All posts by johncarr

When awe evokes gratitude (Heinrich Grosskopf)

When the psalmist in Psalm 8 writes about our place in creation, “what are human beings that You are mindful of them, mortals that You care for them? Yet You have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour” there is a response that wells up in us. Doesn’t it lead us to become filled with awe? This creation is where we see the moon and the stars, and also the grandeur of the northern lights and the lovely bright colours of the trees during fall. This is when we can’t NOT be moved to a total stance of gratitude towards God.

Maybe Thanksgiving is not all about being supposed to bring thanks to God, but rather about being moved toward gratefulness.

This seems to be a time of deep awareness the God is the provider of so much. We needn’t be in a state of constant craving for more and more, we can fully rely on the Lord taking care of us. We are invited to be content.

How odd is it that the American Thanksgiving lies right beside Black Friday at the end of November? The turkey meal is barely swallowed, let alone digested, when folks miss out on the overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude as the page through the flyers to see what can be bought for Christmas. Run, run, run it becomes to get hold of the best deals for sale.

Yet, when we are stunned by the awe-some-ness of God, by God’s splendour and majesty, we are enabled to rest in the Lord and creator as our constant and loving provider at all times. Then we are able to rest in God’s care through thick and thin, because God loves us.

Heinrich Grosskopf
Dayspring Presbyterian Church, Edmonton

On Being a Leader (Peter Bush – Guest Contributor)

I was introduced to a new think tank this summer – Bain & Company. I have had fun reading through some of their research. A piece published in 2016 on what makes inspiring leaders has deeply impressed me.

Let’s stop for a moment to assess that word “leader” – all of us function or can function as leaders in some aspect of our life. From the recognized leader to people who by their lives and examples invite people to imitate them, we are all leaders.

The research team started by asking 2,000 employees this question: what leadership traits inspire you to follow a leader? They then tested those results with a larger sample of 10,000 employees and clients.

When I saw they came back with 33 characteristics of the inspiring leader, I was depressed. Thirty-three things leaders need to work on and develop. That felt overwhelming, until I read deeper.

One attribute stands out above all the others: Centeredness. The study defines Centeredness as “a state of greater mindfulness, achieved by engaging all parts of the mind to be fully present.” Centeredness “improves one’s ability to stay level-headed, cope with stress, empathize with others and listen more deeply.”

Okay, setting that aside, what else really matters. The answer is: any of the other 32 traits is fine; in fact, people who develop just three other traits in addition to Centeredness will be in the top 10% of inspiring leaders. Only 10% of inspiring leaders have four or more of the characteristics. In fact, people can be inspiring leaders with just one of the traits.

The researchers grouped the traits in four sets of eight each.

  • Developing inner resources: Stress tolerance; Self-regard; Emotional self-awareness; Flexibility; Independence; Self-actualization; Emotional expression; Optimism
  • Connecting with others: Vitality; Humility; Empathy; Development; Assertiveness; Listening; Expressiveness; Commonality
  • Setting the tone: Worldview; Openness; Shared ambition; Follow through; Responsibility; Unselfishness; Recognition; Balance
  • Leading the team:  Vision; Focus; Harmony; Direction; Empowerment; Co-creation; Servanthood; Sponsorship
    Definitions of these traits can be found  at  https://www.bain.com/insights/how-leaders-inspire-cracking-the-code/

The traits are diverse, at times seemingly contradictory. The diversity, however, reminds us that leaders come in all kinds of types. There is no single way to be a leader.

It would be interesting to ask friends and close colleagues what traits they see in you and build on those traits. It would be equally interesting to encourage colleagues to develop the traits you see in them.

Peter Bush
Former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada

The Biggest Loser (Harry Currie)

A few years ago I watched season 14 of The Biggest Loser. If you are not familiar with The Biggest Loser it is a television show in which a bunch of very, very, overweight people are taken to a ranch that has all their housing, food, and fitness needs and each week, someone goes home, usually the one who has lost the least weight, or someone voted off from the team that lost the least weight.

And at the end someone who ends up losing a lot of weight is the last person left and is crowned the biggest loser.

Season 14’s winner Jeremy Brett weighed in at 389 pounds and when he was weighed in at the final weigh in several months later he weighed in a 190 pounds. An incredible 199 pound weight loss.

Believe me, it is a powerful emotional experience to see people who are changed dramatically because of their weight loss. And it is also maybe no surprise to many of us that heavy weight gain is often associated with emotional stress. Sometimes the people on the TV show, told their stories of being different, or being people who have been picked on; or sometimes their story was that of hard times and struggles; and they eat as a way to cope with the emotional pain of life.

I was thinking about this show in particular one time when the lectionary reading about Jesus’ baptism appeared and what Jesus’ baptism meant.

Most of us, when we see a baptism, we see a cute little baby, dressed up in white and all the family and friends come, and church attendance swells a little bit.

The minister walks the baby up and down the aisle, says a bunch of nice words and then sprinkles water on the baby…

And it is cute and the family takes a bunch of nice pictures.

And even though the minister talks about the various meanings of baptism, I sometimes do not think we get it.

The whole moment is just too cute.    Because…

Because… one of the meanings of baptism is that we are baptized into Christ’s death. We are buried with him and we rise with him, which is to say that we are initiated into the same ministry of Jesus: The ministry of giving our lives for others; The ministry of doing hard, dangerous and sometimes impossible thing; Fighting for justice; Forgiving ignorant people who we don’t want to forgive; Making peace with our enemies; Reaching out to the untouchables, or the losers, or the dirty, or the sinners, or whoever we think is unworthy;  Changing our mind set to be inclusive and loving of all people… I could go on and on about the ministry of Christ.

And believe me sometimes it is dangerous. When you love everyone, it means that you will love people that others do not love, and they may try to get you for it. May I remind you that John the Baptist loses his head for calling people to change their ways. And Jesus himself knows what his ministry will cost him. It will cost him his life.

And so being baptized is not all cute and cuddly warm and fuzzy. It is sometimes about entering the battlefield against evil and hate and prejudice and injustice and intolerance, and pettiness and gossip. And sometimes it ain’t easy.

Well when they started the 14th season of the biggest loser, they picked 15 people to go the farm. And these people were happy and crying, and telling their stories of pain, and so looking forward to changing their lives. And then they got to ranch and they started their first big workout and it was a baptism of fire. Some of them didn’t know what had hit them. The workouts were extremely demanding, the trainers were yelling at them. The trainer Jillian was back on the show and she was literally screaming at people. And several of the contestants literally keeled over. Some needed oxygen and some were vomiting. It was a mad house. And I am sitting there watching, thinking at first. “Oh my God, that Jillian is abusive.”

But upon reflection what she was trying to do by screaming at them was get them so mad and angry at her, that they would fight back. Because the reason that they had the weight problem is that they wouldn’t fight for themselves. They wouldn’t stand up for themselves and their health. And she was screaming. Screaming at them: “Make the choice. Make the choice. Make the choice to do the workout or get out of here.” That is what they were baptized with….

And sometimes, I wonder if we have lost that side of baptism in church. The side that says following Jesus is hard. It is to take up a cross. It is to enter the battle against evil and hate etc. It is to make a choice to keep going in the struggle even when you want to give up.         It is to make a choice to love even when the other is hate. It is to make a choice to love even when the other is violent. It is to make a choice to love even when the other is prejudiced. It is to make a choice to care because only in caring may someone else be changed. But who knows what crap will be dumped on you. Jillian is screaming. “Make the choice.” Make the choice to fight and do what is right and good and true and loving.

That is the side I think we sometimes lose in our Christian ministry, in our church, in our lives, in our baptism. That dogged determination to fight for Christ and for love, come what may, even if it is a cross, or our own death.

So where do we get the energy to do this and to keep going? From God. When Jesus was baptized, in Luke’s gospel it says. “You are my son. With you I am well pleased.” And God’s very presence, the Spirit of God descended upon him.             The touch of God… The blessing of God…

And while I have talked about our dogged determination to follow Jesus and make a choice to be his disciple, I want to remind you that baptism is primarily not about our choice, but the fact that we are chosen. Baptism says that God touches you with love. That God puts his hand upon you with blessing. That God cares for you and loves you and treasures you. That God makes you his child. Today Jesus reaches out his hand to bless you… To touch you with love… To baptize or immerse you in love…

And then Jesus invites you to respond by loving everyone, so that you will reach out your hand to bless someone, so that will be one less loser in the world. Amen.

The Rev. Harry Currie
First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton

Captain’s Log (Ken MacRae)

Captain’s Log. Star date 06072018 0632hrs

(OK, I know I’m a Major…but “Captain” sound more Star Trek-ish).

The inhabitants and I have just completed the Air Force Run in the desert in Kuwait. Why? No logical reason other than being told, “You will all be running”. Order given. Order obeyed. Spock would not be happy (when is he?) with my timing of 5 kms in 32 minutes. However, I’m old, and at 0600hrs it is already mid 30’s degrees. The fact that I crossed the line at all is something I’m glad to have achieved. I didn’t even need a defibrillator! Some other Vulcan must have entered the race. His time…I was told…was slightly over 18 minutes. I tried to phaser him going by, but I missed.

Upon reflection I wondered why I was running. Halfway through I really wondered, “Why the heck am I running?” I’m a Chaplain damn it…not a gazelle! Then as delirium came over me I remembered that at Star fleet academy we were taught about “ministry of presence”. Thus, wherever the troops are, I will be. If they are running, I’m running. If they are moving sandbags, I’m moving sandbags. If they are digging a trench…I’m standing by watching them work and mocking them. (I never said I was a good chaplain!)

In all due seriousness I am very thankful for the privilege of serving with some of the best troops and leaders in our country. A Chaplain’s ministry is relational. I would love to think that many people come to a deeper faith relationship through my great and wonderful preaching skills. However, I believe that more people have come to an awareness of God by me simply walking with them through good times and bad. If my presence, my words or my actions have helped others in any way, then I am grateful.

One Biblical verse to end with. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18 (ESV)

Padre (Major Kenneth) MacRae…out!
Canadian Armed Forces

How to Light Up the Sky (Stephen Haughland)

“And still, after all this time, the Sun never says to the earth ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” (Hafez)

What a great quote! And what an interesting, and subtle, way to say what most of us already know, but have horrendous difficulty believing: Love is timeless. Love exists for the sake of giving. Love knows no restrictions and no exceptions.

Love like that lights the whole sky….!

Hearing such words always reminds me of that other person – a man who also came to know the true meaning of that little, one-syllable word. Only four letters. Two consonants and two vowels – one of which is silent, and yet a word so powerful…..

…and  he too, could do naught but speak from his own experience at having received a gift that, like the sun that shines in the sky, he did not deserve, could not control and could not earn, but could only bask in and pass on to others!

Some have called this man “The Apostle of the Heart Set Free,” and surely there is no description of St. Paul truer than that.  What we often forget, however, is that this was the same man who fought tooth and nail against such love – even to the point of trying to destroy and subvert its presence. Who could imagine that he would be the same man who would eventually surrender to its power, and then go on to pen the majority of our New Testament – itself the greatest tribute to love ever written!

Today I cannot claim to be a St. Paul. I only know that surrendering to that power which “lights the whole sky” is, for me, the only option bringing the freedom of which Paul wrote and spoke. Every day, I pray that my poor imitation of its power may be acceptable to the Lord and to the people whom I am called to serve, and every day I ask God to help me “surrender” – a bit more than I did yesterday, but not as much as I might tomorrow…..

“If I should speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I would be only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I could understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and even if I had a faith that could move mountains, but did not have love, I would be nothing. And if I gave away all that I had, and offered my body in sacrifice, but did it not from love, I would gain nothing.”

“Love is patient, and kind. Love does not boast. Love is neither rude, nor proud, nor self-seeking. Love keeps no record of wrongs, harbours no resentments, rejoices not in evil, but rejoices in the truth. Love hopes all things, believes all things, bears all things. Love never ends.”

Look, indeed, at what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky!

Tomorrow, when it comes, will still find my efforts to embrace and understand what can only be embraced and understood in each moment still falling short. However, I will continue to take to heart that timeless power, devoid of restrictions and exceptions, which will always cause the universe, and my world, to unfold as it should:

In due season!

Where all things work for good for all those whom God loves!

For today, I will live secure in the knowledge that neither life, nor God, nor anyone else owes me anything…..and I am simply here to embrace, receive, enjoy, celebrate, marvel at, learn from, be convinced of and convicted by, sing to, and to pass on to others that gift at once so simple, and yet so enduring….

“Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky!”

Blessings…!
Rev. Steve (Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chauvin, Alberta

On the Pulse of Morning (Gabriel Snyman)

I am barely awake when my wife, Isabel, gives me instructions for the afternoon. I should take Steph, our son to the theatre this afternoon. He should be dressed in his Sunday best and seated on his assigned seat. I should buy a ticket for myself and Marise, our daughter should sit next to me. Eight hours later, she would have been proud of me. I remembered and complied with military precision. Steph sits on his assigned seat and me and Marise on the ones I bought tickets for and chose. I am vaguely aware that I am at the prize giving function of the Oilsands Rotary Music Festival and that Steph will receive a prize for a piano recital he practiced for hours on end at home. In my own selfish inner world, I am not quite here. I am elsewhere and nowhere. I hate prize giving functions. I have every intention of playing around on my phone until this function ends. Prize giving functions are like kid’s parties-if you have been to one, you have been to all.

But then after the usual welcome, thank you to the sponsors and how-the evening will work breakdown, something beautiful happens. A black girl of about 14 years walks on stage. Her name is Kudukwashi Simbi. She is beautiful. She stands upright, she looks at the audience intently with pride and confidence. When you come from South Africa it is hard to not be mesmerised by a young black woman with the charisma and pride she displays. Kudukwashi captivates me even before she spoke one word.

When she finally does speak, she not only captivates me but takes me with her on a journey. She recites a peom entitled “On the Pulse of Morning” from Maya Angelou.

“History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.”

As she says these word, I get goosebumps all over. Sometimes words at the right time form the right person is like a spoon that stirs up flavours dormant in one’s soul and blends them into the aroma of hope. To me Kudukwashi becomes such a person as she continues and ends the poem with these words:

“Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes,
Into your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning”.

Somewhere deep inside me an “Encore!” cries out silently. I don’t want her to go but at least I am present now, so I allow her to bow out of the saviour role she just played in my life. Suddenly, I am here. Me and my soul. Being present like this opens my eyes to see many other beautiful things. Other children perform on the piano and violin and recite poetry and prose. Every one of them lifts my soul. I get to know Fort McMurray as a community brimming with young musical talent and great teachers.

A well dressed young man of barely nine with the last name Li plays a piece on the piano. It’s entitled “Water”. As you listen to him, it’s like your ears gets wetted softly and gently. The mayor’s daughter, Jeya Scott, plays a piece. Her mother is originally from China and I’ve been told she has a doctorate in music. When Jeya plays it sounds like she has one too! Had that piano had a tail, it would have wagged the whole time she was playing. Anirudh Shankar tells a funny story. Avery Rex sings a sad song about a waitress who gets pregnant and realizes that she will have to raise the baby all on her own. By the time she’s finished I need a handkerchief and feel ready to sign adoption papers.

One by one the children come to receive their awards and prize money. Raziela Odei, Victor Oganwemimo, Rita Pan, Nishka Rai, Soumannadip Sarkar, Alessandro Rizzuto, Brooke Tetreault, Krithka Venkataramadas, Vlad Stan and then my own, blonde Steph Snyman. There is not a peoples group on earth that is not represented here. Somebody recently told me that in most communities in Canada people speak 25 different languages apart from English but there are 52 different languages spoken in Fort McMurray. This must make Fort McMurray one of the most diverse places on earth. I take a look at the people around me. I see Sari’s and Burkas, tattoo’s and crosses, turbans and baseball caps.

I grew up in a racially segregated country. Somehow, I always believed what I experience tonight is possible. This is what I longed to see for many years. I often miss things and especially people of South Africa. But this tolerant, harmonious diversity is a treasure I cherish. It makes me rich.

Fort McMurray has become to me, the place where I can simply and with hope say: “Good Morning”. I am deeply grateful to be here. A wise theologian once taught me: A commitment to the God of Abraham can only be a commitment to the God of all people. To God and his people.

Gabriel Snyman
Faith Presbyterian Church, Fort McMurray

No New Normal (Charles McNeil)

Recently I had a conversation with a farmer who observed that this growing season might be akin to the 2002 season of drought.  He thought that the conditions between this year and that one seem to be similar.  And like the people of the Old Testament Egyptian experience that farmer and many other farmers have put away feed for their livestock from last year to cover any possible shortages that may come along.  Wise and prudent to say the least!

This conversation dove tailed with a series of online articles I have been following about the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly’s moderator, the Rev. Peter Bush, visiting the Cariboo region of interior British Columbia. Peter, both in words and pictures, has been conveying the devastation which last year’s fire and this year’s flooding has had on the land!  (See here for the record of Peter’s visit.)

Note land.  Not only have people been hugely effected, and certainly there has been devastation on the people but there is huge devastation on the land itself.  As if it hadn’t been enough that the pine beetle and spruce bud worms has swept through the bush of the interior of British Columbia a number of years ago and destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of trees thereby affecting the landscape, eco systems, and weather patterns of that part of the world.

Then came the fires last season that swept through much of the interior of B.C. affecting all creation – humans, animals, and the whole environment.  I had the privilege and gift of having lived and worked in the Cariboo over a number of years before coming to the parkland of Alberta.  I live and work in a beautiful part of God’s creation at present, and certainly lived and worked in yet another beautiful part of God’s creation in the Cariboo!

What always struck me about the Cariboo was how wild and harsh the natural conditions could be.  Extreme cold and heat.  Storms that rattled the very marrow of one’s being.  Too little and too much rain.  And so it went.

I have heard the Cariboo, described by more than person, as being a dry and thirsty land.  And a wild land.  People who live there have had to be of hearty stock and self sufficient.  Building and rebuilding over a life time.

Witness the devastation of the forests in years just past, the fires of last year, and the flooding of this year.  I suspect the people of that region are living with something akin to PTSD.  Some have lost everything materially.  Others have been spared such loss but have seen neighbours, friends, and families suffering.  Still others had the experience of having the fires burn right up to their fence lines but because of extraordinary effort their buildings were saved.

Such people are reported to have huge clean up to do: especially as they are resort owners who have a season fast approaching where they need to be ready for their returning customers.  But will the customers return?  That was the question hanging in the air from Peter’s on line report.  Clearly the burnt environment might be hardly conducive to holidaying folk wanting pristine natural conditions.

Whether in B.C. or Alberta dry conditions can be and are a fact of life.  Being proactive as neighbour, along the lines of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, can go along way in helping those are most impacted by drought, fire, flood, and whatever else afflicts.

The odd thing is that the environment may well be renewing itself through the fiery cleansing of seasons like the last one in British Columbia.  There may well be new normals which bear little resemblance to the known conditions of the past.  In fact we all may find that there are seasons that need to be prepared for that call from us greater effort and endurance. And also greater empathy for those most devastatingly affected by whatever comes.

No matter where we live.  Be it in B.C., Alberta, rural, urban, suburban, town, or hamlet the environment from time to time can act out and get our attention.  We would be well advised to pay attention, be prepared, and to help those with whatever they are facing.

Life has an odd way of turning things around.  Renewal can come in the most perplexing ways.  I pray that we can move with whatever cleansing, renewal, and transformation that comes our way!  And that we call upon God and each other to be able to meet the need and see the whole community through this and every season of our lives.

(Rev.) Charlie McNeil
for Knox and Ganton Presbyterian Churches

Making sense of Sabbath rest in the 21st century (Heinrich Grosskopf)

One might wonder whether there is any sense in pursuing Sabbath rest in the society we live in currently. By way of a show of hands (virtually) how many of you reading this blog take a regular solid Sabbath rest?

If God says I can accomplish my work in six days, who am I to say I can’t?

While I personally endeavour to take a day out of my week to rest, I have found that my Fridays (my day-off) can easily be squandered if I don’t make the best use of this day. I am still to make the most of such a day.

Gordon MacDonald, author of among others, the book “Ordering your private world” devotes his last section of the book to Sabbath rest. I recently revisited this 1983 oldie, and found some nuggets in there.

The chapter on Sabbath rest is entitled “Rest beyond leisure.” I find three pointers in the chapter very helpful.

He mentions how Jesus didn’t spend most of his life on hours and hours of sleep, but He rather spent these times alone in conversation with God, his Father.

There might be three dimensions to this type of rest.

  1. The first could be found in looking back and doing some introspection about what I have accomplished in the last week, or even in my life so far. It is a time to “close the loop.”
  2. The second might be to look at today, at how I converse with my Lord about current things.
  3. The third is to look forward into the future, towards my mission, to what I’m about to do. What are my plans for the next six days, for the future? Where am I heading in my service towards God?

Furthermore, the day of Sabbath can have much meaning, if I use this time to make sure the important beliefs and values are acknowledged. The times of rest that God gives us, without any need for guilt about them, are cause for us to interpret our work, to press meaning into it, and to make sure we know to whom it is properly dedicated.

Finally, how about considering a “tech Sabbath”, a time when all emails, social media and technology are fasted from for the period of Sabbath rest? Maybe then I will be of more help towards a world that is in such desperate need of spiritual care.

Heinrich Grosskopf
Dayspring Presbyterian Church

It’s Good Friday Morning (John Dowds)

It is Good Friday morning.  Snowy, cold, sun that is trying desperately to brighten and warm the earth.

I find this time of year somewhat difficult.  We are on the cusp of Spring, but not there yet.  We are on the cusp of sunshine that warms the ground and elevates our mood and energy, but we are not there yet.  We are on the cusp of new life, happening all around us, but we are not there yet.

And I suppose, at some level, that is what Good Friday is all about – cold, dark, and yet on the cusp of light and hope.  It is a difficult day.  And it should be a difficult day……because that is part of the story of our faith, that is a part of the story of our lives, that is a part of the story of our world – always has been, always will be…

Without darkness we would have no idea about what light is all about, without despair we would have no idea about what hope is all about, without pain and difficulty we would have no idea of what it feels like to be pain free……..

All of this is life.  Whether we like it or not is somewhat irrelevant.  It is life.   Scott Peck, in his book, The Road Less Travelled, begins his first chapter by saying, ‘life is difficult.’   One of Buddhism’s tenets is, ‘all life is suffering.’

And that is not a ‘bad’ thing.  In my work as Chaplain for the City’s 14000 employees, I spend many hours with many people in the midst of their suffering, hurt, pain and sometimes overwhelming grief.  It is in those dark, foreboding  places that they often learn so much about themselves and others, they experience depths of emotion that they may never knew they had, they come face to face with their own mortality, their own failings, they experience life in all of its reality – dare I say, in all of its abundance….

You see, I believe (more and more) that when Jesus said, I came that they might have life and have it abundantly – I think what he meant was, I came that they might live authentic lives, true to oneself lives, – lives where we are honest with ourselves about our failures and our successes, lives where we draw lines in the sand for our own care and wellbeing, lives where we recognize and understand that life can be pretty darn awful sometimes (maybe of our own making, or that of others, or both), but that things can be different, better, and that we will get there – with the help of others, with the help of our faith, with the assurance that not only are we on the cusp of light and warmth and new life – but that new life does happen, the sun will begin to warm the earth again.

Life is difficult.  No-one knew that better than the One who went to the Cross today.

Life is difficult.  But there is always hope and light.  No-one knew that better than the One whose resurrection we celebrate and who came to teach us about abundant/authentic living.

John Dowds, Lead Chaplain, City of Edmonton

About Orphans (Harry Currie)

Did you ever notice how many fictional characters are orphans, especially those who have super powers or magical powers. Superman is an orphan. Batman is an orphan. Spiderman is an orphan. Luke Skywalker is an orphan. Harry Potter is an orphan.

Why is that? It is because being an orphan resonates very deeply with the human psyche. It helps us identify with the character, because every one of us feels at time alone, and a little bit like an orphan.

Interestingly enough a number of these fictional stories about heroes seem to be based on stories in the bible. Moses was like an orphan, brought up by a princess, who is seeking his real identity and comes back to save his people, using special powers to save his people from an oppressive overlord who is genocidal. Luke Skywalker is an orphan whose sister is a princess who fins out about his real identity and seeks to save his people, using the force, from an evil overlord who has committed genocide.

Superman’s real name is Kal –El which translated from Hebrew is “voice of God” His father sends his only son to earth to be a light to show them the way. He comes and is adopted by Martha and Jonathan which sound a little bit like Mary and Joseph. Superman is based on Jesus.

Jesus is a kind of orphan. Brought up by Joseph, his adoptive father, his real father is God. At his baptism, he finds his real identity, understands how much he is loved by God, and receives his superpower, which is the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love, joy. peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control, At his baptism Jesus receives his mission, which is to share that Spirit with others.

And the people he shares his Spirit, his love, his superpowers with, is us. We too are baptized into this Spirit and we receive the same superpowers through the Spirit, the greatest of which is love.

At times we are all orphans, because we were all created in the image of God as God’s children and we have lost our way. And at times we all feel like orphans because we do not live like the children of God we were born to be. We at times feel like orphans because we know that there is another way to live that isn’t so full of conflict and drama, and hurt feelings and bad thoughts, and selfishness, and trying to get more money and get more things. We know there must be a peace that passes human understanding. We know that there is an abundant life waiting. We know we have a purpose and a destiny.

And it is simply this: to be doused or drenched in unconditional love and forgiveness. To be swamped with acceptance. And to turn around a go a new way or loving others the way God has loved us. This year we can all be superheroes and use our superpowers to love one another and share God’s spirit.

Harry Currie, First Presbyterian Church, Edmonton