A Challenging Intersection of Passover, Easter and #CanadaSummerJobs

Don - "Love, Hope, Believe"This Good Friday 2018 I decided to reflect on some events of Holy Week in writing. It’s been a unique Holy Week. Passover and Easter coincide this year. And, it seems our federal government is determined to keep the Canada Summer Jobs story alive, having carried it forward into mid-week, before our Prime Minister tweeted “best wishes” to Christians today.

Here’s our brief Good Friday interaction:

Justin Trudeau @JustinTrudeau : On Good Friday, I send my best wishes to Christians around the world gathering to reflect and pray on the blessings we share. Wishing you a peaceful and meaningful day.

Don Hutchinson @DonH1187 : Praying for you @CanadianPM @JustinTrudeau, even as we seek constitutionally guaranteed equal treatment from your government. It would mean much more to us than ‘best wishes.’ #CanadaSummerJobs #CharterOfRightsAndFreedoms #ReligiousFreedom #EqualityRights #Diversity #inclusion

Of course, it’s not the Prime Minister’s tweet or my reply that brought the story into this week but the announcement made by Minister of Employment Patty Hajdu following her meeting with Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders. The Minister acknowledged there is a problem with the attestation clause, and said she is prepared to review it prior to Canada Summer Jobs 2019.

That’s right. The government recognizes a problem exists today. The list of applicants for 2018 has not been finalized. No decision has been made about grant recipients. But the Minister and Prime Minister are not prepared to take the simple corrective action required now. Maybe next year?

Here was my twitter response to the announcement:

Don Hutchinson @DonH1187 : @PattyHajdu it would be simple enough to modify #CanadaSummerJobs #attestation now and open applications for a ten day period. Kids, refugees, homeless and students aren’t on a “wait ‘til next year” schedule. How about it @CanadianPM @JustinTrudeau ?

It’s not complicated. That said, the Prime Minister and his Minister have said an unequivocal “no” to respecting the religious beliefs of past recipients and potential new applicants, leaving Christian ministries from coast-to-coast-to-coast responsible to determine next steps if they are in this summer of 2018 to serve the children, those with and without disabilities, the financially struggling, those with and without homes, and the students relying on summer employment to help fund their education.

Rather than comment on the dangers of the Church’s dependence on government funding (the risks and cautions are described in chapters 14 and 25 of my book, Under Siege: Religious Freedom and the Church in Canada at 150 (1867–2017)), here are a few words on how we the Church – for the Church is the people who comprise the Body of Christ, not a building or collection of buildings large and small – are called to respond to the needs of … the Church.

First, we pray. We pray intelligently, knowing that there is a need and what that need is. We ask God, with whom prayer is conversation, about our part in responding to that need. He may well encourage us, individually and/or congregationally, to do something in addition to prayer.

That brings me to Passover and Easter. The two also coincided in the year that Jesus was crucified.

The night before the Feast of Passover was to begin was the same night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Before that late night betrayal took place, Jesus made arrangements to partake in what He knew would be a last supper with His closest followers. During the private dinner, Jesus shared with His disciples through example, washing their feet as their Servant, through discourse, communicating what the events that would unfold over the next few days would mean for their future, and in prayer, a prayer for unity among those at the table and for all of us who believe because of the historic record of His life and their testimony. You can read the true story for yourself in the Gospel of John, chapters 13 through 17.

Jesus knew that His prayer for unity was not a call for uniformity, either uniformity within the Body of Christ today – Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant – or with the diverse twelve around the table with Him.

Jesus knew it would only be after His resurrection that His disciples would understand the significance of His example and His heart-to-heart exchange with them.

And, Jesus knew that, in time, we would be the beneficiaries of what was chronicled from that evening.

Without discounting the two great commandments, to love the Lord our God with all we are and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, Jesus added a third for those of us who follow Him.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35, ESV)

The writers of the New Testament extended repeated challenges to us about how to love one another. They did so writing to a Church that had not yet found favour with the government of Rome and was out of favour with the governors of Jerusalem.

We tend to read New Testament comments on “love one another” as applicable to the second command, to love our neighbours as ourselves, when they were recorded as practical application of the third command, to love our brothers and sisters in the Church. The third might even be regarded as instruction on the “love ourselves” part of the second.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:4-13, ESV)

At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. (Romans 15:25-26, ESV)

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, ESV)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:1-3, ESV)

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:27, NLT)

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. … By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:14, 16-18, ESV)

When we consider Jesus’ new commandment, the message of the New Testament authors is compelling for you and me today when Christian ministries that serve other Christians and/or serve people in need find themselves to be in need. Those ministries are part of the Church, as are we. It’s time for us in the Church to assess what we can do to supplant the absent federal funding that was vital to the congregational and para-congregational ministries expressing the heart to serve “kids, refugees, homeless and students [who] aren’t on a “wait ‘til next year” schedule.”