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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Friday, April 29, 2011


Dear friends, this is a crazy busy week, so I hope you won't mind reading something from the Archives. I think you'll find this "old" post still has something to say to us as we're working on our "mission."


I stumbled across a little lesson in Greek that’s given me a new thought I’d like to share with you. Come along as I try to tell you how what I discovered.

You’re likely familiar with the image of Jesus as the good shepherd. It comes from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel. Christians generally like that image of the gentle shepherd leading his sheep safely into the fold, knowing their names, cradling the little lambs in his arms. I remember pictures from my earliest days in Sunday school. And I guess I grew up with that image tucked in my mind somewhere of Jesus keeping me safe.

Then I read this Greek lesson. I go back to the chapter and there it is, clear as day. It says that Jesus leads the sheep out of the fold. Already I’m noticing something. The shepherd is not putting the sheep safely inside, but is leading them out into the world where there are wolves and bandits. Then my Greek teacher shares with me the word “ekballo” that in this chapter is translated as “to lead out.”

But everywhere else—and it’s there in the gospels a whole lot!—it is translated as “cast out, throw out, eject violently.” Jesus “casts out demons”—ekballo. He drives the money changers from the temple—ekballo. In John 9, the blind man has been kicked out of the synagogue—ekballo is the word that’s used.

Now here, in the story of the good shepherd, Jesus ekballos the sheep from the fold!

Is the message what we’ve always wanted it to be? Our Savior knows our names and wants to keep us safe from harm, here in the sanctuary of the church, the congregation, the beloved faith community? Or is it that Jesus, who cares for all his sheep is ready for us, his beloved, to get out there and help with his mission in the world. Admittedly there will be wolves and bandits, but Jesus knows us by name and goes before us. Enough of this lolly-gagging around the fold. It’s time for us to be tossed out on our little wooly behinds. It’s time to be ekballoed out where there is work to be done.

Some folks ask the question: what is this “mission” that you’re always talking about? I’m not sure what it is in your community, but I’m pretty sure it’s not inside the fold but out there beyond the security of the fold. It’s in the world outside. And you are being ekballoed out there for some good reason. Go figure it out.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, April 28, 2011


As I begin to prepare this blog post, I have literally just hung up from a long conference call with members of the CEM Camping Commission. Five people, all of whom have busy careers and families gave up yet another evening to wrestle with difficult questions and problems so we can have high quality, safe camps and reunions this summer. I am profoundly grateful. I know that every one of them had other things they could have been doing. For example, none of them got to watch game seven of the Montreal – Boston series tonight, although I am sure some of them would have liked to. Nor did they get to do any of the other things they might have done.

Planning for camps is not easy. Putting good policies in place requires a lot of careful thought and much discussion in order to reach decisions. Who will talk to this person or that? Who will enquire how the boy scouts (for instance) handled that issue? Once we have decided, who will write this policy up and send it to the rest of us? It is a lot to ask of these busy people.

If that weren’t enough, this is also the group that is planning and leading the Skills and Leadership Weekend for all camp and reunion staff at Ziontario on June 17-19. They have done excellent work in preparation for this event in order to make our camps better and safer than ever before. They are recruiting top notch, professional instructors to teach such topics as Conflict Resolution, Group Facilitation, and Social Media Guidance. They are providing for lifeguard training as well as instruction on cooking for large groups. Camp Directors and Business Managers will be given clear guidance on the procedures CEM and the camping commission expect them to follow. Quality child care is being arranged so young adults can take advantage of this training without being held back. You can see why I am grateful; this is a lot of work!

If you are a director of a camp, reunion, or retreat in 2011, I hope you will be at this weekend. Further, I urge you to convince all your staff to take advantage of this training too; it is that important.

If you are already committed to being on staff at a camp this year, there is really no place else you should want to be. If you have any role at all in our camping, reunion or retreat program this summer, or even if you think you might like to be on staff at some future camp, I urge you to reserve the June 17-19, 2011 weekend for this event. Not only will you learn a lot, but you will be with great people, and you will have fun.

Even if you never attend a camp but offer ministry or leadership in a congregation, you will benefit from being at this weekend. The skills you will learn will help you anywhere.

Further more, the camping commission and the CEM staff think this training is so important that we have agreed to offer the Leadership and Skills weekend with no registration fee. You don’t see that in our camping program every day, so why not take advantage of it while you can? Watch for more information to follow soon.

See you on June 17th?

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


One Sunday evening some years ago, I was a visitor at a certain church in a town near where I lived. I had heard good things about this church. In fact one of my (then) teenage sons had been there and said he liked it. I recognized the possibility that my son’s “liking” for church might relate more to a certain red-haired girl in whom he had a passing interest than it did to the church experience, but for him to like church for any reason was unusual enough to get my attention. Consequently I decided to go and check it out myself. It was all good and I learned a few things, but one incident in particular has stayed with me.

Whether it was because he noticed the presence of this stranger (me) in the crowd or for other reasons entirely, the Pastor chose that evening to put out an invitation to those who might be seekers, inviting them to come have a visit with him. In fact, I think he said he was thinking of starting a seekers class. What was in his mind I am not sure, but my perception of this invitation was, “If you have questions, come and I will do my best to give you the answers.” I don’t think many pastors would knowingly send that message today.

A few years ago it was popular to use the word “seekers” to describe people within any given population who were thought to be seeking God or needing a church. The thinking was, if a church could just find more seekers and give them our answers, the church would grow and everything would be fine. It didn’t generally work out that way. Either we weren’t very good at ‘seeking seekers’, or the entire model was faulty.

Since that time I, at least, have come to recognize that there appears to be a greater truth involved in this word. We are all seekers! Every one of us, at least at some point in our life, is seeking after a greater understanding of, or a relationship with, God. I don’t know one single person who has it all figured out. Over the years I have met a few who claimed to know all the answers, but somehow their answers never seemed to work for everyone else.

Recognizing this fact makes a big difference in how I might choose to think of or use that word. We are all seekers. Not one of us knows all the answers. There is no divide between seekers and ministers, the churched and the unchurched, or even those who are knowledgeable about the Bible and those who are total novices. We are all on the same playing field here, although some may have been playing at it longer. Even if you have never tried to pray in your life, your prayers seeking answers are just as important as the next person. Consequently, if I were thinking of starting a seekers class, it would not be to invite a bunch of people who didn’t know God so I could give them all the answers, it would be for me and anyone else who wanted to join so we could discuss the questions together.

There are times when a class to teach information is just what is needed, such as a class for those seeking baptism, or a Good Sense class for those who need financial information. But when it comes to developing a stronger relationship with God, lets admit that we are all seekers, and simply share our journey together.

Posted by Carman

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Is that a word? It must be. I’m seeing the greening everywhere I look. Do you see it creeping across the world?

I recall reading once that spring advances northward at a rate of about fifteen miles a day. Any time I’ve had the chance to drive south at this time of year, maybe going to World Conference in early April, I’ve enjoyed noticing the change seeing spring appear as I’ve processed down Highway 69. By the time we’d get to Independence the redbuds and pear trees would be in full bloom, while back home it was still gray and brown. We’d see it coming back north where we would wait patiently for spring to come to us. And come it would, surely and reliably unfolding itself over the miles. Fifteen of them every day.

But this year I’m not traveling. I’m just waiting here for it to arrive. And here it comes.

Out over my back garden I see the (still very wet!) grass just getting greener and greener. Hostas, daylilies, violets, even parsley are greening up more and more, minute by minute. Robins are enjoying the great worm feast there for the taking, while the cardinals and finches are whistling their joy. And beyond I see the greening haze appearing on the willows over there in the bird sanctuary. Every day the red maple buds get brighter and clearer.

On my drives around the nearby countryside this Easter weekend I’ve seen it approaching. Pastures and fields that just last weekend were mostly brown are noticeably greening, right before my eyes. Weather forecasts for the week ahead are for “rain, rain, rain and rain.” Never mind. With the rain will come the green.

Let us not get so busy that we fail to notice this wonderful and amazing time of year. It’s the greening! A season full of promise for what will follow.

Happy Easter. Happy Spring.
Look outside there. It’s greening.
Nothing can stop it.

Posted by Marion

Monday, April 25, 2011


It will seem like an odd confession for a minister to make but because of the intense busyness of the past few months, Easter has been all but lost on me this year. I have not taken the usual and needed time to dwell in the season of Lent, and Holy week has felt like just another week with too much to get done. Suddenly it is Easter. What does it all mean, and where did that time go? I am sad.

Reflecting on this situation has me thinking about Easter lilies. I envision the lovely softness of the petals on those gorgeous, white, trumpet flowers set against a backdrop of deep green leaves. I remember their fragrance, so pervasive one would think there was one right here in my study. There is not, but I can almost smell its sweetness.

The Easter lily is the subject of many legends, most if not all of them apocryphal. Some stories claim that lilies sprang up where drops of the sweat of Christ fell in the Garden of Gethsemane. Others say that after three days the tomb of the Virgin Mary was found to be filled with nothing but white lilies. Even more ancient stories of lilies trace their roots back to tales of Roman mythology. The truth about how this flower came to be so closely associated with Easter is a mystery. In this, it presents a parallel to the mystery of Easter itself. I find it a fitting symbol; a quiet, lovely presence in the midst of chaos and disaster.

As I prepare these words it is only Maundy Thursday, but by the time you read them, Easter Sunday will have come and gone. The banks of Easter lilies from the front of the church will have been distributed to the elderly or others whom congregational leaders hope will be blessed by the flower’s presence. Each potted flower will have been given with a prayer that this gift may carry the message of love and thoughtfulness that the congregation intends. Let each plant carry the message of Easter hope to the heart of every recipient.

While we are on the subject of lilies, this year especially it is worth a moment to reflect on the origins of the flower we know in North American as the Easter lily. Prior to World War II, almost all lily bulbs were imported from Japan. A returning American World War I soldier named Louis Houghton is reported to have brought a suitcase full of lily bulbs home with him to the southern coast of Oregon in 1919. Houghton is said to have shared the bulbs with some of his friends who grew the flowers as a hobby, and they did well in that area where ideal conditions exist. When the supply of bulbs from Japan was cut off as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the rising price of the bulbs suddenly made the lily business a viable industry for these hobby growers, and a new industry was born. Today, virtually all North American Easter lilies originate from one of ten farms along the California – Oregon border.

The Easter lily represents many things to many people. The flower has come to symbolize purity, virtue, life and hope, the spiritual essence of Easter itself. For me, it is a symbol of mystery; a quiet presence of stillness and beauty in the midst of chaos and disaster. I look forward to gazing on its beauty on Easter Sunday morning, and this year, I will also remember the people who struggle with disaster in Japan. May they also be blessed with grace and hope in the midst of devastation and chaos.

Happy Easter.

Posted by Carman

Friday, April 22, 2011


There are some times when we just have to call a spade a spade. And it seems to me that Good Friday must be one of those days. Friday is the darkest day in Holy Week. On this day we hear the sounds of the hammer, the cries of the anguished women at the foot of the cross, the traditional “last words” before the silence. We hear the silence most of all. We wait…

I wrote earlier in the week about our most human desire to move quickly over the hard moments in this season; we’re perhaps in too big a hurry to leave the dark thoughts of the crucifixion to gather Easter eggs on the lawn. We’re glad our church’s crosses are empty, preferring to focus our thoughts and our theology on the empty cross, the empty tomb and think on the resurrection.

But there are times when we must call a spade a spade.

President Veazey has called us, yet again, to get serious about mission. We’re feeling good about many ways we’ve already been responding. We’re rightly pleased to hear stories of new life and new energy. New leaders are emerging. Good stuff is happening!

But one very big piece of that call to mission is a call to recognize a spade for a spade. “Abolish poverty and end suffering.” There it is, right there in the number two position. On Good Friday we have to look at the nails and the thorns and the suffering. Because they are real.

They are still real. There is much suffering in this world of ours. Jesus’ cross was not alone on that hill. He was not the only innocent who’d been taken by the powers of oppression and injustice. There are still others who still suffer. “Abolish poverty and end suffering.”

On this Good Friday let’s call a spade a spade. The suffering continues. Where is it in your neighbourhood? Which of your neighbours, right there in a pew beside you, needs you to see them and hear them and leave your Easter basket for another morning?

And if, on this Good Friday morning, you are the one who is suffering, I invite you to come into one of our communities where someone is trying hard to notice you and help you find comfort and nurture and lead you to your own resurrection morning.

“Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened. Do not turn away in pride, fear, or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones. Come before your Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew. Be vulnerable to divine grace.” Doctrine & Covenants 163:10

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Consider the caterpillar; how he crawls along quietly going from leaf to leaf, staying mostly hidden, trying to blend in with his surroundings. He wouldn’t dare stand out. After all, he might get stepped on or eaten for some bird’s lunch! So he quietly crawls along until it is time, then spins a cocoon with himself inside. To all appearances, that is the end. The caterpillar is no more. The blend-in caterpillar, that perhaps no one knew even existed, has ceased to be.

But then something remarkable happens. Transformation occurs! The cocoon splits and a new creature emerges. This new being does not immediately take to the air, but spends some time to get oriented and dry its wings in the sun. Only then does it begin to float on the breeze and fly where it wills. Gone are the drab, blend-in colours, replaced by bright and wondrous hues. The urge to hide is replaced by a willingness to see and be seen as it visits the flowers and makes the world a better, more beautiful place.

In the Barrie congregation, we are beginning to see signs of a butterfly. Our former presence there had reached the stage of its life when it needed its rest. To outside appearances, the caterpillar was dead, but this was not the case. From the cocoon has emerged a new creature and a fresh expression of Christian life is beginning to test its wings in that fair city.

This past weekend, for instance, there was a gathering of youth and others on Thursday evening for fun and fellowship. Friday saw our leaders out on the streets, visiting the unique flowers that are God’s people. Saturday evening was their first worship event held in a downtown café, and the little coffee shop was packed with 31 people! Then Sunday afternoon, despite some rain, a group gathered for a service project which consisted of picking up trash at a local park. I have seen pictures of that event, and they were clearly having a wonderful time. They didn’t even look like caterpillars! Then they all went back to the pastor’s home for more conversation and play.

I think this butterfly is going to be absolutely beautiful!

You can stay in touch with the Barrie Community of Christ by clicking here.

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


You all must have a story about getting the words of a song wrong: you know the kind, like "round John Virgin" or "Olive the other reindeer"?

Here's one I read about recently that has stuck in my mind and really, really feels like a "good word" about all that's going on around our Mission.

Somebody's five-year-old always sings "Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluyah-- crazy the Lord!" So of course, it slides right into the auto record part of my brain and I've been singing "Crazy the Lord!" ever since.

So many good things happening it's hard to keep them straight and pull out one thread from here or there to report about. Many, many crazy happenings. Crazy great and new and fresh and surprising things! There are days your friendly CEM staff people feel very much like one of those guys spinning the plates in the circus. Gotta keep moving, keep spinning, making sure none of them stops or gets broken. Crazy the Lord.

Let me choose just one to tell about. Carman and I spent last Saturday in a high school cafeteria (we needed a space big enough for all who came) helping a conversation happen about how the GTA West congregation will move forward in their decision about a facility for their diverse congregation.

They want a welcoming, comfortable, happy space to do programs as well as reach out, be visible, help the needy. They want to meet many complex needs but they're also confident about the dialogue, ready to listen, to disagree and agree, all the while trusting the Holy Spirit to lead them through some tough times and hard work. And fully expecting to arrive at the best solution for this still-forming community working on mission together. Crazy the Lord!

They're building expertise as a dialoguing, discerning community. Skills we'll all need moving into the future. And they're excited about a range of opportunities in front of them. Stay tuned for more news as the process unfolds. What a journey this promises to be!

All together now, Sing: Crazy the Lord!

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


This morning I am thinking about two very small congregations and what a study in contrast they are. I recently met with both groups on the same day and am struck by their similarities and their differences. In an attempt to preserve some level of objectivity for you, the reader, I will refer to them as Congregation A and Congregation B, or simply as A and B.

First, lets look at some similarities. On the day in question, A had 6 people present, and B had 5 in attendance, not counting Joan and me. Two women and four men were present at A, while three women and two men participated in B. I estimate the average age at A to be 51, while B was about 31. The difference is significant but probably not hugely so. Both gatherings included a blend of new converts and 2nd or 3rd generation members. In both cases, some of the people who attended travelled from another community more than 40 kms. distant to be there. In both cases, it is the converts who travelled. Both congregations have very little income at this point.

Now for a look at some differences. Congregation A has a building, while Congregation B does not. For A, the building has become very much a part of their identity. Members of A regard the building as an important asset they can regretfully no longer afford. The selling of the building and the end of the congregation’s life appear to be both synonymous and inevitable. In contrast, B has no such identification with a physical location, and the lack of one is not an issue. They have never had a building and never wanted one. A building is not seen as either an asset or a liability. They never talk about it and probably never even think about it.

For A, the lack of congregational income is pivotal. It means the building must be sold, and without that asset there appears to be nothing to hold the group together. The leaders of B know they do not have much money, but it is not crucial. It just means there is a need to increase generosity as soon as they can.

During A’s congregational meeting, no ideas were put forward about things the congregation could still do or ways those present could work together to reach out to the larger community. The time for such ideas has passed, and the tone of the meeting was somber. Congregation B, on the other hand, is all about ideas. “Lets go to the mall on Mother’s Day and hand out helium filled balloons with a big smile and our logo on them! We can invite people to meet at the food court for fellowship after. Why not go to the park and do a bar-b-que and give away hot-dogs? Lets do a video survey of people on the street and ask what Spirituality means to them!” There is no shortage of ideas, and the enthusiasm for those ideas is creating wonderful, empowering community. The tone of this meeting was hopeful and enthusiastic.

Two small congregations with much in common, including valuing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Two small congregations, but what an interesting study in contrast!

Posted by Carman

Monday, April 18, 2011


From the time she was a little bitty girl my granddaughter loved the movie "Jesus Christ Superstar." She knew many of the songs without really knowing (we didn't think) what they were saying. She loved the beats and the rhythms. She loved the dance routines. She would lie on her mom and dad's bed and watch that video over and over. You'd be sure she must be asleep and yet she'd beg to "Play it again!"

As I write this on Palm Sunday we're entering into Holy Week--that most puzzling of times and yet the central series of events in the Christian calendar. So many things happening at the same time.

Today we celebrated the victorious entry of Superstar Jesus into Jerusalem. But oh, the paradoxes we need to pay attention to. One writer puts it this way: if the passion is not at least a distant drumbeat then Palm Sunday is just a happy little parade.

And, of course, it isn't just a happy parade. Jesus comes riding on a donkey as a reminder that this Jesus is, by this very act, speaking truth to power, calling into question the unjust and oppressive systems that bring out the cries of "Hosanna!"

I suspect most of us think of that word as just some ancient form of "Hurray!" but in fact, it means "Save us!" Another friend suggests that too many of us are looking for a saviour that will let us keep all our stuff. Do I really understand the meaning of sacrifice?

As we enter Holy Week, will you be observing other events? Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday's vigil? Much like a roller coaster of ups and downs the week races toward the next celebration of resurrection on Easter Sunday morning.

I wonder if I am like Maly, enjoying the music, trying to manage my focus on so many things at once, the parade of palms and the distant drumbeat of passion, cross and resurrection, fear and rejoicing. Play it again please, I need to figure out who is this Jesus? What kind of Superstar?

Not many answers today, but some important questions I think. What do you think?

Posted by Marion

Friday, April 15, 2011


For the last three or four years, it has been part of my routine to visit six web pages the first time I log onto the internet each day. The pages are all connected, so it only takes a few seconds of my time. Recently a seventh page was added, which is fine with me since all the pages feature charitable endeavors I am happy to support.

It begins with the The Hunger Site. I visit this page and click on the button that says “Click Here to Give – Its free.” Each time I do, the Hunger Site’s sponsors donate the equivalent of 1.1 cups of food to the hungry. I then move on to the next page, which is in support of Breast Cancer, and click to support free mammograms. And so it goes. It costs me nothing but a few seconds of my time each day, which I am more than happy to give.

Like just about everyone these days, charities including The Hunger Site and its affiliates have recently discovered facebook, so one can now click on the like button to show the world one’s support for your favourite cause. Recently I began to notice a peculiarity about this, and finally took time to check out my observations. What I discovered is a large discrepancy between the number of people who have publicly declared their support for each page. The numbers are listed below.

The Hunger Site 86,736 people like this site.
Breast Cancer 313,393 people like this site.
Animal Rescue 325,645 people like this site.
Veterans (new) 39,589 people like this site.
Child Health 12,985 people like this site.
Literacy 11,251 people like this site.
Rainforest 46,538 people like this site.

Now, I understand about the power of marketing, and that the folks who work in support of breast cancer have done a great job in getting the word out. I also know that the thought of animals being abused pulls at people’s heart strings. I certainly do not mean to suggest that any of these causes is more or less important than any other, but isn’t it odd that 25 times as many people like animal rescue compared to those who like child health or literacy? Does it not seem peculiar that nearly 4 times as many people befriend the breast cancer site compared to those who support the hunger site?

Whether or not these numbers really mean anything, I cannot say. I do know, however, that hunger means something as does breast cancer, animal rescue, child health, literacy or any of the other causes. The point is not just about the numbers of people who “like this site” or that. The point is that there is an easy, low cost way to help.

Can I invite you to adopt my little routine, and click on each of these buttons every day? To make it easy, you can click Here.

You might even "like" it!

Posted by Carman

Thursday, April 14, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, we had a discussion on What’s the Good Word around a post entitled Voice. That blog attempted to address some of the reasons why our collective voice has grown somewhat quiet (if not silent) in recent years. The piece ended with the statement, “It is time we found our voice.”

Of course the critical thing is not just having a voice, but how we use it. The essential question is, what should our voice say? Since our understanding has grown to the point where we are clearly no longer comfortable in making outdated claims about being the “one true church” (and probably never should have been), what should we now proclaim? Recent inspired counsel to the church has called us to invite, but exactly what are we inviting people to?

All of this reminds me of a family doing a jigsaw puzzle. It is at that point when we are nearly finished, and searching the floor for that one piece that has gone missing. Where did it go? It must be here somewhere. Is it possible that President Veazey’s address to the church last Sunday night has pointed us towards the missing piece? In fact, it seems to me he has pointed it out rather clearly.

In truth, the piece has been in front of us all along. It was lying right there in our mission statement; “We Proclaim Jesus Christ and Promote Communities of Joy, Hope, Love and Peace.” But what did that mean, exactly? What do we mean by communities of joy hope love and peace? If that is what our congregations are supposed to be, how do we do that?

The fact is that we were not seeing that piece of the puzzle very clearly. The piece was there, but perhaps it matched the carpet so closely we couldn’t see it without bringing in a little more light. Now that much needed light has been provided by the Mission Initiatives, and lo and behold, here is the missing piece lying right there before us.

We invite people to Christ, and to be part of a community that is trying to abolish poverty, end suffering, and pursue peace on earth.

What a wonderful picture this is!

Posted by Carman

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


People I know are making lists! Not just practical little "to do" lists. Or shopping lists or "things to bring" lists! Not even "bucket lists"!

No, I think you'd have to call them something like Mission Lists. They appear to have been inspired by President Veazey's address to the church. (You can listen to it now, if you missed it: here's the link.

One of the Fired Up! leaders confessed that she really didn't listen to the whole thing but was busily creating a list around a great idea she had about going with our group to a mall and talking to people about their ideas of what kinds of spirituality they see around them, what the real needs of this community are and how we together might start tending to those needs. Stay tuned for more information to come.

Two people have been in my office today, each with their current list in hand. One of those lists was written directly on the back of the pie chart showing the present break-down of funding for the five mission initiatives. You can probably find them listed most easily in the new Power of 10 website. He was listing some of the steps he wants to start on right away(!) for the one that resonated for him.

And the second person had her congregation in mind. Her list was about helping her own congregation be more inviting, getting more serious about reaching into the local community and finding out what would help reduce suffering right there!

I apologize for all these exclamation marks. Good writers really don't use them quite so liberally. But I'm sure President Veazey would be happy to know that people heard what he had to say and the immediately began to make Mission Lists in response.

How about you? Have you started your list yet?

Posted by Marion

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


No, this isn't another of my "pause and reflect" posts. I'm actually thinking today about the other meaning of the word: [ri-flect] (1) to cast back (heat, light, sound) from a surface -- as a mirror reflects light into the room (2) to give back or show an image of as a mirror (3) to reproduce or show, as followers reflect beliefs of a leader...

That's probably enough examples to let you catch my meaning. I've been reading Carol Howard Merritt's "Reframing Hope" again. (Highly recommend this great book!) She comments that most of our congregations tend to reflect society around us. We tend to ask the same questions, be concerned about the same issues, as our neighbours.

Certainly I see examples of this as we meet with congregations and their leaders. The questions we're asking are about our needs, those things we look for to make us comfortable, help us feel connected to this community of friends, brothers and sisters. What facility will most appeal; what worship style will most resonate?

As I listen to all those "targeted" political ads in this election time that promise to leave more cash in my pocket, take care of me in my old age, help me avoid paying those nasty taxes, I'm feeling a certain message being reflected at me. And it's a message that the folks delivering it must be quite confident about because I hear it over and over again.

Yet, my reading in Merritt's book suggests that our congregations ought to be doing something other than merely reflecting the society around us. In fact this is the message that came from President Veazey's address too. It isn't our job to merely reflect what we see around us. Our job is to reflect the love and mission of our leader Jesus.

When I'm hearing someone ask for something to make their pew experience more comfortable, or I hear a politician suggesting I keep all my hard-earned cash and let the ne'er do wells assume the consequences of their life-style choices, I am called to reflect something different:

Radical hospitality--Extravagant generosity--Extreme compassion!

What will THAT look like?

President Veazey didn't demand we get it all right immediately. He suggested we pick something and start there. And Carol Howard Merritt acknowledges it isn't easy. Society's pull is pretty strong. But so is the call to mission. What will we choose to reflect?

Posted by Marion

Monday, April 11, 2011


Did you watch the webcast last night? This will be the first of many questions Community of Christ members and friends will be asking each other today.

On Sunday evening, April 10, 2011, President Stephen Veazey addressed the church with an important message entitled “The Mission Matters Most!” This important sermon seeks to spell out the mission of the church in a fresh and compelling way. If you missed this pivotal event, the video footage of his remarks will soon be posted to the church’s website. At the time of this writing it is not yet available although already you can read his comments by clicking here. The message matters a great deal.

After reflecting on Jesus’ announcement of his own mission as recorded in Luke 4:18-19, President Veazey announced five mission initiatives for Community of Christ. They are as follows.

Invite People to Christ; Christ’s mission of evangelism
• Abolish Poverty, End Suffering; Christ’s mission of compassion
• Pursue Peace on Earth; Christ’s mission of justice and peacemaking
• Develop Disciples to Serve; equip individuals for Christ’s mission
• Experience Congregations in Mission; equip congregations for Christ’s mission

In this sermon, President Veazey, or “Steve” as many of us know him, points out that if we are Christ followers, His mission is our mission. He has sought to express in a fresh and compelling way what that mission is. It is very timely.

Much could and will be said about these five initiatives. We will be talking about them for years to come. For this morning, perhaps it is enough to read his remarks and begin to think about how we respond, both as individuals and as a church. It is a conversation all of need to be part of.

So let me ask you, did you watch the webcast last night? What did you think? Did any of the initiatives speak to you? Did all of them? Have you begun to think about how you might respond? What about your congregation; how will that community be different as a result of this? What will your community do together?

We will be talking about these and other questions for a long time, so lets start the conversation now. Will you click on the comments button and share your initial thoughts?

Posted by Carman

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sunday Night


Consider this an "extra" on What's the Good Word. It is not really a blog, but it does contain some information you may find useful.

On Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m. EDT, President Stephen Veazey will give his annual address to the church. The theme for this year’s comments is “The Mission Matters Most.” As you may know, Mike Hewitt, Jim Poirier and I are in Independence for meetings, and have had a chance to preview the themes that will appear in Brother Veazey’s sermon. As a result, I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to log-in and participate on-line. It will be very much worth your while.

You can find the link to the webcast at or by clicking here just before 7:00 p.m.

I hope you will check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted by Carman


Meanwhile, let's revisit Lazarus' story here.
I suggested yesterday that we need to "sit" with this story a bit longer, not rushing ahead to the happy ending, much as we might want to.

This is a family story. Martha and Mary are really important to the early Christian church. They show up in two of the gospels.You'll remember the story in Luke where Jesus was being entertained in their home. Martha was being the good hostess, slaving away in the kitchen while Mary listened to Jesus, chatting in the parlor and not remembering her proper place as a good Jewish woman. There was no mention of their kid brother Lazarus in that story. Lazarus arrives in John's gospel.

Commentaries suggest the sisters must have been important. John introduces Mary as "the woman who anointed Jesus" but if we're reading carefully, we might notice that hasn't "yet" happened in Jesus' story. And yet it is such an identifier that the gospel writer can't help but mention it now. Followers of Jesus knew who the woman was! She's one of those women who don't do what they're supposed to. An "uppity woman"!

Now we find the family in mourning for their brother who has died. Our modern ears hear the story differently than those first century ears heard it. Their brother has died. It is four days after has was buried; the good Jewish family is "sitting shiva" and grieving. We may have wondered about the crowds around. Of course there were people. They are coming to provide for the women who must do nothing for themselves for seven days. They can't leave the house. It is the required mourning ritual.

That is what Mary does. She stays inside as is proper. This time it is Martha who rushes our to meet Jesus. This time it is Martha who is "uppity" as it is entirely improper for her to leave the house to meet this visitor, no matter how close a friend he is. She is the one who is behaving unconventionally. She is the one to speak bluntly to Jesus and then to return and bring Mary into the conversation.

It is Martha who is the first woman in scripture to identify Jesus as the Messiah. But she is the practical one who suggests it may not be such a good idea to open the tomb. Yes, she believes, but really is this possible?

And Jesus? What does Jesus do? He weeps. He too for a time sits with the grief that has come to this family he loves.

There is just so much more in this story than these few words can tell. Let us sit with it for a bit and let us change us as it will.

Posted by Marion

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I've never been a fan of the horror genre; I never read horror books or cared for horror movies. I appreciate that there is value and even classic literature in the horror genus, but it’s not been my preference. Horror appears to come and go as other styles do, and just now we do seem to be in the midst of an up-wave as movies, television, pop culture explore horror themes.

This week’s lectionary readings take us right into this ever-so-human fascination for themes horrific. I recall doing the research a few years ago into the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones. It occurred to me that Ezekiel was a man before his time—one might even call him prophetic! As I read the text, and others from his book, I imagined he would have made an amazing producer of modern film or video images. What might a Spielberg do with an Ezekiel text of flaming chariots, wheels within wheels, and rising armies of dry bones!

This week’s preacher then turns to the gospel and finds there the images of the Lazarus story. No wonder we wish to cast our thoughts quickly ahead to new life and resurrection, quickly putting aside the descriptors of the sights, the smells, the gut-wrenching emotions in that story.

And yet, we are not there yet. We are still in the midst of the Lenten season. We need to spend a bit more time considering the evils that brought us those images I think. Ezekiel well knew where those dry bones came from. He had lived through and with the choices that created them. Two years of siege by the armies of Babylon leading to the exile of himself and his people must have created conditions not unlike some of the conditions we’re watching on our televisions every day. One of those Middle East wars not unfamiliar to us created for him that valley of despair and, yes, of horror.

Is it not the role of the church to examine the systems, the choices, the patterns that create despair in our own surroundings, our own world? Have we made choices, or failed to make them, that have contributed to the despair of our own neighbours? We write often about community in this blogspace. Mostly we write the good news that’s happening in that loving community. But don’t let’s forget that we have neighbours without hope. When the scriptures send us to stories that hold the horror in front of us, we are obliged to look and then to offer better.

I must think about it; how will I respond to that call?

Posted by Marion