A Sorry State Of Affairs
Why should I apologize to the descendants of slaves, or the holocaust, or the Northern Irish? I didn’t do it. It happened before I was born.
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR
reparing this issue of Northern Light has caused me some time for personal reflection. I realize during my lifetime I have experienced big changes in Canadian society. In particular the changes in the worldview of our society from having what sociologists label a modern to a postmodern view.
In some ways this cultural shift has caused Christians to go into a tizzy when it comes to presenting the Gospel. First of all, how does one preach the “truth” to people who may not accept the Bible as the foundational source of truth? Someone can quote Bible chapter and verse to defend their position but if the listener doesn’t accept the Bible as the revealed word of God, then the discussion is pointless. Where does that leave us? How do we preach the Gospel in this type of world?
Une situation déplorable
Pourquoi devrais-je m’excuser aux descendants des esclaves, de l’holocauste ou des Irlandais du Nord ? Je ne leur ai rien fait. C’est arrivé avant ma naissance.
Postmodernism Or... The Church vs Starbucks
On returning to university life in 1989 I soon ran straight into a concept I hadn’t heard much about— Postmodernism or “Po-Mo” as the more trendy students called it at University of Toronto.
Missionary Or Missional?
People often ask me if my wife and I are missionaries. I never know what to say. I suppose it all depends on what the term means.
Personal Director’s Desk Pastor’s Corner The Journey Pastor’s Corner Theme Articles Guest Commentary Focus On The Lord’s Supper Bible Study Commentary
I once heard Anglican evangelist Michael Green relate a story of the time he was invited to participate in a debate about the existence of God with a devote atheist. The atheist spoke first, giving ten reasons why God didn’t exist. Members of the audience then waited in anticipation to hear Green’s rebuttal. However, instead of addressing each of the previous speaker’s points, Michael Green explained that Jesus was alive and gave examples of why he knew this to be the case—the changed lives of people he personally knew. After his presentation many in the audience came forward to ask him more. In an article about evangelizing the postmodern world, Mark Tittley, director of Sonlife Ministries in Africa, relates some of his research on the subject: “Kevin Ford, in Jesus for a New Generation, speaks about process evangelism, where postmoderns are convinced of the reality of God’s love not by propositional arguments or one-time evangelistic rallies, but by a daily consistent, practical demonstration that Christianity works and that God’s love is real.
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Process evangelism is quite similar to the patterns used by Jesus with his disciples. He entered into their world, he identified with their pain and their broken condition, he devoted great amounts of time building his life into their lives, he committed himself to a process of evangelizing—not just an evangelistic event” (September 2004 Worldwide News).
FRONT COVER: Postmodernism questions the idea that there are absolutes and presents some interesting challenges in presenting the Gospel. Cover Photo: © Designpics Inside Cover:© Jane Van Pelt Back Cover: © Designpics Additional photos and illustrations: JupiterImages © 2000 - 2006 unless otherwise noted
In reality, all the Bible based arguments are pointless unless we as Christians are following in the Master’s footsteps. It also means that as his disciples we too must devote great amounts of our time building our lives into the lives of others. In that way, when asked how to prove that God exists, we too can respond that Jesus is alive and we know it by the fact that Jesus has changed the lives of those we personally know. NL
Northern Light magazine is the official magazine of the Worldwide Church of God, Canada. It exists to share the stories of our members and congregations on their Christian journey. Northern Light does this by featuring articles that encourage, nurture and inform.
In process evangelism, pre-Christian people discover the reality of God and the love of God in the transparency and love of God’s people.
Bill Hall 1
P E R S O N A L By Neil Earle and Curtis May Worldwide Church of God Office of Reconciliation Ministries
A Sorry State Of Affairs: Understanding The Power Of An Apology
hy should I apologize to the descendants of slaves, or the holocaust, or the Northern Irish? I didn’t do it. It happened before I was born. How can apologizing for things you didn’t do help anything? Is it biblical? Can you back it up? Aren’t you just stirring up trouble?” At Worldwide Church of God’s Office of Reconciliation Ministries (ORM) we get such questions often. They are logical questions. They deserve an answer. Consider this. The police chief of a major American city, a leader in community reconciliation, recently confessed to one of us a lapse in judgment. He had sat down at a restaurant where the waiter serving him was Turkish. Suddenly, deeply buried resentments inside the chief’s psyche rose to the surface. He proceeded to make life miserable for the young waiter. Why? The chief was of Armenian descent. Inside him were deep feelings he had heard around the family table concerning the Armenian genocide, one of the 20th century’s most heinous crimes. “The Turks have never apologized for that episode,” the chief told one of us. “Still, that was no excuse for my behavior toward that young man.” Events 100 years old came hurtling out of the past as if they were wounds from yesterday. © Design Pics Inc.
“Land of the Living Past” Remember “ethnic cleansing”? In the 1990s, millions of people in the Balkans found themselves caught up in hatreds and resentments that went back to squabbles and atrocities of the 1300s. One journalist called this area “the land of the living past.”
In writer William Faulkner’s words, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” Ancient hatreds and animosities still exist. The trouble is already out there walking around. The dead hand of the past is not so dead. People still living
carry around bitter folk memories of wrongs inflicted on their ancestors, wounds that have been passed on down. A phrase from Exodus 20:5 comes to mind: “the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” NORTHERN LIGHT
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Hatreds take on a life of their own—the Capulets and the Montagues in “Romeo and Juliet;” the Hatfields and the McCoys in early America. In Bosnia the hurt went marching down. In the face of deeply rooted hatreds, can a simple apology be of much help? “Attitudes have a kind of inertia,” wrote M. Scott Peck. “Once set in motion they will keep going, even in the face of the evidence. To change an attitude requires a considerable amount of work and suffering.” “Work and suffering.” That’s the hard part. So where to begin? Who is responsible for trying to break such cycles of hatred? The dead? Obviously not. Who, then, will step into the breach, and how? Sins of the Fathers? Many counselors believe that an indispensable first step in shutting down any cycle of hatred is to work toward an apology. “What—a simple apology?” Wait. No apology is simple. That’s why it has to be “worked towards.” It’s a process. It requires emotional and spiritual commitment on the part of the one offering it—and for the injured party to accept it. Which is to say that neither mercy nor forgiveness are easy. On anyone’s part. Jesus alluded to this in Matthew 5:2324, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Consider this: Only humble people—the meek—can offer a sincere apology. Attitudes unchecked go from bad to worse. They harden into obsessions. On the national scene they often show up as crusades, vendettas, pogroms, purges—the ugly lexicon of hate.
But what about things that happened generations ago? Can a living generation be held accountable for what their ancestors did? Apparently so. 2 Samuel 21 records a severe famine in Israel in the time of King David. David sought God’s advice. He was told: “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” Centuries before, the Gibeonites had been promised protection as resident aliens in Israel (Joshua 9:15). Saul had broken that pledge. Now David’s generation was paying the price. “David asked the Gibeonites, ‘What shall I do for you? How shall I make amends…”
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blame the victims for inflating the situation. “You’re making it up. It’s not that bad.” And so, the cycle continues. The sickness remains. But the good news is that there is a better way. It often begins with an apology.NL
Offenses are personal. To deal with them often takes a personal response. Even on the parental level we can see the power of an apology. When a father or mother or minister sincerely apologizes to a young person for overreacting harshly, immense goodwill can be created. It thaws out the frozen relationship where everyone stumbles around in a half-evasive daze, not sure of what to do next. Breaking the Cycle Eveleyne O’Callahan Burkhard, a reconciliation specialist in Ireland with experience in Cambodia, said, “The first step towards peace is to talk truthfully about what went wrong.” That takes courage. A sincere apology often clears the air. “I’m sorry we’re having this problem.” Where wrongdoing is deeply layered it takes stamina to break down barriers. “There are many examples in history of nations who have tried to bury rather than face the past,” added Burkhard. “If we try to ignore or bury the past it will haunt us and may even destroy us.” Forgiveness is an act of release. It can be graciously extended after a generous apology is offered. But when there is a refusal to admit that someone somewhere did something very wrong, relationships remain frozen. Human nature being what it is, the next step is often to
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By Marg Buchanan
A Journey Of Reconciliation
rancine Lemay, a white French Canadian, made the news in 1990 with a public gesture of forgiveness towards the native community of Kanehsatake, Quebec. It seemed like the right thing to do. The Christian thing. The strong thing. But 14 years later, she realizes that reconciliation does not come so easily. It is a process that takes time and runs deep.
Francine, along with the test of the family, heard about her brother’s death on the radio. Marcel left a young wife who was carrying their second child. Francine, as the only Christian believer in her family, felt that it was up to her to be strong and show the love of Christ to all involved. Four weeks after the death of her brother, she approached the barricades with a letter, telling of her enrollment in the “army of Christ” and her desire that all people regardless of race be saved. She was turned away by the police and not allowed access into the territory. Journalists for the Journal de Montreal approached her for an interview, during
which she expressed her desire for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The newspaper also printed her letter in full. Shortly after the incident and the publication of the letter, Francine was invited to speak at the Pentecostal church in Kanawake. The church was full, as many traditional women came to hear her speak of forgiveness. Francine believed that she had done her part and that her par don was sincere and complete. That chapter had been closed. But somehow, nagging doubts and hints of racism continued to fester under the surface. She was haunted by violent nightmares including conflicts between natives and whites. She maintained a certain resentment against native people for things that she heard through the media.
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In the summer of 1990, a conflict between the Mohawk community of Kanehsatake and the neighboring town of Oka over a piece of land known as The Pines made national news. The city wanted to use the land to expand a golf course from 9 to 18 holes. The natives claimed it was a sacred burial ground. On July 11, 1990, the stand off” between Mohawk “warriors” and Quebec police officers turned violent. Around 95 shots were exchanged in 20 seconds. One of
those bullets hit and killed Corporal Marcel Lemay, Francine’s brother.
P E R S O N A L
In the spring of 2004, two students working for McGill University community radio contacted her, requesting an interview concerning the events of 1990, and she knew if she accepted she would have to face the issues all over again, 14 years later. In order to prepare for the meeting, she requested to speak with her good friends Hector and Celine Genest, Quebecers who are involved with the Mohawk Bible translation project and members of her church. She asked the hard questions that she had tried so long to ignore, and realized that she carried the bitterness that had built up over the years through media misinformation. Francine’s shallow forgiveness of many years earlier was slowly turning into a deep understanding of the heart and needs of a people. But God was still not finished with his work. The next Sunday, as Francine stood as a greeter at the door in her church, a group of six Mohawk people, including Mavis Etienne, entered and took their place. The work of the Genesis with the Bible translation project was being presented to the Christian Alliance Church that morning. “I shook like a leaf for two whole hours,” says Francine. At the close of the service, she rose from her seat and asked to speak. “I asked forgiveness from the Mohawk people on behalf of all Quebecers and all Canadians for the harm that we have caused them over the last 300 years.” Mavis Etienne then stood and publicly asked forgiveness that she had not prayed for the police officers involved in the stand-off and eventual shooting. She expressed regret at the death of Francine’s brother and later asked for the names of each member of the family in order to pray for them.
“There were words that I had needed to hear for 14 years. I was deeply moved,” says Francine. That Sunday marked the first step in her journey toward spiritual and emotional healing. During the same service, Mavis Etienne mentioned to the congregation that she was organizing what she called “The Trail of Prayers”—a day of walking around strategic spots in Kanehsatake, then embroiled in internal tension, and praying for the healing of her nation and all nations. Francine told her at the end of the service that she wanted to participate. On June 29, 2004, Francine Lemay stood among the 50 participants in the Trail of Prayers, and led in prayer for peace in front of the high school, the first stop on the prayer itinerary.
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And the ripple effects of reconciliation continue. Helped by her friends Mavis Etienne and Celine Genest, Francine is deepening her connections with the native communities of Kanehsatake and Kanawake. “The wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing on this territory,” she says. And the wind of the Holy Spirit continues to blow through a woman who is learning every day about building bridges between people and between nations.NL Editor’s note: Francine Lemay is the French translator for Northern Light magazine. Marg Buchanan is a freelance writer. This article first appeared in the Nov.-Dec. 2004 issue of Indian Life and is reprinted here by with permission of the author.
As the group moved into the Pines, the wooded area at the root of the 1990 Oka crisis, Francine began to feel sick. She cried out, doubled over with pain and nausea. She learned afterwards that over a vast wooded territory, she was at that moment standing in the precise location where the shot had been fired that killed her brother. “I had never really allowed myself to mourn,” she says. In the pines that day she felt and expressed her accumulated grief. “It feels good once it’s out.” In another poignant moment in the Trail of Prayers, Tracy Cross, brother of the famous Warrior known as “Lasagna” in the Oka crisis, expressed his regret to Francine for the death of her brother. Francine and Tracy embraced, in a sign of mutual pardon. The gesture was observed by Karine, a 25-year-old native woman who had been raised outside the reserve among whites. She was 11 years old at the time of the Oka crisis, and felt torn between the two nations that were struggling. Seeing Francine and Tracy together provided peace and healing to her after so many years.
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ÉDITORIAL de Neil Earle et Curtis May du Bureau des ministères de réconciliation de l’Église universelle de Dieu
Une situation déplorable Comprendre la puissance d’une excuse
ourquoi devrais-je m’excuser aux descendants des esclaves, de l’holocauste ou des Irlandais du Nord ? Je ne leur ai rien fait. C’est arrivé avant ma naissance. Comment nous excuser pour des choses que nous n’avons pas faites peut-il servir à quoi que soit ? Est-ce biblique ? Pouvez-vous l’appuyer ? Ne provoquez-vous pas simplement le trouble ?
Dans les années 1990, des millions de personnes dans les Balkans se sont retrouvées prisonnières des haines et des ressentiments qui remontaient aux querelles et aux atrocités des années 1300. Un journaliste a appelé cette région : « La terre du passé vivant ».
Du Bureau des ministères de réconciliation de l’Église universelle de Dieu (BMR), nous recevons souvent ce genre de questions. Ce sont des questions logiques, et elles méritent une réponse.
Les vieilles haines et les animosités existent encore. Le trouble est déjà là qui se promènent ; la main morte du passé n’est pas si morte. Les personnes encore vivantes transportent toujours sur elles les souvenirs amers des torts infligés à leurs ancêtres, des blessures qui ont été transmises d’une génération à l’autre. Une phrase en Exode 20.5 me vient à l’esprit : « Je punis les fils pour la faute de leur père, jusqu’à la troisième, voire la quatrième génération ».
Considérez l’anecdote suivante : le chef de police d’une ville importante des États-Unis, un leader dans la réconciliation communautaire, a récemment confessé à l’un de nous une erreur de jugement. Il était assis dans un restaurant, et son serveur était turc. Soudain, des ressentiments profondément enfouis dans le psychisme du chef ont refait surface. Il a décidé de rendre la vie du jeune serveur misérable. Pourquoi ? Le chef était un descendant arménien. En lui sommeillaient des sentiments profonds qu’il avait entendus exprimer autour de la table familiale à propos du génocide arménien, un des crimes les plus haineux du 20e siècle. « Les Turcs n’ont jamais demandé pardon pour cet épisode, nous a raconté le chef. Malgré tout, je n’ai aucune excuse pour justifier mon comportement envers ce jeune homme. » Des événements qui datent de 100 ans sont sortis du passé, comme si c’était des blessures infligées la veille.
L’auteur William Faulkner a écrit : « Le passé n’est pas mort ; ce n’est même pas passé. »
Les haines prennent une vie qui leur est propre : les Capulet et les Montague dans « Roméo et Juliette », les Hatfield et les McCoy au début de la colonisation de l’Amérique. En Bosnie, les blessures sont descendues dans les rues. Devant des haines profondément enracinées, de simples excuses peuvent-elles servir à quelque chose ? « Les attitudes ont une sorte d’inertie, a écrit M. Scott Peck, mais une fois en marche, elles se perpétuent, même devant des preuves. Pour changer d’attitude, il faut beaucoup de travail et de souffrance. » « Travail et souffrance », c’est la partie difficile. Alors, où doit-on commencer ? Qui est responsable d’essayer de briser de tels cycles de haine ? Les morts ? Bien sûr que non. Qui alors entrera dans la brèche, et comment ?
« La terre du passé vivant » Les péchés des pères ? Vous vous souvenez du « nettoyage ethnique » ?
Beaucoup de conseillers croient qu’une première étape indispensable pour fermer tout cycle de haine consiste à tra-
vailler vers des excuses. « Quoi ? De simples excuses ? » Attendez, s’excuser n’est pas si simple ; c’est pourquoi il faut y travailler. C’est un processus qui exige un engagement émotionnel et spirituel de la part de celui qui les offre, et une acceptation de la part du parti blessé. Ce qui revient à dire que ni la miséricorde ni le pardon ne sont faciles, et cela de part et d’autre. Jésus a fait allusion à ce genre de situation en Matthieu 5.23, 24 : « Si donc, au moment de présenter ton offrande devant l’autel, tu te souviens que ton frère a quelque chose contre toi, laisse là ton offrande devant l’autel, et va d’abord te réconcilier avec ton frère ; puis tu reviendras présenter ton offrande. » Considérez ceci : seules les personnes humbles peuvent présenter des excuses sincères. Les attitudes non maîtrisées se détériorent toujours ; elles deviennent des obsessions. Sur la scène nationale, elles se manifestent souvent en croisades, en vendettas, en massacres, en épurations ethniques – le lexique affreux de la haine. Mais quand est-il des choses qui sont arrivées il y a bien des générations ? Une génération actuelle peut-elle être tenue responsable des actions de ses ancêtres ? Apparemment que oui. Dans 2 Samuel 21, on nous parle d’une grave famine en Israël, au temps du roi David. Le roi a consulté Dieu à ce sujet, et Dieu lui a répondu : « Cela arrive parce que Saül et sa famille sanguinaire ont fait périr les Gabaonites » (2 Samuel 21.1). Des siècles auparavant, les Gabaonites avaient reçu la promesse d’être protégés comme étrangers résidant en Israël (Josué 9.15). Saül avait brisé cette promesse, et c’était la génération de David qui en payait le prix. « David demanda aux Gabaonites : Que puis-je faire pour vous ? Comment pourrais-je expier le mal que vous avez subi […] ? » NORTHERN LIGHT
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Les offenses sont personnelles, et il faut souvent une réponse personnelle pour les régler. Même sur le plan parental, nous pouvons constater la puissance des excuses. Quand un père, une mère ou un pasteur s’excuse à un jeune pour avoir réagi excessivement et durement, cela peut créer une immense bonne volonté. Les excuses font fondre les relations glaciales où chacun trébuche dans une confusion évasive, incertain de la prochaine chose à faire.
sincères détendent souvent l’atmosphère. « Je suis désolé que nous ayons ce problème. » Là où les fautes se sont abondamment accumulées, il faut de la vigueur pour faire tomber des barrières. « Dans l’histoire, il y a plusieurs exemples de nations qui ont essayé d’enterrer les haines plutôt que de faire face au passé, ajoute Burkhard. Si nous essayons d’ignorer ou d’enterrer le passé, il nous hantera et pourra même nous détruire. »
Briser le cycle
Le pardon est un acte de libération Il peut être accordé avec grâce après des excuses sérieuses. Mais quand il y a un refus d’admettre que quelqu’un, quelque part, a fait quelque chose de très mauvais, les relations demeurent tendues. Étant donné la nature humaine, l’étape suivante consiste souvent à blâmer les victimes pour exagérer les faits. « Vous
Evelyne O’Callahan Burkhard, une spécialiste en réconciliation qui travaille en Irlande et qui a acquis de l’expérience au Cambodge, a dit : « La première étape vers la paix, c’est de parler sincèrement de ce qui a mal tourné. » Cela prend du courage. Des excuses
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l’inventez de toutes pièces. Ce n’est pas si pire. » Et puis, le cycle continue et la maladie se perpétue. Mais la bonne nouvelle, c’est qu’il existe une meilleure voie qui commence souvent par des excuses. NL
de Marg Buchanan
Un voyage de réconciliation
rancine Lemay, native du Québec, a défrayé les manchettes en 1990, en faisant une déclaration publique de pardon envers la communauté autochtone de Kanehsatake. C’était la bonne chose à faire, un geste chrétien, un geste fort.
affirmaient que c’était un cimetière sacré. Le 11 juillet, Environ 95 coups de feu ont été tirés de part et d’autre en 20 secondes, et l’une des balles a atteint et tué le caporal Marcel Lemay, le frère de Francine. Francine, ainsi que le reste de la famille, a appris la mort de son frère à la radio. Marcel a laissé dans le deuil sa jeune femme enceinte de leur deuxième enfant.
Au cours de l’été 1990, un conflit entre la communauté Mohawk de Kanehsatake et la ville voisine d’Oka, au sujet d’une parcelle de terrain connue sous le nom de Pinède, a été l’objet des informations nationales. De son côté, le maire de la ville voulait utiliser cet emplacement pour agrandir le terrain de golf de 9 trous à 18 et, de leur côté, les Amérindiens
Francine, étant la seule chrétienne évangélique de sa famille, a senti qu’elle devait être forte et montrer l’amour de Christ à tous ceux qui étaient impliqués dans la crise. Quatre semaines après la mort de son frère, elle s’est rendue aux barricades avec une lettre racontant son enrôlement dans l’« armée de Christ » et son désir que tous les peuples, indépendamment de la race, soient sauvés.
Un journaliste du Journal de Montréal s’est approché d’elle pour une interview, durant laquelle elle a exprimé son désir d’une résolution pacifique au conflit. Le journal a aussi imprimé sa lettre en entier. Peu de temps après l’incident et la publication de la lettre, Francine a été invitée à parler à l’Église pentecôtiste de Kahnawake. L’église était bondée, et plusieurs femmes vêtues d’habits traditionnels sont venues l’entendre parler de pardon. Francine croyait qu’elle avait fait sa part et que son pardon était sincère et complet. Ce chapitre était clos pour elle.
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Mais 14 ans plus tard, elle réalise que la réconciliation ne vient pas si facilement. C’est un processus qui prend du temps et qui va en profondeur.
La police l’a interceptée et lui a interdit tout accès au territoire occupé.
Mais pourtant, des doutes angoissants et des soupçons de racisme refaisaient surface. Elle était hantée par des cauchemars terribles de conflits entre blancs et autochtones. Elle gardait un certain ressentiment contre les Mohawks pour des choses qu’elle avait entendues par les médias. Au printemps 2004, deux étudiants qui travaillaient pour la radio communautaire de l’université McGill l’ont contactée pour lui demander une interview sur les événements de 1990. Elle savait que si elle acceptait elle aurait encore à faire face à toute cette crise, 14 ans plus tard. En préparation pour la rencontre, Francine est allée voir ses bons amis, Céline et Hector Genest, un couple de son Église qui participe au projet de traduction de la Bible en Mohawk. En leur posant des questions difficiles qu’elle avait essayé de taire depuis si longtemps, elle a réalisé qu’elle éprouvait de l’amertume qui s’était accumulée pendant des années à cause de la désinformation. Le faible pardon de Francine qui datait de plusieurs années s’est peu à peu transformé en une profonde compréhension du cœur et des besoins d’un peuple. Mais Dieu n’avait pas encore fini de travailler en elle. Le dimanche suivant, alors que Francine était préposée à l’accueil de son Église, un groupe de six Mohawks, dont Mavis Etienne, est entré et a pris place. Ce jour-là, à l’Église de l’Alliance, on y présentait, dans le cadre du projet de traduction de la Bible, le travail déjà accompli dans la Genèse. « Je tremblais comme une feuille pendant toute la présentation », explique Francine. À la fin du culte, elle s’est levée et a manifesté le désir de parler : « J’ai demandé pardon au peuple Mohawk, de la part de tous les Québécois et de tous les Canadiens, pour le tort qui leur a été fait depuis plus de 300 ans. »
Mavis Etienne s’est ensuite levée et a publiquement demandé pardon pour ne pas avoir prié pour les agents de police impliqués dans l’impasse et plus tard dans la fusillade. Elle a exprimé ses regrets à Francine pour la mort de son frère, et plus tard elle a demandé les noms de chaque membre de sa famille pour prier pour eux. « C’était des paroles que j’avais besoin d’entendre depuis 14 ans. J’étais profondément touchée », confie Francine. Ce dimanche a marqué la première étape de son voyage vers une guérison spirituelle et émotionnelle. Au cours de ce même culte, Mavis Etienne a fait part à l’assemblée qu’elle organisait ce qu’elle appelle le Sentier des prières, un jour de marche autour des endroits stratégiques à Kanehsatake qui ont subi des tensions internes, et un jour de prière pour la guérison de sa nation et de toutes les nations. Francine lui a dit à la fin du culte qu’elle désirait y participer. Le 9 juin 2004, Francine Lemay, debout parmi les 50 participants au Sentier des prières, les a conduits dans une prière pour la paix devant l’école secondaire, le premier arrêt de l’itinéraire de prière. Pendant que le groupe avançait vers la pinède, la partie boisée qui est à l’origine de la crise d’Oka 1990, Francine a commencé à se sentir mal. En larmes, elle souffrait de douleurs à l’estomac et de nausées. Elle a appris plus tard que ce territoire boisé était l’endroit précis où les coups de feu avaient été tirés et où son frère a été tué.
nom de Lasagne durant la crise d’Oka, a exprimé ses regrets à Francine pour la mort de son frère. Francine et Tracy se sont fait l’accolade dans un signe de pardon mutuel. Le geste a été observé par Karyn, une jeune femme autochtone de 25 ans, qui a été élevée parmi les blancs, à l’extérieur de la réserve. Âgée d’à peine 11 ans durant la crise d’Oka, Karyn s’est sentie déchirée entre les deux nations qui se battaient. Voir Francine et Tracy ensemble lui a procuré la paix et la guérison dont elle avait besoin depuis plusieurs années. Et les effets de la réconciliation se poursuivent. Aidée par ses amies Mavis Etienne et Céline Genest, Francine approfondit ses contacts avec les communautés autochtones de Kanehsatake et Kahnawake. « Le vent du Saint-Esprit souffle sur ce territoire », affirme-t-elle. Et le vent du Saint-Esprit continue d’insuffler un esprit de réconciliation chez une femme qui apprend chaque jour à bâtir des ponts entre les gens et les nations.NL Note de l'éditeur : Francine Lemay est traductrice pour le magazine Northern Light et Marg Buchanan est rédactrice à la pige. Cet article a d'abord paru dans le numéro de novembre et décembre 2004 du journal Indian Life et il est réimprimé dans le présent numéro de Northern Light avec la permission de l'auteur.
« Je ne m’étais jamais permise de vivre mon deuil », a-t-elle révélé. Dans la pinède, ce jour-là, elle a ressenti et exprimé toute sa souffrance accumulée. « On se sent mieux une fois que c’est sorti. » Au cours d’un autre moment émouvant lors du Sentier des prières, Tracy Cross, le frère du fameux Warrior connu sous le
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D I R E C T O R ’ S
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By Gary Moore National Director
e have entered a period of time in the cultural and intellectual history of the world that is being called postmodern. In some ways it may be questioned whether postmodernism is really a new culture at all, as it represents thinking that rejects the scientific, “modern” mindset that has dominated western civilization since the time of the Enlightenment, rather than standing for an exciting new way to understand life. In his stimulating book A Primer on Postmodernism, the late Regent College professor Stanley J. Grenz defines postmodernism as “the end of a single, universal worldview” (page 12). The “modern” world found its roots in a belief that things could be understood. The deeper one dug into life’s questions and problems, the closer one would be to finding the truth. The truth was out there (about any subject, really), was objective, and could eventually be
Our Anchor In A Restless Sea understood by human reasoning power. A strong faith in science and reason, as well as faith in the inevitability of progress, were part of the “modern” worldview. However, as with all human culture and philosophy, there were holes in the seemingly airtight view of modernists. Human reason couldn’t solve all problems. In fact, though science provided increasingly sophisticated information and technology, the prideful and evil side of humanity reared its ugly head, and merely made more powerful weapons of destruction, and also was the source of destroying the environment. Further, there was clearly a spiritual side to humanity that simply couldn’t be ignored. As communism found out in Eastern Europe, religion and spiritual hunger of the human soul wasn’t just a vestige of ancient superstitions, it was a very real ache in the human heart. On the positive side of the ledger, postmodernism has exposed the myth that science and human reason was king, and that it could tame, domesticate, and conquer everything in its path. Science can offer a lot, but does not answer the great, ultimate spiritual questions of who we are, why we are, where we are going, and how we can understand good and evil—let alone eradicate evil. Even as the tools of science have allowed us to explore further and deeper, we are often confounded by the complexity of things, and old theories must be jettisoned as new ones emerge to take their place.
Humanity has been humbled, and we needed it! On the other hand, postmodernism has rejected the very idea of absolute truth. Truth has become, to many, relative— relative to your perspective, to your tribe, and to your culture. Further, as truth isn’t absolute, your truth may be different from my truth, but that is okay. This creates tolerance for the opinions of others (which, overall, is good) but it can go too far. If there is a God who created all things, and reveals something of himself, we do in fact have the basis for objective truth. This is truth that should be valid for both you and me—and everybody else. That is precisely the claim of the God of the Bible. He says he created all things, and has revealed himself to us in the pages of that book, and most especially in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was God who took on human flesh and lived among us for just over 33 years. Of himself he said he was the truth (John 14:6). Revealed in him is the character and mind of God. Through him, God’s purpose of saving humanity is made possible. All cultures humanity has built have had their profound insights, but they have also had their equally profound blind spots. Postmodernism is no exception— as was modernism that preceded it. However, it isn’t humanly devised culture that is the ultimate arbiter of truth, but God. He sets the standard of what is true and what is not. That standard— rooted and grounded in his character and his love—is the true anchor all of us have in the tossing sea of ideas and contradictory values that forms our world (Hebrews 6:17-20).NL
CHRONIQUE de Gary Moore
Notre ancre dans la mer agitée
ous sommes entrés dans une époque de l’histoire culturelle et intellectuelle du monde que l’on appelle postmoderne. À certains égards, on peut se demander si le postmodernisme est vraiment une toute nouvelle culture, étant donné qu’elle représente plus une pensée qui rejette une tournure d’esprit scientifique, « moderne », qui a dominé la civilisation occidentale depuis le Siècle des lumières, qu’une nouvelle façon passionnante de comprendre la vie. Dans son livre captivant A Primer on Postmodernism (Un livre élémentaire sur le postmodernisme), le regretté professeur du Regent College, Stanley J. Grenz, définit le postmodernisme comme « la fin d’une vision unique et universelle » (page 12). Le monde « moderne » a trouvé ses racines dans la croyance que les choses pouvaient être comprises : plus une personne creusait dans les questions et les problèmes de la vie, plus elle s’approchait de la vérité. La vérité était là (vraiment sur n’importe quel sujet), objective, et elle pouvait tôt ou tard être comprise par le pouvoir du raisonnement humain. Croire ardemment dans la science et le raisonnement, ainsi que dans l’inévitabilité du progrès, faisait partie de la vision « moderne ». Cependant, comme avec toute culture et philosophie humaines, il y a des trous dans la vision soi-disant hermétique des modernistes. Le raisonnement humain ne pouvait pas résoudre tous les problèmes. En fait, même si la science a fourni une information et une technologie de plus en plus sophistiquées, le côté orgueilleux et impie de l’humanité a fait son apparition dans toute son horreur par la fabrication de plus d’armes de destruction puissantes qui a été la source de la dégradation de l’environnement. Or, il y avait nettement un côté spirituel à l’humanité qui ne pouvait tout simplement pas être ignoré. Comme le
communisme l’a constaté dans l’Europe de l’est, la religion et la soif spirituelle de l’âme humaine n’étaient pas seulement un vestige d’anciennes superstitions, mais une véritable douleur dans le cœur humain. Le côté positif du postmodernisme, c’est qu’il a exposé le mythe que la science et le raisonnement humain étaient roi, et qu’ils pouvaient dompter, domestiquer et tout conquérir sur son passage. La science peut offrir beaucoup, mais elle ne répond pas aux grandes questions
spirituelles ultimes sur notre identité, notre raison d’être, notre destination et notre compréhension du bien et du mal, sans parler qu’elle ne peut enrayer le mal. Même si les outils de la science nous ont permis d’explorer plus loin et plus en profondeur, nous sommes souvent confus par la complexité des choses, et les vieilles théories doivent être abandonnées à mesure que de nouvelles émergent pour prendre leur place.
tolérance pour les opinions des autres (ce qui, somme toute, est bon), mais elle peut aller trop loin. S’il y a un Dieu qui a tout créé et qu’il révèle quelque chose de lui-même, nous avons en fait le fondement pour une vérité objective. C’est une vérité qui devrait être valable à la fois pour vous et pour moi, et pour tout le monde. C’est précisément l’affirmation du Dieu de la Bible. Il dit qu’il a créé toutes choses et qu’il s’est révélé à nous dans les pages de ce livre, et plus précisément dans la personne de JésusChrist. Jésus, c’est Dieu qui a pris une forme humaine et qui a vécu parmi nous pendant quelque 33 années. Il a dit de lui-même qu’il était la vérité (Jean 14.6). Le caractère et l’esprit de Dieu ont été révélés en lui et, par lui, le plan de Dieu de sauver l’humanité est rendu possible. Toutes les cultures que l’humanité a développées ont eu leurs connaissances profondes, mais aussi leurs grands angles morts. Le postmodernisme ne fait pas exception, comme l’a été le modernisme qui l’a précédé. Cependant, ce n’est pas une culture humainement imaginée qui est l’arbitre ultime de la vérité, c’est Dieu. Il établit la norme pour ce qui est vrai et ce qui ne l’est pas. Cette norme, enracinée et fondée dans son caractère et son amour est la véritable ancre dont nous disposons tous dans la mer agitée des idées et des valeurs contradictoires qui forment notre monde (Hébreux 6.17-20).NL
L’humanité a été humiliée, et elle en avait besoin ! Par ailleurs, le postmodernisme a rejeté l’idée même de la vérité absolue. Pour plusieurs la vérité est devenue relative – relative à notre perspective, à notre tribu et à notre culture. De plus, comme la vérité n’est pas absolue, ma vérité peut différer de la vôtre, et c’est accepté. Ce relativisme engendre une
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By Phil Gale Member, Victoria congregation
Have Love For One Another
From one perspective, we could say these altercations are localised, contained in one area of the world. But on another scale, we have war in Iraq, violence in Zimbabwe, bloodshed in the West Bank, and a potentially explosive situation in Iran. People are not able to get along with each other. In the 50’s and 60’s of the twentieth century, it was East against West. Now it seems to be Middle East against West, or perhaps more accurately, a Middle Eastern philosophy against a Western philosophy. The Bible predicts that ‘in the last days perilous times will come’ (1 Timothy 3:1 NKJ), and in verses 2-4 Paul goes on to say that people will be lovers of themselves instead of lovers of God. In this post-modern era, is this what we have come to expect? Postmodern is also equated with the term post-Christian, and from the trends that we see in North America and Europe, it seems as though this is an accurate description. With the emergence of materialism, and the decrease of the influence of Christianity, God is seen as old-fashioned and unnecessary. The Bible warns therefore, “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV), meaning that where there is no accurate vision for the future, the people do what they want—seemingly neglecting to con-
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s I write, there has been another fatal stabbing on the streets of the UK, the senseless slaughter of a 16 year old up-and-coming soccer player. He attempted to intervene in a confrontation between 2 young teenagers, and ended up coming off worse. That follows in the footsteps of another young man who was fatally wounded on a train travelling from Scotland to the West of England.
sider the results of their actions. Without God, there is no restraint, leading to civil disobedience.
(Romans 12:18), and “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
The love of God is like glue—it unites people, cultures and generations, and without it all we have is disunity—which we witness every day in our newspapers and news bulletins. What kind of responsibility does that put on Christians, who do have vision, the love of God, and a very real hope for the future? The words of Jesus Christ in John 13: 34-35 are: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Yet, Christianity should have the strongest bond in all history—the knowledge of the God’s revealed truth. God is the Creator, Jesus Christ the Son our Saviour, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and evidence of our inheritance. One would think that this would be enough to unite Christians everywhere, especially as we face trials from without.
It is very important that the Christian world put on a united front, that although the world may be in chaos and confusion, the followers of Jesus should have vision and unity resulting from the love of God in our hearts. But, what do we see? Division. One denomination cannot agree with another, and so there is animosity. Then we even have congregations who cannot agree, leading to splits and splinters. Again, Paul’s words are “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men
The postmodern era has not been without its trials, and as a post-Christian era, it is a time of stress for many Christians in the West. Yet Jesus’ timeless warning gives us pause for thought, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Yet in the following verses he also encourages his followers saying, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved, and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:13-14). Let’s pray for unity in the global church, and God speed the day of Jesus’ promised return.NL NORTHERN LIGHT
P A S T O R ’ S
C O R N E R By Phil Baldwin
Notes On Intercessory Prayer
everal years ago, Susan (my wife) and I realized that a number of people we knew and loved were experiencing great difficulties in their lives. We had family and friends who were dealing with cancer, our mothers were both living with age-related challenges, several married couples we knew well had seemingly insurmountable relationship conflicts. In addition to our individual prayers for these family members and friends, we decided to pray for them—interceding on their behalf together—as part of our table grace at the evening meal. In a very real way we are taking Jesus’ admonition seriously: that where the two of us prayed together in his name, he was there with us (Matthew 18:20). This practice is such a part of our devotions that we also invite guests in our home to contribute to these intercessions. “As part of our grace,” Susan will say to the friend who is sharing supper with us, “we pray for the people we know who have particular needs. Is there anyone you would like us to include in our prayers?” Inevitably, there is a co-worker, an aunt, some issue that comes to mind, and we bring that person or situation to Jesus at the Father’s throne (along with our thanks for the meal and intercessions) with the assurance that we can give our concerns over to him because we are—indeed his whole creation is—his special concern (1 Peter 5:7). This is also what we have been doing in our worship services—living out Jesus’ concern for us and the world as we pray for healing, for comfort, for forgiveness or reconciliation or peace. These prayers ask for God’s will for us and for the whole earth, so we pray them in faith: “Your will be done on earth; we
want your will to be done on earth; Lord, we pray that you will let your will be done on earth.” Our faith is knowing that, even if we do not immediately see the answer to our prayers, God is at work through them and that he is accomplishing his will. This practice has become such a part of our worship services, that it is very rarely omitted. In one congregation, we include a number of these prayer requests in the weekly bulletin, so that people can take them home and be reminded of them through the week. In another congregation, where we regularly have people present who are not members of our congregation, we make a point of including their prayer requests in our worship and later continue to follow up on their concerns. They tell us that including them and their petitions in our intercessory prayers is an encouragement and a source of strength for them.
Pastor, London, Sarnia, and Windsor, congregations
the congregation is aware. Next, I give thanks for our congregation, our denomination and its leaders, and I express the concern we have for persecuted brothers and sisters in the whole body of Christ. Lastly, I pray for the world, its challenges, and its sorrows, such as, disease, famine, natural disasters, violence and war. This list varies from week to week, depending on recent events, and ought to include prayers for our political leaders who have the opportunity to be an important influence in our society. There are ways to emphasize this threefold division of our prayers through music. The simplest is the singing of a simple refrain at the conclusion of each set of prayer requests. “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord” (CH 641) works well for this, as does “O Lord, Hear Our Prayer” a short piece of Taizé music.2
Making our prayers for others a part of the worship service is not a big challenge, but it does take some thought and preparation. In addition to the actual offering of the prayers, we often sing a hymn that speaks to the assurance we can have through our intercessions, the faithfulness of God in hearing and responding to our prayers, or a setting of an appropriate scriptural text immediately before the prayers. Examples of these include:
“Lord, Be Glorified” (CH 186) can introduce, as well as punctuate, a congregation’s intercessory prayer time with the inclusion of some additional stanzas (I have seen the following arrangement of lyrics in other hymnbooks):
“It Is Well with My Soul” (Celebration Hymnal1 705)
Prayers for the church
“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (CH 630)
“In our church, Lord, be glorified…be glorified today.”
“Cast Thy Burden upon the Lord” (CH 229)
Prayers for the world
In general, when I offer these prayers myself, I think of three broad categories. First, I pray for individual needs of which
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“In our lives, Lord, be glorified…be glorified today.” Prayers for individuals “In our homes, Lord, be glorified…be glorified today.”
“In your world, Lord, be glorified…be glorified today.”
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Of course, the order of these petitions is not hard and fast. They might be rearranged for specific reasons on a particular day. There are also many suitable choices of hymns or songs to conclude a time of intercession. The following are reminders of the faithfulness of God in answering, or working through, our prayers: “Be Still My Soul” (CH 712) “God Will Make a Way” (CH 704) “Sweet Hour of Prayer” (CH 640) As a musical resource, I have found one other contemporary song to be very useful. “Open Our Eyes” Sing! (A New Creation3 263) has a tuneful refrain that a congregation can learn easily and a number of stanzas that include a variety of simple prayer requests:
have become more serious since we began praying for them. The three married couples for whom we have prayed are all now divorced, or well on the way to that end. Of the people we have prayed for who struggled with cancer, some have died and some are able to live normal lives again. There are people for whom we pray that are relieved of their trials while others are not. Why keep on praying for people when there is no guarantee that our specific requests for deliverance will be answered, when it seems more than likely that people will continue to suffer than that God will intervene to heal or reconcile or cure them? I take great comfort in believing that prayer has more possible answers than “yes” and “no.” Especially from hearing the stories of people whose lives have been centered around one particular prayer:
“To the plight of the poor, open our eyes… When a colour divides us, open our eyes… To those trapped by addiction, open our eyes…”
“Lord, open her eyes to see your love and compassion,”
Each stanza concludes “…teach us compassion and love” as the music leads back to the refrain:
I think that God’s answer to our prayers is often “not yet.” I don’t have any special wisdom to understand the reasons why God chooses to work the way he does. I do, however, remember Jesus’ interpretation of the parable of the widow and the unjust judge: “…will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:7-8a). It is apparent that “quickly” means something quite different to God than it does to us, and the exercise of our faith is in trusting that our Lord’s promise to bring about justice (or
“Come and bring light to a people in darkness…open our eyes once again.” But, does intercessory prayer have more value than simply giving encouragement, comfort, or strength to the people who do the praying? Your experience in receiving “answers” to your prayers is likely similar to Susan’s and mine and that of our congregations. It is mixed. Our mothers are both in nursing homes now; if anything, their medical conditions
“Holy Spirit, give me the peace and the will to offer them forgiveness,” “Jesus, relieve his pain,”
healing or whatever) for his people is not something that he is putting off until he gets around to it. Being part of the “priesthood of all believers,” we lift up the cares and concerns of our brothers and sisters, our families, our friends, even our enemies, to the faithful High Priest who sits at the Father’s throne—where we believe he has all power and authority to make the old order of death and mourning and crying and pain pass away (Revelation 21:4). Bring your requests, the concerns of family and friends, the needs of your church before our faithful God day after day, week after week. Speak them, whisper them, sing them or shout them: exercise your faith in the Song of God who offered his own prayers “with loud cries and tears” and believed in “the one who could save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7).NL Notes 1 As much as possible I attempted to refer to musical resources that are available in the Celebration Hymnal: Songs and Hymns for Worship (Word Music/Integrity Music, 1997). 2 If you are unfamiliar with Taizé music, a Google search on the internet will lead you to helpful audio and print resources. 3 Sing! A New Creation. Leader’s Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 2002.
Postmodernism Or... The Church vs Starbucks
n returning to university life in 1989 I soon ran straight into a concept I hadn’t heard much about—Postmodernism or “PoMo” as the more trendy students called it at University of
Modernism is very much a post-World War One experience, “the war that killed God” it’s been called. That great Canadian poem “In Flander’s Fields” would be rejected as Pre-modern—too loyal, too unquestioning of authority, too
Toronto. I also heard that there were skeptics about such a thing as Postmodernism. There still are. But now that I’ve had time to think about it I’m fairly convinced that there quite possibly could be such a thing, in one sense of the word, maybe. (I hope by the time this article is finished you’ll realize that the previous sentence was a very “postmodern” statement).
By Neil Earle Pastor, Glendora, California congregation the famed Pentecostal preacher of the airwaves in the 1920s and 1930s, another Canuck named Aimee Semple McPherson (yes!). Modernism believed that new technologies (radio, film, the telephone) and new tactics of social interaction (the automobile) would explode the stuffy, pretentious, pre-modern outlook. Women could smoke, wear makeup. The Flapper was in. Men went to work in shiny cars sitting behind desks where that new, stylish success symbol of the 1920s, the desk telephone, was everywhere. The Karaoke Culture
So…for starters, let’s try to arrive at some kind of definition. If there’s a Postmodernism then there must have been a Modernism. Most culture critics can agree on what that is. Mention “the Moderns’ in any English or History class and the big names roll easily off the tongue—Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and, in Canada, Hugh MacLennan, author of Two Solitudes (think how many solitudes there are today). In architecture you’d be thinking of the Empire State Building (Art Moderne) or the Flatiron Building in downtown Toronto. Modernism says, “Let’s cast off the stuffy old Victorian world view of ‘ours not to wonder why/ours but to do or die.’ Let’s think for ourselves. Let’s use the new technologies that are exploding around us and chart a fresh new radical individual course for the world.”
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traditional. Modernism was bravely, boldly represented by the experimental New Arts of the cinema where a first mega-star was a Canadian named Mary Pickford. Another modernist lady was
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Postmoderns claim that this history-shaking explosion of applied technology has gone farther than anyone could have seen. It has created a new world—a world where people star in their own movies, program their own entertainment, tune out teachers in classrooms and tune in to I pods and text-messages. Modernism believed in structure of a kind—the hierarchical corporation, the Organization man. Postmodernism is more represented by the Net—the center is everywhere. Christian culture student Leonard Sweet calls this “the Karaoke Culture.” It’s no longer impressive to have a gleaming, showy telephone on your desk when you can cell phone from China to tell your professor in B.C. you won’t be in class tonight. Really!
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Modernism was linear, structured, tied to technology in an organized way. In postmodernism, by contrast, the center gives way to flux. The cell phone is its present grass-roots manifestation as are the various home entertainment systems now contained in the palm of one’s hand. The Worldwide Church of God in many ways was a product of modernism. People heard a voice on the radio, or read an organized, linear message in a very traditional magazine format and then wrote a letter to Vancouver to request a visit. A logical, organized, linear, top-down and technologically advanced process far beyond mere word of mouth and the traveling preacher. But come on—who writes letters anymore in the age of the Net? (I exaggerate slightly). Without an email address today you’re almost out of touch. “Forget the 58lesson correspondence course, do you have a VCR?” Oops, sorry, DVDs are about to make them obsolete as well, aren’t they? How well I remember those seemingly pre-Flood days in Newfoundland waiting for a letter from Vancouver to advise me what to do. The process took weeks. Phone calls to the West Coast were way too expensive in 1965. Nowadays, anyone who deals consistently with people under age 25 knows what a very different world this is. It’s a spedup, roller-coaster, postmodern world. Ours, says Sweet, is the first generation where children have to teach parents how to handle the new gadgetry, for example. Things are topsyturvy, inverted, unpredictable, a world moving at the speed of fax. It’s the difference between the linear structured TV shows such as “Ed Sullivan” where the MC walked you through a sequenced variety show and today’s MTV, or E! Or VH1. What a difference! The Church Challenge Another Canadian named Marshall McLuhan saw a lot of this coming. McLuhan said that after the first camera view of the earth through space in 1968 we all subconsciously began to think of ourselves differently. We saw ourselves as members of the crew aboard Spaceship Earth. We felt how delicate this place in the cosmos was. Now we wanted to help program the vehicle. The passengers want to be the crew. This gives an idea of postmodernism’s radical, upside-down, throughthe-looking glass bias for change. It’s not necessarily bad or evil, but it is different. Po-mo’s exponents aren’t respectful of old line thinking. The worst words it can hear are, “But this is the way we’ve always done it!” Po-mo is experimental, always innovating, not easily accepting of tradition and doesn’t like reading (unless it’s a text message) but prefers fast-moving visual images instead. So —goodbye glossy booklets department. Hello CD publicity discs. People today want things now, instantly—“If we don’t deliver your pizza in 25 minutes, it’s on us!”
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By now we can grasp what this means for the churches.
be thy name,” ended up as a war correspondent in 1944. The world hadn’t changed that much!
The churches today are really worried about the assault of postmodernism. But the church has a great asset. The Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, promised he would never leave us or forsake us and—what’s more—he would be with us till the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is still alive. In a sense the ultimate postmodern presence (“the center is everywhere”) is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us and also teaches us what to say (Mark 13:11). We can have hope. We can navigate the postmodern age. Actually, postmodernism has one great advantage over modernism. Let’s look at that.
In contrast, Postmodernism curves back on its progenitor, modernism. The postmodern is remarkably open to take a second look at the supernatural, the spiritual realm, even if it doesn’t quite understand it. The upcoming movie, as I write, “Damien,” recycles 666, the Antichrist and other bad stuff. I nominate the movie “Chariots of Fire” as an early postmodern film. It had two heroes, remember? One was a super-competitive Jewish athlete, Abrams, striving against the Establishment. But—lo and behold for a 1980s movie, there was also the Christian missionary, Eric Liddell (wife from Toronto!). Remember Liddell struggling not to run heats on his Sabbath? How unexpected!
The Postmodern Advantage The modernists were way, way overconfident that technology and new forms of thinking would bring in the millennium (does the name Picasso ring a bell?). World War Two took a lot of the wind out of Modernism’s sails and its in-built agnosticism. The same Ernest Hemingway who wrote “Our Nada who art in Nada, Nada
The makers of that movie were willing to consider Liddell’s faith story as heroic because it was a cracking good story and in Postmodernism the individual experience is also central. If your story has internal coherence and consistency it just might be worth considering. After all, yours, they would say, is as good as anyone else’s. In other words, as Sweet says, this may be a wired postmodern world but people are still reaching out for connectivity. The Book—the printed Bible—allows for certain verbal, emotional participation but the computer and interactive communications (Canadian Idol) allows for a whole lot more. In other words, people are still hungry for connection. That’s the secret of the cell phone craze: High tech used for smart connect. A friend is only seven digits away—and oh, how I need friends. So…it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good. Postmodernism isn’t all bad. Many educators and social thinkers consider today’s youth as much more “open” to new knowledge, to relationships—they seem much more willing to consider things, even spiritual things, than the rebellious baby boomers (my group) or the “Me Too” generation that followed us.
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“The Great Good Place” This is painting with a pretty broad brush, admittedly, but one thing the Christian church must learn and relearn is not to repeat its centuries-old mistake of rejecting the new just because it’s new. Radio, TV, magazines used to be branded Satanic, after all. Jesus was remarkably open and accessible to all types of people—especially sinners (Matthew 9:36). He had an amazing way of going against the grain, of overturning the stereotypes (Mark 9:35). And he consistently taught in sharp, concrete images—not “civic duty” but “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” not “divine providence” but “a sparrow can’t fall without his noticing.” The Good Samaritan. The Prodigal Son. The Lost Sheep vs. the 99.” You could make a case for his message being postmodern. Then where did all the hierarchical, pyramidical, super-structured, top-down, brick and mortar way of doing church come from? That is a good question. Chalk one up to postmoderns for being willing to ask. “The center is everywhere.” That’s one of Po-Mo’s big assumptions. But we are all looking for what’s been called “the great, good place.” A place where we can grow, and thrive and be understood. It used to be the farm or small town, then the city block, then the suburbs. Today, says Sweet, there’s fewer places to go just to “hang out.” If you’ve seen one mall you’ve seen them all. That, he says, is the secret of Starbucks. They don’t just sell coffee, they sell an experience. Good coffee, yes, but personalized service (“make room for cream?”). Friendly service and a place to relax, to read a paper, talk with friends—especially that! Sweet’s challenge for the church is to, without dumbing down, become the great good place. People crave relationships, today more than ever. In fact it’s unbiblical, says Dan Spader, to claim that all we need is God. We need each other. That’s the Second Great Commandment.
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So, does this affect the way we “do church?” Or might do it in the future? Most of us of a certain age are still enamored of the highly structured “modern” way of church—hundreds of people overflowing pews regularly, dozens faithfully showing up for activities or assignments as in those thrilling days of yesteryear. But some of today’s successful traditionalseeming churches are ahead of the curve. Some use their aging but beautiful physical plants in new, creative ways. “Come and hear about the Da Vinci Code at First Fellowship Church.” “Pastor to discuss Judas Gospel in St. Barnabas’ basement next Sunday night—free refreshments.” “You’ve seen Narnia, now meet Aslan.” “Damien— should you be worried?” These are simple examples of how creative, quietly aggressive and invitational the Postmodern Church must be to capture skeptical—but still searching—postmoderns. So...the more things change, the more they remain the same. As Sweet says, Jesus’ commission was to “go,” not beg people to come to church (Matthew 28:18-19). Hungry for Connection Leonard Sweet claims that postmodern businessmen long ago identified the hunger in our culture for connection, for meaning, the cry for friendship, especially in an age of gated communities where we’ve gone from “little boxes” to minifortresses in one generation. Result? There is a deep longing in our culture for Friends (as the long-running success of that TV series should remind us). Jesus said, “I have not called you servants”— part of a structured hierarchy where you are judged by the size of your window office—“but friends” (John 15:15). In other words, argues Sweet, big business tries to package what the church should be offering. And what we offer is the ultimate relationship—communion with the Three-in-One, the Great I-Am.
That should be the church’s specialty. “A soft shoulder in a hard world.” What a great mission statement for a congregation. But no. AT&T used it twenty years ago. “Reach out and touch someone.” No—we missed out again—that’s Ma Bell. Postmodernism may have no time for absolutes—except that one sure absolute that there are no absolutes. But, don’t balk at this. In such a time, the personal triumphs over doctrine. And people who leave churches usually leave over something personal. Something personal may just bring them back. Postmoderns are very good at sizing up fakes. They have been let down too often to be easily motivated. They usually cut to the chase. “What makes you so certain? Can you be sure? How do you know The Da Vinci Code is mostly misleading? How can you say that? Show me.” Ah, there’s the opportunity. The fact is that some of the questions posed by postmodernism are as potentially stimulating to the church as were the nowfamiliar challenges from modernism. Modernism meant the Scopes Trial, doubting the virgin birth, the resurrection, the miracles, Jonah and the whale. Good Christian apologists such as J.I. Packer and John Stott rose to the fore, combating such issues. Postmodern
doubt goes much deeper. The cynicism is more deeply layered, partly because of today’s knowledge explosion. With so much piling in upon us over our Black Berrys how can we sort it all out? One answer is that postmoderns, convinced that there can be no such thing as an inspired document, are more impressed by personal example, personal contact, personal experience, than previous generations. Down deep, postmoderns have a heart hunger. They want to believe in something. That is what has been missing amid the High Definition, 350-channel wired universe. They might just believe in the Gospel according to YOU. The trick is to “talk up” to people not down to them. John Stott said that evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he got bread. What an image! We get nowhere today bristling with certitude. We have to relearn Paul’s strategy of always identifying with his audience—even with those trying to kill him (Acts 22:1—“men and brothers”). On Mar’s Hill, few were more skeptical than the Athenians. But Paul knew their story. He could speak their language. He could hold his own and his opening remarks were neutral, open-ended (Acts 17:28). They listened. So, Gospel principles still work, especially when we sense the lostness of the lonely, heart-hungry people around us. Imagine a kingdom where the weak are in charge, where the poor are actually favored, where the pure in heart are highly prized. The Upside Down Kingdom of which Jesus spoke. An inverted pyramid—how postmodern! That is the kingdom the church is here to proclaim. Somewhere, somehow that task will go on, postmodern world or not.NL
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By Matt Baker
Missionary Or Missional?
eople often ask me if my wife and I are missionaries. I never know what to say. I suppose it all depends on what the term means. Is a missionary simply a Christian who settles in a foreign country? Well, we live in Sri Lanka now, so I guess that makes us missionaries. But perhaps a missionary has to be someone who is openly involved in full-time evangelism. Well, we run a vocational school and don’t really preach the gospel there (at least not with words anyway) so I guess we are NOT missionaries.
Therefore, we could say that a missional Christian is anyone who lays their entire life before God and then is willing to accept whatever mission God sends
Director, Schools For Asia Educational Foundation (www.saef.net)
tury, we like to do things fast and are often too focused on immediate results. But, although there are times when urgency is needed, there are also times when we need to slow down, trust God and focus on eternal results. Missional Christians know this and they also know that if we are willing to do whatever it takes to join God’s mission, God will be faithful to carry us through and to accomplish his desires, one way or the other.
I must admit, being a missional Christian isn’t always easy. One has to balance using common Actually, truth be told, I don’t really sense and God-given intellilike the word missionary, no matter gence in some situations, with what it may mean. On one hand, I trusting in God alone to act in don’t like it because, to Christians, Author, center, being missional. (Photo: Matt Baker) other situations. I think the key it brings to mind some sort of superis to involve God at every step their way. It may be big or it may be Christian with a super-important calling. along the way through prayer, and then small. It may involve evangelism or it On the other hand, I dislike it even more, to listen closely to our hearts—for often may involve social work. It may take because to non-Christians, it brings to we can only hear his still small voice if place at home or it may take place mind the abuses of past colonial powers we are willing to pause and be quiet for abroad. What or where the mission is or the pushiness of many modern a time. It is good to be busy and to be doesn’t matter. Who it comes from does. Christians. focused on our task but not if it causes Not every Christian can be a missionary, us to forget that, although we are invited but every Christian can be missional! All Well, fortunately, there is a new buzzto join God’s mission, it is still primarily it takes is a change of perspective and word that’s being used in Christian cirGod’s mission, not ours. the willingness to make God’s mission cles these days. It’s a word that I’m your top priority. much more comfortable with because I So, don’t see mission as being a small think it better portrays what Christian part of Christianity that someone else You see, missional Christians reject the mission should really be about anyway. will take care of. Instead, see mission idea of a passive God up in heaven who The word is “missional” and you’ll find as actually being the main point of is unconcerned and uninvolved with the the term popping up wherever people Christianity and something that every details of what goes on down here on are talking about missions in a postmodChristian can, and should, be a part of. I earth. Instead, they see God as being a ern world. encourage you to ask God how he wants God who is very much on a mission and you to be involved in his mission and a God who wants to involve us in that The difference is this: Being a missionthen to follow him wherever he may lead mission. They trust that God knows best ary is usually about where you are (a foryou. You’ll be surprised to learn that it how to accomplish his goals and how to eign culture) and what you do (evangeusually involves doing something you use each person—for what makes lism if you’re conservative; social work if truly enjoy (albeit with some stretching), sense to man, isn’t always what makes you’re liberal), whereas being a missionnot being sent to the last place on earth sense to God. al Christian is concerned simply with you’d want to go. And I encourage you, who initiated and sustains your mission, no matter what your calling is now, or There are stories of individuals who no matter where or what it is. The who, what it may end up being in the future, to toiled for years, doing what God called of course, should be God, for we know see yourself as a missional Christian. them to do without ever seeing much that, “Unless the Lord shall build a For if every Christian were to become fruit. But often the work that those peohouse, the weary builders toil in vain” missional, there would no longer be a ple did set the stage for major revivals at (Psalm 127:1). need for missionaries.NL some later point. In the twenty-first cenJ U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
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By Todd Martin Pastor, Harvest Christian Fellowship, Abbotsford, BC
eality TV is certainly popular among TV viewers today. Survivor, The Bachelor, Temptation Island, Manhunt, Married by America are just a few of the 176 reality TV shows that have been broadcast over the past few years. This surge in reality programming coincides with a new generation of TV watchers who are bored of the polished, seamless 30-minute solutions to the world’s problems found in many sitcoms and soap operas. I believe both the Christian and nonChristian community can learn a lot from this recent trend. People are looking for reality, not a show. They are hungry for people, organizations and solutions that are authentic. They want the real thing, not a bunch of smoke and mirrors, or neat, temporary quick-fix solutions to life’s issues. It is interesting that one of Jesus’ main thrusts during his public ministry on earth was to attack and condemn religion that was fake and unreal. He called the religion of his day a big façade: “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27, NIV). In this passage he uses the word hypocrite to describe the religious of his day. The word hypocrite comes from the Latin hupocrites, which means an actor or one who wears a mask or costume. Jesus’ desire was to get the acting out of religion and make it real. He wanted people to put down the masks, to stop pretending, to wipe off the happy face and stop the glib little answers to humanity’s hurts. As followers of Jesus became organized and churches were formed, the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:10 that we should focus on what really matters and that Christians should “be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” It is widely believed that the word sincere comes from the Latin sine cera, which means “without wax.” When dishonest
What’s So Real About Reality TV? potters in ancient times had a crack or flaw in the pots they made, they filled the cracks in with wax and painted over them. As soon as the new owner brought heat to the pot, the wax melted and the crack was exposed. Paul was telling Christians that they needed to be real, genuine, authentic—not pretending to be perfect when in fact they still had flaws. Jesus was real; he is the genuine article. There was no wax in his life. It was transparent for all to see and was recorded for us to read. He spent time talking to sinners. He got mad, he laughed and he cried. The original followers of Jesus were all real people with real lives. Some were fishermen, some were builders, some even worked for the government! Jesus would use these normal, genuine, authentic people to change the world. As a Christian I think we do serious damage to our cause when we pretend to have it all together. First, we send a message to those who aren’t Christians that this is a perfect persons club. Bad people need not apply! Second, we rob ourselves of God’s ongoing saving grace in our lives. James 4:6 states that God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. It would be nice if once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we no longer have any bad habits or problems in our lives, but that is not real-
ity. Christianity is all about our growing relationship with God. It is about him dealing with our realness with love, mercy and compassion. Reality TV is popular because people want authenticity, sincerity and transparency—they want reality. Next time you watch reality TV, next time you want reality, think of Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Hebrews 4:15. Speaking of Jesus he writes, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin” (The Message). Jesus is all about reality; in fact he is the only true reality we will ever know.NL NORTHERN LIGHT
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By Jonathan Buck
“May The Right Words...”
superb example of Postmodernism is The Da Vinci Code. It makes a mockery of hallowed truths, slices away at sacred cows and mixes fact and fiction so cleverly you can’t tell which is which. It challenges that great tower of religious authority and tradition—the Roman Catholic Church—it takes the divinity out of Jesus Christ and it questions the authority of the Bible by giving equal value to the Gnostic gospels that the early church fathers flatly rejected. It’s textbook Postmodernism; truth and tradition are up for grabs, and anyone claiming exclusive truth can be thrown to the lions—especially Christians. So, how does a Christian react to that? Well, I could get really angry and defensive and wave placards denouncing The Da Vinci Code and write nasty letters to the Editor. Yet, that only justifies Postmodernists saying, “Christians are mean-spirited, closed-minded, judgmental old dinosaurs,” and therefore they, the Postmodernists, have every right to tune us out as “noise” (their word for pompous Christians). To be tuned out as “noise” is quite unnerving, as I discovered in May when an article I wrote for the local newspaper’s Church Column was rejected, on the grounds that it was “crossing the line into propaganda.” Propaganda? How? Well, it wasn’t so much the content of the article that got the Editor’s dander up, it was my approach. I was being too preachy, too much the lecturing know-itall, like those dreadful evangelists who talk as if they’re talking to children, with that superior, patronizing tone in their voice. Two seconds of listening to people like that and I’m changing channels already, but here I was doing the same thing, apparently—and getting the same reaction. To my dismay, I too had become “noise.” It was a jolly useful reminder that if Paul was living today, he’d be doing his level best to understand Postmodernists, “in
order to win them (1 Corinthians 9:22)” and not turn them off. Why then, I wanted to know, are Postmodernists so sensitive to pushy Christians? Well, it was enlightening to discover that Postmodernism arose from the arrogance of Modernism. Modernism was the era of the “Grand Design”—great, grandiose promises of a healthy, wealthy world, all based on the brilliance of human intelligence and expertise. Then along came World War II, followed soon after by even more brutal wars, exploitation of the poor by big business, rampant corruption in high places and widespread pollution of the environment. Trust in human ability, institutions and authority took a huge hit, and now we have a world full of Postmodernists, including our own children, who say to us older folk, “you had your turn and you failed miserably, so don’t try lecturing us on how to live; we’ll find our own way, thank you.” It’s the arrogance of Modernism and Christianity that Postmodernists reject, arrogance they feel isn’t justified by the state our world is in now. They have a point. But it leaves them in an awkward spot, because in whom and what do they trust in instead? Here they are, especially our young people, facing the world without any guide they can fully trust in, or any absolutes to operate by, and they’ll tune out anyone claiming they know the truth as “noise.” Christians preaching a message of exclusive truth, then, are dead in the water. But we can’t back down, either, can we? We have to speak boldly (Ephesians 6:20) because the only truth that’s utterly reliable and the only Grand Design that really works, is God’s. How on earth are you going to get a Postmodernist to even listen, though, when to him “bold speaking” is “crossing the line into propaganda?”
Pastor, Barrie, Huntsville, North Bay, Peterborough, and Sudbury congregations Revised English Bible says the “right words.” I like that. So, that’s what I prayed for in the article the newspaper rejected. I rewrote it with Postmodernists in mind, and this time it was accepted. By now, though, I was a little wiser. Postmodernists, I’d discovered, are more open to truth when it’s told from personal experience, so I spoke from my own experience. The article was about marriage and how sad it is to see so many young couples nowadays fall out of love, so I talked about my own marriage and how many times Jesus had saved the day for me when my love ran dry. It was bold. I didn’t compromise the Gospel: Jesus is the only one who can save us, for eternity or every day. But this time it wasn’t preachy, lecturish or “Mr. Know-it-all Christian” speaking. Well, it seems the right words were given me because a lady I’d only met on a few occasions suddenly announced on seeing me, that my article had described her situation exactly, and out came her story in a torrent. I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say. But that was good too, because I’m learning that listening is the most important service we can offer in this Postmodern world of ours. People aren’t looking for lectures, they’re looking for listeners. They’ve been floundering around for years without a clue or an anchor, and they desperately need to talk. And what better person could they find themselves talking to than a gentle Christian praying for the “right words” in return? NL
The only technique I know is Paul’s when he wrote, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me (Ephesians 6:19).” My
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From The Pages of Christian Odyssey
What Happened To Church Growth? A Conversation With Dr. Eddie Gibbs
hristian Odyssey: Church growth was an idea that was popular 15 or 20 years ago. It promised to halt the decline in congregations and turn things around. Why hasn’t it worked?
Dr. Eddie Gibbs: Well, it depends upon the criteria by which you judge whether something has worked or not. If you have a lot of previously churched people, the insights and techniques of church growth were helpful. In the USA we had a wave of returning baby boomers following Watergate and Vietnam. Many of the boomers resisted traditional Christianity but responded to an approach which was contemporary and which fitted their needs and their cultural context. Some church growth insights were helpful in those contexts. However, I think that with the wisdom of hindsight, the ideas of Donald McGavran, the founder of the church growth movement, were not really heard in the West. His principles were missionary and outreach principles. In North America particularly, they became marketing principles. In other words, how can I increase my slice of the religious market? The principles were misunderstood—even prostituted. Outside the US, there was no phenomenon of returning baby boomers. So the standard approach was to remove all the barriers we thought would get in the way of people coming to faith.
So has it worked in terms of turning the tide of church going? Clearly no. In North America, if you believe the marketing figures, which I don’t, between 39 and 43 percent are supposed to be in church on Sunday. But when you change the research methodology and see who is actually there, it is estimated that only between 18 and 25 percent of the population are actually in church.
© Design Pics Inc.
That was okay when you had folks out there who were coming in your direction—were in your aisle of the spiritual options supermarket, so to speak. But that is not where they came from.
CO: Do you think it is a mistake to assume genuine church growth is subject to market forces? There is some brilliant marketing of Christianity. But does it misrepresent the “product’”?
EG: It certainly can. If we use marketing techniques to edit the gospel, so that only those aspects which serve our purpose are highlighted, then it is no longer the gospel. There is a tendency to proclaim a gospel that meets people’s NORTHERN LIGHT
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needs without challenging their priorities or values. We fill our churches with members that are not disciples. There is little evidence of life transformation, particularly amongst those who are simply at the worship service once a week. It is only when you separate out the 10 percent who are involved beyond the worship service that you see a significant statistical difference in lifestyle. If it is just the general churchgoing population, there is little difference between them and the population at large when you look at their attitudes on racism, truth telling, divorce and lifestyle in general. CO: What are we doing wrong? EG: We have not recognized a profound cultural shift. From the conversion of the Emperor Constantine until the First World War in Europe and the 1960s in America, churches have lived in a “Christendom” framework. By that I mean most people were at least notionally Christian. They would come to church for weddings and baptisms and funerals. Under that umbrella, the church was a central institution of society and our strategy in communicating good news was “come to us on our terms, to events where we are in the majority and in power.” Now we are no longer within a Christendom framework. We are in postChristendom—some would say a neopagan society. In that environment, you don’t operate in a “come to us” way. But most church leaders are not trained to function in that environment. Look at the various positions listed in Ephesians 4:11. This, remember, is a pre-Christendom model of leadership that emphasizes the need for missional leadership. It is apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The pastors and teachers are your settlers— the others are the pioneers. We don’t train pioneers; we train settlers. As Leslie Newbiggin said when he returned
from India and settled in Birmingham, we are in a missionary situation but we don’t train missionaries. So we have a chronic shortage of “APE’s”—apostles, prophets and evangelists. We have to define the church not as a place but as people. Not a gathering but a community. We have got to turn the idea of church inside out. CO: Is that possible? EG: Not with the mindset of present leadership. I think we need a recall, just as you have a recall of a defective car model. We need a recall so we can be trained as missionaries. CO: But you don’t downplay the importance of the local congregation and weekly worship service. EG: No—not at all. The issue is whether worship finds expression in mission. When worship does not show in witness by word and deed it becomes spiritual self-indulgence. So for me, the worship service is the heart of mission. It is the pit stop in the race. We must recognize that the church is as much the church in dispersion as it is when we are gathered. Where is it when it is in dispersion? Where God has placed it to be strategic. So the task then becomes how can we support God’s people in the locations where God has already placed them?
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EG: They must remember that they are doing a valuable job loving an aging congregation to see them safely to eternity. That is a valid ministry. So, do the traditional things with those folk and do them well. Secondly, be careful of change. Most change they have experienced has been for the worse. But remind them that your concern is also for their children and grandchildren. So ask for permission to do new things apart from what is so meaningful for them. Ask them to be intercessors; old saints are great intercessors. You may be surprised. Some of those older folks are young at heart. They may be ready for their final fling in life. As a 67-year-old professor, I am on the steepest learning curve of my life. As I look at the emerging churches across the Western world, my students have become my teachers.NL Edmund Gibbs is the Donald A. McGavran Professor of Church Growth in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena California. In conjunction with Ryan K. Bolger, he has recently published Emerging Churches, a controversial and hard-hitting analysis of the challenges to Christianity in the postmodern cultures of Britain and America.
You never “dismiss” a congregation— you disperse it. And if possible you go with them. Get out of your office and, whenever you possibly can, be with the members of the church where God has placed them, and see what is going on there. CO: Do you have any words of advice for a pastor who has a crumbling church building, a shrinking congregation and declining income, who does more funerals than baptisms?
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GUEST COMMENTARY By Rev. Ron Baerg Pastor of the Battle River Anglican Parish, Battleford, Saskatchewan
The Da Vinci Code: Fact Or Fiction?
oming soon to a theater near you—The Da Vinci Code!” This was the headline we saw frequently during the several weeks the movie version of Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, was in theaters. The Da Vinci Code has become a runaway publishing sensation! This is the book you see in every airport! This is the book you see prominently displayed in every book store! This is the book millions and millions of people have read. Published in 2003, it has been on the bestseller list since that time, selling an unbelievable 40 million copies. In addition, the book has generated an entire cottage industry of other books that either explain or attack it and these, too, are prominently displayed in any bookstore. I picked up Brown’s book several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the story. And that’s what it is—a story! But many people seem to forget this, mistaking fiction for fact. Someone, with tongue in cheek, has said, “there is just enough truth in The Da Vinci Code to be seriously misleading.” It is the confusing and blurring of fact and fiction that has upset many people, including historians, particularly art historians, theologians, and biblical scholars. The overwhelming majority of scholars in each of these fields know that Brown has played fast and loose with facts. On the one hand, this is quite acceptable, as the book is fiction but, on the other hand, Brown tends to talk about these things as though what he says is true. This problem is further compounded by Brown’s claim in the preface that his descriptions of art, documents, and rituals “are accurate.” But this claim certainly needs to be disputed. I am not qualified to talk about Brown’s interpretation of art but I do know that many of the things he says about the Bible and the history of the Church are incorrect. Let me answer a few questions that arise from reading the book.
Third, did the Council of Nicea in 325 make Jesus divine? Brown writes as though it did and, furthermore, this choice was made for political reasons. History, however, tells us another story. The claim of Christ’s divinity was not an invention of the Council of Nicea. More accurately, the Council of Nicea simply affirmed accepted Christian teaching. In The Da Vinci Code Brown also says that this vote was close. It wasn’t. The vote was quite lopsided, with 218 in favor and 2 opposed.
First, was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? There is no evidence, either biblical or historical, to suggest that Mary and Jesus were married. In a later “Gospel” called the “The Gospel of Philip” Jesus kisses Mary but the notion that this kiss was a sign of romantic attachment is clearly wrong. A careful study of “The Gospel of Philip” indicates that this “kiss” was a typical Eastern greeting. Furthermore, interpreting the text is complicated by the fact that a part of the text is missing at this critical point and so the reader must supply the ending. In other words, the infamous kiss was an ordinary greeting. Second, where there alternative Gospels in the early Church? Yes, there were many stories circulating about Jesus in the first centuries and the first Christians knew about them. The presence of these stories led Luke to begin his Gospel this way: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events …among us, I too decided, after investigating everything very carefully from the very first, to write an order account … so that you may know the truth.” The early church was not duped or fooled by the many spurious stories circulating around Jesus. And, yes, they did make choices about which stories to accept because only some of them fit the actual and true story of Jesus.
More examples could be given, but this is a good start. If you want to learn more about Jesus I would suggest reading several books by N.T. Wright such as The Original Jesus or The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Wright is a historian who works carefully with original texts and carefully considers what Jesus meant in the culture in which he lived. Wright will certainly give you a much better understanding of Jesus than Brown will. What I find more interesting is trying to answer the question why is this book so popular? Why does it appeal to our culture? What does it say about us? Many people, including church goers, have read this book, and after reading it have asked why has the Church fooled them? The answer is that the church hasn’t fooled them. Brown has. I always remind such people that if, as a result of reading The Da Vinci Code, they are suspicious of the Church, they are also obligated to be equally critical of Brown’s book. In conclusion, many Christians are debating whether they should see this movie. Personally, I would say go and enjoy the movie! But, remember, it is fiction, not fact! NL Note: For those with Internet access an article by N.T. Wright on The Da Vinci Code can be found at: http://www.spu.edu/depts/uc/response/ summer2k5/features/davincicode.asp
FOCUS ON THE LORD’S SUPPER
The Lord’s Supper And Death Of The Savior
an’s Brown’s popular novel The Da Vinci Code holds a central theory that the person to the left of Jesus (to his right) in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper is not the apostle John but Mary Magdalene! This theory was first publicized in a book called The Templar Revelation. It is said that John/ Mary Magdalene has a womanly bosom, feminine facial features and is swaying gracefully towards Peter. Peter appears to be making a threatening gesture across Mary’s throat! The author uses this theory to advance his view that Leonardo da Vinci was once the head of a secret society, the Priory of Sion, which protects the secret of Jesus’ royal bloodline, and where his descendants live today. Supposedly Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a baby girl called Sarah, who became an ancestress of the Merovingian dynasty in France. Brown writes “Mary Magdalene…her marriage to Jesus Christ. It’s a matter of historical record” (Page 244). However the figure in the painting appears to be wearing male clothing. John was thought to be the youngest and most devoted follower and other late 15th century artists also show him to be a feminine looking figure with long fair hair. Only thirteen persons appear in the painting so if Mary is present, one of the apostles must be missing! Author Brown characterizes the gospels as fabrications, so no wonder he overlooks the true facts as he promotes his malicious fiction. Leonardo’s painting is based on the chilling words of Jesus “one of you is going to betray me!” It specifically portrays the reaction given by each apostle with various degrees of anger and shock. The bible clearly records all twelve apostles present. John asks Jesus, “who is the betrayer?” Jesus answers, “it is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” He then gives it to Judas Iscariot, who says, “surely not I, rabbi?”
Jesus says, “yes, it is you.” As soon as Judas takes the bread, Satan enters him. Judas leaves to go out into the night, leaving Jesus and eleven disciples at the meal. Then Jesus introduces the elements of what is now known as the Lord’s Supper. Significantly, the painting also shows Jesus’ left hand pointing to the bread and his right hand pointing to a cup of wine. Proclaiming the death of our Savior God instructed Moses to have each Israelite family take a healthy, one-year old lamb, pen it for four days and then slaughter it. Some of the blood was to be smeared on the two door posts and the lintel of their houses. Death then came on every first born in Egypt, both human and animal. Next came the exodus from slavery and death. Jesus died on the cross as our Passover Lamb, sacrificed for the sins of the world. He was delivered over to death for our sins. The bread at the Lord’s Supper symbolizes his broken body. The wine symbolizes his precious blood, poured out for the forgiveness of sin. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The atoning death of Jesus is an important part of each communion service. Followers of Jesus solemnly understand that every time they take the bread and wine, they are reenacting in their words and actions the death of their Savior. Jesus, the one who holds the keys of death and Hades, conquered death and set free all enslaved by the fear of death. The rock tomb could only hold the humanity of Jesus for three days! A new exodus from spiritual slavery and death had begun. Participating in the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross, with his blood pouring out of his body on to the ground, cried out in a loud voice saying, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then he bowed his head, breathed his last breath and gave up his spirit. The apostle Paul asks two
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By David Sheridan Pastor, Grace & Truth Fellowship, Red Deer, and Lethbridge congregations poignant questions. “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). The answer is a resounding Yes! Yes! Christians observing the Lord’s Supper take a full part in the death of Jesus. We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Tears of sadness are turned to tears of joy. However participation in the Lord’s Supper is totally unlike a funeral service. Jesus is alive! A time of reflection, self-evaluation and confession Participants test the state of their heart and the depth of their relationship with the Lord before taking the Lord’s Supper. The table of the Lord is approached with holy awe. “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread or drinks of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28). Deep reflection, honest selfevaluation and healthy confession are important preparations for communion. However God’s grace and forgiveness continue to amaze; Christians take the bread and drink the cup, knowing how much love Jesus had for them that he would willingly die for them. The death of our Savior permeates every Lord’s Supper. With forgiveness and crossing over from death to life foremost in their minds, believers remember their “Last Supper” and eagerly look forward to the next time they will again enjoy the Lord’s Supper. And now The Da Vinci Code movie starring Tom Hanks has hit theatres everywhere. The book, the movie, and Da Vinci's painting need to be viewed for what they really are, simply creations of the human mind. Christians around the world continue to remember the Last Supper and celebrate the Lord’s Supper proclaiming his death until he returns. NL
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By Michael Morrison
“All Israel Will Be Saved” A Study Of Romans 11
n Romans 9 and 10, Paul describes a theological problem: Most Jews are rejecting the gospel. Not only are they missing out on salvation, it makes other people wonder whether God is faithful to his promises. In chapter 11, Paul affirms that God has a surprising plan for the people of Israel. The remnant of Israel At the end of chapter 10, Paul described Israel as a people who heard the message but refused to accept it even though God pleaded with them. So Paul asks, Did God reject his people? (11:1). And he answers: By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. Paul is living proof that God has not abandoned his people. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew (v. 2). Foreknow does not refer to advance knowledge, as if God knew more facts about the Jews. Rather, it refers to a relationship that God had with the Jews. His covenant with them is no longer valid as a source of laws, but the promises God made to them will still be kept. God has not given up on the Jews. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me?” (vv. 2-3, quoting from 1 Kings 19:10, 14). Elijah thought that everyone else had gone astray. What was God’s answer to him? Paul asks in verse 4. “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” [1 Kings 19:18] So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace (vv. 4-5). The situation wasn’t as bad as Elijah thought it was. In Paul’s day, too, thousands of Jews believe in Christ. There is a remnant, a small percentage, of Jews who are following what God is doing.
They are chosen by grace, not by their zeal for the law. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace (v. 6). Some were hardened What then? Paul asks in verse 7. What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The Jews sincerely wanted to be righteous, but their works did not achieve what they wanted. The elect among them did obtain righteousness, Paul says, but the others were hardened, as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day” (vv. 7-8, adapting Deut. 29:4 and Isa. 29:910). The minority accepted the gospel; the others did not because God gave them over to their own inclinations. However, Paul said in chapter 10 that they heard and understood, and that God pleaded with them, but they refused. And Paul will soon say that he works hard, so that some of them might be saved (v. 14). God has not decided that these people will be lost. But, they rejected Christ, and God let them have their own way. But the blindness will eventually be removed. In verses 9-10, Paul quotes a stronger passage in Psalm 69:22-23: And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” In this psalm, David asks God to punish his enemies—even to blot them out of the book of life! But Paul is not asking that, for the Jews have not stumbled beyond recovery, and Paul works hard so that some might be saved. Paul is not quoting the psalm for eternal punishment, but only for its comment about eyes that cannot see.
Arousing the Jews to envy In verse 1, Paul asks a question as a springboard for his discussion, and in verse 11 he does it again: Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. The Jews who reject Christ are not hopelessly lost—they can still be saved. But in the meantime, salvation is being offered to Gentiles. Paul is alluding here to Deuteronomy 32:21: “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” Contrary to what most Jews thought, God would bless the Gentiles so much that the Jews would be envious. In verse 12, Paul reasons from a lessthan-ideal situation to a better one: But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! If Jewish failure has brought blessings to others, won’t Jewish success bring even more? Paul is implying that there will come a day of success, when most Jews will accept Christ. Paul believes the majority will be saved—first a remnant of Jews, then a good number of Gentiles, then the majority of Jews, and finally another blessing for the Gentiles—the salvation of the great majority. I am talking to you Gentiles, he says in verse 13. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. Even though Paul was writing to Gentiles, he was addressing a Jewish question. He seems to be rehearsing what he will say on his trip to Jerusalem.
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In verse 15, Paul again uses an argument from the lesser to the greater: For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the failure of the Jews brought salvation to everyone else, won’t it be even better when the Jews finally accept the gospel? They might be spiritually dead now, but God can raise the dead. New branches attached to the tree In verse 16, Paul switches to a different style of argument, using analogies. First, he uses an example from Israel’s system of worship: If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy… No one could eat from the harvest until the firstfruits had been offered (Lev. 23:14). After they were offered to God, the entire harvest was sanctified. In context, the firstfruits are the remnant of Israel, the small percentage of Jews who accept Jesus. They are given to God, and this means that the whole Jewish nation is set apart for God. Then Paul uses another analogy: If the root is holy, so are the branches. The root is probably the patriarchs, and if they are holy, their descendants are, too, and God won’t give up on them. Then Paul moves into the analogy of tree-branch-grafting: If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root… Paul isn’t giving horticultural advice—he is tailoring his analogy to suit his purposes. The root is the promise of salvation given to Abraham, a promise now given nourishment by Jesus Christ. Many of the Jews are cut off from Christ, and Gentiles are being attached to the tree. The Jews are not superior—but neither are the Gentiles.
Paul warns those Gentiles in verse 18: Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. That was apparently a temptation for Gentile Christians in Rome. If you think this way, Paul says, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. Remember that your salvation depends on a promise given to the ancestor of the Jews, Abraham, and to the Messiah of the Jews, Jesus. You didn’t earn the right to be grafted in; it was only a matter of God’s grace. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in” (v. 19). Paul then responds: Even if that’s true, I can still show that you shouldn’t think of yourself as superior to the unbelieving Jews. Granted, he says in verse 20. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either (vv. 20-21). You can be broken off just the same as they were. Paul considers it possible for someone to reject the faith. If salvation were predestined, then people would have no need to tremble, and Paul would not imply that God could break them off. Paul wants people to be confident, but not to assume that everything is guaranteed, no matter what they do.
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tree—everything can change, according to whether people accept or reject Christ. Paul then reasons as to how easy it will be for the Jews to be grafted back in: After all, if you [Gentiles] were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree…—if that difficult thing has been done—how much more readily will these [Jews], the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! (v. 24). God can easily put the Jews back in. Paul then says: I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not think you are superior: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved (vv. 25-26). Paul calls it a mystery, something previously hidden but now revealed—and it is revealed so Gentiles do not think themselves superior to Jews. Israel has been hardened in part—that is, most Jews do not currently believe. But this restriction is temporary—it lasts only until the full number of Gentiles come into faith.
The salvation of Israel
Paul has already argued that the Jews have not stumbled beyond recovery, and Jewish branches can be grafted back in if they believe, so when he says they are hardened until the full number of Gentiles comes in, he implies a temporary hardening. And the following verses say that the Jewish people are still loved, that their calling cannot be revoked, and that God will have mercy on them. Paul believes that most of the Jews will be saved, because Deuteronomy 32 predicts a time when they will accept Jesus as their Savior.
And if [the Jews] do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again (v. 23). If Jews accept the Messiah, they will be re-attached to the Abrahamic
Paul supports his point by blending ideas found in Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9; and Jeremiah 31:33-34: As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from
Paul combines God’s grace and judgment in verse 22: Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. If we fall away from grace and go into self-reliance, then we will be cut off from the tree of salvation.
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Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (vv. 26-27). Isaiah says “the Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” and Jeremiah promises a new covenant in which God will not remember their sins any more. Paul knows that the Redeemer has come to Zion—Jesus has come, and Paul is confident that Jesus will accomplish the work he came to do. Even when the nation was a mess, God promised a day of salvation for them, and he promised a new covenant for them. The fact that Gentiles are entering the new covenant does not change the fact that it was promised to the Jews. The promise is not broken—rather, it is expanded to include the Gentiles. When will this happen? Paul does not say. The Jews can turn to Christ at any time. Paul gives us his summary and conclusion in verse 28: As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs. The Jews are enemies of the gospel right now, but God still loves them, and they are still part of the chosen people. Why? For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (v. 29). God will keep his promises. In verses 30-31 Paul summarizes it: Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. Mercy is now given to Gentiles; it will also be given to Jews, for salvation is by grace.
alive. The grace of God “offers salvation to all people” (Titus 2:11)—to all races and nations. Doxology What more can Paul say? There is no evidence that this will happen—there is only the promise of God, but he is more faithful than evidence is. So Paul launches into a section of praise. It is a call to theological and intellectual humility— and it is also a reminder that theology, if done correctly, should always lead us to praise and worship. Whenever we catch a glimpse of what God has done or is doing, we should respond with awe and thanksgiving. Paul started this chapter by talking about human failure, but he ends by praising the God who can be counted on to succeed:
Questions for application Are there people today who claim to be part of God’s people, and yet seem to ignore him? Would Paul hold out hope for them? Do people reject the gospel by their own choice (10:21) or because God has blinded them (11:8)? Can envy really cause people to turn to Christ (v. 13)? Have I ever felt superior to unbelievers (v. 18)? Does Paul want me to be confident (8:38-39) or to tremble (11:20)? When I think about what God has done in my life, do I respond with praise (vv. 33-36)? What would my poem say?
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” [Isaiah 40:13] “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” [Job 41:11] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (vv. 33-36). Praise God, who in his grace saves both Jews and Gentiles! He is faithful to his people, and his purpose will stand. NL
Paul’s concluding rationale is in verse 32: For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. Everyone has sinned and deserves wrath on the day of judgment, but in Christ all can be made
« Tout Israël sera sauvé »
de Michael Morrison
Une étude en Romains 11
ans les chapitres 9 et 10 de son épître aux Romains, Paul décrit un problème théologique : la plupart des Juifs rejettent l’Évangile. Non seulement ils se privent du salut, mais d’autres personnes se demandent si Dieu est fidèle à ses promesses. Au chapitre 11, Paul affirme que Dieu a un plan étonnant pour le peuple d’Israël. Le reste d’Israël À la fin du chapitre 10, Paul décrit Israël comme un peuple qui a entendu le message, mais qui refuse de l’accepter même si Dieu l’a supplié. Paul demande alors : « Dieu aurait-il rejeté son peuple ? » (11.1), et il répond : « Assurément pas ! En effet, ne suis-je pas moi-même Israélite, descendant d’Abraham, de la tribu de Benjamin ? » Paul est une preuve vivante que Dieu n’a pas abandonné son peuple. « Non, Dieu n’a pas rejeté son peuple qu’il s’est choisi d’avance » (v. 2). Le terme « choisi d’avance » ne fait pas référence à une connaissance préalable, comme si Dieu connaissait plus de faits sur les Juifs, mais plutôt à une relation que Dieu a avec les Juifs. Son alliance avec eux n’est plus valide comme une source de lois, mais les promesses qu’il leur a faites se réaliseront un jour. Dieu n’a pas abandonné les Juifs. « Rappelez-vous ce que dit l’Écriture dans le passage rapportant l’histoire d’Élie dans laquelle celui-ci se plaint à Dieu au sujet d’Israël : “ Seigneur, ils ont tué tes prophètes, ils ont démoli tes autels. Et moi, je suis resté tout seul, et voilà qu’ils en veulent à ma vie ” » (v. 2, 3, citant 1 Rois 19.10, 14). Élie croyait que tout le monde s’était éloigné de Dieu. Paul demande ensuite au verset 4 : « Eh bien ! quelle a été la réponse de Dieu ? J’ai gardé en réserve pour moi sept mille hommes qui ne se sont pas prosternés devant le dieu Baal (1 Rois
19.18). Il en est de même aujourd’hui : il subsiste un reste que Dieu a librement choisi dans sa grâce » (v. 4, 5). La situation n’était pas aussi pire qu’Élie l’imaginait. À l’époque de Paul aussi, des milliers de Juifs croyaient en Christ. Il y a un reste, un petit pourcentage de Juifs qui suivent ce que Dieu fait.
s’obscurcissent pour qu’ils perdent la vue. Fais-leur sans cesse courber le dos. »
Ils sont choisis par grâce et non d’après leur zèle pour la loi. « Or, puisque c’est par grâce, cela ne peut pas venir des œuvres, ou alors la grâce n’est plus la grâce » (v. 6).
Dans ce Psaume, David demande à Dieu de punir ses ennemis, même de les effacer du livre de vie ! Mais Paul ne demande pas cela, car les Juifs n’ont pas trébuché au-delà de tout rétablissement, et il travaille sans relâche pour qu’ils soient sauvés. L’apôtre ne cite pas le psaume pour que les Juifs soient éternellement punis, mais seulement pour son commentaire au sujet des yeux qui ne peuvent pas voir.
Certains étaient endurcis
Exciter la jalousie des Juifs
Paul demande alors au verset 7 : « Que s’est-il donc passé ? Ce que le peuple d’Israël cherchait, il ne l’a pas trouvé ». Les Juifs voulaient sincèrement être justes, mais leurs œuvres n’atteignaient pas leur niveau de justice désiré.
Au verset 1, Paul pose une question qui servira de tremplin pour sa discussion, et au verset 11, il le refait : « Je demande alors : si les Israélites ont trébuché, estce pour tomber définitivement ? Loin de là ! Par leur faux pas, le salut est devenu accessible aux païens, ce qui excitera leur jalousie. »
Paul dit que « seuls ceux que Dieu a choisis » ont obtenu la justice, mais les « autres ont été rendus incapables de comprendre, conformément à ce qui est écrit : Dieu a frappé leur esprit de torpeur, leurs yeux de cécité et leurs oreilles de surdité, et il en est ainsi jusqu’à ce jour » (v. 7, 8, adaptant Deutéronome 29.4 et Ésaïe 29.9, 10). La minorité a accepté l’Évangile ; les autres l’ont refusé parce que Dieu les a abandonnés à leurs penchants. Cependant, Paul déclare au chapitre 10 qu’ils ont entendu et compris et que Dieu les a suppliés, mais qu’ils ont refusé le salut. Et Paul dira plus loin qu’il a travaillé fort pour que quelques-uns soient sauvés (v. 14). Dieu n’a pas décidé que ces gens seraient perdus, mais ils ont rejeté Christ, et Dieu les a laissés agir à leur guise. Toutefois, un jour ils verront clair. Aux versets 9 et 10, Paul cite un passage plus fort en Psaumes 69. 22, 23 : « De même David déclare : Que leurs banquets deviennent pour eux un piège, un filet, une cause de chute, et qu’ils y trouvent leur châtiment. Que leurs yeux
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Les Juifs qui rejettent Christ ne sont pas désespérément perdus ; ils peuvent encore être sauvés. Mais pendant ce temps, le salut est offert aux Gentils. Dans ce verset, Paul fait allusion à Deutéronome 32.21 : « Eh bien, de mon côté, je les rendrai jaloux de ceux qui ne sont pas un peuple. Je les irriterai par une nation folle. » Contrairement à ce que la plupart des Juifs pensaient, Dieu bénirait tellement les Gentils que les Juifs en seraient jaloux. Au verset 12, Paul passe d’une situation moins qu’idéale à une situation bien meilleure : « Et si leur faux pas a fait la richesse du monde, et leur déchéance la richesse des non-Juifs, quelle richesse plus grande encore n’y aura-t-il pas dans leur complet rétablissement ? » Si l’échec des Juifs a apporté des bénédictions aux autres, le succès des Juifs n’en apporterait-il pas encore plus ? Paul implique que le jour glorieux viendra où la plupart des Juifs accepteront Christ. Paul croit que la majorité des Juifs seront sauvés : d’abord un reste de Juifs,
ensuite un bon nombre de Gentils, puis la majorité des Juifs, et finalement une autre bénédiction pour les Gentils, le salut de la grande majorité. Paul dit aux versets 13 et 14 : « Je m’adresse particulièrement ici à vous qui êtes d’origine païenne : dans la mesure où je suis l’apôtre des non-Juifs, je me fais une idée d’autant plus haute de mon ministère que je parviendrai peut-être, en l’exerçant, à rendre jaloux mes compatriotes et à en conduire ainsi quelquesuns au salut. » Même si Paul écrivait aux Gentils, il posait une question aux Juifs. Il semble pratiquer ce qu’il allait dire au cours de son voyage à Jérusalem. Au verset 15, Paul utilise encore un argument, en partant du plus petit pour aller au plus grand : « Car si leur mise à l’écart a entraîné la réconciliation du monde, quel sera l’effet de leur réintégration ? Rien de moins qu’une résurrection d’entre les morts. » Si l’échec des Juifs a apporté le salut à tous les autres, est-ce que ce ne sera pas encore mieux quand les Juifs accepteront finalement l’Évangile ? Ils peuvent être spirituellement morts présentement, mais Dieu peut ressusciter les morts. De nouvelles branches greffées à l’arbre Au verset 16, Paul passe à un style d’argument différent, en se servant d’analogies. Il utilise d’abord un exemple du système d’adoration d’Israël : « En effet, si les prémices du pain offert à Dieu sont consacrées, toute la pâte l’est aussi […] ». Personne ne pouvait manger de la récolte jusqu’à ce que les prémices aient été offertes (Lévitique 23.14). Après avoir été offerte à Dieu, toute la moisson était sanctifiée. Dans le contexte, les prémices sont le reste d’Israël, le petit pourcentage de Juifs qui acceptent Jésus. Elles sont offertes à Dieu, et cela veut dire que toute la nation juive est mise à part pour Dieu.
Ensuite, Paul utilise une autre analogie : « […] Si la racine est consacrée, les branches le sont aussi. » La racine représente probablement les patriarches et, s’ils sont saints, leurs descendants le sont aussi, et Dieu ne les abandonnera pas. Puis, Paul avance dans l’analogie de la greffe de la branche de l’arbre : « Ainsi en est-il d’Israël : quelques branches ont été coupées. Et toi qui, par ton origine païenne, étais comme un rameau d’olivier sauvage, tu as été greffé à leur place, et voici que tu as part avec elles à la sève qui monte de la racine de l’olivier cultivé. » Paul n’est pas en train de donner un conseil horticole ; il adapte son analogie à ses objectifs. La racine est la promesse du salut donnée à Abraham, une promesse maintenant réalisée par Jésus-Christ. Beaucoup des Juifs sont coupés de Christ, tandis que des Gentils sont greffés à l’arbre. Les Juifs ne sont pas supérieurs, mais les Gentils non plus.
orgueilleux ! Sois plutôt sur tes gardes ! Car si Dieu n’a pas épargné les branches naturelles, il ne t’épargnera pas non plus » (v. 20, 21). Vous pouvez être coupé de l’arbre tout comme ils l’ont été. Paul pense qu’il est possible que quelqu’un rejette la foi. Si le salut était prédestiné, alors les gens n’auraient aucune raison de trembler, et Paul n’impliquerait pas que Dieu pourrait les couper. Paul veut que les gens aient une assurance, sans pour autant présumer que tout est sûr, peu importe ce qu’ils font. Au verset 22, Paul combine la grâce et le jugement de Dieu : « Considère donc, à la fois, la bonté et la sévérité de Dieu : sévérité à l’égard de ceux qui sont tombés, bonté à ton égard aussi longtemps que tu t’attaches à cette bonté. Sinon, toi aussi, tu seras retranché. » Si nous nous éloignons de la grâce pour nous confier en nousmêmes, alors nous serons coupés de l’arbre du salut. Le salut d’Israël
C’est pourquoi Paul avertit ces Gentils au verset 18 : « Ne te mets pas, pour autant, à mépriser les branches coupées. » C’était apparemment une tentation pour les chrétiens Gentils de Rome. Paul ajoute : « Et si tu es tenté par un tel orgueil, souviens-toi que ce n’est pas toi qui portes la racine, c’est elle qui te porte ! » Rappelez-vous que votre salut dépend d’une promesse donnée à l’ancêtre des Juifs, Abraham, et au Messie des Juifs, Jésus. Vous n’avez pas mérité le droit d’être greffé ; c’est seulement à cause de la grâce de Dieu. « Peut-être vas-tu dire : si des branches ont été coupées, c’est pour que je puisse être greffé » (v. 19). Paul répond alors que, même si c’était vrai, il pouvait encore leur montrer qu’ils ne devraient pas se croire supérieurs aux Juifs noncroyants. Au verset 20, Paul dit : « Bien ! Mais elles ont été coupées à cause de leur incrédulité ; et toi, c’est à cause de ta foi que tu tiens. Ne sois donc pas
« En ce qui concerne les Israélites, s’ils ne demeurent pas dans leur incrédulité, ils seront regreffés. Car Dieu a le pouvoir de les regreffer » (v. 23). Si les Juifs acceptent le Messie, ils seront regreffés à l’arbre abrahamique : tout peut changer, selon que les gens acceptent ou rejettent Christ. Paul parle ensuite de la facilité pour les Juifs d’être de nouveau greffés à l’arbre : « En effet, toi (le Gentil), tu as été coupé de l’olivier sauvage auquel tu appartenais par ta nature, pour être greffé, contrairement à ta nature, sur l’olivier cultivé – si cette chose difficile a été faite – ; à combien plus forte raison les branches (les Juifs) qui proviennent de cet olivier seront-elles greffées sur lui ! » (v. 24). Dieu peut facilement regreffer les Juifs. Puis, Paul ajoute : « Frères, je ne veux pas que vous restiez dans l’ignorance de ce mystère, pour que vous ne croyiez
pas détenir en vous-mêmes une sagesse supérieure : l’endurcissement d’une partie d’Israël durera jusqu’à ce que l’ensemble des non-Juifs soit entrés dans le peuple de Dieu, et ainsi, tout Israël sera sauvé […] (v. 25, 26)
nouvelle alliance. Le fait que les Gentils sont entrés dans la nouvelle alliance ne change pas le fait que le salut a été promis aux Juifs. La promesse n’est pas brisée, mais elle s’est élargie pour inclure les Gentils.
Paul appelle cela un mystère, quelque chose qui était antérieurement caché, mais qui est maintenant révélé, et il est révélé pour que les Gentils ne se pensent pas supérieurs aux Juifs. Israël a été en partie endurci, c’est-à-dire que la plupart des Juifs ne croient pas présentement. Mais cette restriction est temporaire ; elle durera jusqu’au moment où tous les Gentils élus croiront en Jésus.
Quand cela arrivera-t-il ? Paul ne le dit pas. Les Juifs peuvent venir à Christ à n’importe quel moment.
Paul a déjà dit que les Juifs n’étaient pas tombés à un point de non-retour, et que les branches juives peuvent être greffées de nouveau s’ils croient ; alors quand il dit qu’ils ont été endurcis jusqu’à ce que tous les Gentils élus viennent au salut, il implique un endurcissement temporaire. Et les versets suivants disent que le peuple juif est toujours aimé, que son appel ne peut être révoqué et que Dieu aura miséricorde de lui. Paul croit que la plupart des Juifs seront sauvés, parce que Deutéronome 32 prédit un temps où ils accepteront Jésus comme leur Sauveur. Paul appuie son point en alliant des idées trouvées en Ésaïe 59.20, 21 ; 27.9 et en Jérémie 31.33, 34 : « C’est là ce que dit l’Écriture : De Sion viendra le Libérateur ; il éloignera de Jacob toute désobéissance. Et voici en quoi consistera mon alliance avec eux ; c’est que j’enlèverai leurs péchés » (v. 26, 27). Ésaïe dit que le rédempteur viendra de Sion vers ceux de Jacob qui se repentent de leurs péchés, et Jérémie promet une nouvelle alliance dans laquelle Dieu ne se rappellera plus de leurs péchés.
Paul résume et conclut ainsi au verset 28 : « Si l’on se place du point de vue de l’Évangile, ils sont devenus ennemis de Dieu pour que vous en bénéficiez. Mais du point de vue du libre choix de Dieu, ils restent ses bien-aimés à cause de leurs ancêtres. » Les Juifs sont présentement ennemis de l’Évangile, mais Dieu les aime toujours, et ils font encore partie du peuple élu. Pourquoi ? « Car les dons et l’appel de Dieu sont irrévocables » (v. 29). Dieu gardera ses promesses. Aux versets 30 et 31, Paul fait un résumé : « Vous-mêmes, en effet, vous avez désobéi à Dieu autrefois et maintenant Dieu vous a fait grâce en se servant de leur désobéissance. De la même façon, si leur désobéissance actuelle a pour conséquence votre pardon, c’est pour que Dieu leur pardonne à eux aussi. » Le pardon est maintenant accordé aux Gentils ; il sera également accordé aux Juifs, car le salut s’obtient par grâce. La conclusion rationnelle de Paul se trouve au verset 32 : « Car Dieu a emprisonné tous les hommes dans la désobéissance afin de faire grâce à tous. » Tous ont péché et méritent d’être punis au jour du jugement, mais en Christ tout peut être rendu vivant. La grâce de Dieu est « une source de salut pour tous les hommes » (Tite 2.11) – de toutes races et de toutes nations. Doxologie
Paul sait que Jésus, le Rédempteur, est venu à Sion, et Paul est certain que le Sauveur accomplira l’œuvre pour laquelle il est venu. Même quand la nation se trouvait dans un état lamentable, Dieu lui a promis un jour de salut, ainsi qu’une
Qu’est-ce que Paul peut dire de plus ? Il n’y a aucune preuve que cela arrivera ; il n’y a que la promesse de Dieu, mais il est plus fidèle que l’est la preuve. Alors, Paul se lance dans une section de
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louange. C’est un appel à l’humilité théologique et intellectuelle, et c’est aussi un rappel que la théologie, si elle est faite correctement, devrait toujours conduire à la louange et à l’adoration. Si nous avons un aperçu de ce que Dieu a fait ou est en train de faire, nous réagirons avec émerveillement et reconnaissance. Paul a commencé ce chapitre en parlant de l’échec humain, mais il le termine en louant le Dieu sur qui nous pouvons compter pour réussir : « Combien profondes sont les richesses de Dieu, sa sagesse et sa science ! Nul ne peut sonder ses jugements. Nul ne peut découvrir ses plans. Car, qui a connu la pensée du Seigneur ? Qui a été son conseiller ? (Ésaïe 40.13) Qui lui a fait des dons pour devoir être payé de retour ? (Job 41.11) En effet, tout vient de lui, tout subsiste par lui et pour lui. À lui soit la gloire à jamais ! Amen » (v. 33-36). Que Dieu soit loué, lui qui dans sa grâce sauve les Juifs et les Gentils ! Il est fidèle à son peuple et son plan subsistera.NL Questions pour une application personnelle Y a-t-il des gens aujourd’hui qui déclarent faire partie du peuple de Dieu, mais qui semblent ne pas en tenir compte ? Paul garderait-il espoir pour eux ? Les gens choisissent-ils de rejeter l’Évangile (10.21) ou si c’est Dieu qui les a rendus aveugles (11.8) ? La jalousie peut-elle vraiment motiver les gens à se tourner vers Christ (v. 13) ? Me suis-je déjà senti supérieur aux noncroyants (v. 18) ? Paul veut-il que je sois confiant (8.38, 39) ou que je tremble (11.20) ? Quand je songe à ce que Dieu a fait dans ma vie, est-ce que je réagis avec des louanges (v. 33-36) ? Que dirait mon poème ?
COMMENTARY By Bill Hall
Leaving A Legacy
hat I call one of my greatest “ah ha” moments was the time I took the “Life of Jesus” course at Regent College in Vancouver. I often feel that that course should have been entitled: “The Jesus I Never Knew” but Christian author Philip Yancey has already used that title in one of his books.
As this church has moved from the Old to the New Covenant, we have faced some pretty daunting financial challenges. Yet because our membership has also been touched with the spirit of generosity, we are still here today. One way individuals have shown this spirit of generosity is through legacy giving.
Editor, Northern Light
be applied to the budget of that particular congregation. Of course, both may be mentioned, if you so choose. A bequest can be a specific amount or a percentage of your estate and the entire amount is eligible for a tax receipt that may reduce the tax payable on your final tax return. A gift of life insurance allows you the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the church for a fairly small annual payment. You can transfer ownership of a policy to the WCG and receive a full tax receipt for the accumulated cash value.
Each Monday night I was exposed to the Jesus of the Gospels who was different to the Jesus I had been introduced to in what I call our “old world.” In many classes I was confronted with the idea that Jesus had come to supersede what I had thought were the basic truths of Christianity—at least the Christianity I practiced.
He then went on to relate his personal experience of how he has discovered that being simply a tithe payer can be a trap to our Christian growth. Time and time again he saw those who practiced tithing simply approached their giving as a “duty’ —much like paying taxes. Instead, he explained that being children of the Kingdom means we have a different motivation for giving based on love and generosity—not duty. What he was describing was the difference between the Old and New Covenants.
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It was the discussion about tithing that challenged me more than some other topics. Our professor turned to Matthew 23:23 and read, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices— mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
You could also designate WCG as the beneficiary of an insurance policy while retaining ownership of the policy. With this method, your estate would realize the tax benefits.
A legacy gift, or planned gift, is a charitable gift made from your estate and a commitment to the future. These types of deferred gifts can help you make the most of your assets while at the same time sustain support for your church to help others in future generations. A legacy gift comes in many forms and is primarily pledged as a gift through a will. Examples of legacy gifts include: A bequest is a gift made through your will. Your testamentary gift to your local congregation or the national denomination, through your estate planning, will make a lasting contribution. If your will specifies "Worldwide Church of God, Canada", the gift will be used to provide denominational services to all our congregations. If the local congregation is specified by location or local name, it will
In Canada today, more than 62% of the population contributes to a charity during their lifetimes. Currently, approximately 7% continue that support through a legacy gift. The best way you can continue to help Worldwide Church of God make a difference in communities across the country is to leave a legacy gift. The Worldwide Church of God encourages all donors who are planning a significant gift to seek independent legal and/or financial planning advice. For additional information on these opportunities and how a legacy gift can address your financial concerns while supporting the Worldwide Church of God, please contact us at: Worldwide Church of God Canada 101-5668 192nd St. Surrey BC V3S 2V7 Phone: 604.575.2705 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org NORTHERN LIGHT