Christ is risen!
If your church is not capable of offering anything online, here is a sermon for your Easter Sunday!
Download it here: Easter Sermon
Christ is risen!
If your church is not capable of offering anything online, here is a sermon for your Easter Sunday!
Download it here: Easter Sermon
Enjoy getting to know psychology professor Heather Looy better in this conversation. She is a bread baking, squash playing, (possibly surprising) rebel, who cares deeply about her work and her students.
If you don’t have much time, I recommend skipping ahead to 48:40 where she begins sharing about her husband Anthony. In that conversation and all that follows, I think you get a good glimpse of who Heather is. Another highlight for me was our conversation about the Silent Retreat and other contemplative practices, beginning at 35:39.
Download here: Looy Conversation
I am trying to release these reflections at spaced out intervals…who knows how long we will have in this quarantine! I waited to post Mark’s first reflection on “Fear and Anxiety” related to stories from WW2 until this week because I thought it would be fitting as we walk toward the cross. Roy Berkenbosch wrote a great sermon for Fellowship Church yesterday where he asked us to pause for a moment and…
“reflect on the courage of Jesus to march into the thick of conflict (on Palm Sunday)- to deliberately act out the role of Messiah-King, singling his fulfillment of prophecy, yet knowing that he was not what the crowds expected (a warrior-type king) and that the ensuing conflict would cost him the ultimate price.
Read Mark’s first paragraph and some common emotional themes between war and those in Jerusalem experiencing Holy Week (not least of all, Jesus) will become apparent.
Mark ends with 8 ways soldiers handled fear in helpful ways, in the comments please respond with patterns, rituals, habits, etc., related to the eight, that you have found to be helpful during this time.
Some thoughts on Fear and Anxiety I: Stories from WW2
I am currently researching the human dimensions of war, with reference to WW2. In my book I will explore how humans experienced war: the broad spectrum of emotions and behaviours which people lived out during this extraordinary time. My aim is to reveal a little of how fear and love and hate affected combatants and prisoners and civilians, of how they coped with loss and anguish and despair, of why some resorted to treachery and revenge and indifference, while others lived in solidarity and hope.
Recently I have been working on my chapter on fear in WW2. And then the pandemic broke. So I am taking this opportunity to write up a couple of things about fear and anxiety that I have been working on. Its very much a work in progress. Maybe these voices from the past have something to say to us in our current predicament.
Obviously there are many ways in which wars and pandemics are completely different. Most of us are not facing a tank or a dive bomber in the flesh (although war is still a commonplace feature in many parts of our world today). But there are some similarities or parallels. Combatants had to deal with a constant gnawing fear and anxiety when they weren’t in conflict, and it is this which seems most relevant to us now. Understanding how millions of ordinary people coped might help us to face down fear and restore it to its proper place in our lives.
In my opening to my chapter, I noted the following:
As I sit here and read about fear in war, I am struck by how deep down the stories of fear affect me. The words on the page seem to open up a world I know nothing of, and yet in truth I know all too well the effects of dread and fear and anxiety in my own life. The dread of illness or pain. The fear of losing a child or a loved one. The deep unexpressed fears. The constant nagging presence of an unspecified anxiety. The waking early. I know nothing of war in my own life, yet in my imagination and my reading I seem to recognise the way that fear constantly assails the mind and the body and the spirit.
Fear was everywhere in WW2. And fears were multiple and overlapping. Fear for yourself. Fear for others. Fear of others. Fear of death. Fear of separation. Fear of injury. Unexpressed generalised fear. Deep abiding fear. Momentary, excruciating fear. Fear mixed with anxiety and dread. Fear produced great resilience and courage, and also panic and cowardice.
At first glance it seems rather self-evident that fear was a ubiquitous part of the landscape of WW2. After all, this was war. People die. People get bombed. People risk their lives. People get horribly maimed and burned. People have no idea what is going to happen to their loved ones. Every day fear cast a shadow. So how did armies address fear, and what did combatants do to try and cope with fear?
For the army hierarchies, this was a critical issue. Fear had to be understood, managed and diminished if the combatants were to be “effective soldiers”. The American army in particular undertook some in-depth studies to try and understand both fear and anxiety. To give you a flavour of the findings of these reports, let us look at John Dollard’s Fear in Battle (1944). Between 1942 and 1945 Dollard acted as a consultant with the Morale Services Division of the US Department of War. Together with psychologists from Yale University Institute of Human Relations, Dollard did a survey of 300 volunteers. It should be emphasised that these were volunteers (and so their experiences may differ from conscripts) and they were veterans, which may also have skewed the findings a little.
His “findings in brief” were as follows:
These findings are related mainly to the army’s attempts to manage fear in combat and so make the soldier effective in battle. However, if we broaden this out to consider fear in war, (ie the much broader experience of being at war: digging in, waiting, in transit, pre-combat, post combat, rest etc.) then we find some different things begin to emerge about fear.
Soldiers feared so many things. The anticipation of being bombed or shelled. And then when it did arrive, it was the visceral assault on the senses which brought pure terror: the screaming unrelenting noise, the shaking of the earth. It was the landmines that you couldn’t see. The fear of ambush just around the corner. So much fear and anxiety was generated by uncertainty, by what was not known, as much as what was known. Many soldiers feared showing fear. In other words, the fears that most preoccupied them were related to shame, and their feelings about themselves, and notably what others would think of them. This sense of social disgrace was often more powerful than the fear of being killed or wounded.
What did they do with all this fear? How did they make it through? There were several things that helped (and you will have to wait for my book to be published to get the full list!), but here are some that speak most pertinently to our situation.
These things were learned the hard way by soldiers from all different nations, from all different backgrounds. For fear was “the common bond between fighting men”. As we face up to months of uncertainty, it is easy to allow fear and anxiety to take up residence in our imaginings. But as the testimony of millions of soldiers affirms, fear can be tamed.
If Tim wants another one, I can also talk about fear and POWs and fear and civilians during wartime!
(I have told Mark that I would very much welcome these additional reflections!)
It was time to hear from some students!
Juliana Middel, Nathalie Singh, Emily Bouma, and Ashley Elgersma, who live across the street from King’s, share about what life in quarantine has been like for them and their faith, what it is like to live together, and how the King’s community has helped to shape them.
Off the top of my head, Rem Kooistra, Peter Mahaffy, John Hiemstra, Leah Martin-Visscher, Kris Ooms, Chris Peet and the other psychologists, Vern Peters, Will Van Arragon, and Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning are all mentioned for one reason or another- I was struck once again by all the important connections that are made (large and small) within our community.
Get outside for a walk and enjoy learning more about these cool people! If you want to give thanks for anything these ladies shared, feel free to do it in the comment section.
Also King’s grad Caleb van der Leek gives an update on his life and introduces a really great song that was written during his time at King’s and will be on his upcoming album. If you don’t have much time and need to skip ahead to his part, it begins at 49 minutes in.
Find his music here: Opie’s Funeral on Spotify
Download the episode here: Students in Quarantine Episode
Stream it here:
Below you will find a thoughtful blogpost by graduating biology student Janessa Gritter. She has posted some questions at the end of the post that were initially going to be used at one of our Discipleship and Resistance gathers, engage with these, or anything else that she has written, in the comments! Janessa has been a gift to our ministry team over the past two years. She is thoughtful, hardworking, and willing to proactively step into leadership roles. She is also an incredibly gifted worship leader. We are going to miss you, Janessa! To give you a little background as to who Janessa is and her time at King’s I asked her a few questions:
Congratulations on graduating! What are your plans for next year?
I will be starting as the Intern Worship Pastor at New Life CRC in Abbotsford. I am very excited to begin a new adventure and work with the wonderful people there.
Did you take a class at King’s outside your major that you would recommend to other students?
During this last year, I’ve been a part of the justice semester with about ten other people. Together we’ve taken theology, history, and social science courses. We’ve listened to so many wonderful speakers and tackled so many difficult topics. It’s really changed the way I view the world and understand social justice.
Was there a faculty or staff person who was particularly impactful during your time at King”s?
Aww man, I only have to pick one person? There was so many people at King’s that were so impactful on me.
Firstly, Dr. Darcy Visscher has had a big impact on my degree in biology at the King’s university. I’ve taken quite a few courses with him. Besides answering my many many many questions about biology with lots of patience, he’s been a wonderful professor. He’s challenged me to think about many different topics critically and helped me to continue to love biology, despite the heavy workload.
Secondly, Melanie Salte. I’ve worked with Melanie for two years as a worship assistant. We’ve laughed together, worshipped together, cried together, and grown together. We’ve had so many great talks and she’s walked with me through some hard decisions I’ve had to make. I’ll definitely miss her!
Do you have a favourite Scripture passage or one that has been particularly helpful lately?
Our graduating verse! Which I feel is a wonderful verse as I leave King’s this year and during the time we are living in. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” – Joshua 1:9
Is there anything else you want us to know about your time at King’s?
I’ve been so blessed coming to King’s. I’ve met so many wonderful people and learned so many impactful things. This is such a beautiful community: loving, caring, and insightful. The lessons, friendships, and moments I’ve made here will impact me for many years to come.
Community in Quarantine Post
During this semester, I did a theology 499 based on the topic of worship and justice. I thought this topic appropriate as I’ve served as a worship assistant at King’s for two years and participated in the justice fellowship. I wanted to connect worship and justice together: two things that I am very passionate about. Before this course, I didn’t think worship and justice were connected. Worship was about praising and singing to our God and justice was about restoring relationships, speaking for those who are silenced, and showing radical love. I think most people would think the same way I did. Worship is in one category with one purpose and justice is in another. However, diving deeper into this topic showed me how important it is that worship and justice should be connected. This topic was an interesting experience and challenged the idea of what worship really is to me.
Often when we try isolate worship, we too often fall victim to ‘problems’ in worship that shouldn’t be the focus of what worship really is. On a Sunday morning, we focus on whether the music of a worship service is too loud, how ‘singable’ the lyrics are, or how many new songs are played in the worship set. When we focus on this, we tend to miss the real purpose of worship. We become spiritually complacent in the rhythm of worship and forget the injustices that are occurring in the world.
The real focus of worship is expressing who God is in worship and embodying God’s character in lives that do justice and seek righteousness for those who are neglected. The book I read this semester was called The Dangerous Act of Worship. The author describes that when we focus on the technicalities of worship, we fall asleep to what matters most. We can wake up only when we remember God’s purpose in the world and live lives that seek justice. Worship should change us. When we sing about knowing Jesus or loving like Jesus it means that we should love our neighbour and stand in the path of those who are neglected. When we sing about our God but don’t love our neighbour our worship to God becomes a lie (see 1 John 4:20-21). Authentic worship, worship that remembers God’s purpose in the world, should push us to act. Worship should remember justice and justice should remember worship. If we don’t acknowledge justice in worship, it becomes meaningless. Isaiah 58:3-9 reflects this idea with the imagery of fasting. The people fast, which is a form of worship, but are confused why God has not noticed. God replies that authentic worship helps to ‘loose the chains of injustice’. When this form of worship is done, worship that is recognizes injustice, God will answer the call.
One of the things that I’ve been reflecting on is to think about how comfortable you are with doing the worship you engage with now. When we become comfortable with the worship we do, same songs, same ideas, we tend to fall asleep. I’ve been wrestling with the word ‘uncomfortableness’ in worship. I think ‘uncomfortableness’ looks different for each person, but it is important to jolt us out of the rhythm of worship to think about what worship should really be. Being uncomfortable in worship, I would argue, reminds you of why you worship and puts you in a place to reflect on what worship is really for.
As we are in self-isolation during these weeks it’s hard to think about worship. Spending the days indoors and especially not getting to go to church is difficult. Perhaps we instead turn on a worship playlist or listen to a worship leader sing on a Facebook Live post. I encourage you to reflect on this idea I’ve written about and to think about the worship you’re engaging with over these weeks.
Here’s some questions to think about over the next couple of days:
What is the point of worship? Who is it for?
Should worship and justice be connected?
Have you, like the author mentions, fallen asleep in worship? What would it mean for you to wake up?
What does it mean to be uncomfortable in worship for you?
Since most of our churches are not gathering this Sunday, and some of our communities cannot offer anything online for us, I thought I would post a sermon from the lectionary text for this week (March 29, 2020- two weeks before Easter). The background music is, once again, from The Translators.
Translators on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0aX1pO8kpL3ekrt5Egbjik?si=9JpWv9xnQpG-N4rJcJUChg
Download Sermon John 11:1-45: John 11 Download
Stream it Here:
Also, these podcast are now available on iTunes (this one might not be up until tomorrow). Search for “Community in Quarantine.”
May God bless you and give you creativity as you seek to connect with, and care for, one another.
Our second podcast episode is up! It is with philosophy professor Dr. Jeff Dudiak. One part of the conversation that sticks out to me is Jeff’s reflection on his parents. In particular, the story about how his father became a Quaker is really beautiful. This part of the conversation begins at around 31:30, so skip ahead if your time is limited.
Please leave a reply to this post with your thoughts or things you appreciated from Jeff!
At the end of this podcast we get an update from former King’s chemistry student and member of The Translators, Darren Binnema. He tells us where life has taken him and a little about the song, Detonation, which I have been using for the intro to the podcast.
Download the Episode here: Dudiak Interview
Stream it here:
At the end of the interview I refer to a reflection that Jeff wrote for chapel years ago. He gave me permission to post it here. (I typed it up from his manuscript, so any errors are mine!)
To know as I am known – 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Dr. Jeff Dudiak
To encounter the Gospel is to be surprised. The Good News, as the name suggests, is something new,specifically not the same old thing, specifically not what is expected. In order, then, to hear the Gospel, to really hear it, with ears to hear, is to expect the unexpected.
When confronted by the man with the withered hand, planted by the Pharisees to trip him up, Jesus does not follow the straight line of the law and refuse to work on the Sabbath, but rather heals the man. But this Jesus does not refer to as breaking the law, as do the Pharisees who see only two options at this point, either to keep the law or to violate it. Jesus claims, instead, neither to have kept nor broken the law, but to have fulfilled it. The Pharisees didn’t see that coming! Expect the unexpected.
When present with the woman caught in adultery, another trap to see if he would condemn her, as any straight-laced and straight thinking Jewish rabbi would be compelled to do, Jesus slips the question of condemnation altogether, ignores the line that runs from sin to condemnation, and then, and only after that, and only with grace, to forgiveness. Rather, Jesus begins at the end, with forgiveness, which changes not only the expected chronology of events, but transforms the events themselves. For here, where forgiveness is pronounced independently of confession, prior to confession, confession becomes possible because it is no longer the sinner’s participation in his or her own condemnation, but the possibility of taking a fuller responsibility for the life now restored. The Pharisees didn’t see that one coming either. Expect the unexpected.
When the disciples informed Jesus of the hunger of the crowds by the sea of Galilee, the disciples sage counsel was that the multitudes should be sent away to seek sustenance. But Jesus took and blessed and broke the contents of a boy’s boxed lunch and transformed them into a feast for five-thousand, with more to spare. The miraculous is the unexpected, the unanticipatable, and the unexpected itself is a miracle, a break with the necessary, which, far from being mere magic, is rather the deeper structure from which even the dreams of magic takes it bearings. The line stretched between the options of staying and being hungry and going for food is transformed into neither, but the filling, the fulfillment of all. Even the disciples didn’t see that coming. Expect the unexpected.
For in the Gospel, it is not merely that roads do not lead to anticipated destinations, they may not lead to destinations at all; premises not only do not necessarily lead to logical conclusions, they sometimes lead to something entirely other than conclusions; and it is not only that even straight arrows do not hit their intended targets, arrows and the targets are frequently configured into something else. Water becomes wine; one is not baptized with water, but with fire and the Holy Spirit; and swords are beaten into plowshares – which, before it is a task for the blacksmith, is a supreme exercise in imagination, in miracles. The supposedly straight lines that should lead from expectation to realization, the seeming logicality that draws us – perhaps inexorably – from anticipation to consummation, when exposed to the Gospel, are often not always (for that would make the unexpected expected again), but often, transformed into something else.
How do we envision this? It is not exactly that the line that leads from A to B is eliminated; the law is not erased by Jesus. It is not that the expectations are disappointed exactly; it is more that they are reconfigured. It is rather that what is – the law, forgiveness, loaves and fishes – are revisioned in the light of a new perspective, are recontextualized to the point of becoming something entirely new. “Behold, all things are becoming new.” Paul writes elsewhere. The Gospel is revolutionary to the point of transforming, re-new-ing, reality itself; which is perhaps why in Acts there is talk of turning the world upside down, and perhaps why Paul can speak of being in but not of the world, not capitulating to the inevitabilities imposed by what is “real-istic.” The Gospel calls for expectation, hope, realization of what is not the case. And perhaps “the world” that Paul opposes to the Gospel is our inability or unwillingness to see and live expansively, to imagine a bigger picture; perhaps “the world” is a narrowing, a reduction, the monotony of the same that always follows the same, the “all is vanity” of Ecclesiastes, over against the Gospel that re-forms, that incited and excites; perhaps, that the Gospel opposes itself to the law. Not constrained by the expectations provided by the Sabbath legalities, nor by the psycho-juridical order of confession and forgiveness, nor by the physical laws of loaves and fishes – the Gospel is the promise of renewal because it is “true to life,” and life itself is unpredictable, and requires for living it well (that is, faithfully) imaginative work. If this were psychology, we’d be talking about a paradigm shift. And we are talking about all of these, and more.
Now, present circumstances suggesting the contrary, I am no preacher. I am sanctioned by no ecclesiastical body to preach, no am I called of God to do so. I am a mere philosopher, a mere teacher of how to ask better questions, and so while I am honoured to share with you on my gifts, such as they be, I do best to stick to who I am and what I do. And as a philosopher I would like to have you join me in asking a few questions about something of perennial fascination to philosophy, but something that also plays a key role in Biblical testimony, namely, I would like you to think with me this morning a little bit about “knowledge.” What I want to suggest is that when it comes to the Gospel’s treatment of knowledge we should not be surprised if we are surprised, should not be surprised if our conventional expectations regarding knowledge are not also undermined and transformed in the light of the Gospel. This is, I want to suggest, precisely what we find, for example in 1 Cor. 13. Now, I understand that Tom Oosterhuis spoke to you on this text just last week, and employed this text, as per convention, and most appropriately, to address the issue of love. I apologize for the repetition, but want to use this text not to speak of love, but of knowledge, …at least, that is, initially.
Let us look in particular at verses 8 to 13, with a focus on the function and fate of knowledge, and I will quote the familiar locutions of the King James Version.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, (that is “love,” agape in the Greek) these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Now, we are dealing here (in verse 9) with a knowledge that is partial, which is opposed (in verse 10) to that which is perfect. We are dealing (in verse 11) with an immature knowledge, which is opposed by a subsequent maturity. We are dealing (in verse 12) with a “seeing” (which is at least a kind of knowledge) that is “through a glass” (the Greek word is “einigmati,” from which we get our word “enigma”), seeing in darkness that is, a seeing poorly, which is opposed to seeing “face to face.” We are dealing yet again (in verse 12) with a partial knowledge, which is this time opposed to a knowing “as I am known.”
We are dealing, in short, with a movement, cast eschatologically, that is, from what is the case to what is to be accomplished. On the side of “what is the case,” we find: partial knowledge; childish understanding and thinking; seeing enigmatically, that is, in obscurity, and in darkness; and, again, partial knowledge.
Now, on our normal way of thinking, according to our expectations, we should expect these examples of insufficient knowledge to be completed by a fully sufficient, or complete, knowledge. We would expect partial knowledge to find its completion in full knowledge. We would expect seeing through a glass darkly to find its completion in seeing clearly, and seeing in darkness to find its fulfillment by a seeing in perfect light. We would expect the repeat of partial knowledge to again find its fulfillment in total knowledge.
But listen to what we do get; and notice that (with one exception, which we will have to discuss) that word “knowledge” does not appear in the list: in the place of partial knowledge we do not get full knowledge, as we would normally expect, but becoming a man; in the place of seeing enigmatically, and seeing in darkness, we do not get seeing clearly, and in the light, as we would normally expect, but seeing “face to face,” in the place of partial knowledge mentioned here for the second time, our normal expectation of full knowledge again is not promised, but rather, knowing “as I am known.”
That is, the expected trajectory, running from partial to full knowledge, from knowing in part to knowing perfectly, is, in this text, subverted. Incomplete knowledge is not completed, fulfilled, perfected, in more or more perfect knowledge, but in something else altogether, something that is not knowledge at all, and doesn’t have to do with knowledge, at least not directly. The perfection of knowledge is not a supreme knowledge; rather, the whole task of knowing is subverted, and displaced, by something that is not in its turn a matter of knowledge at all. Allow me to put this as startlingly as possible: the perfection of knowledge is precisely in its being overturned! As a philosopher, I didn’t see that coming! But as readers of the Gospel, as ones prepared to expect the unexpected, we should not be entirely shocked, since already in verse 8, right before this new and unexpected trajectory is given, we were already told that knowledge would pass away.
And if there was any question as to what it is knowledge, under the auspices of the Gospel, would evolve into as it comes to perfection, we are surly given the response in both the verse that precedes this revisioning of the trajectory of knowledge, and in the one that follows: in both verses 8 and 13 the passing away of knowledge has as its context the non-passing away, the non-failure, of love.
And if this is the case, then two phrases in our passage can be more fully understood: what it means to see “face to face,: and what it means to “know even as I also am known.”
For recall that in lieu of our present, enigmatic knowledge, the promise, the goal is seeing “face to face,” which I am suggesting is not just another way of saying “seeing clearly,” but a revolutionary revisioning. Now, we are all familiar with the difference between knowing about someone, having knowledge about them and actually meeting them. I could take several hours to tell you everything I know about my mother, and then have my father come in and do the same, to tell you things about my mother that would surprise even me, but even after several hours of instruction, if I were at ask you: “Do you know my mother?” most of you would have to say: “Well, I know a lot about your mother, but I don’t know her. I’ve never met her.” A face to face relationship is not one qualified by the knowledge of facts. It is not the relationship between a knowing subject and a known object. A face to face relationship is personal. It is a relationship between subjects, a two-way relationship, and one wherein the “knowledge” of each other is not about facts, but about intimacy. Face to face is the posture of intimacy, the posture of lovers, of interlocutors, and also the posture of combatants: which is why we can love God, speak with God, wrestle with God, as we can love our intimate, speak with our intimate, and wrestle with our intimate, things that are impossible to do with mere things that we know about, because all of these require someone who will love, and speak, and wrestle back. And it is this relationship that the Bible refers to as “knowing” when it is using that term in its most important sense. When Adam “knew” his wife Eve and they conceived a child, they were not engaged in an intellectual exercise! This was a face to face relationship; this was intimate familiarity.
And that is why the passage continues: “At present I know in part, but then I shall know fully, even as I am also known.” The final goal, here eschatologically cast, is “to know as I am known.” And so “knowledge” is not entirely destroyed, even if the only knowledge that survives the passing away of knowledge is the kind that correlates to the knowledge of God for me: and this knowledge in turn is best understood as the knowledge of the face to face, as a knowledge that is love – and why this discourse on knowledge is not out of place in Paul’s great hymn to love. Yes, God knows the number of the hairs on my head, but not in the manner of some supercomputer, coldly and impassively tabulating and calculating, knowing for the sake of knowing. Rather, God knows the number of hairs on my head to glory in my development through infancy, to embrace me in my insecurities at balding and aging, and to love me through the chemotherapy that reduces the count to null. The facts, by themselves, are enigmatic, pointless, meaningless, passing away, open to any sense we might choose to project upon them. They only become “knowledge,” in the only sense that the Bible cares about on my view, when they are personal. The fullness of knowledge, its perfection, or fulfillment, is not more facts, but intimacy, the personal, and an intimacy that transforms the very meaning of the facts themselves.
And this is why not many wise will enter the kingdom of God; they are looking in the wrong place. And this is why Christian education cannot be the mere learning of more, or even different, facts – but a knowing differently, in a different mode, by an entirely different measure. It is not the “knowledge as knowing about” is irrelevant, at least not at present, but we only participate in the Gospel when the end, that is the purpose, of our knowledge, is Biblical knowledge, knowledge as love. And this is why neither theology, nor science, and above all not philosophy, can be the key to the knowledge of God – all of these are a part of the “in part,” are what will pass away, in deference to the knowledge that is, in the end, love itself. And if we don’t know that, if we don’t know in that way, then, it seems to me, we have become, as the first verse of this chapter informs us, but a sounding brass or a tinkling symbol.
There are many ways to pray and just as many definitions of prayer. There are liturgical prayers, carefully composed and at the other end, there are spontaneous prayers, arising in the moment and in the speaker’s own words. There are payers of lament, found in the book of Psalms, and there are prayers of adoration and proclamation, such as in 1 Timothy 1:17. Every religious tradition will have its own versions and varieties of prayer language. Here, I want to focus on intercessory prayer and one way I have been holding others before God during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Before I get to that, what is intercessory prayer? Richard Foster, in his book on prayer explains it as “a way of loving others.” MaryKate Morse, in a chapter on “Blessing Prayer” explains this form of intercession as acts of hesed. She explains that this is a Jewish word that is difficult to translate as there is no direct English equivalent. The closest we can come is loving-kindness. She writes, “Our God is a God of hesed, loving-kindness…The word suggests generosity, commitment and love.” We see a lot of hesed in the Bible as people pray for others. I have felt the call of God’s Spirit to pray in hesed-like fashion for those I know as well as for those I do not, including governments, institutions, public services and leaders near and far. I have been prompted to pray frequently, the echoes of the apostle Paul’s words ringing in my ears, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.”
How have I enacted this intention to intercede and act out generosity, commitment and love in my daily life right now? How have I made the desire to love others through intercession a reality? I have done it through the health guidance to wash our hands frequently. We must do this for at least 20 seconds, taking time to lather meticulously, systematically scrubbing the backs, between the fingers and under our nails. Some have suggested singing happy birthday as a time guide. I have chosen to practice intercession by using what’s known as the breath prayer.
Breath prayers go back to the early centuries of Christianity, historically associated with the Greek and Russian Orthodox Eastern Churches. The desert fathers and mothers of the early centuries would practice short prayers that carried them through their days and nights. One of the most famous is what’s called the Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner,” often shortened to “Lord Jesus have mercy.” This would be repeated to the rhythm of a breath in and out. I have been using the pattern of the breath prayer for a while, adapting it into prayers for myself, others and situations. So for example, I might pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me as I wonder what’s next.” Or I might pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on my neighbours who are struggling with the death of their dad.” And so it goes. I have timed that you can get through “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner,” twice in 20 seconds, if said slowly and meditatively. This gives me an approximate guide to adapting the prayer as I lift others before God.
I invite you to unite your loving of others with the practice of intercession while you wash your hands. You might as well put your increased time at wash basins to good use!
 Richard Foster. “Prayer. Finding The Heart’s True Home.” 191.
 MaryKate Morse. “A Guidebook To Prayer. 24 Ways To Walk With God.”
 Ibid. 66
 Ephesians 1:9
Thanks for the great thoughts and encouragement, Witty. For the rest of us–consider leaving a comment letting us know who you are praying for as you wash, and who you would like our community to be in prayer for.
And consider sending me a reflection to post! In particular, I would love to hear about impactful moments from this last academic year.
Lori’s Interview <— This link will download the interview for you, you should also be able to stream it below.
Here is the conversation I had with Lori! Get outside for a walk or run today and get to know Lori a little better. I have submitted it to apple podcasts so that it will be easier for everyone to access, but it will take a couple days before they approve it.
In the episode I use music from The Translators, a group of King’s grads (Ethan Vanderleek, Darren Binnema, Danelle Walser, Eric Bomhof and Kevin Bandstra). They are great people who also happen to be incredibly talented. You can find them on Spotify here: The Translators
There are gifts in the midst of these new patterns that we are being forced into. It may slow our overly busy lives down that we might be able to notice the many small gifts that God gives us each day, and also the things going on within our own bodies/hearts. For Christians, silence, intentional solitude, and reflection have always been important for our spiritual walk…may we be intentional and wise with the time and space we are given.
More than that, a new space has been created for us to care for each other in creative ways. Yesterday, a group of off-campus students, realizing how frustrating it could be to be cooped up in a dorm room, baked a number of batches of cookies and other goodies to be distributed in residence! A couple other students then volunteered to help with the delivery of the goods.
As we hope to creatively imagine what this time can be, here is a poem that King’s Sessional Music Instructor Dr. Leanne Regehr sent to me:
Madison is an OG of the Quarantined, quarantined for 2 weeks before the rest of us after coming back from the Commerce South Korea Trip. Enjoy her post:
When thinking about writing a reflection during this strange time of self-isolation, I’m scrambling to think of something that hasn’t already been said. I feel like every post I’m seeing on Facebook or Instagram has essentially been the same thing: social distancing is necessary! Protect the elderly and immunocompromised! Look how sad Italians are! While these are all good(ish) messages, I hope that this ends up being something refreshing for you, maybe something redirects your attention. Maybe you’ll just enjoy reading it, that’s ideal. This last month has been nothing short of eventful for me- relational changes, a trip to a new continent, watching an outbreak happen first-hand, self-isolating for two weeks, going back to school for two days, then learning that my first two weeks in isolation were only the warmup to the real deal.
Days after I returned from South Korea, I realized that one of my favorite artists, Princess Nokia, had released not one, but two new albums, displayed in this wonderful dichotomy: one album is named “Everything is Beautiful,” and the other, “Everything Sucks.” Disclaimer: Both of these albums, as well as all of her music, contain explicit content; just know that before listening. If you don’t have an issue with that, check her out. If not, I hope you’re still with me.
These albums have almost perfectly captured how this last month has been for all of us, in one way or another. “Everything Sucks” is of course the darker and grungier album of the two, thematically and sonically. The name itself allows me to let myself feel that everything really sucks, but not for too long- the entire album’s runtime is under 30 minutes. The reality of the COVID-19 situation is that it really sucks- virtually each one of us is being rudely disrupted by a pandemic that is literally killing people and closing borders. Nothing is good about that. As someone who’s out of touch with her emotions, it’s rare and valuable when I can find something (or someone) that helps me to identify what I’m feeling, and makes me feel safe enough to let myself feel it. Believe it or not, anger is a tough one. But this album is so good, I can’t be mad when I’m listening to it- I’m usually fired up and feeling maybe a bit too confident, which is why I made sure to time it so that “Harley Quinn” would be playing as I drove to a job interview I had earlier this month. You need new songs for your at-home workout playlist? Look no further.
Princess Nokia, as “disrespectful” and “offensive” as she may be (her words, not mine), reveals an entirely different side of herself in the sister album “Everything is Beautiful.” Sonically, this album contains an entirely different soundscape than its counterparts. In fact, much of the album sounds like what a brisk spring morning feels like. Sunny and uplifted, it’s a stark contrast to “Everything Sucks.” The albums are polar opposites; this is why I respect her so much. Ever heard a Lumineers album? Oh you’ve heard two? You’re not sure? Me either. (No shade to Lumineers fans.) This album has been the go-to album for me and my roommates for the last little while, all self-isolation aside (hey google, play Wavy by Princess Nokia). Lyrics like “I’m still a kid/but kids are fun” and “have you told your parents that you love them lately?” have stuck with me and have been running through my head ever since I heard “Green Eggs and Ham” for the first time. Its lighthearted contents are not to be pushed aside just yet.
So clearly not everything sucks, and not everything is beautiful either. I’m not gonna go on about how we can find beauty in the midst of disappointment and chaos; you already know that. I hope that you can remember things that sucked about this situation and also find thingsthat are beautiful about it. And you’ve all already done that. What I love about the two is how they coexist. Just last night, I was about to lose it on my roommate for burning the popcorn (am I ok???), and today I laughed harder than I have in months because another one of my roomates revealed to me that when she was in grade twelve, she dressed up as the Hobbit for Halloween (she grew out her leg hair and walked around school barefoot all day). Keep laughing folks. Oh, and keep dancing to crazy frog, people! It got you through elementary school, it will get you through this!
Madison St. Louis
Thank You, Madison 🙂 – If there is a way to reply to this post (again, I’m new to this), I would love to hear people respond with small things that they have found that are beautiful in the midst of our current state.