Tag Archives: leadership

Grace; what do we do with it?


Tool BeltSumming up the last three sermons about Grace; Grace may be defined as the freely given, unmerited favour and love of God; grace is available to all people, over 7 billion in the world today; and there is nothing we can do to receive grace for ourselves except make ourselves open to that forgiveness, and trusting that it will come.   

Since we have been justified by faith and forgiven for our sins, what are we meant to do going forward? Many people have questioned the doctrine of grace earned by faith alone as it seems to imply that, since we are already justified, we have no need to be good, or do anything in the world.  This is, of course, not the case.  As children of God, forgiven through Christ, we commit ourselves to live a Christ-like life.  As our Epistle reading this morning reads in The Message, “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.  Pursue the things over which Christ presides.  Don’t shuffle along eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.  Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is.”   What does this life look like?

In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace Philip Yancey talks about, “tracing the roots of the word grace, or charis in Greek, and finding a verb that means “I rejoice, I am glad.”  He goes on to say that, “In my experience, rejoicing and gladness are not the first images that come to mind when people think of the church.  They think of holier-than-thous.  They think of church as a place to go when you have cleaned up your act, not before.”  As people of grace, we want our lives and our church to reflect this rejoicing and gladness, and we want people to feel free to join us no matter where they are on their journey of faith.

In our readings last week we read the story of Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray in the words we now refer to as the Lord’s Prayer.  It is in this prayer that we run up against the first requirement of leading a Christ-like life.  Jesus instructed them to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  The first part is all good, forgiveness of our debts, grace, is central to our lives. The problem appears in the form of one of the shortest, and in this case most powerful, words in our language, “as.” Forgive us like we forgive. It is a powerful word because while we are happy to be forgiven, there is a clear link here between our forgiveness by the Father and our own forgiving of our friends, neighbours, and enemies. Our first task as Christians is to forgive, to pass the grace along, and this is definitely a counter-culture way of thinking. 

Yancey quotes Elizabeth O’Connor who puts the dilemma this way, “Despite a hundred sermons on forgiveness, we do not forgive easily, nor find ourselves easily forgiven.  Forgiveness, we discover, is always harder than the sermons make it out to be.” The human tendency would be to brood over wrongs, hold grudges, plot revenge, and pray that the bad guys get their just deserts in harsh punishments. I have no intention of making forgiveness sound easy in this sermon.  It is not. I pray the Lord’s Prayer at bedtime and I often find myself tripped up in the middle and having to go off on a tangent to try to bring myself around to forgiveness for someone else before I can pray the remainder of the prayer. Luckily we have God to help us with our natural tendency towards unforgiveness.

Forgiving others is an emotional and spiritual challenge which we work out mostly internally and through the help of the Holy Spirit.  In more practical terms, let’s look at some of the other things we should be doing as recipients of grace, and to be as Christ-like as possible. I referred last week to the ‘means of grace’ which are a gift from God rather than a checklist to be completed in order to receive grace.  Steven Manskar describes them as, “… how we grow and mature in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength….This means of grace are divided into two general categories: works of piety and works of mercy.”  There follows a nice concrete list…

Piety                                                              Mercy

prayer (private and family)                   feeding the hungry

public worship                                           clothing the naked

the Lord’s Supper                                     caring for the sick

reading & studying the Bible                visiting the jails and prisons

Christian conference                               sheltering the homeless

fasting or abstinence                               welcoming the stranger

                                                                        peacemaking

                                                                        acting for the common good 

These are all things Jesus did and taught his disciples to do, not in order to receive forgiveness but because they were forgiven.

 In reading through several recent issues of the Presbyterian Record I saw many examples of these acts of piety and mercy; I read of the power of prayer; of many different styles of worship from Sunday mornings in the established churches to worship around the campfire at one of our many summer camps; I saw ads for different colleges and universities and the elders institute offering both Christian conference and study, I read of assistance given to people from Fort McMurray and the congregation there, of women’s retreats,  of congregations sponsoring refugees from Syria and Namibia, of young people identifying needs in the community and starting a program to help, of the church signing a joint statement stating that the church would work to implement the articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous; the discipleship is there, it is active and vibrant throughout the national church.

 Is discipleship active here at St. Paul’s?  I believe that it is.  You put an emphasis on worship through our Sunday services 52 times each year.  You regularly meet to share the Lord’s Supper and include in that everyone who attends worship. Worship is based on the reading and interpretation of the Word, and make available monthly books for daily devotion.  Meeting in Bible studies, coffee hours etc. there is a chance to share experiences, questions, and insights with each other.  You are always ready to welcome people to the congregation, collect for food banks, lead services and help with birthday parties at the Carleton Manor, send birthday and Christmas cards and fruit trays to seniors, celebrate PWS&D Sunday, support the Atlantic Mission Society and Presbyterians Sharing. 

Manskar stresses in his article the need to maintain a balance in our works rather than to, “always gravitate toward those that suit our temperament or personality. For example, an introvert may naturally be drawn to …private prayer, Bible study and fasting…and will tend to neglect worship, conference and works of mercy…while an extroverted person will naturally be drawn to those works of piety and mercy that suit his/her temperament but will neglect time alone with God in prayer and reflection.  Could we challenge ourselves to stretch and increase our involvement even in the areas with which we are less comfortable?  This is a question upon which every individual needs to reflect in prayer, and which our congregations need to discern in order to gain a vision for their continuing ministry within the community.

 In a world of ever bigger barns, as individuals and congregations we need to avoid the trap of the greedy farmer, filling our barns with stuff for ourselves rather than with God.  We need to look beyond ourselves to where Christ is looking. To the needs of those in hunger, in pain, in trouble with the law, everyone we meet, for as it states in Colossians, “Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing.  From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. “

 We will know we are getting it right when people see a church which is active, vital, open and welcoming; a place to come for help, as well as to offer help, and a place to grow in the love and service of Christ. 

 

Manskar, Steven W. “Opening Ourselves To Grace: The Basics Of Christian Discipleship – Umcdiscipleship.Org”.Umcdiscipleship.org. N.p., 2016. Web. 3 July 2016.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002. Print.

Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing About Grace?. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1997. Print.

In A Deserted Place, All By Ourselves?


A Deserted Place, All By Ourselves

Stress is defined as the body’s reaction to events or circumstances which may; excite, frighten, endanger, thrill, be tragic or joyful etc.  The body literally prepares itself to fight for, or run for, your life!  “Tell us something we don’t know!” you are probably thinking.  We are all too familiar with the negative effects of stress in our lives.  Everyone is affected differently; different triggers, different types of reactions, different defense mechanisms.

 

When the apostles got back together with Jesus after their mission of healing and teaching they were wired for sound!  They were so excited that they were able to actually heal some people, drive out some demons, and that people actually wanted to hear them speak!  It was thrilling to suddenly be in demand, to be popular.  They probably felt like they could continue on this track forever, after all, the adrenaline kick to their system was continually being fired by the people crowding around them.  They had more energy, could sense the world more keenly, were stronger.  What a high!

 

The other thing that the body does when faced with stressors, whether positive or negative, is to shut down some of the less vital body functions.  With limited resources, it can hardly add the extra without taking something away.  It shuts down the digestive system until you are safe again; it turns off the immune system.  If you might die (what the body assumes when stressed) what difference will it make if you digested your lunch or catch a cold?  When we deal with one stressor after another over a period of time our body will suffer, the heightened alert state can only go on for so long before a crash!

 

Jesus knew that the apostles were headed for a crash if they didn’t get a rest, some mental and physical down time, a chance to eat and digest a meal, to sleep a bit.  When they were alone together he often took the chance to teach them and explain some of his parables to them more clearly.  All of this would enrich their ministry and enable them to continue.  He was concerned for their wellbeing even when they weren’t aware of any risk.

 

There is so much in this one set of bookend stories today about which I could speak.  I say bookends because, as I’m sure you noticed, they are the stories immediately before and after the great stories of the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water.  In fact several sources I looked at suggested ignoring the fact that the lectionary skipped that section of the story and preach about it anyway.  The two things I’m going to look at this time are Jesus’ compassion (for his apostles and the crowds) and their faith in his healing power.

 

Busyness followed them despite their attempt to get some time to themselves.  They headed off in boats to find a quiet place away from the crowd and it didn’t work because the crowd found them.  The fact that Mark tells us that the crowd got to the isolated location first is used to indicate their great need and the fact that they were now with Jesus in a deserted place rather than out in the public eye where there was risk to his life.  It is also important to note that it really shows that they didn’t even have a moment to get settled before being back on-the-job.  

 

 I would say that few, if any, of us have crowds of fans following us around and trying to guess where we will be in order to line up for a chance to see us.  This is reserved for the Queen, teen heartthrobs and the like.  What crowds do we have following us?  What busyness presses in on our time apart?  We have work, and family, and church, and kid’s activities etc.  Our cell phones, our laptops, smart technology all allow us to be available to the world 24/7.  We can have real-time online chats with people around the globe, which may well mean in the middle of the night for one of us.  We may be in the middle of handling a situation and be interrupted at any moment by someone else’s crisis; one of the kids forgot gym clothes, a telemarketer wanting us to add services on our phones, a friend in trouble.  Neither the original situation, nor the new one gets the focused attention we may want to give.  So long as we have these items with us and turned on, they will beat us to our quiet time.  We may be in a deserted place, but not alone.   The world is there with us, just like the crowds who managed to found Jesus and his apostles in the deserted place.

 

I expect you may remember, from other posts, me mentioning my friend The Rev. Charles Deogratias, a Presbyterian chaplain with the Canadian Forces.  Charles and his wife Hyasinter grew up in a refugee camp after their families had fled the genocide in Rwanda. They live in Canada now but have never lost touch with their own country, their own people.  As Charles gets nearer to retirement they have started a project called The Heartprints Community Center.  They have purchased a piece of land in Rwanda and are raising funds to build and operate a community center on the property.  The concept is really interesting.  Aware of the great potential and desire to learn and improve in Rwanda, and the wealth of knowledge and experience here in Canada which, especially after retirement, often goes untapped; the plan is to have the Rwandese government to identify the expertise they need for their projects and for the center to assist with finding the people.  Volunteers would be cared for there at the center, with meals and accommodations etc. and each day they would be picked up and taken to where their help is needed.  This is different from a typical mission trip where people from here try to identify a specific project or need and go into an area to carry out the short or long term work.   Just as Jesus showed the apostles, one thing that Charles agrees will be very important is that at the end of the work term (3 weeks, 6 months or whatever a person is able to give) volunteers will have a break and a chance to enjoy the country, to go on a safari, to rest from the needs of others and care for their own needs.

 

After their unsuccessful attempt to get away on their own Jesus sent the apostles to go ahead of him to Bethsaida, a community on the North Eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The next thing today’s story tells us is that they were barely out of the boat at Ganeseret before people recognized them and were begging to touch Jesus’ cloak fringe for healing.  Did you catch that?  What were they doing in Ganeseret, North Western shore, when they were headed to Bethsaida?  Whether due to confusion during the storm(see the story of Jesus walking on water), a lack of confidence on the part of the disciples, or coincidence they did not arrive where they had headed. They were, as it turns out, in the wrong place – at the right time! 

 

People were begging to touch even a fringe, bringing sick from all the surrounding area for healing.  In contrast to the issue of lack of miracles in his home town, due to lack of faith, here there was great faith that Jesus would heal them.  One commentary I read stated that this faith in a touch of Jesus’ coat was nothing more than superstition, after-all these people had never met Jesus, never heard his message of repentance.  This is an interesting point, but the people who did know him the best, at home, didn’t believe at all and the apostles, who were now even partners in the teaching and healing, still had doubts.  The people in Ganeseret had needs, and they had faith that they would be met through Jesus Christ.

 

Do you remember the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar?  One line in the song Everything’s Alright is sung by Jesus in response to Judas’ outrage at wasting expensive oil which could have been sold and the money given to the poor,

“Surely you’re not saying
We have the resources
To save the poor from their lot?
There will be poor always
Pathetically struggling
Look at the good things you’ve got!”

“There will be poor always,” is a paraphrase of the words of Jesus as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, and John; three of the four Gospels.  Some might take this as a rather callous statement; it might seem that he is suggesting we just forget about them because we cannot solve the problem of poverty and suffering.  We know, however, that it wasn’t meant that way.  As the song continues Jesus indicates that they should be taking advantage of the time they have with him, to hear him teach.  We are able to see, in stories like today’s, that Jesus had compassion on crowds wherever he went.  Up until this set of stories his compassion had been for specific people who were sick but here this compassion is extended to include the whole crowd, a whole flock of lost sheep.  He healed them and he taught them even when he had been trying to get a break.  But we are not Jesus.  Time apart, by ourselves, to be healed and to hear Jesus’ teaching is an important part of our ministry as Christians. There will always be people to help whether we take time to look after ourselves or not, but we will not always be able to help unless we do take that time.  Amen.

 

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

 Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Tim Rice.

 

Samuel Anoints David/ It’s Not About Appearance!


Old Testament    1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

New Testament  2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

God was finished with Saul!  While his reign continued into its 42nd year (give or take), it was at this point that God rejected him as King of Israel and secretly chose his successor, the eighth son of a man from Bethlehem.  For the rest of Saul’s life he would have to go back to relying on and taking pride in his chariots and horses.  Chariots break and horses go lame…

 

How do we choose a leader? 

Every couple of years in Canada we have an election of one level of government or the other, and through those elections we seek to choose the best people to make the decisions on behalf of and for the best interests of the country, province, or city.  What do we really know about these people?  We know what they tell us, bragging of their chariots or horses, and we know what their opponents tell us.  Sometimes we also get the scoop from some investigative reporters who uncover interesting and almost always negative or scandalous information which they can reveal in prime time.  This is all a show!  There is nobody involved in the process without a personal stake or a chance for personal gain of one kind or another.  With all the information and media attention the voters are most often just as much in the dark as they were at the start of the campaign.  In the end, not even the candidates really know what kind of leader they will be.

 

My students were writing their exams this past week.  For some this was no big deal as they were well prepared and had a firm understanding of the material.  Some had big gaps in their preparation and were rightly worried coming in to their exams.  Strangely, or not so strangely perhaps, there were those who were well prepared who were panicked and those who were unprepared who were calm and cool.  If you looked in on my classes as they wrote, you would not have been able to identify which students were which.  You might have been able to tell little bit about preferred activities or social class, but not how much they knew nor whether or not they would be able to express that knowledge on the exam. 

One thing no one can know when they look at someone, even their own reflection in the mirror, is their potential to make a positive difference in the world. 

 

As humans we have a natural tendency upon meeting someone new to size-them-up.  Possibly some residual effect from our days as both hunter and prey, we look to see how they measure up in comparison to us.  How likely are they to be a physical threat, a rival in love, competition at work, or even useful to us in some way?  When we do this we make huge assumptions; smaller is craftier, bigger is dumber, stronger is better, small eyes means sneaky, overweight means lack of self-control, slim means obsessed with appearances etc.

 

Samuel was at home in Ramah, having dealt with Saul for the last time.  Given that he had just told Saul that he was finished as King of Israel, that God was no longer on his side, it seems reasonable that Samuel would now avoid any contact with the man who could so easily have him killed.  God, however, sent him on a trip to Bethlehem which would take Samuel right past Saul’s home in Gibeah.  Even more frightening would be the fact that the purpose of his trip was to anoint a new king.  But shouldn’t the new king be the eldest son of the king?  And, why anoint the new king before the current one is dead or at least on his death bed?  God told him to take a heifer with him and to say he was going to make a sacrifice to the Lord.  So, nobody in Gibeah or Bethlehem knew the true purpose of Samuel’s journey and would only come to understand its significance in hindsight after David became king.

 

In Bethlehem, after assuring the local elders that he was not bringing any judgement down on the town, nor its people, Samuel invited Jesse to the sacrifice.  The arrival in town of one of God’s great prophets, the one who anointed the King of Israel and was in regular conversation both with the King and God, would have been exciting and a little disturbing.  Certainly this was going to be a day that would go down in Bethlehem lore for generations.  “Where were you the day when, out of the blue, Samuel came to perform a sacrifice to God?”  Jesse had eight sons, although the Bible only records names for 7, but he brings only seven to the sacrifice, one son would have had to answer, “I missed it all! I was out tending our sheep and didn’t even know about it until after Samuel was gone!”  

 

In order of birth and priority for inheritance Jesse’s sons were; Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah, Nethaneel, Raddai, Ozem, number 7 and David.  In our reading from 1 Samuel names are only provided for the first three young men, we only have the names of the others from the lists in the book of Chronicles and it is assumed by that time brother 7 had either died, was childless, or had done nothing of distinction to warrant mention.  Given his lack of invitation to the event and his very low social standing as an eighth son, it is quite amazing that David was the one God chose for Samuel to anoint that day in Bethlehem.  In human terms David was the least appropriate choice.  He was not the eldest son of the king, he wasn’t even related to the king.  Even if one were going to a different family for your candidate, there were seven men in that family more entitled to honour and rank than David.  He was the youngest, the smallest, he was the shepherd.  He was a mustard seed.

 

It is interesting to note that, while this passage is a narrative; people say things, do things, time passes etc., in another respect it is an ongoing conversation between God and Samuel.  Samuel is not sent out on an errand and then left to it.  There is never any indication that Samuel should look for the most suitable candidate for king.  “I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”  Basically he sent him out and said, “we’ll talk later.”  If God was going to tell him whom to anoint, why didn’t he tell him up front…”go anoint the 8th son of Jesse of Bethlehem named David.”?  Instead he remains in conversation with Samuel and allows for each of Jesse’s sons to be presented, and considered in Samuel’s own mind before ultimately being rejected by God.  One by one they pass by, being noted for their appearance, their height, their physical attributes which, of course, were all that Samuel could see.  After Eliab, God tells Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see;  they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

 

As the last of Jesse’s sons passed by Samuel he would have been confused.  God had clearly said that he was to anoint one of these men, the sons of Jesse.  So he asked if these were all the sons and found that there was one left, out looking after the sheep.  This unnamed eighth son was sent for even despite the delay it would cause in proceedings; Samuel made it clear that they would not continue without him.  When David arrives the writer once again goes to the natural human reflex and comments on his appearance.  “he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.”  When I read this, coming as it does on the heels of God saying to stop looking at outward appearances, I did a double take.  If we aren’t supposed to be looking at appearances, then why do it again?  First, as I said, it is a reflex.  There are a couple things about this that are worth noting.  First, if this is the son who wasn’t even going to be presented one might have been assuming there was something wrong with him.  The terms ruddy and handsome may be more of an expression of surprise than the earlier judgement of the more obvious choices.  Still, are we to think that he was chosen because he was good looking?  No!  It may be a stretch, but the mention of his eyes as beautiful seems significant to me.  The eyes are often referred to as the window on the heart and it is by looking on the heart that God judges people.

 

Once David is on the scene God tells Samuel to anoint him, not privately but in front of all his brothers.  And the story is basically over then.  Samuel anoints David, the spirit of the Lord “came mightily upon David from that day forwards.”  It is in this line from the very end of the story when we first hear the name of this newly selected king, David.  And then what?  We never hear how the brothers reacted to their sibling’s anointing.  There is no talk of celebrations, singing or dancing.  Samuel sets out for home and undoubtedly David heads back out to the sheep wondering what all that had been about.

 

If only we could see people, not for their appearance, but for their hearts!  In 2nd Corinthians this is what Paul is urging.  He says that since we are convinced of Christ’s death that all may have life and live that life for Christ, who died and was raised for us we should change our point of view…our paradigm.  “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer I that way.  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  How much better would we be able to choose our social and political leaders?  How much more often would people be able to avoid trusting people who would later hurt them?  How many bullies would be helped because we were able to see that they needed help?  How many of us who get left in the fields with the sheep would get to come to our potential in helping in the world?

 

In his convocation address to the students at York University, newly honoured Dr. Michael Enright gave some great pieces of advice.  For me the one which stood out was, “The next time you give a dollar to a homeless person on the street, take a moment and talk to him and find out his story.”  It takes time, not a glance, to know a person and every person deserves a little time!  Amen.

 

35 Days Until Easter: One World, One Prayer


This past Friday evening I was at the annual World Day of Prayer service with the theme Let Justice Prevail.  Given all the differences in circumstance around the globe, it is hard to think of everyone praying the same thing at any given time, other than the Lord’s Prayer.  I thought that I would include the prayer for intercession from the service.  This was written by the World Day f Prayer Committee of Malaysia.

Almighty God, we thank you that through Jesus Christ, you have opened a new and living way whereby we can come with confidence in prayer.

Lord we pray for the leaders of our countries.  Grant them wisdom to know and do what is right and just.  Grant them the compassion and willpower to do your will.  Fill them with a love for truth and righteousness and fill them with the fear of God that they may work for the justice of all people.

God from whom all justice flows, hear our prayer.

O Lord, thank you for creating us in your image – uniquely gifted to contribute positively to home, society and church.  While many of us are comfortable in our setting, there are those who are oppressed and abused, isolated and silenced.  We pray for those who are voiceless victims of oppression and violence; victims of inequality and abuse; victims of unjust and biased cultural practices, victims of religious practices of law.

Jesus, who suffered injustice for us, hear our prayer.

Gracious Lord, we pray for migrant workers, the weak, the poor and the marginalized , that their cries for help and elevation from discrimination, deprivation of rights and dignity be heard and be acted upon by those in power over them.

Holy Spirit, empower us to work for justice and peace.

O God, we pray that you will strengthen your church with power and revelation that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.  Let us be rooted and established in love.  Grant us the boldness and wisdom to reach out to the community in a holistic manner.

God from whom all justice flows, hear our prayer.

O God, we ask a vision of your justice and for the strength of the persistent widow to work for it.  You have called us to be instruments of justice in a world of strife and false justice.  We pray that you will make strong our hands and make clear our voices.  Give us humility with firmness and insight with passion, that we may fight not to conquer, but to release.

Jesus, who suffered injustice for us, hear our prayer.  Holy Spirit, empower us to work for justice and peace. Through the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

 

prepared and adapted for use in Canada by the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada

Conviction of Faith : Believing Without Proof


 

As you now know, I recently read Day 289 from The Message//Remix:Solo which was entitled “Getting Our Way”.  This was a reflection on Galatians 5, more specifically 5:16-17, 19-23.  Following the Bible text are suggested ideas to think about, pray about, and ideas for living out the message.

“LIVE

Hold one of the following words in front of you today; exuberance, serenity, willingness,compassion, conviction.  Let the word permeate what you do.”

Conviction.  If you do a search on the internet for conviction and hit the news filter you will get 82,500 hits.  If you narrow the filter to “conviction of beliefs” there are 5,040. If you change the filter to “conviction of faith” there are 29.  In a society where our TV channels seem filled primarily with crime solving and detective stories, it is little wonder that our first thought with this word has to do with the legal term and not faith.

“Word Origin & History

conviction

late 15c., “the proving of guilt,” from L. convictionem, noun of action from convincere (see convince). Meaning “mental state of being convinced” is from 1690s; that of “firm belief, a belief held as proven” is from 1841.”

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

“A firm belief held as proven.”  Note that it does not say, “proven” but rather, “held as proven.”  In an ever more secular society we seem to be all about proof!  One of my kids’ favourite shows is Myth Busters and they have been heard to state, partly in jest, that if something isn’t proven on the show, it is not true.  As a corollary to that, of course, they believe that if something is proven on Myth Busters then it must really be true. 

My point is not to judge this television show, but to reflect the pervasive disbelief in society.  If you compliment someone they are likely to correct you, or try to figure out what your motivation was.  We are suspicious of motives, actions, and people themselves.  With all the people showing us all the good reasons why God doesn’t exist, they are missing the point completely!

If God was something you could prove, like the theory of gravity, then it wouldn’t be God.  Sometimes I think to myself that I must be losing it intellectually to believe in creation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, etc.  But I will stick with my conviction.  I hold the existence and goodness of God as proven even though I have seen no empirical proof. After all, I believe that all humans are equal and there is certainly little in our world at the moment that would prove that!

We all have to set our own benchmark for belief.  Many people, like C.S. Lewis were, at one point in their lives, confirmed atheists until they came to faith.  Some event, series of events, or influences allowed them to take God as proven even though they all knew the good reasons why he couldn’t exist.  If we live out our conviction, then we may just be a part of one of these events or influences who may help another come to faith. 

 

Note : If the word conviction was not in use until the fifteenth century and not used to refer to a firm belief until the nineteenth, obviously some other term was used in the Bible which Peterson interpreted to  refer to conviction.  Of course the Bible was not written in English at all so that all are translations.  In the King James Bible the word is faith.  The NIV uses self-control and The Message says, “…a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.”

Willing Faith : “If Ye Know These Things, Happy Are Ye If Ye Do Them”


Getting Active For The Climate

As you now know, I recently read Day 289 from The Message//Remix:Solo which was entitled “Getting Our Way”.  This was a reflection on Galatians 5, more specifically 5:16-17, 19-23.  Following the Bible text are suggested ideas to think about, pray about, and ideas for living out the message.

“LIVE

Hold one of the following words in front of you today; exuberance, serenity, willingness,compassion, conviction.  Let the word permeate what you do.” Willingness seems to be an easier focus to handle than either exuberance or serenity.  It brings to mind years and years of hearing my father quote, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them!” John 13:17  It was basically his way of telling us to get off our butts and get into action. It isn’t enough to know what the right thing to do is if you don’t then go ahead and do it!  If we know that smoking will kill us then clearly we should not do it.  If the traffic light says to stop then you had better stop.

Most of us watch, listen to, or read the news.  We know about a great many things going on in our world.  We know there is great famine in the horn of Africa, we know that there is discrimination, we know that there are people in our own towns who do not have adequate shelter.  We take great pride in educating our children.  We learn about history so that we see the paths to avoid based on the results of prior civilizations.  And yet…how do you get from knowing the right thing to actually doing something about it?

One of the ways is to find a group of people who are on the same page as you are.  It is much easier to stand up and say no to something like hydro-fracking with a group of people than to be a lone voice.  Social pressure on a single person to sit down and shut up can be immense and too much for most of us.  Luckily there are organizations whose purpose is to help people to go from outraged to willing. To mention a few:

  • KAIROS Canada

  • Green Peace

  • PWS&D Presbyterian World Service and Development

  • 350.org

  • One Campaign

  • Amnesty International

 For every international or national organization there are usually two or three local groups, either branches of the larger cause or working for more specific local issues.   “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead  Be willing, be one of the few!

Exuberant Faith : Let Your Faith Bubble Over And Touch The Lives of Others!


Last night I read Day 289 from The Message//Remix:Solo which was entitled “Getting Our Way”.  This was a reflection on Galatians 5, more specifically 5:16-17, 19-23.  Following the Bible text are suggested ideas to think about, pray about, and ideas for living out the message.

“LIVE

Hold one of the following words in front of you today; exuberance, serenity, willingness,compassion, conviction.  Let the word permeate what you do.”

I got stuck on the very first one.  While many of you don’t know me, I think even you might get from my writing style that exuberant would not normally be a word used in my description.  I mean, how many of us are really exuberant even a fraction of the time?  I can only think of one or two people on our staff of almost 100 who might be described as exuberant.

I thought maybe I had the wrong idea of the words meaning, so I looked it up.  One of the sets of definitions was;


1.
 abounding in vigour and high spirits; full of vitality

2. lavish or effusive; excessively elaborate exuberant compliments

3. growing luxuriantly or in profusion

others mentioned unrestrained enthusiasm and joy.  Taken one at a time, the first meaning above is the one I immediately thought of  and basically wrote off as a potential for my day.  The second one makes my skin crawl a little, it reminds me of people who gush about how wonderful everything is and thus make the compliment moot.  Whether or not it is fair to think of this as being sickly sweet, if I had thought of that meaning it would have been off the list as well.  This brings us to the third meaning of growing luxuriantly or in profusion.  This meaning gave me a different idea of the word.  If our own growth in the spirit is truly abundant it will overflow to others, and that is something I can aspire to.

When you get up tomorrow morning and head off to another week of work or whatever you do, think about having faith so exuberant that it can’t help flowing out to those around you! 

 

 

Day by Day, O Dear Lord, Three Things I Pray


Last night I had occasion to watch the movie Godspell.  The movie came out in 1972 when I was eight, but what I remember are the multiple musical theatre productions of the show which I saw as a teen and young adult.  I was, last night just as when I was a teen, held transfixed as the character of Jesus led his little group of misfits through the parables.  When the partner songs begin at the end of the show with “Long live God” as they carry him away from the cross, being joined with “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,”  from the opening of the show I was  taken to that thin place!  I felt lifted up, I was closer to heaven!

I realize this sounds rather flakey or esoteric, but somehow the combination of the real stories of Jesus, the foolish antics of the disciples as they act them out and misunderstand their meanings, and the music is very affecting!  We are led to praise God and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but not just that.  At the same time as we shout, “Long live God!” we need to be preparing the way for the coming of Jesus!

Please Step Up: Calls For Change


I don’t know who wrote this or where it originated, but I ran across it on Face Book one day a couple of weeks ago and it is one of the few things that I actually copied and pasted into my status update.

“Special request to all you kids returning to school in the next few weeks. If you see someone who is struggling to make friends or being bullied because he/she doesn’t have many friends or because they are shy or not as pretty or not dressed in the most “in” clothes PLEASE step up. Say hi or at least smile at them in the hallway. You never know what that person might be facing outside of school. Your kindness might just make a BIG difference in someone’s life! Pass It On ♥”

Unlike the “games” people play on Face Book which involve obscure notices with meanings blocked from the opposite gender or some other group kept out-of-the-loop, this message is clear about its intent and encouraging positive change.  This sort of move toward kindness, as you know if you follow my blog, is of great importance to me.

Where have we heard these sentiments before?  If Jesus had used Face Book the status update may have read something like this…”

My brothers and sisters, fellow children of God, don’t waste your time while you are waiting for my return .  If someone is struggling in any way, hungry, thirsty, friendless, or being bullied, LOVE them and do what you can to help them. Say hi or at least smile at them, share what you have. You never know what others might be facing in their lives. Your kindness might just make a BIG difference in someone’s life, and what you do for them you are doing for me! Pass It On ♥

Anyone can flip a light switch but it is the quality of light that really matters!


I took this photo about a year ago after having a lunch out with my husband at a local restaurant. We didn’t sit at the table in the picture, but I have in the past. I took the picture inspired by the quality of the light provided by this creative fixture.

The light falling on diners at this table is not the classic bare bulb used in interrogation scenes in the movies. The light is filtered through the hanging crystals.

The light of life, of Jesus, shines the same on everyone in the world but the filters through which it passes makes a huge difference in how it is felt and received by individuals. As Christians, we are those light fixtures through which Jesus’ light shines for our friends and neighbours. On our worst day we may have an angry red filter making the light show menace. Some days we may just hide it under a blanket (basket) so it can barely be seen at all.

Le us aim to be beautiful, creative, and inviting fixtures so that people will want to sit at our tables!