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the kindness of God

In recent years, I have heard and read many conversations in which Christians comment on potentially divisive issues such as sexuality, politics, economics, nationhood, leadership, socialism, etc. We are an increasingly polarized society, it seems, and the Church is not immune to this dynamic. What has saddened me most about these interactions is how often kindness is in short supply. We can get so worked up about an issue that we think it is okay to disrespect, shame, or mock those who do not share our views. In other words, we make things more important than people, and that is not the way of Jesus.

In English, kindness is defined as being friendly, generous, and considerate. Kindness is when someone gives up their seat on the bus for an elderly gentleman. Or lets someone go in front of them in a line. Or offers to pay for a stranger's coffee. However, the word translated as kindness in the New Testament is a bit more robust than our English version. Chrestotes (Gk) combines th…
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come and see...

When people contacted Mother Teresa to find out more about her and her work among the poor in India, she was often known to reply with the words of Jesus: come and see. Mother Teresa knew that no amount of explanation could adequately communicate the nature of the world in which she lived and laboured. A person had to experience it for themselves. Come and see.

Come and see is a favourite phrase of children. I am often invited to come to a child's room to see something. I know that the child is not asking me to stay at a discreet distance and observe as if collecting data for a report. The child is inviting me to get up close and personal, to sit on the floor and hold each precious toy that is handed to me. The child is inviting me to enter into their world, to join in their experience. I am expected to press buttons that make noises. I am expected to hug a plush animal. I am expected to join in a silly song or dance. I am expected to smell yellow candies in order to tell which i…

the spiritual practice of humiliation

In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr writes: “I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then I must watch my reaction to it. ... I have no other way of spotting both my well-denied shadow self and my idealized persona.” [1] When I first read those words, I resisted them. Humiliating another person is a cruel and unkind act, so why would I ask to be on the receiving end of that? No one needs humiliation, do they? According to Christian saints, both ancient and contemporary, the answer to that question is an unqualified yes. As Rohr indicates, it is easy to lie to ourselves, especially if we are capable leaders. We want to believe that we are good at what we do, that people should look up to us, that we are mature and wise and special and perhaps even somewhat impressive. We swallow small doses of superiority and pride until we are immune to the distastefulness and deception. Rohr tells us that the most effective antidote to living falsely is accepting humiliation.

Recentl…

the two sides of hospitality

I recently attended a lecture on Narrative Hospitality by Richard Kearney. It was inspiring and thought-provoking in many ways. He told about his work which seeks to foster reconciliation through the exchange of stories. [1] His ideas on the nature of hospitality reminded me of some study I had done on the topic a few years ago which helped to broaden my thinking about the whole concept of hospitality.

We often think of hospitality as opening our home to people, but it is much more than that. There are basically two expressions of hospitality. In the first, we invite people to share in our experience. This usually takes the form of having people over for a meal, giving them a place to sleep in our home, or involving them in something we are doing. The second type of hospitality is that which requires us to enter someone else's experience. This happens every time we visit someone else's home or experience a context or culture which is different from our own. This second type o…

wisdom from the book of Judges

I have been re-reading some of the most violent books of the Bible. In Judges, we have stories of mutilation, mass murder, war, assassination, stabbing, familicide, crushed skulls, human sacrifice, gang rape, dismemberment, slavery, and abduction. It is not a pleasant read by any means. Surprisingly, some of these brutal stories have made their way into the Sunday School curriculum. The story of Gideon and his mighty men (found in the book of Joshua) is told as a lesson in relying on God's strength, not on human might. The Sunday School version highlights marching around the city, using torches and horns to disorient the enemy, but downplays Gideon rousing an army to kill men and women, old and young, cattle and sheep, and burn down the entire town (except for Rahab and her family). The story of Samson and Delilah is often told as an illustration of God giving superhuman strength to a man in order to accomplish divine purposes. Sometimes it is also framed as a tale of warning aga…

What is a family?

One of the most persistent categories in the story of humanity is that of family. We hear the importance placed on family in our contemporary context: someone buying a million-dollar cottage says that the purchase is all about being together as a family, a contestant in a singing competition proclaims that their family is everything to them, a politician running for office declares that they stand for family values, religious folks urge us to stave off the attack on the traditional family, a celebrity steps out of the limelight stating that they want to focus on their family life. For the most part, these appeals to the worth of family are accepted and even applauded. The question is, what is the nature of the family we are giving priority to?

The Oxford dictionary defines family as 1) parents and children living together in a household or 2) all descendants of a common ancestor. However, many of us can attest to the fact that familial ties exist outside of legal and blood bonds. Peo…

seeing and waiting

This summer, I spent a lot of time walking in the park. As soon as it was warm enough and the paths were clear of snow, I started trekking through the green spaces near my house, eager to see signs of new life. The first few weeks were heady; every new bud, every spurt of green, every tender young leaf caught my eye. I was enthralled by the birds and bugs and breezes and every sign of new life around me. As time went on, this sense of wonder did not continue with the same intensity. Near the end of August, I found myself walking through the park, oftentimes lost in thought, somewhat oblivious to the long stems of grass along the water and the shiny, silver tendrils of the bushes beside the path. I was busy thinking about a writing project or a tricky relationship or a book I was reading, and as a result, I did not see what was right in front of me. But still, on occasion, I noticed. Like the time I got off the bus and started walking home, only to note that the grasses and flowers an…