Skip to main content

Posts

righteousness and peace have kissed

When we moved to Quebec, I had to adapt to a new way of greeting people. The greeting I received in other parts of Canada was a sturdy handshake which related goodwill without getting too close. In French society, it was a quick kiss on both cheeks, a rather intimate gesture if you are not used to it. I still find it a bit awkward, especially when you can't remember which cheek goes first. I have not greeted anyone with a kiss since March (due to the pandemic) and I sort of miss it. The kiss of greeting reflects vulnerability and a willingness to welcome others into one's personal space, to assume a certain closeness, even with strangers. It is, in many ways, a physical representation of hospitality and welcome.  In Psalm 85, we read: "Unfailing love and truth have met on their way; righteousness and peace have kissed one another" (The Voice Translation). The word "righteousness" is from the Hebrew tsedeq which means to make right and it is sometimes transla
Recent posts

stories from exile: belonging and dissenting (part 3)

Image from pinterest.com This is the third in a series of stories from exile. You can read part one  here  and part two  here . We all have a need to belong. This seems obvious. But what is not as obvious is that we also need to dissent, to set ourselves apart from the group. Belonging makes us part of something bigger than ourselves. It gives us a place to call home, a place to feel secure and safe. But without dissent, we become indistinct, a group member with no unique identity or will. Without dissent, we end up going along with everything the group does, no questions asked, a participant in dysfunctional groupthink. Any parent or psychologist will tell you that it is important and healthy for a child to learn dissent in their formative years. We need both belonging and dissent in order to be fully human. When we are experiencing some form of exile (dislocation and separation from what is familiar), belonging is harder to come by, but still vital. In less than ideal situations, we

stories from exile (part 2)

Jacob's Dream by Jusepe de Ribera This is the second in a series: Stories from Exile. You can read part one  here . The biblical texts are full of stories featuring people who leave home for one reason or another and find themselves in an in-between place. The entire saga of Abraham and Sarah is underscored by a sense of un-belonging. The history of Israel is filled with tales situated in liminal spaces. People are running from danger, travelling to find a wife, searching for livestock, going to war, passing through a foreign land, or wandering in the wilderness.  One of these in-between stories is found in Genesis 28. Barbara Brown Taylor summarizes the familiar tale: There he was, still a young man, running away from home because the whole screwy family had finally imploded. His father was dying. He and his twin brother, Esau, had both wanted their father’s blessing. Jacob’s mother had colluded with him to get it, and though his scheme worked, it enraged his brother to the point

stories from exile (part 1)

Exile by Shelby McQuilkin These are unsettling times in which to live. We are home more than ever due to the pandemic, yet less at home in our lives in many ways. Upheaval seems a constant in social and political realms. What do we name this sense of being displaced from what we assumed was normal? Who can be our guides in navigating everchanging landscapes? In the past few weeks, I have been drawn to the biblical stories of exile. Here we find people who know what it is like to live with uncertainty. And here we also find hope in unexpected places. What does it mean to be in exile? There are many ways people experience some degree of displacement.  1) prolonged separation from one's home by circumstances or authoritative decree 2) banishment 3) loss of control over where you live or belong 4) dislocation and separation from what is familiar (voluntary or involuntary) 5) physical exile (removed from home and land) 6) exile in your own home (under foreign occupation, travel restric

John 3:16 : a fresh look

In John 3, we find two of the most popular concepts in evangelicalism: the idea of being born again and the famous verse 16 which anyone brought up in Sunday School can recite at will. I wrote about the idea of being born again here  if you want to check it out. In this post, I take a fresh look at John 3:16. The context for the two is the same. Jesus has just cleared the temple of money changers and many people have witnessed the signs he performed in Jerusalem during the Passover festival. In other words, he has gone public in a big way. This causes a religious leader, a well-known, socially and politically involved member of the Jewish ruling council, to approach Jesus privately at night. He wants to know what Jesus has that he is missing. Before the man can pose a proper question, Jesus confronts him with the idea of spiritual rebirth, of having to start again like a vulnerable and helpless baby in order to enter into Jesus' world, the kingdom of God. Jesus then rebukes the rel

looking again at being born again

If you have spent any time in the evangelical world, you will have heard the phrase born again . It is usually used as a synonym for becoming a Christian or experiencing salvation from the condemnation of sin. Many times the emphasis is on spiritual rebirth through the Holy Spirit. But is this what Jesus means when he uses the phrase? The concept itself comes from a conversation between Jesus and a religious leader, so let's take another look at the original context.   In the second chapter of John's gospel, we find Jesus clearing the temple of the opportunistic moneychangers and performing signs in Jerusalem during the Passover festival. In other words, Jesus is doing some pretty controversial public stuff and, no doubt, word gets around to the religious leaders. In the next chapter, one of those leaders, Nicodemus, decides to approach Jesus. He is an esteemed man, a man serious about religious devotion, a member of the Jewish ruling council, socially and politically involved

parable of the fig tree: 3 ways

One of the more obscure parables which Jesus tells is found in Luke 13:6-9. "A man owned a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. He said to his gardener, ‘Look, I’ve come looking for fruit on this fig tree for the past three years, and I’ve never found any. Cut it down! Why should it continue depleting the soil’s nutrients?’ The gardener responded, ‘Lord, give it one more year, and I will dig around it and give it fertilizer. Maybe it will produce fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.’” (Common English Bible) This story comes after a discussion on the connection between oppression, suffering, and right living. Jesus dismantles the idea that those who suffer are more sinful than others, but then tells his listeners that unless they change their hearts and lives ( metanoia ), they will die just like those unfortunate ones who were slaughtered by Pilate or were killed when a tower fell. It is a mixed message in some ways, but J