Faith Explorations

This page is for those who are seekers, a place to explore some of the depths and limits of our faith. Items posted here may be informational, inspirational or even infuriating! Whatever, we hope you will find them thought-provoking and of interest. We welcome contributions and comments. While not quite a blog, we hope this will become a page you return to time and time again. Contact the moderator of this page with your contributions and comments here.

Perfect Christianity

This is the rule of most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good. For nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for his neighbours.—John Chrysostom

For Churches, Being Political is about Being Faithful…

In a 2013 interview on CBC Radio, Senator Nicole Eaton said, “I don’t think that churches should take political stands. I think they should be more about helping people and giving people succour.”
      Her comments were made on the program As It Happens, during an interview about her Senate inquiry into foreign funding of Canadian charities. Since Eaton launched the inquiry in February, concerns have been raised about the chill being felt by charities that fear their charitable status will be threatened if they participate in public debates that challenge government policy.
      During the interview Eaton chose to single out The United Church of Canada as one she thought was involved in “political work.”
      “And so we are,” says the United Church’s Past Moderator, Mardi Tindal, in response to the Senator’s comments. “We are very political, as was Jesus—that’s why he was crucified.”
      Tindal adds, however, there is a very clear distinction between being political, meaning advocating for changes in public policy, and being partisan.
      “It is a distinction that is often misunderstood, but it is critical, especially when a member of the Canadian Senate suggests that it is inappropriate for churches to participate in shaping public policy.”
      Tindal notes it was the deep Christian faith of Tommy Douglas, a Baptist preacher, that drove him to champion universal health care with such passion. Similarly, faith motivated Nellie McClung in the struggle to win women the right to vote.
      “More recently, motivated by our faith, my church argued for equal marriage,” says Tindal. And, she adds, “Increasingly we work with other churches and faith communities on public policy issues—and we also help
people and give succour.”
      Tindal explains the United Church has been active in the public arena since its earliest days. “The founders of this church believed that ours is a living faith and witness to the ministry of Jesus Christ that is expressed in active, thoughtful involvement in society.”
      The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of The Canadian Council of Churches, agrees.
      “Canadian churches have always played a significant role in the arena of public policy debate and development,” says Hamilton. “Laws, policies and legislative initiatives embody important community decisions. Public dialogues, respectful civil advocacy and debate strengthen social cohesion.”  
      “Ultimately, public policy is about values and about working for the common good. The voices of all Canadians should be welcomed. When a government representative suggests that the voices of churches should be silent, that is a concern,” says Tindal.
     Mardi Tyndal’s interview on CBC’s As it Happens may be heard here.

An Evening Meditation

At a 2013 meeting of Wesley-Knox Council, Rev. David McKane offered this evening meditation by Roman Catholic scholar, author and poet John O’Donohue. The meditation is drawn from O’Donohue’s book, To Bless the Space Between Us.

What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How where my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself today to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today?
How deep did it impact?
Who saw me today?
What visitations did I have from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?

Lifecycle of Emergence

Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change. Instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change.—Wheatley and Frieze in MiniEmegent

Easter – George Herbert (1591–1633)

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
     The Sunne arising in the East,
     Though he give light, and th’ East perfume;
     If they should offer to contest with thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

This poem has been set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams as part of his Five Mystical Songs. LIsten here.

An Easter Prayer

Easter God,
persuade us that Easter
is not a once-upon-a-time story,
but rather a moment by moment leaning into,
a deep trust,
that your name and nature
is Resurrection.
This rising up
from the dead,
of life from matter,
and mind from life,
and a promised future
where we see nothing
but dead-ends and a darkened tomb,
is your modus operandi.
This is the only miracle,
that you are always rising up
in willing hearts and souls,
unafraid to hope,
and to be hope
for a world entranced
by despair.

This prayer was written by Bruce Sanguin for the 2012 Easter service at Canadian Memorial United Church, Vancouver. Bruce spoke at Wesley-Knox in June 2011. Visit Bruce’s website here.

Tzedakah – Giving in Judaism.

In our Christian context, charitable giving is usually a discretionary act based on compassion for those in need. In Judaism it more an act of social justice and an actual requirement of the faith. Of the eight forms of giving listed below, note that the most highly regarded is the one that helps a person to stand on his or her own.

There are eight degrees in the giving of tzedakah, each one higher than the one before:
    8. to give grudgingly, reluctantly, or with regret,
    7. to give less than we should, but with grace,
    6. to give what one should, but only after being asked,
    5. to give before one is asked,
    4. to give without knowing who will receive it, although the recipient knows the identity of the giver,
    3. to give without making known one’s identity,
    2. to give so neither the giver nor receiver knows the identity of the other,
    1. to help another to become self-supporting, by means of a gift, a loan, or by finding employment for the one in need.—Maimonides

Our Father/Abba

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
      Abba, may your name be respected among us.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
      May your reality be alive within us.
Give us this day our daily bread.
      Help us to focus on what is really important.
      Help us to affirm this each and every day.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
      Just as forgiveness of debt is your way of life, may it become ours too.
And deliver us from evil.
      And when we are carried into evil schemes, may we have the strength to say no.
For thine is the kingdom, power and glory, forever and ever. Amen

This unusual translation (words in red) is by Jesus scholar David Galston. An interesting note: The doxology, “For thine is the kingdom, etc.,” does not appear in the Bible. It first appears in a 1st- or early 2nd-century (scholars are divided on the date) document called the Didache—a set of instructions given to the earliest followers of Jesus. David Galston, an ordained United Church minister who serves as ecumenical chaplin at Brock University, St. Catharines, is a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar and leader of the Quest Centre for Religious Literacy in Hamilton, Ontario. Visit the Quest Centre here.