Archive for the ‘Brunch & Bible’ Category


When one traces the history of Christianities through the Creeds, statements of faith, liturgical styles, and Biblical Canons what is seen is different communities attempts to assert themselves as “the one true path”. Not realizing the beauty of the forest that was fed by the one river within the community traditions birthed by the life, teachings, death, and new life of Brother Jesus.

The Johannine community writings are such writings. They are the “Gnostic” portion of the Canon decided under Constantine. More likely added because they brought the mystic more fully to the forefront of the Christian Testament, but also because it allowed for the more mystery faith communities to still remain as part of the new Empire Religion, and older mystery religions to easily assimilate.  These writings are Gospel of John, 1-3 John, and Revelation.

The Last book of the Christian Testament is one of the most controversial, even from early Canon setting. Revelation (of St. John). Read it, it is like a religious acid trip. No other word to describe it. It has been used to speak of the end of  the world, fueled an understanding that apocalyptic writings meant that, and has been used as a text of control. When in fact, it is a text that has survived many occasions to be exorcised from the Bible by those using religion to control the people. Why does it matter? In the 7 letters to the 7 churches, it is the story of sedition (treason) and shattering the established oppressive Empire that states those that are “persons” and those that are not. The language was apocalyptic and mythological to hide the under current so as not to increase the genocide of Christians and other monotheists of the time by Roman authorities.

Spiritual Practice:  After reading Revelation, spend time writing a revelation letter to your own religious community. What form and images would it take? what changes would be called for?

2 & 3 John are later letters, that illustrate a bit more of a structured church with bishops/presbyters. But still show us a community struggling with concepts of reconciliation and belonging.

1 John is a commentary. Yes you read that right. It is the commentary on the Gospel of John bluntly putting forward what a community of Love and belonging is.

The Gospel of John. As noted, the Gnostic gospel. Written for a very metaphysical audience as noted with the opening lines of creation not speaking of the physical, but of the light being birthed into the darkness. Echoing the creation narrative, but showing the inward light shining outwards. As a community of belonging is laid out through stories, teachings and miracles, it is shown how the darkness will brutally try to shatter authentic belonging through love. The 2003 movie Gospel of John is available free online, a DVD copy has each chapter of the DVD aligned with the Gospel chapters and is quite useful for group exploration and discussion. For scholarly read of the Gospel of John I point you to the Roman Catholic theologian Raymond Brown, no one is better.

The central theme of all of Johannine writings are summed up in the simple new command, better described as a gift:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

-Gospel of John 13:34, New Living Translation

The great mystery teaching of all time.

L-O-V-E.

Out of that belonging. It is scary enough the world will try to destroy those that live it.

Will you live LOVE today?

 

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Captain Jonathan Archer These people you’re fighting – what makes them heretics?

Yarrick We believe the Makers created the Chosen Realm in nine days. They believe it took ten.

Captain Jonathan Archer [scoffs]  For that you’ve been at war for over a century?

 -(Star Trek Enterprise “Broken Realm” Episode, 2004)

It is funny, not ha ha, but sad irony that the Christianities have spent so many centuries rooting out heretics and executing them. I state this from the obvious, even with what was kept in “canon” is the story of a movement that included many who did not belong, and had different views expressed within (tax collectors; cortezans; labourers; zealots; persons with disabilities; Samaritans—in the ancient world quite a motley crew). The crew brought their own understanding, language and beliefs into the movement of transfigurement.

Even that moment had Jesus inner circle upon seeing Moses and Elijah respond with making shrines, not seeing what should have been seen in the moment. Falling back upon the familiar. From Jesus’ execution, to the grand nu-uh to the Imperial-religious powers, to the breathe that shattered false barriers to bring belonging…a new wave had begun. One that for its first almost 300 years was quite diverse in understandings, in what was brought into, and in standing its ground when religious authorities made the call to cast them out of the Synagogues. That is when two monotheist religions stared at each other, and one was told to conform to what was “traditionally acceptable” and what was not. How did the early adopters respond? Some thought of giving in, but truly they realized what was at stake, the ability to grow, change and adapt to what they experienced.

Thomas Cranmer almost 1200 years after Constantine brought the same idea forward during the Reformation, and the creation of the Book of Common Prayer. It was the Reformation that brought the stories of God and her people to the language of the people, but also brought creation where both the cleric and people’s words of worship could now be known by all. His intent was not for a static unmoving, unchanging liturgy (Latin for work of the people) but a dynamic creation that would shift and change with the communities and people, and how they came to understand the Holy Mystery that had created. The teachings of Brother Jesus, and the cosmic love that bound it all together.

Now some may say this sounds highly Catholic or Anglican. Yet, I challenge you, does your spiritual gathering have a rhythm for prayer or service? That is a liturgy. Plain and simple. From the Reformation until the early 21st century struggles around this happened through many movements, as the traditionalist/fundamentalist wanted to keep it static because of tradition and that God did not change; while the progressive/fundamentalist (a fundamentalist can understand things both ways depending where they place the emphasis) pushed boundaries, let movement in, different music, open up of prayers, social movements, challenging powers and principalities, and language- how beautiful and transformative was the language changes as structures were broken down and we began to understand what our genesis was from.

It was a reminder of the Indigenous groups under the Roman Empire that had converted either by force, or shrewdness (the Norse Chieftains understanding the control that could be given to them under monotheism) …also a reconciliation work for the damage done of further exploration and passive/active genocides.

What also was celebrated was a full encompassing of the stories of God. Understanding the Gospels were not only the four in the canonical bible, but were more, and each person was crafting their own through the life lived out of their beliefs. Also, though a deeper understanding of the words used for understanding the Holy Mystery. Yes, Trinitarian language (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) existed within the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testaments, but it was a belief structure pulled from an allusion to this plausibility. What also existed within the texts was poetic, metaphorical, anthropological, historical, animist, psychological, sociological and many other forms of understanding the Holy.

Language was changing. Liturgies were experimenting. There was a revival happening.

The powers to be were not happy and attempted to clamp down. Sadly, some took the “threats” seriously, and like those in the Christian Testament stories when challenged folded under the pressure. Some took their lumps and spun out continuing growth, and some continue to exist under the guise of language and linguistic gymnastics.

Yet here we are celebrating a Sunday. A liturgical moment. Created by the people, as part of the work of the people. Part of community building. For some, it holds significance, for others being there and saying the words is a hypocrisy. Yet both claim the spirituality of Brother Jesus, and live a life for the better out of their heart held beliefs. The challenge before us is one of true authenticity. Moving beyond the entrapment of language as the beating stick, or as the opening quote reminds us—how much blood has been shed over 9 or 10 days?

In the Christianities how much blood has been shed over who holds the power to speak the right words/proof texts of the Creator?

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

-Matthew 25:31-40 (English Standard Bible)

When actions transcend words, and are what shapes our lives, then what does the Liturgy become? Does 9 or 10 matter? Or the words used to express our relationships of love with Creator, teacher and neighbour?

When love reigns… how are you and your community transfigured?

 

 


It was a blessed time of discussion. Much like what can happen around a coffee or meal at my home. And yes, the crazy neurology kept at bay, the data banks were tested, and the memory was strong.

It was great to be on Light News Radio today, and for the Holy Week reflection series (yes even unannounced I am sure you noticed there was one happening). I thought I would share the discussion for all to hear.

Please feel free to share freely this post, so the talk can hopefully percolate other conversations as we strive to break down barriers, draw the circle wide, and allow for authentic belonging fully knowing and embracing the risks that takes:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/boldradiostation/the-distinction-between-inclusion-and-be?autoplay=true

(Also know, this was my first “public” speaking/teaching time on spirituality since my last sermon at Centennial Presbyterian 8 months after performing my Mum’s funeral…so that is since Stampede 2014. Another blessing my time away due to medical challenges has accomplished.).


Luke 2

The second chapter of Luke. The physician’s orderly and “historical” treatise on the rise of early Christianities. It is one that can provide conflict, and queries. For as noted previously, if the village was rarely left by those who lived there. How is it that these humble labourers could afford the trek to Bethlehem for a census? Was the census historical? That is a question that can be answered in varying degrees. Yet today I will challenge you, if it is not a historical census, then what is the purpose of the tool in the literature of Gospel. Gospel means good news, yet few understand it is a political platform, an outline of the way of life. This was written as a direct challenge to the Gospel of the Empire. It was written as a rallying call for the early believers that a different path of radical love, shattered barriers and chains of oppression was possible, and radical belonging should simply be a way of life.

So why the Census? It was the tool that showed the affront to the Empire the quickest to the non-Jewish-Monotheist audience. For the census was meant to flex the Empire muscle, and it was usurped by the birth of a baby, in a humble stable/creche. It even more so showed that the first called to this amazing sight was not the wealthy, military powers or religious controllers. The first called was the shepherds. Those outside in the fields, the lesser thans and not so wants arounds. Setting the tone for this political platform. It was about everyone being present—barriers shattered.

Even with following tradition of presentation and circumcision, the prophet and prophetess voice of Simeon and Anna rang out. The voices of the Elders affirming a different path being seen in this life lived. A life that would return to the humble village life, learning his faith at the hems of the matriarchs, growing in life and work with his father, Joseph as a labourer, until his time would come to step out and into the world.

There would be a story that they would return to Jerusalem for Passover where Jesus would teach the Rabbi’s showing his wisdom around his bar mitzvah age, and challenging even his parents to understand what they had agreed to. Was this possible? Maybe. Could it have been smaller in just how Jesus conducted himself in the village? Probably. Yet what was being illustrated was a boy becoming a man, and stepping outside of the caste of labourer close to untouchable, into a scholarly-priestly cast. In the 21st century Canada this may be hard to comprehend. But it is the story of a child breaking a barrier of exclusion. An imposed barrier placed around socio-economics and used to keep people oppressed.

Why is this a story of this barrier shattering?

Simple. Not only was it affirmed by the religious controllers in their own shock. Jesus took the stance of activist. His words struck chords with his parents who were probably hurt when he pointed out of course I would be here in my Dad’s place. But it was more that they were still thinking in the false system, the one where oppression was common place and accepted. Even though both Joseph and Mary had made decisions 12 years and 9 months earlier to step outside the system, they had so easily slipped, relapsed if you will to the addiction of the system. Jesus intervened on their recovery road.

As you enter the Gospel and see these stories of shattering barriers imposed by economics, politics, and religiosity…

  • what barriers do you see in your world today that need to be shattered?
  • Who are the shepherds to be welcomed?
  • What is your Bethlehem stable?
  • Your temple prophecy?

Your moment of throwing away who the world says you are to be, and becoming who you are meant to be?


Luke 1 (New Living Translation): https://www.bible.com/bible/116/LUK.1.nlt#!

Tradition holds that Luke was a travelling compatriot of Paul, until a dispute separated them. He is most likely from an upper-crust family as he was a physician, who has sought to write an “orderly account of the history of the early church”. Luke is what is known as a synoptic gospel, stating it used material from the Gospel of Mark (believed to have been scribed by John Mark, whose parents owned the Upper Room, from the stories of Peter—yes that Peter) and the mysterious Q document. Q is allegedly a document of the sayings of Jesus that Matthew, and Luke used to complete their gospels. It is quite a leap of academic belief, unless, you begin to understand the possibility that Q could be bits and pieces of oral history, and from the non-canonical gospels that were used to flesh things out. Much easier to assume a Q than to answer how those cast aside as not part of the meta-narrative got into the meta-narrative.

Aside from that, the writings of Luke show that the drive was to change the status quo, and challenge the concept of patriarchy and authoritarian rule (the empire itself).

The first step is the call to Zechariah and Elizabeth, an elderly barren couple. Both in the priestly lines, and high up in the religious structures, that at this point were being used as part of the Empire’s oppressive structure via the Herod Family. This couple was already an outlier, seen as how can God call them to the Holy of Holy Mysteries (and yes Zechariah when he entered this physical space would have a rope tied around his ankle just in case he dropped dead due to not being worthy), yet not have blessed them with a child (read son due to cultural patriarchy). Zechariah and Elizabeth are a new reality allegory of Abraham and Sarah. Zechariah is struck silent for not believing. And by such, the feminine voice of the journey emerged through Elizabeth.

The first step showing the backwardness of oppression. The next was literally the messenger, Gabriel speaking directly to Mary. Someone who had no voice in her own culture outside of a bargaining/contract for child bearing of men. But seen as even less valued by the Empire where literally soldiers of Roman citizenry could use the peasants however they were seen. The hometown of the girl was the equivalent size to Bassano, AB, and if lucky people would travel at most 40 kms away from home in their life time. Her betrothed, Joseph, was a carpenter-though a better translation would be labourer, more of what we would see as a handyman, not necessarily a finish carpenter. Those with that expertise in the lower classes were used to craft forms of execution for their own people.

Mary’s voice had never been heard or found. Yet this was the voice the Holy Mystery wanted to hear. One can only imagine the conflict and off-screen dialogue that took place when Gabriel came to empower the equality of creation as told in the ancient Eden myth on Day 6. The gospel of Matthew shows this through Joseph’s needs and voice being second to that who would carry the Son. A story that is often missed in meaning in the patriarchal world that continues. Mary had a decision to wrestle through.

Think/mull it through spend time drawing or writing the conversation out from Mary’s perspective (and Elizabeth’s from hers). What would be going through your mind? Your heart? What about your understanding of faith?

As this chapter progresses and Mary is put out to visit relatives. How often is the pregnant child without support sent off still today to other relatives? In a tribal ancient society, where no matter the function faith/religion is taught by the women as children do chores. Think of the reality of the story the grandmotherly Elizabeth is sharing about the life growing in her? The dichotomy of old and young wisdom keepers carrying those that would shake their world.

Why else when John the Baptist/Harbinger was birthed would the men not believe the name of the baby and must go to Zechariah? Why? Without the voice of the man, they probably assumed Elizabeth had gone nuts. Yet Zechariah confirmed the wisdom of his wife.

Mary’s song was confirming the shaking of the establishment to come. She knew who she was carrying, and even in these early weeks could grasp the earth shattering changes to come.

John the Baptist, why would he go to the wilderness? Born into two priestly lines. More than likely would have fit within the Pharisee and Sadducee sects, yet he opted to leave. Why? My contemplation tells me that the set sects in authority did not like the birth story that did not fit their tradition. Their tradition that kept them within power, under the Herod family, under the Empire. For John’s story did not fit.

Which left John to choose between two other paths (obviously these 4 paths had many sub-sects, but for ease historians usually only speak of the four).

The Zealots. Those that held to Maccabean tradition that there would be a Judas Maccabeus to physically over throw the Empire through a blood war. This is why at this time in history in any given moment there was approximately 400 active war chiefs like this leading the charge, and would routinely be rounded up and their crucified bodies would litter by-ways and highways to holy sites to warn off Jewish rebellion.

This was not the sect or path that John chose (though a Zealot would choose his cousin’s).

Chances are from the description he was an Essenes, one who chose a wilderness exile to be away from the corrupt structures. A hermitage life (think a Thomas Merton type or the ancient desert fathers, an aesthetic) where the time alone of growth was to commune deeper within the Holy Mystery.

This was the group that called to John, and John joined to continue his growth, so that he could lay the foundation work for something different. Not war, but a resistance of non-violence, equality, justice, hope, faith, joy, peace and L-O-V-E.

This was the first chapter of a gospel (gospel is a political statement, it is declaring the agenda of an Emperor, so by writing using that term the early followers of the Way knew they would be targeted as they were calling out Rome)…

The women led in a resistance of defiant change.

For all were people.

All were worthy.

Brunch & Bible is a simple gathering, sharing a potluck meal, and exploring the text in group, and sharing wisdom. Our journey has chosen the writings of Luke from the Christian Testament, watch for more thoughts as we continue every 2 weeks.


Forsaken (2016) is a hidden gem in the Wal-mart shelves (or like us Calgary Public Library loans). It stars Kiefer & Donald Sutherland as a father-son, estranged. The story is of John Henry’s (Kiefer Sutherland) return post-war/gunsul life. Returning to his homestead where his father the town preacher is, and his mother has recently passed. It is a movie revealing of emotion, and how simple and catastrophic things can lead to estrangement.

It is also a story of the road to redemption, but also of becoming who you are truly can be a part of the road. There is the Western story of two gunslingers, a corrupt capitalist influence, mad youth gang of killers, and a Father-Son attempting to understand each other, and to be the family their wife and mother wanted them to be.

It is also the story of consequences for choices. When John Henry speaks to God or when he talks to the other mature gunsul, Dave, about not being involved to Dave pointing out to his employer and the rabid youth the stupid thing that brings about that which they wanted the least. Also within is tidbits of what it means to constantly trying to keep up one’s own reputation whether wanted or not.

Like I said, it is a movie that to go to deep into the story of the prodigal son’s return of a life of blood to the pacifist father would be to reveal to many details. It is a story that can cause one to pause and reflect, much like Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, on which character they have been at which moments of their lives?

When are you like the Reverend?

When are you like John Henry?

When are you like Dave?

When are you ever like James McCurdy?

James McCurdy [writing a check to buy her dead husband’s land]  I’m sorry for your loss.

Mrs. Chadwick [tearfully]  No, you ain’t. Eventually… someone’s gonna have the nerve to stand up to you. And when that day comes, I want to be here to spit on your grave.

James McCurdy Well, ma’am, feel free to do so. Provided you can find your way to the front of the line.

Perhaps a solo viewing with journalling or a group discussion movie night for this Lenten journey.


…Jesus son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those granted nearness to God.

-Sura 3:46

                The Crusades were a horrific time within the Empire phase of Christianity. It was about anti-Semitism (travelling to and from the Holy Land was a great excuse for the warriors to cull the Jewish in the lands) and to let blood run high in the Holy Land battling the “infidel”.

During one such crusade time a disgraced Crusader received a call to something different. Francis was a party animal, one of those wealthy ne’er do wells many towns and communities know of. He thought to increase his lot by bravery in the Crusades…suffice to say he was not a good Knight, and wound up injured in a burnt out church where Jesus spoke to him through the San Damiano cross calling him to rebuild his church. After stealing supplies from his father, and rebuilding 3 fine parishes he was once again revisited and redirected to actual community based around hope and loved. Even beaten and imprisoned by his own parents, just emboldened this man to cast of (literally) the clothes of wealth and walk naked into the world.

The Franciscan movement is what began. Part of the life lived that receives little mention outside of the international circles (as most just know Francis for his love of animals, not activism) so he has been reduced to the garden statue or fountain. Yet it was in the midst of crusade times this rabble rouser and friends upset the apple cart, and not just in the challenge for equity and justice for the poor. Nope, he also crossed treasonous lines by going back onto the Crusader path to meet with Sultan.

Why?

To pray together.

To talk.

To share bread.

To be community.

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was ever inclined to God and obedient to Him, and he was not of those who associate gods with God.

-Sura 3:68

Francis and his community understood an eternal truth. God is the source of all that is, all that exists within and through and lived out of the Holy Mystery. The source-Love- was not to be confused with the manifestations. That is…the wells are not the river.

We want the labels to divide. Those in power hope that we allow the labels to divide. Yet, there is another way. A way where we acknowledge the One River, and sample one another’s well water in a safe place of community, sharing prayers, sharing discourse, sharing bread. Being like Francis and the Sultan. That piece of light in the darkness.

And he will teach them the Book, and The Wisdom, and The Torah and the Gospel.

-Sura 3: 49

This is why my family hosts an inter-faith Questing through the Qur’an; and a Brunch & Bible (where we travel the roads of the Gospel of Luke & Acts of the Apostles) on alternating weeks. To share the foundation stories. To see where we connect. To hear where we differ.

To know  we are still united in our diversity.

                Much like Francis’ call to bring the gifts of peace, hope, faith, joy and love to Sultan. But also to receive these same gifts from Sultan.

For, what are we in humanity,

if not neighbours….

francis

The Gospel story, the faith story has not ended. It is not sealed. Each of us in our journeys, our lives continue to write in the book of life about how we live within, through and out of the love that is the Holy Mystery. So what is the new chapter you are starting in this moment?