Holy Week: Arriving in Triumph

Today Is Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week. We will be posting more frequently as part of a special series to mark this.

If you are not familiar with the events of Palm Sunday, I would suggest that you have a look at Luke 19: 28-44. Otherwise, here are the key facts:

  • Jesus entered into the Jerusalem riding on a donkey from a mountain road, the apostles were with Him.
  • As he did this, he was greeted by an extremely large crowd of his followers
  • The crowd was extremely happy, waving palm branches and placing them on Jesus’s path (hence it being called Palm Sunday) and shouting praises to Him

For context, I think it it is appropriate to think of a victory parade of a sports team. Or, another example that I think is appropriate to the setting is the scene at the airport in Montreal when Didier Drogba arrived at the end of July 2015, a video of which is below. To be clear, I am NOT implying that an athlete or sports team should be viewed or treated as a god- that is idolatry.

So now that we have context, let us examine deeper issues.

First of all, there is the issue of what the crowds were shouting. While not present in the Luke passage, the other gospels state that one of the things that was shouted was “Hosanna”. Many people understand this to be a shout of praise similar to hallelujah, however I have also seen it being described as plea for salvation, which is something that only a Messiah can grant  These shouts of praise and the magnitude of the events clearly demonstrates that Jesus had been acknowledged as the one who would be crowned King.

When Jesus saw the city, he wept openly over it and went on to predict the tumult of the time to come, for He knew what was to come.

It is important to understand that the king that the people thought He was going to be was an earthly one, one who would come in, kick the Romans out of Jerusalem, send the Pharisees out into the wilderness, essentially to be the leader of a an earthly, political and military revolution….which as we know is not at all what happened.

As we know, Jesus was crowned King, except his crown was one of thorns and his throne was a cross….but this will be discussed further in other posts this week. What I want to simply highlight is the highs of Palm Sunday go someway towards understanding the context of the week, and in my opinion also makes it easier to understand the fear of the Twelve when the mobs came….THAT was not what they had in mind when they walked down the hill towards the cheering crowd in Jerusalem.

 

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January Musings

Hey Everyone.

Just wanted to take a few minutes to share some random thoughts in today’s post, they are not necessarily linked together, it is my hope and prayer though that they may serve as something that would inspire you or create some thoughts and discussion for future posts.

  • How many of you made New Years Resolutions to increase your twitter followers, lose some weight, or some other relatively simple plan that will likely be forgotten about or ignored by February 4th? Instead, why not commit to daily prayer, or reading more of the bible? If you do so, remember to start at a manageable level because it usually takes a few weeks to build a habit, but only a few days to un-do one out of frustration.
  • Another thing to consider to as a possible resolution would be to be more environmentally friendly. We had a post a few weeks ago called It’s not Easy Being Green– i would suggest you take a look
  • Also, please do not let the Migrant Crisis fade into the background. Tim Huyer wrote an empassioned plea regarding this which you will find here, i encourage you to take a look if you need a refresher

In the coming weeks, there will be some posts from past camp speakers, and then we will begin tackling Lent, I pray that in the coming year this blog will be a tool that helps you lean and grow in your personal faith!

Be Blessed

Do not let fear win

Following the horrible events of the terrorist attacks in Paris, this past week has been difficult for many of us.

We have been faced with a constant onslaught of images and accounts of the attacks which have lead to the needless and senseless deaths of so many. From all over the world, the condemnation was swift and clear: what a horrible act committed by barbaric individuals…..which was followed by numerous touching tributes for the dead and wounded, and even the opportunity to show support on social media through hashtags and being able to change your profile picture to that of the Tricole flag – all of which was very touching and sincere. I think that the response to the events in Paris says more about the state of this world than the events do, and I am proud of the response.   

And then it started….the inevitable backlash. From the shameful actions of an individual setting fire to a mosque in Peterborogh Ont, to many reprisal attacks that have gone unreported… people are reacting out of fear and anger…..and committing acts of hate themselves….and actually helping the terrorists’ cause  and hurting those trying to flee the conflict. Nadar Atassi is a Syrian blogger who posted the following on his Facebook page on the night of the attacks:

 

Attacks like the ones tonight in Paris are committed to purposely trigger an Islamophobic backlash. That backlash is not an unintended consequence of such attacks, it is part of their logic. ISIS types want an Islamophobic backlash because it lends credence to their narrative that there is a war between the West and Islam. By strengthening and emboldening the xenophobic right-wing in Europe, they strengthen their own worldview as well. And the most tragic irony is that that backlash may target refugees who themselves had been fleeing ISIS’ reign of terror.

 

Just today it was announced that the US House of Representatives are exploring the idea of closing their borders to Syrian refugees who do not pass 3 security checks, these feelings have been out there for a while, but they have become much louder since it was revealed that it was SUSPECTED (not confirmed) that ONE of the attackers MAY have been a Syrian refugee (out of an estimated FOUR MILLION of them). Closing our borders to those in need now would only make matters worse and create more feelings of hate. I could go on about the migrant crisis for ages, but instead I urge you to look at a piece we posted a few weeks ago
(Warning: Contains images that may shock you)

 

Look, I am not saying that we should not be angry or upset or afraid after the attacks, but what I am saying is that we must follow the examples that Christ himself set for us. We should turn the other cheek and love our neighbours, especially those who are actually in great need…

 

We should remember that Islam is a religion of peace and speak out against those who believe and spread the lies that the actions of these terrorists represent all Muslims.

 

And we should pray…

For those who died and were injured or affected by the events of Friday,

For those who are suffering in all war zones

For the peacemakers trying to bring peace to the conflict

For healing of this Broken World

Social Issues: Human Trafficking  

Today’s Social Issues post was written by our friend Sarah Campbell
It’s not hard to start a conversation about human trafficking.In fact, the world right now wants to talk about it. It’s trending.

Because when you find out women and children are put on a bus or flown on a plane to be used and abused for the sexual pleasure of another, there is a hot feeling of anger that rises in your own body and you want to talk about it.

 

Furthermore, human trafficking is one topic that Christians and non-Christians came come together and firmly agree is morally wrong. There’s no debate about interpretation of Scripture or cultural contextualization; when you learn that a woman has lived under the control of her captor for 10 years and never allowed to leave, you look to the person next to you and say in unison, “That is not fair. That is wrong.”

 

First, a refresher on the definition of human trafficking. Why? Because you can’t say you know what human trafficking is because you saw the movie Taken.

 

Below is the definition given by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC):

 

Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

 

This definition reminds us that the act of trafficking typically has three characters-the recruiter, the transporter or “middle man,” and the harbourer.

 

The means by which a person is trafficked can vary greatly as well. Abduction may fit a stereotypical mental picture of human trafficking, yet coercion and abuse of power can be swept under the rug. A homeowner who intimidates and bullies a housekeeper to continue to work for the family when she desires to leave is a form of human trafficking. There may be no physical violence or sexual abuse, but it’s an exploitation of another human being and therefore human trafficking.

 

It’s not hard to start a conversation about human trafficking.

It is hard to look at broken systems of family, education, law enforcement, and rehabilitation that allow human trafficking to continue.

 

And yet, it is not hard to pray. So as a Christian faced with the facts of human trafficking, pray for justice. Pray for the victims. Pray for the traffickers. Pray for healing. Pray for strength and endurance for the Christians who have devoted their lives to being a light in the midst of the darkness of trafficking.

Praying reminds us that on the cross Jesus was separated from the Father, suffering while bearing all our sin and shame, all so that we could be rescued.

 

It’s not hard to start a conversation about human trafficking, just make sure you begin and end each conversation in prayer.

 

If you would like to learn more about human trafficking, I recommend the following books/documentaries:

 

Books to read:

Not for Sale by David Batstone

Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof

 

Documentary:

Red Light Green Light

 

Social Issues: Violence Against Women

Today, our Social Issues series takes a look at Violence against Women.

It was prepared by Sally Richmond, who has our thanks not only for writing it for us, but also our thanks for choosing to work with victims in order to attempt to make a difference!

Statistics Canada estimates that half of all women in Canada will have experienced at least one act of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16 years.( http://canadianwomen.org/fr/Les-faits-a-propos-de-la-violence-faite-aux-femmes#9) Logically then, in all of our churches there will be women who have been victims of some kind of act of violence. As church communities, what can we do to prevent acts of violence from happening? And what can we do to care for those who are currently living in a violent situation or have experienced violence?

First we need to talk about what violence is. In a survey for men carried out in Alberta, 39% of respondents believed that a woman who was drunk when a man pressured her to have sex could not claim rape. 25% of men believed that in some cases domestic violence should not be considered a criminal offence. 8% of men believed that it would sometimes be ok to physically assault a woman if she did something to make them angry. (see https://acws.ca/sites/default/files/documents/PresentationACWSMensAttitudesBehaviorsTowardViolenceAgainstWomenreleasedCalgaryBWTG.pdf).

In our churches we need to have conversations about the many formss violence can take, whether physical, verbal, emotional or other acts of control. This will help us to establish clear values and a common understanding of what violence against women is and why it is unacceptable.

We also need to have these conversations to help women and girls understand violence in all its forms and to know when to seek help. It is still the case that many women and girls in violent relationships do not recognise that they are being abused. One courageous woman, Leslie Morgan Steiner, who survived a very abusive relationship in her early twenties, said this about her experience of domestic violence.

Why did I stay? The answer is easy. I didn’t know he was abusing me. Even though he held those loaded guns to my head, pushed me down the stairs, threatened to kill our dog, pulled the key out of the car ignition as I drove down the highway, poured coffee grinds on my head as I dressed for a job interview, I never once thought of myself as a battered wife. Instead I was a very strong woman, in love with a deeply troubled man and I was the only person on earth who could help Connor face his demons. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1yW5IsnSjo)  

In churches we also have an incredible opportunity to be a place of healing for those who have survived acts of violence. We can provide survivors with community, love and practical support. This is what a woman who survived being prostituted wrote about her experience of finding support in a church community:

The route I was fortunate enough to take was through the Church – real, tangible, practical love. First I had to survive five years of the religious sort of response – being prayed form blessed and then, basically, being told to “get on with it”. But recently I’ve had a much more practical church life, with people really bothered to help, do the practical stuff of helping me get a CV together, talk around what is needed to get a job, help me through the tough times; sometimes it feels it would be easier to go back rather than continue trying to get out.

You need a purpose – a real purpose – if you’re going to get out. And real, practical, loving support. Without that you can have hope and faith that things can be different, but without a purpose which can be realised, you think, “Why bother?”

It is so tough. You need nurturing, affirmation and purpose. These are the three big things that need to come towards a woman trying to exit – and it is so hard. So very hard. (Berry, L. & Pemberton, C. eds., 2008. The Real Scandal of Sex Trafficking, A resource for worship, education and action, Buxhall, Suffolk: Kevin Mayhew Ltd.)

Some of you may be actively involved in supporting victims and survivors of violence through friendship, prayer and practical support. And some will be supporting victims and survivors of violence without even knowing it, because often those who have experienced violence don’t want to share their stories with everyone.

So, let us make our churches places of safety and healing:

  • ·         By making sure that we talk about what violence is and how we should relate to one another
  • ·         By making sure we understand the sensitivity around violence and the need to be confidential when someone confides in us
  • ·         By knowing where we can refer people who need help – what are the telephone numbers we can give out? Where are the resources in Montreal for people who have left, or who want to leave a violent situations?
  • ·         By providing practical support
  • ·         By providing friendship and love

Social Issues: The Migrant Crisis

Today we begin a new series: Social Issues. In this series we will begin looking at some of the current events or other issues that affect the world today and analyse them from a Christian perspective. Some of these posts will not be easy to read, but we we feel that it is important that they are discussed.

Our first post looks at the Migrant Crisis, it was written by Timothy Huyer. 

WARNING- SOME MAY BE DISTURBED BY THE IMAGE IN THIS POST

Earlier this month, the world was bombarded with an image of absolute tragedy: the lifeless body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi. He had washed onshore after the dinghy he and his parents were on capsized in the Mediterranean. There are still many stories about Aylan and about the refugee crisis.Ayland-Kurdi-teaser

I’m not sure I can ever make sense of all of the stories or debates regarding this crisis. Perhaps this is because my own reaction has been more emotional than intellectual. Aylan’s story filled me with grief, shame and guilt. As I struggle to make sense of my feelings, I look to see what I can learn from this tragedy.

  1. Grief

I have sons who are about the same ages as Aylan and his brother were. When I see the picture of Aylan, I imagine my own son lying there on the sand. I imagine how I would feel if I were in the place of Abdullah, Aylan’s father. These thoughts bring me to tears.

Every time I hug my children, every moment I spend with them, I am given a gift that Abdullah no longer can have. I think of how fortunate I am for this gift of grace and make my hug a bit longer and tighter as a result.

I don’t know why I am still blessed with children who are healthy and safe. Certainly, it is not because of any good deeds I have done.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23 NIV). Likewise, I am not more special than Abdullah. He is, just like you and me, made in God’s image (Gen 1:27).

All I know is that I should be thankful (1 Thes 5:18). And, knowing this, I cry for Abdullah and others like him.

  1. Shame

The media reports that Abdullah’s intention was to bring his family to Canada (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/drowned-syrian-boys-father-says-he-blames-canada-for-tragedy/article26313666/). As a Canadian, it shames me to think that my country did not do enough to help him. Whatever we can say about what we have been doing, whatever excuses we make, the fact remains that Aylan washed up dead on a Turkish beach. Against that stark reality, it is hard to claim that we have done all we could or should.

  1. Guilt

Just as I cannot hide my own guilt by blaming Abdullah (see, for example, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/aylan-kurdis-father-denies-claims-he-was-a-people-smuggler-and-driving-boat-that-capsized-and-led-to-sons-death-10498798.html), I cannot put all the responsibility on the government. The truth is that I have done little, if anything, to ease the plight of refugees who are suffering and dying as they flee Syria and other war zones.

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. (Matt 25: 42-43, 45 NIV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) teaches that next to loving God, we are to love everyone – everyone is our neighbour, whether or not we know them or are even of the same nation as them. We are commanded to be shepherds of God’s flock (1 Peter 5:2) and must remember that His flock is all people, whether or not they have accepted Christ.

I failed my God and Saviour in this task.

Going forward, I cannot make things right for Aylan or his family, but I can remember how my sinful inaction caused others grief. I can take this tragedy to heart and repent, turning myself towards Christ and striving to take better care of his flock. And so, I will try to remember my neighbours, their needs and my call to care for them. It is my hope, also, that Aylan’s tragedy will inspire others to remember to love others as they love themselves. Let us all take to heart and pray to do better, to do more.

Lessons From Camp- Not what I expected

Hola, my name is Joshua Castillo.

I’m an adult who has a Jewish  first name and a Spanish last name, but I’m neither any of them (not even the adult part). I’m a young “adult” who attends First Filipino Baptist church of Montreal (*woot woot represent*).Though adulthood is unfamiliar to me, Crosstalk Ministries isn’t. I’ve been involved with Crosstalk for the past three years, attending Senior Camp and being part of Day Camps traveling team (you can do this too!).
I must say that the preperation and the hype for it was real. I signed up last minute (as usual) and got all pumped up for it. However this year, my personal experience with Crosstalk Senior Camp was rather different and unlike previous years. The games, workshops, worship, and message was awesome and all, but for some reason, I personally didn’t “feel it” this year. It didn’t “click” with me. What I mean is that unlike previous years, I didn’t get that moment of “spiritual high”. Don’t get me wrong, the worship nights were awesome, but I felt like God, and his sovereignty, purposely made his voice, his apperance, and his sense of presence to me unsensable. I say “purposely”, because through this, I was revealed something that I believe could have not been revealed have I not been in that state.
Now stay with me here, this part may sound weird to some:  This year during senior camp, I believe his plan for me was to make himself known by not making himself shown. Sounds kinda funny and confusing, but I promise this will make sense (at least I hope it does),  what I mean is that I learned that I shouldn’t be relying on those “spiritual high moments”, those moments when his “voice is heard”, or when his “face is seen” in order to know that he’s there and that I’m loved, but rather rest  assured knowing that he’s been there, here, the entire time… Since the beginning of time! He’s the Alpha and omega! The first and last is HE, the curse of sin is BROKEN and we have perfect LIBERTY, the lamb of God is RISEN… He’s alive, Jesus is alive! Ladies and gentlemen, Ron Kenoly. But seriously, isn’t that amazing? Knowing that the same one who legit broke sin, and rose from death, is very alive and did all of that in the name of love. An amazing love that can’t be heard nor seen, yet is so present. A gift for all! (and you thought Santa was generous). So I believe that’s how he spoke to me during senior camp… By not speaking to me! Crazy!

So I challenge y’all to keep that in mind. That he truly works in ways we cannot see/hear. And know that you’re truly and eternally loved.

In Christ,

Joshua Castillo