Thinking Out Loud

September 11, 2011

Because People Tend to Forget

September 11, 2011

Seen enough of the TV specials? Tired of hearing of “9/11?”  You should know there’s a good reason why we need those programs and magazine features and internet tributes:

People Tend to Forget

Jesus understood this.  Scripture tells us that on the night he was betrayed he took bread and broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.”

But you already know that. Those words from I Cor. 11 are often the most-repeated words in most churches during the course of a church calendar year. “For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered unto you;” is somewhat how I think the KJV renders it.  The section from verse 23 to approx. verse 30 forms what is called “The Words of Institution” for the communion service aka Lord’s Supper aka the Eucharist.  Even if you attend a church where things are decidedly non-liturgical, these verses probably get read each time your church observes “the breaking of bread;” and even if your pastor leans toward the New Living Translation or The Message, it’s possible that he lapses into King James for this one.

Why did Jesus institute this New Covenant, Second Testament version of the Passover meal? 

Because people tend to forget.

Want proof?

Let’s look at the section we almost never read when we gather around the communion table, Luke 22.  In verse 19 and 20 he tells them to remember. He tells them his life is about to be poured out for them. What a solemn moment. A holy moment. But unfortunately, a very brief  moment.

In verse 24, Luke makes it clear that he’s trying to capture an accurate picture of what happened that night.  Even if it makes the disciples look bad.  It’s the kind of stuff that you would never include in your report to Theophilus if you were merely trying to make Christianity look good.  If you were writing propaganda.

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.

I don’t want to be disrespectful here, but Luke might as well have written, “At this point, one of the disciples looked out the window of the upper room and announced, ‘Guys, you gotta come here for a minute; there’s a girl out there that is totally hot.'”

I’m serious.  It’s that much out of place with all that has just happened.  Jesus is telling them — trying to tell them — all that he is about to suffer in order that a plan laid out from before the foundations of the world will be fulfilled.  And they’re arguing about who gets to be Disciple of the Month.  How could they go from one extreme to the other so quickly?  In a matter of seconds?

Easily.  People tend to forget.

Whether it’s what happened in New York City, Washington, and that Pennsylvania field ten years ago; or whether it’s what happened in Roman occupied territory in the middle east two thousand years ago; we need to continually rehearse these stories in our hearts and pass them on to our children.

This is a day that is about remembering and like the upper room disciples, we can get so totally distracted.  September 12th comes and everyone moves on to the next topic or news story.  We must not let ourselves lose focus so easily.  We must not forget.

Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Image: The Cross or Rubble – Ray Tapajina
at The Art Project – Artists Respond to Terrorism

November 7, 2010

People Tend to Forget

This morning was the second of two sermons I got to do back to back.   This one had a lot of scripture in it, so taking my cue from Ed Dobson’s sermons at Mars Hill, I got Ruth to read all the scripture.

I wanted to tie in with Communion Sunday, but found out later it was also Remembrance Day (that’s Veteran’s Day for y’all Stateside) Sunday.  So the message was called People Tend to Forget.

We began by asking the question, “Why do we always read those same words from I Cor. before the communion starts.”   One answer we came up with is that the account in Luke 22 makes the disciples look really, really bad!   One minute Jesus is talking about giving His life for them, and the next minute they’re arguing among themselves which one is the greatest.  (v. 24)

That led to a discussion about how some of the Bible’s spiritual high points seem end with a crash a few verses or a chapter later.

Exodus 14 has the Israelites crossing the Red Sea safely while Pharoah’s army is drowned.  Exodus 15 is their worship and celebration service.   Think Pentecostal worship on steroids.

And chapter 16?   They’re complaining about the food and wishing they were back in Egypt.  Yeah.  Back in Egypt.   For real.

Then we looked at Elijah’s defeating the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel.   (Well, actually it was God, but you know what I mean…)   Both of these O. T. stories were things we’d looked at briefly last week, but this time we pressed further.

Now remember, this guy just played a major role in one of the most dramatic spiritual warfare encounters of all time.   Where is he at a chapter later in I Kings 39?

Scared silly over a threat from King Ahab’s wife.   Running off into the desert.   Moping.   Wishing he was dead.   No, really, he says that, ‘I wish I was dead.’  This is either ironic or pathetic, depending on your view.

And then there’s Jonah.

Jonah is sent to tell Nineveh to repent. They do. That’s good news, right? Well, not for Jonah. His message was framed as “Nineveh is about to be destroyed,” and their world doesn’t look too kindly on prophets who get it wrong. So when God changes his mind on the destruction of the city, Jonah’s all out of sorts. Check out Jonah 3: 6-10.

The hero of “Jonah and the Whale” in chapter 1 – sorry, great fish – who is also the hero of “Jonah’s Preaching Converts and Entire City” in chapter 3 becomes the less impressive story of Jonah and the Plant in chapter 4. God can’t help but tell him that he’s put more passion and energy into mourning the death of a worm-eaten shade tree than anything concerning the salvation of the Ninevites.

And that was only the first half of the sermon.

Here’s a key scripture:

Judges 2: 8(NIV) Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

People really do tend to forget…

Here’s another key scripture:

Isaiah 46: 9(NIV) Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10a I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come…

11b …What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.

The message ended up talking about Communion again.   Some major points:

Our fellowship, our communion is with God through Jesus Christ.

We don’t celebrate communion to remember what was, but we celebrate communion to remember what is.

We celebrate communion because Christ is in us, and because of who we are in Christ.

August 14, 2018

Diary of an Anne Frank Tourist

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am

 

I have not read the book. My wife had, and before leaving for Amsterdam, she purchased tickets for us to tour the memorial site and the actual house where Anne Frank and her family lived before being discovered and then transferred to concentration camps.

For my wife, an unusual revelation was that the original diary is plaid, something she just never pictured, as captured in the cover for this, as well as the 60th Anniversary Edition.

I have however read the book and seen the movie for The Hiding Place, which has many similarities (and one striking difference) to the story in Diary of a Young Girl. Were we ever to return to Amsterdam, I would consider taking the train to Haarlem to see the clock and watch shop where that story played out, not really that far from where we were.

Groups are admitted about a dozen at a time. We’re given an audio tour guide, which sometimes triggers automatically when you enter a key area, at other times you need to point it at a designated mark on the wall.

The focus is the adjacent house. The house where Anne kept her diary. The house where her family lived. The house they were unable to leave.

Everyone reacts differently, I’m sure, but for me, this was the story which never should have happened. I’m not unaware of what happened in the Holocaust — film footage shown by a first year Sociology professor quickly took care of that — but the horror is never something to which one becomes accustomed. Each story opens it up like a wound that won’t heal.

And I have no skin in this game. No relatives. No immediate friends. Just the brotherhood and sisterhood that unites all humanity and the dawning that all vestiges of humanity and decency were set aside during those war years.

But this is 2018. As I tour the facility, I am reminded that many — not all — of the Protestant establishment of the day went along with Hilter’s initiatives and I can’t disconnect this to the present-day Evangelical support for another head of state. A comparison? In the willingness of Christians to swear unlimited allegiance to a leader whose capacity to lead is at best questionable? If the shoe fits, yes. […sound of people unsubscribing…]

That’s the part that scares me. The foolhardiness of saying, “Well, at least that could never happen today.”

Who’s to say?

There is an eerie silence as people snake through the different rooms of the exhibit. Even the children are relatively hushed. At the end, the tour exits to the street, but I take a different turn, approaching a security guard who seems to be in charge and asking if people are ever physically overcome with emotion.

He’s clear that certainly for Jewish people that is the case, stopping to pray at or near the exit or in the street. There are tears. There is the shortness of breath that goes with emotional overload.

How can they not?

The guard had also worked at another Jewish memorial. The reactions are similar. So why put yourself through that? Why not enjoy your visit doing something fun?

Because people tend to forget. The Holocaust story needs to be told, and it needs to be repeated, and it needs to be repeated often.

This is what happens when a person has both the view that one race is superior to another, and the power to act on that belief.

It ends badly.


Click the individual pictures at top to view full size

 

November 11, 2017

Veteran’s Day (US) / Remembrance Day (UK, Canada)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:11 am

Apparently only once in ten years have I ever posted anything on the blog recognizing November 11th, which is Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth and Veteran’s Day in the United States. That article appeared in 2010 and tied in with a sermon I did in a Toronto church that week. Only twice in my life have I ever been called upon to do back-to-back sermons on successive weeks. It gives me a greater respect for those in vocational ministry. But I digress…

The point I wanted to make that day was that for Christians, every Communion Sunday is a service of remembrance, and if we truly have communion with God, every week is Communion Sunday, even if the silver or brass trays of bread (or matzo) and wine (or grape juice) are not visible in the sanctuary (or auditorium).

This morning was the second of two sermons I got to do back to back. This one had a lot of scripture in it, so taking my cue from Ed Dobson’s sermons at Mars Hill, I got Ruth to read all the scripture.

I wanted to tie in with Communion Sunday, and it was also the Sunday closest to Veteran’s Day / Remembrance Day. So the message was called People Tend to Forget.

We began by asking the question, “Why do we always read those same words from I Cor. before the communion starts?1One answer we came up with is that the account in Luke 22 makes the disciples look really, really bad! One minute Jesus is talking about giving His life for them, and the next minute they’re arguing among themselves which one is the greatest. (v. 24)

That led to a discussion about how some of the Bible’s spiritual high points seem end with a crash a few verses or a chapter later.

Exodus 14 has the Israelites crossing the Red Sea safely while Pharoah’s army is drowned. Exodus 15 is their worship and celebration service. Think Pentecostal worship on steroids.

And chapter 16? They’re complaining about the food and wishing they were back in Egypt. Yeah. Back in Egypt. For real.

Then we looked at Elijah’s defeating the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. (Well, actually it was God, but you know what I mean…) Both of these O. T. stories were things we’d looked at briefly last week, but this time we pressed further.

Now remember, this guy just played a major role in one of the most dramatic spiritual warfare encounters of all time. Where is he at a chapter later in I Kings 39?

Scared silly over a threat from King Ahab’s wife. Running off into the desert. Moping. Wishing he was dead. No, really, he says that, ‘I wish I was dead.’ This is either ironic or pathetic, depending on your view.

And then there’s Jonah.

Jonah is sent to tell Nineveh to repent. They do. That’s good news, right? Well, not for Jonah. His message was framed as “Nineveh is about to be destroyed,” and their world doesn’t look too kindly on prophets who get it wrong. So when God changes his mind on the destruction of the city, Jonah’s all out of sorts. Check out Jonah 3: 6-10.

The hero of “Jonah and the Whale” in chapter 1 – sorry, great fish – who is also the hero of “Jonah’s Preaching Converts and Entire City” in chapter 3 becomes the less impressive story of Jonah and the Plant in chapter 4. God can’t help but tell him that he’s put more passion and energy into mourning the death of a worm-eaten shade tree than anything concerning the salvation of the Ninevites.

And that was only the first half of the sermon.

Here’s a key scripture:

Judges 2: 8(NIV) Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

People really do tend to forget…

Here’s another key scripture:

Isaiah 46: 9(NIV) Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10a I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come…

11b …What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.

The message ended up talking about Communion again.2  Some major points:

Our fellowship, our communion is with God through Jesus Christ.

We don’t celebrate communion to remember what was, but we celebrate communion to remember what is.

We celebrate communion because Christ is in us, and because of who we are in Christ.


1The “words of institution” which often begin the Lord’s Supper portion of the service in Evangelical Churches is from I Cor 11:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.

2 I realize that in tying these things together, I haven’t said much in this blog post about our war veterans, and for that I apologize. If this will help, I posted this on Twitter earlier in the week and it applies in similar fashion to U.S. war veterans:

A guy in my church posted this on his Facebook this morning.

A veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank cheque payable to Canada for an amount up to, and including, their life.

 

 

 

July 1, 2017

It’s Canada’s 150th Birthday!

Today’s is Canada’s 150th birthday. I am grateful for the research done on this by my pastor, Rev. André Turcotte who presented this recently at a public service in our town park, and was willing to share his notes with me.

September 1, 1864
Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, Premier of New Brunswick and one of the Fathers of Confederation, rose each morning to start his day with prayer and Scripture reading. As the 33 fathers gathered in Charlottetown to discuss and draft the terms of the British North American Act, there were many suggestions on what to call this new “United Canada.” That morning, as Tilley read from Psalm 72:8, he became so convinced that Canada should be a nation under God, that when he came down to the Conference session, he presented the inspired “Dominion of Canada.” The other Fathers readily agreed and accepted. Today, The following words hang in the corridor near the confederation Chamber in Province House: “In the hearts of the delegates who assembled in this room on September 1, 1864, was born the Dominion of Canada. Providence being their guide they builded better then they knew.”

Psalm 72 (NIV) Of Solomon.

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
6 May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
7 In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

8 May he rule (have dominion) from sea to sea
and from the River
to the ends of the earth.

Canada’s official motto comes from Psalm 72:8, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea.” Until not many years ago, July 1st was called “Dominion Day” which was a recognition of the sovereignty of God. Today, it is called “Canada Day.”

Canada’s coat of arms, adopted in 1921, stands upon the Latin phrase A Mari Usque Ad Mare, which when translated means “from sea to sea” a reference to Psalm 72:8.

The spiritual heritage is reflected in the country’s educational system and laws.

The Education System

Bishop John Strachan, a leader who helped form our public education system, stated that “the church must continue to play a central role in education. You cannot divorce religion from education because schools will inevitably reflect the philosophical and religious or (irreligious) biases of those who direct them.”

Egerton Ryerson, father of public education in Canada, wanted a “common patriotic ground of comprehensiveness and avowed (or maintain) Christian principles.” He wrote the textbook First Lessons in Christian Morals which was published in 1871. Ryerson clearly said that the Ontario school system was to be a “Christian public school system.

Many of our greatest Canadian universities were founded as denominational seminaries to educate future church leaders.

The Ontario Public School Act of 1896 stated that “It shall be the duty of every teacher of a public school to teach diligently and faithfully all of the subjects in the public school course of study; to maintain proper order and discipline in his pupils in his school; to encourage his pupils in the pursuit of learning; to include, by precept and example, respect for religion and the principles of Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues.”

The Laws of The Land

In 1960, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights. It begins with, “The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God…” The Canadian Bill of Rights can be found here.

In 1981, Pierre Elliott Trudeau signed his name to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter begins with, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of the law.” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be found here.

Where does Canada stand today?

At the end of Pastor André’s notes was the full text of Psalm 78 which provides an interesting contrast to what you’ve just read. As we’ve written several times before, people tend to forget. Secularism, skepticism, materialism, cultural and religious pluralism; all of these over time have contributed to the present situation where Christianity is no longer at the heart of public or family life.

I do believe that alongside various factors, it is the Christian foundation, still embedded in many of our institutions, which makes this a great nation. 

The following is a prayer that can be sung to the tune of Canada’s national anthem.

Almighty God, by Thy mysterious power,
In wisdom guide, throughout this crucial hour;
Be ours a nation evermore
That no oppression blights,
Where justice rules from shore to shore,
From lakes to northern lights.

God, keep our land glorious and free…

November 11, 2011

11-11-11

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:11 am

I’ve scheduled this post for 11:11 AM on 11-11-11.

The date suggests a number of themes.   First of all it’s Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day for our friends in the U.S.  The U.S. name suggests a day to commemorate all those who have served in past conflicts, whereas in Canada, I think the focus is there but also more applied to those who gave their lives fighting for the ideals that sparked the wars in question.

In an age of revisionism, I’ve addressed the idea that “people tend to forget” here twice recently, once in the lead up to Remembrance Day a year ago, and at the ten year anniversary of September 11th, just a few weeks ago.  The stylized Canadian flag which substitutes the poppy — a symbol of the day in the UK and Canada — for the maple leaf seemed an appropriate graphic.

Second, the fixation on numeric dates such as 11-11-11 suggests our passion for order; our passion for symmetry.  I’ve written before about growing up in a family where we tended to mark the moment when the odometer on the car rolled over to a significant number such as 50,000, or perhaps, as someone might experience today, 111,111.  (We’re in kilometers here so we get to do this more often, except we spell it kilometres.)

We like things that come in boxes we can pile neatly, at least I do, hence my life work has been among books and records and CDs (things which can be stacked, or boxed or displayed in rows) and not clothing or pillows or plush toys (which don’t share the same characteristics).  11-11-11 suggests a formal balance, and it also transcends the Canadian-versus-US difference of going day-month-year (logical; from smallest to largest) rather than month-day-year (logical because it echoes the written form: November 11th, 2011).  However, none of this should be taken to infer that our house is neat or that the desk I’m sitting at right now is not total chaos.

Finally, as a result of both of the above factors, it represents a “special day.”  The days tend to hum along without variance, so setting a day apart to remember the past, or just choosing a unique, once-ever date to celebrate the present breaks up the routine.

But typing that, I’m aware of at least one marginal Christian group that doesn’t permit the celebration of special days such as birthdays, anniversaries, or even Christmas.  I think that’s unfortunate.  Clearly, the Hebrew roots of Christianity point to a people for whom there was an annual cycle to the year beyond the atmospheric changing of the seasons.  Celebrations allow us to measure our days, to know our time for this life is fleeting; but also to enjoy where we’ve been and where God has brought us.

While the calendar dates are somewhat arbitrary, and some cultures ascribe a different year number; still, it’s hard to look at 11-11-11 and not think that there’s something worth giving a moment’s pause to consider that past generations possibly didn’t consider the human race might ever get this far.

At least one other Church/Christianity blogger at Alltop had the same idea.

Blog at WordPress.com.