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Christmas message

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Here is my Christmas message – found in our local social media (Kinderlsey Social.ca).

50 years hence

I’m working with a group of young adults. We’re preparing a paper for a research conference at Ambrose University. The theme is “The World After Tomorrow”, a perfect opportunity to look ahead fifty years. I may not be on this planet, but these young adults will be. They’ll be into retirement, if there is such a thing in 50 years, and looking back on past happenings.

For now? We live in “carpe diem” (seize the day). We fight for food, and pleasure, and good working conditions. We abhor sexual slavery and harassment, conflict of interests and unfair advantages.

50 years from now? On the optimistic side, our region could become the paradise of the future. Warming trends in climate could create an ideal atmosphere for the comfortable. We could become hospitality-central, friendly and sociable, open to others and safe for habitation.

But then, there are predictions of cynicism. Oil prices change, housing prices fluctuate, the economy perches on a precarious precipice. The farm of today may be replaced by a corporation of slice and dice efficiency, with little of the look of today’s farm. Government may be ruled by algorithms – the highest good for the greatest number.

How do we break from a senseless trap of helplessness and hopelessness?

We break away! From those whose destructive condition of life seeps into ours. We break away! From a political stance that is more pandering to others than for the good of the people. We break away! From our own self-sufficiency, and turn to others and to God for support.

God didn’t just happen to slip into this equation on a whim. There is wisdom in remembering with appreciation your creator. There is wisdom in listening attentively to your maker. There is wisdom in obeying your creator’s scheme for this life.

Which is why Christmas reverses our onward plunge to despair. In the story of Christmas there is a creator, a counselor, a governor, a person who erases the bad and restores the good.

Maybe that’s a good enough reason to keep Christmas recycling each year. The echoes continue to reverberate when you hear that Jesus is vitally concerned with you – your current condition, and with your condition fifty years from now!

Jesus’ story begins as a baby and ends with . . . well the story doesn’t really end. In the story of Christmas, Jesus is still watching, protecting, inviting, initiating, creating, comforting, rejuvenating, laughing, strengthening, surprising, upsetting the bad and restoring the good, bringing peace and joy.

Revolutions change everything

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

I was reading about the industrial revolution.  In the same time period there was the commercial revolution.  And the French revolution was moving into full swing.

In the 1960’s there were songs about revolutions.  Sexual revolution, then the digital revolution, the communist revolution reversed.

In all, we just love revolutions.

We tend to characterize revolutions as pendulum swings.  In order to move on to the next second of time in history, the pendulum swings to the opposite side.

Art has often proclaimed the next revolution.  Art tends to be a precursor.  Art can also be a reflection of society.  The romantic period portrayed individualism, the heroic and the idealized – emotion ruled!  The period of realism in art, falling hard upon the romantic period, looked and proclaimed – we are people of the ordinary life, with ordinary tastes and realistic social expectations.

We are in that transition period.  A Trump presidency, while giving a billionaire the right to rule for the ordinary people, does carry the sense of encouraging tax breaks, seeking conservative morals and listening to the ordinary people.

How is the art world doing?  Are you seeing a change in art that is being produced?  Or will art follow society’s current revolution this time around?

When words appear in the night

Monday, December 18th, 2017

As I was waking – or perhaps as I was sleeping . . . a phrase kept ringing in my head.  . . “Oh, words with heavenly comfort fraught” – a phrase from the song, He Leadeth Me.

Now, I’m not aware that we use the word fraught much – in conversation or in literature.  I have always had this scary sense about the word.  Something is fraught with danger – a heightened sense of danger.

So why are the words – “He leadeth me” – so exceptionally dangerous?  Especially since these words are said to be a blessed thought.

Maybe this is a recognition that roses have thorns or wood has slivers.  Both of these carry beauty that attracts the eye.  Both can adorn a portrait of life that is winsome.  And both can sting!

If we use heaven to attract others, we had better include suffering and shame and discomfort and gloom and trouble.   All can be found in our approach landing to the bliss we call heaven!!

Outside the box – and the warehouse

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

I’ve been listening a bit to Kevin Kelly, a founder of Wired Magazine.  In 1979 he a conversion experience to Christianity.  Most of us who claim to be Christian would find him always on the edge of boundaries we have set.

So, here is a thought that relates to technology.  Many think that technology has benefitted our lives while providing a dark side. 

Kelly thinks that the giftedness of Christians (their talents) are left wanting.  The greater gift of new technology can create a way in which they can more fully express themselves as Christians.

Here is a quote taken from an interview with Christianity Today-  web only version in 2002:

There are people born today that will never really be able to develop their full set of talents God has given them because technology does not exist yet. We have a moral obligation to increase the amount of technology in the world. 

Open Pilgrimage

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Walking with others in a journey of spiritual discovery can be disconcerting!

I just finished singing in a concert with a dedicated community choir.  As good a choir as many of the choirs I have sung with over the years.  Our conductor took his cue from the written music – crescendos, pianissimo, timing, harmonies, etc.  Between the original writer of the music, and the interpretation of the conductor, we painted a beautiful aural picture.

That picture was invented by the writer and filtered through the conductor.

Many of us nowadays want to be the writer and make up truth and beauty all on our own.  When I watch those types of people, I often find sadness in my observations.  Our usual propensity is to move towards selfishness – which always ends badly.  The melody is distorted and creates anguish, sorrow and destruction.

Now, if we take another tack, we start with truth and beauty as authored by the creator of truth and beauty.  The melody line is not up for grabs – although there can be great embellishments which highlight the beauty of the notes.  Then we put our own little twists on the recommended harmonies and emphases.

An open pilgrimage starts with the same author and melody.  After that the theatre in which I perform may be slightly larger than yours.  The harmonies may sound slightly different and the rhythmical flow takes us into different streams of beauty.

We may not always be in concert together (thus the disconcerting part).  But our concerts are all to the glory of the same author.

Peer review in an internet age

Friday, December 8th, 2017

For decades, and even centuries, knowledge and information were considered trustworthy through a process called peer review.

A scientist would push through research and development and come to a conclusion.  That conclusion was then forwarded to others knowledgeable in the field.  These reviewers would then consider the findings and pronounce their judgment.  Whole journals would then be called upon to publish these findings for the larger community. 

If your findings could not be substantiated – or, heaven forbid, some reviewers just didn’t like you – your work was dead in the water (which would not be great if you were talking about propulsion of a sea-faring craft!!).

With the internet, we are placed in a whole new world.

Peer review can quite literally happen on your Facebook or LinkedIn page.  Verification might end up being rather scanty and scary, but you could claim victory if enough of your comments were favourable. 

So, my question is, how do we differentiate various opinions?  Are new quality review channels arising?  Or are the old channels still applicable?  Are these tried and tested channels able to accommodate a strong internet presence and quick response rates?

Christmas Banquet Prayer

Friday, December 8th, 2017

I was asked to give a grace for the Christmas Banquet at one of our local senior’s residences.  This is what I wrote and spoke.

God, our Father:  the father of every good and perfect gift,

We thank you:

For the gift of friends and family who encourage and support us.

For the gift of food that nourishes our bodies

For the gift of willing and loving helpers who care for us

For the gift of Christmas, the baby born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN

Approaches to Evangelism

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

My denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, has navigated the desire for nations to come to Christ for years.  Since 1887, various approaches have been tried.

We were on the cutting edge of making sure that national churches were true to themselves.  They needed to be able to finance themselves, to have their own leaders and to even seek to grow themselves outside of themselves (mission was particularly the aim).

In striving to do missions we wanted to take the evangel (good news) everywhere.  That meant adapting to various cultures and languages.

We have done well. 

And now that concern is back at home with us.  For many years the Western church has evangelized with strong logic, winsome language and personal virtue.  With the influx of new cultures to our shores, we are confronted with those who seek spiritual dominion, emotional freedom and being unchained from shame and dishonor. 

This approach scares those who have lived in an ordered world.  We are not ready for evangelism that is filled with healing and emotion and deliverances. 

These two approaches highlight a current Canadian denominational conundrum.  Are we willing to live under the big tent which allows both the Western and the Majority world to live together? 

Getting personal – does the Westerner mind a brother being slain in the Spirit, who is standing next to him?   Can a woman of faith in the Spirit live with a man of order, both of whom dispute the others’ managerial styles? 

Cremation thoughts

Monday, December 4th, 2017

I was asked by a friend on Facebook – “What are your thoughts about cremation?”  Here is the thread!

Ron Baker

Ron Baker First, my own personal experience includes cremation. When Jill donated her body to the University for anatomy students to study, the remains were cremated. Her remains are currently in a columbarium here in Kindersley. I will be buried there with her (which means I will be cremated).

Ron Baker

Ron Baker Second, I do not find in Scripture a convincing argument for what we call a traditional burial – but there are strong indicators that this was a prevalent form of burial. There are bones that are transported at a later date/time. Funeral fires are mentioned (this may or may not be cremation). There is certainly a tradition of burial in a tomb or a special place (which would indicate a traditional burial). We also hear of the stench of the grave (again, traditional burial). Meanwhile, people are burned in buildings – what happens to their remains?

Ron Baker

Ron Baker Third, the culture can and should influence our methods of burial. My pastoral friends who do not condone cremation have a good point. In our culture (Western) we consider bodies to be throw aways! We lack a sense of the sanctity of life. In the final burial of the body they are both honoring the body in death as in life and they will make sure that someone is with the body or has care for the body right to the final accompaniment of that body to the final resting place (and remaining until the burial has been completed). This can signal strongly the sanctity of life in death.

Ron Baker

Ron Baker Fourth, I do not think that God condemns us for either choosing a traditional burial or cremation. I do think that we can make a statement about life with our burial. Feel free to be a rebel and choose a cause to represent in your burial. If you don’t the people around you will. In my daily readings I just finished the burial of Jehoram – a not great king! Here is the reading I was looking at (NLT): "Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery."

Ron Baker

Ron Baker Oh, and I have a book I’m currently working on about a funeral director called THE DIE RECTOR. I’ll touch on some of these thoughts in the book – more from a story line than a systematic theology approach.

Pall

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

For a few weeks I have reflected on the pall used at funerals.

In my church tradition, there never was a pall place over a coffin.  You got to see the full glory of the coffin, or its paucity.  I have never been one to really notice – especially since in a short while the coffin will be covered in dirt and no one will care.

But often someone does care.  Greedy funeral homes will want you to buy an expensive casket – your loved one deserves it.  Families will look for a sturdy and air tight coffin.   Some will want the impression the loved one carried during their life reflected in their coffin.

Until you arrive in a church where the coffin is draped in a pall prior to the service and during the service. 

The pall is “a fine cloth” “often velvet for spreading over the coffin.”

In many ways this makes us all equal in death.  The pall is the property of the church where the loved is memorialized and the funeral service takes place.  Regardless of who you are, your coffin will appear the same as the previous coffin, and the same as at the next funeral.

Not a bad symbol of unity, regardless of how diverse a congregation may be.