Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: compassion

Book Review: From Far Away

From Far Away, Robert Munsch and Saoussan Askar, Annick Press, 2017.

For a number of years we have heard about the refugee crisis. Or, according to others, the immigrant crisis. We have seen the images of war torn areas that families are seeking refuge from. We have voiced outrage on social media when the most troubling images of children were brought to our attention.

But what about the children? 

From Far Away provides such a perspective. Seven-year-old Saussan Askar writes a letter about leaving her war torn country and what life is like in her new country.

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Comic Review: Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham (Rebirth)

Batman Rebirth CoverBatman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham is written by the former CIA analyst Tom King and illustrated by David Finch. It collects Batman: Rebirth #1 and Batman #1-6.

The Story (aka from the Publisher)

The Caped Crusader has never been stopped. Not by the Joker. Not by Two-Face. Not even by the entire Justice League. But now, in the wake of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH, Batman must face his most challenging foe ever–a hero who wants to save Gotham…from the Batman!

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YouTubevotional: Homeless Vets

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YouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals, click here

Introduction

In high school I remember learning that a high percentage of the homeless in the United States were Gulf War veterans. This shocked, and caused my deacon’s heart to ache. Similarly, my heart would ache win I would hear stories about veterans not getting the best of treatment from the Veterans Affairs. There are so many things that are often overlooked when it comes to our veterans. When we consider the time, the sacrifices, the injuries seen and unseen, they deserve better.

The television show, Beverly Hills, 90210 covered this topic in 1993. One of the characters, Brandon, meets a homeless vet on the beach one summer. The homeless man, Jack, served in the first Gulf War. When he returned home, he found himself homeless. Later in the season, Brandon meets Jack again in the midst of a massive rain storm. Brandon takes the man to a homeless shelter, but Jack is unable to assimilate. In response, Brandon takes Jack to his home to meet his family.

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Keep Me Near the Cross

I had moved some of my cross necklaces that were hanging on the hook where I hang my alb. They were getting tangled up and just becoming a mess. So I took them down to set them aside until I could come up with a better solution.

The day proceeded on. I left work, went home for lunch, got a haircut. All pretty normal things. I had a meeting with a couple getting married this coming summer and needed to take Baby J with me. We loaded up and got to the office about forty-five minutes before the meeting was scheduled.

In a good mood, Baby J explored my office. Playing with the toys that were there only occasionally. At some point, she discovered the crosses I had earlier that day set aside. One cross, a wooden cross I brought back from Costa Rica one year, became her favorite.

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Comic Review: The Flash Vol. 6: Out of Time

The Flash Vol. 6The following may contain spoilers. You have been warned. 

It is the beginning of a new era for the fastest man alive. In this volume, we are introduced to the future Flash who is a broken man. Time and again, his powers have failed him at an enormous cost to himself and the city he loves and has sworn to protect. Future Flash concludes that the his powers are weakening the more he travels through time. In order to remedy this problem, he goes back to the current, present-day time to stop the one event that starts it all.

The story comes from writer Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and artist Brett Booth, collecting The Flash #30-35, The Flash Annual #3, and The Flash: Futures End #1. The main troubling element of this graphic novel is the story in the present. For the most part it isn’t all that interesting. There are pieces that are repetitive, and some things are overly explained. The pattern is established – someone is using weapons from previous villains to enact random acts of violence. Once the act has been committed, the Flash/Barry is the only one who knows that the villain who owned the weapon is not who they are looking for. The investigation continues until he figures out who is behind it all.

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3 Shades of Grace: Sanctifying Grace

3 Shades of GraceYou can read the Introduction here,

or read about Prevenient Grace here,

or read about Justifying Grace here.

“New birth is the beginning of the new life in Christ, a life of growth in holiness. The term Methodists have historically favored to describe growth in holiness is sanctification.” (Ted Campbell, Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials)

The third shade, or movement, of grace according to our United Methodist tradition is sanctifying grace. Sanctification as a word comes the Latin “sanctus,” which means “holy” or “saint.” As such, sanctification can be understood as the process of growth in holiness, as the quote from Ted Campbell above implies.  The United Methodist Book of Discipline puts it this way:

We believe sanctification is the work of God’s grace through the Word and by the Spirit, by which those who have been born again are cleansed from sin in their thoughts, words and acts, and are enabled to live in accordance with God’s will, and to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

To reach entire sanctification is to reach entire perfection in love. As John Wesley would say so often, we are all striving towards perfection. The misunderstanding that sometime occurs is that when we have been born again, life will be a bowl full of joy at all times as we pursue good works of compassion and justice. But, that simply is not the case.

We cannot forget that sanctification is a process in which the born again Christian is cleansed and grows in faith. Growth is an important aspect to sanctification. The Christian we are when we are justified, is not the Christian we will always be. God is at work in our lives constantly. All the time. God’s not done with us yet.

In 1939, when the Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South, and other Methodist Protestant churches united as The Methodist Church, this now historic statement:

Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement cleanest from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but are washed from its pollution, saved from its power, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless.

Just as we are justified by grace through faith alone, we are sanctified by grace through faith. But Wesley was quick to point out that while grace is a gift, we respond to the gift. It is an action followed by a reaction. God acts; humanity responds. “God’s breathing into the soul, and the soul’s breathing back what it first receives from God,” John Wesley wrote in a sermon, “a continual action of God upon the soul, and re-action of the soul upon God.”

This re-action, or response, to God’s gift of grace is when and how growth is possible. And so, we engage in works of piety and works of mercy as we strive towards perfection. Works of piety include Bible study, small groups, prayer, devotional time, worship, and participation in the sacraments. Works of mercy, on the other hand, include feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, giving voice to the voiceless, as well as other acts of compassion and justice.

And because it will not be easy; because it will get messy; because we will still experience pain and suffering, there is grace for this journey. Sanctifying grace is the divine grace by which the process of sanctification takes place within us – making us holy.

A couple of months, our youth group made this short video to communicate the process of sanctification.

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Hotel RwandaRwanda is a tiny country in central Africa. In 1994 millions of people who belonged to the Tutsi tribe were killed by those who belonged to the Hutu tribe in a massive massacre. The film is not a story about the massacre or the genocide. It is, instead, the story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotel manager who risked his own life for 1,200 people by being a good hotel manager. During this genocide, the rest of the world turned its head, looking away, exposing the corporate and systemic sin of so many.

Paul is a quiet man, who is steady in the midst of chaos. He has developed over the years his skills in bribery, flattery, apology, and deception. And these skills come in handy as he cares for a hotel full of strangers.

When the film premiered at Toronto 2004, it was criticized for not being a film about the genocide, an act that in 2004 people were outraged about. Yet, under the direction of Terry George, using the script he co-wrote with Keir Pearson, the film is just right. The film has very potent moments where the reality of genocide moves us. There is the moment when Paul’s wife, a Tutsi, along with other refugees are attacked while in a UN truck. Or the moment when the Hutu army shows up at the hotel’s door demanding the names of all its guests, and Paul is able to distract them long enough to call in a favor. Or the moment when Paul is driving back to the hotel with supplies, and the hotel van drives over bumpy roads. Paul, thinking the driver has gone off the road, makes him stop the van and gets out. The whole road is filled with dead bodies.

The film is Paul’s story about being a hotel manager in midst of genocide, is based on a real story, which is a powerful story of a man who cannot leave behind those who are suffering. Paul, along with his family, are awarded (because that is what it feels like) VISAs to leave the country. As he climbs into the UN truck, he is filled with compassion and in a split second decides to stay at the hotel. And it is a good that he did.

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Everything about Paul is Christ-like. He is compassionate, never thinking twice about taking in refugees. Every action and decision he makes is focused on fulfilling this calling in his life – to care for those whom no one cares for.

Paul: You do not believe you can kill them all?

Colonel: Why not? Why not? We are halfway there already.

The hate seems to be a way of life. It seems so natural. And yet, for Paul, the opposite is true. Love, justice, and compassion is what comes natural. A cameraman, Jack Daglish (Joaquin Phoenix), who is staying at the hotel, meets two young women. One is Hutu and the other is Tutsi. He cannot tell them apart. Neither can Paul. The differences are not a curse, the differences are blessings.

During this season of Lent, let us remember to interrogate our hearts in order to examine how we participate in systemic sin, and strive to be like the hotel manager, welcoming those who are not.

What I Do on Wednesday Nights

For many people, Wednesday night is church night. I don’t spend my Wednesday nights in church, but I spend it where we have church.

Nestled in the a nearby neighborhood, behind a strip mall, are two houses where those with and without disabilities live together. Sheltered by the tall tress on the hillside, this little community seeks to eliminate the stereotype of people with disabilities.

What I Do on Wednesday Nights - L'Arche

http://www.larchebrm.org

Every Wednesday evening, I take some time to sing, ponder, and pray with the L’Arche community in Lynchburg. L’Arche – The Ark – is a community home for intellectually disabled individuals. There are 135 L’Arche communities in 36 countries around the world.

Drawing on the Biblical narrative of Noah and the Ark, L’Arche is the place where those with developmental disabilities go to be safe from the storms of life. In 1964 the Canadian humanitarian Jean Vanier founded L’Arche. He was deeply troubled by the institutionalization of people with developmental disabilities, that too often resulted in isolation and loneliness. He invited two men with disabilities to live in his house and he called it “L’Arche.”

The L’Arche community in Lynchburg has welcomed me to join them on Wednesday nights for their Spiritual Life Night.

We sing a lot. Each of the core members have a favorite song that we try to sing. But we also teach a few new songs every once and awhile. Most recently we had a Christmas Carol Sing-along.

What I Do on Wednesday Nights - L'Arche Worship

We take a few moments to recall a Biblical story and talk about it. Then we each share a joy or a concern. Sometimes I pray, and sometimes the core members take turns praying.

And the night is not complete unless Gordon sings a song.

What I Do on Wednesday Nights - L'Arche - Gordon sings

Some people can’t believe that I do this as often as I do. When I was first asked to consider leading Spiritual Life Night, I’ll admit I wasn’t too sure. But every Wednesday night, when I’m sitting with my friends and singing and praying together, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

I see it as fulfilling my call as an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. The deacon is called to Word, Service, Justice, and Compassion. The image most often used to describe the ministry of the deacon is that of a bridge. The deacon is a bridge between the church and the world. All this happens at L’Arche on Wednesday nights.

There are places in our society where the core members are not treated like adults. They are spoken down to. They are looked passed. L’Arche creates a community where these things do not happen. A community where they are valued and loved. And I have the honor of being a part of this community.

© 2017 Jason C. Stanley

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