Featured

Welcome to PilgrimsProgress.ca

This site is meant to honour my father, John Martin Buck, who taught me what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I plan to place his prayers and sermons here so that others may get a sense of this faithful pilgrim’s progress while he walked this earth. It is also a venue where others, including myself, can share their experiences on the pilgrims’ walk.

Namespro.ca – Register your domains for $12.88 CDN.
CIRA certified. Lowest price in Canada. Click here.

The False Dichotomy

A younger cousin has taken me to task “as a devout Christian” on my strong expression of concern about our changing climate. He asks, “do you believe that God has created climate change to spite, challenge or invigorate humanity”?  I am regularly challenged on how we humans like to think in binaries. In so doing we often set up false dichotomies. I like what Augustine of Hippo said about the false dichotomy many make between Scripture and the Natural World (Science) in his Literal Commentary on Genesis.

The Literal Commentary advises a two-step procedure. First, we must evaluate whether the scientific claim has any validity. This must be done by the methods of science, empirical observation and theoretical reasoning. It is not enough to quote the Bible against a scientific theory. If we are unsure about the conclusion, we can consider it false. “The truth is rather in what God reveals than in what groping men surmise.” https://www.catholic.com/…/how-augustine-reined-in-science

Like Augustine, I assert, “Christians can be sure that God’s truth in nature does not contradict God’s truth in Scripture.” As for the science of understanding what is happening to Planet Earth, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

I encouraged my cousin to read both the NASA document above as well as Genesis 1 for the Old Testament story of creation which begins,

The History of Creation
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%201…

And the New Testament version in John 1.

The Eternal Word
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%201…

Certainly some scientists and some religious folks like to see a complete separation of science and spirituality. As I wrote earlier, I believe that is a false dichotomy that has brought us to this current chaos. The whole point of the Genesis creation story is that God gifted us with free will. How we choose to exercise that free will makes all the difference. The story of the Old Testament is how we humans, despite our best efforts to follow God’s laws and prophets, use that free will to bring chaos to the world. The story of the New Testament is how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit seek to redeem us and this world.

Yes, God loved the world so much
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe
in the name of God’s only Son.
On these grounds is sentence pronounced:
that though the light has come into the world
men have shown they prefer
darkness to the light
because their deeds were evil.
And indeed, everybody who does wrong
hates the light and avoids it,
for fear his actions should be exposed;
but the man who lives by the truth
comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.” John 3:16-31

And that eternal life, that Kingdom of God, is meant to start here and now as we humans choose to become the body of Christ. So it is not just Scripture that points to the Way, the Truth and the Life; but also God’s natural creation. As Paul wrote in Romans 8, “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”.  Science confirms that as we continue to lay waste to Mother Earth and her groans become increasingly more distressed.

So who is my neighbour?

The sermon on Sunday at Spirit Song was on the Good Samaritan. You remember the story. A lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to be inherit eternal life and be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Like any good teacher, Jesus turned to the question back saying to him,

“What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.” However, the lawyer was not done. He went on to ask, “Who is my neighbour?” — Luke 10:25–29

The parable Jesus then relates tells the story of a man who was robbed and left for dead. Both a priest and a Levite (a man who worked in the temple), passed by without helping. However a Samaritan, despised by most in Jesus’ community, did stop and render assistance even putting the injured man up in a nearby inn. Jesus then asks which of the three; the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan acted as a neighbour to the man dying at the roadside. The lawyer said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”— Luke 10:30–37

So in today’s much more chaotic world, who is my neighbour? For a genetic perspective on who our neighbours are, and indeed who our brothers and sisters are, I highly recommend The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey which I first saw on the National Geographic channel. The author, Spencer Wells says,  “You and I, in fact everyone all over the world, we’re all literally African under the skin; Brothers and sisters separated by a mere 2.000 generations. Old fashioned concepts of race are not only socially divisive, but scientifically wrong. It’s only when we’ve fully taken this onboard, that we can say with any conviction that the journey our ancestors launched all those years ago, is complete.”

United Methodists face vote on LGBTQ issues. Will it rip the church apart?

The above is the headline from an article about an upcoming vote later this month at the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis.  A special session has been called to vote yet again on a plan regarding same-sex marriage and the acceptance of LGBTQ clergy in the church. According to this article,

The United Methodist Church faces the possibility of a schism because of the vote. It’s inevitable that people will leave the church because of how polarizing the issue is, according to congregants, clergy and experts. It’s also possible entire congregations could leave the denomination.

This sounds all too familiar to this former member of the Anglican Church of Canada.  The argument in favor of allowing seems to be, that “love would be at the core.” The article also notes, “United Methodist churches and properties are currently owned by the denomination.” That was the same with the Anglican Church of Canada. One the largest Anglican congregations in Canada, as well as the most overtly evangelical, had to give up their buildings when they chose to be faithful to their understanding of the way, the truth and the life. See http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Anglican+diocese+retains+ownership+four+disputed+church+properties/2266487/story.html
Perhaps the one thing Methodists have going for them is a church leader largely forgotten in the Anglican Church of Canada, but still very much at the essence of the United Methodist Church, John Wesley. It would be interesting to do a study on his teachings particularly as they would apply to the situation the church currently finds itself in. So I googled  what John Wesley would say to us today on this issue and came across an article  published the last time this issue was raised in the United Methodist Church. The author, Donald A. D. Thorsen, professor of theology and chair of the Department of Theology and Ethics at Azusa Pacific Seminary in Azusa, California writes,

Wesley, the founder of Methodism, affirmed the primacy of scriptural authority. But he also acknowledged the genuine, albeit secondary, religious authority of tradition, reason, and experience. By doing so, Wesley simply made explicit what is implicit in all theological reflection, even when it ostensibly is based on Scripture alone.

Given this so-called quadrilateral of religious authority, how should Methodists — or any Christian interested in considering a breadth of relevant data — view homosexuality? Although Wesley did not specifically deal with the issue of homosexuality, his theological legacy provides a comprehensive and integrative way of evaluating it. https://goodnewsmag.org/2016/04/john-wesley-revelation-and-homosexual-experience/

 This article in turn led me to research Wesley’s Quadrilateral. I believe this presents a schema for approaching this discussion in a way that would be blessed and guided by God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The dangers of tradition

The reading at last Sunday’s service was from Matthew 15:1 – 20

In the reading some of the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem come to Jesus and ask, “Why do your disciples break our ancient tradition and eat their food without washing their hands properly?”

The scribes and Pharisees try to follow God’s way by following the customs and traditions that were handed down over the ages. Remembering what your mother taught you, you may well say these rules make a lot of sense. So why did Jesus not discipline his disciples for breaking them, just as your mother may have disciplined you for coming to the table without washing your hands? Instead, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees asking, “Why do you break God’s commandment through your tradition?” For the Pharisees have developed a ‘work around’ for the God’s commandment to ‘Honour your father and your mother’, and ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death’. The Pharisees have developed a corollary to this which allows  a man to tell his parents, ‘Whatever use I might have been to you is now given to God’, therefore he now owes no further duty to his parents. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, saying your tradition empties the commandment of God of all its meaning. Jesus then quotes Isaiah to describe the Pharisees: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’.”

Quite the indictment! However, before we dismiss the Pharisees of old as simply a viper’s brood (Matthew 3:7), it is critical to ask who are the modern day Pharisees? C.S. Lewis in Screwtape Proposes a Toast suggest that 2000 years later we still have a fine crop of Pharisee wine. In this selection the senior and very experienced devil, Screwtape, rises to propose a toast. In his hand he holds a glass of Pharisee wine.

Different types of Pharisee have been harvested, trodden and fermented together to produce its subtle flavour. Types that were most antagonistic to one on earth. Some were all rules and relics and rosaries; others were all drab clothes, long faces and petty traditional abstinences from wine or cards or the theatre. Both had in common their self-righteousness and their almost infinite distance between their actual outlook and anything the Enemy really is or commands. The wickedness of other religions was the really live doctrine in the religion of each; slander was its gospel and denigration its litany. How they hated each other up there where the sun shone! How much more they hate each other now that they are forever conjoined but not reconciled. Their astonishment, their resentment, at the combination, the festering of their eternally impenitent spite, passing into our spiritual digestion, will work like fire. Dark fire. All said and done, my friends, it will be an ill day for us if what most humans mean by “religion” every vanishes from the Earth. It can still send us the truly delicious sins. The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the the close neighbourhood of the Holy. Nowhere do we tempt more successfully as on the very steps of the altar.  http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/wp-content/uploads/satevepost/screwtape-proposes-a-toast-SEP.pdf

So who is most in danger of becoming the Pharisee today? Why dear church goer, it is you and I. To paraphrase JB Phillips translation of Matthew 16:25, the one who want to save his life by simply following rules will lose his life; but the one who cedes control of his life to Jesus and loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it. So being a follower of Christ is not simply following a set of rules no matter how important they might be. Rather it is yielding control of   your life to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The Beatitudes

I have gathered a few thoughts about the beatitudes.

  1. Who are the poor in spirit?
    “Spirit” in Matthew 5:3 refers to a person’s frame of mind or their attitude. It is how a person thinks about the world around them and their own personal relationship with the Eternal. “Poverty of spirit is the opposite of pride, self-righteousness, and self-conceit . . .” Dummelow, John R.  A commentary on the Holy Bible
  2. Who are the meek (gentle)?
    Meekness is “strength under control,”  William Barclay.
    “The meek person is strong! He is gentle, meek, and mild, but he is in control. He is as strong as steel.” R. Kent Hughes, Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount
  3. Who are those who mourn?
    The Disciples bear the suffering laid on them only by the power of him who bears all suffering on the Cross. As bearers of suffering, they stand in communion with the crucified. They stand as strangers in the power of him who was so alien to the world that it crucified him. This is their comfort, or rather, he is their comfort, their comforter. … This alien community is comforted by the Cross. Dietrich BonhoefferDiscipleship
  4. Who are those who hunger and thirst?It is the desire for God which is the most fundamental appetite of all, and it is an appetite we can never eliminate. We may seek to disown it, but it will not go away. If we deny that it is there, we shall in fact only divert it to some other object or range of objects. And that will mean that we invest some creature or creatures with the full burden of our need for God, a burden which no creature can carry. Simon Tugwell, The Beatitudes
  5. Who are the merciful?

    A Christ-less world is a callous world, and mercy was never a characteristic of pagan life. William Barclay, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer for Everyman

Inviting the marginalized to the table not only made them equals; it made Jesus their “friend.” … The Pharisees viewed this behavior as subversive to their conviction of what Israel needed for true social ordering; Jesus saw it as a manifestation of a new way of holiness based on mercy.
Michael H. Crosby, Spirituality of the Beatitudes

  1. Who are the pure in heart?Only those who have surrendered their hearts completely to Jesus that he may reign in them alone. Only those whose hearts are undefiled by their own evil—and by their own virtues too.
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

    Now when [people] attempt to live a double life spiritually, that is, to appear pure on the outside but are not pure in the heart, they are anything but blessed. Their conflicting loyalties make them wretched, confused, tense. And having to keep their eyes on two masters at once makes them cross-eyed, and their vision is so blurred that neither image is clear.
    Clarence Jordan, Sermon on the Mount
  2. Who are the peacemakers?

    Now peacemaking is a divine work. For peace means reconciliation, and God is the author of peace and of reconciliation. … It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the particular blessing which attaches to peacemakers is that “they shall be called sons of God.” For they are seeking to do what their Father has done, loving people with his love.
    John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount

    Making peace makes us God’s children—and kin to each other.
    Michael H. Crosby, Spirituality of the Beatitudes
  3. Who are the persecuted?It may seem strange that Jesus should pass from peacemaking to persecution, from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility. Yet however hard we may try to make peace with some people, they refuse to live at peace with us. Not all attempts at reconciliation succeed.
    John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount

Also worth looking at is John Wesley’s Sermon 21 on the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 5.

Rev Maurice William Buck

Rev Maurice William Buck was the younger brother of my father, Rev John Martin Buck.  Both brothers ministered in the Diocese of Calgary for decades. Both received their calls to ministry later in life. And of both it can be said,

‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.’  Matthew 25:21-22.

Maurice and his twin, Muriel (d. 2012), were born at the beginning of the Great Depression in Ottawa. His father, Thomas Charles Barfield Buck, was born in London England. In 1908 at 16 years of age, he immigrated by himself to join his family in Canada. When the ‘Great War’ broke out he served the army in Ottawa where he met Lena Gertrude Martin, an Ottawa Valley girl who grew up in Morewood, Ontario. Her father, Alva Judson Martin, was a cheesemaker of French-Canadian origins. Her mother, Christie (Van) Steinburg was of Dutch (and possibly United Empire Loyalist) origins. Following the beginning of the Great Depression, Thomas Buck moved the family of nine to Verdun, Quebec near Montreal where he found work as an accountant at a brewing company.  According to family stories, the brewery had an open fridge policy which ultimately led to Thomas Buck’s downfall, alcoholism and family dysfunction.

All the males in the family were encouraged to get a university education. The oldest brother, Tom (d. 2011), received his Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical) from McGill, but became a journalist. He, like Maurice, had artistic talent and used his chemical engineering background to develop  pottery glazes.  My father, John Martin Buck (d. 2009), completed a Civil Engineering degree at McGill, but experienced a call to ministry just before I appeared on the scene in 1952. Maurice William Buck also completed a degree at McGill, in Education.

In 1968 Maurice and family joined the exodus of others from Quebec and moved to Calgary. My family had left the Montreal area earlier, arriving in Calgary in March 1965 in response to a call my father received to became part of a team ministry at Christ Church Elbow Park. I have fond memories of acting as a chauffeur in Uncle Maurice’s hopped up VW bug in the hunt for a new home. Florence (d. 2005), Maurice, Cheryl, Wendy and Kim moved into 740 Willacy Drive in Willow Park, a shorter commute to Okotoks High where he taught art for 16 years. He had earlier experienced a call to the ministry that culminated in his ordination after his retirement from teaching in 1984.

Maurice loved to travel to be with his family. One notable trip was just after he retired from teaching when he joined us in Salisbury England where my father had exchanged parishes for the summer. He took the time to travel keep in touch with his siblings and their children, now spread from Quebec to the west coast. He regularly visited his oldest sister and my godmother, Mary (d. 2013), who was the only family member to remain in Quebec in Verdun.  He is lovingly remember by Mary’s son, Richard, who now resides in Toronto. His older sister, Margery (d. 2012) also lived in Toronto. The remaining older sister, Doris died in 2012, in Regina. Until my father’s death, he and Maurice got together on a weekly basis. Maurice told me a number of times how much he missed his brother, my father.

I, like others who knew Maurice as an Anglican minister, knew him to be a kind and Godly man. Another clear memory I have of him is of a sermon he preached at St. James about the ‘Jesus Nut’. This term, he told us, refers to the nut that holds the main rotor blade in place on a helicopter.  With the failure of the Jesus nut, the helicopter drops like a stone. Maurice likened that catastrophic failure to what happens to us when we fail to hold on to our faith in the resurrecting power of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. According to Our Daily Bread, “If you feel as if your life is crashing down around you, remember that it’s Jesus who holds all things together—even your life.” Maurice certainly knew, and more importantly, preached this.

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. —John 1:3.

I feel blessed to have known him. Like St Paul I am convinced that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38. I believe Maurice William Buck has now been happily reunited with the rest of his family.

Covenant Sunday by Rev. John M. Buck B.Eng. B.Div. STM

October 15, 2000

8 AM Christ Church, Calgary Alberta

This is a narrative homily based on a life lived. She grew up in a rural setting in western Québec in the first quarter of the 20th century. Her father was the owner of a swank hotel in the local village. It was a major business enterprise in the village giving employment to many of its residents. It was the destination during the summer for holidaymakers of middle income and up who arrived by train in family groups. They were met in style with a decaled horse drawn carriage. Comfortable rooms awaited the guests’ arrival. Good food, well served on white tablecloth tables was the fare every day. A variety of recreational activity arranged by the hotel was made available — walks along the clear water river. fishing excursions to crystal-clear lakes full of fish. Sandy beaches awaited the children in warm water lakes. Horseback riding along trails in the scenic countryside was also available. Train rides to explore other parts of the unspoiled forest countryside. Horse buggy excursions along the river road all accompanied by ample picnic basket served by attendants in the hotel’s employ. These were gracious country living holidays where the holidayer was waited on hand and foot. She was the favorite child of her father spoiled in the extreme. She had strong features, bright eyes, quick in body movements, intelligent, witty.

There was money available for her to go to a good private school in Ottawa. Then she went on to the major hospital where she trained as a nurse. She never married and had the wanderlust. She took a job in a big hospital in Chicago in the 30s and 40s and got into the highlife of smoking, drinking, partying, cabarets and nightclubs. Soon it was the drugs scene as more and more she sought gratification from the pursuits of the flesh. As a practicing nurse at an active treatment hospital she had access to the drug lockers. She helped herself and falsified the records to cover up their loss. In a drugged stupor one night while smoking in bed she set fire to herself and ended up with irreparable scar tissue to the upper part of her body and her face. She lost her physical comeliness.

Her sister, who was married to the local garage manager and Anglican church warden, brought her back to the village home to help her recover. She was in deep depression and in a very difficult space as a human being.

When I arrived on the scene in the mid-50s a young rector in the first parish after an industrial parish curacy, she had been admitted to the ward of a Montréal hospital that specialized in treating the mentally ill. It was a long-term-care institution established at the end of the 19th century on very spacious grounds overlooking the Lachine Rapids of the St. Lawrence River. As a kid I used to drive my bicycle out to be a mental asylum as it was called then. It was in an unbuilt-up area. On a dare from other kids I would drive right up to the wrought iron fence that incarcerated the loonies, as we as we insensitively called them and watch them go through their uncontrolled antics driven by their mental illness. By the mid-50s is possible to become one of the innovators of new treatment for psychiatric patients now I found myself inside this very institution to visit this troubled parishioner. The garage manager churchwarden and compassionate brother-in-law had soon made known to his rector that his mentally and physically scarred sister-in-law needed a visit in hospital from her pastor. The ward she was in was a long narrow room very sparsely furnished and occupied by another 11 people. It was sparsely furnished purposely so there would be a minimum of objects that could be used for the patients to maim themselves during one of their seizures. The one thing that caught my eye as I sat next to her was the Book of Common Prayer sitting on the table by her bedside. She was in a talkative mood and we conversed together. I asked her about the prayer book. She said that she used it every morning and evening whenever she was well. She asked me to take some prayers from it with her now. I said yes. So we said the prayers for the day.

“This is the day that the Lord has given us we will rejoice and give thanks in it.” We also said prayers for the doctors and nurses grabbed to the physicians and surgeons and nurses for wisdom and skill sympathy and patience. We prayed for the recovery of this sick person, “Oh God that she may be restored according to thy gracious to health of body and mind and give thanks to thee in thy holy Church.

In the year that followed whenever I was in Montréal, the see city at that time, I would visit her. She made steady progress in recovery. Soon she was asking for the sacraments. Her brother-in-law and I were given a room by the hospital staff to celebrate the holy mysteries of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. She made such progress in recovering with the help of new medical discoveries and the love of God that she was able to return to her village home. She had overcome her in dependence on drugs. She never returned to them. She was in the church every Sunday. She became very active in the woman’s auxiliary, the ACW. At first people were afraid of her because of a wide look her facial scars gave her but she largely ignored their frightened looks and in time they forgot her past and accepted her as a full member of the Christian community. She headed up the Altar Guild.

She loved children and she got classes going every Sunday for 20 kids or so and enlisted parents and other members of the church to do their turn at teaching the faith of the church. Before her dedicated service there had been no regular Sunday school. She is buried in the cemetery of that country church of God that loved her and that she loved and served to her dying days. Thanks be to God.

Next Sunday is Covenant Sunday in our church. This homily is an example of someone who made a tough life journey and a Christian person who came to understand and put into practice what covenant with God means! Time, talent, treasure. Where your treasure is there will be your heart also. Covenant is about God’s love and our response to his love. We love God because he first loved us. As a vestry member said so aptly and succinctly said last Sunday, it is all about response. We have been given so much by God that we respond by giving.

Thanks, Martin

We may not always find time to meet for coffee, but we can nevertheless share our thoughts and feelings here. Mindful, of course, that anything we write is monitored by the CIA, the NSA, and, on Thursdays and Sundays, by CSIS. Nevertheless, let me be one of the first to take a step on the Pilgrim’s way. BTW, my computer consulting company is Pilgrim Computer Resources, because I recognized long ago that as we enter the digital age, we are all pilgrims in a new sense. I would also highly recommend Eugene Peterson’s book Travelling Light, where he discusses the freedom that we have in Christ in this pilgrimage.

Wild at Heart

Responding to Gregg’s challenge at our men’s meeting yesterday, I have set up members with their own account. So we can now ‘meet’ 24/7 through the vehicle of this website. Here’s a link to the book we’re studying.

Lee made the point on our way home that we really didn’t talk too much about Chapter 5. Perhaps this a a venue where we can continue this conversation.