Sunday, December 3, 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.

Friday, December 1, 2017

What is legacy?

I’m involved in two funerals this week.

We say that you can’t take anything with you when you die – there are no U-Hauls behind the hearse.  Most of us do want to leave something behind of ourselves.  Something of lasting value.  Something that will be remembered.

But can we?

Our earthly legacy is only as good as its promoters.

I remember one man telling me that eternal life for him was his children.  What happens when they all die out – or are wiped out in a tragedy?  What about the pyramids?  One bomb could level that in seconds.  How about great ideas that you patent or inventions you make?  Archives can be lost and inventions bested.

In the end, true legacy must rest in eternity.  A beacon that points to eternity, from your life, reaps reward.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Ernal factor

Saturday I will officiate a funeral for Ernal.

Some of you will be unable to pronounce that name properly.  Start with the word “eternal”.  Now just “ernal”.  And you’ve got it!

Maybe eternal was nit a far stretch for Ernal.  He was 99 years old. 

My Grandfather used to proclaim that he would live to be 100 or die in the attempt.

Ernal died in the attempt.  And as you often hear of those of advanced years – “none too soon.”

There is, at 99 years of age, a true sense of a better place.  Better eyesight, better health, better acuity of mind, better natural light (all flowing from God).  Just better!

So, I’d better get moving – on my sermon, on arrangements, and most importantly, on enjoying God here and now with a great future expectation!

Monday, November 27, 2017

A triple entendre

I’m at church when one of my favourite children runs up to me.

“My dad is going to buy a seeder!” he triumphantly proclaims.

“Oh”, I reply, “is that a cedar tree, or a seater to sit on.”

The young man bumps his forehead with his hand.  His face is totally contorted in disbelief. 

I start to see the light! 

The best jokes are ones you don’t even know you have made!!!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Small churches do not equal small ministry

I was reading a thank you article to those who pastor small churches.  I have been a part of a rural church for almost two decades.  We are more than a handful but less than a football stadium of people.

In the midst of the content was an unsettling insinuation.

Small churches require a sacrifice.  You always want to be getting way bigger than you currently are. 

I say small churches are good to work with.  You can always start another small church if you start growing. 

I’d like to turn the thought on its head.  Small and rural churches require next to no sacrifice.  People can love God and love people – probably easier in a small church.

I guess I need to write a blog about large churches and the sacrifice it takes to be part of the leadership of that church!!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Choosing real estate

I’m one who chooses real estate based on price, location and feel.  Sometimes the wrong style of floor plan or the paint on the walls will lead to a negative vibe (now I sound like I’m from the 60’s).

My brother used to have just one approach – location, location, location.

So, I’m reading about Solomon’s temple – built on Mount Moriah where David met the Lord.

Sounds innocent enough – until you get the rest of the story.

David had caused a census to be taken.  God didn’t like the idea (showed that David didn’t trust God).  God exacts a punishment on Israel – the worst of which was the death of some of the citizenry.  God sends an angel (messenger) to fulfil the punishment. 

The operation is done swiftly – the messenger approaches Jerusalem (the capital) – God stops the killing / David repents of his sin.  He offers a sacrifice to God at the threshing floor of Arunnah (where God stops the killing) – which he buys from the owner.

And this is where the story gets interesting.  This is the piece of real estate on which the temple is built.  Not for the scenery.  Not for the proximity to the halls of power.  Not for entertainment value.  Not even for the closeness to resources.

This is the place of repentance.  The place where wrong was to be punished.  The place of deep sorrow.  And great joy.  All wrapped in one.

Location, location, location.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What we hear in sermons

From a conversation with a totally animated man – who has just heard a sermon by a well known Canadian TV preacher.

“I didn’t know this.  The preacher said that the Bible was written in Latin.  And Martin Luther King translated it into English.”

Now, I realize that learning something new changes us.  Our perspectives are challenged.  With the rocking of our boat, we can then learn to walk on water or we can just wait to see what happens.

In this case, I am thinking a waiting attitude would be a good idea, as compared to acting on the waves of what you have heard.

I’m sure the sermon was on the Reformation.

Yes, the Bible was most commonly found in Latin during the Reformation (in the 1500’s).  Originally the Bible was written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic – not Latin.

Martin Luther (in the 1500’s) was the one who took the Bible and translated it into the vernacular – in his case this was German.  More often we hear the names Tyndale and Wycliffe when we think of the English Bible.  Martin Luther King was a civil rights activist in the 1900’s.

I was excited with my friend that he was having to push the “rethink” button.  Not so excited that we sometimes hear something that is not spoken!

Doing Cartwheels–literally

What was young life like for those 80 and over.  Two of my friends gave the following description.

When they were younger (in their teens) they used to do cartwheels.  Not like we think of cartwheels.

They literally stretched themselves across cartwheels, holding on to the spokes (with their midsection covering the hub of the wheel).  The horse would then be invited to go as fast as possible.  For safety’s sake, a spoke was removed to allow for their head to be place within the cartwheel (thus not allowing the head – which had no helmet – to touch the ground in the rotations of the wheel).

When you got too dizzy you just fell off the wheel – or were expelled from the wheel – which ever sounds better!

Upon hearing this story from two witnesses, I was justly horrified.

They just laughed. 

Maybe we are a bit too protective in our day and age?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sometimes I’m not sure

My daily reading is taking me through the Old Testament book of I Chronicles.

In a younger day, I spent a good bit of time looking over the two books of Chronicles.  There is obviously an author who is related to the administration of the religious system in Israel.  The extensive genealogy has an expectation that these people are related – and closely involved in the theocracy we would call the Jewish Nation.

I hit I Chronicles 23 a few days ago.  I’m still pondering.

David changes the organizational functioning of the sect – particularly as he anticipates the building of a permanent temple versus the tent of meeting and the area involved with sacrifices.  And yet, he refers back to the original patterns God set for Moses as not being changed.

First, he counts Levites who are 30 years old and older (Moses had consider 25 –50 year age range for religious service – [Numbers 8:24-25]).  Then David states that service in the religious order of the Levites begins with those who are 20 years old and older.

Somewhere in here, David changes the age for service.  Without consulting Moses!  Something has changed in the society since Moses was running things.

The Levites are God’s – in place of all the first born males of all of Israel (Moses statement in Numbers 8:16).  They perform work for the Aaronite priests (a subunit of the Levites).  They care for the sacred objects and the tent/temple.  They sing and they let people in and out of the door to the sacred house of God.

And they are judges – in David’s administration (I Chronicles 23:4).

A question runs around my head. 

If David could change the vocational qualifications for the religious assistants – for worship leaders, judges, assistants to the priests, singers and gatekeepers – what part of the office is sacrosanct and what part is negotiable?

Are we too much taken up with ourselves when we set qualifications for church leaders related to age, and perhaps even gender?

OK, that’s two questions – somewhat related!!!

Ahitophel and Hushai

Tiny words make a difference.

Take the story of Ahitophel and Hushai.

Both were advisors to King David of Israel back in BC days (or BCE days if you are into that type of calendar). 

Here is the line from I Chronicles 27:33 in the Hebrew Scriptures. 

Ahithophel was the king’s counselor. Hushai the Archite was the king’s friend.

Sounds innocent enough.  But here’s the rest of the story.

Ahithophel was a vocation type of guy.  He was wise and strategic.  When he saw that David’s son, Absalom was planning a coup, he joined Absalom.  His calling was advising the rich and famous.  He followed the wave, served as an advisor to Absalom, and was called a “yaats” (Hebrew transliteration that leaves lots to be desired).

Hushai was a “rea” (another Hebrew transliteration that leaves lots to be desired).  He was a friend type of guy.  He was wise and strategic.  When he saw that David’s son, Absalom was planning a coup, he clung more tenaciously to David.  He volunteered to be a spy, serve as an advisor to Absalom, and give disinformation to Absalom.

Hushai won in winning over Absalom and saved David’s life (as well as leading to Absalom’s losing a battle with his father and losing his life as well).  Hushai is noted as a “rea” – a friendly counselor.

Ahithophel lost in winning over Absalom’s heart and he committed suicide.  In his usual way of doing things, “When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself. He died there and was buried in the family tomb.”  (II Samuel 17:23).  Ahithophel is merely mentioned as a “yaats” – a counselor/advisor.

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