Markham Baptist Church

In the Name of Religion is not “In Jesus’ Name”

posted Jun 12, 2021

Our hearts break at the loss of life and pain, following last Sunday’s violent act of hate which killed a London family. Islamophobia seems to have motivated the driver. That this would happen to anyone is deeply tragic. The experience is made that much more horrific as news reports circulate describing the perpetrator as being from a family that is very “devote in their Christian faith.” I’m not blaming the parents for the actions of the son, however, I am asking what happened? What happened that would cause someone, purportedly a follower of the Prince of Peace, to act with such hate and violence toward other human beings?

How does it make us feel when a person’s religion is considered among the contributing factors to a hate crime?

This story is jarring for me. I have spent the major part of my life inviting people to learn more about Jesus and his ways, and ultimately to follow him as he continues to teach us the truth about the Kingdom of God. Church has always been a part of that journey for me, sitting together, listening to scripture and to one another, sharing our lives as fellow strugglers in the faith.

Yet this rocks me to the core! Not because I never thought it could happen, but because it seems to be happening all too often. “Bible believing” “good Christians” are in the news, not for the compassion we hope we show the world, but for expressions of hate toward individuals and judgments toward various segments of society.

Religion has added to the divisions that are tearing apart our humanity, rather than being the healing agent our Christian faith is meant to be.

The church should never be a participant in the whispering of insults, or the shouting of racial slurs in public toward anyone! And yet there are some who claim their faith calls forth such ugly acts of cruelty and division, towards Blacks and Asians, persons in the LGBTQ community and its allies, persons with mobility challenges and those up front about their mental health, and other needs.

The golden rule, the beatitudes, the prayer of our Lord for every one of his followers, the witness of Jesus before Pilate, the commissioning of Peter, the call of Paul, the acceptance of the Samaritan woman, Jesus’ healing of those deemed possessed by demons, David’s public confessions of sin, and his songs of praise for God’s deliverance, the kindness shown by a Samaritan toward his ‘enemy’, Jesus welcome of Levi and acceptance of hospitality from known ‘sinners’, Jesus’ gratitude for acts of kindness shown to him by those the religious folk ridiculed and rejected.

At no time are we taught to hate, ridicule, diminish or devalue another human being. Watching and listening to Jesus, we learn how to love, welcome, embrace, encourage, lift up, hold up, and rejoice in each other’s gifts, and the gift every person is to this world and God. Because they, like us, are made in the image of God.

If you feel a church has ever given you reason to hurt, hate or think less of anyone no matter what that reason, hear me — it wasn’t Christ’s Church, it wasn’t behaving like it, it wasn’t modelling the way of Jesus.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favour: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honoured him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honour of God the Father.”  (Philippians 2:1-11)


Pastor Craig


posted Jan 18, 2021

One of the experiences described in Barak Obama’s latest book, “A Promised Land”, is his and Michelle’s visit to India and the impact of seeing where Mahatma Gandhi had lived before his death in 1948. His teachings and profound belief in non-violent resistance continue to inspire countless citizens and leaders today around the globe. His insistence of our “common humanity” is foundational to any free society. Gandhi’s hope of unity among all peoples despite differences in cast, religion and culture has not, unfortunately, become reality in India, nor in many other places.

Leading up to Wednesday’s presidential inauguration in the United States, we are seeing less of this recognition and celebration of unity among peoples of differing backgrounds, and far more images of violence, caused by hate and extremist views about differences, as  thousands of national guard troops are posted around the capitol in fear that those bent on hate might cause further disruption, damage and even death. How far away we are from Gandhi’s beliefs and teachings.

While walking through Mahatma Gandhi’s private quarters, Barak Obama writes about some of the things that struck him most — how simple the space is; the spartan floor bed, the spinning wheels and a low wooden writing desk. Reflecting on what he saw, Obama writes, “I had the strongest wish to sit beside him and talk, to ask him where he’d found the strength and imagination to do so much with so little. To ask how he recovered from disappointment.”

I’m writing this on Monday, January 18th, two days before a new U.S. president is sworn into office, and a day commemorating Martin Luther King Jr..  Dr. King was profoundly influenced by Gandhi’s teachings. Remembering Gandhi’s insistence on one common humanity, Martin Luther King Jr. would later write, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” In another speech, Dr.King would call those listening to action saying, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. ”

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are not to follow the actions or ideals of those who wish to diminish the life of anyone. We are those who lift up the values of the Kingdom of God, to bless the poor and those who mourn, to side with the meek and the merciful, and all who hunger and thirst for righteousness – the kind God alone makes possible. Christ followers are not led by individual interests but are engaged in the cause of peace, enduring persecution as Sons and Daughters of God.  (Matthew 5)

I wish times were easier for all of us, but in these difficult times, the Church of Christ is being given a moment in which to be visible, not only proclaiming the words of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, but fulfilling his teachings, as God’s beloved children.

May we each of us be given the strength and courage to be true to the one who calls us to live our faith, and to be the light in the darkness of this world, today.


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



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


posted Apr 12, 2020

What is your image of Jesus this Easter? What do you most notice about his appearance? On a cover of a church pamphlet, printed by a denominational publisher for Easter worship, was an image of the resurrected Jesus. Jesus was standing before Mary Magdalene in the garden with his hands outstretched in triumph. He was risen. David Buttrick, in his book, The Mystery and the Passion, tells the story of how a church janitor, having taken just one glance at the image, saw the trouble immediately: “No nail holes,” he said. He was glorious, but not the crucified Christ.

The risen Christ is the crucified Christ. In Luke 24:39, the very first thing Jesus says, as he stands among his disciples is “Look at my hands and my feet.” Buttrick, writes, “The Jesus who was put down by the human world, God has raised up to be Lord of lords. But, raised up, the nail scars still define Christ’s character.” Jesus Christ, who was put to death, is Lord of life.

The Christian message is not a denial of death, or pain and suffering. We are mortal and death is real. Quite the opposite of Easter denying death, Easter boldly preaches it: “They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again” (Mark 10:34).  If anything, Jesus teaches us how real and prevalent suffering is in the world. Jesus advocated for the poor and the suffering, and those who were the most vulnerable of his day. He suffered on our behalf, for our sin.

“The resurrection is not therapy for our death fears” says David Buttrick, “No, instead, [Easter] resurrection is a witness to the power of God-love that gives life in the midst of a deadly world.” I’m drawn to those four words in the middle of that last sentence, “in-the-midst-of”. That is after all the proof of both our humanity, and our greatest hope as people of faith. We live in the profound truth and power of Christ’s resurrection, and we live it, daily, in the midst of what would otherwise — without his nail printed hands and resurrected life — surely be our undoing.

Terrible things, throughout time, have happened in our world. Horrible things have happened to people, throughout history, as well as to those we know and love. But the character of Christ then and now, is that his rising takes place with hands scared by the nails that had been driven through them on the cross. He knows our suffering, in our time. He understands our pain. And he has overcome death, that we too might live. Easter gives Life in the midst of whatever we are going through at the time, or will go through in the future. “…thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

My picture of Jesus includes the nail holes. It is this Easter picture of the risen Christ that gives me hope. We will get through this. Here’s why: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears” (Philippians 1:6).

This is how I choose to live through this moment in history, and in-the-midst-of this global pandemic. I choose to live in possibility; and I choose to live in the promise of God, and without the slightest doubt that God’s Spirit is actively working to bring about “a flourishing finish”. I can’t wait to see what that will look like. For now, all I can do is my part, and experience progress and joy in the faith that Christ has given me.