Entries tagged with “st. clement”.


My latest for the January/February issue of The Canadian Lutheran reflects on the darkness of winter, St. Clement, the sowing of seeds, and resurrection hope.

When I first moved to Winnipeg from Regina a few years ago, I couldn’t help but notice little differences between the two communities. I learned quickly, for instance, that Winnipeg was about three times larger than Regina; it took me much longer to travel “downtown” than I had previously been used to. The natural landscape differed too, as I exchanged Wascana Lake for the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. I also learned that, during football season, blue—not green—seemed to be the color of choice here. In short, I noticed all sorts of things that distinguish the capital of Saskatchewan from the capital of Manitoba.

cl2901-cover-webBut the thing I noticed first was the darkness. During my first few weeks of work, I would leave the office to find the sun had already set. By the time I made it home, the sky would be completely dark.

It’s not hard to understand why: during the winter, Saskatchewan and Manitoba share the same time. When it’s 5:00 p.m. in one, it’s 5:00 p.m. in the other. But because Regina is so much further west, the sun doesn’t set so soon there as it does in Winnipeg. In fact, sunset comes about a half hour earlier in Winnipeg than in Regina. In December—the month in which I moved—the sun sets around 4:30 p.m. in Winnipeg. In Regina, it hangs on until 5:00 p.m. My move then was just in time for the darkest part of the year.

And dark it was. The change reminded me of the severity of winter in a new way. Yes, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are both cold. But the quicker onset of night in Winnipeg made the winter seem somehow colder.

As a result, I’ve learned to love mid-January. Every day, the darkness seems to grow a little less when I leave the office. I see the twilight glowing brighter, and I know: the old, cold world of winter is giving way to the coming spring. And though I realize that spring is still rather distant, joyful expectation begins to fill me. Something new is happening. A new world is coming.

Christians have long invoked the signs of spring as symbols for resurrection hope. The barrenness of winter symbolizes death; but as the snows melt, life re-emerges in a mini-resurrection. As the snows melt, the crocus blooms!

Read the rest at The Canadian Lutheran in my article “Death gives way to life.”


Chances are you’ve heard of St. Augustine even if you’ve never read anything by him. But how about St. Clement?

Few of us know this saint very well: he was an early bishop of the Church in Rome, is said to have been installed by St. Peter himself, and has been sometimes associated with the Clement mentioned by St. Paul in Philippians 4:3 as a “fellow worker” for “the cause of the Gospel.” Even if we have heard of him, few of us realize that some of what he wrote has come down to us today. Subsequently, we do not realize that his epistle to the Corinthian church (written a few decades after St. Paul’s letters to the same congregation) was considered so important by some parts of the early Church that they counted it Scripture.

The canon, of course, is closed today, and St. Clement’s letter didn’t make the cut. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can learn from this associate of St. Peter and St. Paul—this early teacher of the Christian Church.

You’d think, with credentials like that, Christians today would be lining up to hear what he had to say. And yet that’s not the case. We might run out to buy the latest book by Rob Bell, but somehow dead old authors like St. Clement and the other Church Fathers are almost entirely forgotten.

I’m not sure why that is.

It is oft noted that Christians today have little sense of the Church’s history. This criticism is most frequently levelled against Evangelicals. And, indeed, many of us do hold a rather shallow history of the Church in our heads. It goes something like this (from the New Testament on): Jesus came. Then St. Paul sent some letters and visited a bunch of places. Finally, St. John wrote the Book of Revelation. Then, sometime around 1950, Billy Graham started preaching.

Of course, Lutherans and members of the other old Protestant churches really don’t fare much better. Sure, some of us can name St. Augustine (though most of us haven’t really read much, if anything, by him). And then in the 1400s Martin Luther showed up. And John Calvin. And John Wesley. And a few other guys. But even if we could name great Christian thinkers from the Reformation on, we’d still have some pretty significant gaps in our knowledge. There’s the two to three-hundred year gap between the Apostles and Augustine, and then a thousand-year gap between Augustine and Luther. The fact is, most of us just don’t know that much of the Church’s history. And we’re especially lacking in our knowledge of the early history of the Church—the era of the “Church Fathers,” those Christian thinkers from just after the time of the Apostles who helped cement our understanding of such essential doctrines as the Trinity and the nature of Christ.

Surely what these early Christians thought is important. They wrestled with the same questions of faith and theology we do, and we can and should learn from them, just as we learn from pastors and theologians and Christian friends today. G.K. Chesterton calls this idea the “democracy of the dead”—the idea that our spiritual forebears have something to contribute to discussions of faith in our own time. Their votes matter. We might not always agree with them (in fact, they often disagreed with each other), but they are members of the same Church as us. We are together members of one body. As the hand to the foot, we cannot simply say, “I don’t need you.”

All of this explains why I was delighted—and challenged—when my fiancée approached me recently asking whether we might join an online group planning to read through the Church Fathers. This group has broken down the voluminous works of the Fathers into easy reading of a few pages a day over several years. All the works are available for free online, so there’s no cost involved—except the cost of commitment. The group also plans to facilitate ongoing discussion of the readings on their website, creating a community to encourage and teach one another as we go through the Fathers’ writings.

I’d like to challenge you to consider joining in, at least for a little while. At the very least, give the first book a shot. It’s St. Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians, and it will only take you three days to get through (reading just a few pages a day). Ever wondered what happened in the Church of Corinth after St. Paul wrote his letters? Here’s your chance to find out.

The official start of the reading group’s plan for the Church Fathers is this Sunday, December 2, 2012. Check out the information at their website here.


Note: Both my fiancée and her roommate mentioned this group to me, so I’m not entirely certain which one of them found it first. But I’m grateful to both of them for letting me know!