Saturday, May 1, 2021

TWENTY-EIGHT OVERDOSES IN REGINA


                                              

I have a strong concern in our Canadian society of the opioid/ fentanyl epidemic that has ravaged our society since the year 20216. It was disheartening to read in the news this past week that the first two months of this year, January and February, registered twenty-eight overdoes death in the city of Regina. Two years ago there were only four deaths within the same time period.

 

With the Covid crisis absorbing all the oxygen in the media, the opioid epidemic has almost disappeared from the screen. There are far more deaths from opioids / bad drugs than there are from the Covid virus.

 

I ask myself, what can I do? What contribution can I make to improve the situation?

 

Along with our governments, our health facilities and our families, I stand almost helpless. We cannot control what people take to get high or use to numb the terrible pain of their addiction. As a society there is no way we can legislate our way out of this. Will education help the population become more aware of the danger that drug consumption entails?

 

It is a very dangerous world out there for anyone who uses drugs. Added to the danger is the fact that these synthetic drugs are very cheap to make. The scene is complicated with more powerful synthetic drugs that have come into use. We can only look forward in horror to what new drugs might be developed in the near future. 

 

Every family in Canada is only one family away from a case of serious addiction or of an overdose. It is not at all uncommon to have a non-user, pop a pill offered from a friend and this first timer might result in a fatal overdose.  Twenty-eight overdoes in a small city like Regina is very sobering!

 

Within the Church we cannot pretend that this is not a serious issue for our families. We want to be sympathetic and willing to accompany any family that struggles with the addictions one of their members may be trapped in. We want to be right up front with admitting our impotence in this regard. As a faith community, we have much to learn.

 

We want to educate and help family members understand what is going on. We want to be taught what drug addiction means and the implications it has on family life. 

 

But at the bottom line, I (along with many other church members), are standing in a helpless situation begging God for help. Confronted by the fentanyl crisis I have never felt the need for God’s help in such a strong way. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

,Sustaining the earth: what does your religion offer?


                    

On Thursday evening, about 5:30 pm, as I was preparing supper, I looked out the kitchen window and the wind hit full force against the house and trees. This is what is like to live in society today.  We are living in a time of strong social struggle. The winds are hitting us from both directions. Part of the population resists any recognition that humanity is on a race to falling off the cliff in collapse of the earth structures. The other half recognizes the change humanity must make to the ways it exploits the riches of the earth. 

 

Scientists, over the past sixty years, have been warning humanity of the dangers of global warming, the pollution of our fresh waters and the depletion of the soil and the huge plastic waste floating in the oceans. 

 

Human beings have a long history of resisting the truth because it demands that we must make some drastic changes to our way of life. Humans only embrace a new or inconvenient truth when it is advantageous to them. 

 

Of all the people you associate with, people who identify themselves as spiritual or people who identify with a particular religious tradition, ask them: And what does you religious teaching and experience offer to humanity to work to sustain the earth into the future? What gives you strength, energy and direction to keep the earth thriving? 

 

Christianity has much to offer to sustaining the earth and turning us away from collapse. 

 

First, we must repent of turning away from our attitude toward creation during these past five hundred years. Our religious belief in the value and importance of creation is not new; it was forgotten for so many centuries The firm conviction that creation is the first revelation of God’s love and compassion must be reclaimed. All our churches must return to our roots in God’s first revelation to sustain and create the world.

 

Secondly, we must regain a living sense of God’s sustaining power and love for every part of creation. Every bacteria that exists has been created, loved and sustained by God. We do not have to invent any new prayers that bring us in touch with creation. We just have to be aware of our own tradition in regard to creation. Christians do not have to invent the wheel! 

 

Christians have to recognize that human beings are not over and against the natural world. For the past five centuries we have exploited and abused the gifts of the earth. For too long we have used the earth as if it were ours to use and dispose as we saw fit.

 

We are being shaken into reality. We are kin with all creation. We are part of the great fabric of the created world. If the birds do not thrive, then we humans will not thrive. The entire web of life (from the most minuscule to the large human brain) is interconnected. In the very true sense of the word, we are all in this together.

Our Christian roots give us the tools and the energy to work towards a sustaining earth. Our faith and prayer can give us strong energy to work to sustain the earth. One of the unsung blessings is that now all who identify as the followers of Christ have something in common. We all have our religious roots to give us and empower us to work toward sustaining the earth.

 

We must reclaim what is an essential part of our religious tradition.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

ON NOT NEEDING CHURCH


                           

The older generation has difficulty understanding the young mothers who do not vaccinate their children against so many possible diseases. We come from the generation where our mothers had gone through the polio scare. When a vaccine to immunize against polio became available, our mothers lined us up immediately.

 

An interview done with health people in Quebec showed that when the nurse approached the young mother about vaccination of her baby she received the explanation that “there are no measles around. No one has measles.” In the logic of the young mother, why would I vaccinate my child for the disease that does not exist? 

 

In all honesty, the young mothers do not see any need for vaccinations to protect against disease that do not exist (in their own minds that is). 

 

This insight moves over to ‘why belong to a church, service group or the larger community’ when I have no need of these? As an individual I can look after myself completely. 

 

Church is always the first community that people choose not to connect with or participate in. All our volunteer organizations, political parties, school groups and much of family life are disappearing from our society. When people need something they will come but to make a personal contribution by participation and hard work within the community, that is something else!

 

In this individualistic culture, you are on your own. In the past seven decades the social structures have broken down and disappeared. Who tells you how to marry, how to raise your children and to look after the people in your neighborhood? This has been exacerbated by the high mobility that employment brings. It is not uncommon to have the aged parents here in Saskatchewan, one daughter living in England, one daughter in Halifax and the other daughter in Whitehorse. Who is here to help when Mother is taken by ambulance to the emergency ward in the middle of the night?

 

When people identify themselves as spiritual and are very satisfied that their faith is good, they lead a good life, why would I look for a faith community? And there is such a strong perception that Church demands much of us. Why would I want to belong to something that will limit my lifestyle?

 

Our society and culture are headed into a narrow, severe loneliness in our future. There we will be, rich moneywise  but so alone! No one needs us and we are distant from everyone else.

 

Only when people experience a deep emptiness in their lives will they turn back to community. Only then will we recreate the communities we need to thrive as human beings: a faith community, a school community, a town or city community. 

 

Just because an individual may walk away from community does not mean their demanding human needs have disappeared. We are living on the junk food of individualism, while all the while our bodies are crying out for community, for belonging and for identity.

 

We need a second look to where we are going as a society.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

A CHURCH FENCED OFF?

 


An government action that we have not seen except in times of war is a church being fenced off, barring the entry of any persons until April 27.  What is going on in Alberta? The RCMP accompanied the fencing company that began erecting the fence around the church building at 6:00 AM this past Wednesday. 

 

There has been much controversy over the past twelve months between supporters of the church and citizens in the district. The health authorities have tried to work with the pastor and people of the church to meet the health regulations that have been given to worshipping communities throughout Alberta. 

 

Grace Life Church in Parkland County (West of Edmonton) has refused to comply with directives given by the Alberta health authorities to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Their pastor, James Coats, has already spent thirty-five days in prison for violating the law. 

 

What an ego!

 

The people of the church strongly claim that they have a fundamental right to freedom of worship. This means that no one, including civic authorities, can interfere with the exercise of this fundamental human right. 

 

This is correct – but limited!.

 

All citizens have an equal responsibility to care for the well-being of their fellow citizens. We do not have only rights; we have equal responsibilities. It is the absence of any talk of responsibility for the common good that makes all the arguments of the above church congregation empty and very selfish. 

 

The government authorities and the citizens of Alberta are working to protect and promote the common good. Every citizen has a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of their neighbor. 

 

In every disagreement within a society we must be aware that a positive value (i.e., the right to freedom of religion) can be misused and abused by self-serving people. The good can be misused for very sinister purposes! You, the reader, must make an informed decision about the right or wrongness of the actions of this particular Alberta church.

 

Secondly, the parishioners and pastor of  Grace  Life Church must examine why all the other worshipping communities (Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu and Sikh) in Alberta have agreed to work with the directives given by the Alberta Health Department. Are they misguided? All worshipping communities are suffering in this year of pandemic. Some are on the verge of financial collapse. We want to recognize the strong sense of social responsibility these worshipping communities have for the common good of the people of Alberta. Cooperation with the health directives indicates the strong sense of social responsibility that is present in our worshipping communities.

 

The fence will probably not end the conflict west of Edmonton but I want to name this irresponsible non-compliance of the Church for what it is: selfish and motivated by a grossly exaggerated sense of self-importance. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

MAY YOUR EASTER EXPLODE


                                      

It is always hard to see the reality that is right in front of us. How many times do we fume over a speeding ticket but are ever so reluctant to take ownership that ‘we cut corners when we drive.” Everywhere in the world there are strong population shifts. There are different people who are now becoming citizens in my country! But how many people lament that ‘life is not the same,’ which means, there not are enough of my own kind living in this country? How many countries are putting up walls around their borders to try to prevent the change in population?

 

Our Christian faith is all about how God is breaking in (one God’s terms) and giving us a new reality. One of the downsides growing up Christian is to think that how we grasp our religion today is all there is!

 

The Resurrection of Jesus always upsets everything! No one expected this! If the resurrection is true, it is really unbelievable. As the women and men who first followed Jesus began to experience him their world changed radically. This was not just the great healer and teacher returned to life (he eats breakfast with them), but this is the outpouring of God. God has broken into our human reality. All that Jesus said and did is the revelation of God. To get to know the risen Jesus is to encounter God.

 

Our salvation is in the mystery of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both events belong together. Over the past centuries  almost all our attention was devoted to only the first part of the mystery, the death and suffering of Jesus. For many Christians they had a spirituality of the cross with the resurrection being accidental to their faith experience. This was very incomplete. In this century we want to be reclaim the mystery of salvation and celebrate with equal energy the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

 

We need to be reclaimed by the resurrection of Jesus. It must become in our lives a faith-explosion of God pouring out the very life of the Son into our bones and our thoughts. The resurrection is always the giving of the very life of the divine Jesus into our lives. It broke open the lives and the hearts of the first disciples. The resurrection  now breaks open our lives.

 

This is not just something that we must preach with enthusiasm in our church buildings but it must take root and blossom in our daily lives. Each person who has been joined to Jesus in Baptism shares in the very life and resurrection of Jesus. Each person must become the living continuation of the great mystery of the resurrected Christ.

 

Be the life of the risen Jesus in your daily speech when we seek to speak the good things about other people and are able to walk with them through their struggles, whether it be in their relationships, or their unemployment or simply having a good word to say about everyone. 

 

Live the resurrected Jesus by your willingness to listen to the struggles of your twenty-two year ole nephew who does not know which way his life should go. He struggles with a group of friends whom he knows are not good for him. Be the listening heart and be ready to be the firm voice when he needs some clear direction. 

 

Easter was never meant to be a quiet, sunny day. This is all about God erupting in our lives. This is God extending the mystery of salvation in and through the person of Jesus, Son of God. Now, his very life is given to us. We are meant to be the living continuation of the life and mission of Jesus.

 

May this Easter be explosive in your life. 

 

 

 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

BE RECLAIMED BY EASTER


                                    

Hopefully every adult grows into an awareness of who they really are. Who is the personality that other people know and have to deal with on a daily basis? This is hard work because the hardest person to get to know will always be yourself! 

 

Getting to know yourself is hard work for the individual. The Church getting to know the Church is equally hard work!

 

In the Church we have such a high need of security (we need to have the doctrines of our faith clearly mapped out) but we are weak in listening to what the folks actually know and how they practice their faith. How is all this religion-stuff actually lived out in practice?

 

Almost a century ago serious students of the Scriptures recognized that the very center of our faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus. But in actual fact so much attention and energy was focused on the suffering and death of Jesus that the resurrection was almost an afterthought. On practical terms the resurrection of Jesus did not occupy sufficient energy in the life and prayer of the average believer. We were people of the cross, but only weakly, people of the resurrection. 

 

The Second Vatican Council (ended in 1965) called us to make the death and resurrection of Jesus the center of our faith, our liturgy and our prayer. These are not two unconnected events, but like your physical hand, two sides of the same mystery. They must always be held together.

 

We are working to re-establish Easter as the central, three-day festival our redemption. Like all good celebrations it takes a lot of energy. When parishioners say they are tired at the end of the Easter Vigil, I caution: “If it is meaningful, you will be tired!”

 

We must be recaptured by the resurrection of Jesus. This is the great work of God revealing and sharing the very Son of God with us. The resurrection was an actual historical event (it happened during the night) but it is a revelation that must now happen in the lives of each one of the believers (the present moment). The very person and salvific power of Jesus, Son of God, must now happen in each one of us!

 

We in the West (Catholic and Protestant) have grown up with almost all our focus on the suffering and death of Jesus. We are Christians of the cross.  But we are weakly embraced by the outpouring and revelation of the risen Jesus. The resurrection is all about the Son of God being given to the people (i.e., the disciples). We must now become the living continuation of the mystery of Christ in our time and our place. 

 

This means that we must work hard to make the fifty days of Easter (Easter to Pentecost) as meaningful and as spiritually enriching as Lent has been. This is an entire season to deepen the mystery of the resurrection within the people of the Church. This process will  take another two hundred years but we are on the right tract to creating a balanced understanding and practice of the death and resurrection (the Paschal Mystery) of Jesus Christ. 

 

Have a great Holy Week! We have a lot of work to do!

 

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

YOUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING


                          

On the morning that our elderly mother died in the nursing home, one of the staff members who knew our family, came up to me, shared her condolences and then said, “But you were here so often.”

 

I was taken aback by that observation. I said to myself, ‘No, only once a week.’ (I had to drive 150 km. to visit.) If my presence once a week appears to be so often to the staff member, how many of the residents hardly ever see a family member or a visitor?

 

As a family we had time to reflect on this observation. At the same time there was the recent memory of the daughter who did not come back to visit either her aged mother or father when they were in the care home. This woman had other sisters and brothers who were very present during the last years of their parents’ life.  Her absence was noted!

 

In our minds we looked at her adult children (all in their early forties) and concluded: “Remember, your children are watching.” If we were not present when in the last years of our parents’ life, in their diminishment, then we should not expect our children to be present either. Remember, our absence to our own parents set the example for our children to follow when it is our turn to arrive at the nursing home.

 

Sometimes we have to be very firm with these adult children when they say, “But Mom doesn’t  know us anymore.” Honey! This is not about you! It has nothing to do whether or not she recognizes you or can carry on a conversation. This is your mother (or father). Even if they no longer can communicate and need to be fed and diapered, they have not changed. This is still the person who loved you, raised you, struggled with you in the frustrations of moving into adulthood and rejoiced when you reached adulthood. This is your parent!

 

Adult children need some assistance in caring for a parent who suffers from serious diminishment. Adult children must be taught how to handle their mother in her dementia. Do not ask questions, it only confuses and frustrates them because the aged parent cannot give the answer (and they know they cannot give the answer!).  Visit with two people so you can have some conversation and not become frustrated because you cannot talk (people who talk a lot are very frustrated by the inability to their aged mother to enter into conversation). 

 

Real love can be harsh and dreadful. Just holding your mother’s hand (i.e., human touch) for long periods of time can be very boring – but it can be very reassuring to your mother. 

 

Now, all sixty-year olds must ask themselves: What kind of example (i.e. teaching) have I presented to my adult childred? They have been watching, and what are they learning?  How we will be treated in the nursing home (it could easily be the last five years of your life) is being determined right now.

 

Remember, your children are watching!

TWENTY-EIGHT OVERDOSES IN REGINA

                                                  I have a strong concern in our Canadian society of the opioid/ fentanyl epidemic that has ...