Posts Tagged ‘Belonging’


This Sunday I was invited to preach at Knox Presbyterian Church in Calgary on Mark 6:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

Here is the service:

Here is the link

The Speaking Notes:

Thank you to Mark and the Session for inviting me to speak today as we continue our journey through the Gospel of Mark.

Ever been judged by your backstory? Your family connections? Where you are from? Had unfair assumptions made about you based on how you talk or dress? Ever let those effect who you are in your day-to-day life? Perhaps in what the Dalai Lama dubbed Job, Career or Calling, or in church-speak vocation, y’know what you do to pay the bills, but also what you do because of your passion and who you are? Ever notice how other’s thought patterns or beliefs about who you are, in certain environments can shape your internal monologue? Or even your ability to do what you know you can do?

This is where today’s passage is taking us in the Gospel of Mark. For it can be seen as a moment in time for Jesus, much like we encounter in our own lives. It is one of the gospel moments, I love to take time in community to say, let’s be Jesus in this moment and ponder what we hear from the chorus of neighbours…or as the catch phrase goes, who’s renting space in your mind and heart? We’ll take some time with the passage, and then some time on what we can tease out for our own soul care and soul work.

Read Mark 6:1-7:

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.  

It is presented as an external dialogue, where you can see the encouragement loop and the passive aggressive discouragement loop. Those in attendance praising the work Jesus has done, the power of his words, and his healings. The healings which are more to reveal the unwelcome of community, and to push the boundaries of inclusion and belonging. Then you get the snipers, those that do not want to see good or hear change and look for that. They look to what is known about Jesus, and what the scandals are. How he can hardly be a holy man for just look at his family. He was a tradesman, so how could he be “wise” or, we know his family-his brothers, and sisters. This can be a familiar refrain used for esteem or disrespect dependent on the family’s reputation. It is also being able to show that this were children that grew up and alluding to any known shenanigans Jesus and his siblings got up to. Let’s be honest here, who growing up regardless of place in time in history has not gotten up to some mischief. These are the reminder phrases. In case that doesn’t work though, the nay sayers decide to pull out the ultimate reminder.

They name him through the matriarchal lineage of his mother, Son of Mary (not Son of Joseph as was the tradition and practice). This was pointing out that his father truly was unknown, and that Joseph decided not to follow the law and have Mary cast out or stoned. That is Joseph decided family had more to do with than simple biology and was about belonging. But that was the simplest part of the story, see, Mary, well, Mary was the powerful piece of the story that scared the neighbours I think. If you spend time exploring the Mary visions throughout history, historians and Marian Theologians agree that Mary appears more than Jesus to both Christians and Non-Christians, simply because she can share the message of hope and love without centuries of horrendous baggage. Even though in this moment those “who took offense” are trying to turn her powerful yes to God into baggage for her child and derail what is being heard about the place where all belong, where labels do not matter, and the Image of God is beloved in its beautiful and blessed many forms. See Mary was the teenager in a patriarchal society, God decided the way society worked was not right, and skipped over talking to her father, or her betrothed as she was seen as less, in the Roman Empire as a non-citizen in short form she was property. God didn’t care, he went directly to Mary and asked her. The power of shaking the foundations of the systemic wrongs of that era began, with a peasant class, Jewish teenage girl, simply taking control of her own story, because her Creator honoured their beloved creation not the system of oppression created by man. In the hearing those offended were hoping to derail, in the story what is affirmed though for those with open hearts, is that all have voice and belong.

Though what we see in the closing verses, is what is called unbelief and creates disruption in the story as what is normative for a Jesus visit is not as impactful. Which can leave the reader thinking this is about level of belief for miracles or healing, though in other instances we have seen this not to be the case.  Ponder with me for a moment, could this be a story we enter learn through Jesus’ eyes. In this moment and time, where perhaps, he is feeling a bit of the imposter syndrome while, what may have been happening is that the trip had the same results as others, though the re-introduction of the negative monologue of his childhood had let him and perhaps, those around him, to see the outcome differently.

Have you ever had someone thank you for something and you schluff it off as nothing, or perhaps congratulate you on an achievement and you offer up x,y, or z rationales as to why it wasn’t a big deal? Perhaps offering opportunities the seeking more information loop starts, so your reticence holds you back, or simply the “I’m not good enough” or …. I am sure we all have different voices or impulses or feelings, much like was displayed in this short passage that hold us back or create a filter to experiences so we cannot truly experience and know the wonder we are a part of.

For those who watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, he will talk to the queens in short one to one time and call these tracks the saboteur. It is a life coaching tool; I prefer the term gremlins. It creates such a vivid imagery. There are two things that usually spring to mind, one is the World War II idea of a gremlin which is a mischievous imp that is causing an undiagnosable mechanical failure. See the connection with the offended and the soundtrack being laid down? The other is obviously the campy horror movies of the 1980’s Gremlins, which saw things go awry for the mild mogwai if they get wet or fed after midnight, they turn into horrific monsters of terror. Both works, when our underlying mild gremlin is fed a bit, it can create a space of flight, fight or freeze.

As I contemplated the passage of Jesus’ rejection in his hometown, what the commentators and scholars said, and my own background this is where I saw the connections in the why does this matter to us now. Jesus showed what happens when we leave our gremlins alone, we can still do life, but as the last two verses showed it’s more of a “meh” life. Yet, we also noted high tension in Jesus’ community, and is it also possible that the gremlins and “meh” life moment, kept him and his family safe.  And this brings us into the soul work as we have journeyed through Jesus’ eyes, I now ask for a bit of trust to do some care for ourselves.

If you are able grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil or simply, come back to this talk when you are ready for this practice.

Take a moment to sit up a bit straighter, centre yourself, however you are comfortable, with some deep diaphragmic breaths.

Now as we come out, take a moment to think of what your internal dialogue, feelings or intuitions are, with your pen and paper- draw your gremlin. Give them form. Take time with comic speech bubbles and add the phrases around or feelings that the gremlin uses.

Is the picture of your gremlin clearer?

You know what’s missing? A name. Take a moment and name your gremlin.

In this process, we are praying and acting. We are taking back our story. It is very hard to do any soul work in a nebulous vacuum. Once named however we can truly work with the gremlin.  Say hi to your gremlin using its name. You are meeting truly for the first time. See everything the gremlin has been a part of.

Do you like the gremlin in your life? Do you want the gremlin out of your life?

This is a key question. Just as Jesus pointed out a prophet in their hometown, it is because the gremlin can be the loudest in the most familiar of places because it can be fed after midnight if you will. Are we going to stop feeding it? If you are ready to get rid of the gremlin, the first step is thanking the gremlin. Why? First, it disarms the power, but also it acknowledges that the gremlin has been a part of your journey for a time, and in that time has done what it thought was best.

Once thanked, now it is time. If you are ready, then say goodbye to your gremlin by name. Once you have said goodbye, then destroy the image, simply ripping it up and putting in the compost or recycle bin, or if safe and you have a tin for outside burning is always good for a freedom ritual. I mean Jesus showed an end of the gremlin as he stepped out of the story and began teaching again the neighbouring towns. His own freedom ritual, with the next story being about sending out his disciples two by two.

I do want to take a moment to caution though, this is one moment in time when we are freeing ourselves from a gremlin. After this moment, they have less power. They may return, but now you are familiar with them. You know their words and tactics. By doing that, you can call them by name, and show them the exit sign.

If you chose not to say goodbye to your gremlin today. That is also fine, we have had a long relationship with them. Talk with someone who you trust, set up a time to revisit the gremlin and your decision. These simple things of follow up coffees or teas can aid in the process. For we are interdependent, we need community. If you chose to say goodbye today, take time to touch base with a good friend to celebrate.

For that is the simple nuance, Jesus heard his gremlins internally and externally in this story. Yet he lived into who he was and moved through their voices to continue with his life and teachings. May we continue to be who we are lovingly created to be as well.

Thank you for entering into the story, and the soul work.

Amen.

For the curious, here is what is happening within Knox Community via the June 2021 Knox’s Binding Threads Newsletter:

Benediction:

The ancient Hebrew story in Genesis reminds us it is not good to be alone. We are created for community, belonging. Created by the spirit, loving one another, as Jesus reminded us to love ourselves, and called very blessed and very good by the loving Creator. Let us go outwards living that love and creating that belonging in our world. Amen.


Ah Star Trek. My Dad was a Trekkie, through repeats on the CBC he introduced us to the series and the complex discussions that were brought up in some of the episodes. As a little kid it was great because it was one night a week that I could stay up past my bedtime. I remember when the pay channels would do their free weekend preview, and we would record Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan off of it, and yes, those literal ear worms still cause my skin to crawl just thinking of it. And the sorrowful death, choosing to save others (being selfless, Mr. Spock, not selfish, what a message for our existence in c-tine). As well, the copy of the movie adaptation comic book of Star Trek III that I read and re-read until it was no more…

See the source image

When Star Trek IV came to cinema, it was a fun and memorable Christmas Eve as Dad would take the four of us to the fancy cinema in Downtown Calgary to watch it on the big screen, and I still remember the sight of the whales.

“Captain there be whales here”- Scotty

I also remember being a part of Friday nights viewing of Next Generation, and in Junior High, the discussions on Monday Mornings around what had happened on Friday’s episodes, and the fun with the Unification storyline, and Hugh (the Borg that gets identity, when first teased we thought was going to be an adaptation of the amazing giant novel, Vendetta). This was also in the era of the panned Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, though I loved the movie, the journey of discovery of the intangible (God), as with many Star Trek episodes and movies, it is a go to when teaching youth, because it asks many deep questions about how do we know what is truly Holy? What is our own creation? and what about the pain?

Deep Space Nine is a series that resonated from the metaphysical “Emissary” to the closing episode when I worked in electronics assembly. The journey motif, the depth of character development and change. The commentary on war, terrorism, refugees, religion in building hope and as a tool of oppression, mental health, grieving, what is family, belonging, and sexual identity to name but a few. There was many topics, and it didn’t connect well with Trekkies I knew, but Sisko and company, held my attention on Sundays.

See the source image

Voyager in its first run, was not on the radar, could be due to work and social life it was just hard to catch. Though as I moved through my time of healing, rediscovering the journey home on Netflix, was an apt metaphor as I walked through the healing process. The Animated Series (I am sure you can still find some of those reflections on this site) being watched were fun, and connecting back to the core principles of IDIC (more to come on that). Though there was a Star Trek, that rooted deeper. At first, I thought it would be Deep Space Nine, as the long walk to the bookstore when my brain was stabilizing a little for a read, it was a Deep Space Nine novel I would pick up, and draw me into a new journey of renewal, and hope.

Though, as I began to reflect that this journey would truly be a reboot, a new start, it was Enterprise that we found oursleves watching. Archer and company from beginning to end, disocvering the novels as they became a lynch pin for retraining my mind to read and process.

Simple blessings. Stories that showed the beauty of diversity and what can be accomplished by emrbacing Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC). Also stories, that cause one to think and reflect, skills I was scared of losing through the neurological challenges. Skills that through discussion and reflection, would gain round and stabilize, the re-engagement with Trek Lore was one piece of the process (there was other connecting points as well, but this is about First Contact Day).

May be an image of text that says "HAPPY FIRST CONTACT DAY 4.5.2063 TREKAEM"

Each time, is like a First Contact, that day in the future, on April 5, when the Vulcans in Trek make contact with humanity. As we entered c-tine, aside from RuPaul, in the early days one of our joys was pacing ourselves through Picard Season One, reconnecting with familiar stories. In the summer, the joy and humour of Lower Decks, recently watching Discovery Season 3 (my youngest a non-Trekkie, who cheers when Adira-Gray are on the screen), other episodes of various Trek, last night the Deep Space Nine documentary What We Left Behind and a few months back, the Nichelle Nichols documentary on her work with NASA- Woman in Motion.

Looking back on the journey of life, stories are what shape us and our understanding of the world. First Contact with Star Trek, began a journey of fun, discovery, and building a better world. Where we are made better by living into the best of us, living into our diversity and creating courageous safe space where all belong and can thrive.

Infinite Diveristy, Infinite Combination

How do you choose to live into IDIC?

P.S. I do hope on this day, you were able to take a moment to re-watch favourite episodes, or movies, or like me at least engaged with some of the fun trailers of what is to come…

Picard Season 2 Trailer (and yes Q)

Star Trek Discovery Season 4 Trailer

Star Trek Lower Decks Season 2 Trailer


It was a simple tweet last night, but one that really did sum up where our family is after almost four years of a rolled back existence (yes I know covid has only been 370 days– but there was health complexities that slowed our roll and disrupted our normal before that). Simply putting out there, that our home is quieter than it has ever been. We miss the open door, we miss the shared table, the discussions, the tears, the laughter shared by our family (yes biological and those that belong with us). Yet, even as we, as my wife phrases it, are getting tired of each others’ faces it speaks to something that Covid has laid bare in our world, society, communities and chueches. This goes beyond the polarized view in our Christianities or presented in the media. From beyond the local congregation struggles to understand and implement restrictions, or pretend faux surprise when they outright refuse to comply that there is consequences for their actions. Truly that has been the surprise twist in the story of covid, so many discovering that rights are shaped in communal responsibilitiy, and it is not a cancel culture but an accountability.

But I digress, for it is also seeing the challenge of our driven highly strutctured and booked world that came crashing down in covid. How do we actually connect with one another? The reality being that we had a busy world, where it was easy to trip into small talk with another, but were we connected? What does connection look like? What does it mean? As restrictions ease in Alberta, many churches are shifting to multiple services to cultivate connection again as we have missed gathering.

Is it connection? Or simply proximity?

My experience is porximity. We have cultivated a cultural dissonance, that being around people means we are connected. Taking the concept of not being physically alone, alleviates loneliness, which is not always true. It is the concept that to be together in community, means mass (or restricted gatherings), but if interaction is not there, is it truly connection? Some will remember my writings and teachings around the belonging pyramid, and the inverted structure supported by Agape. I think this is what is happening as we struggle with our disconnect from busyness, and our lived dissonance of what we believed belonging was. The light has shone into the darkness, and confused it. This is the soul fog we are existing in, and beginning to emerge from. The question though is our desire to return to normal, going to silence and sideline what can (re) emerge in our religious communities?

Will true belonging emerge?

What is being put out there is that simple accessibility is connection and belonging. No, being in the building together (and if a building is up to code being able to enter the building) is not connection. Having a space for the person is not connection (it is rudimentary inclusion). This is what passed for connection and belonging in our hyper-programmed/hyper-business cultivated Christendom in the before times. In the before times where we expected our spiritual leaders to be experts in all things strategic, knowing how to grow numerically, financially, online, and have the key plug and play programs to bring sucess. It cultivated an experience where we sainted the busy, where access and connection happened due to where you were plugged in and giving (experienced this many times in Urban churches, where what level of tithing equated to level of faux belonging, not always treasure/money but also time/talent). Yet, there was no belonging, because you are not valued for your intrinsic worht in the Imageo Dei only for what you can give. In other words, we mock politicians and business leaders that speak of human capital for driving worth, yet as Christians, we have exaclty cloned that belief system into action within our own communities (for some intriguing contemplative thoughts on the history of church, I have been enjoying Dr. Stan Helton’s Caravan series on the blog of my Alma Mater, Alberta Bible College. Read here.).

Belonging takes effort. Belonging takes risk. Belonging takes bringing our Boards/Elders/Pastors back to Christian Testament community. It is scary. It is challenging. It is affirming. It removes polarization/dualism.

It destroys the community sin of Us versus Them.

Which can be scary for it makes community fluid. Responsive to those who are there. It challenges both big and small T traditions. The key question is “why do we do this?” and if it comes down to “it is the way we always have done this” but removes belonging, should it remain? The greatest challenge in the shift, is that it blows wide open our concepts of the image of God, and what the table for Communion/Eucahrist means in bringing together the Family of God?

This mullings have come from rasing a diverse family in Churchdom. Knowing the blessings of being a part of many church families, my kids in pre-school choosing to be baptized a year a part on Palm Sunday because they knew the love of Jesus their Granny taught them to sing about in Jesus, Loves Me, and their Nana shared with them. That they felt in the church families, but also the pain and hate brought to bear upon them in various communities not accepting who they are in the Image of God, because it challenged the big and small T traditions. Also, as I reflect back in some communities, my worth only tied to that which I could give, and in instances where I had nothing more to give no longer being seen as worthwhile within the church (and yes this was experienced by all members of my family).

It is also a challenge, for with the program lens, it can be simply, if you do not fit somewhere, you will not have any social connection. Look at the church coffee or pot/grace lukck times. Is there interactions with many? Do you stay within the scope of the comfortable? It can be challenging when we look at belonging those steps beyond inclusion, those steps that blow accessibility out of the water. This is not a polarized idea stating one type of Christianities is better than another. I have journeyed through the spectrum. Over c-tine, I have witnessed the rise of upperclass privilige within progressive church circles that overlap into the Q-Anon cult, and lower socio-economic challenges in fundamentalism that have overlapped at the same point of the Q-cult that has shone a dark shadown out there that only certain folks matter in the family of God, and many are exependable.

And sadly, the refrain is not Jesus loves me, but boldy from the pulpit, if you die I’m okay for my rights mean more than your life.

It is a struggle within to understand if the still quiet voice being heard within and communally is the Holy Mystery, or our own ego run amuck. For even good can come out of darkness, and that is the hardest challenge.

Yet, I sit here and continue to mull, for I know my family’s journey of joy and sorrow, has shaped us. How we entered c-tine has shaped us. Sadly, entering into a new relationship with church having to be reaching out for benevolent aid so you do not lose everything shapes your reprehension in reaching out to connect. Coupled with it being the same week picking up food hampers for survival from a former parish you were a leader in, humbling, but shaping the wall of protection more. It is something many givers and program makers forget. Especially in church, the socio-economic lens, shapes how connection happens. We are thankful to have cultivated a healthy summer camp relationship with our daughter, but there was another that could have been cultivated by the institution was locked into their socio-economic lens and myth story that broke the relationship. Now, is needing aid breaking a relationship? No, I raise the example, for the shaping then is always the wondering if you are to reach out again will it shape the interaction? Good intents can also be, unfortunately, shaped in the receiving. When the only personalized connection from a church family is in regards to aid, and not simply being. Yes, it is good to reach out to help, but it does shape in the receiver an understanding of relationship dynamics (true or false). How to shift, I am simply raising the contemplation at this juncture.

For part of the risk of belonging, is that sharing the space together- cyber, phone, or physical. The scent in the film Lars and the Real Girl, when the ladies group from the church comes to be, nothing more. Always brings up the concept, that appears to be lost in our busyness cycle of urban church. The fear when we talk about going back to normal, was normal truly that functional for belonging? Or was it functional for celebrating behaviour addictions that did not risk connection, for with connection (belonging) comes the risk of emotion?

What I have learned from c-tine, is confirmation of where I have existed. What I mourn in c-tine, is facing into the cup, and seeing revealed the dissonance we accepted to simply have a butt in a pew. What I pray emerges truly out of c-tine, is not how church was in the before times. I truly pray, communities of belonging are cultivated, with all the beaufitul risks that come with it.

My scariest moment, is my family standing with me, to take the step forward to risk belonging, and answering the call fully.

Amen.

Some intriguing reads for Lenten contemplation as we head towards Palm Sunday, the day Kingdom of God (belonging) met Empire Parade of Power, Money and Careers: Your Addiction to Outrage is Ruining Your Life | by Pete Ross | The Bad Influence | Medium


The fact that Greg Paul ties his opening words of his new book, Queer Prophets (2020) into the word from the King James Version- queer- that means peculiar people– makes my heart smile. Yes, it is a word that can be inclusive and divisive, yet this is a pragmatic hermeneutic book. Hermeneutics being the way we study scriptures, some would call it spiritual memoir or testimony (the t word for the more evangelical minded). It is the story of God that is one in three, beautiful love, breaking through human labels and barriers to shine through. For some it may read as social gospel, as Paul, being a street out reach pastor in Toronto (for those who think his name sounds familiar, one of his more familiar works is God in the Alley).

His words within this journey are raw, couched in exploration, challenging and opening the internal dialogue between the two camps of conservative and progressive theology on a topic but does what, I would say Brother Jesus’ lived example in the gospels does, steps beyond the theoretical to the praxis theology (as Paul would outline, theology from practice- that is living). I am not going to touch on many of the stories from his ministry life Paul share’s throughout the work, or the ideas that percolate. I have shared thoughts around David and Jonathan in the Hebrew Bible (he also does, he also goes on to share about Ruth and Naomi). Queer Prophets challenges the black and white understanding forced upon mis-translated words, and misapplied stories– most notably looking at the roots of injustice, power, violence and oppression in the destruction of Sodom and Gamorrah. He takes time to explore gender diversity as the ancient Jewish world would share it- male, female, eunuch. But it moves the full concept, that this quote encapsulates:

Queer Prophets

What I was discovering was that, when you love people instead of trying to figure out how to fix them into your theological/philosophical/societal or even economic frameworks, you begin to empathize with them instead of worrying about whether they’re right or innocent or deserving. Love dismantles the lovers instinctive arrogance. (Paul, 2020, p. 49).

Or for more simply, when we see others, as the image of God, as neighbour, and to be loved…it is very hard to dismantle that connection and create false barriers by labels that can create an us-them dichotomy.

Paul’s words come from growing up in a conservative theological family, and the shift of experience moving his heart closer to God. Where my experience is different. Yet, his words still resonate. I entered into the faith and ministry as an adult, knowing that we are all made in God’s image and loved. So I just saw my neighbour within the LGBTTQ2+ community as simply part of the family of God. Though, within my ministry in outreach, shelters whether religious or secular there has been hurdles.

My story is simple, I still remember my Nan sharing about her beloved cousin, David, who took his own life as he was unable to love who he wanted to openly. Many know I allied at a young age for same-sex marriage to be made legal (1996 was the year to be precise); and have taken the physical harm and verbal threats that come along with that. I have met the faces, of the disproportionate number of youth experiencing homelessness, and being exploited in sex trafficking for the simple “crime” that their families could not love them for their image of God within the beautiful spectrum of sexuality and gender.

Written policy exploration around trans rights in shelters that stalled out in a province that’s rights hadn’t caught up, being in discussion around costs of bathrooms for full inclusion, identified bodies in outreach, hugged, held hands, watched as families refused to acknowledge who their child was, as they transitioned, or to be acknowledged the individual had to lie to themselves to appease the family for the comfort of a mother and father’s love.

All cloaked in the horrendousness of the cross, the crescent (insert religious symbol) or political ideology.

When all I saw was neighbour. Felt honoured when called family, or was told how safe they felt knowing I was on shift (saddened when some would share only coming when they knew I was on shift).

How can inhumanity hide in a story of love? In a story that shows such gender fluidity? When two become one? Eunuchs as full? A church of the gender spectrum described as “bride”… A messiah who had two mothers and two fathers (earthly and heavenly, yes you read that right if we are in God’s image, then God is both and all gender diversity).

A journey of queerness. For no one person is not peculiar. The journey, is about being fully who you were created to believe.

I sit here typing these words, there are many things still needing to happen for full belonging and understanding of the Imageo Dei, but next to me is my youngest child, who is non-binary and a lesbian, welcomed and belonging in our church, not knowing the horrors my friends of years before have known, being in a safe loving home.

Simply encouraged on the journey with the Holy Mystery…to live and be love and loved.

For the prophetic voice is the living example in creativity, imagination, justice and belonging. The light that shines into the darkness of anger and hatred, and transforms the world. For me this is what emerges contemplating Greg Paul’s new book, it was his journey of reconciling what he knew to be true in the experience of the Holy with what had been taught. For me it was the inverse, but still a journey to a place of…

Peace.

As the journey continues… to make, as Jesus called us to, Heaven being near to being here.


Ah Star Trek Discovery does grow on one, their second season brought us back into the world of Captain Pike, Number One and that era of NCC-1701 (U.S.S. Enterprise) in a unique team up adventure that–well–I won’t give any spoilers. But much like the novels and other graphic novels have acted as prequels, and unpacking of other stories–so we get Beyer and Johnson’s newest release from IDW: Star Trek Discovery: Aftermath (2020).

This story that picks up at the end of the last season, it is the continuing of the discovery (pun intended?) of Spock’s belonging within himself and the universe. It is the story of a Klingon-Federation peace accord, and the story of L’Rell and Pike, with a great nod to the original series perpetual villain Kor. Oh, and the greatest quote at this time for us to reflect upon from Spock:

“For months I have been wondering where my place is. Where I belong. It is only now, in this dark hour, that I realize I am precisely where I need to be.”

-Spock

This idea of belonging, contentment and discovery is mimicked as well in the Captain Saru one shot that is part of the collection. Where Saru also has an opportunity to discover who he is, as Discovery is sent on a rescue mission and to face of with the Orion Syndicate. What is a Kelpian to do? As he explores if Starfleet will accept him as a captain yet at this point in his journey, and if they do not, what does it mean for him? What will his response be?

As Saru and Spock’s stories point out, it is about our own inner character, knowing who we are, knowing why we are a part of many communities or few, have many friends, and family, or a very small cloister around us. It is our core values that set us up for success, for who determines what success is for our journey? But the one that is on the journey.

Why does this matter for us today?

See the source imageSimple, we are in quarantine for day….39 days on my end…and it is a dark time, as a friend pointed out in Alberta via a text message after listening to Dr. Hinshaw, our chief medical officer, about how does one continue on the journey announcing a huge one day increase, and more deaths. Out with the family today, watching the light salute by first responders for the lives lost in Nova Scotia in our nation’s worst mass shooting; reports out of B.C. yesterday of a possible shooter, and three weapons reports today in Halifax, N.S..

A dark time, and that is not touching upon on the personal mental health struggles one can be going through in physical distancing, aloneness, as these reports roll in through one’s social media feed. Loss of employments, possible loss of purpose, is there a way one can lose identity? Lose belonging in self?

All are possible, BUT and it is a huge but in this moment in history as we pause to be kind to ourselves, it is also a time where we can silence all the redundant noise of our lives and perhaps, in the quietness, silence the inner-gremlins, expunge them, and truly hear who we are meant to be…and live into that authentic life.

See the source image

For, to echo, Spock, for our reflection, and life, in this moment… perhaps we are where or about to be where we need to be to truly become and belong for who we are.

Our aftermath is emerging day by day.

Will it be a better and healthier us that comes through?

“For months I have been wondering where my place is. Where I belong. It is only now, in this dark hour, that I realize I am precisely where I need to be.”

-Spock


Those who were involved in my youth ministries know how I loved bringing pop culture in as teaching aids, and connecting with the youth both raised in the church and from the broader communities that would come to find a courageous safe space of belonging. It was the discussions that were raised that mattered, and spending time when things not planned for cropped up in the conversation from the youth whether it was addiction, sex, sexual identity, domestic violence, bullying, racism, sexism, misogyny, or just trying to figure out who the were along the journey.

This past weekend our family continued our use of the public library in bringing in new movies to our home, I thought I would share for anyone who wants to create a discussion space whether spiritual or secular, how you craft the questions will reflect where you are coming from. What I am sharing is why the movie can be used, and should be used.

Image result for men in black internationalFirst up is Men In Black International from SOny pictures, based off a long ago comic book mini-series by Malibu Comics. It’s the fourth entry in the franchise that originated with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the new duo on the international stage you will recognize from Tho Ragnarok.

Why this movie is great? First, it is all ages fun of science fiction, great humour, action, Special FX, and characters. The next though is through the characters of H and M. M has been looking for MIB since she was a kid, and shows the life trajectory of someone who knows they have a calling for a vocation, what that looks like, what winding road it may take, and what happens when you achieve what you think our calling is. H is the world saver after wards, and what happens when that is how your entire identity is shaped. What events shape your identity? Can people in your life see beyond it? Does it aid or hamper you in your personal and communal growth and development? How?

Then the crux of the film, a mole in MIB, what does it mean? How much is vocation built around trust? What does a traitor look like? How do you build a new narrative to protect your unsavory motives? Is this leadership? Can it look like leadership? As you unpack the sub-plot around C and High T.

The next up is a lot more fun that I imagined it would be. We placed it on hold at the library as a lark based on how our kids tortured us with the show growing up: Dora and the Lost City of Gold 

Image result for dora and the lost city of goldWhat happens when an explorer raised by anthropologists in the jungle is sent into the jungle that is urban American high school? This is the begin pre-text of the movie as a now 16 year old Dora, is sent to live with her cousin’s Diego family in the big city. Why this movie matters? A) it’s a bloody fun ride, I admit it if they rebooted Dora as a live action t.v. show with this cast like the Relic Hunter or Hercules from back in the day, I would so subscribe to that streaming service. B) it deep dove through fun into the difference between career and calling (as the Dalai Lama XIV in the Art of Happiness at Work would lay out the 3 levels of work). Career are treasure hunters they are seeking out the ancient world wonders for the riches and glory that come with it, then there’s the explorers seeking out that which was lost to reclaim the beauty, knowledge and wisdom for our world to learn, grow and heal from today.  For groups that like to play lip service to decolonization in the era of TRC, yet still hold to the ideals of independence, and personal professional success tracts, this is an important conversation to have.

The other point that this movie hits hard on is two-fold. The first is the power of positive thinking. Not some constantly only taking in positive and avoiding the negative of life. Rather what Norman Vincent Peale laid out in his seminal work, that is taking what life has to throw at you, and looking for the good in life, the hope, and the light, making those your focus. In other words, the other radical point of the movie for fish out of water Dora at the urban high school that was trying to force her to conform to the rigid social caste system— be who you are meant to be.

How different would our world be if we were empowered to simply do that?

Oh, and there’s always fun cameos like these:

Image result for dora and the lost city of gold

The final movie was not a part of family movie night, and would definitely be a movie to be used with your leaders for a learning opportunity on planning out discussions, or with a young adult group (over 18). That is Midsommer

Image result for MidsommerIt is not a horror movie. It is at most a suspense movie but really is just a 2 1/2 hr thinker. It is not exemplary that keeps you needing to watch scene to scene, nor is it horrible in the turn it off in the first 1/2 hr. There is a curiosity to continue to see how it turns out. There is good discussions around drug use, and the accentuating of cult or spiritual activity with psychotropics, what happens on first contact with a new culture? What is our diligence? What is their diligence in maintaining harmonious understanding? I would say it can also be de-constructed to look at recruiting and grooming rituals of closed communities. Though underneath that is the idea of relationship, what makes healthy relationships? What makes dysfunctional? Why does one end up in one over another? What allows one to perpetuate unhealthy or abusive relationships? What does communal mean? Self-absorption? What creates trust and belonging? There is also a cool allusion that anyone within the disabilities community would get, as on the spiritual side their seers/prophets are from the disabled who are closer to/or within the thin space.

All these topics come forward within this tale of a 9 day festival of solstice in Sweden, and the anthropology students that attend their roommates home festivities.

And the simple randomness of Bear in a Cage (click here.)

All these movies can be shared communally, and discussed. The art of discussion though has been lost. So we do not create havoc with helicopter-lawnmower parents or have others or our own echo chamber ideologies challenged, I have noted the default to sticking to question scripts and the drive to get through them all. What is lost is that especially mentoring-coaching youth and young adults, is they are testing the waters to see if it is safe to explore, question and learn. It is the grey unscripted territory, though when you are willing to spend time there unpacking and helping the journey through a healthier adult emerges.

It is the investment that matters and creating the space to be explorers. For those that work with our youth, are you up to the challenge?

Are you willing to step into the unknown and be with them as they grow and become?

 


It is interesting as I do like to spend time just enjoying the themes and events of Advent, that is the time surrounding and leading up to the birth of Jesus. I find too often in our insta-world when you enter a Liturgical season, the minister tries to speed up the story so that those who may be in seasonal attendance get the full pitch from birth to death to resurrection, so they “don’t miss a chance” but in so doing there is something lost to those who regularly attend upon the journey. That is a long-winded intro to share that my reflection comes out of Luke 20, and y’all are clutching pearls on the hypocrisy of my earlier statement cause that chapter is so close to the end of the Gospel am I not fast forwarding?

Yes, but it is more about a teaching moment, and yes I would love to spend more time unpacking Advent itself, and searching through different topics on my site, and the Marian Theology you will find quite a bit. This however is about when they started to question Jesus’ authority, that is the religious leaders of the day. See as Luke opened up, there was a cousin that was 6 months older than Jesus, who Herod beheaded because John The Baptist called Herod out for probably killing his own brother to steal his wife and niece to be his own wives. I know? And Herod was Israel’s puppet king in place by Rome (mostly due to the shrewd politics of the Herod family that had them play all sides of a conflict to ensure they remained in power at the end, like munitions dealers today).

As we enter into Luke 20, Jesus has been doing his thing. Challenging his authority to teach and heal. See, it wasn’t that the religious “leaders” did not know the love laws of God, it was that they used them much the way many churches use them today. Not as a guide map to widen the kingdom welcome to all and to invest in the blessed mosaic of God’s children, but as a manual for exclusion. Jesus’ ministry was a direct challenge and cracks were appearing (see my writings on Belonging Pyramid). Leading up to our teaching today, Jesus is confronted in Luke 20: 1-8 where the chief priests come to inquire about who gave Jesus authority to do these things. Jesus turns the question on them by asking where John’s baptism was from heaven or human? It freezes them, for they know if they discredit John the Baptist they lose the people, but if they say it is from Heaven, they lose all power. It is a lose lose question for them to answer, so they do not. Then in 20:9-20 Jesus shares about the evil tenants, a story of a man whose vineyard needs help, so he leases to others, but these tenants refuse to follow through on the contract. When the owner sends a slave he is beaten and sent back, same with another, when he finally sends his son, they kill the kid. It is Jesus pointing to the religious leaders and saying this is your story of abusing the name of God to your own ends. The prophets were sent to get your hearts back on track, and you beat them…then you will kill me. It was not a well received parable. Then they try to catch him by asking about taxes, and Jesus points out that you do your duty as a good citizen, you pay your taxes, for it is the graven image of the Emperor so it is not God’s. It is also a backhanded slap against the temple who collected the annual offering to the Emperor to remember who truly their God is, and that they cannot ethically serve two masters (I wonder of the allegory of the tax exempt status of churches, and nation churches in our era around this?)…a building and conclusion outcome from the preceding parable.

That brings us to the teaching to unpack today:

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’[b] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

-Luke 20:27-40 (New International Version)

First a quick recap of major religious groups of the time in Judaism, and that Jesus was simply one of 400 that could’ve been the Messiah to the people. There was the Zealots, a rather militant wing of believers (think the IRA), then the Pharisees, who were literalists but probably the more liberal as they believed in a physical resurrection with the kingdom the Messiah would usher in, the Essene that retreated to the Wilderness, and then the Sadducees, those that were more legalistic than the Pharisees, and did not believe in a resurrection. That’s right, they are asking a question of Jesus that is precept on a foundation they do not believe in.

Then they share the holy practice of keeping when “out of exploitation” according to the religious societal custom of Israel. A woman was only there to have babies, so this bride was in shame not being able to produce an heir when her husband dies. The practice is for the next brother to take the wife in as their own spouse to produce an heir, and this may create a polygamous situation as the goal was for the wife not to be left outside the city as a beggar or to be sex trafficked (for this see the story of Tamar, Genesis 38). Unfortunately she outlived all 7 brothers, and still no heir. Now, the religious were not concerned about what is to happen to her upon the death of her 7th husband, no their concern is around resurrection and who she would be married to.

Jesus throws down at this point. You can almost see the head shake of “have I been talking to myself”. For he points out that the next life, and the life within the Kingdom is completely different than the twisted oppressive system that humans had created. There was not going to be a need for business style covenant marriages to ensure procreation, to treat women as less than and property.

Rather Jesus points out the glory that is God, and that all are created in God’s image. He then points out that the problem at the heart of the question, is that not all are equal so this woman had to enter into 6 other marriages, and no one is sure if she even wanted the first because she had no voice, no person-hood.

That was what astounded the crowds as Jesus as Rabbi. Brother Jesus, laid out that the core of what is needed is to see one another as full persons, and that would change the way society functions, and oppressive predatory practices would die.

The question left festering for those that oppressed though, was would they hear the words of God, or would they continue to serve power at all costs?


It is interesting in the world of business and non-profits (religious included) we float the idea of “Core Values”, yet how often do they just end up as brochure buried on a shelf or bulletin board? How often have we heard, we value all being welcome with dignity– yet accessibility projects are deferred for things such as security systems (or whom holds the power decrees is more important)?

It can be challenging during this time of year not to fall victim to the chimera created by the religious right of the war on Christmas…I have yet to meet anyone who vehemently hates Santa, or the idea of generosity. What is challenging is the man-made hate monger created image of Jesus is challenged–for these are not the core values he professed. It was never about exclusion, in fact most of the challenging teachings were directed at the religious of Jesus’ day for missing the mark– the mark? We can quote Matthew 25 around care for the poor, sick, elderly, widows, the ones society felt were toss away, but we are in the Holy Season of Advent for Christians, and it distills the core values fairly clearly:

Hope*Faith*Joy*Peace*Love

These are the core that come from the common truth, that goes back to the Creation story, and that the Prophet Isaiah reminds us of:

Image result for house of prayer for all nationsA phrase many religious gathering in the faiths of Abraham use. This idea of inclusive, but flexed for exclusion for not fully unpacking the full story:

 “And as for the outsiders who now follow me,

working for me, loving my name,

and wanting to be my servants—

All who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it,

holding fast to my covenant—

I’ll bring them to my holy mountain

and give them joy in my house of prayer.

They’ll be welcome to worship the same as the ‘insiders,’

to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar.

Oh yes, my house of worship

will be known as a house of prayer for all people. (The Message, Isaiah 56:6-7)

It is laying out clearly, that all are welcome, not only welcome, but are a divine image (Imageo Dei) and authentically belong as one of God’s children blessedly created.

One cannot claim a divine-holy presence, if their presence is not open to all of the divine image, and love of God-Self-Neighbour (the Covenant– the Law & The Prophets summarized and lived out).

What is lost in belonging? What is lost is the bondage of fear, prejudice, bigotry, conflict, hate, constant grieving and greed.

What is gained?

Hope, Peace, Faith, Joy and Love.

Further resources on Inclusion/Belonging:

There was a powerful video shared about this congregation at Shelly Christensen’s speaking at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the JCC Calgary today, unfortunately I was unable to track down the specific link, here are some others though to provoke conversation and thought.

Bet Shalom Congregation: https://disabilitiesinclusion.org/exemplar-congregations/bet-shalom-congregation/

Apirl 2, 2009 Inclusion Video: https://youtu.be/D72NKCZlNNA

Inclusion Innovations: http://inclusioninnovations.com

 


Yes it is Latin. Domine dirige Nos translated means Lord, direct us. What does this have to do with my journey? Well, for those who have been reading along recently, I have closed one book of the trilogy (writer to stipulate a longer ongoing) of my life, and have written the epilogue, and stepped firmly into the prologue of the next book with my family.

The new journey is bright and beautiful. As I write these words I reflect on the conclusion interruptus to my journey with the Franciscans. Shy of life vows with the Third Order, but what a blessing the choice to leave the Anglican Communion was at that time in my life. My kids got to be blessed by their Granny (my Nan) and some loving adoptive grandpas and grandmas at the church before it all soured due to a few of the money mongers of that United Church (ironically enough whose initials are FU) who could not see the blessed beauty in the children with disabilities our church had been blessed with for Sunday School and youth. But they could not rob the Sunday tradition born of being with Granny for tea, and shenanigans even when she went into the locked facility with her dementia, until she went to the grand tea party in the sky (and the day after when my daughter all of 5 said she had flown down in a plane to tell her she loved her and to play with her).

But ten years out, and emerging into the new me, reflecting on what kept me healthy, and in tune it kept coming around to belonging within those called to the religious life in family and community. So the hunt began for an order that would take one, truly a ragamuffin of monastics and Christianities, to whence the lovely Google stumbled me upon The Order of Saint Andrew: An Anglican Ecumenical Order and the associate (Third Order) became my road to completion, and a new paragraph within the prologue of my new book of the journey of Ty.

It is also intriguing for the Saint it is named after, and the point of the new path my life is seeking:

18 Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 19 Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him.

-Matthew 4:18-19 (New Life Version)

Without even a thought, he heard the call, and followed. Hence the Latin and what it means at this point in my life, Lord, Direct me to where I am to serve next.

For my family, it is having spent time travelling 90 minutes outside of Calgary to church the last little bit. Due to health, finances and weather (it is the prairies with early onset winter), not being able to keep up the commitment. Yet, in the journey of discovery and letting the Spirit flow (everything happens for a reason)…seeing what actually can happen within a church, and a community, when prayer is followed by faithful action not reticent fear or worry over money… a clear flowing of the presence of God as my wife phrased it is what we experienced in the Vulcan Church of Christ  , an experience for a place we still resonate and feel connected yet know it is more of visitor than home. But in the being, discovering the sacred courageous space to hear the still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit.

To set out anew to discover who I am meant to be, who my family is called to be… and knowing that at some point soon there will be work to craft a youth conference that embraces the loving, blessed and very good diversity that is the Imageo Dei so the youth of our city or wherever God takes us, will have the sacred courageous space to truly become who they are meant to be.

Yet, it is the still of the night, and I continue the search for the new.


Okay it is a weird topic of conversation. But stick with me, as I did like using the ethics movie, Pay it Forward, with my youth groups, and Lars and the Real Girl with my congregation.  Centrally, both carry a message of what happens within community for transformation and the ripple effects created by choosing actions of kindness, hope and love. Yes, these were used to teach simple discipleship models from the gospels.

Yet, these can be seen as messages lost in translation within our church world. Some may balk and go, just look here and at this mission and this cause… yet…

This idea came into my mind, with one more organization launching in Calgary- Calgary Alliance for the Common Good which from the press of their launching service is another progressive collective. Now, I am a progressive, but is this group doing something different than many others out there already are? Project Plowshares, Amnesty, Affirming, Kairos, PWRDF, etc… or is it just another way to draw funds away from those they should actually go to? I don’t know, I’ve talked to a few involved, it does appear to be older clergy, and their goal is to bring everyone in…which…

Raises a question for me in what is the purpose of religion or church? Canada has been going through their own Quiet Revolution for the past few decades (mimicking Quebec’s); currently Alberta is in the phase of rebelling against the removal of church from auspices of power. Yet, it speaks to what role should religion play in the public sphere? Power broker? Politician? Law shapers? Lobbyist? Special interest group?

Or, should the gatherings be focused on equipping the faithful (regardless of affiliation) to understand what it means to be within your faith, listening to God in your life, and acting from that? What about the world just outside your church’s front door? Would they notice if you vanished? Now this isn’t just about do we have a food bank kind of talk, but are your members local, and active in the community for vanishing is not just the building, rather it is the people leave the community. Are you a soul formation for those that make the community better?

Are the different denominations locally willing to act outside themselves and their own ego pride to work together to serve the community? Day camps, youth groups, mentorships, community and school volunteers, welcoming and support to create belonging space for new Canadians, welcome wagons for those coming into the community… being a neighbour.

Is the building used for low cost or free by local community groups so it becomes a hub of activity and becomes known as a sacred courageously safe space for making the lives of others better?

These are thoughts that surface in my mind. There are already many collectives acting on the macro level, and do we need another one? I am not sure, because could not the same active quorum within an existing structure achieve the same goal? Rather, what happens if we actually engaged with the values our spiritual homes postulate, and actually live them locally to create space of belonging and welcome. A space to become who you are meant to be. Collaborating with our neighbours to make the community better as a whole, sharing resources, and the praise not for the glory of our own ego, or brand, but for whose glory and love we do it in, Jesus.

That is also realizing that there is not a huge divide between progressive and conservative Christian… we are all in the same cross, it is about actually seeing the other through the lens of the blessed created image, and beginning to talk what it means to love one another, self, and neighbour in an expression of God’s love. Not concerning oneself with the love of money and butts in seat count we have gotten ourselves lost in to the detriment of Christ (not Christendom, which should have the life support pulled on it).

For it is the Body of Christ we are called to be in the world, not (insert denomination here). And within that body each of us has special talents, gifts, and callings that are constantly shifting and growing as we journey through life.

The calling is simple, are we willing to grow where planted, and to share the simple thing that is love.