Mercy, not sacrifice

Like many of you I’ve spent the last week trying to process the events in Washington DC. Watching the church embrace the alt-right has been a huge source of anxiety these last four years. Not the greatest, the Pandemic holds that honour, but it has certainly been up there. I’m appalled, worried, saddened, and yes, even shocked, though frankly people should have seen this coming.

As the events unfolded, I was reminded of the lyrics of a Shawn Mullins song from the album Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us. It’s called Give God the Blues (you really should check it out) and the verse makes a statement very relative for these times (emphasis is mine).

God ain’t no Republican
He ain’t no Democrat
He ain’t even Independent
God’s above all that

There is a real tendency among Christians to invoke the notion of a “Christian Nation.” Personally, I tend to balk at this. Mostly because the history of the so-called Christian nations has not been what I would call Christian in its character and actions. In the grand history of such nations and empires, from Rome through all of Europe through to America, more decent God-fearing people have been martyred by those acting under the authority of the church then by all the enemies of the church combined.

It’s completely understandable then that many people are questioning the validity of Christianity as a faith, as a religion, as a lifestyle, as… well… anything based on the behaviour of those who claim to follow Jesus and his teachings. Not surprisingly, Jesus had something to say about this.

22Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!  (Matthew 7:22-23)

In my mind this verse (and others like it) should drive all the arrogance from any believer. Note that these people were doing all the things that we tend to associate with great faith. They cast out demons, they prophesied, they performed miracles, they did it all. So why does Jesus respond the way he does? I’m going to suggest they lacked one key ingredient to their faith.

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ (Matthew 9:13)

On the surface this sounds kind of strange because didn’t God instruct the Jews in the offering of that would amount the thousands of sacrifices a year of everything from grain and oil to lambs and bulls? So, what gives? Paul puts it this way…

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

There wasn’t a whole lot of love or mercy on display in Washington this week.

Goodby Mr Brubeck. I’ll miss you.

Dave Brubeck has passed away at the age of 91.

Fifty years ago I watched the Dave Brubeck Quartet play “Take Five” on television and though at 8 years old I wasn’t sure why, I knew this music was different; mostly, I suppose, because of my parents reaction. There was just something about jazz. It would be some years before that seed would grow into a personal love for jazz, but grow it did, and Dave Brubeck was always there watering and feeding the music within me.

In 1991 Dave Brubeck and the Quartet flew to Moscow to meet and perform with Russian jazz masters and to perform his jazz mass “To Hope” with the Russian National Orchestra. The DVD of the documentary of that trip is the most played DVD in my house. It is a true mass, celebrating the Lord’s supper, in remembrance of his sacrifice.

In honour of his life and passing I present this clip of my favorite part of the mass.


Christianity: China’s best bet?

The following link is to a very interesting article (By the same name as this post) on the growth of the Christian church in China published in the English version of Aljazeera (yes, that Aljazeera).

There are two things in this article that really stand out for me.

First of all, there are the lines being drawn between the gov’t sponsored churches and the house churches. Aparently the Chinese gov’t is pulling the same stunt Rome did centuries ago, embracing Christianity as a means to maintain control of the population. Home churches are resisting.

The second thing that strikes me is the belief among Chinese Christians that the current economic woes in the West are a direct result of the decline in church involvement.

Follow the link to read the article for yourself and pray for our brothers and sisters in China.  Could Chinese missionaries soon be the best bet for North America?

Christianity: China’s best bet? – Features – Al Jazeera English.


Are We Ready for the World to End?

As you have likely heard, the world will end this coming Saturday at 6pm. My Facebook countdown is ticking away the seconds. I’m trying not to get all goosebumpy.

Now, I’m not going to tell you why Mr. Camping’s assertions should be taken with multitudinous grains of salt. My much more studied fellow blogger Dr. Claude Mariottini does a much better job of that than I could in an article you’ll find here.  But I do want to comment on a thought that occurs to me every time I read a prediction such as the one laid out for this weekend.

Am I ready for the end of the world?

Seriously! If we, as Christians, truly believe what we claim to believe then we must face the fact that one day it will happen; Armageddon, the Rapture, Christ’s return, the Tribulation (Pre-, Mid-, Post-, whatever), it will be the end of the world as we know it! Some fine day one of the self-made sooth-sayers will say the sooth and get it right and the only thing that will matter when that happens is ‘Am I truly ready to meet my Maker?

Many of us are pretty good at preparing for calamity. We have the first-aid kit on top of the fridge or in the glove compartment (does anybody actually keep gloves in there?).  Some of us have the 72 hours of food, water and batteries tucked away in accordance with provincial guidelines. Most of us at the very least have some level of life, car and home insurance. But how many of us consciously think about preparing for what some may consider the ultimate catastrophe? If I may paraphrase, what does it profit an individual if they survive the nuclear holocaust but lose their soul?

And I don’t think I’m prone to contradiction when I say that it’s not just about salvation. There is more to it than simple belief. Are we truly ready to stand before our Lord and our God and account for how we have spent the life He has given us? I must confess that I find the prospect of actually standing before Jesus at one and the same time both thrilling beyond belief and and daunting beyond imagining. I want to see Him, desperately; but I know I have much to answer for. Praise God for His grace and mercy.

So I leave you with this suggestion. While it is tempting, and probably even justified, to ignore the likes of Harold Camping, let us not forget the inevitability of what believers such as he seek to predict. Let us use such discourse as a reminder to keep a close watch, not just on the skies, but on our hearts, minds and souls as well. Because one day, it will come to pass. I pray we’ll all be ready.

Till next time… Shalom.