Pastor John Van Sloten's Blog 2001-2007

John Van Sloten's Blog 2001 - 2007

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World Cup

June 09, 2006

Ok, this is how it goes. A few days back I make a pitch to the CBC to do a radio show on Sport and Spirituality. They email back that they’d love to do it, and ask if I might be able to focus on the World Cup (oh ya, that little tournament is being played right now!). I tell them that I don’t know much about soccer... er, ah... football, but I think I can get up to speed. The next day I mention the idea is passing to another church pastor/sport addict. He starts preaching and tells me about some great commercial that Bono has running on all the sports stations; something about ‘One ball’... one world... peace. As he’s talking I’m writing an editorial on how the event is a metaphor for what God meant us for as a global community. The next day (this morning) I’m thinking about it some more...
“I should be preaching on this topic and we should get a whole bunch of preachers in on this!” I check the FIFA schedule and the final game is scheduled for Sunday July 9th, at 12:00 noon Calgary time. I can just see it all playing out now. Three weeks of pastoral/preacher meetings trying to figure out the read on the World Cup... what is God saying to the world through this event?... One preacher does a radio show on the topic... a couple write editorials for their local papers... a whole bunch of people invite their friends to church that Sunday... hundreds listen in on line. 10:00 am – Church; 11:00 am coffee; 12:00 pm Game. Perfect.

Got any ideas on how to preach this topic? What might God be saying through this phenomenon?


Broken Glasses

June 07, 2006

Last night I took part in a discussion on the topic of discernment; a person’s ability to see, to know, to be able to get at the truth as it presents itself in the world. Discernment is critical when it comes to living any kind of a wise life; individually or communally. We talked about it last night in the context of our church’s vision and something hit me. Looking back on my life, I used to be the kind of person who was constantly worried about what others thought of me. It was so bad at times I thought myself a bit of chameleon... a lot of chameleon! It was actually quite pathetic. Seems I had this uncanny ability to read people and situations, and then readjust myself to best fit into their expectations. It was tiring, disintegrating and wholly inauthentic.
A few years back I realized how this unhealthy disposition was actually a good thing in my life gone bad. It was discernment being misapplied. I was taking a good, God given gift, of being able to see things, know things, read things, and using it for the wrong purpose. I’m not even sure I knew what I was doing actually. I grew up in a consumer driven, advertisement saturated, celebrity oriented culture; concern about how things looked was a societal given. Anyways, back to the point... Discernment gone wrong in this way is an epidemic in our world. God’s good gift of being able to read his creation has been misappropriated... twisted... reversed. Instead of using the gift of discernment in a God honouring way - so that you can empathize with another, so that you can see God’s truth as it presents itself in the things of life, so that you can know how to make wise choices – we’ve taken the gift and turned it on ourselves. A blessing has become a curse. A gift given for wisdom has left us fools.


Sunday Morning Adrenaline rush

June 05, 2006

Yesterday morning was brimming with creative energy. I love it when that happens. First off, I read over my sermon in preparation for that morning’s preaching. It was good... which always surprises me. Whenever I write a message (usually on a Thursday) there’s always a lot of doubt as to its coherence and legitimacy; a healthy kind of uncertainty I think. I’m never quite sure if I’ve got it right or not. Then, with a few days space, I re-read it, and inevitably I discover that it works. Thank God! These past two Sundays I’ve been preaching on relationships. While my personal passion is preaching on the topics/news stories/cultural phenomena of our times (a needle that I need to pull out of my arm once in a while!), I thought it would be good to change things up a bit. I’ve sensed that both messages have connected deeply... filled with holy moments, with deep listening silences. Very cool.
Anyway, I read over my sermon that morning, and then I had an idea for another radio phone in show. Seeing as the Edmonton Oilers are now in the Stanley Cup finals, why not do a show on spirituality and sport? I drafted up a proposal and sent it off to the CBC. They just emailed back excited about the possibility. We’ll see where that goes.

After firing off that proposal I sat down and opened the newspaper to clear my head and relax a bit. Page A3 had a picture that just grabbed me. And so I start to exegete the image a bit (read it, interpret it, see what God might be saying through it). An editorial idea comes to mind. Not a written editorial, but more a juxtaposition of image and words; a phototorial. I just sent the idea to the editor of the Herald and he’s very stoked about it. We’ll see where it goes.

By the time I got to church that morning the adrenaline was pumping. In a pre-service meeting I told a few people about the morning’s events. “Sermons everywhere, if we’d just look!” They just smiled at me.


The Da Vinci Code - a CBC Calgary News Video Interview

June 01, 2006

What do you think of the Da Vinci Code movie?
John was part of an interview by CBC News Calgary reporter Lorna Sandburg at the May 19 opening of the Divinci Code movie.


CBC Radio - Da Vinci Code Interview

May 26, 2006

I just had a very cool interview on CBC radio re: the Da Vinci Code; a half hour long call in show. Great fun. I loved the spontaneity and it was a great chance to get the message out.

May 26 interview on CBC Calgary Radio 1010 with Donna McElligott

High quality mp3 - 17 mb


Why the Da Vinci Code is so huge

May 23, 2006

This week I read the Da Vinci Code for the first time – a late adopter, I know. But there are benefits to my delayed timing; knowing the huge impact that this story is having on our culture, I was able to listen in with different ears, see with different eyes, and experience this cultural event from a unique perspective. I got to ask the, gravely important, “Why has this book caught on with so many people?,” question as I engaged the text.

There’s something in this mythical tale that is resonating deeply with our soul; in fact, tens of millions of souls. What is it?

At first I figured it might have something to do with plain old good story telling. Everyone loves a good conspiracy, let alone a God conspiracy. A page turning mystical mystery is a marketer’s dream. But there must be more.

I began to wonder if the Da Vinci Code’s success had more to do with a deep resonance with those who’ve been disenchanted by the faith; disenchanted for all kinds of reasons.

Perhaps by the loss of mystery, by a church that has so traditionalized and domesticated God, so defined, clearly understood and boxed God’s divine story in, that they’ve essentially left themselves spiritually empty handed. In a presumably well meaning attempt to protect orthodoxy, the faith may have gotten de-mystified.

Besides ecclesiastical over-control, many may also be disenchanted by the hypocrisy of the church. They say one thing and do another. Hypocrisy, (“hypocrisies”, from the Greek. hypokrisis "acting on the stage, pretense, play a part, pretend,") at its core, is a lie. Lies leave one open to suspicion. Suspicion is a breeding ground for conspiracy and doubt. Conspiracy and doubt give author Dan Brown lots to work with.

Perhaps two thousand years of church inauthenticity is the reason we’re in the place we’re at now. An historic inability to acknowledge fallibility, to take off the mask and be real, has left the church’s flank unprotected.

Interestingly, Jesus (the implicit protagonist of the Da Vinci Code) often hit at this same nerve. The religious establishment of his day was often the target of his most direct condemnation. He called them fakes, liars, ‘holier than thous’, because they manipulated the masses, burdened people with petty legalisms, and often guilted and shamed them to spiritual death.

I can imagine that the disenchantment that comes from this kind of ethos would leave followers deeply yearning for some kind of chink in the ecclesiastical armour; some kind of hidden conspiracy. It certainly left a lot of people open to Christ’s radical new message; God’s page turner.

The disenchanted spiritual market place; this may be Dan Brown’s primary market segment. Maybe the ‘Da Vinci Code’ brand is all about meeting a societal need that’s gone unmet for far too long?

So then perhaps it really is the re-enchanting nature of this fiction that has led to its unprecedented success. Maybe we really do want to know that our lives are connected to a multi-millennial story; to a legend filled with mystery and the unknown. Maybe we want to believe, that in behind all that seems unreal and unrooted, there’s something profoundly genuine and true, something deeply connected.

At the end of the book, Professor Langdon finds his holy grail, the truth he’s spent a lifetime looking for. Finally he understood.

And Sophie discovers who she really is; the amazing truth that she belongs to a royal blood line; she belongs! “Sophie could not imagine that only yesterday, she had felt so alone in the world. And now, somehow, in this foreign place, in the company of three people she barely knew, she felt at last that she was at home.” Chapter 104

Maybe we’re all desperate to believe that we’ve been born of God; not via some fanciful Merovingian blood line tale, but by means of an even more unbelievable story.

Download single mp3 audio file of John's message (right click and save as)

High quality mp3 - (23 mb)

Low quality mp3 - (7.7 mb)

John was interviewed on Calgary Radio 66 CFR by reporter, James Callsen about the Da Vinc Code.

High quality mp3 - (.8 mb)

Low quality mp3 - (.3 mb)


Deal or No Deal

May 15, 2006

I was just flipping through the stations for a few minutes tonight and came across a scene that made feel incredulous and angry.

The show was called Deal or No Deal. Basically its a game of chance where the player tries to guess correctly in order to win the most money possible. Usually, they say, people are so desirous of winning it all, then end up losing it all (ie: they don't stop soon enough, when they could walk away with a smaller prize). It wasn't the propensity to greed that got me going... sadly, I'm desensitized to that. What made me so mad was the fact that the contestant's coaches (people who help her to decide) were her family; her husband stationed in Iraq and on screen via satellite, and her inlaws (both in studio).
Here you have this awful/pathetic scene where America's lust for consumerism is horribly juxtaposed with the reality of a war that, in many people's minds, is fuelled by the need to protect the ability to consume.

I wouldn't have even made that connection were it not for the fact that, in the middle of one of the Deal/no Deal decisions, the mother of the soldier interrupts the host and says, "Can I say something to my son?" She then walks over to the in studio television screen in tears and tells her boy how much she misses and loves him. Then she blows him a kiss and hug and touches the screen. The audience is moved. Then the host asks the teary eyed father if he wants to say anything to this son. Weeping he musters a few words... deep emotion... and then on with the show.

Consuming ourselves... entertaining ourselves to death. What in the world have we become????

Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 18 2006 @ 09:07 PM PDT
your a dumbass for caring that much about it to post it on the internet, get a life

Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 19 2006 @ 02:09 PM PDT
i guess that makes you a dumbass too for taking the time to respond to his blog. he's just expressing the same thoughts that everyone that i've talked to has about the stupid show. i don't see a problem with someone like John caring about this world going down the toilet.

keep it up John


Homelessness and the Poor

May 11, 2006

An on the street story with CBC Radio 1010 Calgary, part of series by Jennifer Lee.

Down load interview - High Quality (audio mp3 4.5 mb)

Down load interview - Low Quality (audio mp3 1.4 mb)


What I learned in preaching Science

May 10, 2006

Top ten things I learned in preaching Science.

1. All science is God’s science. As we learn more about the physical nature of universe, we learn more about the God who made and cares for it all. All of the truth that science discovers gives us more to be Christian with, more to believe with, more to love and worship God with.

2. Faith is critical for the scientific project. You cannot hypothesize or theorize without it. The whole scientific endeavour works because someone is willing to take a risk on a hunch, propose an idea, step out onto something for which there is no proof (yet!).

3. A scientist’s involvement in the shaping and manipulating of the natural world is the best possible argument for the possibility of a God doing the same. The Divine can providentially move within our empirically explainable existence much like a scientist does.

4. When a scientist does what a scientist does they are worshipping and honouring God; whether they believe in God or not. Unfolding creation via quantum physics, understanding God’s handiwork in a black hole, bringing God’s truth and revelation in these places (and all those places in between) to the rest of us, honours God. What Artist wouldn’t take it that way?

5. The infinite mystery that exists on the edges of scientific exploration is an ever present pointer to the something more that knows all things. The fact that nothing is fully comprehended begs the ultimate existential question.

6. The congruence between our minds and the mind of God as it is expressed through the universe, is inexplicable.

7. The scientific holy grail of discovering the theory of everything (one theory that pulls is all together) looks a lot like the idea of God.

8. “Of science and the human heart
There is no limit...
Love and logic keep us clear
Reason is on our side...” Bono

9. To my surprise, the scientific endeavour (especially at it manifests itself in the formulae) is filled with a yearning to experience beauty. “The theory being tested was so beautiful that it could not possibly fail to be confirmed [as true].” Einstein

10. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36


Life is Good

May 08, 2006

What fullness a day can bring! This morning I attended a funeral and watched my cousin’s fiancé carry his mother’s ashes down the chapel aisle. A small wooden box. Dead. Suddenly, of a massive heart attack. Just like that, it was over. I kept looking at each of the immediate family members, a son nodding with the pastor’s words of comfort, a daughter trying to process the shock, a husband weeping as a life’s worth of images were projected onto the screen; unfolding like visual lyrics to a beautiful song. Fade to black.

All I could do was hold my wife’s hand. We’ve got this life together right now. Today.

After the funeral we decided to go for a hike in the Weaselhead. It was stunning. At one point we just lied down in the tall grass and gazed at the sky. There was no better place to be at that time. Walking back to the car we talked a bit about some other bad news we’d heard yesterday. A local pastor. Moral failure. Career over. Family destroyed.

I asked Fran if she ever worried about me falling into the same trap (especially after improving my body so much via the cycling tour!). She laughed out loud. I was both humbled and assured.

After we got home I walked to the school to pick my youngest up. There I met a young couple who’s just got married on Saturday. The happiness on their faces was palpable; sheer bliss, such joy. Hope.

Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, May 08 2006 @ 09:07 PM PDT
Humbled & assured?
What has winter done to that fine physique, so finely honed over the summer of 2005?
As for me, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
[ Reply to This | Delete | ]
Life is Good
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 25 2006 @ 08:36 PM PDT
Hey TV...

Just got asked by a church member who this TV woman was? For the record I'm assuming you're the guy with the initials TV who hung in my draft all summer long... :) john
[ Reply to This | Delete | ]
Life is Good
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 01 2006 @ 07:53 PM PDT
Yeah, it's me. Home now after a short Council meeting. Wrestling with K & B for some bandwidth. Boy, do I miss your draft!
Enjoy reading the crit responses to your exploits in the Banner. Means you're striking a chord. Keep strumming. Say, when you coming to Niagara to stir the pot here in Jesus' name, maybe a plant in The Falls in the shadow of the casino.
Boy, do I miss your draft!
Every Timothy needs a Paul.
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.



May 01, 2006

Just got back from a 2 -1/2 hour trek (on foot – training for the West Coast Trail this summer – which I booked this morning... got through on the 1-800 line in five minutes... my buddy thought I was using my Divine connections! I can hardly wait to embark on this adventure.)

As I was walking I was reminded of how much I love newness. I started off my hike by taking a familiar route, but then took a new turn on a new country road. About 300 m. down that path I was hit with this numinous sense of the new. It felt like a feeling I had just outside of Georgetown, Ontario, as I was cycling there last summer – that particular kind of newness! When the moment hits you, or perhaps when you realize that it’s there, it just seems to be pregnant with promise; and filled with the hope of a fresh start, a do over. At that moment the sun brightened its way through the clouds, its light springing onto all of the budding trees; infusing the greening of everything. Your senses are cued. You’re alert to the now. You smile all over. The moment was so beautiful, so fresh.

I think I’m meant for these kinds of moments. They remind me of a freshness I once knew with much greater frequency. You can’t help but be overwhelmed by the new as a child; everything’s being experienced for the first time! They also point to a newness I will one day know more fully. In the book of Revelation, Christ says, “I am making all things new.” Talk about a fresh, green, exciting vision! The promise of that statement pulls me into an eternal experience of the new. Like all promises, it gives me a present day taste of a future reality. Just like that new road did this morning. Just like the West Coast Trail is going to do this summer.


God's love of playoff hockey

Apr 27, 2006

Printed in the Calgary Herald, Editorial Page, this morning...

I think God loves a good Calgary Flames playoff game, and that he’s hockey’s greatest fan! Think about it, if God so loves the world – so loves this ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ country, so loves this ‘Go Flames Go!” city, so loves each and every player and fan on the face of the earth - why wouldn’t he be?

I can imagine the joy and delight now filling the divine heart as we enter into this most holy season. God, figuratively speaking, filling the whole Saddledome (the benefit of omnipresence, you’ve always got the best seat in the house!); taking the game in like a proud parent would.

God filled with wonder, “Wow, did you see that move?” Like a city league dad taking in a tykes game, watching his boy make a play for the very first time; elated, astonished, and deeply proud. “This is good, this is very good!” His child, his own flesh and blood, using that young body to its full potential.

Only, when God takes in the play, I would imagine that the joy and delight being felt would be infinitely greater than anything you or I could ever experience.

When Kiprusoff makes a remarkable glove save, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. In that split second blur, we see speed, uncanny goalie hand eye coordination, and superior focus.

God sees all of that, but then takes note of a few other things as well. He sees the young boy that he lovingly conceived of 30 years ago, born in Finland to parents who had a dream, gifted with DNA that was made to live between the posts, living a life story that just happened to play out in a country of opportunity (a great hockey nation), and blessed with a psychology - quirkiness and all - that’s perfectly suited for life beneath the mask. God sees a man equipped with a physiology capable of near miraculous feats. Millions of muscle memoried fibroids remarkably making the stretch; a trillion cranial neurons, doing the incredible high speed processor math; and a multitude of body systems playing together in perfection; talk about teamwork! And God sees all this with a heart that's fully for the Kipper!

Then, stepping back a bit, God looks down on the whole Flames team. “So much potential when they play together; living out those eternal communal truths of interdependence, selflessness, and goal sharing; all heeding that one coach’s vision, all reaching for that ultimate dream. It’s who they’re made to be.”

What hockey mom wouldn’t be overjoyed at seeing her young athlete daughter learn those important life lessons? Let alone being exposed to the many other truths the sporting metaphor has to offer; the gift of play, how to win well and lose gracefully, and the sheer joy of the endorphin rush. How could she not smile?

Stepping back even further, you’ve got to think God also delights in our city as a whole as we collectively and vicariously step on the ice. The Flames remind us that we’re all a community; a community that’s been given both a hot team to enjoy, and a hot economy with which to afford tickets. They help us experience resurrection and renewal when they re-discover their powerplay touch. They teach us about hope through a McCarty redemption or via the regaining of that lost playoff form.

We live in a city that’s part of a country that has the wherewithal to create both the time and the space for leisure. What a gift! We’re free to stay out late and play, to fully enjoy this amazing game of life. How outstanding is that? What parent wouldn’t hope for this?

A lot of good things... a lot of God things are going on in our town right now.

Some may see it as such, some may not, but in my mind a lot of what hockey is, and has to offer, thoroughly delights the Creator of all things. You could even say that when it’s done right; when hockey’s played the way it’s always been meant to be played (using those really old rules of course), it honours God.

When the human race does what it’s made to do, when a culture creates all that a culture is capable of creating, sport included, God is pleased. What parent wouldn’t be?

An amazing Dion Phaneuf two on one, breakup play; praiseworthy! An incredible Jerome Iginla short handed snap shot to the top corner; glory! Celebrating the winning of a Stanley Cup; pure worship! I can see the smile forming already.

Think you’re the biggest Flames fan out there? Think again.

Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, April 29 2006 @ 06:50 PM PDT
What a fabulous day!! It doesn't get better than this and to top it all off -- a night of hockey playoffs :)
This is my first time checking out John's Blog - - very cool insights and comments. Thank you for sharing!
PS> I am glad John, you are feeling better. I am sorry that I was not tuned in to the fact that you have been feeling down. Wake up call for me - -time for me to tune in more to those around me. :) T.

Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 27 2006 @ 02:51 PM PDT
Go Flames Go!!!

If you really want to get into the mood, listen to Johnny Cash -Ring of Fire. I've only heard it 100 times today.



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