All posts by The Rev. Erik Parker

iPhone Pastor for a Typewriter Church. Blogger, Podcaster | High Church Lutheran | Husband & Dad | Oilers fan in exile | He/Him

Emmaus and Hockey Night in Canada – Pastor Thoughts

Hello Canada and Hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland.

I am not anywhere close to old enough to have heard Forster Hewitt utter that iconic phrase live, but I have heard the recordings. As many of us turn our attention to the NHL playoffs this week, (to watch the Jets, Oilers and Maple Leafs), it is easy to think back and remember stories of hockey games past and the Canadian cultural ritual that is watching hockey together on Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC).

I remember the old HNIC Theme Song – the one written by Delores Claman that ran from 1968 to 2008. (TSN owns it now, maybe you still hear it if you watch the Jets regularly). Click here to listen: Hockey Night In Canada Theme Song Original – YouTube. Those first few notes of the low brass fanfare that swells into the full band always remind me of watching Oilers’ playoff games in the 90s. (I am a little too young to remember the Gretzky dynasty years very well.) 

When I was going to the University of Alberta, I played in the Cosmopolitan Community Band. One year for a Christmas concert we played the HNIC Theme Song. It was so cool to play that iconic song and for it to sound almost exactly like it did on TV. 

Whenever I hear that song, it immediately stops me from whatever I am doing. I am transported back to Saturday nights watching hockey with family and friends. It feels like Canada’s second national anthem, or at least it did. It has the power of connecting you to all the other people humming along from wherever they are watching the game.

For a whole host of reasons, that song will always hold a special place in my heart and mind. And whenever I hear it, it will immediately bring back cherished memories and feelings. Maybe you aren’t a big hockey fan, but we all have songs or sounds, foods or smells, books or movies that, whenever we see them or hear them or taste them or smell them, transport us back to another place and another time. Memories that hold on to us as much as we hold onto them. 

This week, we hear one of my favourite stories from all Scripture, The Road to Emmaus story. The climactic moment of the story is kind of like my HNIC Theme Song moment. The disciples are pre-occupied with all that has gone on, trying to understand their new world. And then Jesus takes some bread and begins to bless it. 

For the disciples, it was as if the HNIC Theme Song started playing. A memory that held them as much as they held it. A memory that woke them up from all their preoccupations. And they were transported back to that moment when their teacher and friend was sitting with them, reminding them of who they were – who God had declared them to be. 

For us as people of faith, each time we gather for worship, we are surrounded by the sights and sounds, smells and tastes, words, songs and actions that break us free from all those pre-occupations that take up our focus. Memories, symbols and images that hold us. And in those things, God reminds us who we are and who God has declared us to be. 

So as we sit down to watch hockey this week or hear the story of the Road to Emmaus, remember that God is there, finding ways to cut through the noise of our lives and break through into our hearts and minds. Breaking through and transforming us into Easter people.  

Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Holy Saturday and Vigils – Pastor Thoughts

We are nearly through Holy Week. 

We have gathered at the Lord’s Table on Maundy Thursday.

We have worshipped at the foot of the cross of Good Friday.

On Holy Saturday the Church has traditionally gathered at the Great Vigil of Easter – considered the most important time of worship in the whole calendar. 

In the 20th century the Vigil fell out of favour with Lutherans, mostly for being too Roman Catholic. But the Vigil, for the better part of 2000 years, has been when Christians have gathered together to tell all the stories of faith at once. 

On the evening of Holy Saturday, the vigil begins around the new fire, where the new Paschal (or Easter) Candle is blessed for the coming year (the big candle that we have at the front of the sanctuary. The candle is blessed and the year is imprinted in wax on the side. And then a deacon sings the Exultet, the an extended litany extolling God’s praises, welcoming the assembly into the keeping of the Vigil. 

This is followed by 12 readings from across the Old Testament, with 12 accompanying psalms. The readings span from Creation, to Noah’s Ark, to the Burning Bush, to King David and the Prophets. Stories are read and sung, reminding us of how God has walked with God’s people throughout the ages. This is the part of the service that gives the Vigil its name – since it often took all night to do in the early church. Though modern Vigils are usually only one to two hours.

Once the stories of God’s people have been told, those assembly remembers their baptism (or anyone needing baptism is baptized) as the presider sprinkles water on worshippers with green boughs dipped in the font. 

Then follows the Resurrection Gospel and often the ancient Easter Sermon of St. John of Chrysostom. Then the Eucharist blends into a great feast that lasts until morning. This is where the tradition of the Easter Breakfast comes from. 

And then everyone goes home to sleep.

Easter Vigils have started making a comeback among some Lutherans, and are much more common among Anglicans and Catholics. 

But sometimes just knowing the story of the Easter Vigil is enough to understand the drama of the three days – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil. 

This year the MNO Synod is inviting anyone who wants to attend an Easter Vigil to go to the one at St. John’s College, 92 Dysart Road, University of Manitoba, at 4:30 pm on Saturday. If you haven’t experienced an Easter Vigil at least once, it is definitely worth it. 

But of course we will also be having our usual Easter Worship service on Sunday at 10:30am, where we will gather to announce the Resurrection and hear the Good News of the Empty Tomb together. 

The Long Road to Good Friday – A Good Friday Sermon

PASSION GOSPEL: John 18:1–19:42 

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

It has been a long road to this moment.

From the mountain of Transfiguration down into the Lenten wilderness. 
From the tempter to Nicodemus’s questions. 
From the dark night to the woman at the well in the noon day sun. 
From Jacob’s well to the blindman not knowing who had healed him. 
From a community in chaos to a community grieving at Bethany. 
From Mary, Martha and a raised Lazarus to the road to Jerusalem covered in palm branches. 
From shouts of Hosanna to the table of the Lord. 
From Betrayal at night to Golgatha by noon. 

And now from Lent to Holy Week to the bottom of it all on the cross. 

The journey to Good Friday is one that takes a lifetime to prepare for. It is one that begins long before Transfiguration, with Angels and Pregnant Virgins and picturesque mangers. 

It begins with a garden paradise and exile from Eden.

It beings with the words “Let there be Light.”

Good Friday was where this story was going since the beginning. 

And now that we are here, now that cross has been planted on Calvary, now that Jesus has been nailed to the tree, now that we have born witness to the execution of the one sent to save…

We ask why? What does it all mean? Who is at fault?

It feels like it could be our fault. Maybe it could be our mistake. 

We did choose sin in the garden. 
We did refuse to repent.
We did choose to sin again after repenting. 

We do put ourselves first.
We choose ourselves before others.  

We harm our neighbour
With our greed, and indifference, and unwillingness, and selfishness.
With our hoarding and racism and wall building and excuses.
With our celebration of power and wealth and control. 

And we harm creation
With our callousness and entitlement and refusal to care
With our destructive actions and war making and striving for more
With our consuming everything and anything that can be consumed. 

We do all of that and more.

So nailing the Messiah to the cross doesn’t feel out of the question. 

It feels like the cross is our fault, our mistake, our consequence. 

And if that was all that Good Friday was about, if Good Friday was only asking why? 

Asking how we got here from Creation and Eden, from Angels and Mangers, from Transfiguration and Lent…

Then maybe we would have our answer. 

But this is not all that Good Friday means. 

Humanity’s best nailing Jesus to the cross is not all there is. 
Humanity using our great power to put God to death is not the last stop of this long journey. 

We ask why? What does this mean?

And God has a different answer. 

God knew that Good Friday was coming from the beginning. 
God saw the cross in Eden. 
God knew that we would try to put Messiah to death. 
From the Angels singing of his birth
From voice speaking from the heavens at the mount of Transfiguration
God knew that Golgotha was where this long road would lead.

But God also knows that Good Friday is not the end. 

Good Friday is not the last stop of the journey. 
The cross is not the last page of the story.
On this day God is doing something new. 

The cross – the pinnacle of humanity’s sinful and death dealing ways, Will be God’s new beginning. 
Where we fail to repent, God will turn us around. 
Where put ourselves first, God will give up all Godself for our sake. 
Where we harm our neighbour and ourselves God will heal and restore that which is broken. 

Where we use our great power of death. 

God will use God’s great power. 
God’s power to keep on going even when things seem to have ended
God’s power of new beginnings when there seemed to be nothing. 
God’s power of life that will stand higher than death on a cross. 

So yes it has been a long road to this moment. 

And yes it might feel like the culmination of everything we have done that brought us here. 

But for God, Good Friday is not the end. 

For God, the cross is not the final destination. 
For the God that spoke life into being, the cross is transformed. 
Transformed into a new creation. 
A New creation for God’s people created a new. 

For God, Good Friday is the beginning. 

The Church is Beginning – A Maundy Thursday Sermon

GOSPEL: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

*Note: Sermons are posted in the manuscript draft that they were preached in, and may contain typos or other errors that were resolved in my delivery. See the Sherwood Park Lutheran Facebook Page for video

Tonight is the beginning. Tonight the church begins the 3 days. Tonight the church begins. 

“You will never wash my feet.”

As Jesus kneels  before Peter, towel in hand, the moment between Teacher and follower feels like a moments that we have been rehearsing in our own ways over the past few years. 

There is a part of us that wants to just tell Peter, “Stop being so stubborn, brother! If Jesus wants to wash your feet, let him do it!” 

It is the part of us that knows better, that knows that if Jesus is offering, the best we can do is open our hands, our hearts, our ears and eyes to receive. 

But there is the other part of us that has lived versions of this moment before. 

“You will never get me to do that again.” Has been a refrain during this pandemic. 

Peter’s visceral reaction is one we have felt in so many different ways. Things that we once never thought about we now have strong feelings over. 

So when Peter arrives for dinner and sees Jesus kneeling on the floor washing feet, his reaction isn’t so foreign anymore. 

4 Maundy Thursdays into the pandemic, and we are finally back around the table of the Last Supper… and how changed we are. The experiences we bring to this table maybe help us to understand Peter a little better… they maybe help to us to understand all the disciples a little better. 

We now get what it feels like to wander with uncertainty for years, following and trying to trust that Jesus will show us the way. Amazed by the miracles, but confused by where this journey might take us. 

Tonight is the first night of the Triduum, the Three Days, of Jesus Passover from death to life. The stage and setting starts small tonight, or at least it feels that way.

A small group gathered for dinner and worship, Peter and his strong feelings about having his feet washed by his teacher, and lessons on community, advice on how to live with one another given by a teacher to his followers. 

Maundy Thursday, this first night of the 3 Days is meant to draw us in. To pick us up from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday and remind us that the shouts of crucify are coming. 

And yet, we also know this table from our Sunday gatherings. We know that this table isn’t just a dinner party hidden away from the world, but something more. 

The foot washing, and the new commandment bookend the beginning of something that will grow beyond our imagination. The Lord’s table is revealed tonight, table where bread and wine are shared, the table where Body and Blood is given, the table where the Body of Christ gathers – gathers across time and space. The table that brings the Church into being. 

Because it is to the Lord’s Table, to this table tonight, to this table from the first Maundy Thursday, that the Church will continually return to, week after week after week. 

Because it is at the Lord’s table, where the assembly, where believers in faith, gathers to hear the word and to receive God’s promise given in bread and wine. 

Because it is tonight that God’s promises are given for the sake of the world, where the promises that death on Friday and life on Sunday are forever interwoven. 

Even as Peter protests having his feet washed, even as we have own strong feelings. Even as Jesus proclaims a new commandment, that we ought to love one another… and we fail to uphold and keep that commandment…

This night is still the moment that church continually returns to. The moment just before the chaos erupts into the world, a moment of respite and reprieve… the where faithful and flawed and opinionated followers find themselves at the table with Jesus… and there Jesus passes on the things of God, food that transforms us for life, a body of Christ that turns us into the Body of Christ. 

Tonight we begin these three days at the Lord’s table, and here God begins the church. The church that will go to cross tomorrow and the empty tomb on Sunday. The church that proclaims the mystery of faith each time it gathers at the table again – Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. 

Tonight is the beginning. Tonight the church begins the 3 days. Tonight the church begins.

Taking time for Holy Week – Pastor Thoughts

We have just about made it through our long wilderness journey in Lent. With Holy Week nearly upon us, our Lenten pathway has not been easy nor straightforward. Instead, Lent is a season where we are challenged to offload our baggage, to re-think our assumptions and prepare to be changed. 

There is a lot about life in the Church that has Lenten vibes these days and it is NOT just since the pandemic. If I am honest, I can see the “Lentiness” all the way back to the beginning of my time in ministry. Things have felt scarce. There has been a sense that something is lost. In my first call interview in 2009, people were talking about “getting people back” and returning to what the Church once was. These refrains have only gotten louder over the 14 years following. It is the perspective of a community knowing that they have entered a spiritual wilderness and are looking to go back to where they came from. 

The thing is, we need this wilderness time. We need the wilderness journey. We need to let a lot of our baggage go. We need to learn how to trust that God is leading even if we cannot see the way. We need to be reshaped for the Kingdom again, as we have had a habit of falling out of shape for that work. 

Now that we complete our Lenten journey for this year, we still have to walk the walk of Holy Week. Lent doesn’t land on Christmas Day the way Holy Week lands on Easter Sunday. Instead Lent arrives at the most important week of the year for Christians, and the most difficult. 

The Holy Week story is hard and long and tiring, but it is necessary. We tend to compress the story into short phrases most of the year: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

But Holy Week takes the time to live the narrative. 

We stand along the road waving palms as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. 

We hear the Passion According To Matthew, Mark or Luke to begin the week. 

We gather with the disciples at the table of the of the Last Supper, with feet washed, and bread and wine shared. 

We try to stay awake through the night of betrayal and we go with Jesus as he is arrested, tried and sentenced. 

We help to carry the cross to Golgatha and we weep with mother and son as Jesus breathes his last. 

We hear the Passion According To John on Good Friday and wait for the first day of the week to go with the women to the tomb. 

We do this to remember the long story during all those other weeks of the year. We take our time so that, when we worship a crucified God, that we know what that means. So that we know who washes us at the baptismal font, and who feeds us at the Lord’s Supper. We linger in the stories so that they come to mind when we skim through the details in the Creed, or the Pastor references them in a sermon some time in November, or when we are sitting in Bible study trying to unpack just what God’s promises are rooted in. 

Holy Week imprints the story of the Passion into our bones. It becomes a part of us and we of it. So that when we become Easter people on that First Day of the Week at the empty tomb, we know how we got there. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick. But Lent and Holy Week do transform us – each year – into the Body of Resurrection that we are called to be. 

Pastor Erik+