Like many over the last few weeks, I’ve been following with a mixture of interest, despair, anger, hopelessness, confusion, and weariness the latest round of conflict in Israel and Palestine. Like many, I have read countless articles and op-ed pieces trying to explain, advocate, condemn or make some kind of sense of a senseless situation. I have read impassioned justifications for the actions of Israelis and Palestinians. What would your nation do if it was surrounded by hostile nations dedicated to the elimination of your people?! What would you do if you were penned up and locked into a tiny space and deprived of dignity and brutalized at every turn?! I have read many words and words about words, but it all seems so futile, as I sit here on vacation, a world away from the unspeakable reality that so many are currently facing.
Words, words, words… And still the killing goes on. Read more
I often hear some version or other of the well-worn argument that faith in God is for the weak, the intellectually deficient, the cowardly, the lonely, the marginalized and disenfranchised, or those staring down the prospect of death and grasping at something—anything!—to make their pain more bearable. The healthy, the strong, the educated and influential, the sane—these are imagined to have no need for such supernatural aids. Religion is a crutch for those who can’t (or won’t) face life as it really is, in all of its starkness. Read more
In Jesus Christ God has promised to every human being a new horizon of possibilities— new life into which each of us is called to grow in our own way and ultimately a new world freed from all enmity, a world of love. To be a Christian means that new possibilities are defined by that promise, not by any past experience, however devastating.
— Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory
I have many conversations with people who find it difficult to believe or people who barely believe or people who want to believe but can’t or people who are embarrassed to believe or people who look down in condescension at those who believe or people who are just bewildered that anyone could believe in something like God or resurrection or hope or any kind of future that is radically dissimilar to the present. This is the shape of our life and imagination in the post-Christian west. Read more
I had many things to write about, all jostling for space in my head as I drove home from a mid-week theology conference near Calgary… Things like the nature of Scripture and interpretation and inspiration and violence and barbarism and inter-textuality and transposition… All these things and others milled about in my head during the two-hour drive south, eager for release, to find expression on the page, to be assembled into some kind of coherent whole.
But it’s funny how a single image or experience, even of the briefest kind, can reduce all of these things to ephemera…
The mind of a teenage boy is, I am discovering, a fearful and wonderful thing. Beautiful, strange, unpredictable, irrational, surprisingly generous, unspeakably kind, maddening… All within a few hours, sometimes. Yesterday, I bought my son new strings for his guitars as a few of the old ones had snapped. He came home from a youth event at 10:00 convinced that now was the time to re-string his guitars and not go to bed. His father disagreed and the stage was set for a rather unpleasant end to the day.
But the sun is in the habit of rising anew each day, full of promise and possibility.
There was this fight, you see, with all the wicked words dripping with sarcasm and spite, all the refusals to understand, all the tiny, incremental decisions to hurt and refusals to love in the ways that love actually matters. It was ugly, as fights tend to be, and it ended with the slamming of doors.
These closed doors, they speak so loudly and abrasively. They speak of hurt and stubbornness and ignorance and regret. They divide and they separate, closing us off from each other, ruling out possibility. They mock us as we stare blankly, angrily at them, willing them to open, wishing there was a rewind button, wishing words could be unsaid and actions could be undone. Read more
I sometimes think of strange things on the way to work. Today is April 8, 2014. Yesterday it was 20 degrees Celsius here in southern Alberta. This morning it is snowing. This seemed somehow wrong to me as I was driving down the highway this morning. Yesterday the window was open. Today the defrost is on and there is snow on the hood of my car. Yes, this is very wrong indeed.
As I was pondering the deep and mysterious wrongness of southern Alberta weather patterns, I began to wonder about other wrong things in our world. I began to wonder about how many things are said, each day, in our communities, cities, nations, and world, that are wrong. How many factual errors? How much sloppy and inaccurate reporting? How many people pronouncing upon things they know little about? How much of noisy chatter in Internet-land is simply misinformed and incorrect? How are we able to wade through all this wrongness and still function? Read more
The news is bad today. But then the news is so very often bad.
Where to begin? Violent conflicts in the Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic, and so many others grind wearily on, with all the predictable innocent pain and suffering that drags along in the wake of tired, old, struggles for power. A volcanic eruption in Indonesia displaces more than 100 000 people. There is political unrest in Egypt and Venezuela. There are the places that we need only name to know that there is bad news: Afghanistan. Iraq. North Korea. Iran. Haiti. And all of this bad news takes place while our eyes are mostly fixed upon a very expensive extravaganza for the rich at a resort on the Black Sea.
I did one good thing today. Only one.
I did some things inadequately and halfheartedly. I mechanically responded to email, returned phone calls, chipped away at the mountain of paper on my desk. I was often bored and listless, and struggled to corral my wandering mind. I yawned a lot, and looked out the window. Read more
“We do not know how to pray” (Romans 8:26). The whole uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth lies in this: that he knows how to pray, because he knows to whom he is speaking. His greatest miracle was not healing or walking on water or driving out devils, but teaching his followers to say our Father.
— Benjamin Myers, Salvation in My Pocket
This afternoon I did a bit of an inventory of recent encounters with the Lord’s Prayer. Read more
In order to relieve the tedium of trudging aimlessly around the house in a fog of sinus-clogged misery, I spent part of yesterday watching Mitch Miyagawa’s 2012 documentary, “Sorry State.” Miyagawa figures that his family might just be the most apologized-to family in history, at least when it comes to official government apologies. His Japanese father was apologized to by the Canadian government for being shipped off to southern Alberta during World War II. His Chinese step-father was apologized to in 2006 for the head tax in the early twentieth century. And, finally, his Cree step-mother was on the receiving end of PM Stephen Harper’s 2008 apology for government run residential schools. That’s a lot of apologizing. Read more
I spent part of this morning catching up on some reading on “leadership” for a conference call later in the day. I have a tough enough time convincing myself that I am a leader at the best of times, but the task is made even more difficult when I spend even a minimal amount of time reading articles peppered with words like “visionary” and “outcome analysis” and “dynamic action strategies.” But good leaders use (and understand) words like these, apparently. Leaders look and sound a certain way. That’s the way things work. Read more
Let’s see if you can follow the Thursday afternoon rabbit trail….
I spent part of this afternoon hearing the story of an Anglican minister who recently participated in the El Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. We talked about the nature of pilgrimages, about history and tradition and communion with saints who have gone before us, about silence and prayer and participating in something deep and wide and long…
Jesus is hard to find.
The words came from my son as I collapsed into my seat after delivering the sermon yesterday morning. It was about the last thing I wanted to hear near the end of a worship service that came at the end of an exhausting week. I’d been single parenting for the past few days (my wife was on Vancouver Island running a half-marathon), while trying to finish preparations for the Sunday service and dealing with a bunch of other issues that were taking far more time and energy than I had to give. About the last thing I wanted at this point in the week was a crisis of faith from my son. All I wanted to do was finish the service and stumble home to bed. Read more
I’ve written a fair amount here about Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the work being done to address our nation’s history of Indian Residential Schools. Most of this writing took place in or around a trip I took to Montreal last spring to attend one of the seven national events taking place across the country (see here, here, and here). Today, however, the TRC came much closer to home. For the past two days, the TRC has been holding hearings right here in Lethbridge, AB. So, this morning I trudged off to the local hotel armed with my notebook and a stiff cup of coffee, and prepared to hear more difficult stories.
Yesterday was World Communion Sunday, a day when all kinds of churches from all kinds of places celebrate the sacrifice of love that unites us rather than the myriad petty walls that we are so determined to erect between us. Walls like, oh I don’t know, who gets to participate in the Lord’s Supper? To pick one random example. Read more
Christians talk a lot about love. We talk about the love of God and about how God in some mysterious way is love. We talk about the duty to love one another, and about how it is in the loving of our neighbours—friends and enemies—that we demonstrate that we love God. Of course, we are far better at talking about love than we are at consistently living lives of love, but I suppose that’s to be expected given our theological convictions about the pervasiveness of sin in the world and in the human heart. Read more
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14)
I remember sitting in church listening to missionary reports as a kid. I remember all kinds of stories and images of people and places that my young small town prairie brain could barely get his head around. It all sounded so exotic. Barely comprehensible, even. I remember reading stories from one of our missionaries in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Stories of snakes and crude village huts and people who looked and sounded nothing like any people I had ever seen or heard—people with strange and (probably evil) beliefs that we were, thankfully, sending (white) people to correct. I doubt any of these missionary presentations and stories passed by without some reference to the passage in Romans quoted above. Read more