This column is written by Pastor Bob. It will a means of communication while he is not with us physically.
I’ve recently read a blog by Richard Beck a Christian professor at a university in the U.S. Beck is reflecting on real Christian experience. In other words, he’s asking, just what are our expectations of what it means to live as a Christian, day in and day out for as long as we have breath, for as long as we live? When we’re young and fresh and “newly minted” Christians what are we told about living out the faith?
September 15, 2015
The now well-known image of little 3-year old Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body lying facedown on a Turkish beach, as though he were sleeping in his crib, is beyond heart wrenching. His mother’s body and that of his 5-year old brother were never found. Only the young father survived to bury his son back on Syrian soil in his hometown of war-ravaged Kobani. The family’s aunt lives in Vancouver, the same province in which we live in Canada. No concept can convey the tragedy of this child’s death. The “Syrian refugee crisis” isn’t close to sufficient. It takes a body to speak to us.
Our daughter Brooke planted sunflowers in our backyard this spring and they are now blooming in July. Whenever I see sunflowers I think of the well-known artist Vincent van Gogh, (1888) who was the son of a Dutch pastor. His relationship to the church was difficult and perhaps to Christ, himself. But he, nonetheless, through his art honored the Creator in ways, remarkable and unforgettable.
Kathleen Norris wrote a book entitled “Cloister Walk” which is an account of her spiritual journey back to her childhood Christian faith. As part of that journey she stayed at a Benedictine monastery in the state of Minnesota in the U.S. As I read it whenever I read ‘monk’ or ‘monastery,’ in my head I inserted the word ‘Christian’ or ‘congregation.’
Here’s an example. Norris writes, “I once heard a monk say, ‘The basis of community is not that we have all our personal needs met here or that we find all our best friends in the monastery…It is a shared vision of the reign of God.” I loved that. The reign of God of course is ‘the kingdom of God,' the same kingdom that the Lord tells us to pray for: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done.’ The same kingdom that Jesus says we are to seek and pursue as our first priority, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things (that the pagans seek) will be added to you.’ “
Kathleen Norris makes you aware and hungry for something more than the supercharged, market-driven and exhausted brand of institutional Christianity that sucks the life out of us and leaves us far too often tired, disillusioned and hurting.
Anyway, it’s good to find voices that resonate with the voice of the Spirit within us that beckons us to truth, beauty and love of God’s ‘kingdom come.’
I recently bought The Valley of Vision, which is a collection of English Puritan prayers from around the 17th century. I realize this description may sound rather gloomy as Puritans often get an undeserved reputation as a bunch of rather joyless prudes. Not true. But that argument is for another time.
Do you remember when you were young and after the summer holidays you returned that first day of school and your smiley, energetic teacher would ask you and the class, “What did do this summer?” And of course with your little bright expectant face upturned, you’d either raise your hands to say or you’d have to write your first little essay of the year. (If you’re thinking, “Huh? This never happened to me.” just consider me old.)
This last week we cut down a 50 foot fir tree in our backyard, which in this part of the world is about as common (and beautiful) as grass. I realize that in Hong Kong this tree would probably be numbered with a plastic tag around its trunk, but not in British Columbia. We were reluctant to cut it down, but it was slowly taking over our small backyard and was not looking particularly healthy which is dangerous.
I had the privilege of speaking at a friend's ordination ceremony here in Cranbrook where I had also been a part of his mentorship program. I hope it provides some encouragement in your own pastoral search process.
We’ve been back in Cranbrook for a little longer than 2-weeks now. Returning is always a shock—beginning with the 1.5-hour flight from Vancouver in a small plane. Forest canopy and mountain ranges, still snow-covered, stretch into the horizon until you glimpse a little island of development in a sea of green coniferous trees which tells me that I’m now back in the town where there are no escalators, one elevator (to the 2nd floor of a government building); no luxury cars, but lots of trucks, one mall, which has just lost its biggest retailer, Target, and that wasn’t exactly a luxury shop. No MTR here. Public transportation comprises two buses, which for the most part run around town with seats empty and a driver looking lonely.