Archive for March 2016

Open Minds – open doors


A wise woman once told me that,

“Your mind is like a parachute: it works best when it is open.”

On Good Friday the Toronto Star published a column titled, “An Easter Wish for Christianity” composed by Michael Coren. In it, Coren writes:

An authentic relationship with God is a dialogue,

involving questions,

arguments and even doubt.

The full column is at:


Re-thinking the Resurrection – Jim Taylor


By Jim Taylor**

This is not one of my usual columns. The newspaper which gets “first publication” rights is not publishing today, Easter Sunday. That leaves me free to muse about Easter, in general.

Easter, as seen by the secular world, is about bunnies and eggs. And chocolate. And spring in the northern hemisphere. And did I mention chocolate? But in the Christian church, it’s about The Resurrection (with capital letters).

When I was much younger, the Rev. Jim Campbell invited his congregation to submit topics they wanted him to preach about. My note said, “Resurrection — I’d love to see how you handle it!”

I knew that Jim was too honest a minister to simply repeat conventional platitudes. He didn’t disappoint me. He admitted that he couldn’t understand it either, but clearly something had happened, “something” that changed lives, which started a domino effect that changed the world.

I can live with that ambiguity, even if part of my mind still wants a rational explanation for what happened. Or, perhaps, for what didn’t happen. But I would guess that 90 percent of the sermons preached this morning will declare, unequivocally,
a) that Jesus conquered death
b) that death is the direct consequence of sin
c) that Jesus had no sin, and that by accepting a death he didn’t deserve, Jesus paid off our sins in advance.

If our sins are already forgiven, why do we still pay the price of sin?

If Jesus defeated death, why do we still die?

In fact, why does everything die? Plants, mammals, fish, insects, bacteria — everything dies. They have different life spans — contrast a fruit fly and a sequoia, say — but they all die. Even our sun will eventually die, and take the inner planets with it. Death is the universal reality, simultaneously the immoveable object and the irresistible force.

The concept that death is the consequence of sin — “the wages of sin,” Paul called it — takes us into the Bermuda triangle of theology. If sin causes death, and all humans die, therefore all humans must have sinned. If we haven’t sinned ourselves — for example, a newborn baby — then we must have inherited sin from our parents. It’s a self-fulfilling equation, a vicious circle. Even if it’s nonsense. Sin may be learned, but it is not inheritable.

But it’s also nonsense to argue that death didn’t exist until Adam and Eve messed up. Would the plants and animals, the wild ones and the domesticated ones, the fruit trees and the fruitflies, all have lived forever if humans had not tasted that apple?

Now throw Jesus into that triangle. Traditionally, theology has insisted that Jesus was without sin. But he died. If sin and death have an unbreakable contract, Jesus broke it.

The only way to avoid admitting that the equation was faulty is for Jesus not to stay dead.

Besides, if sin leads to death, why didn’t Satan die? Satan is the personification of sin itself. But Satan has apparently achieved immortality. The Bible says that Satan was there in the Garden of Eden. Satan had tea with God in the story of Job. Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. According to Revelation, Satan will still be around until the final conflict. Even by Bishop Ussher’s timekeeping, that’s over 6,000 years.

By my reading, the Bible contradicts itself. Death happens whether or not someone sins. And sin — even the sin of rebelling against God — does not necessarily result in death.

I prefer to think of death as a gift from God. It is the matching bookend for the gift of life. Birth and death are our Alpha and Omega. Death was granted to all of creation, across the board. No exceptions, no favourites.

So Jesus didn’t have to undo the consequences of Adam’s disobedience. We didn’t have to be “redeemed” from inherited sin. That turns most rationales for The Resurrection into word games.

And yet, as Jim Campbell said long ago, something happened. Something that started 20 centuries of dominos toppling.
Copyright © 2016 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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** re-published with permission from Jim Taylor

Easter, 2016


Sunrise in Toronto: Easter, 2016

“True faith is the antithesis of a triumphant confidence. To be sure, there is a certitude of faith. The certitude of faith is not a matter of demonstration or success, but a matter of trust: trust in the promise of a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that are not (Romans, chapter 4), a God who creates ex nihilo, who according to the scriptures raised his Son from the dead.”

Douglas John Hall in “Lighten Our Darkness”, page 120

Holy Week 2016 – Holy Saturday


Natalie Sleeth has written a hymn, published in 1986, called, “In the Bulb There Is a Flower“.

It is published in the United Church of Canada hymn book called Voices United. Verse #3 is appropriate, I believe, for Holy Saturday; the day between the murder of Jesus, and his resurrection:

“In our end is our beginning;

in our time, infinity;

in our doubt there is believing;

in our life, eternity.

In our death, a resurrection; at the last a victory,

unrevealed until its season,

something God alone can see.”

Holy Week 2016 – Good Friday



The power that Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate thought they had over Jesus

Turned out to be illusory. 

The Passion story unveils another kind of power at work in the world, and in the Word.

When Jesus said, “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth,” 

He was not talking about domination and control

but about solidarity and liberation. 

At enormous cost

Jesus confronted the life-denying forces of his day and entered death,

showing us that our lives too can confront and overcome the forces of death in our day. “

From the Mission Statement of the Ecumenical Good Friday Walk for Justice in Toronto, Canada.

Holy Week 2016 – #4


Jesus the Homeless

“Our spirituality is not what we profess to believe,

but how we order our lives.

Our stewardship of time, energy, material things, and relationship to our fellow creatures reflects the way we express that ordering of our lives.”

Margaret Guenther in “The Practice of Prayer”

Holy Week 2016 – #3


Jesus, in a story that is in all four Gospels, entered the temple in Jerusalem, confronted “business as usual”, and Mark’s Gospel reports that he said:

“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer

for all the nations’?”

Mark 11:17 (RSV)

“Our prayers remain empty if we do not inhabit them;

if we do not mirror their desires

through the people that we are and seek to become.”

Seasons of the Spirit, 2009

Posted March 23, 2016 by allanbaker in Christian Faith, Prayer

Tagged with , ,

Holy Week 2016 – #2


“Fear is the toxin of this generation.”

Joan Chittister in “Between the Dark and the Daylight”, page 155

Holy Week – #1

Dorway to ... ?

Dorway to … ?

“Business as Usual can only proceed

if we close our eyes to where it is taking us.”

Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone in “Active Hope”, page 146

Posted March 22, 2016 by allanbaker in Uncategorized