All Aboard!

This past week I took part in a newspaper letter flood on the issue of a commuter train for the lower mainland. Here's my letter that got published in the Abbotsford Times:


The Editor,

I am proud to say I am from Abbotsford. It’s exciting to see a once fledging town emerge as a diverse and dynamic community in the Lower Mainland. “A city in the country” is an appropriate description of Abbotsford’s historical roots and geographical location. However, in some respects, it’s time to move on. The challenge is that with growth, come growing pains, and this is where I believe it’s time to add a little more “city”, and have little less “country.”

The issue I want to address is public transportation, particularly the point of rail transit between Abbotsford and Greater Vancouver. How many thousands of people commute west for work, school, family, special events, etc… One only has to spend one afternoon crossing the Port Mann bridge (Yes, it can take a whole afternoon to get to Vancouver!) to realize the dire need for residents across the Fraser Valley to wake up and hear the train whistle. Cars, trucks, and SUVS are not the answer to efficient transportation. It’s not too late to consider this as a possibility that will have lasting effects on the future of Abbotsford and the entire Lower Mainland. The train needs to come, and I’m all aboard!"

If only it were this easy...

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(this is an excerpt from my sermon at church today…)

My New Favorite Word...

Some people may know me for being one who shies away from picking sides. Well, when it comes to my theological wonderings and wanderings I get excited when situations allow for a harmony of ideas. Case in point, a common theological impasse is the argument for God’s predestination versus human free will in the quest understanding history and the events in this world. When asked my opinion, I prefer to answer, “yes.” When asked for elaboration as to why I choose to default to my typical Daveism trait of non-committal I am able to share my new favorite word:

Participation

Yes, I know, profound! Well, for me, it actually is. The reason for this is that I believe God is continually working towards restoring shalom in our world, realized fully through the entire ministry of Jesus (life, death, resurrection, ascension) and then continued today through the presence of the kingdom that Jesus instituted. That’s the God part. In terms of predestination, I believe that God has predestined for his kingdom to be present in history, with the ultimate plan being total restoration. So I don’t completely deny God’s “plan” for history. On the flipside, humans have the opportunity to (here it comes!) participate in God’s kingdom. I think that the essence of Jesus’ teaching, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, is about this very thing; the human choice to participate in what God is doing in the world. So to me, there isn’t really a dilemma, because I believe that God has a plan for history, which includes humanity, and at the same time this very humanity has the freedom to join God in his plan. In a sense, it’s not all God, and it’s not all humanity. There is certain (yes, you guessed it) participation happening (i.e. “Love God, Love your neighbor…” “Thy Kingdom come…”). This doesn’t mean that God is less God, or that humans are somehow like God, but simply emphasizes the dynamic relational unity that I believe the Bible talks about.

Happy participating!

(I realize that I have failed to uphold clear definitions of predestination or free will on their own. This is intentional in my quest to examine the issue as a “both/and” debate, not “either/or.” Categorically, there may be some holes. You also may have noticed I didn’t even touch on salvation. The reason for this is because I think to solely focus on salvation as the end result of either God’s plan or human choice neglects the fact that participation with God’s plan for shalom starts now!)

Vacationing Quotes

As I soaked up the sun these past few days in Summerland, the following few quotes deserved some attention.

First, some insightful comments on the nature of Christian freedom from Rob Bell:

“We’re addictive creatures. We try things, we experiment, we explore, and certain things hook us. They get our tentacles in us, and we can’t get away from them. What started out as freedom can quickly become slavery. Often freedom is seen as the ability to do whatever you want. But freedom isn’t being able to have whatever we crave. Freedom is going without whatever crave and being fine with it.” (Rob Bell, Sex God, pg. 75).

Second, considering the constant search for understanding the latest Christian buzzword, “community” I found these thoughts from Henri Nouwen to be particularly helpful as I continue to explore the implications of this seemingly elusive, yet all important concept in our relationships:

“The word “community” usually refers to a way of being together that gives us a sense of belonging. Often students complain that they do not experience much community in their school; ministers and priests wonder how they can create a better community in their parishes; and social workers, overwhelmed by the alienating influences of modern life, try hard to form communities in the neighborhood they are working in. In all these situations the word “community” points to a way of togetherness in which people can experience themselves a meaningful part of a larger group.”

“Although we can say the same about the Christian community, it is important to remember that the Christian community is a waiting community, that is, a community which not only creates a sense of belonging but also a sense of estrangement. In the Christian community we say to each other, “We are together, but we cannot fulfill each other… we help each other, but we also have to remind each other that our destiny is beyond our togetherness.” The support of the Christian community is a support in common expectation. That requires a constant criticism of anyone who makes the community into a safe shelter or a cozy clique, and a constant encouragement to look forward to what is to come.” (Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out, pg. 153).

Basically, we need to be careful in our search for authentic community, not to elevate our church, friends, or family as representing the whole of what community is meant to be. People by themselves can never completely fulfill this need. While this may seem like a negative perspective on the possibilities of community, I take it the opposite, in that we are finally able to let go of our unreal expectations we place on the people around us, realizing that personal fulfillment is something no one person, or group of people for that matter, can ever provide for us. Nouwen continues by mentioning that “the basis for Christian community is not the family tie, or social or economic equality, or shared oppression or complaint, or mutual attraction … but the divine call.”

I think this realization has the potential for improving how we relate to others. Because as we share in this common experience of searching for the glimpses that God gives us for true community we may just lose some of our selfish expectations, perhaps even giving people a break here or there. Wouldn’t that be something!

Hopefully (and prayfully!) these are more than just words…