An Article for the July 2001 Deep Cove Crier
Having just returned from a life-transforming six-day conference at Trinity Western University http://www.twu.ca/ , I am still unpacking the incredible resources that I have received. With numerous plenary speakers from every continent of our globe, we were stretched again and again to ‘put on our thinking caps’. We can be so unwittingly narrow as Canadians even as we pride ourselves on our breadth and inclusiveness.
The African, Asian, South American, European, and even North American speakers challenged us to enter their worlds with both our heads and our hearts. Linda Tripp of World Vision Canada shared one story after another of unnecessary tragedies around the world that break the heart of God. Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon reminded us of the tremendous suffering that many endure in North Nigeria when they dare to stand up for what they believe. With over fifteen million people attending the Anglican Church each Sunday, the Nigerian Anglican Church is the largest in the world. Despite unspeakable suffering, the Nigerians show remarkable courage and perseverance. Bishop Josiah commented frankly that he may well be dead within the next few weeks.
Trinity Western University, where we stayed, has been in the news a lot recently over the Canadian Supreme Court decision, vindicating by an 8-to-1 majority the right of TWU to stand for historic moral values. Six days of staying on campus gave me the chance to appreciate what a beautiful campus that TWU has in Langley BC. The lush greenery and the intimate, well-designed facilities lent to a relaxing and peaceful week. Even the food services there were top notch, with tasty variety day after day. I strongly commend TWU for any group thinking of booking a conference in the Greater Vancouver BC area.
With almost 700 participants from every corner of Canada, I was reminded again what an awesome country that we live in. Canadians at their best can be very friendly, gracious and welcoming. I was reminded how much better off we are as BCers in being part of a bigger picture. We need Newfoundlanders, Maritimers, Quebecois, Ontaritonians, Prairiites, Albertans, Northerners, to stretch us and remind us that family matters. We as BCers do not have a corner on wisdom or even on frustration. Canada is an amazing gift of God for which we rarely say ‘thank you’.
The theme of the six-day ‘Essentials 2001’ TWU conference was ‘Lift High the Cross’. With 1000 present for our open gathering, I was deeply uplifted and encouraged that spirituality and family still matter to so many Canadians. It is too easy to get lost in disagreements about non-essentials and miss the basic issues of life. Essentials 2001 http://www.anglicanessentials.org/ess2001.html reminded me that as we focus on Jesus love and sacrifice on the cross, then everything else comes back into focus. When we get lost in issues, everything else blurs. I was reminded afresh how much Jesus really loves me. I was reminded of Jesus’ amazing love for Canada. But most important I was reminded of Jesus’ incredible love for the nations of the world, from every racial and linguistic background. That realization is what filled me with such a deep joy during those six days at TWU.
Despite being raised in church, being baptized and confirmed, attending Sunday School and youth group, I had very little understanding of what it meant to ‘lift high the Cross’. I just didn’t get it. I felt sorry for the crucified Jesus, as I had a soft spot for him. But in no sense was I thankful or appreciative of what he accomplished for me at Calvary. I had no idea that his death somehow would cleanse me from guilt, shame and fear. I had no idea that he mysteriously took my place on that tree. I had no idea that the tree of misery would become the tree of life and hope. The cross to me was a scandal, a foolish mistake.
Like many Canadians, I am well versed in switching subjects when I feel uncomfortable. Bloody crosses made me feel uncomfortable. Good Friday made me feel uncomfortable. Facing my sins made me feel uncomfortable. I had no idea, despite years in church, that my sins drove Jesus to the cross, that my sins weren’t just minor mistakes but actually acts of rebellion against a holy and loving Father. My prayer for those reading this article is that we may overcome our natural avoidance of the cross and glimpse at the incredible forgiving love seen in the crucified and risen Christ.
The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Anglican Church
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St. Simon's Anglican Church
North Vancouver, B.C.