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Horrific Acts and Dark Blessings –The Crucible of Faith: A Christian Perspective

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About the Author

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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Jesus did not have to be a prophet to say that nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be earthquakes in various places. What else is new? And this week we know again that he is calling it as it is in Paris, Lebanon, Syria, Burundi. Mark 13,1-8

Jesus has been taking issue with the culture of leadership around him.

His teachings can be summarized in five warnings in Mark. They all begin with ‘beware!’

  1. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod!” (Mark 8.15) In the Bible, yeast is often a metaphor for pride and arrogance. When one is filled with pride, one blows things out of proportion. Pastor Rick Warren suggests that wherever one finds conflict anywhere in the world, pride is always involved. That’s interesting isn’t it? We don’t hear that said in the analysis of the horrific events of this week. Pride is at the heart of evil acts. Pride, arrogance. Perhaps we can’t stop pride and arrogance in Paris or Beirut. But we can address it in our own hearts. We can notice its evil effects. We can avoid attributing evil to things like religion or race. We can beware of the yeast of pride
  2. ‘Beware of those who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places.’ (Mark 12.38) Their pride created an inequitable society, a society that produced a destitute widow with only two small coins. A kind of side effect of pride is in the reaction of those who, unlike the widow, choose evil acts to respond to inequity.
  3. We hear Jesus warning the disciples: “Beware that no one leads you astray.” (Mark 13.5) Lord knows those who influence those who kill have a lot to answer for. But we too are challenged to follow the teachings of Jesus and not allow ourselves to be led astray.
  4. “Beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them.” (Mark 13.9) There are consequences. The culmination of Jesus’s teaching is that the sins of the leaders will lead to the destruction of the temple, which likely no one could begin to imagine.
  5. “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13.33) This is but the beginning of the birthpangs, Jesus says.

Jesus is about to be arrested, and his last teachings are warnings: beware of the temptation to fall into pride, which will destroy community; don’t wander away from what is true; even though you will suffer for it; and be sensitive to the times, ready for what the future holds.

Jesus uses the metaphor of delivery, of birth to point beyond the violence of our world, beyond the evils of pride and arrogance which can sacrifice human life like it was worthless.

Well, here, this week, is where I came to a grinding halt. Because late on Friday afternoon, after a long hard week, while I was visiting my mom for the first time in two weeks, I got a phone call from the hospital chaplain.

“I know you just came off oncall,” she started. “But I have a very sensitive situation and you are the only one I can turn to.”

While there is a compliment in this, it’s the compliment a minister learns to dread.

On Friday night I watched the news as many of you likely did.
The difference was, I was waiting for a second phone call.

The chaplain told me about an indigent couple, who had come all the way across the country to have their baby in the hospital where the birth mother was born.

The future comes to birth with painful groans. But with a stillbirth, there is no future. It has been snuffed out, a week before when a heart forgot to beat.

When the call came, I took a baptism stole and a huge prayer shawl that would envelope both parents, and went to baptize that wee baby.

There was grief so raw that it cut like a knife. And slowly there was conversation about the past, about the hopes and dreams that were shattered, about next steps, about love and faith. And Mum said, ‘I wonder if there will be a reason.’

We talked about dark blessings — those blessings that do come despite the tragedy.

I remembered another mother, whose friend told her, “you really are a better person since your son died.” And she told me her response: “I’d rather be a bitch and have my son back.”

Never would she choose this journey, but slowly she began to appreciate the blessings, and this mom thought that she would too.

This is but the beginning of the birth-pangs, Jesus tells us. The future comes to birth with painful groans.

How can I say that there will be a future for those childless mothers? How can I stand here and say that the husbands and wives, mothers and sons, sisters and friends of those killed in many places this week will have a future?

Because of faith. Because even in the midst of planning her child’s burial, a mother can think of her partner, can envision herself going on, despite the difficulties.

The image that comes to mind is that of a crucible: a pot in which metals or glass are heated to a very high temperature and can be transformed into something new.

It is almost impossible to think that an earthen vessel can withstand the heat of molten metal. Yet it does.

It is not our bodies that withstand this heat, not even our own souls. The crucible is an image of faith. The faith God gives us is the crucible in which all of the angst of the world is melted: by endurance, by glimmers of understanding, by forgiveness. It is only this gift of faith that can withstand all the negatives in the world, that can produce empathy out of our experience, love out of our fears, hope out of our despairing.

This coming week, the Family YMCA is hosting a Community Breakfast for Peace. The speaker is the son of a terrorist who murdered the founder of the Jewish Defence League and planned the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre.

Zak Ebrahim dedicates his life to speaking out against terrorism and spreading a message of peace and empathy.

“Even if you are trained to hate, you can choose tolerance. You can choose empathy. I’m convinced that empathy is more powerful than hate and that our lives should be dedicated to making (empathy) go viral.”

“Like the tumbling of the temple’s ancient stones change will pull some precious things apart.”

But there are blessings ahead, dark blessings, but blessings none the less.
“The future does come to birth with painful groans.”


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