Here are the top 5 posts from 2013. Thanks to all who read and interact with what I'm writing and processing. I look forward to what 2014 brings!

...The lines between us and them became blurred. I wasn’t the one bringing blessing “to the least of these” (Mt. 25) as we are so oft to approach such situations. I was the one needing blessing and I was the one being blessed. They looked out for us. They embraced us. And in those moments of genuine connection, us and them became we...

...In a house church gathering, the very practices of eating together and having open discussion reflect a centrality of faith and community. In a megachurch gathering, a format of teaching and singing that aims at developing a vibrant personal faith has community as an extension of such faith.This isn't a right or wrong issue. But it is different...

...Driscoll suggests pacifists promote a “pansy Jesus,” as if North American machismo is the standard for masculinity represented most clearly, for Driscoll, in a sword-wielding Jesus of a literal reading from the book of Revelation. As Preston Sprinkle points out, it seems Driscoll has traded the crucified Lamb for the crucifying Lamb...

...If we accept polarizations, Sider may sound too socially minded to some and too Christ-centered to others. But by saying we get both word and deed in the gospel, polarization is no longer an option. How do you polarize “both”?...

...perhaps we all need to reflect back or observe those naive kindergarteners, and adopt the lens of wonder in the ordinary...

Alleluia, Christ is Born

He came in the quiet
Underneath a falling dark
Hardly more than a whisper
A hushed and lowly start

Shepherds cold and waiting
Huddled around their fires
Then in the sky a bright breaking
The host of heav’n a choir

Alleluia, Christ is born, Christ is born
Alleluia, Christ is born, Christ is born

So step outside on your front lawn
There before the city wakes
Watch and wait in the morning
To hear the angels say 


Presence of Peace

At Christmas, we hear so much about peace: “Peace on earth, good will toward men” the angels pronounce. The long-awaited Prince of Peace is here!

Yet some 2000 years from this beloved advent, peace on earth can just as easily be noted for its absence. Ongoing violence in Syria. Yet another school shooting. Continued tensions in Palestine and Israel (where I have relatives working with MCC). In a world flooded with violence (and literal flooding along with war), it’s easy to wonder, peace on earth?

“Flood waters rise” describes well the world we live in, as singer/songwriter Josh Garrels reflects in his song, “Flood Waters.” But he doesn’t stop there. The absence of peace is not the absence of hope for peace. The song continues,

Flood waters rise, but it won’t wash away
Love never dies, it will hold on more fierce than graves

Such persistence of love is the why the incarnation is so critical to Christian belief. In the midst of so much violence and hurt and sin and brokenness, the incarnation reminds us that God is with us - "God taking the risk of showing up in the flesh" as Parker Palmer relates. And Jesus’ words, “I am with you always,” were not just parting words for memories’ sake. No, incarnation remains the way of Jesus in the world. Peace is not just a future hope (Rev. 21-22). In the present absence of peace, we get the presence of peace.

Homelessness: "people, not just issues"

While my blog has been a bit silent as I wrap up my first semester teaching full time, I did find time to send a letter to a local newspaper on homelessness in my city:

House and home - belonging at Christmas

At Christmas there is much talk of house and home. People are heading “home for the holidays.” Some are decorating their houses to celebrate the season. To others, home is that gathering of family and friends in an experience of belonging that only holidays brings about. Our desire for house and home reflect our human needs of physical care and relational belonging.

Housing is so critical to the global human experience, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that every human being on earth has a right to housing. I would suggest the charter implies belonging (a sense of "home") as well. House and home is a basic right of living.

And yet many go without. No house to decorate. No home to belong to.

Homeless camp in Abbotsford, BC.
Yet addressing the right to house and home is often rife with conflict. There is an ongoing debate in my own town regarding a proposed housing project. Currently people are currently camped in a downtown area, protesting the city’s approach to addressing homelessness. In the meantime, there is a proposed social housing project in same downtown area. Beyond the central location (“not in my neighborhood!”), the housing first model is troubling for many. A common refrain goes as follows: “What right do people have to housing if they aren’t willing to work for it!?!”

Citizens are torn between charity in providing housing and not wanting to further enable destructive behaviors. Yet from this perspective, housing is seen through the grid of personal property. House and home is
mine, something I work for and deserve (If I contribute appropriately to society).  

While I resonate with the concerns of my fellow citizens around safety and fiscal responsibility, I also wonder if the grid of our right to house and home is part of the problem. My right to a home can come at the expense of others’ right to the very same thing. We only agree on the right to housing under certain conditions. In this sense, housing isn’t a right but a privilege.

As I observe these issues unfold in my own city, I’ve been reading an insightful and challenging book, Beyond Homeless: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh. In the book the authors address these issues directly. I offer a few passages that have helped in my own engagement with homelessness in my city.

On housing, economics, and belonging:

“If economic life is all about fruitful and inclusive households, then ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the household is foundational. The reason we need social policies that will guarantee to everyone an adequate income, secure housing, equal access to healthcare, clean air and potable water, basic education, and a genuine opportunity for meaningful employment is not because the economy is a tightrope and we need to have a safety nets for those who fall; rather it it is because the economy is a household that demonstrates its health only in its care for all its members.”

On the housing first model (citing Ed Loring):

“Housing precedes employment because you can’t hold down a decent job without secure housing. Housing also precedes sobriety, because the despair of homelessness will often need alcohol or drugs to numb the pain. Housing precedes education, because you can’t do your homework sitting in a shelter or on a park bench. And housing precedes both physical and mental health, because homelessness is a breeding ground for disease, and it makes you go crazy. Housing is an absolutely essential precondition for human health and well-being.”

And lastly, a word to the church (quoting Ed Loring):

“No church ought to call someone to accept Jesus Christ until it is ready to bring that person into a house and assist in the arduous task of making that house into a home.”

And so as we rush to celebrate Christmas in house and home, as we experience of these “rights” of humanity, we can’t ignore the disparity and despair still present in our midst. Yes,  celebrate the joy of belonging in house and home. And then, work to ensure this belonging isn’t conditional or limited to economic privilege. House and home is right for all.

At Christmas especially, such belonging is at the heart of the good news of Jesus:

"Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world."
-Thomas Merton

Engaging the Complexity

I’ve just made it through my first semester teaching a class called Ethical Reasoning. It was definitely one of my more enjoyable teaching experiences, particularly examining the many ways of assessing morality in relation to various contemporary moral issues.
  • Utilitarianism and violence
  • The Bible and sexuality
  • Ethical Egoism and social justice
  • Relativism and religious ethics
  • Social Contract theory and government
  • The Sermon on the Mount and everyday life.
These are just a few of the things we got to reflect on together. Considering such diversity in ethics, one word came up several times throughout the semester: “complexity.”

To some, accepting complexity can seem like a cop-out to addressing difficult moral issues. And yes, there is the risk of accepting complexity  as way to end discussion on difficult matters - “Oh well, that’s just too complex to really know the answer to.” Yet to ignore complexity in today’s discussion of Christianity and ethics is to be...well, ignorant.

One of my goals for the course, beyond recognizing where complexity lies, was for students to engage the complexity. Not run from it, but not just embrace it either. As Christians, I think we have a responsibility to honestly engage the world we live in. And yes, this is hard work. It takes time. It takes others. It takes prayer. It takes discernment of biblical texts and current culture. In a word, Christian ethics is complex. And so my aim in this class - and life in general - is to not only seek answers to the complexity of ethics today (we did some of that), but also explore what it means to live faithfully in the midst of the complexity.

In many ways, the advent of Immanuel (“God-with-us”) at Christmas provides a needed grid for life and ethics. Engaging the complexity, we find God with us in the complexity.


Share the Advent wisdom! - #AdventTweets

During the end of semester busyness and the craziness of the Christmas season, let’s not forget about Advent – a time of reflection, anticipation, and preparation for the God-with-us (“Immanuel”) celebration to come. You’re invited to join in sharing bits of Advent wisdom (in 140 characters or less!), or just follow along for daily thoughts and inspiration.

Post or search at #AdventTweets.
Or follow me: @warkd

Here's a sampling so far: