Welcome to St. John, a small Lutheran Church that welcomes everybody. St. John has some exciting events planned for the next couple of weeks. Read on to get the low-down, or check out our calendar:
Today We welcome into the church, the body of Christ, through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, CONNOR IAIN PORTER-KISKO, son of Scott Porter and Emily Kisko. Connor’s sponsors are Dianna & Jeff Kisko. May God continue to bless Connor as he grows in the faith into which he is baptized. The flowers are placed to the glory of God, with joy and thanksgiving, to celebrate Connor’s special day. This is ‘Bread Sunday’ for Partage Vanier.
April 9 The ladies’ social circle group meets at the home of Carol Christensen, 168 Prince Albert St; 1:30pm. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you need a ride.
April 10 Church Council meets, 7:30pm in Ebinger Memorial Hall.
April 16 Worship serice at the Garry Armstrong Home, 10:30am; Pastor Joel presiding.
April 21 ‘Food Cart Sunday’ for Partage Vanier.
April 23 The Bible study group will be visiting KUMIK for a teaching and Q & A session with a First Nations’ Elder, Joanne Dallaire. 1:10pm Anyone interested is welcome to attend.
April 24- May 8 Pastor Joel wil be away on the study tour/pilgrimage to the Holy Land sponsored by Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.
April 27 Ottawa St. Lawrence Conference meeting at Faith Lutheran, Ottawa; 9:30am-3:30pm. We need a delegate from St. John. Speak to Carol Christensen for details.
Why do we believe in God? A few years ago, I read an interesting blog in Psychology today where the writer argued that human beings evolved to believe in God because they are paranoid. Consider our ancestors walking through the African Savannah 100,000 years ago. The writer makes this case: a fruit from a branch falls and hits them in the head. What just happened? They could say that gravity caused the fruit to fall, or an enemy hiding in the tree threw the fruit at them. But which one? If you believe that gravity did it – and if you are right, all is well. But what if it was an enemy? Continue reading Why do we believe in God?–2nd Sunday of Easter
Christ is risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Allelujah!
Let’s stop for a minute and think about how we feel when we say those words. Whatever we bring to the Easter table, they have a clear joy about them. They are celebration. And a cheer of optimism at the same time. After the dark contemplation of Lent, they suggest that the time for quiet whispers is over. That we are free to shout — these words feel like spring. That the sun has suddenly come out after a long winter. Continue reading Look Up, and Act Up! Christ Is Risen!
This week, you might have been embarrassed to learn that Canada has slipped out of the top 10 list for countries with the best human development standings. The human development index is calculated by the United Nations. It looks at a wide range of factors, including education, life expectancy, and income. In the 1990s, we topped the rankings, and that gold star was often bandied about by politicians. Last year, we came sixth. This is bit fuzzy because some of the measurements have changed so it’s hard to compare one year’s ranking to the next. This year we came 11th . Japan passed us. We are just ahead of South Korea and Hong Kong. Norway took first place honours. Continue reading 5th Sunday in Lent—John 12:1-8
If the events of Good Friday happened today, what would be different? For one thing, as Jesus carried the cross up the hill to Calvary, everyone standing on the sidelines would probably have their cellphone up, catching it on film, maybe hoping to create the YouTube video that goes viral. There would be people tweeting a play-by-play – and more people commenting on those tweets. The story would spread far beyond Jerusalem. The bystanders, both present and online, would number in the millions. But would the result be different? Would the mob be galvanized to change?
In fact, this month, we have a tragic example that suggests it would not. In Steubenville, Ohio, two teenage football players were convicted for sexually assaulting a young girl at a series of August parties. The guilty verdict has resolved only some of our questions about the case. And the law seems painfully insufficient in this case. We know no more of the details. In Steubenville, everyone knows pretty much everyone. The football team is the main attraction, and football players the heroes. On the night that the assault happened, the victim was taken to three parties. She was photographed being dragged by her wrists and ankles. She was assaulted while others looked on. The details of the attack were tweeted and videotaped. In that long evening, no one, it seems, used their cell phone to call 9-1-1. No one stopped what was happening. They were all bystanders, who watched on, while a terrible injustice happened.
Human beings, sad to say, tend to fall easily into the bystander role. And Good Friday would count as one of the oldest examples of that collective human shame. The failure to act when we know we should is a bitter secret we carry around – and we all probably know when we have done this. On Good Friday, Jesus was tossed into the hands of the mob by Pontius Pilate, who let it happen, though he knew it to be an injustice. The religious leaders sentenced Jesus to death when they knew he had done nothing but inspire people to question their authority. Then there were the disciples who, when faced with certain death, denied their knowledge of knowing. We must also hold them to account, but what would we have done in their shoes? Perhaps they thought they would find another way to save him. Perhaps Peter was allowing Jesus to follow the path he had laid out for them. In any event, they are, redeemed, partially, in our eyes: It was their work that would carry on the ministry of Jesus.
But it is the mob that should most trouble us. On Palm Sunday they were a crowd celebrating Jesus, welcoming him with palms and cheers. By Good Friday, they were a mob, calling for his death. People who had been swept up with joy were easily made pawns of hate. We could make ourselves feel better by saying: They didn’t really know Jesus. They were just in it for the party. They weren’t educated. And so on…. But history has found bystanders among all kinds of people, rich and poor, educated and not.
A few weeks ago, I read a great book called In the Garden of Beasts. It is the story of the US Ambassador and his family who arrive in Berlin just as Hitler is rising to power. The story is told through the eyes of the ambassador, who is a history professor, and his 20-something daughter who went off to parties with Hitler’s lieutenants. As time goes on, the family begins to realize what is happening. But it takes a while, and they make a lot of excuses for some very terrible behaviour. The random attacks on Jewish citizens are called misunderstandings. It’s assumed that Hitler is too bizarre and radical to hold power and that he won’t last. The intellectuals of Berlin, who know him to be a danger to their country, nonetheless are too afraid to do anything. Instead, they gather at the ambassador’s residence, where they could still speak freely. When one of their members gives a public speech denouncing Hitler’s policies, they cheer – but only as a crowd. As individuals they are silent.
That is the thing about crowds – they can be powerful instruments for good, voices for change, and an end to tyranny. And they can be just as powerful instruments for evil, suppressing the voices of dissent. But a crowd is just a group of individuals, and while we might like to put the blame on the angry mob of Good Friday, in fact, each person standing in their midst made the individual decision to do nothing. We can blame society for making things unfair, and governments for not acting, but in the end, it is the sum of individual choices that shape a community and a nation. In Steubenville, the sum of individual choices – the decision to protect a pair of high school heroes at the expense of another person – ended up with a girl horribly abused – both on the day of the party and for months afterwards, when she continued to be blamed for what had happened. In Berlin, once the wealthiest, most educated segment of society pretended not to see what was happening, it soon got too late to stop the nightmare that we know came next. And on Good Friday, the mob was the weapon as surely as the nails on the cross, to see Jesus crucified. In that crowd, we downplay the power of an individual to bring about change. Because, as history shows, the conflicted bystander looks around and believes that no one else is feeling the same, and so is afraid to act. So they all stand alone, not communicating. The gospel, however, this powerful teaching for which Jesus died, is the antidote to the bystander effect. First of all, it teaches all of us shared values – to look out for one another. It gives us the example of someone who refused to hide in a crowd, who stuck his neck out for all of us. Who would not be silent when speaking up was the better way?
Good Friday is a dark example of the weakness of humanity, and for that we must all sit in the shadow and wait for the sun to come up. That is the price of this day. We pay it, because it is our reminder of what can happen when a crowd becomes a mob and the mob becomes a tool for hate. This day carries the voice of every victim who suffered while others stood silent. This day holds the darkness of every tyrant who stole the will of a people, when those who knew better refused to speak up.
At a certain point, on this day, the mob went quiet. On the cross, a great man died a horrible death. And aside from the weeping of his last followers, silence filled the air at Golgotha. On Good Friday we learn just how powerful and terrible silence can be. Amen.
Last October, a young woman named Malala Yousafzai was heading home from school in Pakistan with her classmates when two masked men boarded the bus. They asked for her by name, and when they identified her, they shot her twice in the face. The men belonged to the Taliban, and they had tried to kill Malala because she had been speaking up for the right of girls in Pakistan to get an education. She had been blogging anonymously for this cause with the BBC, but her identity was figured out. Malala almost died for her efforts. Continue reading Fourth Sunday in Lent—March 10, 2013
This week the Canadian Census released a portrait of Canadian families. What did we learn? First of all, there are a lot of different kinds of families. Common-law couples with kids. Common-law couples without. Same-sex couples. Singles. Blended families. Single-parent families. Multi-generational families all under one roof. The most common kind of family remains the most traditional one: a married mom and dad and kids. What does that say about us? Does this mean we are more conservative in our values than the United States, which has more single-parent families, for instance? That’s what one Globe columnist suggested. In fact, I’d say the growing diversity of Canadian families speaks to the diversity of our population, and our acceptance of diversity. And probably the fact that we tend, as a nation, to take more responsibility for one another. Continue reading Mark 9:30-37–September 23, 2012
What is the line between duty and honour? It’s clearly a question that concerns us, since it’s been long debated among people. Most of our literature – from Lord of the Flies to The Lord of the Rings – is focused on the idea of honour, and when it takes on a life for us beyond duty. Every superhero movie is, in fact, in one way or another, a butterfly story – a story of honour in doing the right thing emerging from the duty that one feels to do what is right with the power that we have. When we hear of people making sacrifices beyond what is required of them, of taking a personal risk beyond their job description, we are fascinated. In fact, for many it was what distinguished the pilot who so carefully landed the plane on the Hudson River in New York from the ship’s purser who ran trying to save a guest while the cruise ship sank off the coast of the Italian island. The first case was someone executing his duty, very well and brave to be true: what we admired was that the pilot did as he had promised to do by taking on the uniform. The ship’s purser, who was an accountant, did in fact what his captain should have – he went beyond his duty or obligation and chose to act with honour. If duty put us in places where we must act – honour then would guide us in the manner of our action. Continue reading Sunday 15, after Pentecost–Mark 6:14-29
Pentecost–Lectionary 12 (1 Samuel 14, Mark 4:35-4:1) June 24, 2012
In a fantastic address to the graduating class at Princeton this year, Michael Lewis offered this advice to the students: “Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie.” Michael Lewis is the author of Moneyball, the book about baseball that was made into a Brad Pitt movie last year, and he also ended up, by chance, working on Wall Street. And after making a good chunk of change, he wrote a book about the financial industry’s darker side. He landed on Wall Street because one night at dinner he happened to sit next to the wife of the CEO, and she liked him so much she convinced her husband to give him a job. He shared this story with the class because he wanted to make a point: some of us get lucky, but luck and real accomplishment are not the same thing. Continue reading Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie
We like to think of ourselves as people of reason, but as a rule, human beings are not especially rational, especially if we don’t take time to do the math. For instance, in one experiment, people said they would walk 15 minutes to save $8 on a $15 item; but those same people weren’t keen on walking to save the same $8 on a $455 item. That’s not rational: the savings and walking distance are the same no matter how much the item costs. More expensive painkillers have been shown to be more effective than no-name brands – even though they are exactly the same drug. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely has well documented, we think we are making rational decisions, we think we are being reasonable, but all the time our decisions are being shaped and distorted by others and by society. He tells the story of an experiment in which people were offered an all-expenses-paid weekend in Paris, an all-expenses-paid weekend in Rome, and then the researchers added a third option: an all- expenses-paid weekend in Rome, but you had to pay for the coffee. What happened? Once the third, no-coffee option was added, people went crazy for the all-expenses trip to Rome. If you wanted to go to Rome, that was the better choice – coffee was free. But even if you’d wanted to go Paris, suddenly you were convinced Rome was the better choice, and more people chose Rome. The point is our brains aren’t rational in a whole bunch of real-life circumstances outside the experiment room. We need a guide to help us out, to teach us to put our brains on pause and reconsider where we are going with our conclusions. Continue reading June 17, 2012 – Father’s Day (RCL) 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, Psalm 20, 2 Corinthians 5:6-17, Mark 4:26-34
It’s not hard to convince any parent of the value of music in their child’s life. Now new research has suggested that in addition to any intellectual benefits or study skills that learning an instrument may provide, participating in music as a group may also teach kids empathy and compassion. The study, which came out of the University of Cambridge, looked at 52 girls and boys – one group were assigned to a music group, and two other groups who weren’t. Researchers found that the kids in the music group, who had to follow their peers and work together, demonstrated higher levels of emotional intelligence – in other words, a stronger sense or awareness and empathy for others. Continue reading Making Beautiful Music Together