The mystery of the two Creation stories: separating the HOW from the WHY

Leonardo painting Adam and God2.jpg

By the Rev. Ken McClure

Peace and Love to you in Christ!

It's been some time since I last posted, largely because much has been happening here in the Parish of Haliburton! As the cold weather has firmly gripped hold, God has blessed and continues to bless this corner of the Kingdom, even while completely covering it with what can only be described as a mattress of snow.

One of the blessings has been our weekly Bible studies, where we have been entering into the text of Genesis, my favorite book of the Bible outside the Gospels (although it’s in a dead heat with Matthew, but that's another post). 

We began ... well, at the beginning, examining the dual creation accounts given in the first two chapters, and took note of the distinctions between the two creations. There is comfort to be had in reading these two chapters closely, particularly if one has anxiety reconciling a Biblical faith with the understanding of the unfolding of the universe and the development of life that science has provided us in our modern context. 

We need to take note of the conflicting sequences of creation in the two accounts, where the first (Gen. 1-2:4) has humanity created after everything else has been made, while the second (Gen. 2:4b-25) has Adam being formed "in the day that YHWH made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up". The conflict in sequence continues when we see every creature created as an attempt to find a partner for Adam (Gen. 2:18-19).

While traditional attempts to align these two narrative have sought to connect the events of the second creation to the events of the sixth day in the first creation (Gen. 1:26-30) when humanity is created, this explanation cannot be found in the text, and must deviate from substantial portions of the text to be accepted. The two creations simply do not sequentially align.

None of this is to attempt to poke holes in the Biblical story, but to actually read what it says. When we do, we must consider the degree to which precision in developing the sequence of creation—what we consider the ‘how’ or timeline of creation—is of little importance to the Biblical text: if it was, the sequence established in the first would be maintained in the second. 

All this is to say that we need not feel anxiety in opening ourselves up to scientific explanations for HOW the universe and life came into being, while affirming a Biblical faith. The Bible doesn't offer us a HOW: it offers us two HOWs, which means it's not about HOW, but WHY. When we look at the two creations for ‘why’, we see that they at last align! 

WHY did God create? 

Because God thought that it was good to create, and loved what was created, and created so that what was created could care for what was created. 

The WHY is love

Our understanding of the HOW has always been an unfolding process, a truth marked by the way the HOW changes in the first and second creations in Genesis. I have little doubt the understanding of the HOW we have now will seem just as limited tomorrow as yesterday's does today. 

What remains fixed, is the WHY. 

In the beginning, now, and evermore. 

An unsung Canadian saint worth more than her salt

[expanded from a recent  Monday talk by Fr. Ken]

Marguerite Bourgeoys may well be one of the most unknown saints (and an official one at that) in the worldwide Church. The remarkable French pioneer moved from France to the wilds of ‘New France’ in 1653 on a mission to serve in whatever way she could. She helped bring Christianity to the local population, initiated the building of the colony’s first permanent church, and founded the first public school in what would later be known as Canada.  Public education would not widely exist for another 150 years.

Marguerite LR.jpg

The saintly Marguerite survived many threats during her years in the new colony. She lived through Iroquois attacks, a fire that destroyed her small village, plagues on the ships that she took back and forth to France. But nothing threatened her dreams and hopes more than what her own bishop said to her in 1679. He told her she had to join her teaching sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame (that she had established in Ville Marie, later to be Montreal) to a cloistered religious order of Ursulines. This was not the first time she'd been given such a command. Whether from a misplaced desire to protect the sisters, or from discomfort in dealing with an active religious order of women, bishops had long wanted to fit her into the usual mold of cloistered orders.

An educator at heart, she firmly believed faith should not be shut away, so refused all efforts by the French religious hierarchy to sequester her and the women who had joined her. The bishop finally gave in, saying, "I cannot doubt, Mother Bourgeoys, that you will succeed in moving heaven and earth as you have moved me!"  And so began one of one of the first uncloistered religious communities in the Catholic Church.

Yes, living in the Canadian wilderness meant hardship and danger, but the challenges only inspired Marguerite. Yet another prime obstacle existed in that there were no children to teach! High infant mortality rates meant few survived to an age old enough for school. So Marguerite went to work in the hospital. She aided Jeanne Mance, who ran the hospital, in helping children survive in the harsh New World.

As conditions for natives and settlers began improving, Marguerite went to the governor of Ville Marie, Paul de Chomeday de Maisonneuve, and convinced him to let her open a school. He provided her with a vacant stone stable in April 1658 which became a schoolhouse for her students, both native and settlers.

As one unknown writer puts it, Saint Marguerite “is rightly considered co-foundress of Montreal, with the nurse, Jeanne Mance, and the master designer, Monsieur de Maisonneuve.”

The school system and network of social services she initiated gradually extended through the whole country, leading to her also being referred to as ‘Mother of the Colony’.

Marvelling on how well Marguerite connected the life of the mind to the life of God, Fr. Ken engaged in a bit of ‘what-if-ism’. “If we had followed more of these wise woman instead of arrogant men, we would be in a far different place,” he mused.

Monday 1:00 p.m. services at St. George's are well-worth attending: full communion, prayer, and an always-fascinating short talk by Fr. Ken on relevant biblical or ecclesiastical history.

The very best Christmas gift: our hearts

By Fr. Ken McClure

"What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man I would do my part; yet what I can, I give him—I give my heart." [from "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rossetti]

I like this verse. I like it because it effectively articulates the tension that exists between hoping that Christ will come and anxiously preparing for the inevitability of it. With all the ‘what do I get them’ nervousness that comes with the execution of the ‘perfect’ Christmas celebration rustling around in our brains, the sentiment of our verse provides us with the link that connects Jesus to each and every one of the other relationships represented on our Christmas shopping lists; demanding that as we wonder what we're doing for each of our friends, family, and obligatory gift recipients (we ALL have those), we also wonder what we're doing for Christ. 

We give our heart; but what is that? 

When I think of matters of the heart, I think of Love. 

The weekly themes of our Advent journey have demonstrated that this divine expression of Love is built upon a foundation. It begins with Hope, which makes Peace possible. Where there is peace, Joy follows, and joy felt within the peace that comes from hope opens our hearts to Love in its fullest sense. 

With this in mind, I offer that what we give to the Christ child when we give our hearts is a commitment to continue to ask our Advent questions: 

What is my Hope? Where do I find Peace? How do I feel Joy? When do I open myself up to the Love of God? 

These are questions of the Heart, and when we ask of the heart, we give of the heart!

So, as we continue to journey with our Lord through the coming year, let us ensure that the gift we have provided, and have been provided, doesn't get tucked into the back of the closet (or worse: returned). May each step we take with Christ hereafter, be taken with an Advent obligation to prepare for the next step, so that all our steps may be filled with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, leading us always to the open arms of God.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless us Everyone!  

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol wows at St. George's

"Darkness is cheap ... and Scrooge liked it," Charles Dickens wrote in his famous A Christmas Carol 175 years ago this month and engaging audiences ever since.

Local performers brought the story to remarkable life this past week in their production of the version first produced by CBC in 1990. Near-capacity audiences filled the church both Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon. .

Here, the Christmas Carol Choir sing the beautifully haunting ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence’, recorded Saturday with Becca McClure as soloist.

Bells of remembrance and peace ring throughout the Highlands

As the sun set on Sunday, November 11, bells sounded out across the Highlands in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice to end World War 1. Many area churches rang their bells 100 times in an initiative supported by local Legion members, students at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School and the Haliburton Highlanders Pipes and Drums band.

St. Margaret’s bell-ringers

St. Margaret’s bell-ringers

Thousands of locals served in the war, and as the Rev. Ken McClure noted, it was a good way for churches to commemorate them and their families.

“It’s important for churches, around Remembrance Day especially to both stand as agents of peace while at the same time honouring and respecting and holding up those who have fallen because of the absence of peace,” he said.

It was a very moving event for us,” says St. Margaret’s church warden, Sandra Bramham. “We sang ‘Abide With’ me and  ‘The Day Now Ended’ when we were done.”

Rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is His

By the Rev. Ken McClure

I begin with a confession. I sat down to write my entry last week, and as it was Labour Day I was expounding on the sacredness of taking a break when the hypocrisy of my actions confronted me. I stopped and figured it would be far better to demonstrate my point than to labour at making it.

Political Christianity book cover best for site.jpg

For this week, I think it may be a good idea to contextualize why these posts have been so rooted in politics generally, and in American politics most consistently.  I believe Christianity to be an inherently political faith. The entire Gospel of Jesus Christ constructs and demonstrates a counter-cultural society called the Kingdom of Heaven. It examines the world around it and it comments on it by presenting a sanctified alternative to the injustices and imbalances it sees.

Each of us who inhabit the Kingdom is called to see and speak wherever we go in an effort to be a part of the Kingdom breaking forth for all. While I try to avoid getting too political from the pulpit, my epistolary pen tends to lean that way. That's why these posts tend to be political.

As for the American pre-occupation, I do confess a life-long love and fascination with American history and politics, but it's more than that. As a student of history, I can comfortably say that the United States is the closest thing to Rome the world has seen since Rome.

Thus to understand our world and our time, we need to understand our neighbors to the south, for as they go, so goeth the world. As a student of scripture, I recognize that the society the Kingdom of Heaven is juxtaposed to is Rome, from the Gospels through to the book of Revelation. Let those with ears hear.

This leads me to what I'd like you all to consider from this, for this week: a week where a far-right party gained increasing electoral support in Sweden (of all places); a week when our premier has been taken to court by the government of our provincial capital for unilaterally slashing that government in half; a week where it has been confirmed that the President of the United States is unfit and surrounded by people who at times are able to directly countermand his orders.

Jesus told us to render to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God, God's. However, the nature of our system, and the systems in the countries I've referenced. make each and every one of us Caesar.

Our officials are not our rulers, we are theirs. Thus we should be rendering unto each other (and by extension ourselves) the due diligence to ensure that our servants are effectively carrying out our business in a way that doesn't shame us. The greatest advancements in our society have come about because people of faith actively carried that faith with them when engaging in the activities of the arena.

I'm convinced that the only way the societal advancements of the future will come about is if we continue in that long tradition.

A Lion in Winter

By the Rev. Ken McClure

John McCain, Aug. 1936-Aug. 2108

John McCain, Aug. 1936-Aug. 2108

While there were many developments and doings that happened in the world this week, the one that my mind has been most drawn to has been the death of Senator John McCain. It's not the fact that his story has been one of heroism and sacrifice, though it has. Nor is it the fact that the instances when his lessor demons shouted down his better angels stand as a testimonial to the reality that even the best of us are not always representative of what's best in us.

No, the part of this that captures my imagination is the people he asked give his upcoming eulogy, former presidents George W. Bush and Barak Obama: the men who defeated him in his two attempts to become president. 

This past Sunday I preached on the difficulty of Christian teaching, and cited the call to love our enemies as an example. Senator McCain has demonstrated in death that while difficult, it is not impossible. This is not to say that these former opponents of his are, or ever should be considered his enemies; it is the perversity of our time that we look upon those we disagree with as nothing less than blood foes. Senator McCain's passing leaves a void in the American discourse and by extension all Western political discourse. The unifying voices are falling to silence or death.

In our Gospel on Sunday [John 6:56-69] we encountered a fracturing of the Jesus movement in response to the difficulty of His teaching. We saw that the element that maintained unity among the Twelve was their ability to look past the issue at hand and look instead toward the One who sits at the center. 

As we see our society galvanize around us it is crucial to tune our ears towards the voices that draw us together, to hold those things up, and to point to the presence of God within them. Senator McCain, as flawed as any other child of God, seemed to have truly tried to be such a voice. 

Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. 

What is Truth?

By the Rev. Ken McClure

There is a degree to which opening up oneself to the goings-on of the world feels like inviting in an existential crisis! 

This is especially true as we watch our neighbors to the south fall victim to an organized state-sanctioned assault on the very notion of Truth. This past weekend one of the Gilded King of America's most trusted emissaries and attorneys, Rudy Giuliani, uttered a defence of his Capo that should have sent a shudder through the spine of any person with even a marginal commitment to Truth.

leters of truth in sand for site best2.jpg

"Truth isn't truth," he said in an attempt to pre-emptively justify his Capo's compulsion for lying and the likelihood that he would do so under oath. He later walked his statement back, claiming it wasn't a "pontification on moral theology" but any person who has heard or read John's Gospel can recognize Pilate's question "what is Truth?" in Giuliani's sentiment. 

The Roman Procurator asks the question when confronted with Truth incarnate in the person of Jesus. Pilate's commitment and devotion to the Roman state and its imperial ethic blind him, obscuring Truth even as it stands before him. The thing about Pilate in this moment though, is he is ignorant, not malicious. We must not confuse the calculated systematic erosion of Truth in our own time with the ignorance of the man who would try so desperately to wash his own hands of Jesus' blood. Donald Trump and his messengers are agents of deception. They are intentionally dismantling the concept of objective truth so that it cannot bind them, and while I am ever cautious in the use of overly hyperbolic language when drawing theological conclusions about current events, intentional agents of deception are by extension agents of the Deceiver.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that the current president is the Devil incarnate (I have no idea if he has a numerical affinity for six hundred and sixty six) but I can say with absolute certainty that in my lifetime (a lifetime wherein the United States has been the de-facto world empire) there has never been an American president (the Caesars of our time) who has been so entirely antithetical to the Gospel and Person of Jesus Christ as this one. Let those with ears listen, let those with eyes see. 

The storm clouds are gathering, and as they do followers of the Word will be called on to carry Truth like a lantern in through the night, as a sign for the faithless. When we do this we follow in the example of our Lord, who during his life confronted every deception He encountered with the simple power of His Truth. The days are darkening friends, but it's in the dark that the light of Christ shines brightest. 

Be that light.

What should it profit a man if he should gain beer for a buck but lose his soul?

By the Rev. Ken McClure

This past week our provincial government introduced a bill into legislation intended to provide the good people of Ontario with beer for a buck.  

So far with this government, we have lost the basic income program pilot—a program which has proven to improve the quality of life of those who need it most, yielding the accompanying societal benefits of more people living well. We lost that, but we have beer for a buck.

There has been a noticeable erosion in this government’s commitment to democratic principles, with assaults on local and regional governments and elections in an effort to chip away at the value of our vote, and therefore the impact of our voice. All of this has happened without public consultation, but we have beer for a buck. 

We are experiencing more severe forms of weather at an increasing rate, something which is directly attributable to the human impact on our environment, and yet our government has repealed cap and trade on emissions. [The cap-and-trade system aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting caps on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries can emit—Ed.] At a time when we need to be doing more our government is trying to do less, but we have beer for a buck.

Now don't get me wrong, I have no moral objection to this because it's beer. I myself have been known to pop the top off of a nice cool one on a hot night, but I've read enough about the Romans to know when bread and circuses are being dangled to distract the masses. Remember, there was a period when we Christians were the fuel for the circuses:  we were thrown to the beasts and brutes of the arena! As was then is now, and Caesars will do what Caesars do.  

Thankfully there's little risk that I’m going to be tossed to the lions for thinking, acting, and speaking (or writing in this case) like a Christian. As the people of God we are the stewards of creation, and the keepers of each other. We are formed by God, called by Christ, and empowered by the Spirit to perform these tasks. As much as I may enjoy some tasty suds after a hard day's work, I don't want to get them cheaper as a bribe to ignore what's being done in my name.

And so for every case of beer I buy I intend to donate any money our government has laboriously saved me to the 4Cs here in town ($10 for Every 24, $5 for Every 12, $2.50 for a 6 pack). I encourage anyone else reading this to find an organization that supports people or the planet, and do the same.

Our government may ignore the sacred moral obligation we all have to care for the earth and each other, but we shouldn't—no matter how hard they try to distract us.

A clarion call for Christian unity: Sizzling Summer Service 11

crowd shot

Heavenly Highlands area churches gathered Sunday for the far more-sizzling-than-usual service in Head Lake Park. With the humidex making temps feel near 40, the park still overflowed with cheerful local Christians fellowshipping, listening raptly, singing joyfully, praying… and yes, sweating … together.

Dana McMahon presents kids with a capsulized gospel … full of questions and most interesting answers

Dana McMahon presents kids with a capsulized gospel … full of questions and most interesting answers

Paul Graham of Lakeside Church greeted the crowd and opened in prayer, and soon entertaining Harry Morgan of the United Church had everyone laughing and singing along with accompanying musicians from various churches.

Bev Hicks of Northland Faith Church read the scripture for the day, Mark 9:33-41.

The McClure family enjoying the pre-sermon sizzle

The McClure family enjoying the pre-sermon sizzle

Ken McClure, brand-new priest of St. George’s and St. Margaret’s, got to deliver his very first sermon ‘up here’ in what he called, “the beautiful tapestry all around.”  He, his wife Becca and their young son Jack have only been in Haliburton for a week or so but cannot get over the marvels of nature around them. An astonishing tapestry, he said, “which you people here have all seen since Moses was in hot pants.” With that, he had the crowd.

He said he felt privileged to be able to address the topic of unity in such a setting.

“Look around you!” He encouraged all to stand and take a 360-degree gaze around them at both the scenery and the Christians of various stripes. “This is it!”

He wove aspects of the day’s readings into his talk. Jesus words reminding us that ‘to be greatest you must be least,’ and ‘if you love me you must love each other,’ underline the absolute necessity of unity.

Drawing on the words of Jesus in Mark 9: 38-39, Ken reminded listeners of the importance of recognizing the works others do for Jesus and in His name, without focussing on whether they do it your or your group’s way.

We are the Body of Christ, made up of diverse parts being true to themselves, but acting in conjunction … in unity … with others. We need to recognize differences and different approaches as part of unity in diversity 

Staying hydrated

Staying hydrated

Raising his right hand, he held out his thumb and mentioned how our thumb helps us get a grip on things. He then raised and pointed with his index finger, demonstrating its ability to do just that.

“Then, we have our ring finger. It allows us to express our emotions, express our love. We have our middle finger which expresses a rather different kind of emotion. Don’t use that one,” he advised to a chorus of chuckles.

Christopher Greaves, former St. George's and St. Margaret's rector, makes his usual and most welcome guest appearance

Christopher Greaves, former St. George's and St. Margaret's rector, makes his usual and most welcome guest appearance

“Each of them has their own goal, their own purpose, their own ideas, their own ambitions and if they all acted independently they'd just be like this all the time.” He demonstrated by flailing his hand about. “They’d be like a flapper, a flipper for the water I suppose. They wouldn’t get anything done, would they? It’s when they’re working together that the fullness of my created potential comes to be.”

Clearly, the work we do together is an acknowledgment of the Body.  As the Body of Christ, WE embody the Kingdom

“We are one in the ONE!” he concluded to applause.

Sandy Stevens of the Lighthouse Church prayed powerfully over many aspects of life in the community as the service wound down for another year.