On the horizon:

Welcome to St. John, a small Lutheran Church that welcomes everybody. St. John has some exciting events planned for the next week. Read on to get the low-down, or check out our calendar.

March 26-Worship at 10am.  Everyone welcome.  In the afternoon at 4:45 we will meet at St Albans for Open Table.  St John is hosting for our second time this year.  It is a wonderful time serving students a free meal.

March 28-Mid-Week Lenten Service happens every Tuesday evening during Lent.  This is a simple yet ancient liturgy and the meditation is based on a Lenten devotion from LutheransConnect: a student ministry from the University of Toronto.  This year we are taking a journey across Canada through trails that were used long before we started using them.  It is a fascinating and educational journey.  If you can’t join us on Tuesday feel free to join online at: lcgatheredontheland.blogspot.ca

April 2-Worship at 10am.  Everyone welcome.  Remember it is Bread Sunday for Partage Vanier.

 

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“Open my eyes, so that I may see clearly.”

xeyegrid.png.pagespeed.ic.62F7J8WjkdPierre-Paul Thomas was born blind – indeed he was a lot like the blind man in our gospel story this morning.

He grew up in a family of nine brothers and sisters in a small town about 100 kilometres north of Montreal, in the 1940s. Mr. Thomas learned to see with his fingers. He repaired bikes, and worked in a bakery, kneading dough. But he lived in a grey world of shadows, walking with a white cane.

And then, a miracle. Continue reading

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“Jesus crumbles up the stereotype in front of everyone watching and tosses it down the well”

stereotypeBethany Blount had come into work early to interview a candidate for a new job at her tech company. As the story in the April edition of The Atlantic Monthly tells it, Bethany held a senior position with the company, and she sat down with the job applicant looking the part of a Silicon Valley tech manager – that is, a hoodie, jeans, and sneakers. But the interview went strangely: the young man looking for work was rude and dismissive. He’d seen her job title, she knew, and he had to know she would decide whether he moved on to the next level or not – still he acted like he couldn’t be bothered to speak with her.  Later, a vice president at the company said she’d had the same experience. For fun, Bethany sent in a junior staffer who needed practice reviewing applicants and happened to be a man, and you can guess what happened: Continue reading

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This Is What We Know!  This Is What We Learn!

Unknown.jpegThis what we know: Abdelkim Hassane was 41 years old, a father with three children, who worked for the provincial government. Khlaed Belkacemi was 60 – he had two children and taught at the University of Laval. Abounbaker Thabit was 44, a pharmacist. He had three children. Ibhahima Barry, who came to Canada from Guinea, had four children and worked for the health insurance board of Quebec. Mamadou Tanou Barry had two children, and was supporting his family back home in Africa. Azzeddine Soufiane was a grocer and a butcher. He had three children.

So this is what we learn: This week, 17 children lost their fathers, violently and suddenly. Their families are suddenly and irrevocably torn apart. Continue reading

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The Truth of the Gospel

stereotypes.jpgA Muslim woman is seen reading a book in Arabic on an airplane and detained by authorities. An African-American man is seen at the door of a middle-class neighborhood in New York; the police are called and he is arrested. In fact, neither of those stories is what it seemed. The African- American man was a professor; it was his house. He had mislaid his keys and was trying to get in. The woman on the airplane was Faizah Shaheen, a British psychotherapist, and one who works, in fact, to prevent the radicalization of youth in her country. The book she was reading was called Syria Speaks; it is collection of essays challenging the violence in Syria.

In neither of these cases were things as they seemed. Perceptions, racism, stereotypes – all combined to lead people away from seeing the truth. Our brain can’t help it: Continue reading

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Do not let hate hide in the shadows to whisper.

cxjgw_sxgaa1yibThis week, in Ottawa, in six separate incidents, a teenager spray- painted hate graffiti on a United Church, a Mosque, a Jewish prayer house, a Jewish community center, and two synagogues. The rabbi of the Machzikei Hadas Synagogue came to work in the morning and saw the message the vandals had wanted him to read. On a sign and the walls were racial slurs and the message “save the white race,” and the symbol of Nazi Germany. Places of worship have always been easy targets for these kinds of messages, and acts of anti-Semitism are more common in this country than we might think. But there is a message in this for all of us who live in community together. There is still hate in our midst and we cannot pretend that there isn’t.

Hoping for the best, however, is what humans do pretty well – if it means not having to do anything at all. When hope requires us to show faith for another person, that is where we tend to fall down. But how often has history shown the cost of so-called good people doing nothing, or waiting to see how it will turn out, or hoping for the best. Certainly, the “good” Germans of the 1930s learned this lesson: the intellectuals and academics and politicians who hoped that Hitler’s time in power would be short-lived, that he would sputter out, that he was too stupid to worry about – learned their lesson. And so did millions of people, in the most tragic way.

These days, I don’t know about you, but I feel unsettled and angry. This is 2016: we are a democratic, prosperous, multicultural society.  Haven’t we had moved past a time when, under the cloak of darkness, cowards are spray painting messages of hate and fear to scare people they don’t even know? And worse, why are they doing it in my name, as a white man? What is my culpability in that? Where is my place?

That’s a good question: particularly on a Sunday that clarifies for us, as Christians, the place of Jesus. On Christ the King Sunday, Jesus takes his place at the right hand of the throne of God. This Sunday is meant to re-establish our understanding of the divinity of Jesus. He is not just a carpenter who had a way with words. He is not just a painting that hangs on a wall. He is not just a martyr who sacrificed himself for what he believed in and for his followers. Christ is divine, a ruler above all rulers, who sits with God.

As we figure out our own place, that’s a pretty important understanding for us to have, as followers of Christ’s word. The gospel is not taken up lightly. When we claim to be followers, we are placing ourselves as servants in The Reign of Christ and all that this means. We are saying, quite clearly: this is my place, this is my station, this is where I choose to stand, awaiting instructions.

Those instructions are clear: there is no place in The Reign of Christ for intolerance and judgement, and there is not much room for servants willing to let it all happen and hope for the best. Jesus had hope, but he faced the truth: the worst parts of humanity, if fed well enough, can spread like a fire.  He spent his entire time on earth trying to put it out and trying to give others the strength and knowledge to do so. Jesus reached out to the vandals, and the victims, and the bystanders watching. And Jesus did it, again, and again, and again.

This week, someone asked me: but what can we do? We can, as our children have done this morning, send a message of solidarity, a sign to someone who has been horribly treated that they are not alone. It is not hard for us to do this: we can tweet it, email it, Facebook it. We can call out racism and violence when we hear it online and teach our children how to respond when they hear it. Do we block it? Do we hide from it? Is that what Jesus did? Jesus lived in the world as it existed, loved the best parts of it, and saw the worst. When we let hate hide in the shadows to whisper at those more likely to be susceptible to its messages, we give hate the upper hand.

What else can we do? We can give – our time and talent. Donate to Canadian Lutheran World Relief and the Ottawa Lutheran Refugee Sponsorship Committee if we truly believe that diversity is our strength, and that wealthy nations should help poorer ones. We can make our voices heard – not just negatively, but positively. As we Canadians watch what continues to happen in the United States, what are we saying to our own government about values we wish for our country? Put it in a letter, and send it to your MP.

What we should never do is hope for the best, hope for the problem to go away. Our place is not on the sidelines. Our place is in the middle, sent by the one who leads us, to spread the gospel.

If, as we celebrate today, Christ is the One who truly reigns in our lives, then our direction is clear.  Let us be that presence that reaches out to both the vandal and the victim.  Let us be a voice that speaks with an honest hope that faces truth.  And let us live lives for the sake of freedom and peace and love.

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In preparing them for the worst, Jesus was urging them to keep working for the best.

imagesSome one reminded me this week of a line from one of my father’s sermons. He may have even preached it here. It was a metaphor about boats, which is not surprising – he is always happy to talk about boats. He was describing the St. Lawrence River, and the tankers that plow down it on their way to deliver cargo. They make huge waves, tossing and turning the small boats around them. But however large a wake those tankers leave, the small boats stay afloat. The river is large, and it endures.

I imagine many may feel that this week, the river experienced a massive wake. Continue reading

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“I cannot live on the bank of the river and wash my hands with spittle.”

moroof 4Many years ago, two young, educated Syrians in Paris were discussing the plight of their country, and the spate of vandalism that was making headlines in France, perpetrated mostly by young men whose roots were not unlike theirs. Why does this happen, one of them, an artist, asked. The other quoted back this line: “I cannot live on the bank of the river and wash my hands with spittle.” Continue reading

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