Often when people find out that I’m a pastor for the first time, they will gradually, at some point in the conversation, summon the requisite courage or boldness or curiosity to ask some version of the question, So what do you actually do all day? I will usually “um” and “ah” and “well, you see” for a while, before settling on things like sermons, worship preparation, writing, visiting folks, various administrative tasks, and whittling away at the ever-present mountain of email that is the bane of twenty-first century existence among the joyful privileges of participating in the Lord’s work. [Ahem] I don’t very often get to say things like, Well, this week, I’m actually spending a bit of time with an international journalist who is in town working on a story about our community’s responses to the Syrian refugee crisis. Like, roughly never. Read more
Posts from the ‘Jesus’ Category
When we think of the kingdom of God come near, we often think of Jesus’ acts of healing and deliverance and justice for the oppressed. We think of the deaf hearing, the mute speaking, the lame walking, the dead rising. We think of the powerful and the arrogant being brought down low and the lowly being raised up. When we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teaching, we’re used to Jesus arriving on the scene to declare that God’s kingdom is about all that is wrong in the world beginning to be made right.
We’re perhaps not as used to the kingdom of God being the announcement of party! Read more
I consumed two pieces of media before breakfast today. I was unable to sleep and stumbled downstairs ridiculously early for a day off with the kids on Christmas holidays. I plugged in the Christmas tree, made a pot of coffee, and settled into the wonderful pre-dawn stillness of the darkest day of the year. Read more
Sometimes, when I find it hard to pray, when faith, hope, and love are threatening to dry up, I zero in on a handful of desperate pleas from a handful of desperate people who come across Jesus in the gospels. A hated tax collector in the temple, for example. Have mercy on me, a sinner. A thoroughly befuddled Peter after Jesus had spoken strange words about “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood.” Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. A leper on a hillside. If you are willing, you can make me clean. A blind beggar on the road to Jericho. I want to see. Read more
The internet is a very interesting laboratory within which to observe the human animal. This is particularly true when bad things happen in our world. This is particularly true when it comes to really, really bad things—cataclysmic things that shake us to the core. Like a series of coordinated attacks in the city of Paris on a pleasant fall evening or a murderous rampage at a California Christmas party. When these bad things happen, a familiar move is often made, particularly online. People flood on to social media and make statements like: Real ____ would never do that! Read more
Confirmation bias: the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that the past few weeks have afforded you a few opportunities to observe humans behaving badly on the Internet. Maybe even more than a few. The Syrian refugee crisis has polarized people—particularly Christian people, sadly—in a way that few issues that I can recall have. Ever since, “the post” and the many unpleasant responses it generated, I have a rapidly expanding email folder full of often very kind messages from people around the world that often begin with something like, “I’ve been so discouraged lately by the things I’ve been reading about the refugee crisis online…” Read more
So, terror remains on everyone’s minds. Paris, of course. But also Beirut, Baghdad, Kenya, and the countless other less glamorous places in the world, places deemed unworthy of inspiring memes and hashtags or temporary profile pictures or any of the other ways that we express our compassion/outrage and brand ourselves appropriately during dark and fearful times.
This is the world we live in. Read more
We are bargain hunters, all of us. We make bargains with God, with reality or the cosmos or karma or whatever. We are convinced someone or something out there is keeping score, and that our lives are like a bet we are daily making that the things we do are somehow a reliable indicator of the things we will get. Read more
I’ve been paying attention to Germany lately. And not just because my wife happens to be there visiting dear friends of ours who live in Bavaria (my daily act of spiritual discipline this week has been to attempt to suppress the feelings of jealousy that regularly flare up as I think about her wandering the streets of Munich while I clean the cat’s litter box and make dinner…). I’m also paying attention to Germany because this is the nation that was and remains a focal point of the refugee crisis that took a dramatic turn in early September with the discovery of Alan Kurdi’s body on a Turkish beach. Read more
Hassan is short, slight, quiet. He says little as he approaches the counter at the soup kitchen. He’s wearing black pants, black hoodie, and a black hat pulled down over his ears. He smiles, almost shyly, as I give him his plate, but does not hold eye contact for long. He takes his food to a table where he sits, alone, and eats his lunch. Read more
I spent part of today listening to good stories. Our church hosted the AGM of MCC Alberta and, not surprisingly, much of the conversation throughout the day centered around the work that MCC is presently doing with the Syrian refugee crisis.
But we also heard stories of what MCC has done for other groups of people in other parts of the world. Saulo Padilla, an immigration educator with MCC USA shared of his own refugee journey from Guatemala to Canada, and the many twists and turns that his story has taken along the way. And he made one comment that has stuck with me throughout the day. Read more
In light of the (barely believable) response to my previous post, I thought I would throw up one more feeble attempt to clarify a few things. I continue to be astonished at both the volume and the content of responses this post has generated. It seems to me that many people have simply misunderstood what the post was trying to do. Perhaps the title was too inflammatory and put people instantly on the defensive. Perhaps I just found the “angry” corner of the Internet. I don’t know.
But, in an attempt to be as clear as I possibly can, here’s the “move” that the title—“I’m sorry, Christian, but you don’t get to make that move”—is referring to.
In sum, if you have no interest in Jesus or his teachings, then you can splash around the hysteria, the fear, and, all the anti-[insert threatening people group/category here] rhetoric you want.
I have a bone to pick with Christians this morning. Not all Christians. Not even the majority of Christians in my (limited) circles. Not by a long shot. No, my concern is with a smaller subset of Christians that tend to make a disproportionate amount of noise. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Christian people about the Syrian refugee crisis. I’ve observed a lot of reaction and response from Christian people online. And I’ve noticed some of these Christian brothers and sisters buying into the fear and the hysteria that attempts to convince us that we need to keep our nation’s doors resolutely closed to refugees from this part of the world. Read more
The news continues to be dominated by the Syrian refugee crisis. And, given our little church’s efforts (along with other churches and groups in our community) toward bringing a few families to Lethbridge, my time is increasingly being dominated by the same. I have found myself doing very odd things this week—things like speaking about our project on radio programs and being interviewed by television and newspaper reporters. Yesterday’s foray into the media world reminded me that there’s a reason why I prefer writing to speaking. You get a bit more time to think and measure your responses when you can hide behind a screen! Read more
It’s been quite a week. The photo. The frantically updating news stories, the backtracking when the facts turned out to be less factual than we hoped, the politicking, the mud-slinging, the blaming and shaming and holier-than-thou-ing. The frenzied recirculating of the same articles from the same sources by click happy, guilt-ridden technophiles. The endless liking and sharing that we reflexively do when we don’t know what else to do. The [shudder] piled up blog posts from anyone with an hour to kill and an opinion or two. Read more
I have a long list of tasks that require my attention this afternoon, but like many others no doubt, my mind keeps drifting back to an image of a little boy on a Turkish beach. A little boy who, along with his brother and mother and father set out on an unsteady boat toward an unsteady future. A little boy who, along with his brother and mother, never made it to his destination. It shouldn’t take a picture like this to move us all, I know. There are horrible things happening around the world every day. And the image of a little life cruelly cut short should never be used as click bait.
But that picture… Christ Almighty, that picture! Read more
Every day, it seems, the refugee crisis in Europe worsens. Every day, the headlines that jump out at me when I open my computer in the morning are grim and foreboding. Last week it was capsized boats and trucks on the side of the road. This morning, it’s a train station in Budapest where police are preventing thousands of migrants from boarding trains bound for Germany. And tomorrow? Next week, month, year? Who knows? Read more
Yesterday’s worship service at our church was based on the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery in John 8:2-11. It’s one of my favourite passages in all of Scripture (I reflected on it recently here). It’s one of those texts where you feel like the main task of preaching is to simply say as little as possible by way of “explanation,” to simply get out of the way and let Mercy do its work. The story is the sermon. It is a concrete embodiment of Jesus’ words elsewhere in the gospels (borrowed from the prophet Hosea), “Go and learn what this means. I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13).
So, yesterday my words about the passage itself were relatively few. I did, however, attempt something of a remix of the story as an invitation to the communion table later in the service. A number of people have since asked about this, so I thought I would throw it up a lightly edited version of it here. Read more