Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Question

Does the bible make promises that God doesn’t intend to keep?

That was my question on Monday evening as I read psalm 121 for a group of mourners who were visiting the site where a young man from the congregation was killed while crossing at the crosswalk. It was a psalm designated by our prayer book as appropriate for times of tragedy:

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; the Lord will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Nice message, eh? Comforting. This psalm is supposed to soothe the sorrowing heart, to give hope to those who suffer. But I couldn’t help but wonder why those promises didn’t apply to the young man who perished while walking home with his brother. Is God really our shield? Does God really keep our feet from being moved? Or do these promises apply to some and not to others? I'm not being sarcastic. I really want to know.

When I read this psalm to the crowd, the vibe I was getting back was: this means nothing to us. These are pretty words but they didn’t stop our friend, son, and brother from getting killed.

This is not an isolated case. One children’s gospel song finishes with the words: My God keeps me safe.

“Really?” I thought to myself upon hearing it. Does God really keep children safe? Does God keep Lebanese children from being blown up by Israeli bombs? Does God keep African children safe, the ones whose parents have died of AIDS and are abandoned to a lonely, painful death? Walking through the pediatric ward at the hospital, I wondered how a 5-year-old in the final stages of cancer hears that song.

So what does God promise? And does God always keep biblical promises? Or should we lower our expectations?

That’s my question for today.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who really lost?

Kinsella wrote:

August 16, 2006 - Like most Israelis, I don't think either side "won" the war. So, did anyone lose it?

Let's put it this way: Hezbollah wanted to continue to kill people with impunity. It won't get to do that, now.

Israel wanted to stop Hezbollah from firing hundreds of rockets at its citizens. And, like any nation, it wanted a safer and more secure future.

It got both. Soon, thousands upon thousands of UN soldiers will be stationed between Hezbollah and Israel. If Hezbollah (or Iran, or Syria) re-commences the firing of rockets, it will be attacking the international community, and not just Israel. The military counter-response will therefore come from the international community and Israel. Even Gilles Duceppe will be required to denounce Hezbollah, then.

Since 9/11, the world has become Israel, although a lot of the world doesn't fully know that, yet. The deployment of international soldiers to southern Lebanon will hasten the world's education, I think.

Unlike the wars of old, nobody "wins" the new wars. But I can tell you who lost this particular war - and it wasn't Israel.

I think the real losers in this fight were not the Hezbollah, but rather the hundreds of innocent children and other by-standers who were killed while Israel was defending itself.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sermon: Pentecost 10 - Year B

“Are you a Catholic priest?”

“No, I’m a Lutheran pastor,” I replied.

“Here, I think you need this,” he said, handing me a pamphlet, before quickly walking away.

I looked down and saw the title. “The Gift” and it told the story of a Catholic priest who“journeyed from darkness to light by reading the scriptures." It was Anti-Catholic religious bigotry.

It turned out this guy was worried that I didn’t have the “personal relationship with Jesus” that was required, I didn’t say the sinner’s prayer, I didn’t use the words that he thought I should. He was worried for my eternal destiny. Yet he couldn’t stop to tell me in person.

This was hit-and-run evangelism.

I would have found the experience funny if it weren’t so offensive. He was suggesting that Catholics and Lutherans weren’t Christians and were therefore condemned to eternal hell-fire, he was dismissing of traditional sacramental theology that has be taught in churches for two millennia, and rigorously defended the King James Bible as the only authentic word of God saying that any other translation was from the devil.

What really got my shorts in a bunch was the fact that this guy didn’t really care about me. I found his tactic – giving me a tract and running away – personally insulting. He didn’t know my name. He didn’t know what I believed. He didn’t know anything about me. He didn’t share good news with me. He threw his “good news” in my face then disappeared.

Contrast this with a friend I had in university. A long time ago, when I was in my third year undergrad I lived with a group of guys in a huge house in downtown Waterloo. We jokingly called the place “The Den of Iniquity” because of all the pizza boxes, weeks-old food, and dirty clothes strewn throughout the house. The place hadn’t seen the business end of a vacuum cleaner in years. One night, however, a housemate made the name a reality.

He met a woman in a bar one night and brought her home with him. He took her to his room and fed her rum and marijuana. When she passed out an hour later he sexually assaulted her, and then was going to drop her outside the door, on to the street, without her clothes or purse.

Me and another housemate intervened and…(read the whole thing here)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Harper Out of Context

If this is for real, this sucks. No, this transcends mere sucking. This is appalling. I am a vigorous defender of the marketplace of ideas, but this marketplace can only work when people engage the process with integrity.

Kudos to Stephen Taylor and the Blogging Tories for pointing this out. The only problem I have with this is the gratuitous CBC bashing at the end. Let the piece speak for itself

However, if the CBC has a bias against the Tories, it seems that Sun Media has a bias against anyone left of the conservatives. I’d find the outrage from Conservative supporters much more compelling if they cleaned up their own houses as well.

Thanks to Todd for pointing this out in the comments in the post below.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quote of the Day - Aug 2, 2006

"Most liberal people who are social conscious try to get middle class people to help the poor --and generally rely on great doses of guilt and massive amounts of information to make people realize that something is wrong," she explains. "It sort of works, but not for long. So most social action tends to be rather grim and guilty. What I'm trying to do is say there is a profound link between being grateful and doing justice, and a fundamental conversion of the way you see the world and other people."

Mary Jo Leddy. Read the whole article here.

It's so true it hurts.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gibson and the Jews

“The Jews are the cause of war!” So ranted St. Mel of the Passion.

So it looks like Mel Gibson is a wee bit of an anti-Semite.

Two years ago, the venerable old Christianity Today canonized Gibson as the new face of Christianity, citing his Old Catholic beliefs which informed his Passion of the Christ. So I thought it would be interesting to see what they had to say about Mel’s alcohol inspired anti-Jewish outburst.

Nothing. It wasn’t even on their radar screen.

However, it looks like ABC has decided to NOT to air his - ahem - Holocaust miniseries.

I usually couldn’t give a rat's behind about celebrity lives. But I was amazed by how many Christians saw him as a saviour of the church through the Passion movie (a movie which, btw, I found deeply moving and profoundly devotional, so it’s not as if I’m a knee-jerk liberal bent on destroying anything conservative).

It’s like some Christians are always looking for the new hero, the next big thing. And many of those folks see the world in black and white, good and bad, evil and virtuous. They either praise or condemn. And when someone like Mel falls, they remain silent, not knowing how to respond.

I don’t relish seeing folks get humiliated. I’ve said some pretty dumb stuff after indulging a touch too much of that glorious hop and barley creation. If I were Mel, I wouldn’t just apologize, I’d publicly repent. How about donating $50 000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center (my spell check corrected the word "Wiesenthal." How cool is that?)? Visiting a local synagogue? Meeting with Jewish community leaders?

We all do stupid things and we all hurt each other. We all have our prejudices. That’s why it’s important to pray for folk like Gibson as well as ourselves, that our hearts may be transformed to see the world as God sees it, a world both sinful and beautiful - a world worth dying for.

UPDATE: It took a while, but Christianity Today has a section on their weblog on the "Mel-tdown."