Like many other churches across Calgary, Knox United Church was packed on Sunday for Easter service.
Easter is a day that marks Jesus Christ rising from the dead, a foundation of Christian faith. But this year’s Easter sermon at Knox United was delivered by non-Christian Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
“As a Muslim man speaking here on Easter, I am super nervous,” Nenshi said about giving his first Easter Sunday sermon.
During Lent, Knox United Church invited leaders from other faith communities to learn more about what followers have in common.
“We live in a time where rhetoric divides us right now. We are trying to reverse that,” Rev. Greg Glatz, a Knox United Church minister, said.
According to Reverend Dave Holmes, the theme has been praying with neighbours.
“Part of the intent has been to see that people of other religions are not our competitors or our enemies, they are our neighbors and in many cases – our partners,” Rev. Holmes said.
The message on Sunday was how the story of the resurrection can be applied to many people who are struggling in Calgary today, whether it be through job loss or addictions.
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“I think what happened in that Christian story applies to all of life. I think it’s a reminder, especially to the people who feel they have failed. You’ve got another chance, that’s what this day is about,” Rev. Glatz said.
Mayor Nenshi told the crowd that the world needs people of faith now more than ever.
He warned never to mistake compassion for weakness, targeting those who use the word “snowflake” to insult people who speak out for kindness.
“It’s become almost fashionable in this cold, hard world that we find ourselves in to denigrate those of us who speak out for compassion, kindness, mercy and love. Sometimes they say those of us who speak up for these things are somehow weak. Sometimes they call us fragile snowflakes. You know what? I run the snow removal system here in Calgary. And one thing that I know for sure is that enough fragile snowflakes put together is the most powerful force in the world,” Nenshi said to a round of applause.
Those speaking from the pulpit reminded people in attendance that it is not enough to think about compassion or about second chances at Easter, but rather to do something to help ourselves and each other.
“We must take action to heal our community and action to make our community stronger. Action that brings us together,” Nenshi said.
“Don’t ever give up, don’t ever quit, don’t ever give up hope. That is a really important thing. It’s so easy to go, ‘it’s over there is no hope.’ Throw that away and let the grace come and keep looking for a new start,” Rev. Glatz said.