Posts Tagged ‘Belonging’

Re-entry

Posted: August 26, 2022 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , ,

The eighth morning since discharge is almost done,

as the noon day sun approaches.

It leads to a simple ponderance, that has always been in the back of my mind.

Shifting gears from the poetic, to a bit more exposition. I mean we have just journeyed through a disconnected time. I even tried the EAP on the phone line, to be told that they were unable to figure out how to support (perhaps it was a trigger or a bias?).

Anyways.

One of the things we miss in care for one another, is the afterwards.

We may be in an organization that allows for 3-5 days off when there is a death (I have accessed many times, and had to push back on how the organizations define the term family for using this time). Some places also have special leave to cover emergencies within the family, which is definately helpful, of course depending on the role, and time of year, may or may not be able to fully use as some things still need to happen as we crawl through the crisis.

So yes, there are supports that exist by law or by organizational provision to aid in the midst. When it comes to a loss, the 3-5 days may cover travel, or simply, depending on one’s role, the planning phase.

What is missing though?

Simply put what comes afterwards.

That is the re-entry to life. Navigating fully the reality of the change when things are supposed to be back to they were.

We ripped the band aid off post when we said the pandemic was done but did not fully appreciate what afterwards looked like.

How many in grieving could do with 3 days post funeral as well as the time before to process and prepare for new reality? Re-entry back to the world of work?

As someone who has had to use the short and long term disability due to a health crisis, I can attest, there is no support for re-entry when that time ends, once pronounced “cured” you are left to your own devices, no overlap support access as you navigate back into the world of work or the afterwards grieivng in the vocational course correction.

It takes time, but a bit more aid would be helpful.

And this is where we are 8 days out of hospital, at re-entry. Too often, it is a celebration! Discharged! Home! and then those that were onside for the journey, fall silent, and fade away.

Though you are left

to renegotiate

the resettling of hte unsettled

the minor to major rewoarking of reality

re-engaging with life

re-entering to concepts of life

and relationships

Re-entry

in the afterwards

that no one seems to understand,

needs support,

just like the crisis

yet the help line

is silent.

Ah re-entry, where does this road wind us to?


This is what I was able to tweet, after another thread of the neo-nazi extremist freedom protests on Twitter, and hearing voices going how did this happen?

It happened because we allowed ourselves as humans to become commodities.

It happened because we move public service into a business mindset not a service mindset.

It happened because we decided that a commons was not necessary, and interdependence was something to villify in the pursuit of a myth of independence. Nothing in society is independent. It is about people working together. Many villify the idea of public education being about creating change agents. It is. Each generation builds better (or it should) so the next can built on the newest level. Bringing change. Knowing how to do things better. Understanding better.

It is stepping into reconciliation as we know the truth.

It is knowing the role government plays in creating robust and healthy communities—allowing for gardens, playgrounds, robust public schools and community centres as hubs for neighbours to connect, to enjoy arts, sports, and time together. Creating the public spaces that allow for inter-cultural and intergernational connections.

It is about a robust health care system that is nationalized (not simply universal), that encompasses care for the whole person and their supports– physically, mentally, dental, opticial, and emotionally. And yes–this is the auspice of the elected government.

It is about creating possibilities for inclusion–insuring all places are accessible (no more “grandfathering” and taking a look at what heritage preservation looks like); that there is a place for everyone (inclusion)–so that connection can lead to authentic belonging because one is known, cared about, and will be missed.

It is about having free and low cost places, spaces and activities for all ages to come together. Youth centres are amazing, sports leagues, martial arts, car groups, arts, drama, writing, music, etc. We have known for ever that positive investment between generations disrupts individuals being from high risk for addictions, extremism and crime to moderate to low risk, yet we do not see these as feasible investments from the public purse because we continue to believe the fallacy of the household budget bank statement is the same as a government’s budget.

It is knowing and living in to that there is a spectrum of care and healing for those who cope through addiction (substance misuse-abuse and/or compulsive behaviour/behaviour addictions) that runs from harm reduction to abstinence, but needs investment in support and healing.

It is shifting from a deserving poor/disabled/elderly/unemployed government entitlement model to the simplicty and creativeness of a UBI.

It it stepping outside our own algorythms and polarized points of view to fill the chasm.

For me, it begins with one simple truth:

Each person is created with intrinsic value.

We need to honour that in one another, and in the creation we live in and are blessed to be caretakers of. Are we willing to make decisions based on 7 generations from now? Are we willing to see the value of the neighbour?

We are in a season known as Holy Week, for many who identify within the Christian Religion, a time, when as my wife has termed, a bad ass non-person in society, so rattled the status quo, that their only recourse was to kill him.

And, I am reminded, when asked a few yeara ago on Light News Radio about Easter, that it was followed up simply, with the Universe uttering “Nu’Uh” 3 days later when the tomb was found empty.

During this week, the time of awaiting to come, the question on the soul is simple:

Are we finally ready, to end extremism? Or contunue the status quo?


Taking time to reflect at another crossroads for Christendom in its death throes. A crossroads during c-tine, as in Alberta at least, we are deciding to follow the ill-fated Denmark plan (we actually have quite the history of continuing to blindly follow that which does not aid citizens–look at your utility bills following deregulation; seniors Blue Cross are but two conversations we can have), but I do not want to digress. It comes as a belonging challenge for church.

I realize, that there are many that have allowed fear-hate to make them lightining rods for the White Nationalist Supremacy Church that is currently flexing its minority pick-up truck pectorals in our nation. Those are not the ones I am reflecting on. There are those that are choosing to remain online, which I do applaud as it shows care for congregation–mostly using Zoom or Google Meets, the challenge in that being a bit of privilige for devices, computer literarcy, but the biggest in accessibility being large enough screens for families to share together (it is an economic accessibility). Though I do cheer the universal design worship has discovered within the use of technology during c-tine and connection.

Though it does create a challenge in care, as now churches can move away from distancing measures, and in a few weeks masking. There is a population being left out in the celebratory home coming. As you re-gather in sanctuaries across Alberta in this homecoming take a time to look around.

Who is not there?

Which pews/chairs are empty?

This is the risk of authentic belonging. What happens in our cycle when the space the person was in is empty? As now, at the sacred community level, one needs to process interdependently why they are not there?

  1. Are they immuno-compromised (or another vulerable population) and it is still currently not safe? What does this mean for connection as many have moved away from online after service gatherings to connect for their mental health?

2. Has their transportation been impacted? Those that drive, or public transit (yes in Calgary various routes are on rotating cancellation).

3. Are they in hospital? ICU?

4. Have they died during c-tine and has it gone unnoticed? Death due to covid. Death due to being unable to access medical services due to pandemic, or sadly, during the current white supremacist flex, succumbed to an opioid poisoning or other drug misuse poisoning, or taken their own life.

It is not simply, tape off, pews open, welcome home.

There is a need to acknowledge those who cannot come home, and be with members for any amount of reasons, and an authentic answer to the old evangelical trope is needed at this time in history:

What Would Jesus Do?


Mental health and letting kids be kids are the buzzwords the government is using for removing masking on Monday in schools. And yes, they are as empty as any buzzwords of our era or before when spoken at this province’s covid briefings. Let a Doctor of Psychology ramble for a bit to you:

1) Kids being Kids. Kids are always kids. The bubble wrap popped, and that is where the problem lies, there was no ability to effectively control and schedule every single minute of your child’s life so they could not be bored and discover curiousity and imagination. Was there troubles during this shift change? yes. But there was also amazing blessings, older neighbours getting to know the kids on the block as we were all outside. Taking time to get to know the families your kid’s friends exist in, so collectively we can make decisions for health and safety. Intentional relationship cultivation, and after years of existing in a social media world that perpetuated relationships beyond where they would naturally end, it provided space for that end.

2) Kids being kids. It got kids off the hyper-adulting treadmill we as society had placed them on. It was great to hear the giggling and laughter again.

3) Reilience is the ability for the good to outweigh the bad in short form. Resilience is an overused buzzword to basically not invest in communities, schools and our children by governance. One of the blessings from c-tine, is there was authentic resilience if you took time to engage and cultivate where the gratefulness was and why daily, and to aid in processing through the change/grieving (and yes part of growing healthy resilience is understanding healthy grieivng when change happens).

4) Metnal Health- empty words. Where is the true investment in growing the system? Investing in expanding public libraries? Free community youth and children arts & sports programs? Robust investment back in public schools so they can offer courses beyond the core? Where are community healthy nurses? School nurses? Mental health workers-counsellors-psychologists? No mental health ward should ever be full, yet they are, as a by product of a mishandled situation that allowed the bully to use the pulpit, and continue to use the pulpit, with no understanding of social or human psychology and how to navigate change in healthy ways, and allow for proper grieiving and mourning from the loss of life collectively with covid, opioiod poisonings, and the cancelled care due to the health care war the provincial government inflicted before March 2020 and continued…

So no, kids being kids, and mental health, are not the reasons this is happening, for if it was, this would not be simply a stroke of the pen, but many spending, recruitment and build announcements… That is if the provincial government invested in our communities and children as the constitution states they are to.


Okay I admit if one were to watch my binge habits this week, they may think this was about the television show that has 2 seasons currently on Netflix Canada by the title, though an excellent pyshcological thriller with unique premise this is not about that. No, this post takes us into an ancient Parable, that Brother Jesus used to teach about being lost. Missing the mark, redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation. That Henri Nouwen, would take time to share his own meditations a Creatio Divina on the painting of Rembrandt’s of the last image we are left with.

An image in the story when the lost son (as modern translations title the story) comes home, and is lovingly embraced by his father. I encourage you to take time to explore Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, but this post is not about the writings of Nouwen, or the haunting image, where at different places in time in our own faith journeys we play the roles of father, eldest son, or prodigal son ourselves and for others.

For this is the story, take time to read aloud with friends, or listen to an audio, or read aloud to self, three times. As you read take a moment to enter into the crowd, to the time and space. Each reading rest into one fo these questions:

  1. Where you exist in spiritual community, which of the three is the community like?
  2. Which son do you feel like currently on the journey? What memories are coming with this feeling.
  3. What is the calling for next steps you are hearing within the journey for your community?

11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with [a]prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the [b]pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, [c]‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’

28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”

-Luke 15:11-32 (New King James Version)

As I have contemplated the prodigal son story this week it struck me, as we navigate the current messy, honking demise of Christendom (the empire Christianity), and its peeling away to the branches that once and will be of the vine…that many times the established church hears this story as a call to evangelism. A call to convert the heathen, the other. A warning label for the ills of the world out there (blatantly ignoring the ills within, the cancers eating the Body as it were).

What struck me during this time of resting into the story, is how the church is the prodigal (yes I am quite aware of the good church has done within our world, and regular readers know this as well, so it can be seen as the Eldest, yet…currently as we conflate naitonalism-white supremacy-swastika’s with Jesus… it can be a statement that blows away as the house built on sand). Took by force or by crook an inheritance that truly was not theres (heresies of dominionism, doctrine of discovery, heterosexism, ableism, systemic racism; queer hate to name but a few in the not all church, but the meta story in the public’s eye). That has abused power through covering up elder and cleric sexual abuse of congregants (both of adults and children); spiritual abuse; forced conversion at the tip of a sword or threat of economic sanctions, exlusion, eugenics of persons with disabilities, the list of communal harm, injury and death can go on…to the most atrocitious, that we are being called on for reconciliation and truth, some slow to act or try to distract by saying “not my denomination”. Yet, the vein that caused residential schools and Indigenouse genocide exist within the institution regardless of label on the building.

We know the truth.

We are the child, looking at the pig slop, trying to say it’s holy and good.

Literally wallowing in the blood shed and excrement, and saying nothing’s wrong we are the chosen.

At what point.

Does honesty break through?

Do we actually come back to the Jesus of the Gospel. The to heart of the calling:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

-Matthew 22:34-40

As an institution, are we ready to leave that which kills behind?

Are we ready to see the beloved disciple in ourselves? Within our neighbour (each person created in the beautiful mosaic that is the image of God?)

And by that, live the reconciling love of the Holy?

As the portrait and words paint–

Collapse into a hug of true healing?


Take a moment to indulge a slight over-generalization of where the church is in North America in its last gasps of Christendom. Christendom being the empire styled Christianity that supplanted the many branches of the vine when, in short form, Constantine conquered the Roman Empire under the banner of the Cross. it birthed such fallacies as Dominionism; Doctrine of Discovery (search refuting of dominionism and Doctrine of Discovery and you will see the heresies laid bare), enabled and enacted atrocities for generational cycles of genocide of Indigenous populations as first the Holy Roman and the Reformist churches (National churches, as Monarchs realized coming out of the Black Plague, that the church could be humanized, and they could seize land and power) leading the charge.

We are at a crossroads in the world’s reconciliation, it is why there is more harm. Change and healing drive dear and self-sabotage– look to the visceral white supremacist backed reactions under a faux cross to the pandemic restrictions. I state faux cross, because where is love of self & neighbour, the created image of the Holy, in the screaming of “I”; waving swastikas, disrupting life for neighbourhoods; dehumanizing the lives lost; using a pulpit to embolden attacks on politicians and leaders; defecating and urinating on memorials to heroic courage… the visceral evil response, to simply being told that you do not control life and death, we are a world of many, and many shall be heard, for all are equal, and equity & justice are real.

Equality, equity, justice, wonderful & beautiful diversity of the image of the creator…uhm all these shine through teachings in Judges & Prophets from the Hebrew Bible, and create the space of the challenge to authority that Jesus and John the Baptist showed in the gospels of the Christian Testament. One of the upsides of this c-tine, is that more faux layers of what is gospel living are being peeled away, the hateful-fearful echo chamber some religious have become, is crumbling, and they are gasping for relevancy.

A study in Canada, is giving the Anglican church, and others maybe another 40 years (1-2 anthropological generations) before they vanish. Is that the church? Or the institution, as the living body renews and re-births? Sheds the skin and cells as it moves forward into new life, its own Easter moment?

Which brings me to a thriving concept of missional church. It is preminent within all the current Christianities under the umbrella of Christendom, and those attempting to distance themselves from Christendom. It is about living into your beliefs, the bible stories; being local (in a lot of respects, it is about the parish model of via media as Anglicans practice). The unfortunate piece though is as a middle aged and crazy monk, learned in missiology (now termed inter-cultural); I do ponder if it is simply an attempt to rearrange the pews, and not actually allow for a new Easter moment.

As, with the more conservative/fundamental/charismatic churches missional can become a catch phrase of hyper-spiritualization and being lost in their own collective self-righteousness. Within progressive-mainline Christianities missional can become a catch phrase of hyper-seculariazation and loss in their own collective self-righteousness. Both missing the mark (a definition of community sin).

How can you be missional if your community lacks ongoing spiritual formation? Practice- maybe the idea of sacraments or not, but what are the central stories? How is the gospel shared? How does one grow? How do families grow? What does a worship service look like? Is the week endured to experience Sunday or is Sunday experienced to transform the week? And if the later what does that need to look like?

Are we lost within statistics from high levels, and trepiditious fear to engage community means we have to hide Jesus? Or do we become radically like Christ, and live otu love, open our spaces for authentic connection (see the belonging pyramid); allow for groups to share space and use? Be open for new people if they have a religious-spiritual background or not.

Do we view the growing nones on census as meaning there is not seeking of that intrinsic piece of self and community that renews and fills? Then we have missed the point of the growing nones, being htose looking at the atrocities; acknowledgements, but same old ship not as fully responding to the call.

Are we open to raidcally changing our institutions? Losing our buildings? Opening our buildings? Combining and working with those of different “denomnations” (Christendom Labels).

Are we open to challenging the fear narrative of parent choice in education? Challenging the reinvenstment in local public schools as community hubs for learning and connections. Knowing that this means an end to religious based schools and home schools, but opens a brilliant opportunity to engage in critical discourse & discussion, discipleship & formation within our communities, and families. It allows us to respond local, making relevant the statistics of where we live, and the responses needed.

Taking up the call that once was across Christianity, regardless of affiliation for public health care.

Regardless of the political affiliation, holding all leaders to account for integrity, and compassion to all citziens.

Asking the hard questions, about equipping, learning, discovery, what this means for religious based post-secondaries, and how they can be a part of the local cross-denominational changes.

In our communities, where are the connections to be made? The conversations to have? The sharing of resources to transform?

Think of the challenges of winter and heat of summer for houseless neighbours, what does a Gospel response look like to this?

Food insecurity? Missed bills?

How can one be missional when we do not leave the echo chamber of the one expression of our belief system?

Is missional simply, another catch phrase to make one feel gladdened, or is it a call to reforming renewal, that will change-end the institution as it is now in less than two generations, because the new is to come.

The church as a whole, is currently on the road to Calvary. The cross (cruciform) moment, is neigh….

How will we engage the time int he tomb?

A Prayer

Posted: January 29, 2022 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , ,

A simple prayer for our most vulnerable (came to me tonight at a training):God, be with Albertans, who do not see value in your image, for the last two years we have said it is okay that those with pre-existing conditions-disabilities– are less than-are expendable–as long as we don’t need to vax, mask because we need our nachos and wings. Our neighbours, our kids, our grandkids; our siblings; our parents, with disabilities who are part of the wonder and diversity of the Creator we are crafted in. We are missing the point, that the labels are not to exclude, but our calling to ensure all thrive by bringing what is needed for your beloved to thrive into who they are meant to be, fully who they are, now and always. Let us live into the wonder and diversity of us, and create the courageous space where all belong once and all. Amen.


Writer’s Note:

What you are about to begin is the culmination of a point in time of a journey of helping. This was learned and crafted while doing the work and being in discussion with others-experts, colleagues, and clients. If you wish to know more about my work I direct you to my 2019 memoir, Soul Ripples. It will take you through what it means to be neighbour, what belonging looks like both in yourself and community, have in-services (which is a human services term for learning opportunities) to grow your tool kit to help yourself and others. Oh, and some theology, because there is that intrinsic piece of our existence that we cannot always put into words but when it is experienced it renews us and our world.

Enjoy the journey before you.

Copy Right 2022 Calgary, AB, Canada.

Watch for it….


Have you ever heard to spiritual elders laugh and now what joy sounds likes? When I would listen to interviews of watch the videos of Archbishop Desmond Tutu & the Dalai Lama, this sound would ring with joy. Two men, trying to speak hope in the world, in very Franciscan ways of living before speaking. In my early days returning to the church, Tutu’s works, began to shape my emergent theolgoy (Along with Talbot, JP II & Spong). Working in a book store, I came across and devoured his two books emerging out of the TRC at the end of Apartheid in South Africa, God has a Dream (2003) and No Future without Forgiveness (2000). He spoke of hope, he spoke truth, and showed that the Christian sacremant of reconciliation was not something of words spoken between cleric and parishner in a tea room or a closet, but rather something that light shines into the truth to confuse the darkness and become action steps for transfiguration of society in hope.

His other books on forgiveness, hope, inclusion, belonging, children stories, powerful prayer, rebuilding, enewal ( a fuller listing of his works on Good Reads). I mean, think of being called to the highest office within your church, at a time you could not actually go to the Cathedral, because the nation, where your church exists, does not see you as a full person with full rights? Apartheid South Africa. His wonderful children’s story analogies around noses I would use in my multi-cultural ministry settings to break the unspoken prejudices that existed within generations, but also to teach about God’s belonging and beautiful Imageo Dei.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?view=detail&mid=079B670EE9EE2CB59A57079B670EE9EE2CB59A57&q=desmond tutu&shtp=GetUrl&shid=f290cb35-7c55-4884-9ba9-44ada3f6c102&shtk=TWFuc2JyaWRnZSBPbmUgb24gT25lOiBEZXNtb25kIFR1dHU%3D&shdk=RGVzbW9uZCBUdXR1IG9mIFNvdXRoIEFmcmljYSB0YWxrcyB0byBQZXRlciBNYW5zYnJpZGdlIGFib3V0IHRoZSBzdGF0ZSBvZiBjdXJyZW50IHdvcmxkIGFmZmFpcnMsIGFuZCBob3cgU291dGggQWZyaWNhIGhhcyBjaGFuZ2VkIHNpbmNlIGFwYXJ0aGVpZCBlbmRlZC4%3D&shhk=vUCsTLKvZVscG4%2F65LBh%2FaF04bfhxdf6XOv5zZZMAmc%3D&form=VDSHOT&shth=OVP.9BHSw3jsogzW0jmu8GIc7QDcB8

I encourage you to click on the CBC link above for an interview Peter Mansbridge had with Tutu.

As well, to remember one of his most powerful works, 2011’s God is Not a Christian and other provocations, take time during this holiday season to pick up that and his collaboration with the Dalai Lama in 2016 Book of Joy to spend time in contemplation. The great pause, that covid has caused the world, means we have an opportunity to live out joy in our lives and communities, to be povocateurs of transfiguration, with that little twinkle of Desmond in our own heart’s eye.

As we celebrate a life of Joy, the question that rests in our souls today, is:

Who is continuing the work?

Who is called to the work?

Are you being called to the work of Joy?


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.