Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NB Paper Apologizes to PM

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the PM taking communion at Romeo Leblanc's funeral.  It turns out that the story originally published by the Saint John Telegraph Journal was inaccurate.  Here's the story on the apology from the same paper in today's Victoria Times Colonist.  Hopefully the apologies will reach the same level of zeal as those who were telling the story the first time around.

A New Brunswick daily newspaper issued a front-page apology Tuesday for a July 8 story that claimed the prime minister pocketed a communion wafer during the state funeral for former governor general Romeo LeBlanc.
The Saint John Telegraph-Journal apologized to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the story which the newspaper said “was inaccurate and should not have been published.”
The story created a national controversy that lasted for several days while Harper was attending a G8 gathering in Italy and preparing to meet the Pope.
“There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now,” said the apology. “The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the prime minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused.”
The newspaper also apologized to the two reporters whose bylines appeared above the story.
“Our reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras, who wrote the story reporting on the funeral, did not include these statements in the version of the story that they wrote. In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them,” said the apology.
The story said that a senior Roman Catholic priest had demanded that Harper's office explain what happened to the communion wafer which was handed to the prime minister during the state funeral. The story also described video footage that showed the prime minister taking the wafer, but cut away before Harper was seen consuming it.
A Telegraph-Journal newsroom employee who answered the phone said “no one will be talking” about the issue.
An aide to publisher Jamie Irving said there would be “no comment.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Responding to the Giants - Part 4

David was unique to everyone else in all of Israel, even though most people didn't recognize it.  David was the anointed successor to the throne of Israel.  He was the person God had chosen to serve, lead and deliver Israel.  The interesting thing is that unlike Saul, David walked in humility.  The anointing had not gone to his head and so it remained on his life.  Because he had been anointed king, David was the only person with the authority and responsibility to deal with Goliath.  While he had yet to take his place on the throne, David knew WHO he was and WHAT God had called him to do.  It was this confidence in his anointing and subsequent identity that caused him to respond the way he did.  David knew that the destiny of the nation was at stake and that God would use him to defeat Goliath.

We can only deal effectively with the giants in our lives, our homes, cities and nation when we are confident in our identity, mission and and anointing.  When we are unsure of who we are in Christ and where we stand we become subject to the taunting and intimidation of the giants.

I love David's question to the army and his brothers.  "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of God?"  David is not being cocky or arrogant.  He is speaking with a clear understanding of his identity and his role.  His question came from a place of authority.  It's no different than what you might say if you came home and found an intruder in your house.

What happens next is fascinating.  David is quickly taken to Saul where he makes the same statement.  Saul, who is desperate for a soldier does his best to convince his only willing candidate to avoid going to battle.  David's response is very revealing.  Your servant has been caring for his father's sheep ...  It seems to me that the little things are always very important in God's eyes.  Doing a good job as a shepherd qualifies you for giant killing.  It's because God uses the small things to prepare us for big things. 

David's second statement is equally interesting.  'Whenever a lion or bear steals one of the lambs, I go after it with a club, grab it by the jaw and kill it.  The Lord has protected me from the lion and the bear and He will help me defeat this uncircumcised Philistine.  (paraphrase mine...)  David had confidence in God's ability to help him and protect him.  Again, God uses the little things to teach us about the big things.

Think about what David said about the lion and the bear.  'I go after it with a club.'  I think it's interesting that he doesn't use a sling, spear or bow and arrow. The club requires close contact.  After he hits it and rescues the lamb he proceeds to grab the lion or bear by the jaw.  For those of you who live in bear country, my advice is 'DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!' Yet, this is part of what qualified him to defeat Goliath.  He learned to go to the most vulnerable place of the predator and defeat him there.  I think there's a powerful lesson of faith here.  The most dangerous place for us is also the most vulnerable place for the enemy because it's where our faith is put to work.  I'm convinced that God is more interested in our daring steps in response to His promises than He is in our multiple safety nets designed to ensure that our assets are always protected.  It might be that we don't know how to slay giants because we aren't very good at going after the lion and the bear.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Responding to the Giants - 3

The third person in the scenario is Saul.  Saul is the person who should have gone to confront Goliath. He was tallest in the kingdom, he had weapons and armour and in theory should have been a skilled warrior by that time. 

Saul in fact had become 'Mr. Dithers'.  When the nation needed leadership Saul was nowhere to be found.  His only plan to defeat Goliath was to offer his daughter and tax free living to the family of the man who would defeat Goliath.  Creative on the one hand, tremendously disappointing on the other.  This could have been Saul's greatest moment but Saul had lost 'it' and so it became his undoing.

If you were to flip back a few chapters, you would see the moment Saul lost 'it'.  Saul's life is a study in leadership gone wrong.  It's a picture of a man called to the top but lacking the character and discipline to stay there.  What should have been the begining of a dynasty became a one throne disaster.  Saul's problem was pride and independence.  Saul would not follow God's instructions or meet his expectations.  He did not understand roles and responsibilities.  He couldn't figure out where he should be and where he shouldn't be.  At the end of the day it cost him the kingdom (position) and more importantly God's presence and power (ore the anointing) in his life. 

Saul was anointed as the king of Israel but the anoiniting went to his head and resulted in a train wreck.  It's not uncommon today either.  When the anointing moves from your heart to your head, a disaster always follows.  When the anointing goes to your head, your perspectives change and you begin to function from the place of entitlement and privilege rather than from the place of a servant. 

Lost anointing leads to indecisiveness and incompotence and eventually it catches up to you.  Saul was so lost in himself that even after 6 weeks of daily challenge from Goliath, he couldn't figure out what to do next.

Pride and independence make it impossible to rise to the challenge of the giants.  I've finally begun to understand that the reason God hates our pride and independence is because it comes between Him and us.  It also causes us to live at a level far lower than what God intended for us.  Jesus said that apart from Him, we can do nothing.  I'm not sure how it works for out for you, but I know that every time I do it my way when I know I could do it God's way, a mess always results.

Saul's pride cost him everything.  What does yours cost you?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Responding to the Giants - 2

Any parent will tell you that even though children are raised by the same parents in the same household, they all turn our different. You might want to think that they should all be the same, but they are all unique. There's a great example of that when you consider David and his brothers.

The only reason that David was at the battle front was because his father had sent him to deliver food and supplies for his brothers. Upon his arrival, Goliath is in full roar and David hears the taunt for the first time. David is indignant. He's also stunned at what's happening. He starts to ask questions and find out what's going on. It's at that point that you get a snapshot of the family dynamics at Jesse's house. Eliab is the eldest, David is the youngest. Sibling rivalry is in full swing. Eliab passes judgment on David's motives. "You're just a kid... a pest and 'punk'. Go home and leave this for the men....

That might make sense except for one tiny detail that I have never noticed before...

If you remember back to when Samuel (the prophet) went to Jesse's house to anoint a new king, Eliab was the first one he saw. Samuel thought he must be the guy. He's tall, good looking and strong and yet God said that he had rejected him. It's the familiar verse where God says that man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart. God had seem something in Eliab that caused him to reject him as a potential king. Maybe it was jealousy, a sharp tongue or a quick temper. Maybe it was something else.... The point is that Eliab would not be king because he had disqualified himself.

There are times that the giants intimidate and have their way with us because we have disqualified ourselves from the right to rid ourselves of them. Maybe it's our sin, our attitudes, our judgements or assumptions. Whatever the case, we disqualify ourselves from the promise of victory and deliverance. And so when the giants roar, we retreat to our tents and nothing ever changes.

Qualifying for giant slaying isn't difficult and yet it often remains undone. Qualifying requires repentance that leads to transformation. While we certainly need to repent for the sin that so easily entangles, we also need to repent for our attitudes, perspectives and assumptions about God, ourselves and others. Genuine repentance always leads to transformation. You won't kill the giant before your heart is changed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Responding To The Giants - Part 1

When I think about David and Goliath, I'm usually thinking about David's faith, the battle, the takedown and the ulitmate victory.  I love the way the story plays out and it never fails to inspire me to live and dream largely.  That said, I've been thinking about something very different lately.  I'm convinced that while we don't have literal 10 foot giants challenging us to fight on a daily basis, we all face giants in our lives.  They appear as problems, challenges, threats and obstacles in our lives.  Sometimes they are financial, physical, emotional or psychological.  Like Goliath, they roar and bellow, daring us to engage them in a life and death struggle.  

There are 4 different kinds of people in the story of David and Goliath.  Each one responded very differently.  Consider the army  with me.  David refers to them as the Armies of God.  These were people with a shared heritage, history and tradition.  God was central to their culture and society but when faced with a threat, they retreated to their tents in fear.  For 40 days the same scene repeated itself.  They ran and hid in their tents when Goliath challenged them.  You have to wonder why....

I believe that their fear was based on a lack of the knowledge of God.  It's not that they were ignorant of their history as much as that they were unaffected by it.  God was a part of their past but absent in their present.  In the midst of their crisis, they had no confidence in the only One who could save them and were left trusting in their own resources and abilities.  It's no wonder that they ran....

I confess that there are times that I run from the giants.  Sometimes they intimidate me tremendously.  It's in those times that I remind myself that God needs to be in my present as much as He has been in my past.  When I take time to remember, when I take time to remind myself, when I take time to feed my spirit with His Word, my faith is rekindled and I am able to face the giants without fear.  So can you!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The PM and The Communion Wafer

There are times when no matter what you do, you do the wrong thing.  That's exactly what happened to Prime Minister Harper last weekend.  You've really got to feel sorry for the Prime Minister.  As you probably know, he attended the funeral for former Govenor General Romeo LeBlanc last weekend.  The service was in a Catholic Church and he was appropriately sitting on the front row.

Part of a Catholic funeral includes communion.  Normally, people who want to receive communion in a Catholic service get up from their seats and move to the altar area where the host and the wine are administered by the priest.  In this particular case, the priest chose to approach the front row and offer communion to those seated there.  I think it was a classy way of handling things and applaud the priest's decision.

Here's where things get sticky.... The PM is a protestant which means that he really doesn't qualify to take communion in a Catholic service.  His options are as follows:

1.  He can cross his arms to indicate that he is not a Catholic and ask for a blessing instead.  I've been ordained for almost 25 years and I didn't know that was the appropriate response.  It's hardly fair to expect the PM to know that's what he should do.  I can only wonder how the theological giants in the media would have reported that response.... PM REFUSES COMMUNION AT FORMER GG's FUNERAL. 

2.  He can put the wafer in his pocket.  It's certainly a better option than crossing his arms, except for the fact that Catholics believe that the host (the wafer) actually becomes the body of Jesus during the service, which makes it holy.  Having Jesus close by on a daily basis is something evangelicals believe in, but putting the wafer in your pocket is a bad idea, just in case the Catholics are right on this one....

3.  He can take communion.  It's probably the best option and the one that he followed, BUT.... only Catholics truly qualify to receive communion in a Catholic setting.  The priest who served said that it's probably okay if you do it once in a while, but that it shouldn't become a regular practice. I say that it's lucky for the PM that he's visiting with Pope in a few weeks where he can either confess and get it sorted out or the Pope can set him straight on what the best response might be.  Note to His Holiness... if you want to have a bit of fun with our PM, offer him communion and see what he does....

Here's the part of this story that I find really strange.  I've done a few funerals over the years and I've never seen anyone video tape the participants to see what they are doing.  I guess it's one thing if the funeral is for Michael Jackson (although I confess I couldn't help but think of the hypocrisy of the media and the masses who a week earlier would have mocked him relentlessly...) but we are talking about a State Funeral for the Governor General.  This isn't cousin Sally's wedding where you want a shot of the bride's mother smiling, crying, glaring or glowing.  Who in their right mind would video tape the serving of communion anyway?  More importantly, who would think this was a viable news story that Canadians really wanted to hear about? 

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!

I know it's belated and it's not as though I had forgotten, but I wasn't sure what I would write today until the fireworks show at the Inner Harbour last night.  We enjoyed an amazing Canada Day.  We used the day to complete some house projects and then enjoyed a wonderful Canada Day dinner party with friends from Africa and Austrailia.  It was absolutely incredible.  After dinner we went downtown to watch the fireworks with our new friends from Austrailia. 

Fireworks are always impressive and last night was no exception.  Just as the fireworks were ending the crowd began to sing 'O Canada'.  I've never watched the fireworks from that particular spot, so maybe it happens every year, but just to hear people sing our anthem without anyone telling them to do it was tremendously inspiring. 

As we sang it together, I just couldn't help but feel a tremendous sense of pride in being a Canadian.  We live in an incredible nation.  We are a diverse and magnificent people with a strong spirit and quiet confidence.  We are the the True North, Strong and Free.