Finding Unity in a Polarized World


pair-707509_1920 via pixabay

I recently wrote a guest editorial in Christian Courier, an independent Canadian Christian newspaper. I chose to write about biblical starting points towards finding unity in the midst of an increasingly polarized world. Here’s an excerpt from my editorial, “Towards Unity”:

There is no unity without humility. Humility is the first step towards unity and reconciliation because you need to be humble enough to admit that there might be some truth or some goodness in the other party’s position, and that, perhaps, there is the possibility that you might still have some mistaken notion in yours, and that peace and reconciliation for the common good is more important than you having your way. Humility is being willing to lay down your own ambition or pride. It is being willing to not win an argument. It is being willing to not “come out on top.”

You can read the rest here on Christian Courier’s website.

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Cast All Your Anxieties


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My daughter Bethany with her piano awards

(When my daughter Bethany – pictured here – graduated from Grade 8 last year, I was asked to deliver the “Parent’s Speech”. This post was that graduation speech I delivered to my daughter’s graduating Grade 8 class of 2015 for John Knox Christian School, Brampton on June 12, 2015)

 

Text: 1 Peter 5:7-8a

Dear graduating class of 2015,

It is dangerous to ask a pastor, even a campus pastor like myself, to speak. Because you know that I am going to give you a sermon, right? Especially when you give me a bible text! You chose as your class verse, 1 Peter 5:7-8a – “Cast all your anxiety on him because God cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.” (NIV) My thoughts are drawn to verse 7: “Cast all your anxiety on God because God cares for you.”

Let me begin with a question: “What do the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner have in common?” Ok, besides being best-selling novels aimed at young adults that became movies. “What do the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner have in common?” I think all three have the same basic plot when you boil it down: in the future, the grown-ups have created a mess of the world, often despite their best intentions, and it is up to the youth to rise up and save the world. Does that sound like the basic plot in a nutshell? Is that why these novels are so popular among your generation of youth and young adults? Do they touch a chord or a nerve deep inside each of you? Is that a generational anxiety or fear or worry that your generation feels about the future?

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Faith in a Time of Fear


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Public Domain

(Christmas Day Sermon for Kanata Christian Reformed Church Dec. 25, 2015)

Texts: Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:1-20

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Fear in Isaiah’s Judah

Every time I read that passage from Isaiah 9, I can’t help but think of Handel’s Messiah. You know that chorus, right? “For unto us a child is born, unto a son is given, unto us a son is given. For unto us a Child is born ….” And so it goes. And it’s a great song, as is the rest of the Messiah.

And of course, these words, as does the song, express joy, hope and optimism. On their own, out of their context! But when I understood the original context of Isaiah’s words, I see them in a different light. I still see joy and hope but I see them spoken in a context of fear and darkness.

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Becoming a World Changer


My fifth and final teaching video for now, Becoming a World Changer, lists out five major themes for Christians to be a Christ-centred agent of change.

I believe that Christians are called to join in God’s mission to not only “save souls,” so to speak, but also to reconcile “all things” to God, to bring about God’s shalom in the world.

Below the video is a PDF handout for group discussion.

Becoming a World Changer by Shiao Chong

To download an accompanying pdf discussion handouts suitable for a short workshop or a small group, click here: Becoming a World Changer

 

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God’s Big Story and You


My fourth teaching video, God’s Big Story and You, is my attempt at giving a panoramic summary of the Bible’s grand narrative. I am trying to summarize it into a worldview story that can help us make sense of our world, and find meaning and purpose for our lives. And I am using the concept of “shalom” as the lens through which I summarize the bible’s story. May you find it helpful and encouraging.

Below the video is a PDF handout for group discussion.

God’s Big Story and You by Shiao Chong

To download an accompanying pdf discussion handouts suitable for a short workshop or a small group, click here: God’s Big Story and You

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Helping Those Who Suffer


My third teaching video, Helping Those Who Suffer, focus on how, on a personal level, to be alongside people who suffer. I am not dealing here with large-scale questions of how to rid the world of evil and suffering, even though that is an important question to ponder.

But my focus here is narrow, at the level of friends helping friends face adversity or tragedy. Hence, the examples in the video are of that nature.

Below the video is a PDF handout for group discussion.

Helping Those Who Suffer by Shiao Chong

To download an accompanying pdf discussion handouts suitable for a short workshop or a small group, click here: Helping Those Who Suffer

 

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Story-Making as Shalom-Making


(On October 24, 2015, I delivered this keynote address at the Christian Courier Story-maker’s Symposium, celebrating that Christian newspaper’s 70th anniversary. Give and take some spur of the moment revisions and minus introductory remarks and the power point slides, this is the presentation I gave.)

I am going to show a music video as part of my talk today. But before I do that, I am going to read three passages from the Bible. There are well known Bible passages. And then, I will give some background info so that you can appreciate the video better, then show the video. And after that, I will try and tie them all together in my talk, somehow.

Read Genesis 11:1-9; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Proverbs 14:12.

I am going to show you a music video by Sinead O’Connor. Sinead O’Connor, if you don’t know, is an Irish singer, raised Roman Catholic.

Sinead O'Connor By Pymouss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sinead O’Connor
By Pymouss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

There are a couple of things you need to know about her in order to fully appreciate the music video I am about to show you. First is that Sinead became an international music star in 1990 when her hit song Nothing Compares to You hit No. 1 in several countries including the UK and the USA. Nothing Compares to You, which I think is still the song that most people remember Sinead for, is basically a song about a woman lamenting the departure of her lover, as nothing is the same without him in her life because, well, nothing compares to him. Its accompanying music video also became iconic, where the video comprised almost entirely of a close up of Sinead’s face as she sings the song. Remember this iconic close up shot (for the video).

A note about Sinead’s shaven head – she originally shaved it as a protest against traditional views of women, it became her trademark but also became part of her identity. She once said, “I don’t feel like me unless I have my hair shaved. So even when I’m an old lady, I’m going to have it.” [Barkham, Patrick (20 February 2007). “The Bald Truth”.The Guardian (London).]

One other thing that Sinead O’Connor is (in)famous for is her appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, where during her performance, she presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera and ripped the photo to pieces and said, “Fight the real enemy.” Sinead, throughout her career, has, shall we say, a testy relationship with the church? She has often criticized organised religion although she has said before in interviews that she still considers herself a Christian. She is an outspoken feminist and had spoken against child abuse in the church.

That’s what you need to know to more fully appreciate the music video (embedded below). Continue reading

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