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.

February 19-Worship at 10am.  Don’t forget to bring your non-perishable food items for Partage Vanier.

February 21-Worship Service will be held at the Garry J Armstrong Long Term Care Home, 200 Island Lodge Road, 10:30am with residents and their families.  Pastor Joel Crouse presiding.  Everyone is welcome.

February 25-You are invited to a film night/pot-luck supper at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 400 Sparks St.  The Wisdom to Survive is a documentary film examining “the challenges that climate change poses”  Come out and enjoy some education and fellowship.

February 26-The Danish Club of Ottawa will meet in Ebinger Memorial Hall at 12:30pm

March 1-Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.  Lent begins with a solemn call to fasting and repentance as we begin our journey to the baptismal waters of Easter.  During Lent the people of God will reflect on the meaning of their baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. The sign of ashes suggests our human mortality and frailty. What seems like an ending is really an invitation to make each day a new beginning, in which we are washed in God’s mercy and forgiveness. With the cross on our brow, we long for the spiritual renewal that flows from the springtime Easter feast to come.  Join us at 7:30pm

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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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Wisdom Is Often Left Standing at the Gate


UnknownThis week, we were all treated to an act in the House of Commons that Green Party leader Elizabeth May accurately deemed to be “unwise.” Irritated by voting delays in the house around the country’s controversial and landmark assisted dying legislation, our Prime Minister marched across the floor, where a group of NDP MPs were crowding around the Opposition Whip, reached his arm past them to grab the Whip and pull him through. In the process, he jostled – or elbowed – depending, it seems on your politics, a female NDP MP, who left the house and missed the vote. Shouting ensued. Angry debate followed. The Prime Minister apologized but was told, sternly, by the Speaker that “manhandling” fellow members of the House was not allowed. It was unprecedented. Continue reading

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It Is Miraculous!

This week the villagers of Galai are putting on the roof of a school that St John has been financing.  For over 5 years we have been working towards this goal.  it is wonderful to see the people so excited about this new beginning for their people.  It is their school.  Their land.  Their future.  We are grateful to be a part of their journey to freedom and new life.
eric visit galai 4eric visit galai 5

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