Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable

Our daughter behind rock

Our daughter behind rock

This photo was taken a few years ago while visiting the Writing on Stone site. For other entries click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The World Through Your Eyes

Two guys with Viking ancestry beside a miniature Viking Ship

Two guys with Viking ancestry beside a miniature Viking Ship

Check out the other entries here.

Book Review: The Life Worth Living

The Life Worth Living: Faith in Action

Author: Byron L. Sherwin

bsherwinPublisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009

165 pages, including Bibliography, ISBN 978-0-8028-6293-8, Paperback

Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Rabbi Dr. Sherwin is a prolific author, internationally acclaimed theologian, ethicist, and Distinguished Service Professor at Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago, and has made significant contributions to Jewish-Christian dialogues.

   This volume is addressed mainly to those interested in the realm of faith, open to further, deeper inquiry and growth in their faith and life journey; without being bogged down by technical, theological jargon.

   The work contains a preface, eleven chapters, and a bibliography. The chapter titles give readers some sense of the book’s direction, and are as follows: Where Are You? The Quest for Success; What Do You Mean? Life as Art Form; Where Is Wisdom to Be Found? The Gift of Love; Thank God; Ego Management; In Partnership with God; Ups and Downs; Exquisite Living. Each chapter begins with a story drawn from a wide variety of sources from both Jewish and Christian literature, which set the tone for the chapter’s theme. One of my favourites is chapter seven, Thank God: Once there were two little girls who were best friends. One was Christian, the other was Jewish. After Christmas, the grandfather of the Christian girl asked her: “What did your best friend get for Christmas?”

   “Oh, she’s not Christmas, Grandpa,” the little girl replied. “I am Christmas, and she is Hanukkah.” Then she paused for a moment, smiled and said, “But we’re both Thanksgiving.” (p. 94)

   The first chapter, Where Are You, is the question that God asks Adam and Eve after they have eaten the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, (Genesis 3:9). Rather than viewing this as a question however, the rabbi suggests that we look at it as a problem instead. “God is asking, What is your situation? Where are you in your life, now that you have eaten the forbidden fruit?” (p. 2) Such an awareness of where one is in life helps one to realise their responsibilities for what they have done in one’s life.

   Echoing the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, Rabbi Dr. Sherwin believes that: “For the person who loves, life is never devoid of meaning. Other moral virtues may contribute to a life of meaning—like faith, integrity, or courage—but love does more than contribute to meaning; love underlies it.” (p. 78)

   Citing the Talmud, the rabbi emphasises the destructive nature of gossip, stating that a gossiper is like a murderer, and “in effect kills three people: the one who speaks gossip, the one who hears gossip, and the one about whom the gossip is said.” (p. 137)

   Speaking of the importance of gratitude, the rabbi observes that it lifts human beings out of the ruts of self-pity and depression and allows them to be content with life.

   Addressing the matter of repentance, which in Hebrew, literally means return-teshuvah; Rabbi Dr. Sherwin speaks of it as “spiritual rehabilitation.” He suggests that it “is grounded in optimism, in hope, because it assumes the possibility of improvement. As an old myth reminds us, hope has two daughters: anger and courage—anger at the way some things are, and courage to try to change the way those things are.” (pp. 140-141)

   Overall, even if one does not always agree with Rabbi Dr. Sherwin, this work is an engaging read, chock-full of creative, insightful life-and-faith observations helpful to both clergy and laity, and giving the reader a deeper appreciation for the common heritage of Judaism and Christianity.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

St. Sebald Church, Nuremberg, Germany

St. Sebald Church, Nuremberg, Germany

St. Sebald’s Church is Nuremberg’s oldest parish, dating back possibly to the early 12th century. The church, built in the Gothic style, also reflects architectural styles of other periods.

St. Sebald was badly bombed in World War II. In the nave, there are pictures of the ruins with short, thought-provoking statements on the destruction of war, a pertinent message for every visitor to heed. Many of the paintings, sculptures and altar pieces were removed to a save place prior to the bombing of Nuremberg.

Nave of St. Sebald Church

Nave of St. Sebald Church

In one story, Sebald was a Nuremberg hermit and part of the 10th and 11th centuries reform movement, wanting to free the church from its close connection to the nobility class.

Sebald in German, and Sebaldus in Latin comes from 2 words, “se” meaning sea, and “bald” meaning brave. He may have been known as a patron saint of sailors. However, in Nuremberg, he became patron saint of business owners and traders as the city became more economically prosperous after it gained the status of a free, imperial city by the Roman Emperor in the 13th century.

Check out the other entries here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

Elk crossing street at Yellowstone

Elk crossing street at Yellowstone

Now you see him, soon you won’t! A fleeting moment worth a picture. Check out the other entries here.

Funeral Sermon Roy Woodward


eccles3Funeral Sermon for Roy Irwin Woodward, based on Eccles 3:1-12; Ps 46 & Rom 8:31-39, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, May 31, 2013, St Peter Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat.

Time. Roy was well aware of the Preacher’s truth in Ecclesiastes that: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Roy had a time to be born, and this past Monday was Roy’s time to die. In between these two times, Roy spent a lot of time living. Living very well, I am pleased to add!

   For Roy there was a time to grow up, go to school, and live through those “dirty thirties” when life was difficult, and Roy had his stories to tell about that. Yet, such difficulties were often seen by Roy as opportunities to learn and do what he could to make the best of the situation at hand. For Roy there was a time to go to work and to meet the love of his life, and marry Reita. Roy enjoyed his time at his work for the Government as an assessor. For Roy and Reita there was a time to raise their two daughters. As the years went by, for Roy and Reita there was a time to retire and enjoy travelling.

   During the course of all those years, Roy also devoted his time to serve in many capacities as a volunteer in the community at places like South Ridge Village, and on the Good Samaritan Society’s Board, and, of course, in his church. For Roy there was a time to serve his LORD by teaching Sunday School, sitting on Church Council, and serving as treasurer at Grace Lutheran Church. Roy spent a lot of time in and around the church—puttering around doing various jobs repairing this, and fixing that, and trying to figure out how best to scare away those noisy crows that roosted in the trees and drove the neighbours crazy! J When yours truly went on holidays, I could depend on Roy to devote his time to leading lay services at Grace as well as at South Ridge Village. When the time came to move towards the closing of Grace, Roy was a very articulate dissenting voice. Yet, when all was said and done, Roy was not one to hold a grudge or be unforgiving. He accepted the decision and remained gracious and cordial towards those with whom he disagreed right up to the end. Roy had a servant heart, his loyalty to our Lord and his church was an inspiration to us all. His love of neighbour was very practical, everything from doing carpentry jobs like building a neighbour’s hand-railing; to making the beautiful cross and mobile banner stand for the South Ridge Village chapel; to helping others with their income tax; and more.

   Roy enjoyed life immensely and lived a life filled with meaning. I’m sure he would say, along with the author of Ecclesiastes: “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live.” This, I think, would be Roy’s prayer and wish for you Reita and all of you other members of Roy’s family.

   In the last couple of visits I had with Roy in the hospital; he told me that he knew his time on earth was short and he was at peace with that. The only thing he was concerned about was you Reita, and you other members of the family—especially the grandchildren. He said that he knew there would be sadness and a time of mourning for you. He said he loved you all dearly. Then he said: “Grieving is the price we pay for loving.” How true! I would add that those who grieve deeply also love deeply. So take the words of Ecclesiastes as an invitation to you—this is your time to cry and time to mourn. In the crying and mourning there is healing, for our loving God is with you, and we are with you. One wise contemporary rabbi and author, Noah benShea, I think is correct when he says: “Life’s challenge is to find the gift in our grief.”

   As Christians, that gift is, the LORD our God who, like the psalmist says is: “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Or as Martin Luther re-worded Psalm 46 in his most famous hymn: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The confidence expressed in Psalm 46 may have been based on God’s protection of Jerusalem during the time when the powerful Assyrian army failed to capture the city around 701 B.C. More than the walls around the city, God was Jerusalem’s Mighty Fortress. Why? Because “The LORD of hosts is with us.” The LORD Immanuel—God with us. God who, in the vision of the psalmist sees a future filled with redemption of all creation when God’s kingdom will come and bring complete peace; the Shalom of God by making wars cease to the end of the earth; destroying all weapons of war. God who was Roy’s Mighty Fortress, giving him 86 years to live a life filled with blessing upon blessing; giving him that peace which passes all understanding right up to the end.

   Such divinely-given peace is also a by-product of God’s saving and justifying grace, which the apostle Paul speaks of so confidently in our Romans passage. Through Christ’s sacrificial, atoning death on the cross absolutely nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the language of the courtroom, Paul, like a confident lawyer makes his defence for the saving, redeeming power of Jesus. Then, in verses 37-39, I can imagine Paul visualizes Jesus as  the perfect defence lawyer and God the judge who states with utter confidence the consequences of what Christ has done for us—nothing separates us from Christ’s love the judge declares. We have no worries, no fears, we are in God’s hands no matter what, thanks to Christ’s love for us.

   So yes, we can find the gift in our grief because the gift is Christ’s love for us. A love that is always with us unconditionally, just as Jesus himself is always with us. May you find comfort in the saving work of Jesus; trusting in him always as did Roy who has gone to his eternal reward with him in heaven. So with the confidence of our faith we commend a loving son, husband, father, grandfather, faithful church member, child of God, Roy Irwin Woodward to Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen.