Nothing in life happens in absolute isolation.


Lekh Lekha
For the week of November 1, 2014 / 8 Heshvan 5775
Torah: Bereshit/Genesis 12:1-17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16

Everything's a Story

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)

Everything's a story

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 rights reserved.

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