Tuesday, 29 October 2013
This time of the year can be quite challenging for a person who believes in the pursuit of peace through nonviolence. The Lest We Forget and red poppies are everywhere. How does a person who holds a pacifist position hold true to their beliefs while not disrespecting the beliefs of others, and especially not disrespecting the memory of those who gave their lives in war?
Because I hold to a position of nonviolence in conflict resolution does not mean I should not be sensitive to those who do not hold that position. The remembrance of those who died while serving their country in war is an extremely sensitive issue. Many in our society would be highly critical of a person who might not be want to wear a poppy at this time of the year. It is often viewed as disrespectful and ungrateful towards those who died in service to their country.
If we are going to express a countercultural worldview regarding war, it is extremely important to do it in a manner that reflects why we hold that view. I happen to hold the nonviolent approach to peace because of the teachings of Jesus, especially the one where he tells us to love our enemies. I am not saying those who hold a worldview that supports the use of violence are all my enemies. However, I do want to say that the principle behind loving our enemies should encourage us to love all who might think differently than us, to love those whose principles might go against our own—and loving someone includes being sensitive to issues like this.
I can respect the choices soldiers made to go off to war to defend a principle they believed in enough to die for; however, I can do so without believing it is the choice Christians are called to make.
Choosing to wear a button that says To Remember is to Work for Peace is not disrespectful of other people’s beliefs. In fact, the tagline itself suggests that the intentions are indeed to respect the commitments of those who died in war. Sure, if we wear the button because we are looking to get into disrespectful and heated arguments at the wrong time and the wrong place than we are not really living out the principles we claim to hold dear.
However, if we wear the button because we firmly believe what it says and if we are willing to ensure that our conversations about a nonviolent approach to peace are respectful and sensitive then I encourage everyone to wear their buttons. We should not be dissuaded from our desire to be peace witnesses. A culture’s worldview cannot be changed if there are not witnesses to a counterculture within it.The nonviolent peace position is a minority worldview that is not understood by many. Let us be willing to be peace witnesses in peaceful ways.
Monday, 23 September 2013
During the four days from September 19th to 22nd, a unique experience took place in my home community of Stouffville. The inaugural Stouffville Peace Festival descended among a community whose history rises from the legacy of peace inspiring people.
Internationally renowned genocide expert, Gerry Caplan, expressed it well in his introductory address at the festival’s peace panel when he said,
“The idea of a peace festival is so novel and unusual that you have to shake your head and say, I don’t remember when the last one was. A peace festival is quite something.” View a great 6 minute video excerpt of The Peace Panel.
It is quite something because it is unique for a community to gather for even such a universally held value like peace. Who does not want peace? Yet, we do not find peace festivals popping up in communities around the world. Here’s hoping that this is the start of a universal trend.
When the festival’s steering committee met to imagine what might be accomplished we were quite clear that we were dreaming big, that we were dreaming much bigger than simply a group of historic peace churches getting together to promote peace among its closed church community.
You cannot put a dent in the violence of the world by thinking small. You have to think big. If you want to imagine peace, you have to think big—God big!
The outcome of our inaugural festival surpassed our expectations. The peace theme resonated well with the Stouffville community. The buzz at the play Commemorate!; the diverse spiritual experience of the labyrinth walk; being part of the Weekend of Music and Peace; the crowd and excitement at the peace plaque unveiling ceremony, highlighted by the release of peace doves; and then finally the wisdom and peace insights brought forward at The Peace Panel by panelists Gerry Caplan and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Izzeldin Abuelaish, as well as the superb panel moderator Dr. Jane Philpott, all played integral parts in establishing the festival as a genuine opportunity to unite in imagining peace.
During the course of the festival on several occasions non-church people commented about how great it was to see how we, as a Christian group, had made this event so open to a diversity of approaches to imagining peace. This of course was highlighted in our peace panel by the fact that one panelist was a Palestinian Muslim, the other a Canadian Jew, and complimented with a Christian moderator. In all cases, those making the comments were surprised. Much too often faith groups think that God only works through their faith group.
The challenge to peace in our world is much too important to God to simply rely on the limitations found within any one faith group. The limitation is not God’s; it is the individual faith groups’ limitations. Yes, God could attain world peace exclusively through Christians, but since we are not passionately responding to what he calls us to through the nonviolent peace teachings of Jesus, he is going to transcend the self-imposed limitations of one faith group. Otherwise, we would surely destroy each other.
Sunday, 8 September 2013
There are some amazing people in our midst and sometimes we do not know it. They are not doing super extraordinary things, at least not like the world seems to define it. They are not saving the world, making millions, or being nominated for any Nobel prizes. However, they are living lives that are amazing in ways that count in manners that many of us do not see.
I was so thrilled the other day when of these very people followed me on Twitter. I could not believe that this wonderful sweet grandmother was now on Twitter. Wow! I was beside myself. She is not a computer person. She doesn’t do email. When I spoke to her after church today, she asked me if I thought it was crazy, of course I said no. She told me she simply wants to help inspire people to love Jesus. Her granddaughter who is helping her told her that no one would follow her.
It is true. Not people would likely follow Connie. She is likely not to have mass appeal, and she may not come up with clever or witty tweets, and she many not make great social commentaries. However, what she will do is share her love for Jesus in a way that is genuine and true.
As she starts this adventure, she is simply going to tweet a proverb per day—that’s it. So, you might say why should I follow her. I say, because this is your opportunity to be connected to someone who has one of the most genuine and amazing relationships with God that I have ever met, and I have met many followers of Jesus.
You would never know that Connie is a senior. No offense intended to other seniors. She is an extremely active person in our congregation. She serves everywhere she can and does so with love. Whenever we need people to get involved in helping she’s there to help in whatever way she can. She visits people who are sick, she sows things for people, she makes meals for those in need. She helps out where there is a need, and she does all this while being an attentive wife, mother, and grandmother to her family.
I love having people like Connie in my community. She simply loves Jesus and wants to be obedient to what he calls all of us to do. I love being her pastor.
You should follow Connie because it will encourage her, but also, it will encourage you to receive her tweets because she is going to take the time to pray on their selection and she is going to deliver them with love in the name of Jesus.
Do it. Find her. @Loving_Grandma. Follow her. You’ll be glad you did.
Saturday, 7 September 2013
It is so easy for us to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of some of the global issues that need to be addressed in this world. We have poverty, AIDS, human slavery (yes, I said human slavery), environmental issues, and violent conflicts as we unfortunately find in Syria.
There are 1,978,894 registered refugees because of the Syrian conflict according the most recent United Nations Refugee Agency report—that’s registered refugees. There are no accurate estimates of unregistered refugees. In addition, there are 4 million internally displaced people in Syria. Not to mention the 100,000 people already dead.
What is happening in Syria right now has been described as the biggest humanitarian catastrophe of the twenty first century.
THIS IS HUGE.
If you are interested in learning more about how complicated this situation is you can watch this Serious in Syria episode of TVO’s The Agenda on YouTube. It is sobering to say the least to see how complicated this issue is and how challenging a nonviolent resolution is.
If you want a quick primer on Syria check out this New Republic article.
In the meantime, we wait to see what the powers that be are going to do. We sit back and are overwhelmed by our seeming inability to end this conflict or to help the millions of refugees.
We do not have to accept that we can’t do anything about this. Here’s what we can do:
· Do not accept that we cannot make a difference. Do not underestimate the power of one voice, of 10 voices, of 100 voices, of 1,000, of 1 million, of millions.
· Pray. Pray that global leaders will feel compelled to find nonviolent solutions to end this conflict. Here’s a great prayer by Brian D. McLaren you’ll find in Huffington Post. Do not underestimate the power of prayer.
· Stay informed, and help inform others.
· Advocate for a nonviolent resolution by contacting your member of parliament. Encourage them to offer aid and support to the nonviolent movements in the Syrian region. Let them know you support nonviolent solutions.
· Donate personally to humanitarian NGO’s (non-government organizations like World Vision, MCC, UNICEF, or Syrian Relief and Development.
· Organize a fundraiser, or encourage and support someone who already has one.
· Become a person of peace. Learn more about the ways of peace. Learn more about nonviolent resolutions to violence.
Our lives are filled with all sorts of choices. Every day most of us get to choose what role we play in this world.
Peace in any given region of the world is not resolved easily. We need to develop a mindset that pushes beyond the standard militaristic approach.We can choose to be people of peace. We all have the innate call to live in peace. I encourage you to think about our desire for peace. Think about the difference we can all make. If you pray, pray about it. You will be amazed at what comes your way.
Wednesday, 10 July 2013
There is a video circulating on Facebook which highlights the Calgary Stampede Committee's declaration that the name “Jesus” cannot appear in its parade because the name is offensive.
I am not going to get into the freedom of speech issue or the discrimination against Christianity here. Neither of those are what really strike me.
What strikes me is that we Christians have done such a bad job at living out the teachings of Jesus that our culture believes the name Jesus is offensive. I do not believe anyone would make such a decision simply based on a very small minority of people potentially being offended. A revolutionary message like Jesus’ will always offend some. However, for a community to believe that a large enough percentage of their community would likely be offended speaks volumes.
I find it highly unlikely that the names of Martin Luther King Jr. or Ghandi would be banned. These men lived out the peace teachings of Jesus to the nth degree and gained the world’s respect and reverance because of it. Yet, the name of the man who they based their nonviolent resistance on is banned.
What have Christians done that has created this extremely negative perception of Jesus’ name? I do not believe it is the person of Jesus that people object to; rather, it is the actions of the movement that apparently follows him.
I am not going to provide details of what Christians have done to create this situation. I feel quite comfortable that most people can come up with lots of examples of how Christians have distorted, and continue to distort, the way of Jesus.
Whose fault is it? Ours. Christians. Followers of Jesus.
It appears the public Christian response to the Calgary Stampede Committee’s decision is one of disgust with the decision itself. Very few seem to be asking what might we Christians have done to create this situation.
I pray that the negative perception we have created of Jesus can be overcome by a movement of his followers who choose to focus on overwhelming the world with grace, love, and acceptance of all.
I pray that our focus will not be so much about standing up for our freedom of speech, as much as it will be about wanting to fight for those that are homeless, those that live in poverty, and those that are marginalized.
I pray that we will choose to live with the hope and grace that Jesus brings to our world. I pray that because of the way we live people will not find the name of Jesus offensive.
Saturday, 8 June 2013
I have often struggled with the way the world rejects Christianity, historically and to this day. I ask myself why does the world not see beyond the sins of Christians and simply focus on Jesus. Surely, if they were to do that they would be able to step into a love and peace that is beyond their hopes and dreams.
Then it hit me. Maybe God is not going to allow mass acceptance of a movement that does not reflect the potential embedded within all his creation. Maybe God is waiting until we move beyond some of the ugly things we are doing.
Then I felt a little bit more at peace. What we need to do became a little bit clearer.
In fact, I want to say a thank you to the world. This rejection of Christianity should cause us as followers of Jesus to question why the world is not embracing the movement that apparently follows him. It should make us ask, “What are we doing wrong?”
Hey, I understand that not everyone, regardless of what they experience, is simply going to embrace Jesus. However, I also know that if we are willing to take a critical look at why Christianity is too often rejected by the world today, we might just gain a better understanding of what it really means to follow Jesus.
Therefore, I say, “Hey World, thank you for rejecting ugly Christianity.”
Thank you for rejecting a movement that has not lived up to the potential God intended. Thank you for rejecting the less than overwhelming love and peace that we bring to the world around us. Thank you for rejecting the less than sacrificial lifestyles we have chosen to live. Thank you for rejecting a movement that does not respond with dignity and love to those who have different views than them. Thank you for rejecting a movement that does not consistently love its enemies. Thank you for rejecting a movement that does not overflow with a determination to eradicate poverty, homelessness, violence, and the countless injustices against humanity. Thank you for rejecting a movement that does not embrace better care for all of God’s creation.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that Christians have not done anything to push back against the injustices of the world. We have, but to a limited extent. We have not done so in way that reflects the heart of God, or that reflects the potential of the almighty and powerful God we claim to believe in.
Perhaps when we, as followers of Jesus, start to live our lives with an intensity and passion that reflects the person of Jesus, then maybe the world will take notice, then perhaps the world might be willing to overlook our past and current shortcomings, and perhaps they will see the hope that Jesus offers to all of us.
I choose to believe that we can do this. Let all those who claim to follow Jesus live with a sense of clarity to their call to live Jesus focused other-centered lives that overwhelms the world with his peace, his joy, and his love.
Wednesday, 29 May 2013
The rumour out there is that Christians are called to share the good news, what they call the gospel. Apparently there’s all sorts of evidence for this in the Bible. There’s even something Christians call The Great Commission where Jesus himself makes this charge. Surely his followers would never ignore that call—right?
Hopefully, it is not that as Jesus’ followers we would ever want to intentionally ignore what he calls us to. I am convinced that most followers of Jesus would love to do nothing more than bring others to know Jesus, and to have them follow him. However, it seems like an almost impossible task because people outside our church walls generally don’t want to hear from us if we try and share our beliefs about Jesus.
Their perception of Christianity is very often a negative one. Even if they might have an interest in spirituality or God they’re often not attracted to Christianity because of the negative image they hold of it. Their ability to see Jesus is blurred by their view of the movements that apparently follows his teachings.
We may feel strongly that they judge us unfairly, that they see us in a negative light because of a small minority. Regardless, perception is reality. I’m using that cliché intentionally to highlight that to those who have that perception, it is indeed a reality for them.
So, what do we do? Do we simply move on and say it’s their choice to believe or not believe, to search for Jesus or not to? The easy choice is to move on. The choice that better reflects the heart of God is to pursue them—much like the shepherd would pursue that one lost sheep.
However, in order to do so we must remove the obstacle before us. There is no point in denying it. We have done, and continue to do things that do not reflect the heart or teachings of Jesus.
It is not necessary to go back to The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, or Christian support of slavery. We can look at events that happen today. We continue to judge those that are different from us. It is not uncommon for Christians to treat people from the LGBT community like they are subhuman. It is not uncommon to find Christians condemning the victims of a tragedy, like the Newtown shooting or even the more recent Oklahoma tornadoes, because they say it is God’s wrath in response to the sins of the victims or that community—that is shameful—yet comes from the mouths of Christian leaders.
Our call is not to pass judgment.
Getting back to the “So, what do we do?” from above.
How about we start by saying we’re sorry.
It may not seem like much, but the reality is that an apology is extremely disarming. It will not bring the desired results with every person we encounter. Many may scoff at our gesture, or doubt our sincerity, but the last time I checked there was a cost associated with being a follower of Christ—suffering—so suck it up.
If we can reach out to those around us with humility, if we can have a genuine desire to apologize for the hurts that Christians have caused, if we can sincerely desire to be accountable for our part in not living up to what Jesus calls us to, then perhaps we can begin to tear down some of the barriers that prevent some from knowing Jesus.
We should not pretend that an apology on its own will change the world. However, if we combine it with actually living out Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbours, to show grace and mercy, then perhaps we can start to live up to the potential of Jesus within us.
Here's a short video I made to help illustrate this concept of moving beyond the obstructed view:
Obstructed view--We're sorry.
Here's a short video I made to help illustrate this concept of moving beyond the obstructed view:
Obstructed view--We're sorry.
Friday, 4 January 2013
It’s been four months since I posted a blog entry, and I’m not going to write much today either. I’m not sure when I’ll get back to blogging. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, not blogging per say because I continue to follow various blogs, but rather my role in the conversation.Since my past blogs do continue to be read on a regular basis and my church’s website is still linked to the blog I merely want any readers who come here to know that I’m still alive, just not blogging right now.
I continue to try and figure out how I fit into God’s plan of grace and mercy. I continue to try and follow Jesus as best I can while loving those around me and those on the borderlands of faith.
Saturday, 11 August 2012
How often are we as frail imperfect human beings really willing to step up to a mirror and take a good hard look at ourselves? Whether it is to look at ourselves as individuals or as part of a group that we feel connected with. One of the reasons that Christians should not watch Blue Like Jazz is because they might just see something they do not like, and then have to make some tough decisions.
Apparently, there are many Christians that do not like Blue Like Jazz because of the negative picture it paints of the Christian subculture they are part of. Let’s be clear that director Steve Taylor does not hold back when bringing Donald Miller’s bestselling book to the screen—there`s no doubt about the image he portrays of the Christian subculture its protagonist is trying to escape and reject. Are there other more positive aspects to this subculture that get presented? Absolutely, but somehow some people seem to overlook those parts of the movie.
Blue Like Jazz is in part a commentary about how the world views Christians. Let`s not try and deny the existence of this negative view of Christianity that is pervasive in today’s world. And, at this point in time, I’m not going to talk about the good things about Christianity—we know they exist. Let’s focus on that negative image that the world sees of us. That perception is a reality. If the truth be told they have a lot of good reasons for this view, and today a lot of young people, like the main character in the movie, are running away from God or the Church because of what they see around them.
What the movie does so well is follow the story of a young man who is trying to escape from a world he is ashamed of. It’s not like he’s trying to take a good hard look in the mirror. He’s simply trying to run away and fit in with a world that will accept him. Does he make a bunch of mistakes? For sure, but ultimately he can’t escape what’s really eating away at him. He wants there to be more to life and God than what he’s experienced in his life.
Eventually this guy does decide to take a good hard look in the mirror, and he doesn’t like what he sees. He sees the role that he`s played in misrepresenting God, not intentionally but rather simply by not really slowing down enough to take a look at how he was living his life in response to Jesus` teachings.
Instead of continuing to run away he chooses to make some really tough choices. The choices he makes are the type of choices that God wants us all to make. I won`t say what happens at the end, but the final scene in the confessional booth is brilliant. We should all be so brave.
Ultimately I hope that Christians do choose to watch this movie, or read the book, and then choose to take a close look at how they`re responding to God. Click here to view the movie trailer.
We should all be asking ourselves if how we live represents the radical other centered biblical Jesus or does it merely represent an image we`ve created that is safe for us.
Saturday, 14 July 2012
I was driving home from my first MRI on this beautiful sunny Saturday morning and marveling at what we can do with modern science— it’s nothing serious, just a rotator cuff injury—hey it’s hard writing sermons. My MRI experience led me to think about all the knowledge that we have as humans and how little of it I possess. I was thinking of all we in North America have access to, and how lucky we are.
Then I saw it on the side of the road: a beautiful motorcycle for sale. It was calling out to me, but I drove by it and thought about how great it would be to own another motorcycle. I sold my last one back in 1988 to literally put a new roof on my house. I said to myself, I’m going to go back and take a picture of what temptation looks like to me. So, I did a U turn and pulled into the driveway, got out of my car and marveled at the beauty of this bike. I know that for people who don’t like motorcycles that likely sounds foolish—but to a rider, not so much.
She was a sweet looking ride. I was hoping from the street that it would have been a Harley, because then I would know for sure that it would be priced out of my league. But it was a Honda Shadow, which is exactly what I sold back in 88. I knocked on the door and asked what they were asking for the bike. He told me the price, but it was definitely still way more than I’d be willing to spend for a toy.
I say toy because that’s exactly what this would be for me. I don’t want to kid myself, and at $4,200 plus yearly insurance it’s way more than I’m willing to spend on a toy. That being said, don’t think for one moment I wasn’t tempted, and am still not tempted. I’d love to have that sweet bike. My problem is how do I justify spending $4,200 on a bike plus yearly insurance for a toy when people are starving, suffering because of lack of clean water, and when there are all sorts of other great causes I could put that money towards.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that as followers of Jesus we should never buy toys, or if anyone else has a motorcycle they’re bad Christians. If all we do is buy ourselves toys than it’s wrong. But to enjoy some of the things in life that are around us can be a good thing, especially if we can understand how it makes us better at being followers of Jesus. For me, I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t buy another bike, because it was MY line in the sand which helps me sacrifice for others. If as followers of Jesus we’re not willing to forgo and sacrifice for others we’re not really following him are we.
I’m not trying to sound better than others because I didn’t buy a bike, yet. I do have toys. I own a nice acoustic guitar, a great set of golf clubs, I have a great patio set, and I live in a nice house. Maybe, I haven’t sacrificed enough. It’s something I need to consider. We need to consider how we spend our money and how we’re contributing to help others. I really do want to live as simply as possible. We need to recognize our temptations and be willing to sacrifice; otherwise, who are we following.If you’re a follower of Jesus you should be able to recognize what temptation looks like for you, and mabye say no to it. The temptation to be selfish is different for each of us. For me, right now it’s that bike. Only you know what it is for you.