The ‘Some’ Cost of Free Speech

26 Nov

“God has called us to live in peace.”  1 Cor 7:15

I realize that I am about to tread on very thin ice, but in the words of Dee Snider, “We’re not gonna take it…”  When that song (and that band), and some others like it come on the radio, I turn the channel.  When watching television there are some programs that move me to change the channel, and even some advertising that I simply choose to ignore, or mute.  When I’m out in public and I see a billboard using language or images that I choose not to see, I look away.  I have come to realize that some my preferences and tastes are not those of some others, but the cost of free speech is that some times, in some places, in some way, some one will say some thing that I will not like.  ‘Some’ it all up to the cost of free speech.

That’s why I find it interesting, even a tad hypocritical, for some ‘one’ to challenge my right to speak, to listen to, and see some things that I do not have to turn away from, or  turn off or turn the channel (although, technically in the digital age we no longer turn channels).  Of course, I am referring to the recent discussion in Saskatoon over some one issuing a complaint about a prayer.

Now, when I pray I am usually asking God to bless some one, to heal some one, to give some one strength, wisdom, or heal some relationship.  In other words, I pray for the well-being of others.  So forgive me if I’m a little bit confused as to what about my prayer might be ‘offensive’.  Would it be less offensive to pray as the psalmist: “O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked,” Ps 3:7 or perhaps, “Like a slug melting away as it moves along, like a stillborn child,  may they not see the sun” ? Ps 58:8   I’m not sure what Counselor Randy Donauer said in his prayer that was ‘offensive and violated’ the rights of some one, but I’m fairly certain that since it was deemed by the Star Phoenix a ‘Christian prayer’ that it was in keeping with thoughts of the betterment of some city, some population, and by extension, some one.

Paul once told a group of Christ followers, who knew real ‘discrimination’, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” Romans 12:18 and another writer would say,  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men…”Heb 12:14   All men included some who sought them out to do really nasty things to them.  You know, really offensive things.  But alas, I guess what Scripture is telling me is that I have to go the extra mile to “live at peace” with even some one who finds my prayers for their well-being ‘offensive.’  This is some world we live in.



A Memorable Meal

20 Nov

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

Mark 1:29-31

It is very early in the ministry of Jesus. Returning from the forty days in the wilderness, he called his first disciples, walked to Capernaum, and taught in the synagogue. Mark says, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22) Present at the synagogue that Sabbath, was a man possessed by a demon. Imagine that—a demon attending a church service. Perhaps this tells us something of the spiritual climate in Capernaum, of which Jesus would lament, “If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.” (Matthew 11:23)

After the service Peter invited Jesus back to his house where traditionally a Sabbath meal would be eaten. Entertaining guests was a very important responsibility for hosts in Ancient Palestine, but when they arrived home the table was bare, no aroma wafted through the house, and no meal was waiting. Instead of preparing the meal, Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed, racked with a high fever. This would be more than embarrassing for Peter (especially with the two Zebedee boys there).

Even today we place importance on entertaining guests. We bring out the good silverware and china. We use cloth napkins instead of paper ones, the plastic cups go away and the crystal comes out. On one occasion we were entertaining guests and Laurie had cooked a wonderful meal, but for some unknown reason had decided it a good time to turn the oven to self-clean. In no time at all the dining room was in a haze. Our guests sat around the table, tears streaming down their cheeks, unable to eat without being choked by smoke. The windows were opened to let in some fresh air, however, still being February, it was freshly frozen air. Our guests were soon shivering too much to cough, some making little ‘smoke circles’ with their now visible breath. It was a memorable meal.

The meal that Jesus shared that day would also be memorable. Jesus went to Peter’s mother-in-law (we don’t know her name, so we will just call her ‘that woman’), took her hand, and helped her out of bed. Luke tells us that he ‘rebuked,’ the fever (as he had done the demon). Here we see, first, a picture of compassion. Jesus goes to her, offers his hand, and helps her up. ‘That woman’ received Jesus, took his hand, rose up, and served him. Second, a picture of servanthood. Today we might say that she paid it forward.

“The fever left her and she began to wait on them.” The word ‘wait’ is related to a word from which we get ‘deacon.’ It’s a word that means to serve or minister. You see we are not saved to sit, but saved to serve. These few verses remind us that Jesus has come to us, offered his hands to raise us up from sin and that our response should be to serve others. So who or how are you serving? Service for Jesus means more than going to church, after all, even a demon attended the First Capernaum Synagogue Church. Service is the act of a thankful heart—and isn’t is interesting that the first ‘deacon’ in the New Testament is a woman.

In the Beginning

29 Oct

Good stories often begin with memorable lines.  A Tale of Two Cities begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  C.S. Lewis, in The Voyage if the Dawn Treader has: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”  It doesn’t take very long for us to agree.

His-story also has a memorable opening: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1 NIV)  I think we in the church have said and heard those words so many times they have lost their wonder.  That’s why I like how The Voice translation renders them: “In the beginning God created everything.”   Paul repeats this in Colossians 1:16 were he ascribes creation to Christ, “by him all things were created…”   Now, it is a glorious thought that the entire universe was spoken into existence–galaxies, suns, planets, moons–and that all things on earth were by Him created–plants, birds, marine life, a myriad of herds and flocks, and finally man.  But God created everything. 

A popular song asks, “Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light?”  You see it isn’t just the stuff that He created, it’s all the other things we can take for granted.  He also gave us light, colors, textures.  Every time Laurie decides a room needs a new look, I am reminded just how many colors He has given us.  Then there are the sounds, and the simple beauty of things.   It isn’t enough for us to ask, “How did it all get here?”  We must also ponder “Why is it so ‘indescribable.”   There are those who claim it is all a big accident.  Pure chance.  Lots of time.  Yet, I’ve yet to see an explosion ‘create’.  In fact, where did the ‘stuff’ of the explosion come from?  Why should anything exist?

Another thought that usually comes to mind when I reflect upon the indescribable world around us is that Scripture not only begins with a beginning…it also ends with a beginning.  Given a glimpse into the future (whether near or distant we can’t be sure), John records, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” and hears a mighty voice declare, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)  

The word new in this verse translates a word that can mean: of a new kind, unprecedented.  While some see the ‘new creation’ being an improved version of what exists now, an argument can be made that it will be of a totally of a new kind–an unprecedented creation.  There will be things there that aren’t here.

Back in the day, Star Trek looked awesome, but watching the old show now after various editions of Star Trek, as well as all the films that use the latest in CGI, it just looks old.  How great will the ‘unprecedented’ creation look?  How indescribable will it be?  Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives us a hint:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9

As good as the opening line of Scripture is, it just gets better.  And even more so, the closing chapter will never end.