Posts Tagged ‘Authentic Paul’


Anti-semitism, isolationism, wars, Islamophobia, dominance of Christendom are all traps that words like Paul writers centuries on can be used for (Romans 9). He writes about the faith journey, the journey of discovery. How it is not always the words said, but the heart presented. That is that in the journey one has to realize it is the one that takes the risk. These are examples being used in his writing of Israelite and Gentile, the same we would use examples in our own world to make a point. Like Jesus did with his parables of the Good Samaritan, one seen as a traitor but turns out to be the hero. So Paul is writing about those that are seen as “holy” and “with God” yet they are just show, and it is the struggling heart of the outsider that shines through the love.

It is an astute heart that looks beyond the literal, and sees the way a philosophical discourse is structured (Romans 10). It is a structure that Paul reminds the gathering in Rome, it is not an exclusive love. It is not meant to be horded or lorded, but rather shared. It is a journey- a pilgrimage of discovery, renewal and rebirth. It is like a comic book universe that reboots, so it is with our lives and the release of baggage as we release the old and let the new in. It is not just the summation of knowledge, ritual and rites, checking off the right laws followed. It is more than that.

It is the deep dive of actions in faith that moves beyond legal and illegal, into the right and wrong territory, it is a life lived that others can look to and knows what you held to be true. A life lived that shows others and, upon remembering, ourselves what we truly value.

The new path though may mean bucking from the old, as Paul points out, the fear of change (Romans 11) can create a freezing like stone or cement. This is a big shift, much ink and video has been spilled on the topic of change management, saving x, y, or z organization or denomination- mainline, non-profit, corporation, etc. What it comes down to is the shift will challenge the norms of the old that harm or rest power in a few. The shift to the new that is healthy will inspire and carry through a good transformation for society. The journey will entail grieving over the loss that if not counselled properly will lead to destruction, and pain that is unnecessary. In the midst though, one needs to be present to what is happening, deeply listening to find the divine guidance to what is truly meant to be birthed. Not what one wants to birth for their own ego (or as we would say back then, sin).

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] Do not be conformed to this world,[c]but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

Romans 12:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Be the authentic you. Understand what vocation your life has shaped you for. It understands that we all have our role within each group we are a part of, and that our gifts are meant to be used. It is a tough call, because one would then assume the gifts should lead to money. In a perfect world this is true, but in our imperfect world it may be that other employment or source of funds makes it able to chase your purpose in life. It truly is a vocation by tent making, or vocation of career, or a mixture of any and all of the above (Romans 12:3-21).

Paul’s words have also led to 3 ways that believers will engage with politics, either an attempt to convert the whole to their morals (social conservatism); create a Just Society (Social Gospel) or disengage entirely as it is all in God’s hands, and as such one should not participate (Romans 13:1-7). I believe Paul was laying out another point that one should not resist just being problematic, ensuring you are a citizen above reproach so that when you do speak out or acting out in accordance with love it is noticed and has an impact:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

-Romans 13:8-10 (English Standard Version)

For it comes down to the point that the greatest commandment is love. That is the root of our actions, and that we are to love self and neighbour (Romans 15). This means one cannot disengage from public discourse, but one needs to understand how they are engaging and what is the goal (Romans 13:11-14). The goal is the kingdom that was near, being here as it was presented in the Gospel of Mark. It is about a transfigured world where the hungry are fed, the sick are cared for, the elderly and the orphan have homes and are loved, homelessness is over, peace reigns, oh hope is the core that lets love shine through.

The transfigured world is one where we accept one another as we are. We understand how some things we do have ripple effects that can affect others, and we care for that person and vice-versa. It is worlds where one is loving of self and neighbour, not wrapped up in selfish pursuit of the material, and that we understand our individual human rights, come with communal responsibilities. When both are in harmony a world is humming along, all are cared for and can be authentically who they are (Romans 14).

As always Paul signs off with plans to visit, greetings and thanksgivings (Romans 16:1-23). It is a winding path this Labyrinth of Rome, unlike a maze though, it may be winding,

but there is no dead ends, it takes us to the centre where we can rest. Rest, reconcile, renew, and reflect.

Who are we meant to be?

Who are we now?

Who are you?

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

-Romans 16:24-27

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Sin, righteousness, our old self crucified (Romans 6), living as slaves or freed are words Paul has chosen to communicate with the folks of this gathering for where they are in this life. Paul is laying out the transformation, and ritual of renewal. In life coach we speak of discovering the gremlin-saboteur, acknowledging, thanking (yes, even if it was not helpful in becoming the full you, this gremlin had kept you safe), then a ritual of drawing out, writing out the words used, naming the gremlin… then destroying the gremlin when you are ready. The old you dying. The old you being crucified so that you can step into the new reality and begin the practice of living out of authentic love of self that shines through in your love of neighbour. A stark reminder in verse 21 for when we let new gremlins creep in, or in times of stress and struggle old ones reassert:

21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

-Romans 6:21, (English Standard Version)

The old life is a living death for you are not whole, you are not living into who you are meant, and created to be. When you are in the new life, looking back may bring shame upon your past through your new eyes, but that too can be a path for a saboteur. Instead, focus on who you truly are, affirm the divinity of love that is you. Live into and out of that.

For we can default into legalism, the judicial system of life of what is legal and illegal as living under the law and rules produces (Romans 7) and it will guide us into a decent living this life. For we know what the end result should be, and the loopholes to work around when the means may not be completely “legal” but have we lived fully into the divine right and wrong?

I think there was a reason.

-Jesse Stone, Stone Cold (2005)

It was a cryptic comment from Chief Stone, after a gang rapists father tried to get the victim’s Dad arrested for assaulting his son when the son had called the victim a bitch. The Dad’s defense was the assault was for no reason. The function of legal/illegal versus right/wrong. There was yet to be a case made against his son, so it was not a crime. But there’s still a reason.

Reading Paul’s words around law and legalism, and more importantly living, I reflect on this scene and many others from the film and book series where a prophetic police chief keeps reminding folks that the police deal with legal and illegal, and all the loopholes that brings. While right and wrong, is a more inherent gut thing that when one is on the path of health, or whole, they just know how to live.

For Paul, that is the emerging life in the Holy Spirit. Some believe it is something that comes down upon us when we “convert”. To those, I believe a point has been missed. The Holy Spirit (Ghost for some) is the living breath of the Holy Mystery (God). It is what bonds communities together. It is what was breathed into creation of humanity on Day 6 of the Hebrew Poem in Genesis 1. It is not so much a coming down, but a coming out. That is we finally let it burn through the sludge we have used to bury it all this time. We allow our true nature to evolve within us, and evolve us.

We connect to the Cosmic Christ, so it becomes easier to live out the hard life lessons. We can move beyond what is allowed, what coding of other people say about them, we are able to look upon people as persons. Individual and not by grouping, you become able to see the divine within them even if they cannot see it within themselves. You begin to understand that life is not a quick fix, that there is preparation needed, and that inherent worth and dignity of the person. It is when your light, becomes able to connect to the spark, and perhaps, just perhaps a new healing journey can begin for another.

Like a game of Blob tag as a child, so is the game of connection of Holy Spirit.

Emergent light of community through self (Romans 8).

To the true you.

 

 


Much of the conversion drive is using points of Romans to prove that it is necessary to convert as noted previously. What is missed though is Paul’s beautiful discourse that echoes in many ways the wisdom teacher of Ecclesiastes. He is writing to the gathering of Rome, a diverse community struggling to understand a way forward in unity. Each has their own understanding of culture, norms, law, prophets and yet here they all are together. What is one to do?

Paul moves into the second chapter (Romans 2) presenting a very young type of God with creation. That is one that is wrathful, but proxies the wrath though and the mercy dependent on how the individual carries their whole being. Do they carry these judgments, hatreds and doubts? If so what is being done to help them move forward healthily, and be complete. Paul points out that it is how we live our life is what we will reap, will we need to be purged completely to enter the afterlife, or sail seamlessly from this to the next?

Works grow out of faith. Many try to create the false dichotomy between Paul and James, but as Paul had pointed out in Corinth he was involved in Jerusalem. He was aware of the teachings and the living of the life. It is the life lived that had transformed Paul that allowed Paul into the leadership circle of the Way. It was not position, but character transfigured that shone through. This is a very Franciscan principle. Many view the Franciscans as anti-learning as it is not the major pursuit as say with the Jesuits. But what Francis of Assisi had stated was simple, once you are living the first lesson then move to the next.

It is as Paul was laying out, faith becomes second nature, there is times when we are first entering and growing into our new life where we may need to pause and practice but eventually it becomes second nature. Like remembering to take your medications or practicing mindfulness (or DBT/CBT) or other forms of Soul Work. It takes practice, but eventually they become a part of who you are (Romans 3). That is that you have awoke the holy love that created you, you are becoming and have become whole, this is where you are living out of now. Not out of fear, or out of desire to be acknowledged, but simply because it is the right heart to be in (Romans 4). Like Abraham and Sarah learned, the means justify the ends, and the ends need to be achieved through a moral way, not through things that tear down, but that build up.

In the darkness we knew hope. Think about that. Anyone that has ever stepped out of themselves and sought aid, whether a spiritual director, a mentor, a life coach, a therapist, a doctor, a friend…in that moment we acknowledge we cannot do it alone (Romans 5). In that moment a courageous safe space is created. We know the cycle we are on is destroying us. It can be literal or we just know we are in the wrong groove and need to shift paths. We may need to stop a destructive behaviour, or end a toxic relationship or employment. Perhaps it is something good dangling before us but our inner quiet voice is a saboteur, or as the ancients would say a demon? That voice that keeps us frozen to keep us in what we believe is safe. But safety also has a price to pay for we are truly not who we are meant to be.

This is the step of faith. The step of opening ourselves up in hope to connect with another’s love to carry us through into our own soul-self actualized. That is right, a true whole person. It is what Jesus spoke of in the Great Commandments, the Love Commandment, connecting self-neighbour-Holy Mystery.

The bedrock of true community.

Living out of faith,

In love.

 

 


In his third missionary journey, while chilling in Corinth (ah Leather & Letters anyone?) Paul takes up the quill once more (circa 56 CE) and writes to the gathering in Petrine Christianity, in Rome. It is believed this gathering grew from Roman present at Pentecost (both Romans and Jewish, or as the Christian Testament and Hebrew Bible would phrase non-Jewish, Gentiles). As Paul awaits heading on to aid in Jerusalem, he does not write to Rome to deal with any such issues, but rather to lay out his style of Christianity to them, a mix of the mystic and traditional. The Epistle of Romans has been one of those go to books in the Christian Testament for weaponized texts of hate, but also of “conversion driven” Christendom.

Is conversion driven a harsh stance? It is, but only because I have seen it be more about numbers and quick altar calls and not authentic life lived together. Having taken evangelism courses in Bible College, I still cringe at the concept of our final assignment was to have a project person to lead to salvation—seriously? Even the tried and true “Romans Road” was taught and that we should memorize it (well y’all know how well memorization works with my ol’ noggin).

romans roads

What happens in these instances sadly is that the longer game is ignored. The longer game is holistic growth of self. For Paul does not write from a place of completion, but from a place of pilgrimage in understanding who he is each day in the new journey laid out. Not resting, but moving forward (okay there is times of rest he lays out), but this letter to the unknown was one to encourage growth and pilgrimage to continue:

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who [a]was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

-Romans 1:1-7 (New King James Version)

The Romans Road is an excellent allegory for the journey of Pauline and  Petrine Christianities into wholeness, but also the winding journey of connecting paths of one’s own life. What brought you to the heart self you are today? Have you allowed the Cosmic Christ to emerge? Connect into the Holy Mystery that is already within? Or are you still hiding in the comfort of the gremlins, those that have protected you this long from the unknown?

For what is a saint?

A pilgrim on the journey of discovery of the Holy!

 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve [b]with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.

-Romans 1:8-15 (New King James Version)

There is much as Paul has done with his writing you can learn from books. But Paul also points to the need of presence in community. That is having a plan of discipleship/mentorship, succession planning, strengthening of members in their wholeness, and growing healthy community where planted. Paul is pointing out that he is not just a Jewish theologian, or a Greek Philosopher, but a tradesperson, a traveller, one who has connected with all types of the world. A person who has been involved in the mosaic of the Empire, experiencing it and seeing it as such in crafting this goal to come and live life with the gathering for a time.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel [c]of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

-Romans 1:16-17 (New King James Version)

The term gospel coming through here in a communication heading into Rome is a major act of sedition. Showing his bravery, but also pointing out the strength of conviction Paul carried in how he was aiding communities into coming into their wholeness. The living by faith is knowing that there was risk in changing direction, that there would be loss of social connections, possibly status politically, religiously or socio-economically if it had not already happened. We were still 8 years out from the purge of Nero, but I am sure there was unease within the gatherings. Especially since Paul still had to stroke the traditionalist ego and point out the hierarchy of wholeness. Some may state well it is historical, but is it historical, or simply the way it was understood?

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who [d]suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is [e]manifest [f]in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and [g]Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like [h]corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their [i]women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the [j]men, leaving the natural use of the [k]woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, [l]sexual immorality, wickedness, [m]covetousness, [n]maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 [o]undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, [p]unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

-Romans 1: 18-32 (New King James Version)

What is ungodly? What is unrighteous? How has this text been used for hate? We drill down into verse 26-27 and many have used this against LGBTTQ2+ community members to make them less than. But back up the boat, what is being talked about leading up to those two verses? What is being talked about is oppressive religiousity that builds power and wealth for a few on earth and supplants the Holy. It talks about practices that degrade who they are created to be. It is not about “homosexuality” (a term that did not exist in this time), but about sexual violence, sexual degradation, assaults, harassment, coercion, rape, paedophilia, all under the auspices of being “the worship of God”.

Perhaps a new heart needs to take these verses to the religious leaders of today who are hiding abuse behind false flags?

And then one will say but verses 28-32 says the practitioners should die so is Paul not using God to victim blame? Like a paedophile priest saying they were seduced by the child? Or a fundamentalist pointing to the victim saying he/she asked for it?

NO!

Paul is pointing to the perpetrators. The predators. The monsters. He is pointing out that they need to be removed until they are willing to heal and reconcile. If it is not possible to heal and reconcile then they need to be gone for good. Roman jail systems allowed a time for term served, then they were given a white stone upon release to show the clean new life that laid before them. Wisdom of restorative justice, but Paul knows for some monsters the heart beats in darkness and unwillingness to change and for those, the communities must protect themselves. In a Canadian Context this would be a Dangerous Offender designation ala Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olsen. It is a hard driven point into the heart of the Empire. Paul takes the risk.

He understands the challenge of life change of emerging from the pain of violence and trauma for a person, for generations, for a community. The ancient world may not have had the terminology, but they knew what was happening and the damage being done.

The road is a winding path. Healing is a peeling of the onion. Understanding the layers that have created our current situation, but that is not the core of our being. It is about becoming who we truly are, whole, as Paul points out, it is when we act contrary to who we are meant to be. Contrary to how we were created due to outside forces that we are truly outside of ourselves.

As 2019 begins, will we go down a different winding road?

That of a labyrinth to our core self?


The back and forth one just has to ponder the questions and reports Paul got back from Corinth. He enters into a situation of basically bringing forth the ideal of not just speaking, but acting from the heart (2 Corinthians 4) . Paul uses a Platonic structure of spirit and mass being separated, but there is a deeper glean for us, as we look upon the light that emerges and shines forth. A hearer will know that it is about no longer compartmentalizing, entering into authentic relationship with self is the first step. Yes, that is the scariest sentence of authenticity ever, YOU AUTHENTIC WITH YOU. That is when the light bursts through the sludge and into the outside world.

This leads into the rallying cry of building upon personal wholeness to spread the word (2 Corinthians 5) of reconciliation with God. Now, many have heard this rallying cry and see it as a formula, a personal sinner’s prayer, a certificate, a check box and move on. This is not what Paul is putting out. It was not a quick prayer and check box that brought the light out of you (me), rather it was and is a continual journey of new discoveries of ways we are within and through the Holy Mystery, that some religions have termed God.

It is the true concept of Truth and Reconciliation. We know the life we have lived, we can share it, but should not focus on it, get the healing necessary in whatever form it takes, move forward in new life, new community (reconciliation) is the true rallying cry. Reconciliation of self, neighbour within the Holy Mystery and I wonder if this was the pursuit of the organization of Church Inc./Christendom, personal and communal health and wholeness, not numbers in the pews and dollars in the bank account if there would be a tectonic shift in the health of our world’s shared soul consciousness?

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

-Epistle of 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (English Standard Version)

Bridging into the journey further. Soul work is personal, and corporate. The journey of life recovery, healing, change, it all comes to what needs to be let go of (good or ill) and what is being welcomed in, prototyped, created and crystalized in the new reality (2 Corinthians 6). It is a simple message, be open to all, but invest in those that are showing a desire for growth and change. For it is intentional relationships that shape and change the hearts and souls, and aid folks in finding their wholeness in this life. In organizations, churches, we usually have an idea and then seek the person to fill it. It is a Protestant work ethic thing, but what changes if instead we discover the true vocational hearts of those who are engaged and see what emerges from that?

New living life for self and community.

But know you are not alone. It is not just empty words we speak, but words and actions that come from our newly reformed hearts. Paul enters the hard part of any enterprise, when some gatherings need help, and financial at that. He is touching upon collection for the struggling gathering in Jerusalem, it truly becomes a Franciscan moment for the ancient church in Corinth; true Jesus time to be of the mendicants (open hand), understanding where the blessings have come from and to share it (2 Corinthians 7-9). It goes beyond just money though, as these words can resonate a bit deeper into what it means to be part of a vibrant community sharing gifts. Yes, we default to the easiest in any enterprise that being money. But there is talents each person has that can be brought out to grow a better world, and sometimes the gift of time is priceless, still remember mentoring at risk youth and the simple stat that 1 hour a week given to a youth radically reduces their risk from high to minimum—having just one adult that put time into them. As well, in the dementia wards as a chaplain, with simple Bible readings, and listening to where they each were in their lifespan, and the simple gospel songs seeing the transformations of passion. Simple passions, talents, and time shared for a better piece of the world.

To Paul opening up the volley of the attacks directed to him. There is a power surge in Corinth is appears and the goal is to remove Paul’s oversight, but also to establish a command and control structure (2 Corinthians 10-13). Slander, gossip, media, false testimony (lies) all driven by love of power, position and money. Obviously by the third planned visit of Paul, the Corinth gathering is a powerful little gathering with money.

Paul is presented as a false apostle, and that which is driving the underbelly is what is put upon him as “truth”. When you look at false accusations in organizations it does come to pass that which is being passed off in the hatchet job of a person with a decent character is that which the person flinging the mud (or in this case group) wants to hide. Paul lays it out stating that it is time to go on the record, and produce the evidence and witnesses.

A put up or shut up moment. A moment that religions of all stripes need to have when looking upon leadership abusers, but also of predatory communities of wolves. It is time in the soul work, to put up or shut up. To move into authentic being, or simply fade away.

The hardest soul work of any journey for a person can be endings of tenures, times in careers, passing of loved ones, or health crisis. In communities there is also a life span that many miss, they assume eternal continuance. But really it does come down to need, health of the organizational leadership, finances, passion of the gathered, and overall health of the community—and purpose. A health purpose moves through most transitions.

The letters to the soul were the hard questions laid out by Paul to Corinth.

If you were to write letters to the soul to your organization, group or community how would they read? What would be your challenges, your persistent thorn in the flesh?

How would it look to live out the beliefs?

What changes when you connect to the heart-soul self and it shines out?

Are you ready to become authentic with you?


Paul can be metaphysical in his understanding of faith. He is trained not only in Greek philosophy, but Judaic theology principles. He brings these to his writing and teaching, as a tent maker he is not paid for his scholarly-theological teaching, but rather for his trade. There may be a freedom in that, there may not, for if we reflect back on gifts then one should use their gifts. The example is not that teachers-pastors should not be paid, rather when one has a strong vocational call to use their gifts they may have to have another funding source to pursue it.

We enter into the journey of gifts with something that can be confusing to many. Speaking in tongues and trust me you are not alone in your confusion. I remember years (high school perhaps, or tech school) I was involved with a Charismatic Christian lass who invited me to her church. There was a lot of goobly gook coming out of people’s mouths, and then one dropped and started shaking, I called EMS. My bad, I was informed as paramedics interrupted the service it was not a seizure, but rather she had been “slain in the Spirit”. Okaleedokalee. Now, am I bashing this style of experience? No, what it does show is what Paul enters into discussing as 1 Corinthians draws to a close, that you need to understand the experience and ensure those in the gathering understand it as well.

He bridges nicely from the famous love discourse/poem, into the first verse asking that our first pursuit is love. It is a means to fight against legalism, and to remember that we are functioning as a community, a family first:

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their up building and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 (English Standard Version)

It appears that either questions or reports were coming to Paul, that this young gathering was lost in the show. That so much was happening within their gatherings no one was too clear on what the intent was. Could it be a case of holy rollers desiring to one up one another to show who was the holiest? It is possible, as Paul really works to put the break on by breaking it down.

Speaking in Tongues is fine, but someone needs to translate. This passage has led some to query is there was two gifts of speaking in tongues, for the first in the book of Acts was tongues of fire that came down on the Apostles and as they spoke all gathered understood regardless of their dialect (ala a universal translator like on Star Trek), while here there seems to be a soul language emerging of the Holy Spirit.

The other piece Paul touches on is prophecy. Now, this in itself is misunderstood as future events being seen. But as one reflects on the events of the Hebrew Bible prophets, what is seen is it is justice messages. We need to change course here or else x, y, and z will happen.

Now, brothers,[a] if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider[b] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign[c] not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 14:6-25 (English Standard Version)

It also shows Paul’s Greek philosophical underpinnings as body and soul are separate entities. It is interesting though that he states he needs to pray to interpret so there is a whole experience. One needs to pause and ask is external translators necessary or can one have a moment of tongues, and then be enlightened as to what it means? Is it possible that it is an angelic language as some say? Or is it other dialects and the translation comes from those in attendance that understand it? What becomes a reality is it is the moment when the full self enters into an ecstatic experience? Paul notes that it is important to remember that there is always someone new coming in, and that they will process what is happening.

The touching of prophecy on the heart of the newbie, and oldster alike is about the truth of a just society coming through. The words of John the Baptist, the Apostles, Brother Jesus and other great spiritual teachers in what happens when the world lets love lead.

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 (English Standard Version)

Paul attempts to bring order to a chaotic time together. Order in such a fashion that all can still enjoy their equity and equality within the gathering. He points to the rationale being that they are a religion of peace, not one up manship, that it is about ensuring the heart of the message comes through, not the ego of the messenger be stroked. There is a hint of what has been used for misogyny in our times, the concept of women being silent. This is not an eternal commandment because it appears in the Bible; it is a cultural norm of a societal transfiguration already straining at the seams. Families were whole and together in the gathering not separated, quite a bit of new things were being experienced. Now, this is not forgiving this dullery, for it is not the original intention of the movement either for Jesus ensured all were heard and treated equally, I believe it has more to do with Paul’s comfort levels himself.

The fifteenth discourse transitions from orderly gatherings to the underpinnings of the message to get through. Paul is laying out death, resurrection and life. Pointing out that the world of flesh and blood is not the true be all and end all. It can be a future minded text for some, but let’s drill into a little bit for it is more about the here and now I think than some realize. It is speaking of the life of wholeness. When whatever soul sludge was keeping us back is burnt away. Moments, sometimes daily, we do the work to keep the new us going, and the old us in the grave. For you see, the resurrection is not the old you, the one that is held back by saboteurs-gremlins, it is the true you. The complete you. The whole you. The you that was created and holy breath breathed life into, in love.

The closing chapter of this letter is a per functionary business meeting flare to it. Paul writes of a collection being taken up to aid other gatherings in Jerusalem. He gives final greetings from around the plants of Paul and giving his love to this gathering as he signs off one correspondence. This is a closing to a long discourse to allow the gathering to process, and connect back to continue the dialogue. Continue the spiritual formation as leaders and a community in what it means to be a healthy gathering, perhaps not one that makes it to yes on all things, but where all parts can come to maybe in the transformation process from what is normal for their colony.

For is that not what it comes down to in community, a movement to maybe to be able to eventually move forward healthily into the next steps?

 


Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 11:1 (English Standard Version)

Mentorship is a hard path to walk. It is hard for the mentor and the protégé, for the mentor should not give easy answers, but use powerful questions to aid the protégé in critical thinking and holistic growth. This is where Paul takes the discourse on head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). He writers of the misogynistic tradition and beliefs surrounding who came from who (man from God, woman from man) and the dishonouring being covered or uncovered brings, but then he moves to the brilliant bridge portion for this is not the life and teachings of Brother Jesus who welcomed all as equals.

Verse 12 puts out that all things are from God, and verse 13 places the judging within ourselves. Too often passages like this have been used to continue religious misogyny and oppression, by pointing out legalism. When in fact it is a philosophical tool of reflection that is reflect back the question, add some power questions and see what emerges from your own reason. As you walk through this part of the discourse, you see that the argument is missing the point for it does not matter about appearance, or rules. It is about the community being together in unity. An earth shattering norm; where each member has their own decision making autonomy.  Yes it is becoming a catch phrase of these reflections, inherent worth just because that is how they are created.

This was the first walk through, for Paul uncovers the head covering discourse as the false flag question sent to him by the gathering. It is the reports of how they celebrate together that he dives into:

 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,[e] 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f]you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[h] 31 But if we judged[i]ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined[j] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers,[k] when you come together to eat, wait for[l] one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (English Standard Version)

It is not a communion meal, that is a shared meal within the community to ensure all are cared for spiritually and physically. What has it become? A divisive practice where cliques have emerged (think the Junior High Lunch room, where there are just some tables that are no gos). To add to the strife, there are people in the community starving, and no one cares they are letting it happen. This is a meal given to be done in mystical remembrance of Jesus of Nazareth. Communion is the highlight of worship and study together as a community, as the Body.

What it has become is a grudge match. Instead of mysticism Communion has become a tool of exclusion for those that some view as unworthy.  A meal of holiness now used for the people to continue the old ways of meal time; binge drinking and gluttony (remember it was Romans that invented the Vomitorium so they could continue gluttonous feasting). It is about honouring one another, for each is the imageo dei. It is caring for one another, loving of self and neighbour. Not allowing for a backsliding into the old comfortable ways, but living out loud the new path.

Why is it so important to be a healthy community? To not be divided? Paul works into the realm of spiritual gifts, and how each gift works within the community like different aspects of the party. That is right; the community is a living breathing organism because it is made up of living breathing organisms.

Now concerning[a] spiritual gifts,[b] brothers,[c] I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

-1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (English Standard Version)

Some will look upon the lists of spiritual gifts as the be all and end all for gifts. That is bullocks (1 Corinthians 12:12-34). These are but a few examples, for thinking of the multitude of things that are necessary for a society to bloom. Think and reflect on your skills and talents, what passions in you manifest as the best of you. You can tell when you have tapped into the spiritual gifts on your intrinsic being for they energize you to use, even if there may be weariness after use. They are also gifts seen by others, it can be the arts, medicine, science, philosophy, teaching, compassion, social work, child care, elder care, the list can go on and on. What are your gifts?

What are the passions that the Holy Mystery has laid on your being?

And it may shock some to read this, but I firmly believe your gifts can shift throughout your lifespan as new situations and experiences shape your being. New gifts and wonders emerge for we are not a static creation like a story on a flannel board. Our life is a dynamic story that encompasses all the genres at any given moment. The ultimate outcome is a beautiful discourse Paul shares in chapter 13. It has been used at weddings, and celebrations of life (just think of these words summing up your life lived). It is how we live that matters, and use the gifts given us in love, shared in love:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 13 (English Standard Version)

Will you live into and out of the greatest gift?