Click video below to view the full service video for Sunday, November 10, 2019, posted on our YouTube Channel
Reflection by Will Sparks, November 10, 2019 – The Ridiculous Journey: The Way of the Reconciler
Each of us gets to choose the paths we will travel. They will of course contain unforeseen surprises of both the welcome and unwelcome sort. We will find ourselves in conflict- even war. What then? “Come follow me,” a voice says. “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,” the voice continues. Dare we pay attention to that voice?
Treena and I were surfing our facebook feeds the other day and she burst into laughter and turned her tablet in my direction. It was a meme, clearly from the States, that read:
The car in front of me had a bumper sticker on it. It read: “Pray for Trump. Psalm 109:8.” When I got home I opened my bible to the scripture and read it and started to laugh. Psalm 109:8- “Let his days be few; and let another take his office…” At last- I can voice a biblical prayer for our president.
Now, I do my best to avoid naming the name of our neighboring leader to the south, but today I couldn’t help myself. We are followers of the one who famously said, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you..” and that little command has made the life of faithful Christians kind of difficult. In the real world of trade disagreements that can have sweeping effects, in which the world has grown small and the behaviour of one government and one leader can have wide effect, loving your enemy can be hard.
And leading up to Remembrance day we hear, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. In times of armed conflict, that must be some kind of spiritual marshal art to, on the one hand, go into battle, and on the other hand follow this teaching. Then add to that the apostle Paul saying to the church in Corinth, a notoriously conflicted church, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s very self and entrusting us with the ministry of reconciliation.”
These days there is a study group gathering on Tuesday nights called “The Ridiculous Journey.” It is based on the premise that we all choose a path to walk, and a way to “follow.” And the question is, why follow the way of Jesus, historically speaking a nobody from nowhere really, and one who asks a lot of his followers- a ridiculous lot. And today that big ask for those who would choose to follow in this way is to love our enemies, and take into our hands the challenge of reconciliation.
Much has been said in recent times about reconciliation in Canada especially during and in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process, hearing the stories of survivors of Indian Residential schools. And it was particularly sobering for churches who ran residential schools like the United Church of Canada, and were part of that system. Once again, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s self and giving to us the ministry of reconciliation,” and in this case our church was the perpetrator of a terrible wrong that needs to be reconciled. History has judged us to have been on the wrong side of that one. Good intentions don’t cut it. So any attempts to unravel the puzzle of reconciliation and the challenge of loving our enemies, and following the reconciler and following the way of reconciliation requires a significant level of humility.
So I want to introduce you to Ozlem Cekic, a Turkey born member of the Danish Parliament. I know, that is an unusual one, but she is an unusual person with an unusual, even you could say ridiculous calling, to have what she calls dialogue coffee, basically coffee dates with people who send her hate mail. I will let her explain, and you will have to concentrate here because her very fine English comes in a form that began in Turkey and now resides in Denmark, so it is an unfamiliar accent.
(this is the video that Will refers to in his reflection. Start it now and pause it at each of the time markers at the start of each paragraph)
Time Marker 1:34 All joking aside, the call to reconciliation resides within the context of real conflict- in her case, real hate mail and genuine threat. The world we live in is broken, and it is hard. But those hard situations are the very sites where the ridiculous challenge of reconciliation begins.
Time Marker 2:38 So to be clear, she is dealing with a dangerous stalker. She has increased her need for security, and at the same time, she is learning to reflect on what is happening inside herself- how her experience is shaping her internal world of thoughts and assumptions. She is paying attention to her internal and even occasionally external language and her very human tendency to create categories of “us” and “them” and to relegate “them” to the category of “other.”
Time Marker 4:01 So I just want to pause for a moment over that line: “What? The racist has a wife?!”
Stepping over the threshold and on to the path of reconciliation opens up the possibility that the “other” might be human- like really human. The “other” might have fallen in love. Someone might truly love that person. They might even be called a child of God.
Time Marker 5:12 “I was sure…” That is the beginning of a sentence that will almost always contain an assumption. Do you see how stepping across that threshold uncovers assumptions we make about the “other,” and reveals the prejudices we carry within us. Incredibly, she is doing the hard work of reconciliation and in the process facing internal unreconciled divides that lie dormant within her, gaps between us and others, gaps between us and the loving person we were created to be.
Time Marker 6:34 “If we are to prevent hate and violence…”
That is the task. That is the ministry of reconciliation. I love that she uses the metaphor of vaccination- actively working with our internal condition of spiritual health that will reduce the likelihood of hate and violence.
Hate exists, and it leads to abuse and violence, and oppressive people and regimes must not be just let away with their abuse and injustice. There are times when violence needs to be prevented and stopped by force, and the cost of that necessary evil is recognized and honoured on Remembrance Day. But at the same time, I want us to look at the social and spiritual conditions in which hate and violence grows, and confront the war within, and not just leave it until it becomes a war without.
Time Marker 7:31 This morning we spent a minute in silence to remember those courageous people who place their lives on the line and make sacrifices in armed conflict. I want to another silent minute to take the next step and commit to try to vaccinate yourself, to lay down internal arms of prejudice, demonization, fear, judgement and walk the path of reconciliation. And in that second minute of silence, think about a person you distance yourself from. Try to imagine them as another human, even go as far as a “child of God.” Let that minute of reflection carry you across the trenches that have been dug in your internal world. If it leads to a dialogue coffee, so be it. But that minute will be a step on the ridiculous path of loving your enemy and praying for the “other.”
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