love, knowledge, idols — priorities!

Many years ago now I visited Becky in The Gambia, West Africa. She was there working as a nurse and nurse tutor, and I was there for a short vacation over the Christmas holidays.

One of the experiences I remember from those 4 weeks in The Gambia was attending a church service in the village of Jarrol. This was a village just a few kilometers upcountry from where Becky was living and working. And it was a very small church – there were only 6 of us there that Sunday morning. Along with Becky and me there were two other health care workers (Australian midwives) – there was a young Christian man who was serving in the Gambian army – and there was the village chief, who was a Muslim. That Sunday I was asked to preach, which I did, and the young Gambian man translated my words into the Mandika language for the chief. As you can imagine, it was pretty informal – I sat on a bench in the church as I offered some reflections on a passage of scripture.

Everything went fine that morning. But then after the service, one of the Australian midwives pointed out that after reading the scriptures I had placed my bible on the ground next to the bench where I was sitting. She pointed out that in a Muslim context, this would have been a sign of profound disrespect for the bible – no Muslim would ever put the Qur’an, their holy book, on the ground. The only saving grace, she said, was that I had at least placed the bible partly on mat that was there on the ground beside me. Continue reading

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the Spirit of freedom – sermon 3/5

Who doesn’t want to be free?

There is something so compelling about the idea of freedom. In our lives, in our culture, and in the wide world there is a desire for freedom – a desire that comes to expression in so many ways. Yes there are sometimes different ideas about what it means to be free – in some cases there are conflicting ideas about what freedom looks like, exactly. But even so, the compelling nature of human freedom is expressed powerfully when we ask that simple question: Who doesn’t want to be free?

This past week we have celebrated Canada Day, so perhaps a way into this subject is by way of the freedoms we enjoy here in Canada. There are the general freedoms we enjoy – freedom to work and to travel and to raise a family. More specifically there are the freedoms that are given to us and outlined for us in the 1982 charter of rights and freedoms: the freedom of conscience and religion (the first of our freedoms); freedom of thought and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of association; freedom to move within the country; freedom to leave the country and return.

These freedoms, and others with them, are basic to Canadian culture and basic to many other societies – in many cases these freedoms are written into constitutional frameworks. But then of course there are and have been many places where these basic freedoms haven’t been granted – where certain groups are or have been excluded from sharing in such freedoms. In such contexts the call for freedom becomes particularly compelling. Continue reading

full and free

Let me begin this morning with something a little unusual, perhaps – let me begin by asking about the difference between a thief and a robber. An unusual place to begin, yes, but as good a place as any, as we’ll soon see. As we think about the thief and the robber, we realize pretty quickly there’s a significant overlap between these two words – the thief and the robber are similar in that both take something that doesn’t belong to them – the thief and the robber both take money or property from the person to whom it rightly belongs.

So on the one hand these two words or concepts overlap. On the other hand however, we can distinguish these two words from each other. Specifically, the thief and the robber can be distinguished based on the method of their crime. A thief is someone who steals in a way that is sly or subtle – the thief tries very hard not to be noticed. If you are the victim of a thief, very often it’s not until well after the fact that you realize your wallet or a piece of jewelry has gone missing. It was taken in a stealthy manner. You didn’t even notice.

With a robber, it is much different – by definition a robber is someone who uses force or violence to take what is not his or hers. If a robber takes your wallet, you won’t have to wait a few hours to discover that your wallet is gone – you’ll know immediately that your wallet is gone because you will have been pushed to the ground or hit with something in the process of it begin taken. Continue reading

sarah harmer’s take…

Canadian musician Sarah Harmer has a new album out next month, but in advance her label has released a single from the album entitled ‘Captive’. You can hear it on her website, here. I was struck by the logic of the lyrics. The song-writer points to our sometime inability to live well within a relationship (thus, ‘forget the way I acted’) and then expresses her desire to be ‘held captive’ in the relationship – her voluntary wish is to be ‘fenced in’ and to be ‘held to this thing’ so that she can live in the joy and delight of love. The counterpoint is that if she is not fenced in (even if it is a wholly voluntary fencing in) she won’t get to the good stuff. Thus, the song opens:

I want to be held captive (Oh oh oh)
Forget the way I acted (Oh oh oh)
It’s just I’m out of practice (Oh oh oh)
and d-distracted.

And ends with:

Fence me in and keep me close
Fence me in and keep me close to you

Continue reading

fenced in and free…

If you are anything like me, you’ve got a love-hate relationship with the mirrors in your home. You wake up in the morning to get ready for the day, you go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and wonder to yourself

did that zit really have to come out on the end of my nose

or, is that another wrinkle there beside my right eye

or, is that pot-belly sticking out just a bit more

or perhaps, not quite as much hair on top this morning.

There’s a mirror in the bathroom, maybe a mirror by the front door, maybe a mirror in the living room. Walking around your house is like watching your own life unfold in High Definition. And it ain’t always the prettiest picture – yea, some of us get a better deal than others – but most of us aren’t Narcissus. Most of us don’t spend our days in front of the mirror because we’re in love with our own reflection – we do so because we are preoccupied with what we perceive as problems Continue reading