulnerability is the place where we witness God’s truth, God’s message and God’s love.

When death confronts us—whether our own or the dying and death of a loved one—we are at our most vulnerable. And the Gospel of Jesus announces that especially when we are most vulnerable God is most present, and most clearly revealed to us.

Vulnerability requires us to approach a distant shoreline. Vulnerability, as difficult a way it is, calls us to approach another person with love and tenderness, mercy and curiousity. It doesn’t happen quickly. As in the canoe paddling across the lake to the distant shoreline, the vision of the other happens slowly, gradually, and after some hard paddling.

When congregations allow for vulnerability of its members, God is present. When congregations allow for “our full selves to show up”[3], Christ is with us. In short, it is in God’s vulnerability where we learn how to be with one another and how to treat one another in Christ Jesus. And that’s why we have congregations; that’s why people will gather in Christ’s name. Not to show off, but just to show up as we truly are.

Paul writes in the New Testament, “By grace you have been saved”[4]. That’s one of the earliest insights in the Christian tradition: it’s not by what you do that you earn God’s love. Not because you appear attractive and have purged out all the sin in your life does God accept you. But as you are. Not by performing impressive feats nor by being considered good, not by your works. But by gift, that you have been saved. 

That means you belong. God has taken you in. God embraces you as you are—shadow and light, everything. God embraces it all, by grace. And it has already happened. For you, and for everyone.[5]

Dare to approach closely the other shore. Resist the temptation to stay at a distance. Resist the temptation to draw conclusions about others too quickly. Resist the temptation to believe you know everything about them without taking the time and energy to get to know them, shadow and light. Because from a distance your vision may be impaired.

Yet when you do come closer you will discover the way forward. Closer in, not only will you notice the crags, the cracks as well as the beauty in the unique features of the other person’s life, you will find the water-way into channels that lead to deeper connection and a deeper love.


[1] Mark 6:14-29

[2] Mark 15:39; read Richard Rohr, “Mark’s Good News: A Secret Message” Great Themes of Scripture: New Testament (Daily Meditations, www.cac.org, July 5, 2021)

[3] Cameron Trimble, “Why Congregations?”,  https://convergenceus.org/category/cpr-connects/, 10 June 2021

[4] Ephesians 2:8

[5] Richard Rohr, “The Shadow in Christianity”, Shadow Work (Daily Meditations, www.cac.org, June 16, 2021)

We are earthlings

Tomato plants require abundant water. Before the recent rains, I was out pretty much every evening watering our one tomatoe plant in a small raised bed. It concerned me, in the heat and dryness of the past couple of months, when I missed a day or two in a row. I was worried that I wasn’t doing my part to ensure a healthy yield at the end of the summer.

When we received the deluge of much needed rain in the last week, I could see the plant fill out immediately and expand even out over the edge of the box. How much it needed the rain! How much it depended on it, to grow.

I realized, in that mundane example, how interdependent life is on this earth. That it truly takes all parts, all members of creation, to participate in the maintenance and growth of life. I did my small part when it wasn’t raining. And when the time was right, beyond my doing, the much-needed rainfall did its part.

These days, we face a new beginning. We are like Moses and the people of Israel on the mountain looking into the Promised Land. We are like Moses and the people of Israel looking into the Promised Land, and considering how best to cross the Jordan and live in this new land. This new land, I call the post-pandemic church. We are now in liminal, inbetween space, one foot in the near past, and one foot begging to take the next step.

It’s a good time to recall and recover the basic question of who we are, as the people of God. “Why congregations?” The first point is that congregations create a place for deep social bonding.[1] Perhaps the key word in this phrase is ‘deep’. Or, ‘deeper’ than what we might initially think.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus is rejected by his home town. His response to this rejection redefines what relationships look like in the reign of God on earth. And, it goes deeper than what we might initially think.

For one thing, it is often a social bonding born out of conflict and difference—as Jesus himself experienced. “And they took offence at him.”[2] Whether with his family members or hometown neighbours who only knew him as a carpenter’s son, Jesus recognized our knee-jerk capacity to exploit our differences and assume that what makes us different from one another is somehow bad and unacceptable. And must be rejected outright.

The deeper bonding is not about overlooking or denying our differences. It is about respecting those differences while acknowledging our deeper, common humanity underneath the surface of human interaction.

The deeper social bonding that congregations, churches, and communities of faith offer and from whom each of us will benefit is a bonding that goes beyond traditional family definitions, social club constructs, meetings of the ‘like-minded’. These may serve an ego-purpose of feeling good.

But the reign of God is much more than feeling good, or everyone conforming to some arbitrary standard of behaviour. It is recognizing how interdependent we are on this planet Earth.

I like illustrating truth from stories on the big screen or in books. I know not everyone here is a sci-fi movie buff, so please bear with me as I give you an example from what is now an old movie. Do you remember back in 1997 a movie called “Contact”?

In an interview with astronomer, Dr. Jill Tarter, she was asked about her work searching for life on other planets. Jill was the inspiration for the main character, Dr. Ellie Arroway, in that movie, staring Jody Foster.

During the interview, Dr. Tarter often referred to ourselves as “earthlings”. While this term is not one we normally use to describe our common humanity, she suggests that understanding ourselves as earthlings might just save the world.

She says, that calling ourselves “earthlings” is like “holding up a mirror to every individual on this planet and saying, ‘See, all of you? You’re all the same, when compared to something out there that had evolved independently.’”[3]

This broad perspective helps us notice our differences “over which we’re so willing to shed blood, when, indeed, we are all human. We are all earthlings.”[4] And if you see yourself as an earthling before you see yourself as American, Canadian, Indigenous, Asian, rich, poor, privileged, Muslim, Christian, gay, straight, etc., perhaps we can have a more fruitful conversation and deepen the social bonds in the community of faith.

And not reject someone for being different.

Jesus responds to his rejection at Nazareth not by giving up nor conforming to the pressures of his local tribe to just ‘be like them’. Jesus responds by moving forward in God’s mission to go out into the world not depending on anything else besides the promise and vision of the all-inclusive Gospel of Christ. “He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two … [and they] cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”[5]

The Gospel ends with a call for repentence – a turning around. “So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.”[6] In the Gospel repentence is not just for individuals. We are at our best, not journeying alone as autonomous individuals doing our own thing, even with the Lord. We are at our best when we are in community.

The word ‘devil’ comes from the Greek which means, ‘to divide’, bring ‘discord’ and separate. Good religion realigns us. Good religion will always bring different people to be together in one place, to be a congregation and a faith community that includes rather than excludes, widens the circle rather than shrinking it, follows Jesus into the world rather than circling the wagons.

Those tomatoes needed me as much as I needed them. Not just for me or my family and friends to enjoy eating at the end of a season. But to remind me of my place from the larger perspective, to remind me that while I may play an important part in watering them when it’s dry, ultimately I depend on and trust in God’s timing and God’s gifts; and, to remind me that if anything my job is to pay attention to just how interdependent we all are in God’s reign. And love others, for that.

The heart of Christian community is the heart of God, who is community. For Christians, God is not one person, but three. I believe that unless we live in communion with one another, our witness to a God who is first and foremost community will fall on deaf ears.[7]

There is no more important place for you in the community of faith, no more important job for you to do in the community of faith, than starting by just being yourself, and doing what small thing you can, as part of the interdependent web of relationships to which we all belong. Just be you. Because that’s who God created you to be, out of a great and deep love. And then, turn to another, and love them for being who they are, created also in the image of God.

Amen.


[1] Cameron Trimble, “Why Congregations?”,  https://convergenceus.org/category/cpr-connects/, 10 June 2021

[2] Mark 6:3

[3] Cited in Cameron Trimble, ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mark 6:7,13

[6] Mark 6:12

[7] Br. James Koester, “Community” in Brother, Give Us A Word (www.ssje.org, 17 June 2021)