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Separation Solved

A Christian Perspective

Bill and Shirley Finlay
Separation Solved
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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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At the last supper Jesus told the disciples about his coming departure. In years to come he knows that the disciples will feel like orphans. Jesus is helping the disciples to prepare for a looming separation.

He knows that Easter will be a joyous reunion, but the resurrection appearances won’t continue indefinitely. As the years pass, people will be called to believe in a Jesus they have never seen or heard.

How could the disciples carry on when Jesus wasn’t with them?

We are all in danger of feeling separated from God.

I have recently come to the realization that my parents’ generation would have all been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder had it been recognized after World War II, and their parents too from World War I — and that probably for one reason or another, every generation before them had too. The devastating separations that war bring challenge even our relationship with God.

And every generation after them. We all carry with us the seeds of distress since it seems every generation is challenged to hold human evil at bay.

We remember

  • those who thought that they were leaving loved ones to end all wars in the First World War
  • and then again in the Second World War,
  • and who have lived knowing that others have had to go to war on hundreds of occasions since.
  • We now have generation after generation of distressed veterans and empty places at the tables of so many of every nation.

Separation is part of the human condition

Separation is a inevitable feature of war. It also seems to be a feature of the human condition which Jesus seeks to remove.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. John 14.16

Jesus asks the disciples to remember his teachings, but knows the devastation of separation. He promises to ask God to send an advocate to be with them forever.

This Remembrance week, I think about all the separations that happen in war. The ripping apart of families for the duration of the war, the devastating separation of death.

Maple Grove United Church was founded by veterans and their families — those who were blessed to be reunited after the war, but nonetheless could be forgiven for carrying scars from the trauma of war.

But what did they do?
I asked Bill and Shirley Finlay — charter members and residents of Oakville for 58 years.

Bill was a Captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force, a pilot, but his first vocation was as a teacher, and once he learned to fly, he was given the crucial task of teaching others, because he was a teacher. There were long separations — especially when he was overseas, even after war ended.

But eventually Bill and Shirley were reunited and, when they moved to Oakville, joined with other veterans and their families to create our church, meeting at first in Maple Grove School.

They worked really hard to build a Christian community, a community of faith that welcomed children and change.

Out of the separation of war, they committed themselves to building relationships. And they did it in the context of a relationship with God.

We are never abandoned by the Spirit of God

Bill’s life, Shirley’s life — the lives of all who carry on after traumatic loss is a demonstration of the presence of the spirit of God, teaching, guiding, empowering, inspiring. Faith, integrity, love, compassion, patience, steadfastness, gratitude and humility: these are the gifts of the spirit, practiced over a lifetime.

And that is the spirit we too can turn to in times of separation: the Advocate, who walks beside us through our lives, teaches us God’s will, reminds us of Jesus’ way.

Peace comes from a relationship with God’s Spirit

Jesus has a last word for us on this night of his betrayal:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.



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