Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Grounded Firm and Deep

There is a wonderful old hymn written by Priscilla Owens that askes the question, Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?” Not only is it a catchy tune, it lays before us a significant point about the faith Christians proclaim, that God is love. The storms of life can be anything we face, from personal struggles of faith to a pandemic. Where our anchor is will have a considerable impact on how we weather storms.

 

A story from the Gospels (Mark 4:35-41) tells of a time when Jesus and the Apostles were in a boat and a storm came upon them. Jesus was asleep and as they woke him, they wondered how he could sleep through such a storm. Two things follow, Jesus calms the storm and then he gently scolds them for their weak faith.

 

We conclude too easily that this story is proof that Jesus is the Son of God, as if such a story could convince anyone. It might better be understood that the storm that was calmed was in the hearts and minds of the Apostles. When they decided to retell this story, they are critical of themselves for an apparent lack of faith.

 

What Jesus gives the Apostles in the face of a fearful storm is an anchor, a place of security and comfort, a place of love and trust. When we are afraid, one of the most difficult things to do is sleep, so it is significant that at first, Jesus was asleep. He was not fearful or faithless. Even before they roust him from sleep the Apostles are witness to a teacher displaying the utmost sense of trust.

 

It is like when my family was moving form one town to another. I asked my wife how she thought the children were fairing and if they were “okay” with the move. She said, “if we’re okay with the move, they’ll be okay.” We had a responsibility, as parents, to show confidence, comfort, love, and trust so that our children would succeed in making this significant change in their lives. The gift Jesus gave to the Apostles on that boat was what they needed to weather the storm.

 

We are weathering a pandemic; we have calm and faithful governmental leaders helping us through this time, particularly in the Public Health Office. We are blessed with healthcare workers, people working to bring us the goods we need, and many others (like teachers) helping create a sense of normalcy. It is incumbent on those of us who can, to show calmness and faith for the most vulnerable people amongst us. Many people are struggling during this pandemic and the rest of us can be gentle and kind towards them and help them through this.

 

At some point we will be beyond the pandemic, and many of the other issues that cause sleepless nights will remain: the climate crisis; discrimination against people of colour; the trafficking of human beings; reconciliation with First Nations peoples; equality for women’s rights.

 

When the pandemic storm ends, these other storms still rage. Calm, intelligent, loving consideration of the situation and a commitment to real change is possible. If those of us who can be calm are so, then everyone else will be too, and we will make real and lasting change. This is how our intelligence and capacity for love work together to create a loving and just world. And for the Christians amongst us we will do well to be, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.”

Friday, May 15, 2020

Prayer In Difficult Times


Regular daily prayer can be challenging, even for the most ardent believer. Sometimes, when someone begins a daily routine of prayer, there is an excitement that makes it easy. As the days and years move on, it can be a challenge to maintain that excitement. Congratulations to you if you are an exception and still have that enthusiasm. For the rest of us, regular prayer is an effort.
Many have said it before: if all our prayers contained was thanksgiving, that would be enough. Prayer is, by its very nature, an expression of gratitude to our Creator and can also draw us more deeply into an awareness of God’s presence.

Prayer can also change us and help us be more fully aware of what God intends us to be. An example of this is found in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44) It is not easy, sometimes impossible, to pray for our enemies and Jesus knew it. First, our attitude towards our enemies needs to change. It is easier to pray for them when we start thinking of them as friends. If we think of them as friends, we will treat them as friends. Maybe they even start thinking of us as friends. When we are no longer enemies, then the prayer is answered.

We pray, in part, because we are human. Even people who profess no faith will pray in the face of hardship (just in case it helps). Why wouldn’t we? Jesus is reported to have said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14: 13, 14) Yet, it seems that prayers for the health or safety of a loved one often go unanswered. In the context of John’s Gospel, the “anything” we ask for is life in Jesus Christ.

In the early Church, when the stories about Jesus were collected, they kept the story about Jesus’ prayer that did not get answered. “And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus prayed that the impending crucifixion be avoided. It was not and somehow, amid all this, God’s will is accomplished.

We pray, not to try and change God; not to change others; not to change the laws of nature. We pray because it is a natural human response to our concerns. We pray because the one thing prayer can change is us and it can help us meet the days ahead in the comfort of a holy and certain hope.

The transforming power of prayer is that it can move us from hating others to caring for them. Peace with enemies, however, is not the only challenge that we feel a need to pray about. Prayer in times of hardship comes naturally to people of faith. Who amongst us has not prayed for an end to this pandemic?

Christians endure suffering in life to the same degree as everyone else. Christians suffer pandemics, accidents, illness and tragedy. If this were not so, insurance companies would offer deals to Christians who could prove that they prayed regularly. Insurance companies do not offer Christians reduced premiums.



In the early Church, when the stories about Jesus were collected, they kept the story about Jesus’ prayer that did not get answered. “And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus prayed that the impending crucifixion be avoided. It was not and somehow, amid all this, God’s will is accomplished.

We pray, not to try and change God; not to change others; not to change the laws of nature. We pray because it is a natural human response to our concerns. We pray because the one thing prayer can change is us and it can help us meet the days ahead in the comfort of a holy and certain hope.