Archive for the ‘god of compassion’ Tag

Can Increasing Inequality Be a Steady State?

Take Responsibility

Take Responsibility

The equity of people is a basic tenet of all major, world-wide faith groups.

In the United Church of Canada, a Christian denomination, all of God’s children are welcome at the communion table. All are served the same bread and wine; the symbolism of unity in God’s presence matters. This is not so in the secular, political world of some governments today.

PressProgress summarizes the findings of an important OECD study on incomes in Canada, Australia and the United States of America. They report that:

“Increasing levels of economic inequality are the “new normal” and we can expect them to get worse, not better.

That’s the key takeaway from a recent study on long-run levels of income growth in Canada, Australia and the United States published by the OECD.

The study highlights the explosive rise of incomes in the top 1% over the last 30 years, and their growing share as compared to the bottom 90% and 99%. Authored by eminent Canadian economist and Broadbent Fellow Lars Osberg, it argues “there is no natural upper bound to the real incomes of the top 1% and thus no natural upper bound to their income gap with median households.”

Similar to the findings of French economist Thomas Piketty and the OECD, Osberg suggests that the balanced growth of the post-World War II era, which produced a more stable and fairer income distribution, bucked a broader trend in which inequality accumulates and deepens over generations.”

 The full report from PressProgress is available at: http://www.pressprogress.ca/en/post/rising-income-inequality-new-normal-study

For people of faith, reports such as these are worthy of deep reflection. What is it that our faith calls us to DO in these circumstances?

Unconditional Love

IMG_0587This week I was a part of a group that began our time together by reflecting on the following poem by Joyce Rupp – it is published in her book, “Fragments of your Ancient Name”.

 For people of a variety of faith traditions, it is in God where we experience true love. God’s love is a love that is beyond human understanding. 

However, in this poem Joyce Rupp attempts to bridge our limited human understanding of love, and  God’s love that has a depth that is so far beyond our imagination.

Even in the midst of winter snow, there is a love waiting for us to return.

 

Unconditional Love – 

A poem by Joyce Rupp

You are Love like no other.

Love so large you contain our smallness.

Love so deep you accept our shallowness.

Love so strong you carry our weakness.

Love so wide you enclose our wandering.

Love so tender you experience our hurting.

Love so tolerable you outlive our apathy.

Love so ardent you thaw our coldness.

Love so true you endure our betrayals.

Love so patient you wait for our returning.

Posted February 9, 2013 by allanbaker in Christian Faith

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Advent Love

Love in Advent

Christmas 2012
(The Divine Unfolding)

Through your own incarnation, my God,
All matter is henceforth incarnate
Teilhard de Chardin

Christmas melts the coldest hearts
The shortest day and the longest night
Dancing, feasting, fires and tarts
moves our inner axis to the cause of right.

The old Romans scoured the sky
for the first signs of lenghtening day
missed the babe emerging from the sty
and a deeper clue to the life-giving way.

Those clever folk of yore wisely scanned the stars above
filaments of mystery in a cosmos  frightening
missed the miracle of Word made flesh. Love
incarnate, a new creation, the deepest truth of things.

Winter solstice, December 21 and four days later on
Lo the renewal of light, the naked eye espied
The very birth day of Sol Invictus,Unconquerable Sun
“We’ll take it for the risen one” we cried.

We continue to gather two millenia now, an Advent gestating
We have seen something fresh, a new way of being
The  mystery of Christ, new patterns unfolding
The  Galilean points to a new way of seeing.

Wassail and rejoice; Hope has bought us gifts galore
Reconcilaition, forgiveness, compassion beyond compare
Tears, kindness, justice, peace and much much more
A heart attuned to the stars and grace, grace everywhere.

Ted Schmidt

Seeds of Hope

Ched Myers was in Toronto on September 26 / 27, 2012; teaching at a United Church of Canada event called, “Growing Justice”. Ched is a member of the Bartimaeus cooperative; a biblical scholar, and a teacher who lives his Christian faith – one who walks the talk.

During his time with us, Ched planted many seeds of hope.  For example, during our study of a parable of Jesus (Mark 4: 1 – 25), Ched shared the following wisdom:

“You can count the beans in the pod,

but you cannot count the pods in the bean.”

This proverb contains seeds of wisdom that provide hope for all of God’s children who are involved in the struggle for social justice in God’s world. To me, this proverb provides an assurance that:

Every hope-filled action;

every act of compassion;

every confrontation of the injustices of the world

is like one of those beans.

Loving, hopeful and optimistic

Loving, hopeful and optimistic

On August 20, 2011 Jack Layton wrote an inspiring letter that, after his death, was shared with all Canadians, and even people beyond the artificial borders of this country. A year later, many of us are still remembering Jack’s words, and our souls are still being fed by their positiveness.

The concluding paragraph of Jack’s letter was an example of how Jack elevated the tone of political debate in Canada. He wrote:

“My friends, love is better than anger.

Hope is better than fear.

Optimism is better than despair.

So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

NDP leader Jack Layton speaks with the media during  a round table discussion in Brampton, Ontario on Saturday.   (Matthew Little/The Epoch Times)

Credit: (Matthew Little/The Epoch Times)

Posted August 30, 2012 by allanbaker in Inspiration

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The Reverend of Newtonbrook United hangs up his collar

Spring time at Newtonbrook United Church

On July 25, 2012, in The Toronto Star, columnist Joe Fiorito wrote about his “exit interview” with Rev. Allan Baker. What was his, “call”; passion?

You can read the whole column at: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1231040–fiorito-the-reverend-of-newtonbrook-united-hangs-up-his-collar

Church and Politics

On June 18, 2012 the CBC radio program “As It Happens” interviewed the Moderator of the United Church of Canada. Mardi Tindal, the Moderator, was responding to Senator Eaton’s remark that churches should NOT have the right to speak on public policy. To listen to this interview, and Senator Eaton’e comments, go to:

http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/episode/2012/06/08/the-friday-edition-32/

Easter, 2012


Today is Easter Monday, 2012.

 

It is the day after the most important celebration on the Christian calendar – EASTER!

 

The following text is a posting of much of yesterday’s sermon at Newtonbrook United Church in Willowdale, Ontario. In a few days, the audio version of the sermon will be available on the congregation’s website at: http://www.newtonbrookunitedchurch.ca/nuc-worship/sermon/

+  +  +

 

“So they went out and fled the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”[1]

This is the original ending to the Gospel According to Mark.

“Terror and amazement had seized them” – is that how you feel on Easter morning?

The three women ran from the tomb as they had been “seized by terror and amazement”. Wouldn’t you?

What would happen if we all were to run from church on Easter Sunday morning, “seized by terror and amazement”?

Why did these women flee with those feelings in their hearts? Maybe it was because they realized that God is doing a new thing AND has kept God’s promise to re-make this world into the Kin-dom of God.

Jesus taught that the power of love is greater than any other power on earth. I recently read a statement that in the eastern traditions there is a phrase that “soft is stronger than hard”. As an example, just look at how water erodes concrete. In the same way, LOVE can overcome the hardest of hearts.

Carol Cayenne, a friend of mine, died in 1998. In an obituary story about this black, activist woman, who had lived in what we now call TCHC, the Toronto Star quoted Carol:

We may not be able to get the guns, the knives, and the drugs, which come so easily to our children, off the streets. We may not be able to stop the glorification of violence on television but, as ordinary men, women and children, we have the power to care. And it is the power to care, once released, that can work miracles[2].

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “A Time to Break Silence” speech at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967; one year later, on this date in 1968, he was assassinated. (Source: American Rhetoric)

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome had discovered that Jesus had spoken the truth about God’s promise to do a new thing.

EASTER means that God is doing a new thing.

 

Resurrection is a new thing! To encounter it for the first time is

to be seized by terror and amazement”.

Theologian Jurgen Moltman:

“Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving.”

To Moltman the resurrection of Jesus shows the world, “the beginning of a fundamental change in the conditions of possible experience.”[3]

Harold Wells:

“faith” in the risen Jesus means making the resurrection the central plank of one’s worldview, and involves the commitment of one’s whole life.[4]

No wonder the church has been running on empty for 2000 years! We have evidence that God is creating a new heaven and a new earth, and we are a part of that new creation.

We are people who know, deep in our hearts, that God is doing a new thing! We know that the power of love can change the world. We are people who are willing to go into the world to do a new thing as followers of Jesus!

In a world of abundance, where the powers of Empire preach scarcity and deficit reduction, we are people who tell others that God shows us that it is the size of the heart that matters.

In a world that propagandizes that you can never have enough, Jesus shows us that all can be fed with five loaves and two fish.[5]

In a world guided by the false value of selfish individualism, Christian communities have been demonstrating for 2000 years that sharing is more powerful than hoarding.

In a world that celebrates the rich and powerful, no matter what their abilities may be, God shows us that it is “the least of these”, like Mary Magdalene, who explore the empty tomb, and bring the message of resurrection and NEW LIFE to future generations.

We are people of hope for a better world, who remember that real hope is guided by the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“No one who hopes in me ever regrets it.[6]

There is an eco-theologian by the name of Wendell Berry. He has published a poem that is called:

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

In this poem, the farmer warns against the love of the quick profit and a life that makes a person afraid to know your neighbours, and afraid to die. Instead, the mad farmer calls the reader to do something every day that doesn’t compute. It may be something that causes people to run away in terror and amazement. What is that radical act:

Love God; love God’s world, and finally “practice resurrection

As Jesus said;

‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.[7]

May we go into God’s world to “practice resurrection”,

may we go to meet the Risen Christ,

and may we go with the assurance of God’s everlasting and gentle love.

Hymn # 183 – We Meet You O Christ


[1] Mark 16, 8

[2] The Toronto Star, Thursday, April 16, 1998, page B5

[3] [3] Harold Wells, The Resurrection of Jesus According to “Progressive Christianity”, Touchstone, January 2012, page 43

[4] Harold Wells, The Resurrection of Jesus According to “Progressive Christianity”, Touchstone, January 2012, page 41

[5] See Mark 6: 30 – 44

[6] Isaiah 49: 23

[7] Matthew 25: 34 – 36 (The Message)

Newtonbrook United Church remembers

Dedication of a memorial plaque

At the Newtonbrook Drop Inn

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 

Newtonbrook United Church (NUC) and the Taiwanese United Church in Toronto (TUCT) believe that every child of God deserves to eat proper nutritious meals and to receive community support. Presently, too may people go without nutritious meals because they do not have enough income to pay rent, or their rental payments eat up most of their income. Some people in Toronto live on the street, cut off from support of any kind. The mission of our Drop Inn is to provide a warm, caring, safe environment where our guests can enjoy a hot nourishing lunch, have the opportunity to be with others, and receive support and assistance.

Jesus asked us to, “Love one another.”

Unfortunately, over the years, some of our guests have died. On Wednesday, March 21, 2012 we dedicated a plaque to the memory of 19 of our guests whose names we know, and who are no longer with us in the flesh.

Gordon Robertson, from the congregation of Newtonbrook United Church, described the reasons for the plaque, and how our hearts go out to our neighbours.

Here is the prayer of dedication:

God of the whole human family,

we thank you for all that was beautiful and good

in the lives of the people whose names are on this plaque.

May the people who travelled the road of life with us

continue to be remembered by the presence of their names.

May your peace be with them,

and with all who come into this space,

for we are all your children,

and we are all blessed by you, loving God. Amen.

Wisdom in a time of “austerity”

You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless;

when you’re kind to the poor, you honour God.

Proverbs 14: 31 (The Message)

These are words of wisdom for all of us in this time when powerful public figures advocate “austerity” measures that slice through Canada’s social safety net.