LENT 2 – A Word from Pastor Craig
LENT 1 – A Word from Pastor Craig
In the Name of Religion is not “In Jesus’ Name”
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)
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.