Saturday, November 19, 2011

Justce vs. grace

I keep being reminded of the grace of God. The incredible, scandalous grace of God.
And then I hear a news story like the one I heard this morning. Here in BC, limited government budgets made Community Living BC close down several group homes for the developmentally disabled, and rearrange the care of needy individuals to a less costly model. Some of the people moved were forced to do so against their or their families will. And hundreds more who need help are still waiting.

And so, my ungracious little mind remembers one of the reasons we have financial issues here in BC.
Former Premier Gordon Campbell’s ‘legacy’—the 2010 Winter Olympics. Billions spent. And now it seems we are reaping the ‘benefits’.

Oh, I know you never have enough money to do everything that should be done.
And there are other great ways that money has been wasted.
And in some ways, the Olympics may have had some benefit. (Here are some of the reasons I didn’t support them.)
But as I think about justice, equality, fairness—all of those qualities that we are told are part of God’s character, and that we are to imitate—then I start being ungracious.
I start thinking of ways of bringing guys like Mr. Campbell to justice (or at least vengeance).
I’m not able to balance justice and grace, at least not in the same breath.

But God…
Somehow God is able to be Gracious,
and Just.
At the same time.
To the same person.
To me, and to you.
And even to guys like Mr. Campbell.

That is today’s mystery.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

For such a time as this

This phrase, and the related story from the OT book of Esther has probably fueled many passionate sermons.
“This is your moment to shine!”
“This is our time to take back our nation!”

I don’t know that it needs to be particularly apocalyptic, but I think these are very intriguing times in which to live.
I’m old enough to think about life before _______. Life before computers. Life before instant communication. Life before the world had shrunk to a global village.
And when I think of the ‘before’, I am usually grateful to be living in the ‘after’. Sure, life was simpler a few centuries ago, or even a few decades ago. Back in Norman Rockwell’s time.
But as we look at the incredible happenings of the past few months, as the people of nation after nation start regaining control of their societies, it’s an exhilarating time in which to live.
It’s tempting to be a spectator. To watch the news, maybe even drive by the nearest ‘Occupy’ settlement, and then go back to your suburban ranch house and wonder where it will all end.
Well, we have the opportunity to determine where it will end, or at least what the next steps will be.
We can choose to open our eyes and ears to the grassroots movement for change. And we can do some of our own research (thanks to the internet!). And we can decide to get involved.
As a follower of Christ, you can even look at it all through a scriptural, spiritual lens. And you may be shocked to discover that much of the cry from the faceless masses resonates wonderfully with what the OT prophets cried out for. With what Jesus castigated the Pharisees about. What some of the saints through the ages have worked for.
  • Justice.
  • Equality.
  • Human rights.
  • Our natural world.
  • Compassion instead of greed.
  • Sharing instead of hoarding.
Our local Occupy movement recently posted a “living, breathing document that can, should and must be amended through dialogue and debate” that contained the following paragraph:
“The establishment of a long-term democratic assembly in Centennial Square has underlined for us the necessity of addressing the pressing needs of many who have joined us: the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the mentally ill and those struggling with addiction in our city and beyond. We have been reminded that these brothers and sisters of ours are some of the most deeply affected by economic and social injustice.”
Now that is something that Jesus would have supported wholeheartedly. And something that strikes a chord in my own heart.
And that is by no means the only part of the document that should be preached from your nearest pulpit.

So, to not be a spectator pretty much demands that I become a participant.
  • That I get off the fence.
  • That I stick my neck out.
  • That I open my mouth. (Or post on my blog.)
  • That I tip over the odd apple cart (or table of a money changer. Matt 21:12)
  • That I become willing to face the disagreement of those who aren’t yet ready to join me, or haven’t yet ‘seen the light’ that I believe I have seen.

Now this ‘such a time as this’ find itself at the altar of a wide variety of sacred cows—and some of them are very, very sacred (and scared).
Some have grazed on our land for generations, even centuries.
But it is time that they fought for their right to own the pasture—or land on my barbecue.
Theologians and thinkers from almost every stripe of the rainbow are skewering left and right. In fact, they come from left, right, and center, Catholic and Protestant, conservative and liberal, or whatever other spectrum you use.
And they aren’t doing it to erase the thought of God, or to minimize God’s influence in the world. Rather, they are pushing us to give God his due, to release God from whatever box you have tried to nail him into (including God’s gender). They are reminding us that Jesus taught us to love our brother—so it’s time we started doing just that.
It truly is a wonderful time in which to live, if you are willing to reassess your own life.
Many people have been feeling nudged to ask questions. Their satisfaction with the answers they were taught is turning into honest doubt.
Not that they are about to abandon ship, but when you finally recognize the sound deep beneath the deck you are standing on is the creaking and groaning of a ship in distress—then it is time to consider your options.
I’m so glad I was nudged (fairly gently) into discovering the underground world of life on the street. A few years back I discovered that not everyone lived in a traditional existence with job, house, family, etc. Through my experiences with CARTS, the Rainbow Kitchen, Occupy Victoria, and other connections, I am realizing that this is another ‘for such a time as this’ moment in my life.

How about you?
‘For such a time as this’ you were brought into this world. (You could have been born a thousand years ago.)
‘For such a time as this’ you are fortunate enough to live in this country—and to use that good fortune to bless others. (You could have been born in a third-world country).
‘For such a time as this’ you were nudged to look outside the box.
‘For such a time as this’ you have been invited to join the present, living, breathing kingdom of God.
‘For such a time as this’ you can take your place… or stay where you are.
“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14.

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