Reconciliation in 3-D

The Door of Reconciliation. Photo taken by dahon,, creative commons

Sermon for my ordination service as Commissioned Pastor in the role of Editor of the Banner, at Fellowship CRC, Nov 27, 2016.

Texts: 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Ephesians 2:13-16; Colossians 1:19-20

In St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in Dublin, Ireland, there is a door hanging on display called the “door of reconciliation”. Legend has it that in 1492, two Irish families (the Butlers of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Kildare) were involved in a bitter feud over which family should hold the position of Lord Deputy. This feud became violent with bloodshed between the two families.

When the violence got out of control, the Butlers took refuge in the Chapter House of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The FitzGeralds followed them into the Cathedral and asked them to come out and make peace. Afraid they would be slaughtered, the Butlers refused.

As a gesture of good faith, the head of the Kildare family, Gerald FitzGerald, ordered that a hole be cut in the door. He then thrust his arm through the door and offered his hand in peace to those on the other side. Of course, that was a huge risk. Because the Butlers could have chosen to cut his arm off. But instead, they shook hands through the hole. The Butlers emerged from the Chapter House and the two families made peace.

Apparently, this is where the British phrase “to chance your arm” gets its meaning: to chance your arm means to take a risk. And that door through which the two families shook hands and made peace is that door of reconciliation on display in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, to this day.

Well, we live in 2016, not in 1492. But I think we live in a world that is in as much need of reconciliation as ever. We live in a deeply divided and polarized world. Even though we interact with different people more than ever – from rubbing shoulders with people who are different at school or at work to interacting with people from across the planet on the internet and social media – so, despite that, we are actually increasingly divided into ideological tribes. People don’t seem to know how to disagree civilly on social media. It’s either you are my friend for agreeing with me, or you are an idiot for disagreeing and I will make sure you know that you are an idiot!

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Faith in a Time of Fear

Public Domain

(Christmas Day Sermon for Kanata Christian Reformed Church Dec. 25, 2015)

Texts: Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:1-20

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Fear in Isaiah’s Judah

Every time I read that passage from Isaiah 9, I can’t help but think of Handel’s Messiah. You know that chorus, right? “For unto us a child is born, unto a son is given, unto us a son is given. For unto us a Child is born ….” And so it goes. And it’s a great song, as is the rest of the Messiah.

And of course, these words, as does the song, express joy, hope and optimism. On their own, out of their context! But when I understood the original context of Isaiah’s words, I see them in a different light. I still see joy and hope but I see them spoken in a context of fear and darkness.

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The Life and Light of Christmas

Tree Branch in Winter(This was a sermon preached on Christmas Day at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Ottawa, on Dec. 25, 2014.)

 The text is John 1:1-5 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (NRSV)

Darkness in the World

I think we can agree that we have heard or seen, maybe even personally experienced, darkness in this world. From the disturbing news in Australia of a mother killing seven of her children, as young as 18 months old, as well as her niece, to the hostage taking in Sydney, Australia where three people lost their lives, to the incomprehensible shooting in the school in Pakistan where over a hundred schoolchildren were killed, to the racial profiling that occurs throughout the world, but in the news lately in the United States with the death of Eric Garner who was choked to death by police, to the news of the two police officers shot dead in New York City, to the shooting at Parliament Hill in THIS [Ottawa] city and the death of Nathan Cirillo, to the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Quebec by vehicular homicide, to the ongoing fight against Ebola in West Africa and the thousands of deaths in its wake, to the horrifying beheadings and reign of terror that ISIS carries out in the Middle East, to the rape and sexual harassment allegations of Jian Gomeshi and Bill Cosby … we can go on and on with our list of darkness in the news. We see oppression, injustice, abuse, violence, and death everywhere.

We do not even need to turn to the news for signs of darkness. For many of us, we have loved ones ravaged by cancer, or other forms of serious illness. Or we turn to our memories and see those who have left us, making Christmas time often a difficult time for us.

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Radical Hospitality: Giving and Receiving

Taking In the Stranger
Taking in the Stranger

(Sermon Preached for All Nations Heritage Service, Grace Christian Reformed Church in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada on October 3, 2010) Texts: Leviticus 19:33-34; Luke 10:1-12; Acts 10:9-48; Hebrews 13:1-2; Revelation 3:20

These days when we think of hospitality, one of two things usually come to mind. One of the first things that come to mind is Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart is the guru of how to be the perfect host – from making the perfect appetizer down to having the right shade of color for your curtains. Hospitality here is about entertaining your guests. The second thing that comes to mind when we think about hospitality is probably hotels, restaurants and cruise ships. We think about the hospitality industry – hospitality as a consumer product, something to be bought and consumed.

Well, the Biblical view of hospitality is radically different than these contemporary versions of hospitality. Biblical hospitality is radically different in at least three ways: Biblical Hospitality includes God’s Inclusiveness, God’s Mission and God’s Giving and Receiving of Hospitality. Let us take a look at each one of these more closely.

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Between Empire and Home

(Originally a sermon preached at First Christian Reformed Church Toronto, July 25, 2010)

Texts: Matthew 5:1-16; Revelation 21:1-4 (click on links to read the bible texts)

There’s a saying that goes, “Home is where the heart is”. This saying acknowledges that home is more than having a roof over your head. Home is more than just a place to live, eat and sleep. Home is more than your permanent residence. When you tell people that you are going home for the holidays, most people assume that you are going home to your parents, and most likely to the town or city where you were born and raised. Home is where our loved ones are, and where we have strong emotional ties. Home is where your heart is. If home is where the heart is, then homelessness is where the heart is lost. If home is more than having a roof and four walls, homelessness is more than lacking a roof and four walls. Continue reading “Between Empire and Home”

The Rapture: A Mistaken Belief

Cover of
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(This is an expanded version of a sermon, “The Rapture: Rescue of the Saints or Return of the King?” preached at Friendship Community CRC, April 18, 2010. This sermon has also been preached as “What’s Wrong with the Rapture?” on numerous times.)

You may have heard of the rapture. The rapture is part of a very popular theology about the End Times, especially popular in North America. It’s popularized by the Christian media, like famous TV & Radio evangelists, the Left Behind series of books and movies, and all sorts of Christian books, such as Are You Rapture Ready? and the Scofield Study Bible, which probably popularized this theology back in the 19th century. There’s even a website called

So, what exactly is the rapture? And what difference does it make if we believe it or not? What’s the big deal? In this post, I want to take a look at this popular teaching about the rapture and look at some of the negative implications of this belief. And then I want to show from Bible passages how this understanding of the rapture is actually mistaken, and what is the more likely scenario that the Bible is pointing to. Continue reading “The Rapture: A Mistaken Belief”