Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your
country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will
show you." (Bereshit/Genesis 12:1)
As many of you already know, on Wednesday, October 22, Canada's
capital, Ottawa, where we live, was shaken by a horrific murderous act.
A gunman, in cold blood, shot a ceremonial guard stationed at our
national war memorial. Minutes later he managed to enter the nearby main
Parliament building, where almost all of our elected officials,
including the Prime Minister, were having their weekly party-wide
meetings. Within minutes the gunman himself was killed. At the time, no
one knew if he had been acting alone or if there were others. Was this
part of an organized terrorist attack upon the whole city, the whole
nation? We didn't know. As a precaution the downtown core was
immediately locked down as were other government buildings throughout
the city. For many, the lockdown didn't end until late that night.
Tragedy of this nature is unsettling. How unsettling differs from
person to person, but regardless, how do we make sense of things like
this? Discussions abound on what changes are needed, so that this sort
of thing doesn't happen again. But unless we really know what was behind
this act, how can appropriate safeguards be put in place? Protection
from destructive behavior arising from more personal issues such as
mental illness, for example, requires measures quite different from
those that are due to international terrorism.
Nothing in life happens in absolute isolation. Everybody has a story.
The fact that we all have parents means our individual stories exist
within a larger historical context, whether we are aware of what that is
or not. Moreover, our actions almost always affect more than just other
individuals, as is the case of the Ottawa tragedy in particular. This
was not a meaningless show of violence upon any random bystander in a
generic location. Whatever the gunman's specific motives, which we may
or may not ever determine, he murdered a representative of our country
positioned in a highly symbolic place and gained access to the heart of
our democratic process. Two individuals died in Ottawa, but it was
Canada that was attacked.
In a world that is more and more focused on the individual, one that
claims that life is the result of meaningless random causes and that
values personal desire above most other things, tragedies like this
remind us that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. How we
understand that bigger thing is going to make all the difference in the
way we live our lives.
The ceremonial guard was there because he was part of a story bigger
than himself - a story interrupted by the gunman, who was living
according to a very different story that led him into the halls of
Canadian democracy, armed with a shot gun. Most Canadians grieve the
murder of the guard and are comforted by the taking down of the gunman
because we subscribe to a basic storyline of life. There are others in
our world today who believe a different story, and therefore rejoice
over this attack on our sacred institutions.
In this weeks' parsha (weekly Torah reading portion), Abraham (then
called Abram) was called by God to abandon his family's story and
embrace a different one. There may have been no one left in those days
who understood the world correctly. God ensured that the true story of
what life is really about would not be lost, by calling Abraham away
from his family of origin to live as a foreigner in a strange land. The
result of Abraham's faithful obedience to God was to be that all nations
would be blessed.
The twisted view of life that pervades the world today breeds
destruction. It is only when we, like Abraham, are willing to let go of
our view of life, and embrace God's perspective that we can experience
the blessing promised to Abraham. This begins with recognizing that we
are not the result of random, meaningless forces, but that we are
purposely designed by God in his image to be his representatives in the
world. God's revelation of himself and his ways in the Scriptures
culminating with the coming of the Messiah in the person of Yeshua of
Nazareth fills in all the color and contour we need to live blessed
lives that will in turn bless others.
The better we understand the fullness of God's story, the events of
life - both the joys and the tragedies - can be seen within their proper
framework. Once we regard these things within their correct context, we
can interact with them as we should. This includes accepting the fact
that life is not about me and my needs and wants, but about serving
God's purposes in order to be a blessing within a hurting, needy world.
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible,
English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a
publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All