The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church

Martyrs of the Twentieth Century (Memorial) – 

Martyrs are Christians who have been put to death because they chose to remain faithful to the gospel and counted “the truth as it is in Jesus” dearer than life itself. In the twentieth

century more Christians suffered for this reason than at any other time in the Church’s history — there are the three million Armenian Christians who died under Turkish brutality during the first World War; the million Orthodox who perished in the Soviet Union in the 1920’s and 30’s; the unknown number of Albanians who disappeared in their government’s efforts to suppress Christianity; the hundreds of Germans, both Protestants and Catholics, who died because they resisted Hitler and his Nazi regime; the Burmese Christians who were killed simply because they believed in Christ; the hundreds of African Christians who suffered because they condemned the terrorism of colonial authorities and Black nationalists alike; and the many who were killed because their Christian witness made them oppose racism or social and economic injustices. If we were not careful, the sheer number of martyrs might stagger our efforts to remember them, and why and how they died. So, today’s memorial is meant to be a small act of resistance, a refusal to be silent in the face of terror and injustice. We collect our intentions around a thankful remembrance of the Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century and learn anew the ancient truth, that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Almighty God, who chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, teach us to honour your Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, that we may stand fast in your truth, proclaim your salvation in the world, and fulfil your commandments in love; through Jesus Christ our Lord,who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The source of this post is not known.  It is quoted from my daily devotional reading.

Women’s rights & freedom of responsible choice

female-symbol

In the week that has followed International Women’s Day, I have read with interest some very impressive statistics on the progress women have made over the years. Earning the right to vote, ascension to leadership in Fortune 500 companies, success in male-dominated professions and legislation protecting safety, pay scales and employment access were in the mix of articles and social media posts published on or around March 8.

In spite of the progress, we must lament the fact that far too many women with limited access to economic opportunities continue to be persuaded or forced into prostitution and human trafficking situations, where they are sexually exploited for the profit and entertainment of unscrupulous men.

Just one month before International Women’s Day, the 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition was released with the model on the cover removing her bikini bottom, leaving very little to the imagination. Appallingly outrageous!

But before you think I’m going to take a prudish position on this, I’ll say that I am thrilled that feminism has earned women the right to make our own choices. We can boldly be who we want to be, choose what we wear and how we wear or not wear what we want to wear. Bravo!

What I find appalling is the consensual use of a woman’s body as a sexual object to market men’s entertainment products. I am disappointed that the model on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover has chosen to have her body used in this way. It does nothing to uplift the portrayal and image of women and it is a slap in the face to the many women and men who are working so very hard to build respect and gender equality.

It is unfortunate that the media is neither an enabler nor a game changer in the quest for genuine gender equality. The 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report states that 74.4% of leading roles in Hollywood movies are portrayed by men. With the majority of movies telling men’s stories and women who too often play secondary roles as lovers, wives and girlfriends, it is no small wonder that stereotypes of women as sex objects continue to be perpetuated.

I am not advocating censure. I am advocating opportunities and choices for women to be positively portrayed in the media, which influences public perceptions. Bearing in mind that men make up approximately 50% of the population, women need to make responsible choices about the opportunities they accept in the domains of advertising and entertainment. In spite of any progress women make in the corporate, academic or any other field of economic activity, the portrayal of women in the media holds an even greater influence on the way in which women are perceived and treated by men.

I stand fully behind the programs that support women’s professional development. Kudos to the women and men who have launched projects to increase the proportion of women on corporate boards and in senior leadership positions. But since we believe in freedom of choice, not all women will choose to ascend the corporate hierarchical ladder, if and where it exists, in the new corporate world order.

The focus must be on empowering women and girls to develop their talents in whichever field they desire, and to have the self-confidence to decline offers of economic gain that objectify them for the benefit of men’s entertainment.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters.

@Glorymatters

http://www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

 

When turning the other cheek doesn’t work

It took me a really long time to understand Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek. But on the day that I did, I gained a whole new perspective on how Christians should respond to oppressive laws, acts of injustice and also when violent, physical retaliation in the form of war, is appropriate.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus made the case for heartfelt motivations being of a higher order of righteousness than compliance with religious laws.  Jesus declared the blessed outcomes of resulting from right attitudes – in the ‘beatitudes.’ By calling into question the motivations for using religious laws as the standard for righteousness, He equated intention with action – the person who secretly lusts in his heart is just as unrighteous as the person who acts on lust and commits adultery.

Jesus gave some pointed advice on how to directly respond to unjust, oppressive laws.

Under Roman law at the time of Jesus’ ministry, persons of higher social rank had the right to slap the face of a person of lower social rank – but the slap had to be given with the left hand as the right hand was reserved for religious actions and could not be defiled.  So if someone wanted to slap another person in the face with their left hand, they would have to deliver the blow to the right cheek of the other person, who had no right to retaliate. Clearly an unjust, oppressive law. If the person receiving the slap were to turn his left cheek, the slapper would have to use their right ‘holy’ hand.  By following Jesus’ suggestion to turn the left cheek to be slapped, it would mean that the oppressor would have to stop and think before striking again.  He would have to consider firstly, if he should defile his right hand, an unrighteous act in the way of thinking in that era. Secondly, he would hopefully question himself as to whether or not his action was right and fair to the other person.

Using a radical form of non-violent action as the line of defense is the principle I believe that Jesus was advocating. This principle is not unlike our modern day principle of moral suasion where an appeal is made to the conscience to consider what is fair and what serves the common good.   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Ghandi are two examples of persons who followed through on the principle of non-violent protest and moral suasion.  Similarly, the United Nations, as an institution, seeks to avert war and its underlying causes of injustice, poverty and oppression, through diplomacy and dialogue.

But does there come a point when violent, physical retaliation is appropriate? I believe that there is.

We know that Jesus taught in the synagogue.  Some heard and accepted His teachings and others didn’t.  Many of those who didn’t, continued to oppress and extort their fellow citizens.  On one occasion, Jesus had a violent response to the heart-hardened money-changers, when he overturned their tables, smashed up their ill-gotten material gains and drove them out of the synagogue.

In today’s world, we have terrorists wreaking havoc wherever and whenever they can.  For all the diplomatic interventions, economic sanctions and other non-violent initiatives, these terrorists continue to torture and murder innocent people of various religious, ethnic and political persuasions.  The principle of moral suasion and non-violent intervention has not pierced through the hearts of these perpetrators of violence and terrorism.  In these circumstances, as difficult as it may be, war can be justified.

Christians must join together in prayer for right outcomes in the current war on terror. We must pray that the weapons of war will be broken and that the sources of funding for terrorist activities will be eliminated once and for all.  We ought to pray for the terrorists and be hopeful that transformation is possible. As was the case with the apostle Paul, many in the terrorists’ ranks can be radically converted.  We must also to pray for the victims of war – regardless of their religious affiliation.  Above all, we need to be involved, when the time comes, to contribute to rebuilding all that was lost in war and to promote the principle of moral suasion and non-violence as the best route to a peaceful world.

I don’t believe in work/life balance

Work Life Balance

Although I tried it for many years, I no longer believe in work/life balance, and here’s why –

The term work/life balance implies that there is work and then there are other things in life.  According to this way of thinking, finding the balance means that there has to be a trade-off.  In the end, one or the other suffers.

As someone who enjoys working hard, I do cherish time spent with my family and people I love, as well as volunteering and having my ‘down time.’   For many years, I tried unsuccessfully to find a balance between my work and all the other things I wanted to do in life.  Trying to fit in one hour of long distance running, preparing supper, spending quality time with my husband and family, working on communications plans for the two social activities I was involved in, working on my latest art project and then factoring in two hours commuting to an 8-hour day job… all left me tired, frazzled, overweight and unfulfilled.  Then I tried to cut down some of my social activities in pursuit of the ideal balance between work and the other things in my life.  I got the same result – not enough sleep, weight gain and frustration instead of fulfillment.

Then, one Saturday morning a few years ago, I woke up feeling tired.  I was overwhelmed when I read the uncompleted items on the previous week’s “to do” list that was running and ruining my life.  The reality check came when I tried to add another set of commitments for the coming week to the list of “to do’s.”

Realizing the impossibility of accomplishing all of the tasks, I had an honest dialogue with myself about what mattered most to me in my life at the time.   Instead of identifying specific actions, I considered what my priorities ought to be.  Here’s what I came up with –

  1. My spiritual well-being,
  2. My family and the people I love,
  3. Developing my talents and career and
  4. Serving other people.

Overarching all of these priorities was my health and well-being and the need for a holistic, balanced way of life.

What I realized was that if I stayed true to my priorities, I wasn’t making a choice between work and life.  My priorities covered every aspect of my life, of which work is only one component.

Since then, I have reframed my thinking about how I manage my time and energy.  Treating my priorities as assets and the hours in a day as a portfolio, I invest my time and efforts in activities that matter most while ensuring that my health and well-being are not compromised.  Since I’m most alert and productive in the early morning, I spend my first waking hours in meditation and getting ready to start my work day early, allowing for more time in the evening to spend time with my family and with people while being involved in social activities.  Then there are boundaries I set on the commitment and number of volunteering opportunities that I’m involved in.

It’s simple, but then again it’s not that simple.  Having it all is eventually possible.  It’s all about setting priorities and making choices that are appropriate at a given time in life.  As King Solomon stated, “For everything in life there is a time and a season.”  These are wise words to live by.

Christ in you, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters.

Visit my website www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

Canada Day

Canada Day is a national holiday, not a feast of the Church; and yet it is right that we Christians offer prayer and thanksgiving today, because all the good things which we enjoy as Canadians have their origin as gifts of God. The resources of our land and the oceans which border it, our diversity as Canadian people, the heritage of Confederation and our nation’s continuing efforts to ensure peace and justice for all its citizens — all these things call the Church to remember and celebrate the God who gave them. At the same time, we as the people of the Church must accept an immense responsibility as citizens of Canada. We believe that divine grace seeks to fulfill what divine power has created. We are the servants of this saving purpose of God: we do not leave the concerns of Canadian society behind us when we enter our churches; we enter our churches in order to gain fresh strength for the work of making God’s justice, compassion, and wisdom ever more present in the life of our nation. On Canada Day, our task is to dedicate ourselves to the mission of bringing all our country’s resources — natural and human — within the circle of God’s redemptive love in Jesus Christ.

Almighty God, whose wisdom and whose love are over all, accept the prayers we offer for our nation. Give integrity to its citizens and wisdom to those in authority, that harmony and justice may be secured in obedience to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Taken from Daily Devotional Anglican Meditation.

 

 

What advertising agencies do for their clients, we’re called to do for Christ.

Originally published on Christ Notes – Week of 23 October 2013

You’ve probably heard these slogans: “Just do it,” “Drivers wanted,” and “It’s everywhere you want to be.” And you’ve almost certainly heard of Nike, Volkswagen, and Visa; however, you probably have never heard of the advertising agencies that coined those slogans: Wieden & Kennedy; Arnold Communications; and Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn.

In a lot of ways, we’re supposed to be like those advertising agencies. We are called to proclaim the name of Jesus to the entire world; we’re not called to proclaim the name of our denomination, our ministry, our church, or our pastor.

Compare how often you talk about your church or your pastor versus how often you talk about Jesus.

When unbelievers see Christianity, I can’t help but wonder how many of them simply see a bunch of denominations fighting about petty issues: Contemporary vs. traditional worship? Drums and guitar vs. organ and hymns? Powerpoint slides vs. hymn book? Jeans and tee-shirt vs. suit and tie?

Instead, wouldn’t our testimony to the world be so much better if, with one voice, we proclaimed “Jesus!”? In Romans 15:9, Paul writes, Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name. Paul’s singular focus was on making the name of Jesus known throughout the world.

It’s not about your church, your ministry, your Bible study, your small group, or your denomination. Your single focus should be on shouting the name of Jesus to all peoples. Your life should be a walking advertisement for the hope, peace, and joy that’s available to all people in Christ.

Prayers of a man in prison

In an earlier post, I observed that the church’s mission goes beyond our preferences and perceptions of how, where and who to serve. The church’s mission is rooted in Jesus’ command in the great commission defined in Matthew 28 v 19 – 20 to teach others about who God is and what it means to follow Him.

True it is that there are many people who won’t be reached initially through Biblical teachings. Like Jesus, we also have to commit ourselves to activities that cater to both the physical and spiritual well-being of others. This is what sets the Church apart from other social service organizations.

Christians must commit to intentionally and actively understanding the needs in our communities and beyond and make a collective effort to address these needs by spreading the Good News in word and action. Acting on this understanding of mission in the local context will require the abandonment of assumptions and judgements about people and their circumstances. Mission will require us to go into places where all hope seems to be dimmed by the darkness of sin, suffering and despair. In the face of resistance, we must still press on with sharing the Good News.

Prisons are dangerous, difficult places where inmates have many reasons to have very little or no hope. With lives rooted in poverty, abuse, abandonment, addiction and crime, some are repeat offenders, never having been given any guiding principles, labelled as incorrigible, despised and forgotten by their families.

The Prison Chaplaincy Programme at the Cowansville Correctional Centre offers the opportunity for mission. Under the leadership of Rev. Canon Tim Smart, volunteers visit the prison to participate in Bible studies and fellowship meetings lasting more than an hour each week. These meetings provide the opportunity for inmates to hear the Good News and commit themselves to personal transformation and eventual reintegration in the society.

During a visit nearly two years ago, one inmate, serving a life sentence, expressed his helpless, hopeless frustration at being locked away from society and his desire to die, rather than continue living in prison. The inmate, who I will call “Louis,” is a repeat offender with a heavy criminal record, once considered among the most dangerous criminals in Québec. In his frustrated state of mind, he vehemently declared that the teachings of the Bible on hope and salvation could have no meaning to him.

On the face of it, we could empathize and take a hands-off approach, offer to say a prayer and not persist with bringing the message of hope and the Good News to this frustrated man. However, in the months that followed, it was the commitment of the Prison Chaplaincy Programme volunteers to fulfill the Church’s mission that has led Louis to share the following prayers that he wrote earlier this year and has taped to the wall of his cell:

Prayer of an inmate
Lord, from the depth of my cell, here I am humbly before you, calm and at peace by your great mercy O God my Saviour.
I thank you for this day – one more has passed. Even if the other inmates say that I’m serving a long, hard sentence, in this way I’m getting to know you better O Jesus.
It is not easy to be on the inside, in prison and to call on Your Name. When the other inmates hear Your Name, they say that they are here because of You. This is why I need Your strength. Increase my faith so that I may live each day in the joy of Your forgiveness and in the hope of Your presence.
Watch over my family who are on the outside. Fill them with your love and peace and may we one day,
By Your grace, be reunited. Amen

I’ve changed
Lord, I no longer recognize myself. I, who was violent and impulsive, have become calm and patient.
I, who wanted to win always and everywhere, have learned to become a good person.
I, who was lazy and a thief, now work to earn my living.
I, who would always be ashamed to pray to you alone, here I am, praying to you along with other people.
Frankly Lord, I have come a long way. Never would I have believed that I am capable of changing this much. You know how happy I am. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am at peace and I feel free.
But what I want to say to you, above all, is that I am aware that this change does not only depend on me. Much of it comes from You. For this reason, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Amen

These beautiful prayers of a former criminal are testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit working through people who are committed to mission.

Sharing the Good News and helping to transform lives, everywhere, at all times and in all places as God leads is the best and right use of the teachings of the Bible. That is what mission is all about.