Posts

How Do I Think I Think - Practical Reconciliation Pt. 1

Image
In my last post I talked about differing ways of thinking about the world: binary, unitary or spectrum. You can refresh your memory by scrolling back through the blog. My comments on “Practical Reconciliation” follows on that, and will be based on my preferred worldview, namely the Spectrum.Simply put, as far as we can tell, it’s God’s will for your life and mine that we be loved, that we be safe, that we be fed, that we be healthy, that we have basic amenities like clothing, and generally speaking, that we be well and content in our situation. A corollary would be that this wish encompasses every person born, or else why the Sermon on the Mount? As the prophet Zechariah says, so that the streets be filled with the laughter of children and the elderly walk with canes. Reconciliation includes the encouraging of our community, our neighbours and the world toward this goal.Most Christians I know want to engage in the struggle toward the Kingdom. But many of us are uncertain about what t…

How Do I Think I Think?

Image
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” (Luke 15:1-2, NIV)
This brief encounter in Luke 15 serves as Jesus’ opening for teaching basic principles in the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son parables. Two observations on the Luke 15 narrative come to mind: 1) the Pharisees and the teachers of the law imagine the world as binary, with two distinct and separate circles and persons consigned for whatever reason to one or the other, while 2) Jesus is teaching a unitary world view where there’s but one circle and everyone in it. The Pharisees and teachers of the law, the tax collectors and the sinners are all “sheep” in the analogy; the difference among them being only that some are lost and others not.

Binary thinking has its place: a door is either locked or unlocked; the pot is either boiling or it’s not; you either kept an appointment or…

Lifeblood

Image
William Shakespeare wrote a play called Titus Andronicus, a blood-steeped play which is seldom read, seldom performed. Scholars have, in fact, questioned the authorship based on the difference in style and content compared to his other plays. One said, “. . . this play is a perfect slaughter-house and the blood makes appeal to all the senses. It reeks blood, it smells of blood, we almost feel we have handled blood—it is so gross.)i
We’ve all seen gruesome portrayals in film, read them in books and felt the hair bristle on our necks with the horror. Agnes and I have been watching the Doctor Blake Mysteries on Britbox as a diversion and we’ve developed a patter that goes something like this: a woman walks down a darkened hallway, knocks on a door and says, “Miranda . . . Miranda? Are you there?” And I say, “She’s dead.” And as the woman opens the door, Agnes says, “Now! Scream!” And scream she does; it seldom misses. Seems that scenarios like “She didn’t drown; he threw her already-dead …

Lost Sheep Matter

Image
Then Jesus told them this parable:


“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?    And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’    I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.(Luke 15: 3-7, NIV)
****
Google “Parable of the Lost Sheep” and you’ll find any number of takes on this story: from cartoons to sermons, from chalkboard illustrations to video re-enactments. Most commonly, commentary ties it to the Parable of the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son story, all directed toward the pharisees and the teachers of the law and in the presence of "sinners and tax collectors" (we’re told in verses 1 & 2). Most commo…

Dachau is Never Far Away

Image
Dachau is Never Far away (This journal extract was written in February 1987, when Agnes and I were conducting a retreat near Munich for Mennonite Central Committee volunteers working and studying behind the Iron Curtain. On this day, a Budapest volunteer couple and their twelve year-old son accompanied us to the Dachau Memorial Site.)
     As a part of the retreat, we allowed an afternoon for people to relax by seeing and hearing some of the sights and sounds of Bavaria. Most chose to visit the famous museums of Munich, but one volunteer couple and their son, Agnes and I decided to drive out to the memorial site, Concentration Camp Dachau.      We drove the short distance from Eichstock to Dachau in the MCC Toyota, following the road signs that lead you on a winding route through the graceful hills of Bavaria. I remember that Agnes asked. “What do you suppose it would be like to live in Dachau? To say when asked, ‘I’m from Dachau.’ Would people always respond with, ‘Oh, you mean wh…

What would MCC do in Joshua's Palestine? I wonder.

Image
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho And the walls came a’tumblin’ down
I’ve never been sure how I should understand the book of Joshua. It’s written as a history of the conquest of Palestine by Joshua around 1,000 B.C., but it’s not a history like other narratives of conquest in that the field general may well be Joshua, but the Minister of War is the LORD himself. Both that record and most sermons one hears on the book take the approach that Joshua is victorious because he obeys the law and instructions handed down by the God of Israel. And so for a Christian attempting to find an application from the book, the themes generally turn out to be obedience to--and confidence in--God’s leading as prerequisites to victorious living. Doubts about whether or not God said the words he’s alleged to have spoken to Joshua are not surprising.
Without God in the story, Joshua would have to be described as a genocidal monster. The residents of Ai, for instance, were quaking in their beds, fortifying …

P Squared and KG, an RJC Story.

Image
Let me take you back today to the winter/spring of 1949 and to Rosthern Junior College. It’s a kind of “golden age” in the life of the school. Kornelius G. Toews (KG), had been principal for over a decade as had the popular teacher Peter P. Rempel (P-squared).        Both KG and P2 immigrated to Canada in the 1920s, both were products of the surge in educational excellence in Russian Mennonite Colonies in the 30+ years since most of the Valley Mennonites had settled here. Both were graduates of the German-English Academy that would become Rosthern Junior College (and now, RJC High School) as well as of the University of Saskatchewan where Toews earned a BA, a B.Ed and an MA and Rempel a BA and a B.Ed.         Both were loved by students of the time and molded distinguished careers after leaving the GEA.        (Rounding out the staff were David Paetkau, arguably the father of musical excellence among Valley Mennonites, and J.G. Rempel, Bible teacher who became Elder of the Rosenort Men…