Here we are again… close to the cusp of ending a year and beginning a new one, and I am filled with a sense of gratitude as I “remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given…” (1 Chronicles 16:8, 12).
It is an incredible gift to be able to carry on with our marketplace ministry in Toronto. Today we received news from City of Toronto-Facilities of our continued access to meeting space and office support for the coming years. We are extremely grateful to Councillor Justin Di Ciano and his staff for facilitating arrangements on our behalf.
Each of the past 2 years has been an exciting one for us at Called to the Marketplace. This year is no exception. For our group studies on God’s Word and God’s World, we placed greater emphasis on developing a more public faith–learning to build relationships and to share our faith in a secular culture. We continue to be both stirred and challenged by what it means to be in, for, and with the world while not being of the world. We wrestle with the same questions that troubled Dietrich Bonhoeffer while in prison, “How do we talk about God… [or] speak in a “worldly” way about God?”
Interestingly, I am told that the most viewed blog post was last year’s piece on “You are Salt, You are Light (Part 1),” followed by “Engaging a Pluralistic World (Part 1).” It is telling, as again, both of these are on a public faith. ‘How to best comprehend and engage our workplace with God’s Word and contribute to shalom’ appears to be the concern that unsettles many, and nudges us for a response. It’s not really new, but all signs indicate it will endure for a while. My view is that the nature of Christian engagement that our culture needs is one that embraces the world as it presents itself to us (a secular and pluralistic one), recognizes the inexhaustible possibilities it offers, appreciates its intrinsic value and, with boldness and creativity, interacts but never imposes. It is filled with the knowledge that in all its affairs–in politics, education, the arts, manufacturing, social services, information technology, medicine, and other fields–Christ through the Holy Spirit, is actively present. (I hope to share more on this in the near future, and to hear your thoughts.)
In addition to regular Bible studies, we introduced small talks on culture engagement that included both the workplace and the surrounding world. Not surprisingly, given a religiously diverse society, there has been expressed interest in interfaith dialogue. We will follow up on this and other requests.
For the first time we held a 3-part study on ‘humanizing the workplace’ that is founded on a covenantal relationship with Christ. We felt it important to first clarify what it means to be a human being created in God’s image before addressing issues on human dignity and human rights. The topic generated significant interest, and wasn’t too surprised that the term ‘human’ or ‘humanizing’ raised a few eyebrows (read on).
Not all concerns around a humanistic approach are misplaced, given reports of a growing number of humanist groups emerging from the atheist camp. Can you imagine what community fellowships might be like when God is reduced to a metaphor or, they think, shoved aside? Best I could think of is a ‘baalized’ gathering where they bow to a Baal, or some other god (the self?). That is the kind of ‘humanizing’ that we should rightly be concerned about.
Then I recall our study on Job. No wonder, Job was aching for a mediator (Job 9:33-35). To a man of righteousness and integrity, the wisdom offered by his friends failed to ‘make the cut’; their sharpest arguments could not ‘bridge heaven and earth’. Evil and suffering can only be ‘explained away’. But we know Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15); “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (Hebrews 2:5). We have much to tell others–the ‘Jobs’ of this world–about him.
“Who stands fast?” asks Bonhoeffer. Who is steadfast in a multi-differentiated world, in a culture steeped in insecurity and uncertainty?
Only the person whose final standard is not his or her reason, principles, conscience, freedom, or virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when s/he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God—the responsible person who tries to make his/her whole life an answer to the question and call of God” (my paraphrase).
Friends, I look forward to more opportunities to learn with you about many of these things, to share in the grace of the Triune God, to grow more and more in love (and awe) of him, and to love our neighbour deeply, with hearts that are inclined toward the vulnerable.
On behalf of Todd Riley, Carl Friesen, and everyone involved with Called to the Marketplace, I would like to thank you for your participation, support and encouragement this past year. We wish you and those you hold dear, a new year filled with hope and the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Augsburg Fortress, 2009), 404.
 Ibid., 405