Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Tributue to Terry Fox - Mike Farnworth

I don't normally post speeches from the Legislature, but this particular speech caught my attention today, especially when Mike Farnworth mentioned that he was a classmate of Terry Fox. I hope you find the same challenge and inspiration from it that I did today!

This week we mark the anniversary of an astonishing achievement by one of our greatest British Columbians and Canadians. Thirty years ago, on the 12th of April in 1980, Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope by dipping his artificial leg into St. John's harbour. 

All of us know the rest of Terry's remarkable story. His goal was to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research, and he pursued his goal for 143 gruelling days. He eventually had to stop outside Thunder Bay, Ontario because he was too sick to continue. The cancer that he had been fighting had returned.
It was a remarkable achievement, and I'd like to put those numbers into a bit of perspective for all of us in this room and in the gallery. Running for 143 days straight, no day off, running an average of 42 kilometres each day. Just so we can all appreciate that, that's like each of us getting up tomorrow, putting on your sweats and your running shoes and then going outside to run a marathon, and then the next day and then the next day and doing it over and over and over again for 143 days.
Are you tired even just thinking about it? But Terry did it for 4½ months. His run was a testament to the spirit of the individual, but more important than that, it showed us that it's ordinary people who achieve remarkable and extraordinary things.

I was at school with Terry. We were in the same class in junior high school. He was just a regular kid just like everybody else in that classroom, but he went on to achieve true greatness — greatness that wasn't thrust upon him, but greatness that came from inside him.

He had a heart and a determination to achieve his goal and his dream. He did that day in and day out, and that is why his legacy lives on. But more important than that, and just as important as the battle to fight cancer, is the lesson for us that it's within each of us with our determination to make dreams like his a reality.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Rolling Away The Stone

Mary Magdalene was having a tough day.  She'd actually had a pretty rough weekend.  On Friday she observed and attended the execution of Jesus.  It would have been more horrifying for her than most.  Jesus had literally saved her life.  Before she met him, she was a demon possessed prostitute.  He changed all of that for her.  Mary believed in Him, followed Him and loved Him.  Watching Him suffer and die in the most brutal way would have been a nightmare.  She followed as they carried his body away from Calvary and placed it in a nearby tomb.  She was there when the large stone was rolled in place to seal the tomb.

Saturday was the Sabbath.  There was nothing to do except stay at home and grieve her loss, but early Sunday morning, Mary went at the first opportunity with spices to sweeten the smell at the grave.  When she arrived, the tomb was open and vacant.  When she turned around, she encountered the person she thought was the caretaker and asked him where he had taken the body of Jesus.  Imagine her shock, when the 'gardener' announced that He was Jesus.  He instructed her to go and tell his disciples that He was alive and to meet him in Galilee.  As you can imagine, Mary ran as fast as she could to tell the disciples.  When she got there, they didn't believe her.  Jesus himself appeared to two other followers who were walking down the road and they didn't believe he was alive either.  (I often wonder if He just did that for fun...)

I've been thinking about this all weekend.  Perhaps the greatest challenge on the first Easter was rolling away the stone of unbelief in the lives of those who loved Him most.  I'm not criticizing the disciples at all.  We all live with our own stones of unbelief.  For the disciples, accepting the truth of the resurrection cemented their confidence in everything that they had heard and seen to that point.  In the previous 3 1/2 years, they had seen Jesus heal the sick, deliver the possessed, open the eyes of the blind, walk on the water, calm the storm and many, many other miracles, but in the moment that the stone of unbelief was rolled away from their hearts, He became the Unstoppable Jesus.  They were convinced and within a generation had changed their world.

I'm convinced that Jesus remains unstoppable.  I'm also convinced that as the stone of unbelief is rolled back in our lives, anything can happen in us and through us. 

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Remembering the Resurrected Jesus

From the Victoria Times Colonist - April 3, 2010
Yesterday, for Christians, was the saddest day of the year, the day they crucified Jesus. Tomorrow is probably the happiest, the day he rose from the dead.

Today, we're in a kind of limbo between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Yet today does have a name -- Holy Saturday. This is the day Christians remember Jesus lying in the tomb. It was also a day of absolute sorrow, when his disciples and followers were lost, bereft and alone.

Then on Sunday, the third day, a rebirth, the miracle of miracles. He came back to them.

At first there was disbelief and then a kind of grudging belief. And then, over time, came Belief of monumental, stunning proportions. Belief through the ages and here, more than 2,000 years later, there are the churches and cathedrals and Easter bonnets (on New York's Fifth Avenue, anyway) to celebrate and bear witness to that joy.

The cross, not surprisingly, has been the enduring symbol of Christianity. Most Christian churches show paintings or sculptures or stained-glass images of Christ, his face contorted in pain, wearing a loincloth on the cross. His bloodied hands and feet are nailed to the structure.

It is, to be sure, the most heart-wrenching of images, even if you're not quite a Believer.

The comedian Dick Gregory once pointed out that if Christ were executed today, people would start wearing electric chairs around their necks. A strange motif, yes, but after the laughter subsides it's a good idea to pause. Many employ instruments of torture to remember one they love.

Interestingly, there are more -- many more -- images depicting the death than the Resurrection. The populist depiction of Jesus is a man in pain rather than a man of joy, of humour, of happiness and kindness. Or a man making miracles.

The Christ on the cross is a man crying "Why have you forsaken me?" to his father, and this is the image most of us immediately bring to mind. We seem to be celebrating man's inhumanity than Christ's humanity. Here he is vulnerable. Beaten. Bloodied. Broken.

Certainly, there are many images of the baby Jesus in the manger, but this is often a swaddled or anonymous Jesus. Centre-stage -- or centre-barn -- obviously, but Mary and Joseph, assorted wise men, shepherds and animals get equal billing.

The life of Jesus between birth and death is rarely depicted. Sometimes we see him in flowing robes, arms outstretched. Presumably, this is the image popes and cardinals like to model themselves on. Reverent. Ethereal. Pious.

Sometimes we see him healing the sick, raising Lazarus from the dead, and in one or two images casting out the moneychangers in the temple. These are rare. Eventually, everything heads back to that image on the cross or that baby in the manger.

I once spoke to a Lutheran minister who bemoaned the fact that almost every image of Jesus showed him as miserable, or pious, eyes raised to the heavens. This, he said, gave Jesus the wrong image. A man without human form.

"He was a man of humour, of decisiveness. A leader. Yet we have this Renaissance view of him that persists to this day. Artists are afraid to deviate from that image."

That's true. The image might have gone through various artistic permutations and styles, but it's still, usually, an image of overwhelming sadness rather than an image of joy.

That same Lutheran minister had hung a painting called Jesus Laughing in his church, a famous painting showing Christ throwing his head back and guffawing. Not smiling demurely, pope-like, but a man, enjoying himself, laughing at a joke, a remembered moment.

There are scant images of Christ risen from the dead, and these often have a bright halo above his head and scared, subjugated mortals at his feet. These images are historical religiously, but they lack the conviction or splendour of the crucifixion.

The fact is, the way we mostly depict him is in terms of Good Friday -- sombre, dark and sad -- rather than Easter Sunday -- a day of spring, of flowers, of rebirth, of wonder. And hope.

That's a pity. We should make Jesus happier. A man reborn. An Easter Sunday Jesus, not just a Good Friday Jesus. I'd like that. I'd like to think he would, too.