(I am still catching up on posting my teaching times from past Sundays, but given the events of the last week, I wanted to put my effort for Father’s Day ahead of the others.
We began the Father’s Day service with a joyous celebration of new life, the blessing of a child. Just before the blessing, I showed the congregation a music video of the song “humble and kind” by Tim McGraw.)
I came to church last Sunday in a state of blissful ignorance. I had not turned on the radio, or looked online, and had no idea what had happened in Orlando the night before. Part of me wishes that I had heard the news. Another part of me rebels against this kind of information. I don’t always want to be reminded of the hate, and the violence of which humans are capable.
It is not too late a week later, to take a moment in silence, to pray for all the lives ended early, all the wounded survivors, and the first responders, and all the grieving families and friends.
Moment of silent prayer.
Last Saturday afternoon I was at a conference at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. One of the speakers was a young man named Shane Claiborne. Shane is a founding member of an intentional Christian community in Philadelphia.
He brought with him from Philadelphia the garden tool you can see in the picture.
This simple trowel was made from the recycled metal of an AR-15, the same type of weapon used in Orlando last Saturday night.
I have a video clip of Shane talking about a project he has been involved with, that follows the biblical idea of making peace. They take instruments of violence, and turn them into something useful.
I love what they are doing. I also love why they are doing it. They believe in transforming the world, a little bit at a time. Very much like Jesus as we see him in most of the Gospel stories, working with people one at time.
In the video Shane said what is needed is a movement of life, a movement of people committed to the idea that every person is precious. What a basic, simple idea. What a good idea, to remember, and to live from the conviction that every person is precious.
The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines “precious” as an adjective that describes something that is: rare and worth a lot of money; very valuable or important; too valuable or important to be wasted or used carelessly; greatly loved, valued, or important.
In God’s eyes, we are all precious, and our lives are far too valuable to be wasted or used carelessly. As a father, whatever else I may desire for my children, I want them to know they are loved, and they are blessed, and they can be a blessing to others.
When some of Jesus’ friends argued over which of them was the greatest, he showed them a child, and said, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
This was a beautiful way to break them out of their awkward scrambling for attention and praise. It was as if Jesus was saying to them, don’t worry about so much about being the richest, or strongest, or most popular. You don’t need to walk over other people, or push them out of the way.
As Tim McGraw said in the lyrics of his song, “Always be humble and kind”. It is easier to be both of those things, when you know that you are loved, and blessed.
Of all the stories that came out of Orlando this week, the ones that touched me in the deepest were about families who were called and told that their child, their grand-child, their nephew or cousin had died, and it turned out that this was the way they learned that their relative was gay.
What a way to find out. What was going on in that family, and in their hearts, that made it so hard for their child to be open with them about who they were?
Organized religions, including the Christian faith, still have a lot to answer for, for the way we have reinforced and preserved prejudice and discrimination. Religion has too often been part of the problem. We need to pay attention to the ways that the message of God’s love has been distorted, and misused, to exclude people, rather than letting them know they are precious, and loved, and blessed for who they are. We need to hammer away at those hateful messages, and transform them into something better, something useful.
We need to be daring, and take risks, and be willing to be vulnerable and weak. We need to admit that we don’t have all the answers, about anything. We need to be humble and kind, and to take every opportunity available, to celebrate that we are blessed, and to look for ways to be a blessing others. Amen