May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
I have to confess that I missed the biggest news story of the week. I wasn't watching the Oscars on Sunday night, and so I missed the moment when Will Smith walked onto the stage and slapped Chris Rock. But I haven't missed all of the replays and commentary that have followed this week!
When we encounter any news story (or anything we encounter in the world), there are lots of different ways that we can shape our understanding of it, and one of those ways is through theological reflection. When we reflect theologically on something, we ask questions like: "How does this story connect with God's story as told in the bible?" "Does this story make me think of a bible story, a hymn, a creed?" "Where can we see God in this story?" "Why should we, as followers of Jesus, care about this story?" "How might God be calling us to act through this story?"
And when I reflect theologically on the news story of the week, here are some of my thoughts. In this story, we have one person (Chris Rock) causing violence to another person (Jada Pinkett Smith) with his words. (And as an aside, I don't consider his jokes to be humour - with humour, you are supposed to "punch up," to target your jokes at people with more power than you have. When you "punch down" as he was doing, targeting someone with a very visible medical condition, it is bullying rather than humour.) And in response, a third person (Will Smith) walked on to the stage and repaid violence for violence, slapping the first person across the face.
How does this connect with God's story? At the heart of our story is God becoming human in the person of Jesus; and in Jesus, God broke the cycles of violence in the world by refusing to participate in them. When Jesus was arrested and brought before Pilate and Herod, he replied to their questions with silence. When he was nailed to a cross, he forgave the people who were crucifying him; and rather than blasting the wooden cross to splinters and leaping down (since, when we believe that Jesus was God, was entirely within the realm of possibility), Jesus died. But two days later, on Easter, we see that love is stronger than even death; and resurrection and new life have finally broken the cycles of violence by refusing to participate in them. (I spoke about this a couple of Sundays ago when Jesus responded to a news story of horrific violence by telling a story about a fig tree, a story of grace.)
And so when I see verbal violence being repaid with physical violence, I see a perpetuation of cycles of violence, which is contrary to the God's story as revealed to us in Jesus.
And yet Jesus also acted against oppression that he saw in the world. Remember the story of Jesus turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple? He knew that they were exploiting the worshipers who had to purchase animals for the required sacrifice, and they were making a tidy profit on their exploitation. And he did something to end the injustice.
Could there have been another outcome to Sunday's story? Is there a way of love that Will Smith could have chosen to respond to the violent, bullying words? Is there a path that could have broken the cycle of violence? I think that there is. What if he had stood up where he was sitting, and used his words to ask for an apology (with permission from Jada Pinkett Smith, the one against whom the violence was done)? And if Chris Rock had refused, Will Smith could have persisted, with the eyes and the ears of the world on him. And even if Chris Rock had refused to apologize, it would have been very clear to the world that his words had put him in the wrong. I think that there is a way that Will Smith could have chosen a Christ-like path, refusing to repay violence with more violence, and yet also calling out wrong in the world.
OK - enough theological reflection for today!
I have a couple of announcements for this week:
There continues to be a lot of Covid circulating in our communities, so just a reminder that if you have any symptoms (even if you are certain that it is "just" a cold), please choose virtual options to participate in worship and other gatherings. (And I also want to thank you all for wearing your masks in worship. On a personal level, I feel much safer and more comfortable when I look out from the pulpit and see all of your masks!)
Our Thursday Lent gatherings continue at 7pm each week. This week, we will be exploring art-making as a spiritual practice. If you have a phone with a camera (or a digital camera), I invite you to bring it with you this week. We will be gathering in the Westfield sanctuary and virtually on Webex - let me know if you want the Webex link!
Next Monday will be our monthly gathering to discuss Broadview Magazine - the April/May edition this month. Everyone is welcome! (And if you aren't a subscriber, you can read many of the articles by clicking here.) We will gather at 10am in the parlour at Westfield United.
This Sunday, our worship services will be at Long Reach at 9:15 and at Westfield and on Facebook Live at 11:15. We are reading the story of Jesus's anointing this week - John 12:1-8. We are going to explore what it means to be anointed; and we will ask the question, what part of our lives (or the world) need anointing right now?
And finally, if you want to look ahead and mark your calendars, here is our Holy Week schedule:
Palm Sunday (April 10) - 9:15 at Summerville; 11:15 at Westfield and on FB Live
Maundy Thursday (April 14) - 7pm at Westfield and on FB Live
Good Friday (April 15) - 11am at Summerville - this service will be recorded (the cell signal isn't strong enough at Summerville for livestreaming) and will be posted on Facebook as soon as I am back in the land of WiFi for anyone not able/comfortable to attend in-person.
Good Friday (April 15) - we will be gathering at 7pm in the parlour at Westfield United to watch Jesus Christ Superstar. This is a beautiful movie for Good Friday, as it ends with the crucifixion while still hinting at the resurrection. Singing along is encouraged if you know the songs; I will pop some popcorn; and you are welcome to bring your beverage of choice.
Easter Sunrise Service (April 17) - 6:30am at Brundage Point
Easter Services (April 17) - 9:15 at Long Reach; 11:15 at Westfield and on FB Live - both of these services will be communion services, and we will also be celebrating a baptism at Westfield.
(And a note for Westfield families - as of right now, we are planning to re-launch in-person Sunday School on Easter Sunday after a 2+ year hiatus. Ken will be there, and he will have an exciting lesson planned.)
Lots of announcements this week... there is a lot going on in the church through Lent, Holy Week, and Easter!
Blessings to you and yours, today and always!
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."