Category Archives: DTES

Patriotism to Yahweh: The Shema – Deuteronomy 6:4-15

This is a sermon I gave this morning at Emmanuel Mennonite Church. I had a lot of requests from people that wanted to read it, so here it is, slightly edited for ease of reading. I should have an audio recording up in the next week as well!

 

update: the sermon can be listened to here: http://www.emmanuelmennonite.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/July-14_2013-message.mp3

Don’t Forget: Patriotism, Table worship, and the Shema

This morning I’m speaking on Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and a little bit past that as well. To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about this passage when I first began to look at it. I thought that it was obvious – Love God. Great, thanks. Well, that’s the shortest sermon ever. But as I read it over and over, and as I spoke about it with others, new depths were revealed.

 

One note before we get started. We all come to the text with biases and baseline observations. One of the biases that I have is that I see the entire story of Scripture as being a story of redemption, of God drawing His people into a relationship with Himself. I see this everywhere I look, from Genesis to Revelation. God desires to be known by us, to be father and friend and king. And this passage that we’re looking at today, the very heart of Old Testament theology, is a prime example of this. ‘Hear oh Israel, the Lord is our God, The Lord is One.’

 

First, we’re going to start with a look at the passage itself. If you have your Bibles, you can turn to Deuteronomy 6, and we’re starting in verse 4. I’ll also have the passage up on the screen.

‘Hear oh Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.’

This is a fascinating passage. So simple, but with so many layers. It can also be read a number of different ways – for example, an alternating reading is ‘Hear oh Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord alone!’ or ‘Hear, Oh Israel, The Lord our God is the Only Lord, or even Hear oh Israel, The Lord our God is One Lord.’ This declaration, called the Shema, which is the Hebrew word for ‘hear’ or ‘listen’, is, as I have said, the very center of Old Testament theology. Here, Moses is claiming not only that Yahweh is the God of Israel, but also that he is the ONLY God. In saying this, Moses is simultaneously elevating Yahweh and claiming that faith in any other gods, such as Baal or Molech, is incompatible with worship of Yahweh. This makes a lot of sense, really – At this point in time, the Hebrew people are still wandering the wilderness, a landless people amongst foreign tribes. And soon, they will be entering Canaan, and the temptation will be to intermarry with the locals, taking on their customs and even their gods. Through cementing this declaration at the very heart of Hebrew theology, God, working through Moses, is attempting to prevent his people from being led astray by their neighbours.

But love for Yahweh is not simply about ceremony, or about an emotional experience, but rather about orienting the entire being towards Yahweh. This can be seen in verse 5, which is probably rendered in your Bible as You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. While this is textually correct, we miss some of the nuance here from a straight reading. Let’s start with ‘Love the Lord your God with your whole heart.’ In ancient Israel, the intellect, what we would think of as the brain, was thought to reside in the chest, in the heart. And so talking about the heart was not about an emotional response to Yahweh, but rather an intellectual one. You could say ‘let every thought you think be oriented towards Yahweh.’

The second clause, ‘love the lord your God with all your soul’ is again, about much more than a spiritual experience. The Hebrew people had no concept of a separation between the soul and the body – they were one and the same. And so the best way to understand ‘love with all your soul’ is to think ‘love God with your whole being, with everything that makes you you.’ We could say ‘with your entire consciousness’ or ‘love God with everything that you are.’

The third clause is a little more straight-forward. Loving God with all your might could be understood as ‘Love God in everything that you do, with all the works of your hands’.

So we have ‘Love God with every thought in your head, every fibre of your being, and with every movement you make.’ So, in full, I think this paraphrase helps us capture the meaning of the Shema: ‘Listen, you people, God, your God, is the Only God, the One True God – Love him with every thought, love him with every breath, love him with every movement. Orient your whole life towards Him!’

Not only were the Hebrew people to love god with everything that they were, but they were also to teach others to do the same. ‘Teach [these words I command you] to your children, and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fasten them as symbols to your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’

This reinforces the teaching of orienting your entire life towards Yahweh. At every moment God needs to be present – in all your actions, remember him and do what he asks! And there was good reason for this teaching – Israel was about to face challenges unlike anything they had seen before.

‘Then when the Lord your God brings you to the land he promised your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you – a land with large, fine cities you did not build, houses filled with choice things you did not accumulate, hewn out cisterns you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – and you eat your fill, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, that place of slavery. You must revere the Lord your God, serve him, and take oaths using only his name. You must not go after other gods, those of the surrounding peoples, for the Lord your God, who is present among you, is a jealous God and his anger will erupt against you and remove you from the land.’

God knew what the people of Israel would face when they entered Canaan. He knew that they were going to be installed into a place of power, into a kingdom they did not build, and that power so easily corrupts an unwitting population. It was going to be so easy for Israel to become just like any other nation, to give up the distinctive whole-body worship of Yahweh and to replace it with a ceremonial practice, disengaged from real life. And so God is saying here, again, ‘Remember! Remember the story! Remember how I saved you! Remember how I brought you out of Egypt! Don’t leave anything out! Tell the whole story!’ Unfortunately, It doesn’t appear that Israel paid much attention to the words of Yahweh, as their devotion to lavish temples and a pagan-styled monarchy eventually show. They claimed that Yahweh is the one true God, but all too often they did not act like it. They did not understand that the rule of Yahweh is different than that of any other God. Only after the Temple was destroyed and they were scattered into exile did they begin to tell the story again, and that story kept them rooted in Yahweh. Even today you can find this story being told over and over again every Passover. It’s a story that Jesus would have heard: ‘Remember, we were once slaves in Egypt, and God, the only God, saved us. He is with us, and we must remember him in all we do!’

Why should we care about any of this today? What does it have to do with us, living in the 21st century?

First, the Shema is more than a prayer, and more than a statement. It is a pledge of allegiance. Here in Canada we’re not particularly patriotic, at least compared to our neighbors to our south. But I think the point still stands. When I walked through downtown Vancouver on Canada day, I saw a lot of red and white. Like most things, love of country is not necessarily a bad thing, but it must be kept in perspective. We must remember – there’s that word again, remember – that we are members, first and foremost, of the Kingdom of Heaven. We have no king but Jesus, no Father but Yahweh. Do I love the fact that I can speak my mind and that I have free healthcare? Absolutely. But my love of Canada must come a distant second to my love of Christ and his Kingdom. Anything else is idolatry. Canada will pass away, kingdoms will rise and crumble, but the Kingdom of Heaven will remain, and will thrive, and will restore the world into something incredible and beautiful.

I am patriotic about the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Shema is my pledge of Allegiance – ‘Hear, oh Emmanuel Mennonite Church, The Lord our God, the Lord is One! We will love the Lord Our God with all of our intellect, with all of our being, with all of our strength!’ And, to paraphrase Jesus – ‘We will show our devotion by loving our neighbors – our poor neighbors, our rich neighbors, our homeless neighbors, our addicted neighbors, our Hindu and Muslim and Sikh and Baptist and Calvinist and Charismatic neighbors, our homosexual and bisexual and transgendered neighbors, our black and white and brown and every other skin color neighbors – we will show our devotion to God by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, as we love our own flesh and blood. I pledge allegiance to the Cross, to the Stone rolled-away, to the empty tomb, and to the Saviour for which it stands! Amen? Amen.

The second thing I think we can pull out of this passage is the difference between what can be called Temple worship and Table worship. I wish I came up with this, but I didn’t – There is a wonderful pastor in the states named Brian Zahnd who inspired these thoughts. See, at Temple worship, the ceremony becomes the thing, and it falls on just a few men to perform the ceremony. Temple worship isn’t about daily living oriented towards God; it’s about atoning for sins and participating in the system. Now, I’m not saying that atonement doesn’t matter – Jesus has absolutely done that work. But what I am saying is that when worship becomes a system through which we attempt to get holy, I think we’ve missed the point.

The Shema teaches Table Worship. Table worship is about orienting every moment of our lives towards the love of God. Table worship means inviting everyone to the table – it’s family dinner, keep one foot on the floor! There’s always room for more. My family is famous for this – I remember multiple times my dad picking up hitch hikers and bringing them home to dinner – having 15 or 20 people crowded around our old dining room table was a common occurrence. This is what I see God saying: ‘Come to the table! Eat! There’s always room. Of course there’s room. We’ll bring in some more chairs, don’t worry! This is what you were made for!’ And Jesus is there, with us, passing the potatoes. We show our love to God by loving others, by giving them a seat at the table, by not requiring more of them than what Jesus required. Remember, Jesus was constantly getting in trouble for eating with tax collectors and sinners. A prostitute washed his feet! And Christ, being God on Earth, by definition perfectly embodied the Shema. His entire life was oriented towards Love of Yahweh, and so He is the perfect example of what this kind of life looks like.

 

Finally, how do we practically connect this with loving the poor and marginalized? I have three suggestions.

First, we need to reclaim the sacred act of hospitality. I want to be honest: It’s really easy to exclude people. It’s really easy to say that we don’t have time or energy to include others, and I am totally complicit in this. My wife and I are huge homebodies. An ideal evening for us is a nice home-cooked meal and an evening of movies or video games. It’s so easy to close the curtains and turn inwards, and pretend like the world doesn’t exist. But what I realized is that when we invite others into our space, and when we accept the invitations that others extend, our lives become so much more incredibly rich. Eating and cooking with friends and neighbors is awesome. When we open our doors, amazing things can happen. Yes, there is risk – relationships and community are always risky – but there is so much joy to be found as well. Let’s engage in hospitality again. The Kingdom of God includes the poor and the marginalized, and not just off in some ministry to the poor, but front and centre. We need to be giving them a place at the table.

Second, we need to embrace the poor by killing the idol of security. Christ brought a new kind of Kingdom, one based on faith and mercy rather than on security and wealth. We need to be saying, ‘yes, in our backyard. If anywhere, we want the poor in our backyard!’ We need to stand up against dehumanizing tactics such as the kind used by this city very recently, from spreading manure on campsites to petitioning safe and affordable supportive housing. I work in a supportive housing building, and I can tell you that they work. They really do. There are some cases where silence makes us complicit in the actions of others, and this is one of those cases. Is Abbotsford going to be a place of refuge for those that have been abused and traumatized throughout their lives, or is it going to be one more place where they are simply not welcome?

And finally, we need to teach our children vigorously what it means to live a life oriented towards Yahweh. We need to show our children what radical hospitality looks like. One of the reasons I was able to move into the Downtown East Side was because my parents prepared the way for me. I spent my childhood with fishermen and loggers, hippies and rednecks, and all were welcome at the table. All were treated with respect. And because my father respected them, they respected him. Everyone was treated as a human, and this taught me to look for the humanity in everyone I meet, no matter what they look like on the surface. I watched this, and learned. We need to be showing our children how to love – otherwise they are going to learn from the world how to hate and discriminate.

So, listen, Oh Emmanuel Mennonite Church, listen, Oh Abbotsford, the Lord Your God, the Lord is One! Love the Lord your God with every thought in your head, every fibre of your being, and with every movement you make. Remember the stories, and tell them constantly – when you eat, and when you sleep, and when you wake and when you walk! Don’t forget! Thank you.

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December 6

It’s my birthday today – I turn 29. Writing this, it’s a little shocking, even for me. 29, really? am I REALLY that old? Am I sure I haven’t missed a couple years somewhere?

Wow.

I have never known what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’ – which I guess I have done, now.  twenty years ago, when I was turning nine, I had absolutely no clue. I don’t remember much about being nine, but I do remember that I never wanted to be a fireman or a policeman or astronaut or any of those normal things that kids want to be when they grow up. I was too busy pretending to be a ninja turtle and creating ‘time machine gas’ in an old oil drum behind my best friends’ house. It would have worked, too. Too bad his mom caught us before we could put it in the car.

Fifteen years ago I turned fourteen. I didn’t like myself very much. I was a little overweight, very self-conscious, and a bit withdrawn.  I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I still didn’t have any idea what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’. Around this time I played with the idea of being a chef, but lost interest fairly quickly. I enjoyed using the computer, but wasn’t confident about my writing (or anything else, really). This is why whenever I talk with a teen ager, one of the first things I try and tell them is that ‘it gets better’. It does. I think the early teens are a lonely time for a lot of people.

Ten years ago I turned nineteen. I had just finished a being away from home for the first time, having spent nine months traveling across Canada and back with a bunch of strangers while doing a now-defunct volunteer exchange program called Katimavik. I grew a lot during that year. During that year I finally started feeling like I was finding myself, and was happy with what I found. I was sure of my faith (perhaps a little too sure), happy-ish with the way I looked, and made friends from a radically diverse group of people. I also, for the first time, had an inkling of something I would like to do for a career – photography. While that plan would never come to fruition in quite the way I expected, it was exciting to finally realize that there was something out there that I was competent at. This is why, when I sometimes hear parents worrying about the directionless nature of their teenage children, I try and tell some of my story. Teens need to be nurtured, they need to be encouraged, and they need to be given options – but they do not need to be pushed. sometimes it takes time. I was almost out of my teens before I had any idea what I was going to do with myself.

 

five years ago I turned twenty-four. I can’t believe that was five years ago. A lot changed between turning nineteen and turning twenty four. No longer heading towards photography, I had completed a two-year certificate in Applied Communications (a program which is also now defunct, and included some photography, among other things) fished for three seasons (two tuna, one herring), traveled to Europe for three months, had my life completely turned upside down over the course of a couple weeks, worked two summers at a summer camp, and started Bible school. Whew. That was a busy, and eventful five years. It was if all the growth and change that most people expect to happen in their teens happened to me, all at once, in my early twenties. I went from a young man just starting to come out of his shell to someone willing to take chances, to dive into something without having any idea where it would lead.

Somewhere over the course of those five years I developed a strong passion for the marginalized as well. My mom would tell you that I have always had a protective instinct, but it was in those five years that I started to find an outlet for that. I think it started while I was living in Victoria, where I somehow gravitated towards the homeless community. Maybe I just thought it was an interesting story at the time, I don’t know. But over the course of several months I would spend time speaking with the homeless guys in Victoria and just hanging out with them. I learned a lot, and developed a great deal of compassion for them.

I also refound my position in the church. When I was nineteen, while I was sure of my faith, I was done with organized church. I thought it was completely dysfunctional, and I never wanted to be a pastor because I ‘didn’t want my kids to hate me’. That was my view of the church. In my early twenties, however, I was brought to The Place Community Church in Victoria, and found a church that seemed to actually attempt to live what it preached. Through the people I met there my faith was rekindled, and I started on a road towards where I am now.

And now, I am twenty nine. These past five years have been incredibly busy as well. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans, graduate from college, meet my wife, get married, find a real trajectory, move into one of the poorest communities in Canada, and…. what? we’ll see!

What a ride it’s been. The past five years were dominated by a radical shift in direction for me. My beliefs and faith have been centered and strengthened by my introduction to Anabaptist Theology and by my introduction to the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. I’m stronger in my faith now than I have ever been. This new journey in Vancouver is just starting, and I have no idea where it’s heading – in a very real way, I still ‘don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up.’ But strangely, I’m completely ok with that now. If there is anything that my life has taught me so far, it is that I need to enjoy the adventure in the moment, and let God take care of the future.

What an adventure!

The Weightier Matters

I haven’t blogged recently because last week was spent preparing a sermon which I gave at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford. I’ll return to posting later this week, but for now, here’s the links to the sermon:

Text version – which my friend Brad Jersak very kindly included in the Clarion Journal… I feel honoured to be on the same page as authors such as Bob Ekblad and Brad. Here’s the link.

Audio version – I apologize for the awkward delivery, I’m still new at the sermon thing. Here’s the link.

Why do we judge?

This past weekend was the weekend before Haloween, and as such, Gastown was flooded with people. I had the privilege of guiding some college students around the DTES, introducing them to my friends and to my neighbourhood. As we walked back and forth from Hastings to Gastown on that wet rainy night, we saw the crowds gathered, engaging in their vice of choice. On Hastings, the drug pushers and the addicted interacted, exchanging money and favours for a little bit of rock or a shot of heroin. On the streets of Gastown, in front of the Blarney Stone, the Whiskey Bar, and many others, crowds stood in the rain waiting for a chance to enter and imbibe. The girls wearing their ‘sexy’ costumes, the guys staring at them and playing along with the hope of some action (perhaps bought with a few rounds of drinks? hmmm.), the bouncers and the bartenders looking on, ‘just doing their job’.

Are we really that different? Is the upscale really less hurting because they happen to still have some room on their nearly-maxed credit cards for a few rounds of drinks? Besides the legality of the action, I don’t see a lot of difference. This isn’t just about alcohol though; it’s about filling a void.

While for some it’s alcohol, and for another it’s crack, for someone else it might be shopping, or work, or porn, or food. We hurt because we isolate ourselves, and because we have been hurt. We lack compassion because we don’t understand that compassion is being shown to us, if only we are able to accept it.

After a night of revelry, some will return to their rented beds in high-rises, and others will return to their shelter, or SRO, or chunk of cardboard under an awning. In the morning all will be hung over, all will be filled with regret. One group, however, is glamorized for its indulgences, while the other is criminalized.

It comes down to this: Who do we serve? the desire to serve the god of Self is strong. ‘I need this.’ I need that.’ ‘Finders Keepers’ ‘The Early Bird Gets the Worm’ ‘There’s no ‘I’ in Team, but there is an ‘M’ and an ‘E’.’ We are an egotistical and self-indulged people. We have no time for one another, no patience for anyone who thinks a little bit different, no care or mercy for the one who was abused and raped and molested by the very people that were supposed to care, protect, and love.

Why? Why can’t we look past the ends of our noses? Why can’t we engage the other as friend and ally? Why have we built an entire society which believes that helping one another out financially is wrong? I don’t know. I just don’t know. What I do know, however, is that God calls us to each other. He calls us into community, a community that transforms rather than condemns. A community that loves incredibly, stupidly, even at risk to itself. A community that gives passionately, and that loves unequivocally. Our commandments are these: Love God, and love the person in the ditch. The person that hates you. The person you despise. That’s your neighbour. Love them.

And yet our churches are full of ‘good’ people wearing nice clothes and singing songs that have the word ‘I’ in them more often than the word ‘We’… or even the word ‘God’, often. We talk about God ‘blessing’ us, about tithing so that we get something back, about how great we are and how terrible THEY are.

God forgive us. Please, show your mercy.

Christe Eleison
Kyrie Eleison
Christe Eleison

Amen.

I am conservative… Kind of. Maybe. I think.

We’ll get back to the Bible posts soon – I’m working on the next Genesis post, but it’s a doozy, and taking way longer for me to chew through than I thought. In the meantime, I have a few thoughts I thought it would be good to share.

I have, for a very long time, thought about myself as a left-leaning moderate. What I mean by that is I come out central on many issues, and often have a hard time with both the ‘left’ (liberal) and the ‘right’ (conservative) theological perspectives. However, when my back is pressed to the wall, I tend to lean liberal. Here are some examples.

1.On Creation, I don’t plant a flag in either the literal-six-day-creation or the Something-Else camp. however, I do believe that creation is a witness to the glory of God, and so I have a hard time with the idea that God would cause creation to lie to us about its age (creating light from other stars in motion, for example – if light wasn’t created in motion, we shouldn’t be able to see stars millions of lightyears away. The light would take millions of years to get here, much longer than a literalist interpretation allows). therefore, many would term me liberal, as I have a hard time reading Genesis 1 literally.

2. On Homosexuality, I don’t plant a flag in either camp – instead, I affirm the right and the responsibility of the church to read Scripture, and to interpret it as a church body wisely. My church is in the process of this conversation right now, and currently they state that practising homosexuals may not lead in the church, and homosexual marriages are not performed by the church. I stand with my church. However, I will not attempt to ‘fix’ a homsexual, and I do not feel it is my place to try and convict a homosexual of his or her sin. I have enough sins of my own to worry about – I can leave the convicting to God, if he chooses. Therefore, many would label me a liberal, as I refuse to make a firm commitment against homosexuality.

3. On Hell, I refuse to comdemn any particular person to eternal damnation. I do not believe that God desires anyone to be damned, and I do not believe that one is saved by the luck of having been born in the right place at the right time. Nor am I so arrogant to believe that my preaching or witnessing saves anyone – only God can save, and only by his work, not by mine. I do believe in Hell, however, firmly. We’ll come back to this in a moment. Because of my refusal to believe in a God who damns based on the geographic location of one’s birth, many would label me a liberal.

And, you know, I used to label myself a liberal too – or something close to it. Love of one’s neighbour and for God has always been the bottom line for me, and following that love seems to lead me towards some gray areas. I discovered this past weekend, however, that I am conservative.

This past weekend I had the chance to speak to Columbia Bible College students who were spending the weekend in the Downtown East Side. This is always a privilege for me. My heart was stirred for the DTES on my own weekend trip about five years ago. To help stir that passion in others is an honour I do not take lightly. Now, I have done this talk before, but it always seems to come out differently. I work off a series of notes and book quotes, but do not script myself word-for-word – I find this allows the talk to be more organic, and perhaps leaves room for the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. During my talk, I reveal the fact that addiction is often the product of abuse and trauma. The drug becomes security to the addict – it creates the feeling of peace, of everything being OK. We also create this feeling in ourselves, I tell the students, through a myriad of destructive habits, from shopping, to porn, to electronics, to food. We substitute shallow imitations of true intimacy and love in order to make ourselves feel good.

And then I said this: ‘We are all addicts. We are all broken. Simply because you cannot see the hurt, does not mean that the hurt does not exist. But there is hope, and that hope can only be found in Christ.’

Wow. Did I just say that? That sounds like a pretty conservative message to me. I realized that as I said it, I truly believed it as well. It’s not enough to make people feel good about themselves, although self-esteem is important. It’s not enough to give them some earthly peace and rest, although those things are part of the message. It’s not enough to reduce the harm being done to their bodies, although we should be doing this as well. If we do all these things, but do not do them in the name of Christ, but do not do them through the power of Christ, we will fail. The message of Christ is not purely spiritual, but neither is it purely physical. It is always both/and. I think safe injection sites are good, but I want to tell the person who has used the safe injection site that there is more hope available than what can be found in a needle. I desperately desire to have enough housing for everyone who needs it, but I also want to be able to tell my homeless friends that there is more waiting for them than just a dry bed.

I want to welcome all into a community of hope, grace, and mercy. A Kingdom ruled by a gracious and wise king, who only wants what is best for His subjects. A king who is just waiting for us to return home. And a kind who, with great sadness and frustration, will allow his wayward subjects to make their own paths, to set up their own petty kingdoms, to play at being gods. He won’t stop them, because he desires true love, true relationship with His subjects. And, hopefully, all his subjects will see that, and will willingly give up their plastic crowns and cheap polyester robes to sit at his feet as subjects of the one true king.

 

But some won’t. Some will cling to their petty fake self-indulgent small-g godhood, clinging to the same lie that Satan sold Adam and Eve: ‘You will be gods, and you will know right from wrong’. Some will refuse to bow, knowing that to bow means to give up their ‘right’ to a self-centred universe. It will mean admitting that they’re wrong, about so many things. It will mean their brokenness exposed to the harsh light of day, their failure revealed for all to see. For some, it will seem less painful to stay in the dark, playing god of their own little lonely and broken universe.

Some, many, are also living in Hell right now. They believe that the best they can do, the closest they can come to God, is sticking a needle in their arm, or having sex, or buying the next best gizmo, or building a materialistic empire with their own two hands. These things are hell. Our way, the way of the self, always leads to Hell. It is only through the power of Christ that we can see Heaven – Love God, and Love your neighbour as yourself, are not only commands. They are also a picture of Heaven. In Heaven, the first will be last, and the last will be first. I do not seek a crown – I simply seek after him. And I fail. And I trust that He is there, willing to pick me up again, if only I can let go of my pride and stubbornness. I believe this because Christ is real, and he really walked on the Earth, and really rose from the dead. It is true.

I think this makes me conservative, maybe? We’re all in this boat together. We’re all broken (sinful). We all claw after our own way, despite the harm it does to our relationship to God and to our fellow human beings. And we will be saved, if we can bring ourselves to submit to His kingship over our lives. If we do submit, we must be willing to show our loyalty through relinquishing our claims of ownership over our lives, and offering ourselves as his servants to feed, clothe, visit, and love those that the world has rejected as worthless. I believe in a true god, and his True son Jesus Christ, who truly does save in a very real and physical way. We are truly ambassadors for his kingdom, and we come bearing truly good news for the poor. Does believing this make me conservative? I don’t know, and I don’t care. What I do care about is Christ, and about the people he calls his children… especially those who have been hurt and broken and impoverished.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

We’ve been living in the DTES for a month now, and just this week it hit me hard: this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. This is broken. By this, I mean this world, this life, these people – including myself. This week I heard of relationships breaking apart, of men getting attacked and beaten to a pulp two blocks from my house (in broad daylight), of overdoses and pain and sorrow.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

The people here are broken, and beautiful – and this is why I love it here. I love it here because daily I am reminded that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. It’s much harder to remember that when sitting in a comfortable suburban church. It’s much harder to see the stark reality of our need for a saviour when you never have to worry about where your next hug is coming from.

Here, life is lived on the surface. Here, reality can be seen for what it truly is – incredible people, loved by God, trapped in broken skin and bones. This is just one of the things that living among the poor can teach us, one of the things that we desperately need to remember. While it is all well and good that reality can be seen here, we need to create ways of breaking out from our suburban half-real Christianity. We need to be open, real, and ready to bear the burdens of one another.

____________________

On a personal note, I realize that I haven’t been blogging. It’s been a transition time. I’m now working full time at Grace Mansion, a apartment building for those that have gone through drug treatment and are on their way to a healthy life. It’s a very boring job, as I work midnight-8am, but it has given me a lot of time to think – and I hope to start writing more soon. For any Abbotsfordians reading this, I will be at Emmanuel Mennonite Church on September 23 and speaking a little bit about our journey so far. I would love to see you there.