What a concert!

Last night, April 26, 2008, my wife and I attended a Bill Bourne and Eivør Pálsdóttir concert organised by the Medicine Hat Folk Music Club. Bill and Eivør played to a sold out audience, and now I know the reason why. This was an absolutely fabulous concert! Eivør is a native of the Faroe Islands, and Bill was raised right here in Alberta around the Red Deer area. Eivør’s voice is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard—if this is what the music of heaven sounds like, then what a treasure is in store for us! Her songs gave me goose bumps all over my body, something that I haven’t experienced in quite a while. Bill too is a fine musician, I particularly like the gentle harmonizing and signature rhythms so exuberantly summoned from his guitar. Most of all though, I deeply appreciated Christian motifs in a few of the lyrics. Blessed are the music-makers, for the realm of God is in their midst. I highly recommend all readers of this blog to attend a Bill Bourne and Eivør Pálsdóttir concert if they ever come your way. In the meantime, please visit their websites: Bill Bourne here and Eivør Pálsdóttir here

Reason for hope

This past Thursday evening, I was blessed and privileged to accompany my daughter and attend a lecture by world renowned chimpanzee research expert, environmentalist, and inspirational speaker, Dr. Jane Goodall at the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton. This was a wonderful learning opportunity and occasion to spend quality time together. Here are a few of the insights that inspired me:

    The blood type of certain chimpanzees is similar to human beings so that we could actually receive blood transfusions from them.

    Environmental conservation and protection of endangered species can be holistic and serve the needs and interests of both humans and animals as well as the attendant natural habitats. Indeed this factor is necessary for the future sustainability of this planet.

    Dr. Jane Goodall grew up in a poor family in England at a time when women had few educational or career choices. However, thanks to the love, encouragement and support of her mother and the good will of a few other influential people, she was able to pursue her chimpanzee research in Africa and eventually earn her Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Thus, as a role model, Dr. Goodall is a powerful source of inspiration and leadership for countless youth around the globe today.

    Dr. Goodall’s mother allowed and encouraged Jane to explore the human trait of curiosity as a child and this was most instrumental in preparing Jane for her work as a research scientist.

    Dr. Goodall stated that there is so much focus on the negative and destructive events among humans in the mass media. Yet, she stressed that there is hope and we need to focus more on those positive, constructive events like, for example, the forgiveness of Nelson Mandela towards his enemy, the apartheid regime, who imprisoned him for over two decades. Each one of us can make a difference even in small ways. We are all in this together.

    Dr. Goodall’s emphasis on the interconnectedness of humankind and creation reminded me of the apostle Paul’s vision of the Church as the Body of Christ and his reference to the suffering—the moanings and groanings—of all creation as it longs for God’s redemption.

3 Easter Yr A

3 Easter Yr A, 6/04/2008

1 Peter 1:17-23

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

“Life in Christ”


Once there was a young lad leading his donkey in front of some soldiers. Several soldiers began to harass the boy. One soldier asked him, “Why are you holding onto your brother so tightly?” Without hesitation, the boy replied, “So he won’t join the army.”

The author of 1 Peter, was also writing to Christians living in Roman provinces of Asia Minor—modern day Turkey—who felt like this young lad, harassed and threatened by the pagan culture around them. The writer provides several word pictures of what Christ has done through his death and resurrection; who these Christians are now because of Christ’s saving work; and how they are now able to respond as they proceed to live a new life in Christ.

The first picture we are given of these new Christians in Asia Minor is that of exiles, aliens, or refugees. If you talk with exiles today, many of them share similar concerns or fears of the dominating culture into which they have come to live. As a minority group, it is difficult to maintain and preserve one’s identity—especially if the mainstream culture is hostile to you and pressures you to give up your own cultural or religious identity. These Christians lived in a culture that worshipped many gods and goddesses. The worship could involve wicked and immoral acts and beliefs in conflict with Christian acts and beliefs.

In one sense, we Christians are all exiles in this world—since our true, eternal home is in heaven. Therefore, there will always be certain temptations of the mainstream culture that threaten our status as Christians and may lead us away from Christ and our Christian faith. Exiles, if they face hardships and even persecution, long for the day when they can return to their true homeland where everything is familiar; where they can feel and live in peace and security. The same is true for us as Christians, we long for our true homeland where we can live in familiar surroundings; where we can feel and live in the peace and security of God and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Therefore, the author of 1 Peter instructs these Asia Minor Christians to live with the proper kind of fear—not the fear of the majority culture all around them. Rather, they are to live in reverent fear of God, as are we while they and we live in exile. What is reverent fear? Well, it is fear that expresses itself in awe. Awe and wonder at the power and love and presence of God in Christ. Awe for what God in Christ has done for us. Awe that trusts and believes God is in control of the world and has planned things out very carefully and lovingly even since before the foundation of the world. Awe that says, “No matter how difficult it is to live in this world, I am in God’s hands. He gives me life today and every day and provides what I need. He has also provided for me eternally—thanks to the saving work of Jesus Christ.”

A second word picture that the author of 1 Peter provides us is that of Christians who are captives, slaves in need of being rescued and freed from the sinful ways of the pagan world. The saving work of Christ here is pictured as a ransom—that is to say, he paid the costly price to rescue and free us from our sinful ways. This word picture is also meaningful in our contemporary world.

A few years ago, you may recall the story of Canadian hostage, Norbert Reinhart, owner of the Ontario-based business, Terramundo Drilling. He turned himself in to Colombian rebels in exchange, as a ransom for a kidnapped employee. The story began when the rebels kidnapped diamond-driller Edward Leonard.

Reinhart eventually made a deal with rebels to free Leonard. The deal involved Reinhart changing places with Leonard. At the time, Foreign Affairs Minister, Lloyd Axworthy did not approve of the deal. He told Reinhart and Reinhart’s family that negotiations should have been left to the Colombian government. However, once Reinhart turned himself in to the rebels, they released Leonard, who went back to his family in Creston, B.C.

Christ, says our second lesson, ransomed the Asia Minor Christians and us not with perishable things of this world, but with his precious blood, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He paid the price of his suffering, even dying on the cross, shedding his precious blood, which atoned for the sin of the world. Just as the Passover lamb’s blood on the doorposts of the Israelite slaves in Egypt saved their lives—so Christ’s blood atones for and saves our lives. Just as the Passover for the Jews is a festival celebrating their freedom from Egyptian slavery; so Christ’s death and shedding of blood and God’s raising him on the third day is our celebration of our freedom from the powers of sin, death and evil.

A third picture the author of 1 Peter provides concerning the work of Christ and the identity of Christians is having been born anew thanks to the immeasurable love of Christ displayed by his suffering, death and resurrection. Such profound, all encompassing love of God in Christ transforms us; gives us new birth through the living and enduring word of God. The Good News, the Gospel, proclaiming and receiving this word of God changes us. Having received this love of Jesus, we now are free to love one another.

Something of Christ’s love for us and our freedom to respond in love by passing it on to others is demonstrated in the following story. Richard Wauro was only a toddler when his parents were given the shattering news that their little boy had been born with serious brain damage and would be mentally defective for the rest of his days. His speech, sight and hearing would always be seriously impaired. Bravely, Olive and Ted Wauro decided that, whatever the difficulties, they were going to keep Richard at home and look after him themselves. It was a heartbreaking choice, and it meant endless work and personal sacrifice.

Then, when he was six, Richard began to draw. Not the scribbles of a demented child but the figures and scenes from life all around him. His talent, as it developed, astonished the experts and delighted the growing number of people who wanted to buy one of Richard’s pictures.

Richard is now an adult, and his paintings are exhibited all over the world. His remarkable story is told by Ron Thompson, a television reporter, in his book Never A Dull Moment.

As Ron Thompson wrote, “Somewhere in the darkness of Richard’s mind there shines a light which has brought Olive and Ted Wauro out of their despair and into the sunshine of a new life.”1

That is the power of love, when given away and generously spent on others, it is amazing how it can change people and give them new life—as Christ’s love has done for us. Amen.


1 Cited from Ron Thompson, Never A Dull Moment (Dundee, Scotland: David Winter & Son Ltd, 1974).