Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Teresa and Borg

I recently finished reading No Greater Love by Mother Teresa (Novato, California: New World Library, 1989). This is the first book by M. Teresa I have read. She has been an inspiration to me through anecdotal quotes for years and I was excited to read a full length work by her hand.

A few quotes that really caught by attention...

“God will not ask you how many books you have read; how many miracles you have worked; He will ask you if you have done your best, for the love of Him. Can you in all sincerity say, “I have done my best”? Even if the best is failure, it must be our best, our utmost” (pp. 68-69).

What a humbling thought. What a concretely real sentiment. How many of us feel that because we have failed at something we have not been faithful? God’s blessing is on us when we do our utmost, period. Never measure your faithfulness by the signs of success as determined by this world.

Reflecting upon the heart of compassion, she writes...

“They say that the passion in Gethsemane was much greater than even the crucifixion. Because it was His heart, His soul that was being crucified, while on the cross, it was His body that was crucified” (p. 82).
Finally, my favourite response to the Q&A section at the end of the book...

Do you attempt to present any special religious message through your work?
Love has no other message but its own. Every day we try to live out Christ’s love in a very tangible way, in every one of our deeds. If we do any preaching, it is done with deeds, not with words. That is our witness to the Gospel” (p. 179).

That really sums up her book, and practical theology.

The other book I just finished was Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally by Marcus J. Borg (New York: HarperCollins, 2001).

I hope to facilitate a 10-week course this winter based on the book.

Borg writes the book for the majority of Christians I know...
“...most of whom are found in mainline churches, are less clear about how they do see the Bible than how they do not. They are strongly convinced that any parts of the Bible cannot be taken literally, either as historically factual or as expressing the will of God. Some people who reach this conclusion leave the church, of course. But many continue within the church and are seeking a way of seeing the Bible that moves beyond biblical literalism and makes persuasive and compelling sense” (p. 5).
He makes a clear stance, stating that...
“Being Christian...is not about believing in the Bible or about believing in Christianity. Rather, it is about a deepening relationship with the God to whom the Bible points, lived within the Christian tradition as a sacrament of the sacred” (p. 18).
I recommend this book for every Christian who seeks to live their faith with the Bible at the centre without the unacceptable consequences of biblical literalism.

Just a few thoughts I wanted to share.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jesus vs. the State

The Romans were not entirely mistaken in their decision to crucify Jesus.

We often try to paint a picture of Jesus who was a helpless and humble victim of a cruel dictatorship
- accused of blasphemy by his own religious leaders
- and accused of being a traitor and terrorist (to use a modern term) by the Romans.

We often have a picture in our minds of a gentle Jesus, meek and mild, who spoke softly and led quiet and peaceful retreats on the shores of Galilee.

This image is false and is contradicted by almost every story about Jesus in the Gospels.

∙ Jesus actively travelled around the region of Galilee, recruiting people to leave their homes and daily lives to follow him. He often travelled through the region with a group of twelve or more men, not including women and children.

∙ Jesus usually went straight to the synagogues when he entered a town and both challenged and insulted the religious authorities there.

∙ Jesus broke many of the traditional religious laws of the day and claimed that he and his disciples were above them.

∙ Jesus openly talked about the coming of a new kingdom in which he was to be the leader.

∙ Jesus eventually travelled to the Temple in Jerusalem where he violated the traditional practices there by overturning tables and brandishing a whip. He called the Temple leaders thieves and hypocrites. He even claimed the whole Temple would be torn down in three days.

∙ When Jesus was finally arrested and brought to trial, he denied none of the charges brought against him, especially the traitorous charge of claiming to be a king.

The Romans were not entirely mistaken in their decision to crucify Jesus.

In any state, there are two basic reasons to execute someone:

First, the person might be guilty of some terrible crime that has been deemed punishable by death.

This is most definitely not the case. Jesus may have been an active revolutionary leader, but there is no evidence (inside or outside the Scriptures) to suggest that he or any of his followers ever broke any Roman laws.

On this account Jesus was innocent.

The other reason for a government to execute someone is fear. Fear that the person in question poses a real threat to the future of the state.

- This still happens all over the world in dictatorships today. Thousands are murdered each year simply because they disagree with the leadership of the day.

On this account, the Romans, as well as the Jewish leadership, had been correct.

Jesus did pose a real threat.

Jesus challenged systems and authorities that helped the rich get richer and the poor remain poor.
- First last and last first.
- Rich have their reward.
- Blessed are the poor.

- This should alarm us as Canadians and residents of North America.

In just a recent report from the UN on Child Poverty this past week, it was reported that:
-About one in six Canadian children live in poverty - unchanged in a generation - and the situation may be getting worse;
-At almost 26 per cent, Canada also has one of the highest rates of obesity among children in developed countries;
-Infant mortality rates at five deaths per 1,000 have remained unchanged over the past five years despite falling rates elsewhere;
-Canada has one of the highest rates of children in state care and in youth detention centres compared with other industrialized nations;
-Mental illness among children has risen, with only 20 per cent getting treatment.

In another article this past week:
- Almost 25,000 women were turned away from shelters in Alberta alone last year.

The reality of our world is that:
- We in North America and other developed countries make up 20% of the world’s population, but control 80% of the world’s wealth.

This is frighteningly similar to the balance of wealth in the Roman world.

Jesus’ message of God’s love and desire for the justice and welfare of every person directly challenged the institutions of government and Temple, whose wealth and power were based on the unequal distribution of wealth.

The Romans were not entirely mistaken in their decision to crucify Jesus.

But there were wrong.

They were wrong about what was right.

They could not see that Jesus’ challenge to change and live out God’s love would create a better world, a more ‘just’ world - a kingdom of God as it were.

They would not accept that their way was not the way of God.

They were wrong on one other account.

They were wrong to think that Jesus’ execution was the end.

They did not anticipate the power of God bring truth out of error.

They did not anticipate the power of God bring righteousness out of sin.

They did not anticipate the power of God bring new life out of death.

The resurrected Jesus continues to speak the message of challenge and change and justice even today.

I wonder...

What would we as a North American society do with Jesus, Christ the King, if here appeared among us today, preaching the changes necessary to reveal the reign of God?

I wonder...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Irony of Ironies

Oh, the IRONY!

After this morning’s Blog I had decided to leave the whole ‘church-splintering’ issue alone unless someone commented on it, but after reading today’s update from Burlington I couldn’t resist!

From the entry reporting on Don Harvey’s “Charge” to the Network, I quote,

“Clarification on WO: To be clear, women have same status as men in the churches of the Network. We will respect differences of opinion.” (Emphasis emphatically mine!)


For a group that claims in every second sentence to be biblically-based, biblically-grounded, and biblically-founded, this must be quite a shock.

On the issue of the ordination of women, biblical disagreement is a matter of opinion, whereas on the issue of accepting homosexuality, it is a matter of schism.

Wow! At the very moment this new group asserts its identity, its ‘leader’ highlights the very reason why their claim to be biblically-grounded is meaningless. As with every bible-fundamentalist group, their claim to the absolute authority of Scripture only applies to the parts of Scripture which already reflect their point of view!

Sorry Don, it’s all or nothing at all.

Don’t worry folks, this will not be the end to the ‘concessions’ Network churches will have to make in order to remain in ‘communion’ with one another...

Oh the irony...

Splintered Ends

It’s happening. The Anglican Church of Canada is splitting....or maybe the better word is “splintering.”

When Don Harvey jumped ship a few days ago (to use a metaphor from the Essentials group) he poised himself to become the leader fo the “TRUE” Anglican Church in Canada. So far his new ‘ecclesial community’ has not had the great effect of a schism.

The only other Anglican bishop to follow so far is Bishop Malcolm Harding (a person for whom I have had much respect). But again, like Don, he is retired and can afford to make this bold gesture. (For a great reflection on Don Harvey’s ‘leaving the church,’ check out Kevin’s Blog from November 18th - “Elvis has left the building” - http://revykevy.spaces.live.com/)

In addition,

There was a claim that there were 400-500 individual members and 16 supporting parishes included in their blog yesterday, but those figures look like they’ve been carefully removed.

A good move for them, the sheer insignificance of their numbers would be of great consolation to the Church. Without listing any numbers, leaders like Don can suggest that this is more significant of an event that it really is.

Still included on their blog is the following:

“There are 52 million in the Anglican communion. Official number 77 million (lots of nominal CoE in that). Provinces that have sent greetings today total 12.5 million.” (Nov 22)

In logic this is called “an error of inclusion” just because a bishop (Primate or not) sends greetings (with support or not) to the Essentials gathering, this does not mean that the whole membership of their respective Dioceses or Province offer support!

Remember, there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics!

To be honest, the only troubling thing that seems to be happening in Burlington is the change in the symbolic theology being used to describe their purpose.

I again quote from their blog:

“Church planting. Not so much here about creating a lifeboat than it is about creating a fishing boat. Church planting should be a normal part as what we are about.

St Johns Richmond, planted from St Johns Shawnessey - took 30-40 key people from St Johns Shawnessy.” (Nov 22) (Emphasis mine.)

All along the PR for this group has been focussed on the image of a “lifeboat” - a safe place for people to go if they felt alienated from or by the ACC.

Now the truth is revealed (to no one’s surprise). The intent is to ‘take’ people from existing congregations and set up new ones.

Though at the end of the day I have little doubt that this event will become a footnote rather than a chapter in our Church’s history, I take exception to the clearly divisive and un-Christian plans of this splinter group.

Since this group likes to quote scripture, I would like to offer a little myself, from this coming Sunday’s readings.

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).

I am proud to remain a member of a church that respects the views of conservatives and liberals alike and seeks to maintain unity at all costs.

Shame on those, especially those who used to be bishops, who seek to splinter us at the fringes.

My friends, splinters are irritating, but that’s about all. I’m not losing any sleep.

If you wish to keep abreast of the goings-on in Burlington you can check out their blog at http://www.anglicanessentials.ca/wordpress/ Don’t expect much of interest. As I hinted above, the site is now being carefully monitored for content.

Every Blessing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Incarnation of the Reign of God

I am an Incarnation Christian.

God is en-fleshed, made real, in the lives of God’s people.

In engaging conversation, in a loving touch, in supportive presence, God is present.

For me, the Christian Year ends and begins in the same moment - in the Incarnation of the Reign of Christ. This coming Sunday is not the ‘end’ in the normal use of the word, but is truly the ‘end’ insofar as it is our purpose as a people of God.

It is our ‘end’ to see God’s reign manifest in the world!

May Blessings Abound.

In the Beginning

Keep watching, Incarnation is happening all around!