From the Desktop of the Pastor – week of the 7th Sunday after Epiphany

Hi all,

So we were finally able to have my family’s open house (as in, inviting the congregation over for lunch, not selling our house) which was in conjunction with our annual Chinese New Year celebration.  While we were snowed out of having it at our home, we were able to bring the food to the church and hang out here, which isn’t the same, but we still had time to eat and fellowship and (sort of) celebrate Chinese New Year together.

And in case some of you haven’t noticed, I’m of Chinese heritage.  Some of our conversation around the table I was sitting at for lunch revolved around my being born in Canada of Chinese immigrant parents.  I still think about that from time to time, and mostly to keep myself in check and not parent my kids the way my parents parented me.  In that, my parents were very “Chinese” when it came to parenting and the seemingly impossible expectations put on a child.

My dad was a bit (actually a lot) more strict than my mom, and he was the kind of dad that expected my siblings and me to get straight A’s.  That wasn’t a problem for my siblings as they were all pretty smart and hung out with other smart people which helped in their studies.  It was a bit harder for me, however.  Not that I wasn’t smart like my siblings (I have an IQ of a hundred something, I’ll have you know), but it was just that I was pretty lazy.  And not to mention that my friends were more concerned about being cool than getting good grades (ironically they all received better grades than I did).

So as I grew up, it felt like my dad was much more strict with me than my siblings.  I wasn’t allowed to go out as much because I needed the extra time to study (time which I promptly and diligently spent reading comic books).  I wasn’t allowed to watch tv or play video games as much (but oddly enough I was allowed to have a tv in my room).  I most certainly wasn’t allowed to have my own car (but I guess that was my fault for spending all the money I ever made on fast food and toys).

I admit that I resented my dad for the extra rules he put on me, until my mom told me that this was the only way my dad could express his love for me, and how he was trying to protect me from growing up to be like those no-good ruffians that I hung out with (and he apparently had his own group of ruffian friends that ended up not so good).

I didn’t believe her one bit.  Well, not until I had kids of my own and I started to realise how strict I can be with them…

Next week’s readings are:
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
Psalm 119:33-40
I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

I read these texts and my childhood flashes before my eyes.  “You shall be holy” and “Be perfect”.  Yup, totally things my dad would have said to me when I was a kid.  And it’s hard to hear this, because while your childhoods would be vastly different from mine and each other’s, I think it’s pretty safe to say that none of us were perfect growing up, and we mostly certainly can say that we weren’t holy.

So what’s going on here?  Are we just being treated more strictly because we’re lazy and apparently hang out with the wrong crowd?  Or is God just expecting this of us because God has no other way of showing us that God loves us?

Well, I don’t think that it’s any of these.  Rather, I believe that God isn’t even expecting us to be holy and perfect, but God is telling us that we just will be holy and perfect.

Now how on earth does that make sense?

The thing is my parents wanted what was best for my siblings and me, so they put a bunch of rules in front of us and laid out expectations because that is all they really knew what to do.  But even if I would fail them (and if we’re honest, I totally did on multiple occasions), I have no doubt in my mind that my parents would still love me.  They love me, so they gave me rules.  Just because I can’t follow those rules doesn’t change that love that they already had for me (because I’m their offspring and they’re stuck with what they got).

This is (sort of) the same way with God.  God loves us first and foremost.  And in that love we are made to be holy.  In God’s love we are seen as perfect.  Because God is love, then so we can also love and be loved.

So I don’t think that these are commandments that God gives us as much as they are promises of what God will make us to be and regard us as.  By God’s loving grace we aren’t perfect per se, but we are brought into perfection through forgiveness and God’s redemption.  We aren’t exactly holy, but we are made holy by God’s unending mercy.  We may not be all that loveable, but God loves us anyway.

Thanks be to God!  For God is awesome and goes to great lengths to remind us that we’re awesome too!

Have a great week everyone!

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