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“Not the Sermon” Message

This Week at Trinity, Beamsville

Friday, April 17, 2020

Dear Friends,

This week I’ve been thinking about all the ways this present time has called me out of my comfort zone.  There are so many things that leave me feeling apart from myself – at least I think that’s how I would describe it.  Certainly being apart from you leaves me in such a foreign space, struggling to figure out how to be me, when all of us are rediscovering so many truths about life and faith. 

In countless ways, this is an existential journey of unexpected proportions.  In other ways, there are moments far more superficial, but nonetheless offering a mirror to who we are, collectively and individually.  For Kass and me, and Andrew and Melanie, finding ourselves in front of a camera each week (and hearing that some of you are watching our services on large screen tv!), means a different kind of self-analysis, and vulnerability.  I’m still in the place of being far more comfortable listening to than watching myself – but I’m learning some things along the way.  Apparently I wear blue, often; and often the same shade.  (I knew about my scarf habit, but not so much about my limited worship-leading colour palette.)  I also fidget with my papers, and look down at my text more often than I realized; often when I don’t need to, but I do.  And, not last and not least, I’m not very animated when I deliver my sermons.  It’s a strange observation when I know that my mind is going full tilt in that time.  Maybe that’s a product of the camera and not who I usually am.  Maybe that’s entirely true to form and just my genetic combination shining through, with Scots Presbyterian and Reformed Mennonite roots holding me steady in one place.

I will also say that, these last weeks, there was something bothering me, about how I was ‘on screen’.  For a while I couldn’t put my finger on it, and then it dawned on me:  I haven’t been smiling very much.  I’ve looked rather dower and that’s not my usual place.  I know it’s largely a reflection of the times we’re in, and where my heart is so often.  I also think the camera has a significant part to play (see above), as speaking to an empty sanctuary feels like painting with only a brush.  I miss and rely on your presence and your responding.  Emotional energy and shared spiritual experience are things I will never again take for granted. 

So, all that in my learning bank, this week’s service may be a refreshing change.  As you’ll hear me describe in the Welcome, this Sunday is a modified version of the Holy Humour Sunday we once thought it would be.  With long historical roots, as ‘Bright Sunday’, and a celebration of God’s last laugh on the powers of death, our version of Holy Humour for 2020 is far from a comedy hour, but an honest hour, of embracing the God-given emotions that help us to know ourselves most fully.  There are balanced but distinct moments of levity, to be sure, and there’s a time with the children that I never thought I’d say yes to, but above all there’s a profound movement of thanksgiving, for God’s working through our tears as much as our laughter.  There is a story to be told, of life beyond the tomb, and I’m so grateful that we can be part of its telling, as a blessed and blessing community of Jesus. 

With abiding love to you all, this Easter season and always,


“…new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”  

(Barbara Brown Taylor, ‘Learning to Walk in the Dark’)

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