Markham Baptist Church

Articles on "Life"

THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNHEARD, AND THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE

posted Jun 1, 2020

Photo by Jeronimo Bernot

Martin Luther King Jr. called riots “the language of the unheard.” Waking up today, the news of riots in several major U.S. cities is a loud cry from those who have been unheard for generations. The murder of George Floyd, who died with his neck under the knee of a police officer, was the last straw for many. We should not be surprised by the expressions of frustration, pain, anger and rage. The unheard cry, the unheard scream, and then they react physically, just as would any child to a parent that is unresponsive to some genuine need of theirs.

The mayor of Atlanta Georgia, Keisha Lance Bottoms, an African American woman with a family of her own, said at a press gathering Friday that she feared for the safety of her children. “When I heard that violence was erupting in Atlanta, I said to my 18 year old son, “Where are you? I cannot protect you. Black boys shouldn’t be out today.” When I heard that, my heart sank. Friday morning, Prime Minister Trudeau said in Ottawa, that racism is not only an American problem, it is here too. We should not be surprised.

British philosopher, Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The murder of George Floyd and the emerging long needed conversations about race in North America that are being had is a reminder to all of us to challenge our social conditioning and how our own behaviour contributes to it.

Van Jones, an American political commentator, suggested in a recent interview, “When you call people out you lose your audience. The Mayor of Atlanta was calling them up. You could feel underneath the anger and rage, her love for her city.” Martin Luther King Jr. stated it in profound fashion: “I believe the unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Oh how we need these reminders today. Ultimate strength resides in selfless love for others. It is the message borne in the cross of Christ. Jesus did not sacrifice himself and suffer crucifixion to rescue those who match his view of a good person. He died for all of us – we, who cannot reach that height nor become that person without him.

We need to be more vocal in “calling people UP”, and in reminding one another of our true, deep and eternal value before God. Recall this tremendous declaration from the first chapter of Genesis – “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”. We can do more to search for, and uncover God’s Spirit, however buried it may seem to us in any person.

“[Everyone] must decide whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness,” said Martin Luther King Jr. “I’ve decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

In these times of confusion and conflict, let’s keep asking each other for help in sticking with love.

Pastor Craig

 


NOTHING TO DO WITH GOD’S WILL

posted Apr 22, 2020

Our hearts break with all those whose lives have been forever changed by the violent rampage in Nova Scotia this past weekend which took the life of at least 22 persons, including an RCMP officer, a teacher, a nurse, and a retired firefighter. What do we say in the face of such pain?

The inability to find ‘just the right words’ to say to those mourning is multiplied when the loss comes as the direct result of an act of violence. People want to be comforting and even ‘helpful’, so they reach into their toolbox for helpful things to say and, coming up short, some decide it is time to include God. In doing so, it is easy to say the wrong thing – not only because the timing may be off, but because there is little truth in what they share.

The Rev. William Sloane Coffin preached a sermon not long after the tragic death of his 24-year-old son Alex. “When a person dies, there are many things that can be said, and there is at least one thing that should never be said,” Reverend Coffin stated. What is that one thing? It is a statement I heard following the death of my wife, to cancer. It was said by good people who meant well. Yet the hurt was just as deep.

It happened for William Sloane Coffin. A woman was delivering quiches, to offer care and comfort to the grieving family. As she walked past the living room on her way to the kitchen, she looked his way and shook her head, saying sadly over her shoulder, “I just don’t understand the will of God.” Instantly, the heartbroken father was on his feet shouting after her, “I’ll say you don’t, lady!”

Here is what he told his congregation following that encounter:

“For some reason, nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of seemingly intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn’t go around this world with his fingers on triggers, his fists around knives, his hands on steering wheels. God is dead set against all unnatural deaths. And Christ spent an inordinate amount of time delivering people from paralysis, insanity, leprosy, and muteness. Which is not to say that there are no nature-caused deaths,…that are untimely and slow and pain-ridden, which for that reason raise unanswerable questions….The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is “It is the will of God.” Never do we know enough to say that. My own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Alex die; that when the waves closed over the sinking car, God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.”

Surely, God’s heart was the very first of all hearts to break this past Saturday and Sunday. God’s will had nothing to do with the unfathomable evil unleashed during those twelve hours. It was the result of the man who willfully took those lives. We need to leave God out of that.

A broken-hearted, yet deeply knowing William Sloane Coffin preached on: “The reality of grief is the absence of God — “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The reality of grief is the solitude of pain, the feeling that your heart is in pieces, your mind’s a blank, that “there is no joy the world can give like that it takes away.”  (Lord Byron).”

His sermon did not end there, nor is it where our Christian faith leaves any of us in the lengthy season of grief confronting our world today. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is the Psalmist’s question, to be sure, but at least — “My God, my God”!  Let us not overlook the relationship that, though strained and tested, invites us deeper and closer to our God. It is that relationship that is paramount. It is what we find in the Living Christ of Easter — the power of a relationship that never lets go of us, no matter what else may slip from our grip.

Coffin received many letters of condolence. One line in a letter from a friend helped him greatly: “Seek consolation in that love which never dies and find peace in the dazzling grace that always is.”  Is that not the meaning in Jesus’ words in Matthew 6? His statement there, to all of us, is an echo of Psalm 55:22, amplified through the empty tomb, reverberating through the centuries: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you”.  Is this not the reassuring, comforting truth we all live in when the unexpected or unexplainable happens?

Our human words can do so little; which is exactly why Jesus’ peace, and his Spirit breathed over his followers, are what bring the miracle of healing. “Peace, be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Pastor Craig


IN COMMUNITY

posted Mar 31, 2020

I know God loves the world, and all of us that by grace and by gravity walk on this great planet. And Jesus loves me, “this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I have read the scriptures telling of the ways Jesus’ love was unconditional. He loved the lost and rejected, the rich and the poor. He also loved those whose religion had handicapped their faith as much as physical blindness had handicapped the lives of others. Loving this varied lot of humanity, Jesus also healed many. People testified that it reached beyond an individual’s physical wellbeing. It was also deeply spiritual. “Your sins are forgiven you,” Jesus would say. “Your faith has made you well,” he said to another. “Do you want to be well?” he said to one whose struggle must have been obvious to all, yet none had taken the time or shown any interest in helping him get to the place of healing.

Here’s my question — what about all the others? What of the others who never saw Jesus; were never taken to Jesus; were never healed by Jesus? Surely there were others equally in need of healing. Were they simply left to continue life as best they could? No! Thank God there was this New Community, formed to live lives modelled after Jesus’ way of healing love.

In his book, Practicing the Way of Jesus, author, Mark Scandrette, in a chapter titled, “Experiments in Community,” offers an insight that sparked a thought I’d like to pass along.

“Life in community reveals who we really are. We bring our best and worst to our relationships with one another. Our sense of belonging is where we may feel the most wounded and where the gospel of Jesus offers us the greatest hope. Jesus modelled and promised a revolutionary way of love that could transform our relationships on every level.”

It is easy to feel overwhelmed right now, seeing the many in need who are beyond our ability to help. The essence of community is not limited by our gathered presence. It is furthered by our spirit of togetherness in seeking God’s presence no matter how distant we may be from one another geographically. Community is that sense of being for each other, no matter our different paths, knowing we are journeying together in a common hope, a shared prayer, a gathering of hearts. As a community of faith, gathered — and scattered — in Jesus’ name, our reach is incredible, as the Spirit of God partners with us in whatever we offer for his use and glory.

You are reaching people I may be unable to reach. Yet my prayers, and the prayers of others, offering strength, insight and peace to you, bring us together as a community of healing and hope. Those within your reach are being blessed right now, by your saving acts of compassion, prayer and kindness.

Let’s keep on lifting each other in prayer, as we do what we can do, and as we trust in God to provide the miracles and blessing.


When it hurts too much

posted Apr 11, 2018

Last Friday’s terrible crash at the intersection of two rural roads just northwest of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has caused many to ponder and pray, perhaps a little more frequently and a little more deeply than we might otherwise have done these days following Easter. The death of 16 young people, including coaches, players, support staff, and the driver of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus, has shocked and shaken many Canadians.

To spend much time focusing on the incredible loss of life is, for some, more than they can manage. This week, at our church Drop In for high school students, several walked past our sanctuary admitting the obvious – “its too painful to even think about”. These students are not any less caring than the rest of us; they are simply being honest about how closely tied together caring and pain are in our lives. To remain open to one is to invite the other. The choice is relatively simple. Either, protect yourself by investing less in caring for others and the pain in their lives, or practice your faith, investing even more than you feel capable of offering, to those who are hurting or struggling in life.

Read more …


The Truth of the Matter

posted Mar 6, 2012

“Evangelicals often preach that what the culture needs is absolute truth, but what the culture needs is a church that believes the truth so absolutely it actually lives it out.” 

This quote, from a recent church workshop I attended, on the theme “Looking Around,” rings true in terms of my own experience.  Fewer people, today, seem to be showing up at church, wanting to be told what is true, however, increasing numbers of people come wanting to learn how to truly live. Read more …