WWJD

What would Jesus do… for Christmas? I’ve been thinking about this since our church Christmas dinner on the weekend. It was a great time – delicious food, good to catch up and visit with some people, really fun to sing carols and enjoy decorations. We also had a sermon. The message itself was good – “don’t miss the invisible” by giving into stress over Christmas. Don’t get caught up in busyness, because when you are stressed and agitated you feel nasty, and that’s not Christmassy! The speaker (God bless him) took longer than I would have to get his point across.


There was nothing revolutionary in this sermon, and since I have The Irresistible Revolution fresh in my brain, revolutionary is what I am really craving from church. I would like to see/join Christians in doing something ridiculous and/or unexpected for the gospel, that Jesus would shine his light through us. That sermons would call for something a bit more tangible than praying “Dear Jesus, there is room for you in our Christmas.” Something like… talk to people at the mall until you find someone who is alone for the holidays and invite them home for a meal. Maybe not the big family meal with presents, but a meal. Maybe buy some new hats, gloves, even coats
and donating them to our fabulous community services center so they can be given to someone who is cold. By the end of the sermon, it felt a bit like we should be proud of ourselves for saying Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, and try not to get stressed out with all the shopping because we need to be kind. We do need to be kind! But Jesus didn’t come to earth to let people budge in front of him at Walmart.

~*~ Up to this point has been thoughts I wrote down yesterday afternoon. Little did I know that God was working out an answer to this unintentional prayer. Matt and I went to our first pastoral hospital visit last night.

A nurse from the ICU at Scarborough General Hospital had called the church that afternoon because a family had requested a baptist pastor to come and pray with them and their son (in his 40s I think) who had been given hours to live. Our senior pastor doesn’t have a phone, so Matt sent him a couple emails but didn’t hear anything back, and it was still on his mind when he got home around 8:30pm. We chatted about our days and tied string onto some ornaments so we could finish decorating our tree. He was about to get in the shower when he decided to just call the hospital and see if anyone had some to see the family. Nobody had. And Matt said that in that moment his heart broke – people needed someone to come be with them, and nobody was coming. Roads were bad; they couldn’t be reached; so sorry we can’t help.

So he spoke to the mother and explained that he wasn’t the senior pastor, but he was on staff at the church and he would come to the hospital if it would help. He called up our friend Stuart (who was also planning to shower but kept being distracted by little things until we called), and Stuart drove us to the hospital. We had prayed in the elevator going down to get picked up, that we wouldn’t be afraid or intimidated because we were just trying to bring God, to be ambassadors for Jesus to people who felt afraid and alone, it wasn’t that we could really do anything.

So we got there, and the mom introduced us, and we all put on gowns over our clothes and gloves and masks and held hands in a circle around this guy’s bed and prayed. Matt was a lot younger than they expected for a pastor; I don’t know what they thought of me. But after we prayed, Matt then me, then Matt then me, everyone said thank you very much and that it was beautiful and they appreciated our coming. I felt very humble that they would join hands with us and pray and let us into their fear and grief, and I hope that it wasn’t just beautiful words they heard. I hope they realized they were participating in intercession for their brother and son and friend to God.

Most of the people left, then it was just Matt and I, the mom and a cousin – two women who were the only believers in the group, and we prayed again, the four of us hugging. I felt in that moment like communion had come to life – we were four people from three denominations (four even, lol if you count mine and Matt’s backgrounds instead of our membership right now), lifting up one prayer to our Father, and strength and hope and grief were flowing around us, and it was all very rich and good.

I think that Matt and I were the ones God wanted to send that night, not only because it happened that way. And it was a beautiful answer to my prayer that Jesus would shine his love through me. I pray that God will do that for more and more people in our church, and that he would keep doing it for us!! Because it is great.

Appreciation

Matt and I met one of our neighbours from the building next to us this weekend – a young man from India (younger than us!) who is here studying. We got his number from the Keidanns (Pastor John met him on the TTC, need I say more?) and invited him to church with us. He is a Christian and doesn’t have a home church here yet, so he came with us, and then he came over last night to watch a movie with some friends of ours (thanks for the Christmas baking Mom, it helps us be star hosts even when our fridge is empty!).

I don’t know how his apartment is, but it might not matter because it sounds like he’s not there for much more than sleeping. While he is doing post-grad studies, S (no need to drop his name on the internet) also has a job doing cleaning work – sometimes a 12 hour night shift from 8pm-8am. After he finishes work, he goes to school. After school he sleeps until work – he said usually about 4 hours. I almost felt bad for inviting him over because he could have used the two hours we spent watching X-Men to sleep!
SO I am making an effort not to whine about the fullness of my life – waking up around 6 for work, seeing friends, having hobbies, trying new recipes, finally blogging some of the thoughts that have been bouncing around my mind. I am grateful that I get to sleep at nighttime, that I come home to a husband and a dog, that our apartment is Christmassy as of yesterday. I am grateful for a job I sit down at, where I use the internet on my lunch and hope for a year-end bonus.
God is truly so good to us, and when I realize how abundantly generous he is it makes my fears and clingyness seem very small and foolish. So I am hoping that the fullness I feel shines through, that I continue to appreciate what I have, and that maybe all of the goodness will catch on for others as well. In the busyness of life, just feeling happy is very refreshing 🙂

Faith/Religion

One thing I might miss once I graduate is the fantastic feeling of freedom after finishing all the assignments for a class – this I have done when it comes to Sociology 101. I handed in a really great research paper last night, and I feel so free! I have my final in two weeks, and I will be one semester away from graduation 🙂

We talked a little bit about religion in class last night, and discussed Marx’s view that the teachings of religion legitimate social inequalities. This is the opposite of what Christians would like to believe! Jesus was a revolutionary because he taught that women and children are worth as much as men; he drove money changers out of the temple; he healed lepers. However, churches don’t always manage to keep the same revolutionary perspective when they look at the world.
The brokenness of the world is a matter of fact for now, and we talked in class about how the prosperity gospel has some problems. Like corrupt leaders who spend more money fueling their cars/hummers in a month than their parishioners spend on food. And like the fact that Jesus was killed naked on a cross. Not so prosperous.
The thing is that religions (in Marx’s sense) give so many more answers than faith tends to do, and it is comforting to feel that life can be solved. I think this is why churches that justify social inequalities often get large followings, often including very sincere people, because people want an answer to the world’s brokenness: “the [insert people who suffer] deserve it because they are sinners – just look at the drugs they abuse and the gay sex they have, the illegitimate children they bear or the idolatry of their culture; but you can have anything you want if you truly have faith God will give it to you” – like he’s a mind-operated arcade game.
Faith, on the other hand, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “For by it the people of old received their commendation.” Faith is powerful, but it doesn’t mean you get everything you want before you die, and it doesn’t mean you get all the answers to life. A lot of people died waiting for Jesus to come. A lot of people have died waiting for him to come back again.
But this suspense is why (and I know that religion is often just the structure that our faith fits into, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but I need the ideas separate to make sense) Christianity as a faith defies Marx’s ideas about religion – because when Christians truly live out their faith with God’s help, social inequalities cannot fool us into thinking that some people are worth more than others, or that injustice is inevitable. Yes, so much brokenness is caused by sin, but that is not the final word on the matter: every single person is a candidate for redemption, and the worse off they are, the greater God’s power and grace and glory can be shown. This is the assurance we live with every day as Christians, even though it hasn’t happened yet.
A couple weeks ago in class someone raised this issue about churches: Do we settle for peace rather than truth? Sometimes, yes, and I think it can be okay because church unity is really important and honours God. However, there are truths that can never be sacrificed in order to have peace, and I think this applies to inner peace as well. Sometimes it is so draining to see injustice or suffering, and it is tempting to brush it aside with the mantra “God is sovereign; Jesus is coming.” I think that Jesus would rather us to be disturbed and horrified and pained, to struggle in prayer on behalf of others, and to draw our strength from him instead of checking out when it gets to be too much.