Last year I posted a piece about the darkness of Christmas season; this year I have come to think of its reverse – Easter. I wrote about having to face the darkness as that is where truth resides. I still agree with that sentiment, however, as I was out walking this week I was struck with how difficult it can be to tunnel out of that darkness into a space of light. Continue reading
In order to arrive at the joy and affirmation of Easter Sunday, we encounter the suffering and despair of Good Friday. It’s not a pleasant thing to acknowledge, but grace and violence appear bound together at Easter.
Few writers are as astute at recognizing this relationship as Flannery O’Connor. Rather than a world of neutral surfaces, O’Connor’s fiction presents us with a world that is irreducibly “grotesque.” For her, the history of the South has made for an environment that is “hardly Christ-centered, [but] is most certainly Christ-haunted” (M&M 44). Her characters may not act like Christians, but theirs is a world which is divinely given, a world in which grace regularly emerges and disrupts. For this reason, O’Connor’s fiction adopts what she has called, “prophetic vision,” a way of seeing that paradoxically understands near things at a distance and far things up close. As she puts it, “The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque.” This has everything to do with her view that art is incarnational. It is, in other words, ultimately about embodiment rather than abstraction, and its particular kind of embodiment is a deeply mysterious and troubling one. Continue reading
The Responsibility, Judgment, and Risk of Homiletic Thoughtfulness
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in the camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
- Elie Wiesel, Night
Night, smoke, bodies, silence, flames, and ashes: these are the words that describe a shattered faith and a murdered God. Seven times Wiesel tells us life after Auschwitz can never be the same, that he shall never forget. Yet the question remains: can we? Or, perhaps more accurately as church leaders, have we? Continue reading
Mennonite Participation in the Holocaust
A few years ago, I was left feeling deeply disturbed and more than a little shocked by a conversation with my brother after he returned from his studies at Canadian Mennonite University. He claimed that it was an “open secret” on campus that a number of his friends had living relatives who had served in the Nazi SS during the years of the Holocaust. I failed to understand how, if this was true, the Mennonite Church I thought I knew could be home to individuals who had most likely committed war crimes. I was even more troubled as I wondered why I had never before heard this topic addressed or discussed in my Mennonite congregation or by the wider denominational body, Mennonite Church Canada. I was left with the feeling that a dark secret was buried behind under the thinly whitewashed walls of our peace church theology. Yet the existence of this secret was confirmed for me only by rumour, through conversations with ethnic Mennonite friends who recalled with discomfort their family members bearing SS tattoos. Continue reading
A Pet’s Death Opens A Wider View of Salvation
My dog died.
He was a seven-year-old, somewhat goofy, charmingly disobedient, painfully cute Bernese mountain dog named Calvin, in recognition of the fact he was an ordination gift from my two best friends in seminary, now both Presbyterian clergymen.
A 10-week-old puppy when we were united, Calvin became almost better known in my first parish than I was, enchanting young and old with equal, slobbery alacrity. When I moved abroad for a year of graduate studies, he moved to the family farm and became as much my mother’s dog as mine. When I returned to Canada and moved to Quebec City, he effortlessly learned to be a canis urbanis. As a single person, Calvin was an especially important part of my life. He was, as the canine stereotype goes, my faithful companion. Continue reading
The word Catholic is often a word I associate with violence, patriarchy, and old men preaching irrelevant points. I did not grow up in the Catholic Church or even a Christian home, so I am not speaking from years of experience on the ‘inside’; I am however currently situated in a work environment that is a Christian run agency and refugee resettlement office. Although Romero House is open to people of all faiths and is inspired by Christian principles, its internship program and other spiritual activities are heavily influenced by the fact that the Romero House founder and many board members are Catholic (of which there is a nun, a former nun, and a Jesuit priest). On the train ride from Winnipeg to Toronto, I remember reflecting on how I was more afraid to meet the Catholics than I was to meet the refugees; what I have come to know in my time at Romero House, however, is that it is in the living that faith becomes fact. I don’t work for a church, I work for a refugee office so there are some basic distinctions, but I have come to appreciate the underlying framework of Catholicism that shapes the work we do here. I believe that Romero House has opened itself to the idea that catholic means universal. In order to illustrate, I would like to spend some time reflecting on a few examples of how I have come to know this in my experience. Continue reading