What Would You Do?

An Apocalyptic Sermon

Liska Stefko (Click here to listen)

Daniel 12:1-3

Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25,

Mark 13:1-8

If you’re anything like me, your heart sank when you saw the numbers in bold newsprint:

3 days.

500 Hamas rockets fired into Israel.

466 Israeli air strikes.

3 Israeli civilians dead.

16 Palestinian civilians dead.

75,000 reservists called up.

If you’re anything like me, your heart sank even more when you saw the graphic circulated on Facebook. In the background is a skyline with the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera house. In the foreground is a downpour of rockets. In bold letters is the question, “What would you do?” In the parlance of Facebook:

23,000 people “liked” this.

61,000 people shared this. Continue reading

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Without This Bowl We Die

A sermon for All Saints’ Sunday preached on the occasion of presbyteral ordinations in the Anglican Diocese of Quebec

Mary Jo Leddy

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

In a recent film about the renowned Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, he relates some amazing facts about the reach of the breath that we breathe. Suzuki says that we now have evidence that the breath that we breathe out will enter into the space around us, gradually combine and recombine with other breaths, expand and travel. This process continues, he says, such that IN ONE YEAR our breath will have travelled around the world and back to us so that we will breathe in the breath we breathed out 365 days ago.

This is an astonishing fact. As are other facts that contemporary science offers for our meditation: we are breathing in the dust of stars, every moment. We are breathing in the breath of plants and animals, the breath of countless other human beings. The living and the dead.

It is one of our most ancient beliefs that we as Christians belong to a Communion of Saints, the living and the dead. We believe we are mysteriously, graciously, sustained by the goodness, the holiness, the justice of others. They are God’s breath among us now. Continue reading

A Review of William Ophuls’ Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology

Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology, William Ophuls, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2012, 256 pp.

Joshua Paetkau

At the heart of every recent political discussion is an increasingly insurmountable problem; the challenge of ecological scarcity. At the heart of the ever-deepening ecological crisis is the uncomfortable reality that the way we live today, the consumptive choices we make and the way we organize ourselves socially and politically, may be denying our grandchildren a future. The fact that consumer/industrial society has so eagerly jumped on the “green” bandwagon makes our situation that much more ridiculous, as though slapping on a few eco-friendly labels could radically alter the destructive consumptive patterns to which we have become accustomed.

William Ophuls confronts this ecological challenge, in Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology, with a powerful mixture of ingenuity and wisdom. Continue reading

A Costly Confession

From Cheap Grace to Embodying Forgiveness in Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Priest: Good afternoon Walt

Walt: I told you I’m not going to confession.

[…]

Priest: I’ve been thinking about our conversation about life and death. About what you said. About how you carry around all the horrible things you were forced to do, horrible things that won’t leave you. It seems it would do you good to unload some of that burden. Things done during war are terrible. Being ordered to kill. Killing to save yourself, killing to save others. You’re right. Those things I know nothing about. But I do know about forgiveness. And I’ve seen a lot of men who have confessed their sins, admitted their guilt, and left their burdens behind them. Stronger men than you. Men at war who were ordered to do appalling things and are now at peace.

Walt: Well I gotta hand it to you, Padre. You came here with your guns loaded this time.

Priest: Thank you.

Walt: And you’re right about one thing. About stronger men than me reaching their salvation. Well, halle-fucking-lujah. But you’re wrong about something else.

Priest: What’s that Mr. Kowalski?

Walt: The thing that haunts a man the most is what he isn’t ordered to do.[1]

It’s a well-worn scene. A patronizing priest, clothed in clericals, approaches a surely man and offers him some unasked for advice: he should make a confession. The prospect of the surely man (Walt) confessing to the priest is made even more absurd by the contrast in the two men’s appearances. The priest, under thirty, is equipped with a baby face that would assign wisdom to a toddler. Walt, face lined with a bitter old age, wears a grittiness only Clint Eastwood’s features can bear.

It takes only a few lines of dialogue before the audience understands the characterizing back stories of each. The priest, whose occasional insights are clouded by his vocational infancy, recently left the seminary. Walt, a veteran in the Korean War, never left the battlefield. The priest, believing he can exercise a kind of forgiveness that can relieve its recipient of the burden of guilt, continually offers the sacrament of confession. Walt, believing such forgiveness is not meaningful in relation to the crimes he has committed, continually rejects it.

The struggle for a meaningful forgiveness is at the heart of Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film, Gran Torino; a film that raises important questions for Christian practices of forgiveness: Who has the power to forgive? How is forgiveness given? What is the relation between the individual seeking forgiveness and the community? And what does all this have to do with the sacrament of confession? Continue reading