Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Christ the Gate

I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

–John 10:9-10


When I hear the word ‘gatekeeper’, I tend to think of someone in a privileged, oftentimes undeserved position who from that perch may prevent deserving people from accessing certain goods to which they would otherwise be entitled. Indeed, the Cambridge Dictionary defines gatekeeping as “the activity of trying to control who gets particular resources, power, or opportunities, and who does not.”

Does Jesus Messiah claim to be this kind of power broker in John 10? I don’t hear his message that way. Jesus tells his audience that “the one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep,” and then proceeds in verse 3 to claim that “the gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice.” One might naturally conclude from this verse that Jesus does in fact claim the gatekeeper’s role, granting entry to the shepherd while barring the “thief and bandit” mentioned in verse 1.

Yet Jesus does not claim to be the gatekeeper in John 10, but rather the gate itself. That is a crucial difference. Moreover, the passage opens by telling us that the thief avoids the gate entirely, and instead “climbs in by another way” (vs. 1). It seems, then, that the gatekeeper’s job is rather easy, because only shepherds approach the gate, almost as if they are the only ones who know it is there or can recognize it for the peculiar entrance it in fact is. There is not much the gatekeeper can do, at any rate, to prevent the thief from breaking in at a different spot.

So, what of the gate itself, the gate that Jesus claims to be? What does this gate open onto? In verse 7, Jesus tells us that this gate, the gate he himself is, is for the sheep: “Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” Do we not spy true freedom here in this wonderful idea of “coming in and going out” to find pasture? While the thief only comes “to steal and kill and destroy,” Christ the gate opens instead onto the abundant life of the nurturing field (vs. 10).

How often do we pass by this gate without noticing it, I wonder, in the expectation of instead coming across a grand entrance to some great “gated community,” one designed as much to keep people out as to hem them in? Can such a checkpoint really be Christ the gate? What if instead this grand entrance is where the thief once broke in, and thus leads to the opposite of the abundant life Jesus promises?

Verse 8 tells us that the sheep can perceive and ignore the seductive messaging of all life’s thieves and bandits. The abundant life Jesus promises does not lie along that way. How do we know? Well, do the thieves and bandits lay down their lives for the sheep they hope to attract and control? Does trusting their promises lead to abundant life? We need to ask ourselves some tough questions here and as we do, strive to embrace the love that does in fact lay down its life for others (vs. 11, 15).


***

For the first time on this well-trodden path, I stop and notice the wind-worn, overgrown garden gate off to the side, where it swings freely on its aged hinges. With the slightest squeak, it beckons me to cross its threshold.

Shalom, friends!

Ron Kuipers

Prayer Letter: May 2023

Monday, May 1 - Friday, May 5:


The month of May is always a time full of activity, and this year is no exception. We got off to a busy start this month with Junior Members wrapping up research and writing projects, Senior Members turning to grading and preparing for their own summer research and writing plans, and staff attending to the mailings, meetings, and event preparations that come along with the end of the school year. Please join us in giving thanks for another year full of rich learning opportunities, and in prayer that everyone may continue to find wellsprings of energy for their various tasks.

On Saturday, May 6th, we had the opportunity to celebrate the labor of love that is Jim Olthuis’ latest book: Dancing in the Wild Spaces of Love: A Theopoetics of Gift and Call, Risk and Promise. There was a rich web of relationships on display at this event, in those who contributed as panelists (Drs. John Caputo, Ruthanne Crapo-Kim, Dean Dettloff, Jeffrey Dudiak, and Brian Walsh) and those who attended online and in person. We are thankful for the gift of everyone’s presence at and contributions to this event. Please also join us in giving thanks for the gift of Jim’s scholarship, of which this publication is the latest example.


Monday, May 8 - Friday, May 12:


On May 7-9, the CPRSE participated in the Our Whole Society Conference in Waterloo, ON. First, join us in prayers of thanksgiving for the successful grant application the CPRSE submitted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for the purposes of this conference! Second, please also join us in giving thanks for Ron Kuipers and H├ęctor Acero Ferrer’s efforts over the course of these three days as they helped facilitate panels, cohosted discussions, and participated with colleagues at other institutions in challenging discussions about polarization.

We are so grateful to have had the chance to host the theologian Miroslav Volf on Tuesday, May 9th, along with our colleagues at Regis College at the Toronto School of Theology. Professor Volf graciously shared some of his insights into what it means to think of the world as the home of God, and the implications of that image for our own practices of home-making and hospitality in the world. We would like to thank Professor Volf for spending some time with our communities, and to thank everyone who attended this event in person and online and participated in the conversation.

On Thursday, May 11, Senior Member Bob Sweetman is presenting a talk at the Kuyper Conference taking place at Redeemer University in Ancaster, ON. This year’s conference theme is Kuyper and Kintsugi: Public Theology for Repair, Reconciliation, and Restoration, and the title of Bob’s paper is “Public Friendship, Modern ‘Ingratitude’, and the Promise of a Beautiful Joining.” Pray with us that Bob’s presentation, as well as the other conference presentations and events, will foster rich and edifying discussions among conference participants. 


Monday, May 15 - Friday, May 19:


Please pray this month for the instructors and students in our online Spring-Summer 2023 courses as they prepare for their time of study together. Two of these courses have already started, but others start in June and July: The Soul of Soulless Conditions (Dean Dettloff), and State, Society, and Religion in Hegel’s Philosophy (Andrew Tebbutt). There’s still time to apply to these two courses, so email Elizabet Aras at academic-registrar@icscanada.edu if you’d like to learn how to join! As the time approaches, please also pray with us for fruitful discussions among course participants during the time they spend together.

ART in Orvieto 2023 will also begin July 9th, and in the meantime program participants and ICS staff alike continue to prepare for their travels and 3 weeks of study in Orvieto, Italy. Please pray for these participants as they finalize their plans over the next few weeks, as well as for program Director Rebekah Smick and workshop leaders David Holt and John Terpstra as they fine-tune their teaching plans and prepare to foster a community of artists, writers, teachers, and students eager to explore the intersection of their creative and faith practices amid the rich artistic history of Orvieto.


Monday, May 22 - Friday, May 26:


This is an eventful week at ICS as we host our annual Senate and Board meetings, a public panel discussion, and this year’s Convocation celebration. Please keep in your prayers this week the ICS Board, Senate, staff, Senior Members, and Junior Members as many travel into Toronto and prepare for meetings and festivities alike:

  • Thursday, May 25: The ICS Senate meets today to discuss academic strategy, course planning, and other matters related to learning at ICS. Please pray for Academic Dean Gideon Strauss, Senate Chair Pamela Beattie, and Academic Registrar Elizabet Aras as they lead and prepare various aspects of this meeting as well as facilitate conversation among the Senate. Please pray as well for each of our Senators as they graciously give of their time and expertise toward stewarding the academic programming of ICS.

  • Friday, May 26th: Much of today will be spent celebrating the gifts and legacy of our dear colleague and mentor Bob Sweetman on the occasion of his retirement. At 2-4pm in the afternoon at Regis College, we will be hosting a public panel on the impact of Bob’s work on the idea and practices of Christian scholarship. Please pray for the panelists, attendees, and Bob himself, that everyone may enjoy a time of rich discussion. Note: this is a hybrid event and open to the public, so please email dyett@icscanada.edu if you’d like to attend in person or online.

  • Friday, May 26th: In the evening, starting around 6:30pm, we will be hosting the annual Convocation of this year’s graduands: Ahmad Banki (MWS), Colin Hoving (MA-EL), Sara Flokstra (MA-EL), Justin Cook (MA), and Nancy Schwarz (MWS). The ceremony will feature the conferral of degrees on these Junior Members, as well as the investiture of Pamela Beattie as ICS Chancellor, and an address by Bob Sweetman. A reception will follow. Please pray that all the details of this event might come together quickly and smoothly and that it will be a joyful celebration for all. Note: this event will be in person and also livestreamed on Youtube. You can find out more here.

  • Saturday, May 27th: Today, the Board of Trustees will meet to discuss matters of financial and strategic governance at ICS at their annual meeting. Many trustees will be travelling into town for this meeting, so we pray for safety in their travels. Please also pray for President Ron Kuipers and Board Chair Marci Frederick as they lead discussions among the Board, Harley Dekker and the Finance Committee as they do the detailed work of preparing budgets, reports, and projections; as well as for each of our Trustees, that their deliberations may be guided by wisdom and discernment. We are grateful for the time and energy that each of our Board members gives in service of ICS.

Monday, May 29 - Wednesday, May 31:


On Monday, May 29, ICS Junior Member Jimmy Ronald will be attending the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Philosophical Association (May 29-June 1, York University, Toronto). Dr. Joshua Harris, ICS alum and current professor at The King’s University in Edmonton, and Jimmy co-wrote a paper titled "A Way of Seeing Ways of Being: Building a Case for Ontological Pluralism," and it has been accepted to be presented at the conference. Please pray for safe travels and encouraging conversations for Jimmy as he comes to Toronto to present this paper.

Please join us in prayer as we near the end of our fiscal year, that we might receive a strong response to our annual spring appeal.
 If you haven’t yet responded to the appeal, don’t forget to! The mailing includes a copy of the latest issue of Perspective featuring reflections of gratitude from students and colleagues of Bob Sweetman (now also available online). The issue presents example after example of the kind of care-filled and Gospel-guided education that makes ICS what it is. We continue to be grateful every day for Bob's presence in our community as well as for our supporters’ faithful giving and the ways you help us spread the word about the gift of an ICS education. Thank you!


Convocation 2023 Livestream & How to Attend


On May 26th, the ICS community will gather to celebrate our annual Convocation. This year's ceremony will include the granting of degrees to our Junior Members, the investiture of Dr. Pamela Beattie as ICS Chancellor, and the delivery of the Convocation Address by Dr. Robert Sweetman on the occasion of his retirement as ICS Senior Member. 

Convocation will begin by 6:30pm EDT on May 26. The event is taking place in person in Toronto, but will also be available to livestream. If you'd like to join the livestream, you can watch the whole ceremony in real time on our YouTube channel at: youtube.com/watch?v=J6M_9C7Nu0I.

We hope you will be able to join us either virtually or in person for this special night celebrating the accomplishments of our Junior Members and the scholarly legacy of Bob Sweetman.

Join the Livestream!


Want to attend in person? Please email Danielle at dyett@icscanada.edu to let us know that you would like to attend this event in person and we'll send you more details. Feel free to also email if you have any questions about how to join online. 


CPJ Celebrates 60 Years

Our colleagues at Citizens for Public Justice are celebrating 60 years of being “inspired by faith to act for justice,” and you are invited to join the anniversary celebration!
  • When: Thursday, June 1, 7:30pm - 9:00pm (EDT)
  • Where: Holy Trinity TO, #19 Trinity Square, Toronto, ON (beside the Eaton Centre) & virtually via Zoom
Hear from current and former staff, Board members, and partners as CPJ reflects on the theme of intergenerational advocacy. Let’s celebrate the ways the folks at CPJ have effected change and how we, ourselves, can be changed to build a more just and sustainable society.
 
Please click this link for more details and to register (in-person & virtual).

Rental Space Available at Holy Trinity

The folks at Holy Trinity Church, located at Dundas and Bay in Toronto, would like to let the ICS community know about the availability of their space for events, meetings, and other gatherings.

Holy Trinity offers a unique and charming meeting and event space for smaller gatherings or for up to 420 people, for a one-time occasion or a longer term rental. The church has hosted receptions, conferences, banquets, arts events, fundraisers, and, due to having excellent acoustics, concerts and recording sessions. Separate office space is also available. Rental rates are highly favourable, designed to support charitable and not-for-profit organizations, in addition to community organizations and individuals.

For more information, visit holytrinity.to, or to enquire or arrange a site visit, please email ht@holytrinity.to or call 416-598-4521, ext. 222