Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Has anybody here seen...

Dion, American singer and songwritter, recorded one of my favourite songs, “Abraham, Martin and John.” It is about the untimely deaths of three key figures in American history and the Civil Rights movement. Two presidents and one Baptist preacher. Bobby Kennedy was added to the song as well.

The 15th of January is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S.; an opportunity to commemorate his legacy in the cause of freedom for Blacks and oppressed people around the world. His words and actions continue to inspire people today (continues to inspire me).

Dion asks, in the song, “Didn't you love the things they stood for?” Yes, I did and I do.

Each man was, I suppose, flawed. The question is, however, didn’t you love the things they stood for?

Martin Luther King Jr, stood for civil rights and non-violence. Laws needed to change and the way those laws were applied needed to change. That’s true, still today. But it seems to me that the famous “I Have A Dream” speech isn’t so much about legislation and application of laws as it is about changing the hearts and minds of people so that little boys and girls, no matter their race or ethnicity, could play together.

In this effort, we need to work together—parents, teachers, preachers, coaches, neighbours, entertainers—anyone who has any influence on people, particularly on children. Together we can make King’s dream a reality.

Did you love the things they stood for, is a powerful question and it is the part of the song that makes me think of Jesus. If there is some sort of qualifier at the pearly gates is just might be Jesus asking, “did you love the things I loved?” Did you visit the lonely, feed the hungry, house the homeless…

All the problems of the world can’t possibly rest on my shoulders. The act of loving, of the agape* Jesus expect of us, is a deliberate and corporate act. We do this loving-thing together.

*Agape—the highest form of love; the love God has for humanity and the love humanity has for God. It is the love feast we have been called to.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Visible God

One of the more interesting question posed to me recently was, “how can you make God visible?”

The Magi follow a star in search of the manifestation (the appearing) of God.

There are two things necessary for seeing: light and eyes (no, that’s not three things). Well, one of those things is taken care of by Jesus, for in the very first chapter of John’s Gospel it says that he was, “4the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

There are an awful lot of parables and sayings in the New Testament about seeing; the blind regaining their sight and sighted people unable to see. These are all stories about the importance of perceiving the light, in this case, the light of all people, the light of Christ.

So, the Magi, on their quest to behold his appearing, need two things: Jesus being born (obviously) and the ability to perceive this glorious light. These things they have, but the question was, “how can you make God visible?” How can God’s light shine through me (and I mean, through us).

To live the Gospel, to put it into practice is the only way to shine the light of God’s love and forgiveness, God’s mercy and justice.

But, have you every turned a light on the in middle of the day, in a room that is well lit by the sun? The shining electrical light makes little or no difference. Light makes a difference in the dark. There are plenty of dark places in the world, in our neighbourhoods, in our lives, where the light of Christ can shine and make a real difference.

In fact, in a way, the light is healed by the darkness. If I’m daring enough to think God’s light can shine through me, I must also be open to the healing that comes from the darkness. There is blessing from those I seek to bless. All I mean here is that I might be one of the Pharisees who thinks he can see. It is by acknowledging my limited sight, acknowledging the darkness within me, that I can be healed and enabled to be a bearer of the Christ-light. God can be seen in me when I see God in others. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

New Every Morning

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life, and power, and thought.

Every morning I look out of the window, first thing. I see trees and birds. Off in the distance I see the flickering of headlights as people make their way around the beginning of a new day. And the sound I hear, rolling from somewhere deep inside, the first notes of the hymn, “New Every Morning.”

I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that some people are pessimists, and proudly so. Their world-view makes no sense to me. Don’t they see the pulse of God’s love in… in everything?

And if you dare to challenge a pessimist they will inevitably strike back with some false claim that they are really just a “realist.” No, I say, no! A realist sees the love of God in the restoration to life of every blessed thing, every blessed day. And it is a glory to behold.

Before you think that I’m some sort of holier-than-thou, optimistic freak, you must know that I wrestle with the same thoughts of inadequacy, doubt and fear that we all suffer from. I have been conditioned, like most of us, to be pessimistic. But, no matter how faint the notes of the hymn, “New Every Morning” are when I look out my window, I look and I wait until, like a full orchestra and choir, the hymn shakes the foundation and rattles the windows. Then I can start my day, joy-filled and confident that in my sleeping and in my rising God, my creator, has brought me safely.

I look to any measurement for this assurance—a spin on the Earth’s axis—the phases of the moon—the earth wobbling and the northern part bowing back towards the sun. You name it, and it’s reason enough for me to hear the hymn, “New Every Morning.” And might I say, every hour, every minute, every second… That’s the depth and majesty of God’s love.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Seasons Greetings

There is no war on Christmas. Period! There never was: the whole thing was just a distraction from way more important stuff. While self-righteous Christians complain that the salutation, “Seasons Greetings” is an attack on Christmas, we neglect the mission we’ve been called to by the one whose birth we celebrate.

The equally odd complaint to, “Put Christ back in Christmas,” also distracts us from our mission.

Recently, I saw a sign that read, “Put Christ back in Christian.” I think this better illustrates the real issue that is before us as Christian people.
Whenever I’m faced with a problems or issues, I try and imagine what Jesus would have me do. I can’t imagine him worried at all about whether people feel free to wish one another a Merry Christmas. You see, Christmas isn’t really about Jesus. I know that can be a hard idea for people to get their heads around. It is commonly thought that Jesus wasn’t even trying to start a new religion. He was trying to get people to follow the basic principles of already existing religious communities—things like love and mercy.

Jesus wasn’t trying to get people to worship himself, and it’s because he was trying to get all people to focus on a loving and merciful creator that we can truly proclaim him as the Saviour of the world. His goal wasn’t to just save the Jewish people, but to bring salvation to all people, and to all creation.

As followers of Jesus Christ—as people committed to his teaching of love and mercy, we are intent on freely worshipping God and making space for all people to worship as their tradition dictates. Imagine a world where all Christians, and Jews and Muslims; all Buddhists, all Hindus, all people of all faith were true to the basic common tenets of the Golden Rule.

My friends of other faiths happily wish me a Merry Christmas, and they mean it too. They happily receive the same salutation from me. And together, by being true to our faith, we make this world a happier and more joy-filled place. The challenge of my faith journey is to remain focused on the love God has for all people, for all creation.