an exuberant appeal for unity

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.

Indeed, how good when sisters and brothers aren’t fighting with one another. How good when husband and wife are getting along. How good when family discord gives way to peace.

To this day my mother reminds my youngest sister and me of our road trip out to British Columbia in 1986. My family lived for 12 years in Abbotsford, British Columbia through the 60’s and 70’s – in 1986 my parents took the two youngest kids back for a visit. To this day my mother speaks of that road trip – you two kids fought like cats and dogs, all the way across the country. I guess that’s about 5000 kilometres of arguing on the way there, and about 5000 kilometres of fighting on the way back. No wonder my mother remembers it well – how good and pleasant, and rare, when Roland and Marion are getting along in the back seat. Continue reading

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Just stop!

We come back to the Psalms of Ascent. And as we come specifically to look at Psalm 131 – prepare to be challenged – or even offended. On the face of it this seems like your average Psalm – interesting and instructive perhaps, but a run-of-the-mill Psalm nonetheless. But as we dig just a little into this Psalm – prepare to be challenged – even offended. 

As we turn to Psalm 131, we begin not with its opening words but with its conclusion. In the third verse of this three verse Palm we read: “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and for evermore.” O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore. When we first hear those words, we might jump to the conclusion that they are words spoken by or to someone who is in trouble – someone who is experiencing pain or suffering – someone who needs help. Thought of in this way, these words become a reminder: “Yes, you’re going through a difficult time, but God will help you through it. You can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there will be light – the God of Jesus Christ will bring you out of the darkness. Be patient. Hope in the Lord.

Now, in other Psalms, in other contexts, that would be a good interpretation of verse 3. Very reasonable. We often hear such words of reassurance in scripture – and often need to hear them. Continue reading

with shouts of joy…

Today we continue taking a look at the Psalms of Ascent – those fifteen Psalms that follow immediately after Psalm 119. Last week we took up Psalm 121 and this week we turn to Psalm 126. Doing so, I’d like to begin a little differently this morning. I’d like to begin by sharing, somewhat a length, a modern version of the story of the Prodigal Son – a modern version as told by the American journalist and author Phillip Yancey. I trust it will become evident why we begin in this way. Here is Yancey’s version of the story of the prodigal. [The original version is on the Christianity Today website, here and there is more on Yancey here]. 

A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. “I hate you!” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away. 

She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail the gangs, drugs, and violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.

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onward and upward

To be human is to be on a journey. It’s a cliché to say so – but it’s also true. To be human is to be on a journey. And since literature to some extent reflects what it is to be human, it will come as no surprise to us that one of the oldest pieces of literature in western civilization is Homer’s Odyssey. The Odyssey, of course, traces the 10 year journey of Odysseus back from Troy and the Trojan wars to his home on Ithaca. It is an eventful ten year journey, to put it mildly – during his travels he encounters the murderous Cyclops, he meets up with six-headed Scylla, and he runs up against the cannibalistic Laestrygonians. Now perhaps our journeys will be so eventful as that of Odysseus, but we are human so we are on a journey.

This is reflected not only in ancient Greek myth and literature, not only in that grand epic of Homer – it is reflect also in many of the films that have come out of Hollywood over the past decades. There is O brother where art thou, and Rain Main, and Sideways, and there is the older film Easy Rider. These are known as road movies – films that reflect the fact that to be human is to be on a journey – that human identity is shaped through journeys. Continue reading