in the 50s a young couple from Canada Mark and Hulda Buntain travelled to Kolkata on behalf of the PAOC, whom we are part of, to help meet the social/spiritual needs of that nation. They became friends with a nun named Mother Theresa. She was taking care of dying but needed help with the sick. Mark and Hulda decided to build a hospital in response to that need. It was the first building built by their ministry. See the pics
We are in the second week of Easter, 7 days after the resurrection of Christ. For the next three weeks we’ll delve into this time between, between his resurrection and that second radical event 50 days later, Pentecost. It was at Pentecost that the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit entered the lives of those who followed him. The same Spirit who enters followers of Christ today. For this Easter season series we’ll focus on the role that belonging plays in our believing.
Belonging as a practice is not unlike travelling in convoy. We do it for protection, for direction and for support; and we do it of course to ensure that we arrive at our destination. Most of us are familiar with stories of Naval convoys, made famous by the WW2 North Atlantic convoys from North America to Great Britain avoiding German subs. But Convoys aren’t limited to war.
Cheryl and I led a short term mission in Greece. Near the end of our time, we needed to journey into Athens to a hotel. We were a group of four cars. Andy the Greek pastor took the lead, followed by two more team cars with me at the end. I did not have the address, name or phone number of the hotel. Nor did I have a reliable phone number for Andy, my Greek friend. Everything was fine on the highway journey south.
The challenge began as we neared Athens, a city of many millions. The traffic was completely unlike anything I had ever experienced in North America;The most important traffic rule seemed to be: The larger the vehicle, the greater the right of way, But you could overcome this handicap by being aggressive and very quick. Andy of course was familiar the city of Athens, And he drove like a Greek.To make matters worse, he drove as though no one was following.
I got the feeling that using a turn signal was a sign of weakness, And red lights were like waving a flag at a bull. I became very Pentecostal, calling out to Jesus, then jamming my foot to the floor, screaming through red lights. Andy sped down narrow side streets built hundreds of years ago for foot travel. I followed in blind faith.
Then he turned on to one busier street. When it was my turn there was simply no room. I was left behind, lost in Athens. Hours later, prayer and good sense reunited us. And we learned we were within minutes of our destination.
I’m not referring to that kind of belonging.
The days immediately after Christ’s resurrection were exhilarating times for those first followers of Jesus, despite this exhilaration there was also a great deal of confusion, fear, doubt and danger.
As Charles Dickens wrote in the Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…,”1
It is in this time of exhilaration, confusion, doubt,fear and danger where the disciples come to value belonging like never before.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20: 19-31 NRSV
Thomas was only asking for what Jesus had offered the other disciples.
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Why was Thomas not present at Christ’s first appearance? Could it be that he was having serious doubts about Jesus’ claim to be Christ, the Messiah. Could it be that Thomas wanted to believe but he just couldn’t bring himself to do so. More importantly, why does he show up later? I believe it was his need to belong? We are social creatures, It was the hunger to belong that drove him to community.
It is the hunger to belong that drives us to community. Do you know what I think, I think this second meeting where Christ appeared to the disciples was just for Thomas. It is as though Jesus was saying, “Thomas I am honouring your commitment to belong. Despite your doubts and fears and confusion; despite a real and present danger from those who stand against me; you have chosen to show up, to belong.
The practice of belonging is an essential part of our faith and belonging does carry us through confusion and doubt. If you are lonely or looking for a group of people who have the same values as you, to join a group of like minded people is a good thing, joining this church is a good thing. But I am speaking of something that goes beyond meeting our social needs, infact I am speaking of something that transcends meeting our personal spiritual needs, infinitely more.The practice of belonging to the body of Christ addresses our need to participate in something bigger than us, it should take our attention away from an ultimately selfish desire to meet our needs only.
In the practice of belonging to the body of Christ we experience his purpose and plan not so much for our lives but something greater, for Christ’s purpose.Often mysterious, sometimes confusing and at times dangerous it is in the practice of belonging where we live clarity for our lives through his purpose.
European Starlings come together in the hundreds of thousands in what is called a mummuration.Though the whole purpose of mummurations is a mystery we can say without a doubt that if fills a greater, and awe-inspiring purpose.
Thomas, who no longer doubted continued the practice of belonging to the church, the body of Christ, travelling in obedience beyond the Roman Empire as far as India where preaching the Gospel and make disicples, he was martyed.3
“these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
I recall learning to ride a two wheeler. My father gripping the back of the bicycle seat balanced me as I pedaled up and down the sidewalk in front of Aunty Adeline’s home in the Donnan neighbourhood. Learning to ride a bike was a catastrophe in the making. Each time Dad loosened his grip I would go three or four pedals before the bike began to lean to the grass boulevard with its trees.
….but….. just before crashing he would reach out, grip the seat, steady me and point me back to the sidewalk.
It could have been a catastrophe…but…. It wasn’t, it was a eu-catastrophe, I was saved from a whole lot of hurt.
…but…not only was I saved from pain and suffering, I was on my way to experiencing a new freedom-riding a two wheeler. …..A eucatastrophe!
It was Tolkien who coined the term eucatastophe. The climax of The Lord of the Rings is a eucatastrophe. Though victory seems assured for the evil Sauron, the One Ring is permanently destroyed. 1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eucatastrophe
With the Ring Destroyed, a hopeless situation is salvaged and redeemed through what appears to be an unforeseeable but in fact plausible turn of events. It is the beginning of something new, hopeful.
The Resurrection is a Eucatastrophe, no buts about it
“but” usually marks the beginning of something that we don’t want to hear, something not in our best interest. Why choose a word the hearer is going to start resent……But usually sets us up for a let down. 2 http://socialimprove.com/blog/help-your-readers-by-avoiding-the-word-but-in-5-ways
When we hear…but….we expect the other shoe to drop and its usually a disappointment. But is used a number of times in Luke’s telling of the resurrection story.
…But…..rather than preparing us for a disappointment, a catastrophe it sets us up for a eucatastrophe, a life giving hopeful turn of events.
…..but….on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
…..but ……when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground,
….but …..the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
….but …..these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
….but…. Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. Luke 24:1-12 NRSV
The following are 8 Great Lenten Giveaway reports ( http://urbanbridgechurch.com/2013/02/the-great-lenten-giveaway/) we as a church are particpating in. 8 potential catastrophes…but…because of our support in the name of the risen Christ, they are eu-catastrophes.
1 Kerri Stennes
Anchored Warriors: Working with Native youth
2 Debbie Fawcett
Paroled Women: Purses for paroled women
3 Tammy Majeau; Girl/Baby home rescuing baby girls marked for death in Chennai, India
4 Erkica Elves: Belgravia School special needs children’s supplies
5 Karen Thomas: Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society backpacks for kindergarten Children
6 Deanna Barker: Birch Bay Camp, funding to sponsor one week of camp for one child
7 Dan & Jeannine Lowe: iEmergence in the Philippines, helping to transformation
Indigenous youth and young adults
8 Kristin Kajorinne: Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts supporting Adults with developmental disabilities
Sunday is a day of hope and expectations. Some might say these are foolish, wishful expectations. After all, we know what to expect in life. We wait for the other shoe to drop. We are reminded of that every day. We know only too well the power of death. The death of hope, the death of joy, the death of our dreams, physical death, spiritual death. We expect it and know it to be true for every one of us. And so we come to this day with our very real experiences of death, pain and loss. 3 Copyright © 2007 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, www.elca.org/evangelism/dailydiscipleship
And..Like the women at the tomb that first Easter morning, we have stood at the opening of the grave of that which we have loved and lost.
….but…. in the early dawn that first Easter morning, the women’s expectations were upended by a life-changing, life-giving, life-transforming proclamation.
A eucatastrophe!: “He is not here but has risen!”4 ibid
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
The angels speak of God’s pre-determined redemptive plan,5 Bob Utley ,The Study Bible Commentary Series, New Testament, Luke 24 and that is important, because the coming of the Messiah, his death and resurrection isn’t plan b of a God desperate to rescue his narrative, to save his creation, to force his plan for our lives. Christ is the fulfillment of God’s plan for humanity, for you and me. Christ, “The son of man” isn’t dropped into history, to our story to just to ensure a good ending. He has always been.
Yes The other shoe drops, …but… it is not the response we are conditioned to hear. God brings hope from despair, joy from sorrow, and life from death. Through the resurrection of Christ, our expectations are transformed. We look for and expect to see possibility, even when the outcome seems inevitable. We look for and expect to see life.
Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN. I encourage you to accept your part in God’s redemptive plan. Accept that he is the Messiah, more than that he can be your Messiah.
EDMONTON – Good News Auto operates on the belief that if you sell a man a fish, he eats for a day; if you teach a man to fish, he can feed himself forever.
“But we don’t put fish in people’s cars,” chuckled co-owner Kimberly Ferland. “Just wanted to make that clear.”
Instead, they put faith in the business model. And like most things about faith, you’re not sure where it is or why it is; you just have this feeling it’s going to work out.
The three employees at Good News Auto — Kimberly and husband Chris Ferland, and full-time mechanic Mark Harrison — have been in business on Edmonton’s east end since Sept. 5 and hoped to break even after a year.
About 60 per cent of their business is standard retail, with competitive shop rates. But in partnership with four churches, Good News Auto will subsidize the cost of repairs for people who cannot afford to pay full price. The genesis of the business model comes from Kimberly’s father Rudy Froese, who ran a similar program, called Car Care Ministries, through the Sherwood Park Alliance Church more than a decade ago…
So far, the folks at Good News Auto have helped out more than 50 JumpStart clients, with major assistance from Sherwood Park Alliance Church, Urban Bridge Church, Sturgeon Alliance Church in Gibbons and Church on 99
We have given away the entire 10,000 for the whole story go to http://urbanbridgechurch.com/2013/02/the-great-lenten-giveaway/
We have supported both local and international projects, including indigeous peoples, children, & adults. On Easter Sunday each sponsor will share their story.
1 Kerri Stennes
Anchored Warriors: Working with Native youth
2 Debbie Fawcett
Paroled Women: Purses for paroled women
3 Tammy Majeau
Girl/Baby home rescuing baby girls marked for death in Chennai, India
4 Erkica Elves
Belgravia School special needs children’s supplies
5 Karen Thompson
Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society backpacks for kindergarten Children
6 Deanna Barker
Birch Bay Camp, funding to sponsor one week of camp for one child
7 Dan & Jeannine Lowe
iEmergence in the Philippines, helping to transformation Indigenous youth and young adults
8 Kristin Kajorinne
Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts supporting Adults with developmental disabilities
Charis-Kairos by Makoto Fujimura. Have you ever sacrificed for love. Have you ever loved with a selfless, and some might say foolish extravagant love? Makoto Fujimura is a world re-known artist and follower of Christ. He uses the most expense materials available. He uses gold to create his art
I was taught as a student that I must use the best materials in order to truly get to know the ancient craft. So, despite the cost involved, I use the best gold and minerals that I can purchase. I often have to weigh what my family will eat that week with what I can order for materials. Why do I use such expensive mineral pigments and gold?
Well that is the question isn’t it.
3Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with fragrance.
4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples—the one who would betray him—said, 5“That perfume was worth a small fortune. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.”
6Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief who was in charge of the disciples’ funds, and he often took some for his own use.
7Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did it in preparation for my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer.” John 12:1-8 NLT
Makoto Fujmura’s response to Mary’s act of worship:
“Was the object of adoration worth this amount of devotion? Was she crazy, deceived by a charismatic figure, or indeed, as Judas claimed, foolish?
He continues, “Is the expense justified in art? In order to answer this question, we must answer not with “why”, but “to whom”. And it seems to me that we have only two answers to this question of “to whom”; it’s either to ourselves, or to God. We are either glorifying ourselves or God. And the extravagance can only be justified if the worth of the object of adoration is greater than the cost of extravagance.
The glory of the substance poured out can only reflect the glory of the one to whom it is being poured upon. And if the object of glory is not worthy, then the act would be foolish and wasteful.”
- The Extravagance of God By Makoto Fujimura
Mary’s act was unusual in a number of ways;
Oil was typically used to anoint the head, not the feet, ….though one might anoint the feet of the dead as part of the burial rite.
Guest’s feet were washed, but that was done by servants, with water not by the householder.
She wiped his feet with her hair. A lady never let her hair down in public, let alone wipe someone’s feet.
She poured out about a years worth of wages on Jesus feet. And Judas, scoundrel that he was, was correct, a years worth of wages feeds many people.
Perfume was often bought as an investment because it was small, easily secured, transportable, and it held its value. A years worth of of wayge represented security for Mary.
You can see, how her unusual act could be considered foolish, or as Judas pointed out, an extravagant waste.
Mary represents to me, the best of what it means to worship Jesus as Messiah-sacrificial, Selfless, extravagant, and even foolish worship.
This kind of worship was uncommon then, and it is uncommon now.
Fujimura believes that true adoration and worship is always God initiated, what he has done for us, not what we can do for him.
“If our act of adoration is earning “points” with God, our actions will not ultimately please God but only ourselves, becoming a dull religious code of ethics.
No matter how hard you and I work, how much we sacrifice, this is not worship.” Makoto Fujimura
Tony Jones raises the idea that selfish worship may be more engrained then we realize. He warns that Evangelicalism is becoming a therapeutic religion, a religion of what’s in it for me?
He posted a blog last day called, “Has Evangelicalism become Therapy”
“Has evangelicalism, emerging as it has out of its original concerns for the practical, been complicit in the emergence of therapeutic religion?
Indeed, yes. But, not just evangelicalism. The problem of therapeutic religion is much bigger than evangelicalism.
It has affected all of American religion. It goes even beyond Christianity.Perhaps then, a better question is this: how will the future of evangelicalism face the contemporary challenge of therapeutic religion?
How will the Gospel be preached faithfully in a world where the hearers’ ears are already tuned to hear things a certain way, …….who already desire a certain kind of religion?
Yet, this is not just a question for evangelicals. This is a question for Catholics, confessionals, and all Christian leaders. Tony Jones http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2013/03/13/has-evangelicalism-become-therapy/
A therapeutic religion plays to a consumer mentality, it meets needs, offers improvement, addresses concerns, gives us a sense of place and community.
It is a religion of self-actualization, a problem solving religion of self improvement and social advancement.
It is a religion focused on oneself, selfish.
People like me Pastors and Preachers, we tell you how much better your life will be if you give your life to Jesus.
Are our priorities skewed. Do we place too much emphasis on a needs fulfilling faith?
I believe we should ask and expect Jesus to provide us with an oppression free, well ordered life; a life of hope, wisdom, peace and healing. I pray for that for myself and many of you every day.
But should that be why you and I follow Christ?
I pastored a church with a candy lady. Sigrid always had purse full of candy. On Sunday’s the kids (and a few of us adults) would gather around her waiting for our candy. She loved handing it out and we loved receiving it, but my relationship with her wasn’t based on the candy. The candy was merely an outcome of my relationship with her
Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did it in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer.” His response to Judas prioritizes what it means to be a follower of Christ. Our selfless, extravagant sacrificial worship of Him precedes what we do in his name.
First Baptist Church on 109 st. is fundraising 200 thousand dollars to repair the church organ. When I first heard, I thought their priorities were askew, that this was a selfish and extravagant waste, …..after all couldn’t that money be spent to feed the poor.
I now applaud them in their desire to make beautiful music in worship of Christ.
I believe that when the First Baptist organ plays it will exude a fragrance that will please men and God.
Do you worship him with a selfless, and some might say foolish and extravagant love?
Friday March 22, 7-9 pm, Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts
9225-118 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5G 0K6
Join the Bleeding Heart at 7:00 PM on March 22 for a creative conversation on First Nations perspectives. In a world of polarized points of view, there is need for a place to listen, experience empathy, and build bridges. Sometimes art creates such a common place; where we can gather and begin to understand one another, experiencing a story that is both yours and mine.Listen First is designed to foster such an opportunity. The Idle No More movement has placed First Nations perspectives on the common needs and aspirations of many in Canada in the spotlight. Yet lack of understanding persists; we cannot hope to heal together without first understanding one another. The Bleeding Heart Art Space has partnered with First Nations friends to build this evening of art and conversation to create transformative relationships. The evening will include: A panel discussion in an open question and response format; Artwork by Aaron Paquette; Live music by Darren Day; The event is free, but donations are encouraged to support this and other Bleeding Heart Art Space initiatives. For more information visit Bleeding Heart on the web.