Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Who’s Not Needed?

Thinking about my extended family, those people who are some how related to me by blood or marriage, I wonder, who’s not needed? Who can we do without?

In my extended family there are those I disagree with; those who have offended me; those who have hurt me or someone I love. There are those I haven’t seen for many years; those whom I’ve never met; those whose names I have forgotten.

Yet, even if I had the power, there is not one person in my wide, wonderful and weird family that I could definitively say are simply not needed.

Everyone is needed in some way to someone and for that reason alone I could never say someone is not needed.

A metaphor that is often used for the Church is family. And we could ask ourselves the same question: who’s not needed?

Just like my extended family there are those with whom we disagree; or who’ve offended us; or who’ve caused hurt; or who we’ve not seen for a long time; or that we’ve never met; or whose names we’ve forgotten. Yet we know, at the core of our being, each one is needed.

Even if we think they are sinners, atheists, agnostic, na├»ve, doubters, lost: each one is needed. For each of these groups of people make us better (and I might have forgotten some). We actually need them. My faith is better, maybe even stronger, when I’m with an atheist. Faith is tempered, made stronger, when so challenged.

I don’t object to thinking about Jesus Christ as a “personal savior,” but that’s not what the Bible tells us. The Bible is clear that salvation is a whole-world kind of thing. My salvation is not the issue, our salvation is, and not that everyone has to believe the same thing, but that we recognize our kinship and act on it. As if everyone is needed in this, our extended family.

There are some ideologies that are not welcome and that we fight against. Neo-Nazism for example. And it is not that those who espousing such beliefs are not welcome, they are, but their ignorance is not. Redemption is possible for everyone and anyone. And redemption transformers people and communities. Thank God!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Balance and Consistency

I have always been in favour of ecumenical cooperation and finding areas of commonality and perhaps even unity amongst Christian Churches. In fact, despite our perceived differences most of what we believe is the same.

One of the issues, for example, that drew the Anglican Church and the Roman Church apart regarded the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation. Don’t make me explain that now, and smarter people than me believe that there is no real difference. But it is one of the issues that separated us. Today, the issues might have more to do with power and authority as it is expressed in the leadership of the two churches.

When the Anglican Church of Canada was negotiating full communion with the Lutheran Church in Canada we were also in negotiations with the Roman Catholic Church. The principle upheld at the time was consistency—that what we said to one church we said to the other.

Another thing to be added into the mix is that many of the “issues” that separate the churches are of little or no significance to the wider community. Simply put, most people don’t care. So, as we negotiate, talk and perhaps even bicker we must also keep a balanced outlook, realizing that bickering never brought anyone to Christ.

It’s a challenging row to plough, being true to what we believe while wanting to be on good terms with other churches; and maintaining a balance between what we’ve done and what really matters to people.

Every day is an opportunity to begin a new direction on our faith journey—they say, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but we do throw out the bathwater. For me, holding on to the belief that God forgives is key. No matter who we are, or what we’ve done—no matter how far we think our journey takes us from God—there is forgiveness. A new opportunity to journey in faith with our loving Creator.

Other Churches, other faith group, and people without faith can help us deepen our commitment to Jesus Christ and be the people we are called to be.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

I Had Never Noticed

I had never noticed that tamarack and cypress trees have needles (like evergreens) but they lose their green colour and fall off in the autumn. I admitted that out loud and an old Cape Breton fisher told me, “that’s because we used to cut tamarack trees down when they were young and flexible.” Apparently, they were used to firm up the semi-circular shape of the traditional wooden lobster trap. The wood also endured over time because it tended not to rot when exposed to saltwater. Black spruce was also used, and for the same reason.

I imagined that people made lobster traps out of various kinds of wood before realizing the effectiveness of tamarack and black spruce.

There are lots of dire predictions about the future of our Church in Canada, including that there won’t be a Church in 20 years. I’ve been around long enough to remember the equally dire predictions from 35 years ago. I don’t mean to suggest that we can therefore ignore the current warnings. Quite the contrary, I take these warnings as seriously as I took them years ago.

I think there’s a lesson for us in the lobster pot: We need to show the creativity that accompanies flexibility and use material that doesn’t rot, like our “memory, reason and skill.”

The old lobster trap is a pretty straight forward tool, that is tried and true. So too is the Gospel imperative to love our neighbours. Love is the tamarack wood that is flexible and strong, quick and enduring.

If we do nothing differently the predictions will come true. If we love, I mean really love our neighbours as ourselves, and God with our whole being, we will continue to be a vital expression of God’s love in the year 2040, and 2140, and 2240...

The possibilities for God’s Church are exciting and endless.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

My New Years’ Pixel

The word “resolution” is derived from the Latin and it means to loosen or release. It is used in a scientific sense, to reduce something into it’s simpler parts. Later it was used to mean the resolving of a mathematical problem and from there it took on the meaning of resolving conflicts. So, for example, to find a solution between two points of view in a legislature or at a board meeting, a “resolution” or solution is decided. From there, it is easy to see how “resolution” takes on the meaning of a firm decision, determined or resolute.

It was a couple hundred years ago when people started talking in terms of making New Years’ resolutions, a promises to oneself to make a change, presumably for the better. This practice might have more to do with January than the new year, because in ancient Rome there was an annual tradition of making promises to Janus (from whom the month is named).

I guess that the simplest part of a computer or TV screen is a pixel, and we just happen to refer to the “resolution” of a screen in pixels.

I had a friend who made a New Years’ resolution for everyone she knew. She wanted everyone to start calling her Kathleen rather than Kathy. Oddly, I think that’s a resolution everyone kept.

I don’t see anything wrong with making New Years’ resolutions or with people trying to improve something about themselves. The determination however, doesn’t need to wait for the new year, in fact it depends in no way to the calendar. The draw back to New Years’ resolutions is the undo pressure we place on ourselves.

It seems to me that there is enough pressure, of one kind or another, placed on all of us these days. My New Years’ pixel is to be a positive influence in any place I have an influence at all. Oh, and if someone wants me to call them Kathleen rather than what I currently call them, I will.

By the way—I haven’t a clue where the apostrophe goes in the years part of the phrase “new years’” and because I know that whatever I do I will be corrected, I no longer care.