Friday, February 16, 2018

...for some of us?

Recently, I was at a meeting and the presenter referred to something that was happening this year on April 1, which happens to be Easter Day. He said the event would be, “April 1st, which is Easter Sunday, for some of us.

I thought—what a curious way to say it? I imagine that he was simply trying to be inclusive and was merely acknowledging that not everyone celebrates Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fair enough, but what God did in Jesus the Christ that day wasn’t just for one particular group of people, it was for everyone, and for all time. Easter Day is Easter Day for everyone.

Now, I know that some of you are thinking—what about the Eastern Orthodox Church? Their Easter Day rarely coincides with us in the Western Church. Yes, but do you really think that was the inclusiveness the presenter was going for? No? Me either. I welcome his attempt at inclusiveness, but my point still stands: Easter Day, the Resurrection, the Good News is for everyone in the whole world—no matter what.

Jesus rose again for people of faith and people with no faith; for sinners and saints; for people of all genders and every orientation; for people who actively oppose the Gospel and for those who suffer and die proclaiming the Gospel. There is no one outside the scope of God’s love. Easter Day is not “for some of us,” it is for all of us.

We are so easily distracted into thinking that we are in some sort of race and that only those Christians who worship the right way and think the right things (us, in other words) will make it to that heavenly realm. Yet, the scriptures makes it clear that none of us have a chance without the Grace of God. Judgement is entirely God’s bailiwick and thankfully so. God judges with full knowledge, boundless mercy and deep, deep love. And not just for me, or for some of us, but for all of us.

This is the Gospel we proclaim, a Gospel that is inclusive, that is for all of us.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

...begin with me…

There is a wonderful little hymn that is often sung at Christmas, but it is good for all year. It is called, “Let There be Peace on Earth.” And, I think it has something powerful to tell us about the season of Lent.

It was a tradition in the Church that people gave something up for Lent. It was an act of self-denial that helped ready people for the great celebration at Easter. This tradition morphed into a kind-of self help exercise where we were expected to give up something that was bad for us anyway, like smoking or drinking or chocolate (in excess). Some preachers, myself included, started talking about not only giving something up for Lent, but taking on something too. So, sure, give up Facebook for Lent but take on prayer for the same amount of time you would have spent on-line.

All that is fine, but the hymn, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” suggests that what we do to improve ourselves is really about improvements for everyone. Peace can begin with me, but ultimately the goal is peace on earth, for everyone.

Just about anything can be substituted for the word “peace.” The point being, be the change you wish to see in the world. That’s a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. Former US Presided, Barack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Wow, we are the ones, we are the change. There’s no escape from the awesome responsibility that’s been entrusted to us, to help usher in whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

World Day of Social Justice

Don’t Miss This!
In 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared that, starting from the sixty-third session of the General Assembly, the 20th of February will be celebrated annually as the World Day of Social Justice.

On Sunday February 18th, at our 10:00 a.m. service, we will celebrate the World Day of Social Justice, and Mary Boyd, an Islander well known for her work in the field of Social Justice, will be our guest preacher.

Mary was invested into the Order of Canada in 2013. Her citation singled out “her contribution to the social justice movement, notably by introducing community-based initiatives to fight homelessness, poverty, and underemployment”. Mary continues to be quite active in all these areas.

We invite you to join us in our celebration, and to invite friends and/or family to come along.

About Mary Boyd
At our celebration of World Day of Social Justice our guest speaker will be well-known islander Mary Boyd. She is remarkable for her faith. She believes that if enough of us champion social justice, then poverty, and the infrastructures that perpetuate poverty, will crumble.

Born in West Lakeville, Nova Scotia, the fourth of ten children, Boyd was raised on a small farm and, thanks to her mother, a teacher, grew up well aware of the damage done by poverty. She pursued a BA in history at St. Francis Xavier University and studied the Antigonish Movement during a period when community, co-ops, and credit unions were economic buzzwords in the Maritimes. Boyd remembers that for her family, neighbours, and friends, “the whole social justice question was very much present.”

By 1965, Boyd was working at a YMCA in a black neighbourhood in Cincinnati. Already active in the civil rights movement, she leapt at the chance to participate in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. She will never forget hearing him speak: “I could hear the moans and groans of the people in that hall and it was as if they were unloading decades of oppression, of exploitation, of misery of all kinds, of having to endure being not only second-class citizens but just having very little because of the colour of their skin… to see the effect that man had on his people and how he raised their hopes, that was enough in itself to make anybody want to march.”

Boyd later spent six years as a lay missionary and teacher in West Africa before being appointed director of Social Action in the Diocese of Charlottetown—a post she held for twenty-two years. When funding for that job dried up in 1995, she founded the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice, relying on donations as she and her cohorts continued the fight for peace and against poverty, homelessness, low wages, and underemployment. Boyd takes no salary for this work, relying only on her pension. “I live close to the poverty line for sure,” she says. “It’s been a struggle.

Boyd has led protests (an arms manufacturer trying to set up shop on Prince Edward Island was sent packing, for example), addressed politicians in both Charlottetown and Ottawa, and railed against leaders who ignore the marginalized. “Poverty,” she laments, “is just not on the radar when governments are making decisions about budgets.” What Boyd has long advocated is an idea finally gaining traction: a living wage for every Canadian citizen and eradication of poverty through adequate social programs.

What drives Boyd is both compassion and common sense. “It would cost half as much to eradicate poverty,” she says, “as it costs to maintain poverty. I don’t know why [politicians] cannot see that. It costs an enormous amount to governments and society to have a situation with so much poverty—to say nothing of the human suffering of the person who is in poverty and can’t live life to the fullest.”

But Boyd remains an optimist. “Deep down in just about every human being,” she says, “is that desire to help one another and make the world a better place.” 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Love Your Enemies

Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” (Matthew 5:43-44)

Enemies came in many different forms for Jesus. The unclean spirits in the man who interrupts his teaching. The scribes who question who Jesus is: if he has authority over unclean spirits, perhaps he’s one himself. These are from today’s Gospel (Mk 1:21-28).

Jesus isn't going to waste time returning hatred with hatred. Instead he prays for and heals the man with unclean spirits. And from the cross he prays and seeks forgiveness for those who are crucifying him.

Jesus will, whether they want him to or not, love his enemies and pray for his persecutors.

When I was ten, I was visiting my grandparents in Pugwash. A boy in the village took decided he didn’t like me, so he punched me in the face. Despite the calls of the other boys for me to strike back, I couldn’t. I was much larger than this boy and I figured that I could win, but it hardly felt worth it. His disgrace loomed much larger than the welt on my face. If I’d known to, I would have prayed for him too, but, I didn’t. Today, I know to pray and I do, once and a while I pray for that boy, now a man. I know too that prayer is not enough.

The Sikh man who was treated so poorly in a Canadian Legion hasn’t, according to media reports, demanded the firing of those who accosted him, rather he hopes they learn something. Prayer and revenge don’t mix.

Therefore, I pray for the ignorant, the abuser, the enemy and for Donald Trump. But I am not so naïve as to think that pray alone solves the problem. Prayer, I hope, motivates me and others to make changes, so that the ignorant are taught, the abuser is stopped, the enemy is disarmed and Trump is changed.

And one more thing: I hope that all of us will realize that, at it’s core, a woman’s march is a people’s march. We are in this together.