Saturday, August 11, 2012

Be Not Afraid

An Open Letter to Cole Michael Sywulych and Isla Kerstin Sywulych

To here an audio recording of this Letter as read at the 10.00 a.m. eucharist please click here.

12 August 2012

Dear Cole and Isla,

            Today you are being baptized and will begin what I hope will be an exciting and joy-filled life as a member of the Christian community.  I am writing this letter in the hopes that some years from now, probably after I have retired, you will know something about the people who believe that Jesus of Nazareth shows us how to be truly alive and how God helps us to become the people that we are created to be.

            So I want to tell you why I am a Christian.  There are many other ways of following God in the world and I think that they each offer us a way of understanding who God is and what God expects of us.  But I am a Christian and today your parents have chosen to bring you here so that you can begin your life by following this path to know and love God and to become a wonderful sign of God’s love to other people.

            It is very important for me to tell you why I am Christian because of something that happened on this past Thursday morning.  I was walking down Broadway towards the office of one of my doctors for an appointment.  A man passed by me on my right and, as he passed me, he handed me a little slip of paper, about the size of a business card.  He never said a word to me, just handed me this piece of paper.

            I won’t tell you exactly what was written on the paper; it’s not that important for you to know right now.  What I can tell you is that the man thought of himself as a Christian and that what was written on the paper goes against everything I believe Jesus taught us and against everything I believe about who God is and what God expect of us.  So I thought it was important on this day, this special day for you, to tell you what I believe and what I believe is the heart of the Christian story.

I believe that God created us in love and for love.

            Cole and Isla, there are many Christians who spend most of their lives afraid of God.  They think that God is angry with us and that God tries to find every reason to condemn us.  They try to make other people afraid, and they hope that by making other people afraid those people will choose to follow the way of Jesus.  It’s a strange way of sharing our faith, but, I’m sad to say, it seems to work from time to time.

            But this is not what I believe about the God who created the universe, who gave us the knowledge to travel millions of kilometers to other planets and who brings forth life in all its diversity.  The God I know and the God in whom I believe created us because God loves.  When you love someone, you do not want them to be afraid of you.  You want them to know everything about you and you want to know everything about the one you love.  You do everything you can to help the other person grow up and become the best person he or she can be. 

            This is why God created the universe; so that we might love and be loved.  Only then can we all fulfill our potential.

I believe that God does not like the walls we build that separate us from God and from each other.

            The truth is, Cole and Isla, that we are not perfect.  We may try hard to love, but we all make mistakes and sometimes make bad decisions.  Sometimes we make too much of how we are different from other people and make the mistake of thinking that our differences make us better than others.  Sometimes we become selfish and forget to care for other people.  We begin to think that we are the centre of the universe.

            When these things happen, we build walls.  We think that these walls will protect us and keep others out, but all they do is make our world smaller and smaller.  As our worlds become smaller, we become less and less human.

            This has happened so many times in the history of the world that God has tried many times to show us how to live with one another.  One of those ways is the way of Jesus of Nazareth.  I follow the way of Jesus because I find it the best way I know to break down the walls we build and to build bridges to connect me with other people whose way of thinking may be different from mine.  I follow the way of Jesus because I find it the best way I know to learn who God is and what God wants me to do in my life.

I believe that God speaks to us every day in many and different ways.

            There are people who think that the only way God speaks to us is through the words of the Bible.  I believe that God does speak to us through the Bible, but the meaning of the words are not always clear.  These words were written by people who loved God many long years ago and we have to use many tools to understand what these words mean to us now.

            But the Bible is not the only way God speaks to us.  God speaks to us when scientists make new discoveries about the universe, our earth and living things.  God speaks to us when a friend says the word we have needed to hear.  God speaks to us when people who have been fighting one another or who have not trusted one another find a way to stop fighting and to trust one another.  God speaks to us in literature and movies and music.  What I find hard to believe is how many people there are who believe that God is not speaking to us!

I believe that God wants us to be part of something big.

            Cole and Isla, today you will baptized and become a member of something big.  It’s called the Church.  The Church is a special group of people who believe, like I believe, that God created us in love and for love, that God does not like the walls we build to separate ourselves from God and from each other and that God speaks to us every day in many and different ways. 

            Some people believe that ‘church-people’ only care about buildings and love to fight about all sorts of things.  It’s true that we do care about our buildings and that we do fight about all sorts of things.  But the most important thing we do is to come together and to work together to share in the great work that God is doing in the world.  The ‘big something’ God is doing right now and throughout all time is finding people who will help God take care of the world, help people live together in peace and give shelter and food to those who have none.

            Almost sixty years ago my mother and father brought me to be baptized.  I was only three months old then, but I am still here today.  I am here because I want to be part of what God is doing in the world.  I want to share the good news of God’s love shown to us in creation, God’s love shown to us in Jesus, God’s love shown to us every day.

            I hope that you will read these words one day.  I hope that when you read them you will understand a little bit of what I have written.  I hope that you will be discovering God’s love in every moment of your lives.  I hope that you will be doing your own part in God’s ‘big something’.

In Christ’s love,

Richard +

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