Archive for January, 2019

“Coming home matters,” (Sermon, January 27th 2019)

“Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

Luke 4:14-21


In an episode of the podcast Revisionist History, host Malcolm Gladwell explores the story of Dr. Ivan Frantz, who conducted a massive experiment on heart health. Most of the episode chronicles the strange story of what happened to the results of that test, but some of it also explores the relationships between fathers and sons as Gladwell interviews Dr. Frantz’s son, and reflects on the recent death of his own father.

After a call out of the blue from an interested Christopher Ramsden, whom one article described as “the Indiana Jones of biology,” Dr. Frantz’s son Robert, also a doctor, is tasked with poking through his father’s basement looking for the results of this massive study, and he eventually finds them in a mouldering box. What he discovers is that the results contradicted his father’s own deeply held convictions about their subject. Ramsden, upon learning this, is careful to ask Robert for permission to publish these studies, since they could be seen to be damaging to his father’s legacy of belief. Robert explains that the results should be published, because his father was more interested in the truth than in being right.

Gladwell concludes, “We don’t honour our parents by upholding beliefs, but principles.”

I think we often conflate the two, but the more I think about it, the more I do think they’re different. I think we’re more likely to see our beliefs change over time than our principles.

In our reading from the Book of Nehemiah, the priest Ezra welcomes the exiled people of Judah back by reading the Book of the Law. Overcome with emotion and maybe fear, they weep as they hear the words sacred to their ancestral faith. They have come home and can now keep the law as they once did. Ezra tells them that this is a joyous day. Although they were never apart from God, they have returned to their homeland, to what they believed was the land that had been given to them after they were liberated from bondage.

Coming home matters. Our traditions, our family ties, our identity are all sources of pride and wisdom to us. Like trees we are rooted in a heritage, and if we are pulled up in some way from that heritage, it takes a toll on the heart. If we manage to regain that connection, to plant our roots again, we often feel that we must cling ever tighter to what was once lost.

Refugees know this. Indigenous peoples in Canada know this. The Jews of the diaspora knew this. Anyone who lives abroad for an extended period of time knows this. Identity, especially cultural identity, helps us find our place in the world.

This is especially important when the world is unfamiliar or hostile to our identity. Those who find themselves immersed in a culture that says, “You are different. You are not a part of this family,” find solace and comfort in re-creating their own small enclaves of culture. Anyone who has ever been a part of any minority, subculture, or diaspora has experienced this.

This is something the Jewish people know very well. For generations, they were welcomed nowhere, except in their own set-apart group. It was not safe in these other empires. They were forced into hateful professions, pushed to sacrifice to gods that were not their own, scapegoated and willfully misunderstood. In the Medieval period in some European villages they were literally hunted like animals by groups of vigilantes.

In Jesus’ time they sometimes enjoyed some freedoms. The Romans respected the age of their religion, and made allowances that would not compromise their ritual practices. But they still lived occupied lives, and when they attempted to rise up, they paid in blood.

Living under the shackles of empire, carrying the burden of shared trauma, gives you two choices: give up and assimilate, or hold on to your roots as tight as you can. Here, the line between belief and principle becomes difficult to define.

Jesus comes home to his roots. He returns to the Galilee, to the people that would have watched him grow up. He comes to teach and they’re so happy that the home-grown boy has grown into such a pillar of their faith and culture. He’s a rabbi teaching in the synagogues. He has had mystical experiences in the wilderness that strengthened and deepened his faith. They feel pride. This is one of our own. We can claim him.

But then he comes to synagogue one morning, reads from the scroll, and something’s different. People can’t take their eyes off him. They’re waiting to hear his wisdom, and he responds that what they have become accustomed to only praying for has been fulfilled.

Imagine if one of our own read from this passage, and then told us all, here at St. Margaret’s in 2019, that Jesus has returned. Now, today. How would that feel? The first time you heard it, you’d probably think, “How inspiring!” You’d probably thank that person for preaching such a good sermon!

And then, suddenly, imagine that person saying, “I know where he is. He’s over there, doing salat prayers at the mosque.”

…Oh that ain’t right.

We don’t get the whole passage from Luke. We get the inspiring part. Then things start to go sideways. The people are thrilled with Jesus, and “speak well” of him. But he responds by saying that he knows they are going to ask him to enact these prophetic words, to heal people and liberate them right there and then, in his own town. He tells them it’s not going to happen, because no prophet is accepted in his own town. Then he says,

“But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

The response is…about what you’d expect.

In fact the worshipers are so angry that they form a mob, and the whole village attempts to throw him off a cliff.

To be clear, there is nothing about what Jesus says that is not squarely in line with the Judaism of his time. They knew those stories! They believed them! And they knew and believed the prophets when they wrote that eventually their God would call not only the Jews but all people to become a part of the beloved family, hearkening back to the covenant of Noah when all creatures were welcomed into the circle of God’s promise.

Few people like hearing the truth, but when we reach the point where our beliefs and our principles cannot be untangled from one another, it’ll be easier for us to pass through the eye of a needle than to hear the truth.

I don’t say this with judgement or anger. Despite our best efforts as so-called rugged individualists, we cannot help as a species but define ourselves in relation to others. We seek ourselves in the eyes of the other even as we push the other away. As people of faith, we are called to witness to a God who is so much incomprehensibly bigger than any one family or faith.

Since this is very difficult for us, we as Anglicans who believe in incarnation proclaim that God chose a form more comprehensible, easier to grasp: a person, a human being from a culture, from a family. He was fully embedded in that family, practicing the faith as he had received it and sharing nothing wholly foreign to it. And he reminded them – and us – that their god, our god, was bigger than Jerusalem, bigger than Rome, bigger even than ritual itself.

The people in Nazareth didn’t get it then…but a lot of other people who heard that message did.

“We don’t honour our parents by upholding beliefs but principles.”

The belief is that God comes among us in certain ways, with certain faces, embodied and interceding with us according to prescribed ritual.

The principle is that God comes among us.

That could change everything. In fact, it already has.

Sunray: Book 1 and done!

Almost four years ago I decided to realize a dream I had had since I was a teenager and write a comic book.

I found a hosting site ( and decided to post it online for free, knowing that my skills were minimal in terms of digital art and even comic book design, writing, and structure. Although I’ve been a writer and artist since childhood, I did my creative writing undergraduate in drama, a dialogue driven medium, which is extremely different from a visual medium like graphic novels, and I have never taken any real formal training in art aside from plain old doodling. I’ve been drawing in the manga style for over twenty years, and I wrote a few stories in old spiral bound notebooks when I was a pre-teen, but I didn’t have a scanner until I was an adult and so I never learned how to play with it or any digital art/colouring software until the last few years.

Despite all of this, I have always had thousands of story ideas, and when I was 15 or 16, I set out to write a magical girl story. They’ve always been my favourites – I’m a diehard fan of Sailor Moon. Devil Hunter Yohko was the first “adult” anime that ever saw (and man I was WAY too young to see it, which I realize now!!!), and it got me hooked on powerful girls in sexy outfits kicking ass. My own story was a little different – like Sailor Moon it focused just as much on the relationships between the characters as it did on the action. But it never actually got past the synopsis stage. I drew lots of “splash pages” of the characters, but never had the energy to really lay it down, and even if I had there wasn’t really anyone to share it with.

I kept drawing these girls and their adversaries for years afterward, and the story in my head changed, became more gritty and realistic, eventually influenced by more dramatic stories like the work of Sophie Campbell and newer anime series like Full Metal Alchemist, She the Ultimate Weapon, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. But again, nothing materialized beyond piles of sketchbooks and outlines in my computer’s “writing” folder.

Fast forward to 2015 when I finally decide I want to lay down Book 1. I started with simple black and white pictures, and over time became more comfortable with the Gimp editing software which my spouse introduced me to. I posted the first few pages, and a few friends were reading and that was rad, and then a few people from the ComicFury community got into it and that was even more fun. It was still only for me, really, but that was enough. I was learning a new skill, and having so much fun watching this story which had germinated in my head so long come to life.

Now, January 10th 2019, I’ve just finished colouring and posting the very last page of Book 1, which is set to autopost at the end of April.

Looking at those first few pages and comparing them with the last few is amazing. I had it in my head that I might re-post all of the old pages with updated versions, not only to make the art consistent but to edit the story, which turned out too long, as you might imagine. Now, I think I’ve decided that I may consider self-publishing in the future, and if I do I will make sure the book looks like a cohesive unit.

I’m leaving the free online version as is, though, I think.

Not only for the simple reason that many other artists on ComicFury have this kind of explicit transition from less skilled to more skilled over time, but because I want to be able to look back and remember that this was a skill I built myself, and just because I wanted to.

The story is a magical girl/superhero/teen drama which explores theological issues, the concept of fate/destiny, the ramifications of what it would actually be like to be a teen superhero, and a whole host of other stuff that I’m interested in. I’ve done my best to represent a variety of ethnicities, sexualities, and body types. :)

If you’d like to read the story, you can start here. I have actually updated the first couple of pages, but you’ll see it quickly go back to a less skilled presentation!

Hope you like! I’ve already started work on Book 2.

Sabbath Time

Hi, friends!

You’ve probably noticed that there haven’t been any entries lately. As you might guess, I had a busy Christmas and New Year’s and so decided to take a little Sabbath time from writing on this blog. In the meantime, I’ve been writing and drawing for my webcomic series, which I don’t know that I’ve promoted much here. It’s set to start updating again next week after a long hiatus. You can find it here.

Since then I have asked myself some questions about the pieces I’ve been sharing, and which ones I’d like to continue.

I haven’t had a ton of engagement on the Resistance Lectionary posts, but they are awfully fun to write, and so I’ve decided that they will go on hiatus for a while. I am considering taking them up again in Lent. In the meantime, if you enjoyed them, I invite you to go back to July and read them all!

The “Letters from the Coast” series will continue very shortly. I aim to post again next week but it might be the following week.

Something new that I do think I’d like to try is something I’m calling “God in Hollywood,” although I’m open to a better title (“Holywood”? “Faith in Film”? “Minister at the Movies”?). I’ve been fascinated by religious themes in Hollywood for ages and did do some film studies, screenwriting, and filmmaking courses in my undergrad. I thought it could be fun to post regular film reviews from both a storytelling and a (progressive) religious standpoint.

Is that something you’d be interested in?

Too bad, I’m probably going to do it anyway. ;)

Stay tuned!