Special letter from the Bishop:
The events of this past week, particularly the fatal shooting of a Canadian soldier in Ottawa, and also the hit-and-run incident of two soldiers outside of Montreal earlier in the week, have shaken our Canadian society. It has left not only police and security agencies on high alert but it has also de-stabilized the assumed stability of our Canadian way of life for us ordinary citizens. Our federal government leaders have done their part to call us to resist intimidation and to ‘stand together’ – to ‘be vigilant’ – to continue ‘to walk together’ as proud Canadians.
However, for us Christians proclaiming the loving reign of God, the deeper question must be “Where is God in all of this?” What is a faithful response for the disciple of Jesus Christ – especially since some will claim that these kinds of acts of terrorism and violence are ultimately religiously motivated?
Naturally, first we will join with others across the country in praying for, and expressing our condolences to, the families and friends who have directly suffered the loss of those who died. Secondly, we need to regularly and publicly pray for protection for our police and military personnel as they seek to keep our communities safe. And we need to be praying for and supporting those whose role it is to hold accountable and bring to justice those responsible for these acts of terror.
But then what? The question still remains – ‘where is God in all of this?’ One temptation, in opposition to Gordon Light’s beautiful song: Draw the Circle Wide, is to draw the circle narrow – smaller. Then we can pretend that the smaller world in which we live is safe because we’ve built psychological and sociological walls to keep out those who are not in my smaller circle. I live my life, then, in a duality. There is the smaller world in which I live and in which I believe God lives – and there is the larger world ‘out there’ which is godless and from which I must protect myself.
The other temptation is to counter this defensive stance by adopting an offensive one. The inhabitants of this circle are aggressive and we seek to do battle against those we view with suspicion – who are different from us – and therefore, may be ‘the enemy.’ These may be persons whose ethnic roots are different from mine, or whose religion is different, or whose language and cultural customs I don’t understand and perhaps even fear. In this distortion we equate ‘my world’ with God’s world and everything else as alienated and evil worlds which must be conquered and brought into our definition of God’s world.
Still, where is God in all of this?
What took place this past week is not new in the world of God’s people. In Psalm 10 the psalmist writes:
[The wicked] – their mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; under their tongue are mischief and wrong. They lurk in ambush in public squares and in secret places they murder the innocent; they spy out the helpless. They lie in wait, like a lion in a covert; they lie in wait to seize upon the lowly; they seize the lowly and drag them away in their net. The innocent are broken and humbled before them; the helpless fall before their power. [Psalm 10: 7-10]
The psalmist continues with a strong plea to God to “rise up” and act – to “break the power of the wicked and evil” – and concludes with:
The Lord will hear the desire of the humble; you will strengthen their heart and your ears shall hear; to give justice to the orphan and oppressed, so that mere mortals may strike terror no more. [Psalm 10: 18-19]
“Mere mortals.” In the letter to the Ephesians we read that “our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) And this struggle begins inside each one of us. We must be determined, as the Letter to the Ephesians continues, “to take up the whole armour of God” in order to ultimately stand firm – falling into neither of the temptations above – and resolutely standing firm in the truth that this is God’s world, and that the Spirit of God is continuing to reconcile humanity – all of humanity – to God and God’s reign of justice, mercy and love.
The events of this past week in Canada challenge this vision of reality. Our call as Christian disciples is to refuse to either shrink our understanding of God’s world, or split God’s world into “conquerors and conquered.” Instead we are to stubbornly reach across and take down the psychological walls that we sense being built to keep out those we deem to be different from us. We are to refuse to let love grow cold and instead to work at creating intentional community in places where it is most threatened.
We live in a world that does not yet display all of the marks of God’s world and the events of this past week make that painfully clear. But we are still to be directed by the words of the Apostle Paul, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
O God, the author of peace and love of concord, to know you is eternal life, to serve you is perfect freedom. Defend us your servants from the assaults of our enemies, that we may trust in your defence, and not fear the power of any adversaries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.