Christianity Is Alive and Well.

Christianity Is Alive and Well.
By Janet Stobie

Last month, I was guest speaker at Bethel United, a small country church that sits alone at the edge of a gravel road, surrounded by farmers’ fields. While I was busy connecting my computer to their digital projector and setting up the Power Point program, the congregation gathered behind me. My task finished, I turned around and faced a church nearly filled with a mixture of young families and seasoned seniors. Excited children proudly showed congregation members their costumes. Laughter and conversation added to the electricity. God’s Spirit filled the room.

I slipped downstairs to find a choir of fifteen singers, their practice over, waiting for prayer. Sunday school teachers were scattered around them, preparing for their classes. Wow, I thought. God is definitely at work in this church.

Radio, television, and newspapers keep telling us mainline churches are dying. Bethel obviously doesn’t know it yet. Bethel isn’t the only lively United Church, nor the only lively Christian community in Canada. Actually, Christianity is alive and well. Yes, there are too many nearly empty churches, populated mostly by people with grey hair. But, many of those are vibrant communities of faith, bringing God’s love and justice to the world and providing comfort and strength for aging members.

As Christians we have a choice. We can focus on the scarcity or tell the story of abundance. The Lord told Habakkuk to write the vision, and make it plain. I think it’s time we started telling the story of congregations which have caught God’s vision for living love. Let’s give the world an opportunity to see the wonder of a thriving Christian community.

And then God answered: “Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming… “ (Habakuk 2:2-3)

We Must Remember!

Today’s blog is a little longer than usual. That’s just the way it came from my fingers. I encourage you to read it anyway. We need to remember. Thank you and Blessings, Janet

We Must Remember!

by Janet Stobie

Lest We Forget!
Lest We Forget! 

Our book club just read Farley Mowat’s war memoir. His story opened my heart to the sickening brutality of a war fought by “children”, ages eighteen to twenty-four. Today, news reports hammer us with pictures of slaughter, poison gas, terrified  people. As I read, Mowatt’s book, the protective wall of numbness I had developed disintegrated. This horror, this chaos, this “hell” really did happen and it continues to happen right now, everyday.

On Remembrance Day, we’ll hear the words – “We will remember.” In my heart I will be saying, “We must remember.” We cannot let the numbness creep in around us. We must be spurred to action. We must stop this relentless march of destruction.

What can we do? Psychologists have told us poverty and hunger make the most fertile ground for the forces of greed and hate. Yet we continue to hold tight to our riches and ignore those in need, even in our own country. Years ago, I watched a documentary on the teaching of hate. My stomach roiled as I listened to mothers and fathers purposely telling and retelling their stories of injustice and hatred to wide-eyed children, soaking up the fear and thirst for revenge.

Today, we too are teaching hate and fear and greed. We complain about those foreigners of whatever race.

“Their religious customs are strange.”

“They take our jobs.”

“They’re bringing violence into our peaceful country.”

“They don’t want to be like us.“

We tell ourselves we deserve the abundance we experience. We’ve worked hard for it.” “Our homegrown poor, homeless, unemployed, aboriginals don’t want to work. They expect handouts.” Even if we would never say these things out loud ourselves, we remain silent when others do.

Yes, we cannot singlehandedly stop war around the world. We can follow in Jesus’ footsteps. We can bring healing and love to people we encounter. We can share from our wealth (and we have plenty) with one local project and one overseas project. We can ask God to open our minds to hear our thoughts, words and actions that teach greed, hate and bigotry. We can ask for God’s help so that we won’t help build that relentless war machine growing in our world. We can refuse to send another innocent child into the horror of war. We can pray for change in ourselves and others.

 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” Jesus replied, “You give them something to eat.”  (Luke 9:12-13)

Cultivate an Attitude of Forgiveness? Yes!

Cultivate an Attitude of Forgiveness

by Rev. Janet Stobie

Anything to Avoid Forgiveness
Anything to Avoid Forgiveness

I often write about living an attitude of gratitude but this morning my daily reading reminded me to think about an attitude of forgiveness. “I want to forgive him,” my friend said, tears slipping down her face, but I can’t. I’m trying though.

What keeps us from forgiveness?

  • If the hurt is old, it often becomes a comfortable friend, something to depend on. After all we’re used to it. We’ve been angry and hurt a long time. How will we cope without it.
  • Will offering forgiveness mean my hurt doesn’t matter? That’s what it feels like. Or maybe I’ll be condoning the other’s behavior.
  • In order to forgive him I’ll have to forgive me for my part in this fiasco.

What will forgiveness accomplish?

  • Possibly a mended relationship, but not necessarily. Just because we offer the gift of forgiveness does not mean it will be received.
  • Peace in my own heart. Since the hurt cannot be undone, forgiveness will enable me to let go of it. Whether or not my effort is accepted, my load will be lighter. I will no longer need to waste energy keeping my anger fueled. I can turn my heart to better pursuits.
  • Forgiving another will open my heart to God’s forgiveness of me.
  • Offering forgiveness initiates a ripple of peace and love in the world.

How often do we forgive?

  • Jesus said, “Seventy times seven”.  That means forgive often. Sometimes we have to forgive the same hurt many times, as we journey to a point that forgiveness has truly entered our hearts. In fact, we need to cultivate an attitude of forgiveness every day.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

(Luke 23:34)