Saturday, November 30, 2013

HOPE WHEN THERE IS NONE

Some reject God simply on the basis of bad things happening to good people. If there is a loving God why is life so nasty for some? I think it’s best to let God answer the ‘why’ questions. My attempt might sound like I was defending the God who needs no defense. When we see intolerable suffering and grave injustice, where can the gospel take us? Is there a resolve that makes sense?

When you are faced with a horrible crisis, God wants to be present with you to reconcile all things. This is the story of how the disciples experienced it after Jesus had been put to death. They heard rumors that he had raised from the dead, but who could believe that? How could anyone have hoped for good to come from such injustice?


John 20:
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”


There is a model of God’s reconciliation that goes beyond the acknowledgment of injustice and reparations made. God’s plan of reconciliation extends outward from Jesus like perpetual ripples from a stone tossed in a pond. Reconciliation is bigger than a lifetime and secures future good.

We need to know that when we are faced with hopeless disaster. What can we learn about God’s ways in this story?


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I STILL REMEMBER (THE SINS OF MY YOUTH)

Like the Psalmist David, there are many who lament as they remember the sins of their youth (And let’s not forget the sins of last week.) Something internal tells us that God was not pleased with our selfish choices. 



We lament at the ways that we were weakened and scarred. We regret the hurts and disconnect that we caused.

Extend the lament to community and nation and our sorrows increase. For instance, how did our ancestors legitimize the genocidal practices and abuse toward the First Nations people? The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada[i] has been at work to find answers for the widespread abuse in the previous century’s residential schools sanctioned by the Churches.

Jesus is all about reconciliation. For all that is damaged and broken, God came to restore and set right. Even when the abusers were supposed to be God’s representatives, the gospel has power to judge and heal. That’s right—the gospel is also a message of judgment against all that’s wrong in us and in the world.

Still, our reconciliation with God is conditional on our willingness to be reconciled. In an age where we expect that a good set of personal rules will always keep us happy, safe and improving the gospel calls us to a greater good than personal well being. The gospel message says, ‘Nonsense! You cannot save yourself. You need God’s help to get over yourself. Humble yourself before God and let His Son save you.’ It is a reconciliation message that extends to the worst of our suffering and unanswerable dilemmas.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

I COULD LAUGH

One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Michael Roe. I’ve listened to his music for 30 years. I’ve long admired his confessional tone and word play. About his writing, he said,



"These songs are a forum where I dialogue with myself and with God. A lot of these are prayers, some of them are promises I'm making to myself, some of them are just wishful thinking. Oftentimes my songs tell on me, they indict me, they provoke me, they convict me." Roe adds, "We're only here for a short time, in this veil of tears...I hope my songs help people in general to realize what we have been given and how much is available to us." [i]

As a young man in my twenties, I was especially drawn to a blues song entitled ‘I Could Laugh’. It’s a lament in the vein of David’s ‘remember not the sins of my youth’.

(You can listen online at http://the77s.bandcamp.com/track/i-could-laugh )

I Could Laugh

Mama Don't Understand
She Wants To Hold My Hand Night And Day
She Don't Like My Clothes, They're Wearing Thin On Her Nerves
She Don't Like My Hair, My Glorious Crown Brings Her Down
She Won't Take Me Serious, Think I'll Join The Circus
Be A Clown

And They'll All Laugh, They'll All Laugh, They'll All Laugh
But It's Not Funny, No

I'm Restless
Wanna Bust Out Of My Skin
Got A Rocket In My Pocket
Got No Fuel, No Charted Course
Got No Direction
No, They Did Not Give Me Those In School
Yes, I've Been A Fool For Cool
But No Kind Of Hair, No Shoes, No Jacket’s
Gonna Help Me Hack It, Hack It
Hack It To Pieces, Man
I've Had It And You Can Have It

And They'll All Laugh, They'll All Laugh, They'll All Laugh
But It's Not Funny, No

Well, I Wonder What Will Get Me Off
So I Pick And Choose And Take
And In A Couple Years, You're Right
I'm Left With A Great Big Heartache
So Deep And Wide That No Matter What I Stuff Inside
It's Empty Just The Way It Came
It's A Crying Shame But All The Same

And They'll All Laugh, They'll All Laugh, They'll All Laugh
But It's Not Funny, No

Should I Recall All The People I Have Hurt Along The Way
And Should I Try To Justify Every Wrong I Did Not Right
But Two Wrongs Don't Make It Right
And So It Keeps Me Up At Night And I Lie Awake
And While Away The Meanwhile
And Meanwhile...... Meanwhile I Dwell
On The Baby That I Killed Or The Drink I Should Have Not Refilled
And Every Heart I Broke In Two And Left To Die
Bleeding On The Roadside
Or I Could Sit And Let My Eyes Fill With Mist
For Every Girl That I Should Not Have Kissed
And All The Broken Family Ties
The Loved Ones I Have Missed
Yes, I Have Mist In My Eyes
And So I Cry, But Why Should I, Should I

And They'll All Laugh, They'll All Laugh, They'll All Laugh
But It's Not Funny, No 

And Everything I've Got I'm Gonna Lose
Both Good And Bad Will Pass And What Next? 
What Lies Beyond The Broken Dreams And Shattered Mirrors
I Keep Looking In To Check My Luck Or Skill
But Only Pride Keeps Staring Back And Still I Laugh
Still I Laugh

And None Of This, Of Course, Will Stand
When I Stand Before The Man 
On That Great Day Of The Great Divide
When All The Kings And Queens Will Have Their Closets Emptied
And The Bones Will All Fall Out
'Dem Bones, 'Dem Bones, 'Dem Dry Bones Will Not Fail
Dead Men Will Tell Tales

And You Can Laugh
And I Can Laugh
And We Can Laugh
But It's Not Funny
[ii]






[ii] Michael Roe - © 1987 Fools Of The World, LTD. (ASCAP)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

HOMELESS AND SPIRITUAL

A recent study in England researched the spiritual and religious practices of people that are homeless. In many places, the homeless are viewed as the ‘unrighteous of community values’. They are the ones whom parents warn their children about and city officials want out of sight. Business owners shoo them away.



The parable of the lost sheep tells us that the concerned shepherd leaves the 99 righteous sheep to find and restore the 1 back to the flock. If the church in any community does not have a concern for the homeless, I question if they grasp what it means to be the flock of God.

For homeless people – both those with faith and those who are not conventionally religious but see themselves as spiritually curious – religious belief, practice and doctrines can help them come to terms with a past that is often characterized by profound emotional and material loss, enhance and give structure to the present where time hangs heavy for many, and create a purposeful future built on hope, fellowship, and sense of purpose.
Homeless people, however, are hardly ever asked about faith and spirituality by service providers, let alone encouraged to engage with their religion and attend places of worship if they have faith, or to explore and nurture spiritual insights and curiosities.[i]

Have you spoken to someone on the streets lately? Did you ask them about their beliefs, values and needs? We may not be able to solve all the problems, but we do need to consider how far Jesus will go when searching for the lost, homeless and displaced.

Sooner or later, most of us will experience a great loss, displacement or life-altering crisis. The Good Shepherd will be looking high and low to restore us back into the flock. Homeless sheep cry out.




[i] Carwyn Gravell, Lost And Found – Faith And Spirituality In The Lives Of Homeless People (Lemos & Crane 1994), p.5

Monday, November 18, 2013

HOW TO GET LOST

The parable of the lost sheep speaks to the challenge of living right. Personal righteousness was a central theme to Scribes and Pharisees. Lost sheep were those who did not follow the leader and stay with the flock. They disobeyed the rules of good sheep:


1.     Sheep need to listen to shepherd’s voice and follow
2.     Sheep have a communal flock instinct. Sheep that are ill might wander away

When someone distances him/herself from the faith community, it is usually for similar reasons. They have had poor leadership in their life or lacked respect for shepherds in general. Wanderers let the sickness of soul lead them away instead of letting a good shepherd restore them to health, bind their wounds or accommodate for their weakness.

So we may easily blame sheep for wandering away. But that is not the moral of the story. The heart of God searches for the wanderers and brings them home, fully aware that the sheep is sick, wounded or foolish. The Shepherd values every lamb and knows each weakness.

How is your connection to the Shepherd and the flock? I am deeply concerned when I see someone sidetracked by overpowering temptations. Addiction comes easy as the ultimate disconnect from community.

People will sometimes say that drugs or alcohol make them feel spiritual. The truth is that it is a mirage. Getting high is the opposite of fasting and prayer.

Have you drifted away? The Shepherd knows your nature and is searching for you. You are supposed to return home and not die alone in the wilderness.


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