Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Seeking the Divine

It was a wonderful surprise last Sunday afternoon, arriving at St. Paul’s Church and having nearly 100 people in the church looking for an opportunity to ring our bells to commemorate the 100 years since the signing of the armistice, ending World War 1.

I can’t help but wonder why: what brings people to the church for these occasions? I’m not one who usually thinks it’s helpful to be curious about what motivates people, because it often enough leads to judging people’s reasons. So, I didn’t ask, but many people told me so anyway. It might have been that they were curious about the bell tower, it might have been a desire to commemorate the importance of the armistice. Several people rang the bell in memory of a particular veteran that they knew personally or who was related to them.

I dare say that even though very few people actually said so, it was an opportunity to be with God. Perhaps some people, in some way, desired an encounter with God. There was no sermon on Sunday afternoon: no hymns, no coffee—just an opening prayer and people patiently lined up to ring the bell, as if they were on their way to receive communion.

Upon reflection perhaps this could be one more gift we can offer the wider community—a place for people, beyond ourselves, to encounter the divine.

A church that exists only for itself has a limited life expectancy, but one that lives for others has eternity on it’s side.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

South Paw, Grand Pa

The service records of all Canadian soldiers who served in World War I is available on-line. I accessed my grandfather’s records. One interesting thing for me was his signature. There were samples of his handwriting, both pre-war and post-war. The reason this was interesting to me is that he lost his right arm in France. He had to learn how to write with his left hand.

There are many stories about the various antic he got into throughout his life, but just one I want to share now. Amongst his various jobs was auctioneer. I doubt he was the fast-talking sort of auctioneer we’re all familiar with. I imagine he was the sort of auctioneer hired by the Sherriff’s to help with estate sales and foreclosures.  Once, as the story goes, he was looking through a house, getting ready for the next day’s sale, when he saw a violin case. In the case was a violin and peering inside he saw the word, “Stradivarius.” With his one arm and poor penmanship he stuffed the violin and case in the boot of his car.

Needless to say, it was not a Stradivarius. It wasn’t even a decent knockoff. It was just a cheap violin that someone labeled as a Stradivarius for a joke. It is still in our families’ possession, more for the story than anything else. My dad tried to have it restored, but there’s a hairline crack in it that cannot be repaired.

My grandfather remained a poor, one armed, not- Stradivarius owning veteran who seemed to find himself in many odd and interesting adventures every day. He shared many stories with me about his adventures in France during the War. Would he have preferred to remain in Canada? You bet he would have. No matter how interesting and funny he made the war seem, every step of the way he would have preferred peace. He is just one more reason for me to pray for peace and for our political leaders to work hard for peace.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

War is Ugly

For far more times than I care to count, I have sat beside the bed of a dying veteran of one of the world wars. Some of whom have shared freely of their experiences and some of whom remained silent, even unto that hour of death. What I have learned, most profoundly is that, war is ugly.

The red poppy was not chosen as a symbol of remembrance because of its beauty. It’s because it grew around the graves of soldiers killed in Europe during the world wars. The deep red colour of the poppy reminds us of the blood that poured from the wounds of people killed in battle.

We place a symbol of the poppy on our lapels, near our hearts, to remind ourselves of one essential fact, that war is ugly. The poppy in no way falsely glorifies war. Its intention is the exact opposite, it reminds us of the utter and complete horror of the violence perpetrated on soldiers and civilians in war. The poppy is a stark symbol of the need for us and our political leaders to do all in their power to achieve an everlasting peace.

It is therefore important for us to wear the poppy and to gather in remembrance events. We do so in honour of those who paid the supreme sacrifice in war. But make no mistake about it, the only real way to honour their sacrifice is to achieve peace. Anything less is our failure. There is nothing unpatriotic about a desire for peace. There is nothing that is unsupportive of our military when we hope for peace.

War is ugly. Peace is beautiful. Peace is our goal. Peace is our prayer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Loving and Giving

My dad was not a lazy person, in fact the old nursery rhyme that gave certain attributes to people depending on what day they were born supports the fact that he, “worked hard for a living.” I, on the other hand, was born on a Friday and the nursery rhyme for those so blessed, says that we are, “loving and giving.”

Try as I might, I could never quite win arguments that being born on a Friday was best. My parents, my dad too, were certainly encouraging of the idea that Friday’s child, in fact all people, should be loving and giving. But there seemed to be some sort of engrained idea that working hard was far better than all the days, except maybe Wednesday’s child who was, “full of woe.”

More often than I care to mention, I feel that I fail at living up to the rhyme’s view that I ought to be loving and giving. And besides, I don’t put much stock in suck things. What I do believe is that we can have a tremendous influence on the people around us.

For example, as a preacher I could dwell on our sin and need for repentance. It’s awfully easy to see the flaws in ourselves and others. Such a narrative destroys us. Neither should we be unrealistic, but there is an abundance of negativity in the world.

I therefore focus on the Good News of Jesus Christ, who has at the core of his story the understanding that we are worthy of God’s salvation. Why else would God send a Saviour, if we were worthless?

Let’s keep reminding ourselves that we are worthy of God’s love. And, once and a while, when the negative voices get too loud, it becomes necessary for us to say it to one another. “You are worthy of God’s love.”

There’s no shame, in a world that encourages widespread negativity, to be loving and giving. These are attributes we should encourage in one another, no matter what day we were bone on. “You are loving and giving.”