There's a Trick of the Light I'm Learning to Do

This is a collection of songs I wrote and recorded in January - March, 2020 while on sabbatical from ministry. They each deal with a different aspect or expression of the Gospel. Click on the image above to listen.

Three Hands Clapping

This is my latest recording project (released May 27, 2019). It is a double album of 22 songs, which very roughly track the story of my life... a sort of musical autobiography, so to speak. Click the album image to listen.

Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.

inversions

Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.

soundings

soundings
click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.

bridges

bridges
Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.

echoes

echoes
Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.

Accidentals

This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

Readings, 2020

Readings, 2020
Paradise Lost, John Milton

Adorning the Dark, Andrew Peterson

The Soul of Shame, Curt Thompson

Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado

Halos and Avatars, Craig Detweiller, ed.

Fool's Talk, Os Guinness

Brendan, Frederick Buechner

The Screwtape Letters

Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

The Pilgrim's Regress, C. S. Lewis

Becoming Whole, Brian Finkert and Kelly Kapic

Real Sex, Lauren Winner

Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis

Voyage to Venus, C. S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

random reads

Angels Among Us

In the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation, the Risen Jesus dictates a series of prophetic letters to St. John the Divine, addressed to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor: the Church at Ephesus, the Church at Smyrna, the Church at Pergamum, at Thyatira, at Sardis, at Philadelphia and Laodicea. For those even vaguely familiar with the Book of Revelation, this will probably ring some bells. These seven churches are in various stages of success and failure, hopefulness and helplessness, victory and defeat, and Jesus sends them each a letter, warmly commending them for their spiritual victories, tenderly comforting them in their trials, and sternly warning them when it’s needed.

I think about these seven letters to the churches in Revelation a fair bit in my work as a pastor; they come to mind, actually, on a pretty regular basis. It’s not, however, because of the specific content of any individual letter. To be sure, they are among some of the most poetic and compelling passages in the whole New Testament, and I fully trust that the same Jesus who promised the Pergamonian Church a taste of the hidden manna should they overcome, promises to reward the FreeWay’s overcoming in like manner.

But that’s not what draws me to these letters.

It’s this curious observation that I made a few years back and I can’t “unnotice” now that I’ve noticed it: Jesus addresses each letter, not to the “pastor” of the church, or the “over-seer,” or the “elders board” or even the individual congregation. Instead, in each letter he address “the angel of the church.” “To the angel of the church at Ephesus” he says, “write ....”

“To the angel of the church at Smyrna... to the angel of the church in Pergamum ...” and so on.

This is supposed to be a blog post about church ministry, specifically, not angelology, so I won’t delve too deeply here, but it strikes me as all kinds of interesting that, when addressing the trials and triumphs, the struggles and successes, the warp-and-woof of each church’s spiritual life together, Jesus does not address individuals, specific leaders, or even corporate congregations. He addresses the angel of the church.

If you’ve read the work of Walter Wink before, or William Stringfellow, or Hendrikus Berkof, who each write eloquently and insightfully about the “inner” or “invisible” realities that exist in all human efforts to order our life together—from political power structures, to economic system to, even, church institutions—you may see where I’m going with this. There is—the Bible is quite convinced of it—a spiritual life or a spiritual entity (words are difficult here) that becomes evident whenever we structure human life-together.  It emerges from the power structures we erect, and at the same time transcends them. The Bible calls these things Powers and Principalities, Thrones and Dominions, Authorities and Rule. In Colossians we’re told that Christ defeated the Powers and Principalities through the cross (2:15); and in Ephesians were told that Christ is enthroned above them all (1:20); and later in Ephesians we're told that our battle as Christians, is not against flesh and blood but against them (6:15).

The Bible regularly depicts these “Powers and Principalities” in personified ways, as angels and/or demons, variously at work in the world. In saying that, I don’t mean to imply that I take the Bible’s talk of angels and demons as “mere” metaphor, as though there was nothing “real” behind Daniel’s demonic “Prince of Persia” (Dan 10:13) than “simply” the power structures of the Persian Empire. What I am saying is that, as far as the Bible is concerned, the two are intimately connected. The demonic “Prince of Persia,” and the concrete realities of the Persian Empire—the spiritual beings in the heavenly realms and the human power structures that exist on earth—are opposite sides of the same coin. The later are concrete expressions of the former; and the former draw their meaning directly from the later.

I promised I wouldn’t delve too deeply, so let me resurface with this. Put simply: nation states—as human efforts to order our life together—nation states all have an “angel” that exists invisibly, but powerfully, and exerts an invisible but powerful influence over the people who “belong” to that nation state. So do multi-national corporations. And economic systems. And institutions of higher learning. And, as far as the Book of Revelation is concerned, it would seem, so do churches.

There was, in a very real sense, an “angel of the church at Ephesus”—a spiritual entity, a spiritual reality—a spirit—that exists because the church at Ephesus exists, and though it transcends the Ephesian church and exists separately from it, its life is intricately bound up with their life. And so, when Jesus wishes to address the life of that church, even though he has very real, flesh and blood human beings in mind while he’s doing it, he doesn’t address individual leaders or church members. He addresses “the angel of the church at Ephesus.”

There’s an angel of the church at Laodicea, too; and at Sardis, and, if I am reading the Bible right on this one, an angel of the church called FreeWay, at Oshawa.

Every church has its angel.

Anyone who’s ever walked into a church and just sort of knew without being able to put a finger on it, that the “spirit” of this church was dead, or bitter, or vibrant, or reverent—anyone who’s ever been in a church that just couldn’t seem to break through a spirit of failure, or pride, or what have you, no matter how many times they changed the pastor, no matter who moved on or who moved in—anyone who’s ever been in a church where the spirit of the place was full of life and love and joy and before they knew it they were radiating life and love and joy, too—will get what I’m trying to say here.  There is a spirit to every church—every church has, for lack of an even more biblical way of putting it—its angel.

This is why I think about the letters to the churches in Revelation regularly in my work at the FreeWay, because in my more imaginative moments, I wonder: what is the FreeWay’s angel like? Don't worry.  I’m not going new age here, or theologically flaky or dropping off the deep end. I don’t waste much energy on this; but every once in a while, in good Book of Revelation fashion, I wonder.

What does the Angel of the Church called FreeWay look like? (I imagine him as shorter and spunkier alongside the more staid, noble and somber angels of the Heavenly host. His armour of light is held together with duct tape, his wings affixed with chewing gum, and where all the rest of the assembled angels have swords, he has a slingshot protruding from his back pocket...)

More important than what he looks like, though—and this is a question I do spend a fair bit of pastoral energy on—what would Jesus say to the angel of my church, were he to address it the way he addresses the angels of the churches of Asia Minor?

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