April 29, 2018

The Toronto van attack this week has been at the front of my mind, as I read and pondered the readings for today through the week. What could lead a young man to immerse himself in a community of hatred on the internet, and then act out such destructive rage?

I was emailing my son Ben, and referred to the attack, and his response was that he wished he could spend time with Minassian, and listen to him until he could understand the pain, anger and alienation that fuelled him. Ben’s philosophy, as you’ve heard me say before, is that the whole world is one family, so by extension even a killer is his brother.

Is that a hopelessly idealistic philosophy?

As I pondered the readings for today I could clearly see that it’s in fact an essential part of the gospel: that we are all brothers and sisters, and we are to love and care for one another.

  • The epistle reading says, “God is love…. Abide in love…. Love one another.”
  • In the gospel Jesus uses the image of the vine: that we are to live together in Christ, interdependent on him and on one another.

The juxtaposition of the readings and the news raises thoughts for us about the communities we choose to live in, and the lenses they give us through which to see the world. Are they communities that nurture resentment and hatred and violence, or are they communities that nurture care and love and healing?

Alienation from communities of love and care can lead to death, metaphorical or actual, like a branch that’s broken off from the vine and withers and dies. So that raises in turn the question of who we exclude, cut off, avoid, or worse? Do we unconsciously or consciously turn away from people who aren’t like us, who make us uneasy, who don’t share our views, who are too needy? Or are we as a Christian community always seeking to be inclusive, welcoming, healing?

Living and growing in community isn’t easy.

Being intentionally inclusive isn’t easy.

Being pruned is painful, as we gradually shed habits of the culture to become more like Jesus and the kingdom of heaven.

But the Christian community is clearly meant to be a school of love – and it gives us lots of practice!

St Aidan’s is a small part of the vine of Christ, producing not a great champagne grape but a humble vintage. But I believe we’re authentic, growing in faith and practice together. It’s a place that’s trying to be a loving community, reaching out beyond itself to brothers and sisters.

I saw that recently in the responses of some of the people from here who have been to Nicaragua, reaching out to the friends we made there to support them during a difficult time in their country’s political life

Back to Ben (if you will indulge me): he was shaped by growing up in a Christian community that was not unlike St Aidan’s. He told me yesterday that he and Prashant had just paid the annual school fees for a young boy in the community where they’ve been working for the last six months. Ravi is about 11 years old, and approached them with suspicion when they first arrived in his town, but they gradually befriended him and got him involved in some community building activities and leadership. When I said, “But Ben, you don’t have enough spare money to pay for Ravi’s school fees,” he replied, “Mum, Ravi’s like our little brother. How could we not help him get through school?”

We are each other’s brothers and sisters, and as Christians we’re joined together in the vine of Christ with all those God loves: which is the whole world. So may we together follow the way of Jesus, by living in love with our brothers and sisters; by creating communities of love; by seeing through the lens of love, and by working and praying so that no-one is left behind or shut out. Amen.